Friday, November 30, 2012

A Dastardly Assault with Brickbats & Bones

Many of the labourers in the early days of the colony were ticket-of-leave men, convicts who had served part of their sentence and demonstrated good behaviour. Ticket-of-leave holders were allowed to take up paid work in an allocated district and had to notify any change in their circumstances. The ticket-of-leave could be rescinded if the holder fell afoul of the law.

Example of a Ticket-of-Leave

Given their hard and often isolated lives, most ticket-of-leave men upon receiving their pay-cheque would head for the nearest town for a spree, an extended drinking session.

One such ticket-of-leave man named Caldicott made his way to Ipswich to indulge his thirst for a few days. His libations in honour of Bacchus would end tragically. The local press reported his misadventure.

The town has just been thrown into a state of excitement by the murder of a ticket-of-leave holder, named Henry Caldicott. The unfortunate man shortly after receiving his ticket, about twelve months back, went to work as a butcher for Mr. White of the Logan; and the boiling down[1] season being over, he came to Limestone[2] to pass a few days, no doubt little dreaming of the fatal termination of his visit.

19th Century Boiling Down Works
Like most of his class, he continued constantly drinking, and while in this state hither spoke to or at another ticket-of-leave man, named Mat Horrigan, an Irishman, who immediately commenced pelting him with brickbats[3] and bones, one of which having struck him on the left side of the head, caused his death in about ten minutes, notwithstanding all the efforts employed by Dr. Dorsey.

Horrigan, on committing the dastardly assault, decamped, but, through the vigilance of the police, life had not departed from his victim five minutes, ere he was in the hands of the constable.[4]

The subsequent investigation established that the altercation had taken place outside a butcher’s shop. It seems that the Irishman Horrigan was looking for a drinking companion. He first approached the butcher and on being refused asked his fellow ticket-of-leave man Caldicott who it appears was not endeared to the Irish. William Holt, butcher, testified the following:

While killing two sheep, the prisoner came to me to bid me good-bye, as he was going to the station on the following morning early. He asked me to drink with him, which I declined, as I had my work to attend to.

The prisoner asked the deceased, in a friendly manner how he was, and if he would drink with him, to which the deceased replied, that he would not, nor with any man of his bloody country. This conversation took place in Union-street.[5]

Colonial Butcher's Shop

Not taking kindly to the rebuff and the insult to his origins, the volatile Irishman launched an attack on his foe with what was immediately at hand, namely brickbats and, as it was a butcher’s yard, large bones. Another witness, Thomas Palmer, testified:

Yesterday evening at sunset, I was at the blacksmith's shop, when I heard the prisoner and the deceased quarrelling. I saw the prisoner throw a stone or bone at the deceased, which missed him; the prisoner then walked back a few paces, and picked up something else hard, with which he hit the deceased, who then staggered to the outside through an opening in the fence; after staggering a few yards he fell.[6]

Another witness confirmed that Henry Caldicott had indeed been dealt the fatal blow from a bone.

William Slack, a lad twelve years of age, on being questioned as to his knowledge of the responsibilities of an oath, gave satisfactory answers, and was then examined:-

That is the man (pointing to the deceased) who was struck by this man (pointing to the prisoner.) It was near the door of the butcher's shop; I was standing near the place, when prisoner hit deceased with a bone which he picked up. Deceased after receiving the blow, went a short distance, and fell down; I think deceased was outside the fence when the prisoner struck him, but I am not sure. I know the bone produced in court; it was the same with which the prisoner hit the deceased, as I went afterwards and picked it up, while the people came round the deceased.[7]

Based on the evidence, Horrigan was sent to Sydney for trial.  He was found guilty of manslaughter by the jury, but recommended to be treated with mercy. Despite the jury’s plea for mercy, the judge considered that Horrigan was lucky not to be convicted of murder. His ticket-of-leave forfeited, the Irishman was sent off to work on a chain gang.

19th Century Road Gang
Matthew Horrigan found guilty of manslaughter was sentenced by His Honour the Chief Justice. The circumstances of the case as nearly amounted to murder as possible and although recommended to mercy by the Jury in consequence of the generally good character of the prisoner he should sentence him to be worked on the road for five years, the first three years in irons.[8]

© K. C. Sbeghen, 2012.

