Category Archives: This Week in Port Phillip District 1842

This Month in Port Phillip 1842: February 1842

The year is getting away from me and I’m so behind that I’m going to write just the one entry for February.

George Arden gets into trouble again.

George Arden, the young editor of the Port Phillip Gazette had a particularly ‘troubled’ relationship with the resident Judge, John Walpole Willis. You might remember that in September 1841 Arden had been ‘bound over’ against adverse comments about the judge prompted by a letter that he published signed ‘Scrutator’. Arden was required to stump up £400 in recognizances (i.e. a type of good-behaviour bond). Then Governor Gipps arrived in town, and as bonhomie spread throughout the town, Willis released Arden from his recognizances once Arden made a public apology.

But now it all flared up again when Arden published another very critical article, prompted by Willis’ commentary from the bench in a civil case involving the editor of the Port Phillip Herald and his solicitors. I’m finding myself thinking of Trump’s attacks on the press in recent weeks, and although I wouldn’t want to push the analogy too far, there are some parallels. Here we have a powerful judicial and (although he wasn’t supposed to be) political figure, determined to get the press under control.  However, we’re also talking about a colonial town, with an absent governor, no representative political bodies, and without a tradition of satire or a strong philosophical commitment to ‘freedom of the press’.  Nonetheless, following the analogy as far as it can take it, the Port Phillip Gazette and the Port Phillip Herald generally supported each other (and perhaps gave each other more overt support than segments of the U.S. media are giving each other today), while the Port Phillip Patriot generally remained strong in its support for Willis (the FOX news of Port Phillip, so to speak). So when Willis savaged George Cavanagh the editor of the Port Phillip Herald in court, George Arden’s editorial next day described Willis as an ‘infuriate’, suggesting that he was not of ‘blameless life and irreproachable character’ and there was crime past and present:

crime in married life and in single- of crime in office and at home- of prejudice, passion and pride… of violence of language, of bitterness of expression, and of thoughtlessness of carriage (PPG 12/02/41)

Not surprisingly, Arden found himself before Judge Willis again and was sentenced to twelve months gaol, a £300 fine and imprisonment until the fine was paid.  As a 21st century tweet might say: “Bad!”

Arden was well-connected within the networks of Port Phillip public life. Not only did he have his newspaper to report on his progress in jail and agitate for him during his imprisonment, but groups like the Debating Society signed a ‘testimonial of respect’ in Arden’s favour. An announcement was made at the theatre (especially as Arden was supposed to star in an upcoming play!); people talked on the streets.  A judge sentencing an editor for a newspaper column about himself was not a good look. And this time, all three papers were united in their condemnation, and even the Port Phillip Patriot, which usually leaned towards the judge lent its support in a letter signed by ‘Junius’ (a commonly used pen-name when criticizing the judiciary- a long story) even though it took pains to state that it was only printing it “to afford the utmost facility to free discussion”. (PPP 24/2/42)

Botanical Gardens….but not as we know them

. The government authorized Mr Hoddle to mark off as a reserve about 50 acres at Batman’s Hill for botanical gardens. The area was bounded by Little Collins to the north, the Yarra to the south, the east at the fence of the premises currently used as a survey office, and the west by the abrupt declivity into the swamp. It encompassed the whole of the hill and garden recently in possession by Mr Baxter. The land was set aside, but no one appointed to lay out the gardens, and nothing much was done with the site.

Not only was there to be a botanical garden on Batman’s Hill, but there was talk that La Trobe had plans for Batman’s cottage too, which he’d taken over as his own office  shared with the sub-treasurer.  It was rumoured that he wanted to turn it into a Colonial Museum and Library. That didn’t happen either.  It could have been quite a promising spot really. Batman’s Hill was later bulldozed for the Spencer Street (Southern Cross) railyard, but when the gradient was still there, it would have overlooked the water down where Docklands is today.

Dudding the wet-nurse

I’ve been interested in looking for hints about women’s experience of childbirth and motherhood in the Port Phillip newspapers. It is no surprise that these male-dominated papers are largely silent on the matter. But here’s an exception.

Elsewhere in my blog I wrote about Mrs McDonald, who gave birth to triplets on 30 December at the Crown Hotel, having had twins 18 months earlier.  Five under 18 months!! I wondered in that posting what happened to Mr and Mrs McDonald and the five little McDonalds, and here they are on 2 February back in the news!

A Wet Nurse, — On Wednesday a most respectable female, named Quigly, brought before the Police Bench a Mr. M’Donald, whose wife, it may he remembered, brought forth three children at one birth, at the Crown Inn, Lonsdale-street, on a demand of wages due for her services in attending his lady as a wet nurse. Mrs. Quigly had been engaged, it appears, for the sum of forty guineas. On the expiration of some weeks Mrs. M’Donald thought fit to discharge her; when she applied to Mr. M’Donald for payment of her wages, he told her to ” Be off” she went accordingly and summoned Mr. M’D., whose only defence was, that he did every thing in his power to persuade Mrs. Quigly to return, whose services were still urgently wanted, but that she refused. Mrs. Quigly said that although she had only agreed to nurse one child, yet she suckled two of the little strangers, from a wish to relieve the  mother. The Bench, after expressing their astonishment at the conduct of Mr. M’D., intimated their regret that Mrs. Quigly had not sued in the Supreme Court, when assuredly she would have recovered the forty guineas, which were justly her due. Mr. M’Donald was ordered to pay the sum sued for without delay. (PPG 2/2/42)

Public works

There was a flurry of public works activity during the early months of 1842, largely as a way of mopping-up all the emigrants who continued to flow into Port Phillip.  Although the emigration scheme was supposed to be self-funding, once the tap had been turned on, it was not easy to turn it off and those ships just kept arriving. Despite government squeamishness at public works (even then being strongly into entrepreneurialism and privatization), something had to be done with these displaced, unemployed new arrivals. As a new settlement, there was plenty to be done to ensure that the water supply was protected from sea-water contamination. A decent road was needed to facilitate easy travel from the beach to the town, and they needed a better wharf to unload goods that had been transported up the Yarra.  The gaol mentioned is the first section of what is now Old Melbourne Jail; Queen’s Wharf was at the end of King Street; the breakwater was level with Market Street and separated the salt and fresh water; the road was (I assume) City Rd  crossing the river at what was to become Princes Bridge, heading towards Bay Street Brighton.

