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.

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