[1] The process of rendering animal fat into tallow, a product used in a variety of products such as candles and soap. Tallow was a major colonial export product.
[2] The original name of Ipswich, named for its limestone outcrops.
[3] A piece or fragment of a brick. It is the typical ready missile, where stones are scarce. OED
[4] The Moreton Bay Courier Saturday 13 November 1847
[5] The Moreton Bay Courier Saturday 20 November 1847
[6] The Moreton Bay Courier Saturday 20 November 1847
[7] The Moreton Bay Courier Saturday 20 November 1847
[8] The Sydney Morning Herald Monday 3 January 1848

Friday, November 23, 2012

Suburban Goats at Large

The very first ships bringing Europeans to Australia carried goats on board to supplement the rations of those on board with fresh milk. Breeding pairs of goats were often left on remote islands as a food source for passing ships and for possible shipwreck survivors.[1]

When the celebrated German explorer Ludwig Leichhardt set off on his second great expedition he took with him flock of 280 Angola goats.[2]

In his second expedition, Dr. Leichhardt will take with him a number of goats, as well as mules, - the last mentioned useful animals are now in training, and are to have bells suspended to their necks.[3]

Caricature of the daily life of the suburban goat.

In the early days of the settlement of Brisbane, goats were popular with many residents, particularly with small landholders in South Brisbane, as a source of milk and meat. Goats were very hardy, did not need as much space as cows, and were not fussy eaters.  This last attribute could also be a curse for victims of the voracious and indiscriminate diet of the goat.

The goat owners of South Brisbane were often subject to the ire of fellow residents for not controlling the foraging habits of their milk producers. Given their proclivity for climbing and jumping, the animals were also in the habit of seeking shelter of neighbours’ verandas.

A local storekeeper named Ebenezer Orr took particular offence when returning home he was confronted by a particularly disagreeable billygoat which had taken up residence on his veranda. It was not long before Orr lodged a complaint at the Police Office across the river.

Advertisement in the Moreton Bay Courier 4.7.1846


At the Police-office, on Tuesday, three of the inhabitants of South Brisbane were summoned to answer informations for suffering goats to stray about the public streets. They were fined 5s. each and costs.

The informations had been laid at the instance of Mr. Orr, to whom the animals had become a serious nuisance, in consequence of their congregating under the verandah of his house, at night time, during the wet weather.

Mr. Orr was about ascending the steps of his house a few evenings since, when a huge billy-goat disputed possession of the premises, and rushing at him knocked him head over heels on to the ground.

Not relishing this kind of treatment, he proceeded forthwith to eject the intruder, which was accomplished after some little difficulty.

The Chief Constable, we understand, is about to file informations against "all and sundry" who do not keep their goats tied up on their own premises. [4]

Over the following years much police work was given over to rounding up miscreant ruminants and locking them up in the town pound. Advertisements were frequently run in the local press posting the descriptions of the current internees.

The Moreton Bay Courier Saturday 21 August 1847

Despite the efforts of the constables, The Moreton Bay Courier continued to raise the issue. Goats were particular damaging to the small landholders who grew much of the fresh produce consumed in the settlement.

ANIMALS STRAYING IN THE PUBLIC STREETS. We are glad to see that the Police are at last turning their attention to clearing the public streets of the numerous nuisances which in the shape of animals abound in them. Several goats have been impounded and, as we understand, sold.

These animals, on account of the familiar habits which they soon acquire when kept in a state of partial domestication, are a great nuisance to many of the inhabitants, and, particularly to those who keep gardens.

 If a door is left open and unguarded for any length of time, one or more goats are sure to pop in, and if anything be lying about suited to their tastes (and they are by no means nice) they make an appropriation without any ceremony.

There are few, we believe, of these animals that are not owned by some person or another, but we suppose the number is very small who derive any benefit from them. In some cases they may be advantageous to many poor families in furnishing them with a luxury which they may find it inconvenient to purchase-and provided they keep their "nannies" from annoying their neighbours, no interruption will be offered to their doing so; but it is absolutely necessary to abridge the number roaming about in the street, and ready to enter into mischief the moment an opportunity for doing so presents itself.[6]

Most of the impounded goats seemed to come from South Brisbane but the pond was located across the river in North Brisbane. This caused particular inconvenience to the constables who not only had to take the offenders into custody but had to wrangle them aboard a punt to cross the river, often at night.