Public Works. — The commencement of the year 1842 sees several fine and useful public undertakings progressing with ordinary despatch. The New Gaol built on the hill on the northern boundary of the town, near Latrobe-street, is in the course of erection of the most durable material, and of a size and convenience that will amply meet the wants of the district. The building at present used for the purposes of a gaol will be converted into a watch-house for the Western division. There will then be the central one near the General Market, another on the Eastern-hill, and a third at the opposite extreme. New Town will, we presume, now that the act for the alignment of streets has been extended to that suburb, be provided with a constabulary establishment and lock-up. The Queen’s Wharf enclosing the north bank of the Yarra Yarra, and extending from the head of the basin to the Steam Navigation Company’s Yard, is nearly complete; it is constructed with piles driven a considerable depth under water, and faced towards the river with pine hoarding. A platform of hardwood, placed on blocks level with the heads of the piles, and covered with hard woodplanks, affords, what was long wanted, a convenience for landing and keeping dry the cargoes discharging from the river. If we understand rightly, the space of ground stretching behind the wharf will be levelled up and metalled for the traffic of drays to the foot of the Custom-House door. The pier or breakwater is another most useful work, and is designed to form a barrier between the salt tides and the fresh water in the bed of the river; it is now being carried across the stream at the head of the basin on the north bank to the ferry house on the opposite side or south bank. When finished, the sea tide will be prevented mingling with the river water above, and the element will thus be kept pure for the consumption of the town’s inhabitants. The road to the beach has been lately marked out, and large gangs of immigrant labourers are employed in its construction; it will ultimately, we believe, be made a street, as the land on each side will be sold in building lots ; it will be, when complete, a safe and easy mode of conveyance or passage from the town to the beach, and will form the best mode of communication with the shipping. It will start from the south bank at the point where the government bridge across the Yarra Yarra is to be erected, and following a straight line to the lagoon near the sea, will diverge to avoid the impediment, and come out on the hill to the east of Liardet’s Hotel, where several parties have been accustomed to make their summer residences.

Eat your veggies…

As I write this is March 2017, our own garden here in Melbourne in 2017 is yielding cherry tomatoes by the bucketload, and it has bestowed a bounty of cucumbers and peaches upon us. Of course, with cold storage we can have any fruit or vegetable we want at any time of year, depending on how much we want to pay for it.  But in 1842, what was available in the market?


The Debating Society

You’ll remember that on 2o January two indigenous prisoners, Tunnerminnerwait and Maulboyheener were executed. A fortnight later the Debating Society chose a very topical theme when they debated the amenability of indigeous prisoners to British law.  I’ve copied the whole report of the debate, which was dominated by two Reverends and Mr Smith. This, of course, is a debate performance, where the speakers do not necessarily need to believe what they are arguing. Nonetheless, I think that it’s interesting that, intellectually at least, people could argue that indigenous people had been dispossessed and had justification for resistance.

Debating Society.— According to previous notification the proposition involving the propriety of holding the aboriginal inhabitants of New Holland amenable to the same laws which govern the white population, was opened by Mr. Smith in the affirmative. The British laws had been pronounced by the most able commentator upon the jurisprudence of Great Britain as the “pe fection of reason,” an assertion which their various excellencies strongly merited : applicable to all sorts and conditions of men, justice was denied by them to none ; impartial in their administration, the poor equally with the rich derived a reciprocal benefit, and whilst the innocent were protected the guilty rarely escaped from punishment. Such being the nature and benefits derived by Britons from the exercise of those salutary regulations, it was perfectly consistent with justice and polity, that Europeans should introduce their observance along with their habits and customs, and that they should apply their enforcement towards the aboriginal inhabitants of any portion of the Globe, where the British standard had been planted and possession taken in the name of the Sovereign power. Here the speaker entered into a dissertation respecting the right of nations to found colonies, and seize upon the uninhabited territory of weaker powers, justifying the exercise of such right, by reference to national laws, divine permission, and imperative necessity, and in conclusion adverted to the present condition of the aboriginal population of this Island — their savage state, ignorance and ferocity, showed the absolute necessity of restraining their passions by punishment, and that, consequently, unless the British possessors of this colony, could revert to the state of barbarism in which the natives were now placed and could adopt those laws which were in use amongst them, they must in order to prevent aggressions hold the black offenders amenable to the British laws. In reference to the case of the two blacks who lately suffered the extreme penalty of the law, the speaker maintained that they richly deserved the punishment inflicted, and that, the power of recommending mitigation of punishment being vested in the hands of the presiding Judge, had the least doubt been entertained of the propriety of the sentence, their punishment would have been commuted.

The Rev. Mr. Forbes, in reply, could not refrain from an expression of dissent from the sentiments promulgated by Mr. Smith, he could not understand the propriety or justice of holding a savage amenable to a law which he could not understand ; first make him acquainted with the law before punishing him for breaking it. The natives of this colony, (the Rev. gentleman said,) looked upon the white population as intruders — in former times every aboriginal family possessed a certain portion of land which he considered his own, and which at stated periods he visited for the purpose of hunting — this inheritance descended from father to son, and continued as an heir loom to succeeding generations. The usurpation of the white man had, however, materially affected the happiness of the native, who, driven by force from his domestic enjoyments, brooded over the injuries which be had received and upon every fitting opportunity availed himself to wreak his vengeance upon the aggressors. Thus was the aborigine justified in resorting to means whereby he satisfied his vengeance at the expense of the oppressor, and nurturing within his savage breast, a remembrance of inflicted wrongs, sought to obtain satisfaction by wreaking his passions upon every European who came within his reach.The Rev. gentleman then explained his views regarding the treatment which an enlightened policy dictated, and expressed a confident hope that the time would soon arrive when the moral condition of the black would be greatly benefitted and improved.

The Rev. T. H. Osborne followed on the same side, expressing his pleasure at finding the society taking an interest in questions, which in his opinion were of the greatest importance ; he in common with the last speaker could not agree in the inference which Mr. Smith had drawn from his arguments ; no British law had as yet been framed, but, to use a homely simile, a coach and six could be driven through it, education must precede coercion, and until the native became instructed, it must be unjust to punish him with that severity which was used to European offenders ; until, therefore, some scheme was devised in order to ameliorate the condition of the aborigine, or by a wise and prudent application of the land fund, an adequate sum was devoted to their support, he could never be brought to sanction their being held amenable to the British laws. The gentleman concluded his very able address, by declaring that, in his opinion, if laws were necessary, our present system must be greatly modified and improved ere it could be made applicable to the circumstances of the New Hollanders.

It being past ten o’clock, Mr. Smith was called upon by the president to reply. The sentiments (he said ) expressed by Mr Forbes did credit to both his head and his heart ; but unfortunately they were impracticable to carry out, Ignorance was no excuse. Let man be ever so degraded, he must know that when guilty of theft, or murder, he was committing an offence which deserved punishment. It was absurd to suppose that he (Mr. Smith) meant to hold the aborigine amenable to the moral or civil law, it was only in cases of wanton aggression that he advocated punishment; kindness and conciliation had signally failed in inducing the savage to respect the rights of the white man, forcibly illustrated by the two men lately executed, and also by the fact that firmness and severity were more efficient protection than indiscriminate indulgence. Government had done all in their power to ameliorate the condition of the native tribes, reserves had been allotted, missionaries sent amongst them, protectors appointed, food, clothing, &c. supplied; but all had been found useless in inducing them to abandon their erratic mode of living, or to prevent their committing outrages upon the British settler, consequently it was consistent with justice and policy to hold them amenable to the laws. The society then divided, when the question was decided in the negative. The question for next evening’s discussion is — Are literary and scientific pursuits suited to the female character. The honourable Mr. Murray opens and is to be responded to by the Rev T.H. Osborne — the Rev. Mr. Forbes supports the proposer, and will he answered by Mr. Smith. An animated debate is expected. A Stimulant for Eloquence. [PPP 3/2/42]

How’s the weather?

