Recollections of a Victorian Police Officer Chapter XVII page 4

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Recollections of a Victorian Police Officer by Sup John Sadleir

(full text transcription)

My first visit to Jericho was, as I have said, in 1875. I found a solitary constable there, Studholme Hodgson by name, a man on the whole of the better class, though he did find himself in a difficulty during his residence at Jericho that might have ended very seriously for him. The affair to which I refer also showed how ready Orientals are to embelish facts, even when there is very little gained by doing so. Finding on my visit to Jericho that there was no police work to be done there, Constable Hodgson was instructed to close up the police quarters and remove to Mansfield . Hodgson was held in much esteem by the few Britishers in the place, who determined on giving him a send off. Some days later a Chinaman came into Woods’ Point to report to the police there that on the night of the Jericho festivities he had been stuck up and robbed of some two pounds in silver by a white man, and that the constable took part in the affair. Fook Sing, a Chinese detective, was sent to investigate, and in due course he sent in a report somewhat to this effect: - Hodgson’s entertainers, finding that they had run short of grog, and having no ready cash for the purchase of a fresh supply, deputed one of their number to endeavour to raise a loan. It was a bright moonlight night, and the first person invoked was the complainant. John’s reply of ‘No savee’ was no accepted; his pockets were turned out and all the money he had was taken. The noise brought out Hodgson, who, according to the complainant, took part in emptying out his pockets. It was further alleged that a Chinese who accompanied the complainant to Woods’ Point was roughly run into the lock-up there. Detective Fook Sing could say nothing about the lock-up incident, but he reported that the complainant had his money taken from him alright; but instead of the larger sum named, his loss was but five shillings, the balance of some thirty-five shillings, money belonging to his employer, having been previously lost at fan tan. When proceedings were taken against the two accused men, Hodgson and his friend, before the police magistrate, Mr Ogier, it was, of course, my duty to make known the fact that, while some money had been taken, the amount was overstated.

There was a further discrepancy in the evidence. The Chinese friend who was run into the lock-up gave a very dramatic description of the incident, and going to the door of the court house showed how the door of the lock-up was drawn outwards to shut him in. The fact was, the lock-up door was hung on the outside, and not as described by the witness. Mr Ogier, quite properly as I think, regarded these discrepancies as fatal to the prosecution. If the Chinese had told an unadorned tale the result might have been different.

Besides the beauty spots on every side and the grandeur of the view from Mount Matlock , it is interesting to note that the township of Matlock is the highest in Victoria , probably in all Australia , being, I believe, nearly 5,000 feet above sea level. The principal store, Donaldson’s, stands exactly on the line dividing the two water sheds of Victoria . When the Bailiwicks Act came into force it became necessary to decide whether Matlock was north or south of the central line of the Great Dividing Range . I accompanied Messrs W G Brett and H C Stavely, Sheriffs of the adjoining Bailiwicks, to Matlock to enquire into the question. The solution was an easy matter. The time was winter, and the melting snow on Donaldson’s roof was seen to pass from one side into the southern watershed, and on the other side into the northern.


It was while I was quartered at Mansfield that the momentous elections of May, 1877, took place. The former member for the district, Mr William Witt, was opposed by Mr J H Graves. In those days the police had no vote, and I was therefore somewhat surprised when Mr Graves called upon me in his canvas. It was to no purpose that I reminded him that I had no vote, and that the police took no part in such matters. He persisted in explaining his political views and in reading the address to the electors that he intended to publish in the next issue of the local newspaper. I took very little interest in his address, which was a very involved piece of literature, except to notice that he was a pronounced free-trader. He laid his views also before other residents. Within a week his address was published, but with a difference - he now posed as a stiff protectionist. It was one of those lightning changes that Mr Graves afterwards became famous for in his political career. An expose followed, but Mr Graves stoutly denied any charge of front. I kept quite clear of the discussion, of course, and refused to be drawn into it in any way.

Another instance of the very variable views of the same candidate was much spoken of at the time. Mr Graves found the Broken River in flood, and he had to carry on his canvas down one side, and having crossed the river at Benalla, he worked his way up the other side. To the Protestant folk on one side Mr Graves was a strict Orangeman - no Popery for him. On the Roman Catholic side he would not deny that he was a Protestant; it was the creed of his forefathers and naturally he followed it, but Protestant bigotry was most contemptible. He did not take into account that the river was not always in flood; and that religious differences did not prevent neighbours from discussing the views of the new candidate, which they did very much to his disadvantage. At Jamieson, where Gleeson, the local political boss, was a Roman and rather shy of Freemasonry, the candidate would have nothing to do with secret societies; he was a plain man who always spoke the truth. At Woods’ Point he was a leading light amongst the Masons, and could not see why any one should object to so ancient and noble an institution. I cannot say whether a majority of the electors loved a lie or no, but Mr Graves was brought in at the head of the poll.

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