The Moreton Bay Courier suggested that a pound needed to be constructed at South Brisbane for stray goats and another for their human counterparts.

South Brisbane panorama

Amongst other wants at South Brisbane, are two of a restrictive character, namely, a pound for men, and a pound for goats and other animals destructive to the gardeners there.

In other words a watch-house in the first place is much required for it is highly inconvenient for the two constables stationed there to have to bring offenders whom they may apprehend at night, over the river to North Brisbane, besides the danger arising from leaving that part of the township entirely unprotected in their absence.

The other nuisance arising from the destructive ravages of stray animals, is highly injurious to the small agriculturists, and robs them often of their slender profits: and the remedy might be found in the establishment of a public pound; the keeper of which might also act as watch-house keeper. We beg to commit these suggestions to consideration in the proper quarter, as they refer to evils of real importance.[7]

Children with their pet goat
Despite their misadventures goats continued to be popular with many residents and pet goats were cherished by children. Small carts were constructed as miniature sulkies and goat races were keenly contested.

Child in her goat sulky
Eventually some of the domesticated goats wandered off into the bush and embraced a feral lifestyle. As of 2010 were are at least 2.3 million feral goats in Australia, with estimates of up to 240,000 in Queensland.[8] 

 © K. C. Sbeghen, 2012.

[1] viz. the fictional character Robinson Crusoe.
[2] The Moreton Bay Courier Saturday 7 November 1846
[3] The Moreton Bay Courier Saturday 3 October 1846
[4] The Moreton Bay Courier Saturday 5 December 1846
[5] The Moreton Bay Courier Saturday 21 August 1847
[6] The Moreton Bay Courier Saturday 22 April 1848
[7] The Moreton Bay Courier Saturday 29 June 1850
[8] Estimated by: The State of Queensland, Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation, 2010

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Brief Rise and Fall of a Bibulous Dogberry

In 1846, the good citizens of Ipswich were looking forward to the arrival of the new District Constable, the previous incumbent having left in disgrace.

However, the new appointee was to have a very brief tenure. The entire sorry tale was gleefully reported by the Ipswich Correspondent of The Moreton Bay Courier, well known for his entertaining prose.[1]

Colonial Police Constable



ABOUT a fortnight since, Mr, Constable McCrohon, on account of his previous good conduct was promoted to the rank of District Constable, and was ordered to proceed to Ipswich in the room of Mr. Higgins, who was dismissed for gross misconduct.

Our Ipswich friends, doubtless, were congratulating themselves that the new official would be of a different stamp to his predecessor - that McCrohon, who had for two long years been a staunch teetotaller, would not again be found guilty of the besetting sin.

The self-esteem of the humble Constable was soon to soar to unknown heights uplifted by the reception provided by the townsfolk of Ipswich as he stepped ashore from the Brisbane steamer.

Sketch of Ipswich Wharf by Conrad Martens

Their expectations, however, were doomed to be disappointed. Mr. McCrohon, as a plain Dogberry[2], was well enough in his way; but the moment the coveted title of District Constable was conferred, he was quite another man. Unlooked-for titles, like unlooked riches, have turned many a man's head, and so it was with McCrohon.

On his arrival at the quiet town of Ipswich, Mr. McCrohon was the "observed of all observers;" the inhabitants flocked to the wharf to catch a glimpse of the great D.C. then, for the first time, come amongst them to assume the onerous duties of his dreaded office.

Even the little urchins about the town participated in the excitement, and sung out most lustily for an extra supply of lollys. Mr. McCrohon suddenly found himself an important personage - a rising man. He was placed there to do something, and something he thought must be done, and that promptly.

Early Panorama of Ipswich

On reaching his new Headquarters, the remade Dogberry was keen to stamp his authority on his subordinates and  started by evicting his deputy in biblical style from his quarters and suborning the same for his own use.