I haven’t been able to find the monthly compilation for February in the Government Gazette, which is where it was normally published some two months or so after the event. I’ve only been able to find a weather report in the Port Phillip Patriot of 21 February which recorded between 13-19 February. It was pretty mild, with a top temperature of 76 (24.4) and a low overnight of 50 (10 C).

The Port Phillip Gazette said of the weather (and this doesn’t seem to tally well with the Patriot’s temperature readings):

The Weather has latterly been subjected to those violent changes of temperature which usually mark the height of the summer. On the whole, the season has been far less oppressive than that of last year, but still sufficiently hot to convince the new comer that he is in a new country, bordering on a tropical climate. The state ‘ of the river, the reservoir, from which the inhabitants of the town are supplied with water for consumption, has, with the exception of a few days, been uninfluenced by the sea water, which usually at this time of the year is forced up the bed of the stream, and imparts an unwholesome brackish taste to the river water. So mild have the few last weeks proved that people began to reckon upon the summer having past, when the wind suddenly re-visited them from the interior, and during three days drove them into the coolest recesses of their houses, there to feed on hope and lemonade. (PPG 19/2/41)




This Week in Port Phillip 1842: 24-31 January

Oh dear, I have fallen so behind with my weekly reviews of Melbourne 175 years ago! However, I am comforted by the knowledge that old news is old news, and it doesn’t really matter if it’s 175 years and 5 weeks instead of 175 years exactly.  Nonetheless, I’ll sit down soon and condense the whole of February 1842 into one posting, before March gets away from me.  But first, I’ll finish off January 1842, cobbled together from my incomplete jottings.


After the tumult surrounding the execution of Tunnerminnerwait and Maulboyheener during the preceding week, there were a few somewhat positive stories about Aborigines in the newspapers in the week immediately following.  This was unusual. On 25th January the Port Phillip Herald corrected the report from another of the Port Phillip newspapers that natives on Mr Bathe’s run at Westernport had fired four acres of barley.  Instead, the Herald reported, the ‘blacks’ had tried to extinguish the fire, and their ‘chief’, Gellibrand, had conducted himself in “the most praiseworthy manner”. (PPH 25/1/42)

Then, in the following issue was a report of the drowning death of an aboriginal man who, it would seem, was engaged in salvage work near the wreck of the William Salthouse, which had sunk the previous November near Point Nepean.

LOSS OF LIFE. Sunday last. Two aborigines, known as Jem and Pigeon volunteered to dive to recover a barrel of tar which had fallen overboard from the cutter Diana which was lying alongside the wreck of the William Salthouse. Jem dived several times but was unsuccessful; Pigeon followed him example but never rose to the surface. (PPH 28/1/42)

However, these glimpses of Aborigines working within the settler economy are leavened by a report about the Assistant Protector, Charles Sievwright, and his charges.

THE BLACKS AND THEIR PROTECTOR. Mr Seivwright has left the neighbourhood of Lake Killembeet, and pitched his camp on or near a splendid run belonging to Mr Cox, at Mount Rouse. We wish the settlers in that quarter joy of their new neighbour.  Before Mr Seivwright left Killembeet, the blacks under his charge paid a farewell visit to the flocks of Mr Thomson, and drove off one hundred and fifty sheep,the remains of which were found in the direction of Mr Seivwright’s.  A number of cattle, the property of Mr Ewen,in the same neighbourhood, were also speared.  The Corio, Colac and other blacks have had a regular fight with the Westward blacks; one woman got killed, the westward blacks were beaten. (PPP 27/1/42)

Draining the swamp…

The Flinders Street swamp, that is, not Washington. It wasn’t actually a swamp as such, although there were plenty of those in the immediate vicinity of Melbourne.  No, this was instead a boggy patch between the new Queens Wharf roughly at the end of King Street today and the customs house, which was on the allocated customs reserve, the site of the present day Immigration Museum (which is housed in the third Customs House built on the reserve).

 THE QUEEN’S WHARF. The wood work of the Queen’s Wharf is going rapidly forward, and if persevered in with the same spirit that has marked its progress hitherto, will be close upon completion in the course of five or six weeks from this date.  The style of workmanship, as well as the rapidity with which the work has progressed, so different from the dilly-dallying mode in which the public works of the province have heretofore been carried on, is highly creditable to Mr Beaver the contractor,  who certainly has spared no pains to turn his work out in a workman-like manner. There are no symptoms yet, however, of a commencement being made towards draining off and filling up the swamp between the wharf and the custom house, and as that is likely to prove a work of some duration, we are desirous of seeing government embark in it as early as is practicable, that the improvements on the wharf may be made available at once. (PPP 24/1/42)

The same issue of the Patriot reported a bushfire further down along the Yarra (towards the Bay), reminding us that although the grid of Melbourne and the brickfields opposite may have been denuded of trees for fuel and building, the bush wasn’t far away:

 BUSH FIRE. On Thursday last some person or persons not having the fear of Lord John Russell before their eyes, set fire to the bush on the south side of the Yarra Yarra, immediately opposite the long reach. The wind being high the flames raged furiously for some hours and would doubtless have completely extirpated the withered grass to which his lordship has taken such a fancy, together with the scraggy looking tea trees which adorn the riverbank in that particular locality, had not the rain which set in during the night put a stop to its progress. (PPP 24/1/42)

Temperance meeting

The dominance of hotels in Melbourne, the male-dominated immigrant population and the scarcity and insecurity of housing made Port Phillip a fertile field for temperance campaigners.  The Port Phillip Temperance Society, founded by Quakers James Backhouse and George Washington Walker, had been in operation since 1837.  However, the issue of whether ‘temperance’ meant ‘just a little’ or ‘total abstinence’ was a lively one, as seen in a Temperance Society meeting held in late January in the Scots School Hall and chaired by Superintendent La Trobe (thereby ensuring that it was a thoroughly respectable occasion).  The Patriot had a long report on it, no doubt reflecting the enthusiasm of the Patriot’s editor, William Kerr, who was mentioned by name for signing the pledge.  It seems that there were more speakers for temperance than abstinence- or perhaps the reporter just presented it that way:

Temperance Meeting.- A numerous and respectable meeting of the members of the Temperance Society took place in the Scots School on Tuesday evening ; His Honor C. J. La Trobe, Esq., in the chair. The business of the meeting commenced at 8 o’clock, and the Rev. W. P. Crook spoke at great length in favor of Temperance, adducing instances of families being saved by its healing influence from destruction. The Rev. gentleman also spoke of the success which had attended the Sydney Temperance Society, and stated that he was the first person who there signed the pledge, the second being Mr. Kerr of this office. A gentleman present spoke of the advantages of temperance. Mr Wade, whose speeches in behalf of total abstinence at recent temperance meetings have acquired for him the name of the Teetotal Champion, made a lengthy and able speech, in which he endeavoured to prove the superiority of the total abstinence principle to that of moderation, quoting largely from eminent writers on the subject. Mr. J. A. Smith, the next speaker, argued in behalf of temperance and against total abstinence, endeavouring to base his arguments on Holy Writ. Mr. Davies also spoke in behalf of temperance, and against total abstinence, and, to prove that the latter was injurious to the human constitution, quoted a written medical opinion purposely obtained by him from an eminent practitioner resident in Melbourne. The Hon. J. E. Murray then addressed the meeting; he congratulated the Society upon having their chief magistrate as their chairman, and also upon the support afforded by the attendance of the Rev Mr. Crook, who, he was happy to find, had lost none of that energy which distinguished him throughout his career in the South Sea Islands. Mr. Murray related a number of interesting anecdotes respecting the Irish peasantry, illustrative of the great benefit conferred upon them by the exertions of Father Mathew. The meeting was then addressed by Mr. Rogers in behalf of total abstinence. Dr. Wilmot advocated the cause of temperance, but said he was averse to teetotalism ; he also expressed his concurrence with the greater portion of the medical opinion quoted by Mr. Davies. At ten ‘o’clock, after thanks had been voted to His Honor for his presidency on the occasion, and a collection had been made, the meeting broke up, all present being highly pleased at the proceedings of the evening. [A pressure of other and more important matters precludes our giving more than the above synopsis of the proceedings of this meeting.]

