Sunday, February 17, 2013

Colonial Spirits

The Moreton Bay Courier  Saturday 4 July 1846
In 1848, The Moreton Bay Courier ominously announced the coming of the liquor industry to Brisbane Town.  This reflected the views of the temperance movement which was influential in colonial society.

Until now Moreton Bay relied on imports of liquor, chiefly of rum, gin, brandy, and British style ales such as porter.

Symptoms of Going Ahead. - We understand that a brewery is about to be established in the township forthwith, and also a soap manufactory.[1]

The success of the brewery was not reported but it seems a year later it had still not been established and the equipment was auctioned off.


HAS received positive instructions to Sell, without the least reserve, at his Residence, South Brisbane,
On MONDAY the 30th day of May instant,
At 12 o'clock precisely,

Two Pots, each containing nearly 200 gallons
Two Brewing Tuns, admirably adapted for a Tannery
1 Pocket of Hops
About 10,000 Bricks
10 Bags of excellent Barley;

Also, the interest of Mr. King in the Building at South Brisbane lately intended to be a Brewery.[2]

New Farm in the 1880s
(State Library of Queensland)
In 1849, one enterprising Italian resident of New Farm embarked on his own distilling operation. Unfortunately his activities came to the attention of the Inspector of Distilleries. Whether or not the senor was aware of the local laws concerning liquor production is not clear as he was given very short shift by the court and the argument of the defence was not reported.

ILLICIT DISTILLATION. - At the police-office, on Tuesday last, Joseph Sedolla, an Italian, was convicted, on an information exhibited by Mr. Wm. Thornton, as inspector of distilleries, of haying a private still and a quantity of "wash"[3] on his premises at New Farm.

William Thornton in later life as Collector of Customs
(State Library of Queensland)

Mr. Ocock and Mr. Adams appeared for the defence, and raised several objections, but the offence was clearly proved, and the prisoner was sentenced to pay a fine of £100 or in default to be imprisoned in Sydney gaol for three months. All the articles seized to be forfeited.[4]

A year later the hapless Senor Sedolla was working as a gardener when he fell victim to a riding accident.

I regret to have to report three fatal accidents,' viz..-

One at Mr. Ivory's station, where a man named Woods dropped dead while counting out some sheep; 

one at Mr. Morts station, where a man was found dead on the run; 

and one at Wogaroo[5], a foreigner (an Italian, named Josef Sidola) in the employ of Mr. Young, as gardener, and who, having been at Ipswich on Sunday last, accompanied by a friend, was thrown from his horse and killed, within about a mile of Wogaroo.

 A magisterial inquiry was held on the body by Dr. Simpson, as was also the case on the body of the man at Mr. Mort's, which was held by Dr. Dorsey.[6]

Major distilling operations would finally come to the colony as a lucrative product of sugarcane plantations. In 1849, a correspondent to the Moreton Bay Courier identifying himself as a “West Indian Planter” recognised the potential of rum production in the colony, given his experience in the Caribbean. The West Indies was by far the world’s largest producer of rum and remains so.

Contemporary Demerara Rum 
An efficient distillery should be studied as much as anything in the establishment of a sugar estate, as nothing tends to make an estate pay better than a good distillery. I have known estates in Demerara[7] where the whole of the cane juice was distilled, and paid better than making sugar.

 In the event of a sugar estate being established in this colony (and I sincerely hope for the colony's prosperity that not only one but several will be established), those parties interested in its welfare should endeavour to get a clause introduced into the Distillery Act, to free it from some of its most stringent and highly vexatious laws.

Hoping that any unintentional errors will be forgiven, as I am not in the habit of addressing the public, only being induced to do so from my anxiety to promote the welfare and prosperity of the colony, which has now become my adopted country, believing it to be the duty of everyone to do so as far as lies in his power.[8]

© K. C. Sbeghen, 2013.

[1] The Moreton Bay Courier 20.5.1848
[2] The Moreton Bay Courier Saturday 19 May 1849
[3] Fermentable substance or mixture of substances steeped in water to undergo fermentation preparatory to distillation. OED
[4] The Moreton Bay Courier Saturday 9 June 1849
[5] Now the Ipswich suburb of Goodna.
[6] The Moreton Bay Courier Saturday 14 September 1850
[7] Demerara is a region in South America in what is now Guyana. (Wiki)
[8] The Moreton Bay Courier Saturday 7 July 1849July 1849

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