Colonial Night Life
In July 1847, trouble was brewing in George Street, Brisbane Town. A group of soldiers from the local regiment were enjoying the hospitality at the Victoria Hotel. Leaving the hotel, they decided to continue their night-out at the nearby house of Mrs. Bailey, a popular local entrepreneur who catered to the recreational and entertainment needs of the many single men and, no doubt some of the married men, in the colony.
|Hotel on George Street, ca.1870|
Sometime after midnight, a police constable passing by on his beat, heard the sound of breaking coming from Mrs. Bailey’s house.
Further details emerged at the Police Office the following day.
|Colonial Infantry Private|
Constable Macalister, on being sworn, stated that while on duty on Thursday night he observed some of the military coming out of the Victoria Hotel, and that he saw them go to Mrs. Bailey's house where he shortly afterwards heard the breaking of panes of glass. On hearing a screech, he immediately ran to the barracks for the corporal and guard, who accompanied him to the house.
Reinforcements arriving from the barracks, most of the riotous soldiers quickly decamped. An unlucky two were arrested while a third tried to disguise himself by changing out of his uniform. His attempt to flee was foiled by two of Mrs. Bailey’s civilian guests, one of whom floored the desperate soldier with one accurate punch.
All the soldiers then ran away, except two, who were taken into custody by the guard. Corporal Horan corroborated the constable's testimony, and informed the Magistrates that Randall broke away from the soldier who had him in charge, and ran up to his room, where he put on an undress.
Mr. Hawkins and Mr. Featherstone, who were visiting at Mrs. Bailey's house on the evening in question, identified the Sergeant and the prisoners at the bar as being present while the windows were being broken; Randall was the most riotous person there. When the Sergeant attempted to burst open the door, a well-directed blow from Mr. Hawkins sent him head over heels to the ground.
|The Original Brisbane Military Barracks|
Unfortunately the departing soldier in his haste to return to barracks left behind a piece of incriminating evidence, namely his cap. His attempt to discretely retrieve his cap from the Police Office the following morning was not successful and the full force of the law was brought to bear on the Sergeant and his comrades.
The man of war, on finding sharper work than he had calculated upon, took to his heels, and ran to the barracks, leaving his cap behind him, which was picked up by the constable. The Chief Constable stated that the Sergeant called upon him on the following morning, and made enquiries respecting his cap, and said that he wished to compromise the matter by paying all expenses, provided he would not inform the Police Magistrate of what had occurred.
The Magistrates, after a short consultation, found all the defendants guilty, fined each of them £5, and sentenced them in default of payment to be imprisoned for two calendar months with hard labour in Sydney Gaol. They were then removed and placed in the lock-up. We understand that the fine has since been paid by Sergeant Faulkner, and that the others will also "shell out the tin" rather than go to quod.
What sparked the incident at Mrs. Bailey’s house was not revealed in the court proceedings, but it might be assumed to be just another great night out ruined by out of control high jinks.
© K. C. Sbeghen, 2012.