How’s the weather?

A fairly typical summer pattern, with a high for the week of 95 degrees (35 C) on 24 January, then cooler. Once again, the nights were cool.  25th Jan: High 74 (23.3) Low 53 (11.7); 26 Jan High 72 (22) Low 49 (9.4C- that’s pretty cold for January); 27 January High 66 (18.9C) Low 53 (11.7); 28 January 65 (18.3C) Low 54 (12.2), 29 January High 65 (18.3C) and Low 51 (10.6).

This Week in Port Phillip 1842: 16-23 January 1842

This entry contains a lengthy description of the execution of two indigenous prisoners

I’m rather embarrassed that I’ve fallen behind with my weekly summaries of what happened in Port Phillip at this time in 1842.  Largely it was because I’m aware that during the week 16-23 January the first executions in Port Phillip took place after being heard in Justice John Walpole Willis’ courtroom, and I want to write about them in some detail even though I have written about them before here and here. Somehow my desire to do the event justice has meant that I haven’t done it at all.

Tunnerminnerwait (also called ‘Jack’) and Maulboyheener (called ‘Bob’), whose exploits were being reported in my weekly round-ups in during November  (see here and here)  and December 1841 (see here and here), were hanged on 20 January in front of a crowd estimated to number 5000.  This first execution – significant not only because it was the first, but also because it involved indigenous prisoners- was reported in minute detail in the three Port Phillip newspapers. It was, as the Port Phillip Herald  proclaimed “one of the most important events which has yet taken place in our province”.  And so, this week in Port Phillip concerns only the execution.

It’s important to remember that writing about an execution follows a well-honed path. (In fact, much of the reporting of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran’s executions in Bali in April 2015 followed much the same structure). There are reports about the days leading up to the execution with particular emphasis on the night before; measurements of prayers offered up and food ingested; a report of the morning of execution day; the journey to the execution place; the execution itself, then the disposal of the bodies.

The days preceding and the  night before

The prisoners throughout the time which elapsed between trial and punishment, were lodged in the gaol at the west end of Melbourne, and from the day that their fate was ratified by the Governor, and made public in the province, were visited by several of the curious, besides most of the protectors, the Wesleyan missionaries, and the ministers of all denominations in Melbourne. (Port Phillip Gazette 22 Jan 1842)

There was particular interest in the prisoners’ appetites. A prisoner who displayed a hearty appetite was seen to be insufficiently penitential:

[Bob] slept soundly each night previously to his execution. On Wednesday evening he silently but impatiently rejected the food placed before him, and neglected to smoke, a practice in which both he and his companion had been allowed to indulge since their incarceration. Jack… sustained the most perfect indifference to the last moment; he has slept soundly and long ever since his imprisonment and been apparently in good spirits. On the night preceding his execution he eat [sic] plentifully, consuming half a loaf and three panikins of tea, repeatedly talking and laughing; he then enjoyed his pipe with the most perfect indifference, which, after having used for some time, he offered to Bob, this the latter rejected by waving his hand impatiently, and turning from his companion who only laughed and coolly replaced his pipe in his own mouth. (Port Phillip Herald 21 Jan 1842)

Because British Law and ‘ Divine Justice’ were intertwined, it was important that execution be seen to have a religious element lest it be merely revenge.  The men were attended by the Anglican minister, Reverend Thomson.

When the Rev. Mr Thomson visited and remained with them the greater art of the night, Jack assumed a more serious demeanour, and both the prisoners listened attentively, particularly Bob, to the prayer of the worth clergyman. Bob appeared much affected by the remarks and admonitions of Mr Thomson, frequently sobbing and moaning loudly, and expressing his conviction that he should suffer Divine Wrath for the murder he had committed.  Jack was apparently attentive, but evinced no signs of agitation. (PPH 21/1/42)

It is important to note that  Maulboyheener (Bob) was perceived to be the more penitent prisoner, while Tunnerminnerwait (Jack) was seen as the ringleader whose insouciance threatened to make a mockery of the whole procedure.

Bob was lively, pliable, and capable of affection, Jack was sullen, but daring, the latter was the leader in all the depredations that closed in their ignominious death; the former revolted at the crimes committed, but was compelled to submit: Bob had imbibed clearer ideas of religion, and was affected at the last by the terrors of his situation. Jack was evidently sceptical of the simplest truths of Christianity, and doggedly retained his firmness to the moment of death. (PPG 22/1/42)


On Wednesday night, that preceding the execution, the prisoners presented the greatest contrast in their demeanour; Bob was dejected; Jack thoroughly indifferent. The former made at this time a most important confession; it was to the effect, that he took no part in the murder, until threatened by Jack who placed & loaded musket to his head when commanding him to fire on one of the whalers-; even then, however, he would have refused had not the women bidden him remember the murder of their relatives at Port Arthur in Van Diemen’s Land by the white people, and, thus incited him to a revenge which all considered justifiable. (PPG 22/1/42)

The morning of the execution

It’s just as well that they slept soundly in the nights leading up to their execution, because Rev. Thomson surely stayed around for a long time- until 2.00 A.M.!- on the evening before:

After the Reverend Gentleman left them (about 2 o’clock in the morning), the prisoners slept for two hours. At half past 4 or 5 o’clock their breakfast was prepared and handed to them, which was heartily partaken of by Jack, who eat about three pounds of bread, and drunk two panikins of tea; Bob declined eating anything, and when pressed, only drank a little tea.  Jack here, as before mentioned, lighted his pipe and smoked for some time, after which the prisoners were washed, shaved and dressed; their gaol clothes were replaced by clean trowsers, shirts and stockings, during which preparations he seemed perfectly unconcerned and even gay; he laughed heartily when his attendant was assisting him to put on the stockings, and expressed his unconcern at his approaching fate, saying that after his death he would join his father in Van Diemen’s Land and hunt kangaroo; he also said that he had three heads, one for the scaffold, one for the grave and one for V. D. Land; his companion remained totally silent during these arrangements. (PPH 21/1/42)

Then followed another religious ceremony, attended this time by the rest of the prisoners of the gaol.