Elevated as he now was, in more senses than one -- thoroughly conscious of his own power and dignity - one of his first official acts was to turn one of his subordinates out of his quarters:-

"Arise, arise," said he to his trembling Sub, "go to thy father, and say, I, I, District Constable McCrohon, desired' thee to vanish!"

Poor Magrath looked, imploringly at his superior, but the mandate had gone forth, and budge he must. Having thus impressed his "Sub" with an idea of the vast extent of his power, the great D. C., cane in hand, and as erect as "a yard of pump water," took a stroll round the town; the "Sub" following at a respectful distance.

D.C. Dogberry then set off to tour his new dominion, acolyte in tow. His initial ports of call were the taverns. His new found prestige effervesced as he was respectfully welcomed. Unfortunately his pledge of sobriety soon fell by the way under the surge of hospitality, gratis of course, unleashed by the landlords, hopeful of future good relations with the lawman.

Interior of a Colonial Tavern

Of course, the taverns claimed his first attention, and excited his surprise, which feeling ripened into admiration, after he had paid his respects to the inmates, and had partaken of their hospitality. Mr. McCrohon was received kindly - was treated handsomely, and had he acted wisely might have lived there happy and respected in his station of life, but an overweening conceit of his newly-created dignity, marred all his prospects.

Predictably the day would not end well, for D.C. Dogberry now invigorated by all the bonhomie of the tavern crowd, decided to make one more call on his way back to his purloined quarters. The Ipswich Correspondent reconstructed the conversation that ensued.

Having enjoyed himself to his heart's content, he was going home to his lodgings; a facetious idea struck him, and he proceeded forthwith to carry it out. He thought that it would be a capital joke to call at the Doctor's house, and ask him to "shout." On rapping at the door, he was admitted, and the following colloquy took place:
The ever popular colonial tipple

McCrohon - I say, Doctor (hiccup), have you got any g-g-gin (hiccup)?

Doctor - What sort of gin? 

McCrohon - Why, any (hiccup) s-s-sort of gin (the last word was whispered).

Doctor - (Good humouredly) I have got oxy-gin, hydro-gin, and nitro-gin, which of the three will you have?

McCrohon-Why, any sort of gin, as I said   bef- (the last syllable was inaudible), any sort of gin, Sir. Mix 'em, mix-a little hot water, and su-su-(here the worthy D. C. again sung small, and gave a knowing wink).

The Doctor, however, cut short the conversation, by peremptorily ordering the D. C. to leave the house, which the official, to his credit be it spoken, immediately did, and retired to his lodgings, where, doubtless, he afterwards found that the evening's amusement would not bear the morning's reflection.

It did not take long for reports of the adventures of the Ipswich District Constable to reach Headquarters in Brisbane. He soon found himself on the wrong side of the Bench.

The particulars of his unhappy debut in Ipswich, having become known to the Magistrates, he was immediately summoned before the Brisbane Bench and called upon to account for his eccentric behaviour. On Tuesday, Mr. McCrohon accordingly appeared, and in his defence stated that the Magistrates were misinformed respecting his doings at Ipswich.

Early View Of Queen Street, Brisbane

To his credit the Dogberry did his best to create a defence based on a factional conspiracy, although he was not given the opportunity to progress the thesis.

"Sir," said McCrohon, addressing himself to the Police Magistrate, " I met with hostile feelings on the part of the inhabitants the very moment I put my foot on their shores; I Sir, have been made the victim of a faction; I Sir,"-

Here however he was suddenly brought up, by the Police Magistrate, who stopped his oratorical display, by informing him, that his turning out Magrath was an act of impertinence beyond the scope of his authority, and that he knew quite enough to convince him, that he (McCrohon) was not a proper person to hold the office of District Constable; he should, therefore, reduce him to his former situation, and if he did not conduct himself properly for the future, he would be dismissed from the force without ceremony. McCrohon left the office with the air of an injured man.

Reduced to the ranks the erstwhile District Constable was left but to ponder his brush with power and glory.

© K. C. Sbeghen, 2012.

[1] The Moreton Bay Courier Saturday 3 October 1846
[2] An ignorant, self-important official, the name of a foolish constable in Shakespeare's Much Ado about Nothing.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

A Riverine Diversion

One of the enduring public entertainments in Brisbane was the regatta which took place on the river that dominated the layout of the settlement as it does the city today.

