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Recollections of a Victorian Police Officer Chapter XVII page 3

Recollections of a Victorian Police Officer by Sup John Sadleir

(full text transcription)

A COUNTRY SURGEON

To return to Mansfield , with which place I have not yet quite done. Mansfield in the seventies had its one surgeon and general practitioner, Samuel Reynolds. It was difficult for strangers to understand that one doctor should be sufficient to meet the needs of the people of so large a district, a man, too, somewhat past middle life, and who first appeared amongst them in the garb of a miner, for Reynolds had come to Mansfield helping to convey an injured mate over the rough mountain-tracks from Woods’ Point. Finding neither hospital nor practitioner at Mansfield , Reynolds came to stay. There were few men better qualified for his profession, or more successful, in surgical work especially, than Reynolds. A small hospital was started, and with an allowance of fifty pounds a year, and with the aid of Miss Quirk as matron, and Jim Kirby as wardsman, both worthy if untrained workers, Reynolds became sole medical officer. Whether it was that funds were low, or that the hospital managers were stingy, no instruments were supplied for surgical use. Reynolds used to tell how he had to perform operations with a tenon-saw borrowed for the occasion from Bowles, the saddler, and a poultry carver borrowed from the hotel. Some surgical cases coming to him were of a very serious character, cases where men were badly injured in machinery, or in accidents with horses etc. The first inquiry from Reynolds usually was, ‘Has the patient been of temperate habits?’ If the answer was ‘Yes’ , then recovery was almost certain, and friends went away relieved; but if the answer was ‘No,’ then there was an ominous shake of the head, and friends had to leave without much comfort from Reynolds.

Reynolds had never possessed the sense of taste or of smell, and yet he used sugar, mustard, pepper, salt and all other usual condiments and flavourings with his food, and smoked his pipe regularly like other men.

The deprivation of the sense of smell was not all loss to Reynolds, for on one trying occasion at least it left him proof against odours that others could not stand. A Chinaman had come to the hospital whose leg had been broken some days before. The unfortunate man was brought on horseback from Jericho , some seventy miles over mountain roads, and gangrene had set in. Dr Rowe then resided at Mount Battery , near Mansfield ; and although he had retired from practice, he assisted Reynolds when required in any difficult operation. Reynolds decided on amputation in the case of the Chinaman, and at once set to work. A very few minutes of the sickening odour from the mortifying limb of the unfortunate patient was too much for Dr Rowe and the other assistants, and Reynolds was left alone to complete the operation, and the patient made a good recovery.

There was a curious sequel to this. It is, of course, well known that most Chinamen desire their bones to rest in Celestial Land . The particular Chinaman upon whom Reynolds had operated was no exception. He had saved sufficient money to maintain him for the remainder of his life, and resolved to return to his home in China . He could not die happy there without the severed portion of his limb, and so it happened that he appeared one day at the hospital requiring that it should be restored to him. In his blandest manner he made his wishes known to the wardsman Kirby, ‘Please, Mr Kilby, let me have that leg back again.’‘What leg?’ replied Jim Kirby, ‘Is it that rotten old stump the doctor cut off to save your life? Did you suppose I was going to keep a thing like that all this time?’ The Chinaman pleaded his best, but Jim lost temper and told the man to go home and not to be bothering people about a stinking old thing like that. The Chinaman next hunted up Reynolds, who was more tolerant than Kirby, and knew also more about Chinese superstitions. He suggested privately to Jim that he should collect the most likely looking bones he could find in the dust heap, solemnly hand them over to John, and take a formal receipt for them.

As I have said there was no intrusion of other medicos into Reynolds’ domain. The reason was not far to seek. Reynolds was not only a skilful practitioner who never refused any call by day or night, but he scarcely ever made a formal claim for payment for his services. Agriculturists are proverbially long-winded in the matter of payment, probably owing to the nature of the business. If a client had had a good season he might remind Reynolds of his own indebtedness to him. If payment was to be in cash the amount was fixed by the client; in other cases a milch cow, a side of bacon, or some horse-feed was accepted as payment in full of all claims. Reynolds‘ bill to me for three years service, delivered only after much insistance, almost made me ashamed, but he would accept no addition to it. It is no wonder that he was without competitors.

THE JERICHO DIGGINGS

I have already made reference to Jericho , which lies at the southern base of Matlock, close to where the Thompson River takes its rise. I found it, in 1875, a decayed mining hamlet occupied by Chinese fossickers, with a sprinkling of poor whites who seemed to have neither money nor energy to seek a living elsewhere. One can only guess that the name Jericho was given to the police for the reason that ‘it was a hard road to travel,’ as sung in the well-known nigger melody. The roads to the place were steep and rugged, and one wondered how the first explorers found their way there. The soil is wonderfully rich, as it nearly always is on the southern slopes of the mountain ranges, but it was not land hunger that led the people there, but rather the thirst for gold. There were some very rich alluvial claims before the time I speak of, especially some ground worked by Gaffney, the reputed discoverer of Jericho , who later discovered the creek bearing his name, on the northern watershed. The mines at Gaffney’s Creek still appear occasionally on the brokers‘ lists, while Jericho is now but a name. It may be, however, that the rich soil of the latter place may yet attract cultivators for whom there is no room left on the lower plains. It may even happen that Jericho will come again as a goldfield, but not yet, as I think the mining district of Woods‘ Point, which embraces Jericho, has had a bad name with investors from the very first, and much has to be forgotten before men will care to venture their money in the district again.

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