At seven o’clock the Sheriff, the Rev Mr. Thomson, and several of the Magistrates visited the gaol, when Mr Wintle the gaoler, immediately summoned all there inhabitants thereon to attend divine service in the yard of that building, after which, about 10 minutes to 8 o’clock a covered cart, with two grey horses, was drawn up to the gaol door, and the prisoners having shaken hands with Mr Wintle, walked quietly into the vehicle, which effectually screened them from observation. (PPH 21/1/42)


The prisoners were in a travelling van belonging to Mr. Robinson, and in which, concealed from public gaze, they were drawn from the goal to the place of execution ; the van was a small carriage frame, drawn by two horses and covered in with painted cloth stretched round on poles fastened to the the corners of the frame ; they were preceded and guarded by a body of mounted and border policemen, and were accompanied on the way through Lonsdale-street by several hundreds of people, who joined and merged with the dense mass round the gallows. The Sheriff, the Governor, and other officers of the goal, the chaplain, and chief constable, came up at the same time; and superintended the dreadful preparations. (PPG 22/1/42)

The scene at the gallows

At an early hour on Thursday morning, myriads of men, women and even children were to be seen wending their way in the direction of the new gaol on the eastern hill, in the rear of which a temporary gallows had been erected for the execution of the Van Diemen’s Land aborigines Bob and Jack, convicted of murder at the late criminal session of the Supreme Court, all apparently anxious to gratify that feeling of morbid curiosity which renders an execution a treat to the lower orders of the British. (Port Phillip Patriot 24/1/42)


From the earliest hour of the morning crowds of people began to gather round the gaol and to take up what they considered the most favourable situations for viewing the spectacle. At the commencement, and throughout the scene, the greatest levity was betrayed, and the women, who made by far the greatest proportion, had dressed themselves for the occasion. The side end walls of the gaol which were nearest the gallows were crowded with human beings; the trees in the vicinity had their inmates, and by eight o’clock the assembly numbered upwards of three thousand souls. Between eight and nine accessions to the crowd of spectators were momentarily received, and the most disgusting spirit betrayed in scrambling for places ; several even jumped upon the coffins, which stood at the font of the gibbet, in their eagerness-to watch any movement connected with the event. (PPG 22/1/42)


The concourse of people here assembled amounted to between 4 and 5,000, the greater proportion of whom were women and children, and, from the laughing and merry faces, which were assembled (assisted by the appearance of several horsemen, and some in topboots,) the scene resembled more the appearance of a race-course than a scene of death.  The walls and body of the new gaol were literally packed with spectators, as anxiously awaiting the awful scene about to be enacted, as if it were a bull-bait or prize ring. (PPH 21/1/42)

The crowds were so thick that Captain Beers had to clear the way:

The hour fixed upon for the spectacle was eight o’clock, and a little be-fore that time Captain Beers, with a detachment of the military, made his appearance on the spot and soon succeeded in clearing a passage at the point of the bayonet for the cavalcade which was seen approaching. (PPP 24/1/42)

The execution

On their arrival at the foot of the gallows the prisoners were removed from the van and directed to kneel while the Rev. Mr. Thomson read prayers, which done, their arms were pinioned and they were conducted to the scaffold, to which they were with difficulty got up owing to the steepness of the ladder and their being unable to use their hands. The gallows was formed of two upright posts about twenty feet in height with a cross beam at the top to which the ropes were attached; the scaffold was formed of a plank two feet wide fastened to the gallows at the one end by a hinge, and supported at the other by a prop which being pulled away let fall the drop. (PPP 24/1/42)


On the arrival of the van, two constables stepped up to hand the prisoners out, and the start back which Bob gave showed the terror inflicted by the sight of the unexpected populace; he came out, however immediately, after trembling violently, followed by Jack, calm and imperturbable to the end. It was gratifying to see the universal kindness with which they were treated, soothed by every one round, and tenderly handled even by the executioner. On coming out of the van, their arms were tied behind them slightly, and prayers commenced by the minister in attendance. Bob’s agitation increased with every passing moment, and his moans were terrible to bear. They knelt together with the clergyman, while he prayed joining at intervals in a few words which they understood. On rising again Bob’s feelings broke out in the most heartrending groans ; the terrified and piteous looks he threw around him, pressing against everyone that spoke to him as if to catch at some chance of salvation, was terrible to witness ; he trembled violently, while, the sweat burst from his face in the agony of his sufferings. At length every thing was completed, their arms were securely bandaged, and they were directed to mount the scaffold. (PPG 22/1/42)

I don’t want to go into as much detail as the newspapers did, but Maulboyheener (Bob) was extremely distressed, while Tunnerminnerwait continued to be impassive. However, the Gazette did note:

It was at this time that Jack, who was already standing in his appointed place, and whose eyes had been left uncovered at his own request to the latest moment, might have been seen fixing his eyes on some native blacks, who had taken their stations in the branches of a tree close to the gallows, to witness a sight to them so novel and impressive; it was the only sign of interest or anxiety he had expressed during the occurrences of the morning…(PPG 22/1/42)

I wonder who these ‘native blacks’ were. As Tasmanians, Tunnerminnerwait and Maulboyheener were outsiders to the Port Phillip indigenous tribes as well. What was their relationship with the other tribal groupings in the district? I don’t know.

When the drop finally fell Jack’s sufferings were almost instantaneously at an end, but Bob struggled convulsively for several moments before death came to his relief, owing to the partial displacement of tho noose, and his fall being broken by the bungling manner in which the scaffold was struck away. (PPP 24/1/41)

The burial

The bodies were allowed to hang the usual time (one hour), and on being cut down were placed in shells provided for that purpose and interred outside the new burial ground. Thus ended the short career of two young and able bodied men, who in the course of six weeks Committed several extensive burglaries, and wantonly fired at and wounded four (two dangerously) white men, who had never given them cause for offence, besides murdering the two sailors at Port Fairy, for which they suffered.  May their fate have a beneficial effect upon the Aborigines of the province. (PPH 21/1/42)

Editorial opinion at the time

The Port Phillip Herald which carried the longest report of the execution also published a lengthy editorial. Although expressing a degree of sympathy for Bob in particular, it declared

Of the justness of the sentence, and of the policy of its enforcement, there cannot rest a doubt on the minds of those who have attended to the whole circumstances of the case.

It warned that

It is possible, but we consider extremely improbable, that the aborigines will attempt to revenge the act, and, goaded on by the dark and untutored passions of their nature, take summary vengeance upon the white population…

But this danger had to be weighed against

…the absolute certainty that had a milder punishment been inflicted, the colonists would have declared – and declared with truth, that there was in this colony one law for the black and another for the white man … the white population would take upon  themselves to obtain, directly and immediately, that justice which they had seen instructed by precedent they could not secure at the hand of the Government; and would not the result be, that instead of two murderers having suffered the extreme penalty of the law which justice awarded to their crimes, hundreds would fall before the incensed settlers, whose sole defence lay in themselves.  Open warfare would result….  [PPH 21/1/42)

Port Phillip prided itself on its ‘civilization’. It’s in reading such editorials that you realize just how fragile that ‘civilization’ was. ‘Retribution’ and ‘dispersal’ were open secrets.

How’s the weather?

The top temperature for the week was 80 (26.7) with light airs and fresh breezes. Fine agreeable weather, but frequently cloudy.  And somehow it seems fitting that on the 20th, the day of the execution, it rained.





This Week in Port Phillip 8-15 January 1842

Twelfth Night

Well, it was the week after New Year and some people celebrated Twelfth Night (which I gather is more significant in England than it is here in Australia). Twelfth Cakes were available from Mr Burgin the pastrycook in Collins-street.