Given the importance of river travel and transportation to the colony, there was no shortage of skilled competitors.

One such carnival was held in midsummer 1847 and was given a favourable report in the local press.


This Regatta took place on Saturday last, and turned out a very sporting affair. The aquatic amateurs and the inhabitants of Brisbane generally appeared to take great interest in the day's proceedings. The settlement never looked gayer, and the banks of the river were crowded with spectators.

Regatta on the Brisbane River with Steamer in the Background

The weather was exceedingly favourable for the boat races. The Experiment steamer moored in the middle of the stream, and gaily decorated with flags, served as the flag-ship on the occasion. On board this vessel a numerous party, including those who had the superintendence of the day's proceedings, assembled to witness the sports.

Music, too, was not wanting to animate the scene.[1]

The races were organised into various classes of human powered small craft, depending on the number of rowers. There was a whale-boat match featuring five man crews, and subsequent races featuring four and two man teams. The final event was the single rower skulls.

Each boat was given a jaunty name by the owners such as Dundee Lass, All Round My Hat, Lilly, Gulpin, Kipper, Rover, and Spring-heel'd Jack.

By all accounts it was a successful meet enjoyed by all, except for an officious constabulary. This resulted in the summons of a prominent businessman and publican Robert Dix, to appear before Bench to answer a charge of selling beer without a licence on regatta day.

ALLEGED BREACH OF THE LICENSING ACT, At the Police Office, on Thursday, Mr. Robert Dix, of the Sovereign Hotel, appeared before the Bench, to answer an information filed against him by the Chief Constable for selling ale, without having obtained the permission of the Magistrates, on board the Experiment steamer, on Saturday last, during the Regatta.[2]

The Sovereign Hotel, Elizabeth Street, Brisbane 1869

If the Chief Constable thought he had a watertight case, he was to be publicly ridiculed before a large gallery. He was given short shrift by the magistrate who intimated that he was a self interested killjoy, who dared to impugn the honour of a prominent resident of the town.

The office was very much crowded, and the greatest interest was taken in the proceedings. The Chief Constable having called his witnesses, and the evidence having been taken, the Bench decided that he had failed to prove his case, and dismissed it accordingly, to the infinite delight of all present, with the exception of the informer himself, who appeared quite chap-fallen[3] at the result of his impertinent and ill judged attempt to annoy a respectable man, with the view of putting money into his own pocket.[4]

Rowing Regatta on the Brisbane River

The Editor of The Moreton Bay Courier had the last word summing up the feelings of those who had a pleasant day at the regatta.

It is really too bad that people cannot be allowed to meet together for the purpose of harmless amusement, without their being afterwards sued for fines and penalties, at the instance of jacks[5] in office.

A more absurd charge of sly-grog selling, judging from the evidence produced in Court, we never before heard, and we hope that we shall not hear the like again.[6]

 © K. C. Sbeghen, 2012.

[1] The Moreton Bay Courier Saturday 2 January 1847
[2] The Moreton Bay Courier Saturday 2 January 1847
[3] Dejected, dispirited; crest-fallen. OED
[4] The Moreton Bay Courier Saturday 2 January 1847
[5] Unknown or unspecified men. OED
[6] The Moreton Bay Courier Saturday 2 January 1847

Friday, November 2, 2012

A Chinaman Transmogrified

News reports of outbreaks of plague in Asia regularly created hysteria in the colonies and made the locals wary of any boats arriving from the East.

In the early days of the settlement the shortage of labour to work on the large pastoral runs had prompted the importation of Chinese labourers known as coolies from the port of Amoy [Xiamen] in Southern China. In 1851, the Duke of Roxburgh arrived in Sydney after a voyage from China. There had been unusually large number of deaths during the voyage including one of the English officers.

A 19th Century view of Amoy (Xiamen)

The Duke of Roxburgh, from Amoy 8th November, and Singapore 2nd December, with Chinese labourers for Moreton Bay, arrived in Sydney on the 6th inst. There were sixteen deaths on the voyage, and the chief officer had also died.

