Recollections of a Victorian Police Officer Chapter XV page 3

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Recollections of a Victorian Police Officer by Sup John Sadleir

(full text transcription)

The leader in district racing was the late William Pearson, of Kilmany. His notion as regards steeple- chasing was to have one or more fences so high that no ordinary jumper could face them. His horse Archy could jump almost anything; but to make things sure the laird of Kilmany secured a horse he called Baron, bought, it was said, out of a water-cart at Geelong . Baron had ring-bone, and could move freely only on the turf, but he could jump anything. The other racing people at Sale at last got tired of seeing their principal event won by a cart-horse, and insisted on the fences being lowered. My people in Ireland joined in all local racing, but I never knew any of them to indulge in betting, and I had hitherto observed the same rule. But the Evil One is ever at one’s elbow, and in an unguarded moment I fell from my high resolve. It was in this way. Two horses, half brothers, by Warhawk, had already run a dead heat, one of them belonging to Kilmany. They were running neck and neck in the deciding heat and had covered only about half the journey, when Kilmany sang out ‘Fifty to ten’ on his colt, and I snapped up the offer. I turned away ashamed of myself of having fallen from my integrity. My horse won, and after the race I saw Kilmany searching for the man who took the bet, for the old sportsman liked to settle such matters right off; buy I lay low and did not claim it. Long years after, in the Commotion days, I spoke to Pearson of this affair, which he remembered perfectly, and instead of admiring my principles pronounced me an adjective fool.

Shooting was my special sport, and the abundance of game in Gippsland - snipe, quail, and black duck - was far beyond one’s wildest dreams. The duck-shooting was a most difficult branch of sport. Anyone who has tried to hit a pheasant or a woodcock some time on the wing and skimming down a slope, will understand. I took many tries before I got a single bird. It was the same with other novices. The Governor, Sir J Manners–Sutton, was out one day with a party of four of us, having come expressly for black duck shooting. The sport as it existed in Gippsland in those days has ceased for ever, and is worth describing here.

A reach of water, part of an old river course on the Heart Station, was the place of meeting. It lay between the lakes - where the birds in countless numbers rested during the day - and their evening feeding ground in the swamps and morasses some miles away. The birds began to leave the lakes in the early afternoon, and, no matter where they meant to feed, they invariably passed over this old river-bed, swooping in their flight until they almost touched the water. There was no occasion for the shooter to be concealed; the birds never seemed to take any notice. They could be seen far in the distance, coming in twos and threes quicker than one could reload. The swoop towards the water gave the shooter his chance, a very difficult one, for the birds must have been travelling at the rate of seventy miles an hour at least. The shooting was too difficult for the Governor, who could make no hand of it at all, and spurned the suggestion that he was shooting behind the birds. After perhaps as many as fifty shots without touching a feather, he fired at the leading one of two birds. He knocked over the second, which was quite four feet in the rear, and from that time he began to do better.

GRANT IN THE LATER SIXTIES

One of my early experiences in Gippsland was a ride from Sale to Omeo via Grant. I took what was called the Insolvent Track. I do not know whether this track has since been improved, but I found it the most abominable one, over broken and stony hills at every step. Next followed Bulgoback and Connolly’s Rise before coming to Grant or, as the miners preferred to call it, Crooked River . The Good Hope mine was then at its best, but with its decay later, the fortunes of the little township also came to nought. The mine was on the summit of a high range, and the trollies containing ore from the mine, were run down by wire ropes to the stampers several hundred feet lower than the mine itself. We were shown where the manager, Mitchell, made a very plucky effort to save the buildings and machinery from damage. The brake controlling the trollies went wrong, and when the brakeman lost control he could do nothing to check the speed of the descending trolly. Mitchell grasped the rapidly running rope with his bare hands and managed to get the thing under control, but at the cost of having his hands badly torn. The ‘Good Hope,’ from paying thirty shilling monthly dividends, reached zero shortly after, and all that is now left of the township is I believe only a few tumble-down sheds. No one, however, who knows the district would be surprised to see Grant restored to its former importance.

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