From the Port Phillip Gazette:

TWELFTH NIGHT. The shop of Mr Burgin, pastrycook of Collins’ street exhibited on Thursday evening a splendid variety of Twelfth Cakes, of all prices and dimensions, capable of suiting all parties and pockets.   The larger class were gaily ornamented with a variety of beautiful French ornaments, lately received by Mr Burgin. [PPG 8/1/42]

The Port Phillip Patriot had a similar report:

TWELFTH NIGHT The lovers of good old English customs duly celebrated Twelfth Night in all its routine of harmless merriment on Thursday last, and great was the run on the vendors of pastry for the occasion. The tempting display of twelfth cakes made by Mr Burgin, deserves particular mention, being such as would have done credit to the shop of the first pastry-cook in London.[PPP 10/1/42]


During January 1842 work commenced on two infrastructure projects that had been demanded for some time.  The first was to construct a weir in the Yarra River at ‘The Falls’ at the bottom of Queen Street. ‘The Falls’ is a rather generous description: it was a small rocky outcrop that separated the salt water coming up from the bay from the fresh water coming down from the Yarra catchment. It may have been small, but it was very important because the town’s water supply was taken from the freshwater section, and when the falls were swamped by flood water or high tides, the fresh water supply was contaminated.


[Melbourne from the falls, from a sketch Oct. 1838] [picture] / Robert Russell. State Library of Victoria

There had been an attempt to build up the falls in 1839, and now with many unemployed labourers congregating around Melbourne, they were put to work on the weir (also a rather generous description.)

A gang of hands are now employed on the Weir; in the first instance only one wall will be built, after which a second will be added, and the intervening space filled up with puddling clay; the whole width of the Weir will be twenty-seven feet; and when there is no fresh water in the river will serve the purpose of a bridge [PPG 8/1/42]

It is sobering to realize that the Yarra did not have a properly constructed bridge across it until 1845. Until then, people were reliant on punts. I’m not sure that the weir was ever used for crossing purposes, and these works soon deteriorated just as the 1839construction  did.

The second infrastructure project was to build a road from ‘the beach’ (i.e. Port Melbourne) to Melbourne town. After mooring in Hobson’s Bay, visitors to Melbourne had two choices: to travel up the Yarra by steamer, or to travel overland from Port Melbourne to town. It was a rough track, for which Mr Liardet had the contract for a conveyance service.  It was not unknown for people to be held up by thieves en route. Clearing the road was a good project for the unemployed labourers:

WE are glad to learn that a number of the newly arrived immigrants are employed in constructing a road between Melbourne and the Beach. This, perhaps, is one of the most crying of “our wants” and we trust that its satisfaction is only the prelude to the many and important benefits which His Excellency intends to confer on the dwellers in Australia the Happy [PPP 13/1/42]


THE NEW ROAD. At last the Government have commenced the line of road from the site of the projected new bridge to the beach. The surveyors are hard at work laying out the line, and all the unemployed immigrants are employed in felling and stumping in all directions. They are allowed four shillings a day, but find their own rations. [PPG 12/1/42]

Although no doubt people were pleased to see this infrastructure finally being built, the fact that it was being constructed by unemployed labourers as a government scheme was a sign of market failure.  These labourers had been encouraged to Port Phillip with the promise of abundant work, prior to the recession which was just starting to bite. They were never intended to be a burden on the government.

Things getting worse

A sign of the deterioration of economic conditions was the falling price of land.

FALL IN LAND.On Tuesday was brought to the hammer by Mr Sugden, the Sheriff’s Baillif, a piece of land in the upper end of Little Flinders-street, which was knocked down to Mr F. E. Falkiner at 27s per foot. About two years since the same land was purchased by the proprietor on whose account it was sold, at £4 4s. per foot. [PPG 12/1/42]

A change of government overseas

I’m writing this entry in the week prior to Donald Trump’s inauguration. It is a political event that Australia has been powerless to influence, but which  will affect Australia and the rest of the world nonetheless.  In early 1842 the Australian newspapers were digesting the just-received news of the appointment of a new Conservative government in September 1841, headed by Sir Robert Peel after six years of Whig government. This situation, like Trump’s inauguration this week, had the potential to bring a new political stance to matters affecting the Australian colonies.   Although it was not likely that a Conservative government would lean towards either representative or responsible government in the Australian colonies, the Sydney Gazette thought that the change of government offered a good opportunity to agitate for representative government in local affairs:

No time could be more opportune than the present to petition our gracious Queen and the Imperial Parliament. The Conservative party are actuated, no doubt, with a strong desire to conciliate not only the people of Great Britain, but the millions that constitute her immense Colonial Empire. The cause that has led to this change of opinion, and to the appointment as Colonial Minister, of Lord Stanley, one of the most talented , all will admit, of the men who now sway the destinies of the British Empire, can be traced to the long expulsion of the Tory party from the sweets of office. Desirous, as most statesmen are- whatever their creed- of place, pay and patronage, we cannot imagine that the Conservative body are so indifferent to their own advantage, as to neglect strengthening their power by adopting a more liberal policy towards the Colonies than any Ministry have yet thought it incumbent on them to do. [Sydney Gazette cited in Port Phillip Gazette 15/1/42]

A portable house

The advertising columns carried this advertisement for a ‘portable cottage’. Many of the early buildings- including La Trobe’s cottage still standing in Melbourne- were prefabricated structures that were shipped from London. These were wooden structures, which were later replaced by portable iron houses (I wrote about my visit to the portable iron houses in South Melbourne here.)

 LONDON BUILT PORTABLE COTTAGE. A very superior cottage built by Manning of London, is for sale by private bargain. Its area is 59 X 20 feet, one storey high, built in the Gothic style. The accommodation consists of dining and drawing rooms, five bedrooms, one dressing closet, store room, water closet (with patent apparatus) and an attic 59 X 13 feet, which may be divided into sleeping apartments, &c &c. There are slates and lead for the roof and plaster laths, for the ceiling together will all the necessary fittings for its due completion; in fact its one of the most complete and well arranged cottages that has ever been sent out tho this colony, and as the party for whom it was built have taken up their resident in Sydney, it will be disposed of on very moderate terms.  Apply at the stores of Messrs Dunlop McNab & Co, where a sketch will be shown and every other information given. [PPG 8/1/42]

It seems to fit rather a lot into its 59 feet and I assume that the five bedrooms were rather cosy!

The Police Court

Miss Fanny Ross (AKA ‘Flash Nan’) appeared in the police court after a well-intentioned (I’m sure) attempt to entertain the immigrants. She had been enjoying a quiet pint with her cousin, and once he left her and feeling the spirit move her, she bought tooth-picks for the lately-arrived immigrants and amused herself imitating ‘L’Esmeralda’ from the Hunchback of Notre Dame by dancing the tarantella with a tamborine accompaniment. She was fined five shillings for her trouble. (PPH 11/1/42]

Meanwhile Peter Tuite and his wife Catherine were jointly indicted before the Supreme Court for keeping a brothel

The facts of this case are of too gross a nature for publication. It was proved that the prisoners kept a most disreputable house, in a land leading from Sidebottom’s public house, to Bourke-lane, where drinking, fiddling, and all sorts of disturbances were of nightly occurrence (PPP 10/1/42)

They were both found guilty by the jury and Judge Willis sentenced them both to two years jail at hard labour, and a fifty pound fine for Peter Tuite.