The number of Chinamen arrived was 242. Some of the Chinamen were forwarded to Wide Bay in the Albion and the Vixen, and the remainder were embarked for this port in the Emma, barque, which vessel came down Sydney harbour with the Ann Mary last Monday. We are informed that the Emma has been purchased by a Mr. Josephs, of Sydney, for the Moreton Bay trade. She is a vessel of more than 200 tons burthen, and of light draught.[1]

Some of the Chinese men were transhipped on to Moreton Bay on board the barque Emma, but not before news of the death toll on the Duke of Roxburgh reached the northern settlement.

Although it was not reported in the Moreton Bay press, there was talk that further Chinese deaths had occurred on the Emma and that bodies had been disposed of overboard. A chain of unusual events ensued which were recorded in a poem in the epic style by a local bard under the sobriquet “Frederick”.  In fact this was the only record of the incident in the press, but there must have some substance to the tale, however embellished with poetic licence it may have been.

The Moreton Bay Courier 8 March 1851

The highly racist language used is typical of the times in outposts of the British Empire.  The poem is a great example of Victorian era satire and is humorous even today.    The form was often used anonymously to lampoon public figures, in this case the Brisbane Coroner.

A GOATISH TALE,            

"The murmuring tide was falling fast, and sultry was the day,
A barque upon a sand-bank stuck, not far from Moreton Bay;             
Her deck was full of China slaves, - for B & B & Co.;
Long had they been at sea detained, and now their grub was low.                   

Strange tales of plague and cholera dire in Brisbane were rife:-
T’was told how these poor Chow-chows - each was weary of his life;
And what with hunger and disease, t'was said, they dwindled fast.
And when they died, to save expense, were in the river cast.

Our coroner, of habits swift, on mercy’s purpose bent,
Embark'd him in the customs boat, and towards the vessel went;                     
But on their way a form was seen, as evening shades grew dark,     
Upon, the river's floating tide, besot by many a shark.

And towards the course the boat was steer'd, while every bosom beat,   
To think how poor "Celestials" thus became for fishes meat;                   
All swore it was a fearful sin, poor Chow-chows thus to bury,     
Without a coffin or a shroud, so near public ferry!   

And Mr. T. grew pale with fear, and, quaking every limb, -
By G-, says he, let's halt awhile, and sing a little hymn!     
So pulling out a flask of wine, and Book of Common Prayer,           
He did his best to nerve his mind to bear the sad affair.

With throbbing pulse they nearer drew, and, through the gloaming light,     
They pausing, gazed, with noses held, upon the hideous sight,           
A dark and mangled mass it lay upon the heaving tide,
And-strange to say-a horned ghost upon it seemed to ride.         

How should they act? It would not do to take it in the boat,-
To catch infection and a smell;-and yet, if left to float
A few more hours, the sharks would end the meal they had begun,-   
An inquest would be lost, and they would lose the fees and fun.   

In this dilemma long debating, they resolved, at last,
In Chow-chow's "human form divine" to stick the boat-hook fast,-
With line attached;-at distance kept, to tow him thus to land, 
A formal inquest hold, and then inter him in the sand.

And now they pull and tug and haul, and strain each creaking oar,                 
To get delivered of their charge, and gain the welcome shore.                     
Tis gained! - On terra firma now the crew and captain tread,
Each took a dram, and said a prayer, then pull'd ashore the dead.             

With lighted torch uplighted high, and nestling close together, -
(For men and masters in this case displayed a whitish feather), -         
They drew around poor China's form, and gazed upon the corpse,               
Then turn'd and laugh'd, and shook and roar'd, until they all were hoarse.     
And well they might, for after all their terrors in the boat.

The fancied Chow-chow's corpse turned out - a drowned billy-goat!   
Here drops the curtain on the farce: - I've only room to hope.       
That here they will not stop their work, but use the hook and rope.               
Upon the hundred roaming goats about our town that run,
And, I, for one, will wish them luck, and join them in their fun.                 

North Brisbane, March 5th. 1851[2]

© K. C. Sbeghen, 2012.

[1] The Moreton Bay Courier Saturday 22 February 1851
[2] The Moreton Bay Courier Saturday 8 March 1851