A singular coincidence

Amongst the prominent legal personalities in Port Phillip at this time were James Croke, the Crown Prosecutor, and Redmond Barry, who was the Commissioner of the Court of Requests as well as a barrister in the Supreme Court.  In January 1842 he was particularly well known for his defence of the Aboriginal Van Diemen’s Land prisoners who, yes, were still languishing in jail (and of whom we will read next week).

SINGULAR COINCIDENCE. The worshippers at the Episcopal Church in this town on Sunday last were provoked into a breach of decorum which had almost brought down upon their heads the rebuke of the reverend chaplain, by an awkward similarity between the names of two of the aspirants to the felicities of the married life, and those of two gentlemen learned in the law, whose position as officers of the Government necessarily brings them often before the public. The worthy clerk had just discharged the preparatory hems with which he is wont to preface his matrimonial announcements, and finding the congregation all attention proceeded to publish the banns of marriage between “James Croke, bachelor, and Mary Barry, spinster, for the third and last time”. Now Mr Croke, the barrister- not Mr Croke, the bridegroom, being a sober, steady-going bachelor, and a most unlikely butt for Cupid’s shafts, every body stared with astonishment on finding the the learned gentleman in such a predicament, and expectation was wound to the highest pitch while the clerk, who by the way is none of the quickest, proceeded to give the name of the enslaver of the heart of Her Majesty’s Crown Prosecutor. When at last the name of “Mary Barry, spinster” was proclaimed, the air of astonishment was changed to a universal titter, for every-body supposed that a hoax was being played off of which Mr Croke, Her Majesty’s Crown Prosecutor, and Mr Barry, the Commissioner of the Court of Requests, were the victims, and the worthy clerk the unconscious instrument, and it was not without some difficulty and until after several very ominous looks from the reverend chaplain that order was restored and the service proceeded  [PPP 13/1/42]

How’s the weather?

The official weather report noted ‘Fine agreeable weather’ with showers on the 12th and 13th and a top temperature with an ‘attached thermometer’ of 86 (30C) degrees.   The Port Phillip Patriot, which published its own weekly meteorologic report, reported

Jan 9  – Max: 72/ Min: 53; Jan 10- Max: 80/Min:58; Jan 11- Max:80/Min:59; Jan 12- Max:81/Min:64; Jan 13- Max:80/Min:53; Jan 14- Max:68/Min:50; Jan 15-Max: 67Min:/50 [PPP 17 January 1842]

So, all in all, pleasant summer weather with cooler weather on 14th and 15th January.  Interesting, though, that the warmest night was 64 (17.8 degrees), with most nights in the  50’s (12-15 C)




This Week in Port Phillip 1842: January 1-7

In 1842, there wasn’t the extended January break that we now enjoy. Instead, things returned pretty much to normal after New Year.  But let’s just laze around a bit longer for this first week of the year 1842.  I did write about New Years Eve/New Years Day 1841 in an earlier posting, so you might want to flip back to have a look there. My posting for this week is an elaboration on that description of the New Year holiday 1842.

What was on New Years Day 1842?

1. The William’s Town Festivities


The day dawned fine:

The dawning day exhibited a most favourable promise of congeniality; the blueh eavens were unspooted with a cloud, and as the sun arose gloriously refulgent, casting his invigorating beams on the glad earth, a light breeze sprung up, gently rippling the face of the still waters… in fact every prospect was afforded of what is, in Australia Felix, emphatically termed “a beautiful day”, when the purity of the air is such, and the alternations of heat and coolness so nicely poised, that it is impossible for the imagination to conceive, or the desire to yearn for an atmosphere more grateful to the sense.[PPP 3/1/42]

Williams Town was a-bustle getting ready:

On Saturday, the first day of the present year, the good folks at WilliamsTown were on the qui vive at an early hour in the morning, to do justice to the bill of fare which had been drawn up for the occasion, and have everything in readiness by the time the shoals of Melbournites had arrived, who came dropping in after nine o’clock by all modes of conveyance,

” Some pushed along with four-in-hand, while others drove at random

In britsky, buggy, or go cart, curricle, or tandem.”

others sought, the more gliding motion of the London wherry, the gig, or the whale-boat, exhibiting their separate insignia, and stoutly struggling as to whom should first arrive at the goal of contention; lively strains of music came wafting over the water, and added much to the hilarity and excitement of, the scene. The Aphrasia steam boat was also laid on for Williams Town for that day, and was filled with a most respectable assemblage. The Town band engaged for the occasion took up its position in front of Dawson’s, Albion Hotel. The committee of management, consisting of Captain Lawrence, Messrs, Hutchinson and Latham, and Mr. John Davies having been appointed Judge of the sports, finding every thing in readiness, orders were given that the amusements should commence, which was attended to by the

GIG RACE,For gigs pulling four oars, coming off. The prizes were for the first boat £6, and for the second £3. The boats entered, consisted of Captain Sullivan’s, Caroline,(white),Mr. Austin’s Fairy Jane, (green,)and Mr. Levien’s Mary Ann, (black.) Distance: from a boat moored off the wharf, round the shipping and back again. At starting, the gigs kept together in excellent style, but after some short distance, it was clear the Caroline was drawing a-head; the scene now. became particularly animated and interesting, the Fair Jane, with the Mary Ann close on board, struggling hard for the superiority ; the Caroline, however, kept the lead, and came in upwards of one hundred yards before her adversaries. The following was the result.

Caroline 1

Fair Jane 2

Mary Ann 3

The Caroline performed the distance, about four miles, in twenty minutes. The


which had been added to the amusements of the day by way of novelty, was next exhibited, and probably produced more fun than anything going during the day. Four men named Brown, Freeman,Moffit, and Hussey, were the competitors for the £2 prize, and appeared to think the affair quite a matter of course. The candidates having been introduced into the canvass were duly arranged in a line, and “start,” was the word; Brown shot ahead like a planet in its sphere ;Hussey found himself prostrate with his nose exhibiting the process of drill husbandry upon an improved system; Freeman bit the dust, and was released from his confinement, after going through as many contortions as an eel in a sandbasket ; Brown and Moffit had it all to themselves, and the first heat terminated by Brown coming in winner. The second heat had a similar termination, causing immense sport.

The next article on the bill of fare was


For £3 Between three competitors, C.M’Intosh, C. Buckley, and M. Mooney.The contest was spirited, and the spectators appeared well satisfied with the exertions of the runners. After one false start, the race was decided in favor of C.M’Intosh, who clearly evinced his ability to trip it on the light fantastic toe.

The hour of two having arrived, it was thought judicious that the Lion should feed, Mr.Dawson having gratuitously provided a glorious spread for that purpose. About three hundred availed themselves of the opportunity, and ample justice was done to a sheep which had been roasted whole, and an enormous round of beef with the usual concomitants. The scene was rich and entertaining, and varied with all the tints of the rainbow- Here might be seen in one corner a bush man tendering to his lady love a cube of beef, delicately tinged with mustard, and inviting her to soothe her irrited[sic] feelings by its demolition ; in another portion of the apartment, a miniature Hercules was slaughtering the sheep, and accommodating the various claimants with portions, not exactly dismembered according to the strict rules of anatomy, ” Cabbage, oh” was vociferously shouted by an active youth, who distributed the foliage in such portions as he thought correct. The popping of corks, the gurgling of the liquor, with a thousand other et ceteras, contribute: to make up a scene worthy the easel of Wilkie. [PPG 5/1/42]

The Port Phillip Patriot was likewise amused by the scenes at the free lunch:

THE FEED. Father Time, combining business with pleasure had, but the completion of the occurrences we have narrated, caused the hour hand of the dial to closely approximate to the hour of two, and half past one being fixed upon as the period of commencing the grand feed liberally provided by Mr Dawson for the occasion, the assembled multitude were invited to partake thereof, “without money and without cost”. Accordingly a rush was made towards the feeding room, where was to be seen at one end of the table a sheep roasted whole, and at the other an immense round of corned beef; the interval being garnished with concomitants…. The scenes that followed were worthy the pencil of a Cruikshank. At one side of the table might be seen a man busily dividing a junk of beef and a loaf of bread, between himself and three females, while in another place a curious wight was examining the contents of the cruet of cayenne, as suspiciously as if it contained poison.  One individual, who evidently possessed  great talents as an explorer, after probing the carcass of the unfortunate sheep, discovered an enormous lump of fat, with which he danced round the room in ecstasies, calling the attention of his acquaintances to the circumstance of it being “a nice bit for making candles”. Another audibly expressed his opinion that their entertainer was a “jolly good fellow” and that he would always take care to patronize him when he gave a dinner on the same terms.  Between 200 and 300 persons availed themselves of this pro bono publico dinner, and, as may be supposed, by the time the room was finally deserted, the beef, mutton and “wegibles” were but as “things that were” [PPG 3/1/42]

Lunch disposed of, let’s go back to the games and frivolity:


Between Mr. Thompson’s Ariel and Mr. Dawson’s Lively, next came off . The odds at starting were considerably in of the smallness and peculiar build of the Ariel but all is not gold that glitters ; the Ariel proved her superiority at starting, and maintained it throughout the race. Running too near in shore, the Lively grounded, leaving the Ariel to take it easy-for the rest of the run, and to her judge and committee awarded the prize. The owner of the Lively wished to make it a drawn match, but the former decision was confirmed. It is expected that these boats will again try their respective merits for £40 a side. The above match being brought to a close, the


Was called on. Three boats were entered, the Cornstalk, William, and Paddy from Cork, and the prizes, for the first boat £10, and second ditto £5,with entrance money added. At starting, the contest was very spirited, the boats keeping abreast for a considerable distance; shortly after the Cornstalk took the lead, which she kept in admirable style throughout. The result was,

Cornstalk 1

William 2

Paddy from Cork 3

The winning boat, as well as the second in, are of colonial manufacture, having been built by Mr. Charles M’Intosh of Williams Town. The Paddy from Cork is what her name denotes.


Next excited the interest of the company being surmounted with a very tolerable tile, to obtain which it was necessary to travel through various states of Greece. Several attempts were made to reach the beaver without effect, and some of the aspirants even went so far as to touch the under portion of the brim, and then found themselves again on terra firma —a most annoying circumstance. At last, as the competitors stood gasping for breath, one of the sons of Mr. Liardet,of the Pier Hotel, essayed the attempt. As Beau Brummell left on his writing-table that invaluable secret which has caused so much discussion in the beau monde, as to the stiffening of cravats, that starch was the man, so did young Liardet exclaim on seizing hold on the pole, ” Sand is the man!” and after making a liberal use of this article, with which he had loaded himself like a Blackheath donkey, he quickly attained the dizzy height, mounted the castor, and was quickly upon his legs.


Concluded the sports of the day. Four men started blindfolded for a prize of a£1 : the sport was capital, the contending parties making off  in all directions except towards the winning post. In consequence of a quibble, the race was run over a second time.


Followed at six o’clock, got up in Mr Dawson’s best style — that is saying every-thing. About fifteen guests sat down to the repast, and did ample justice to the entertainment. During the dinner, the band played several enlivening airs, and the guests perpetrated the usual loyal and other toasts, and broke up about twelve o’clock. In the evening a concert was held at the Victoria, when a Miss Sinclair made her debut with considerable eclat. Thus ended the amusements of New Year’s day in Australia Felix. [PPG 5/1/42]

2. A concert at the Pavilion

Perhaps a concert at the Pavilion theatre might be more to your taste?

The concert at the Pavilion on Saturday evening to see in the new year was numerously attended. Although there were a number of rather suspicious characters loitering about the Pavilion who had been properly excluded, and those granted entrance were “not all of the upper ranks of society” but they conducted themselves with propriety.  The Pavilion will soon be a most fashionable place of resort.  The star “Miss Sinclair” has excellent command of a good voice, and with a little more practice her success as a vocalist is certain.  Miss Lucas labored under the effects of a heavy cold. When Miss Lucas had to withdraw, an amateur entertained the audience with a variety of dances, expert gesticulations &c and deservedly stands a favourite. [PPH 4/1/42]

3. A bank opening

What a strange time to open a bank for the first time! I assume that the Saturday opening hours were for the benefit of tradesmen and shopkeepers who might want to bank their week’s takings.  Obviously the bank preferred people to put money in, rather than take it out!

Port Phillip Savings Bank open for business on Saturday night 1 January.  Opening hours for receiving deposits Saturday 7-8 p.m. and Wednesday 1-2.  Repayments to depositors on Wednesday only 1-2. [PPG 1/1/42]

4. A Ticket-of-Leave Muster

Even though Port Phillip wasn’t strictly speaking a convict colony, there were convicts, assigned servants and ticket-of-leave prisoners there.  On 1 January each year, there was a Ticket-of-Leave Muster, just to make sure that everyone was where they should be.

5. A cricket match

There was a cricket match between the government officers and the civilians.  The government officers won.

6. A game of shinty

SHINTY. On New Year’s day a splendid game at the good old Scotch game of shinty came off on Mr Donald McLean’s farm on the Merri Creek. About twenty stalwart Highlanders ranged on either side, and the game  was so keenly contested that after a four hours’ struggle under the broiling heat of the mid-day sun the parties were fain to withdraw the game, neither party able to gain the victory. [PPP 6/1/42]

7. A hot roast dinner at the jail

NEW YEARS DAY. On Saturday last, the first day of the new year, the whole of the prisoners at present confined in Her Majesty’s jail, at Melbourne, were regaled with roast beef and plum pudding, at the expense  of His Honor Mr Justice Willis, who had kindly directed that no cost should be spared to make the prisoners as comfortable as their unhappy circumstances would admit. The arrangements for the feast were made under the superintendence of Mr Wintle, the jailer. [PPP 6/1/41]

So how’s the weather?

For the week 1-7 January, the highest temperature was 96F (35C) and lowest 60F (15.5C). “Light airs early in the morning, followed by strong winds A. M.  Fine weather 1st,2nd,6th and 7th, oppressively hot 3rd, followed by squalls and rain”