Author Archives: amybatchelor

Unlawful Marriages and Illegitimate Children

By Amy Batchelor

Are you the product of an illegitimate marriage? You could be, especially if your ancestors were married in Adelaide in the month of May, 1842. In her book, Family Life in South Australia Fifty-Three Years Ago, Jane Isabella Watts (1890:139) writes “the glorious uncertainty of the law and the careless, slipshod way in which Acts of Parliament are constructed were seldom, perhaps, more strikingly displayed than in the drawing up of the new Marriage Act.”

The new Marriage Act passed in council on 22nd March 1842. It called for due notice of marriages, the issuing of licenses and certificates, and the registration of all marriages. Ministers of religion now had to be registered and any marriages performed by unregistered Ministers were deemed invalid.

Ministers notice

Ceremonies could be conducted according to the particular religion, however each party now by law had to say to each other: “I call upon these persons here present to witness that I, (name), do take thee, (name), to be my lawful wedded wife (or husband).”

For a “brief outline of some of the Act’s leading and most important provisions” see this article from the Southern Australian, 29 March 1842. While the new Act legalised all marriages in the colony prior to the 30th April, it didn’t come into force until 1st June 1842. Unfortunately, no provisions were made for marriages in the month of May.

At the time of their marriage, Jane’s husband Alfred questioned the legality of the new Marriage Act “but his objections were overruled” and their ceremony went ahead on Wednesday 18th May, 1842.

Marriage notice

Several years later a well-known doctor, who had “also entered the matrimonial state” in May 1842, “discovered the mistake that had been made… and that in consequence thereof, his marriage… was void and his children illegitimate.” While the doctor was understandably “excessively concerned”, Watts didn’t seem upset at all: “in reality the blunder gave (us) no concern… and may probably have formed the ground work of a sly jest between (us) now and then, but that was all” (Watts 1890:140).

By using a variety of online databases I was able to identify twelve marriages that took place in Adelaide during May 1842 (table 1).

table 1

Do you recognise any ancestors on this list? Well, fear not. The Marriages Amendment Act of 1852 placed all weddings under Government supervision and contained a clause “which effectually and forever set at rest all doubts as to (the) legality” (Watts 1890:140) of any marriages performed in May 1842.

Not that any of this mattered of course, because, as Watts (1890:140) says, “no legal flaws had power to disturb their peace of mind, for ‘those whom God has joined together, no man can put asunder.’ A union that is based on mutual love and esteem… can never be snapped in twain.”

(For the latest statistics on divorces in Australia visit the Australian Bureau of Statistics here).

“Never, though you are handsome, strut before ladies like a Turkey-Cock”

By Amy Batchelor

Do you ever strut before ladies like a Turkey-Cock? Well don’t!

While researching daily 19th century life in Adelaide, I stumbled across an article in the Southern Australian, Friday 27 May 1842, titled “Rough Every-Day Maxims”. According to the article, strutting before ladies like a Turkey-Cock is one of the forty-six things you should “Never” do!

turkey

Some of these maxims still make perfect sense in the 21st century. For example, ‘Never contradict a lady – it is rude;’ one can hardly argue with that, and I’m sure everyone would agree that we should ‘Never get intoxicated, and “put an enemy into your mouth to steal away your brains”.’

Some provide curious insights into the fashion of the times, such as ‘Never, although you sport imposing whiskers, twist them every five minutes,’ while some may leave you scratching your head: ‘Never show “the lions” to your “country cousins,” unless you are sure they “will pay the piper.” Wait, what?

maxims

For maximum maxim enjoyment, I have listed the forty-six pearls of wisdom in an easy to read format below. Take note, because while 172 years may have passed, much of this advice stands the test of time; especially if you wear a wig, and you intend to jerk off your hat, to a lady…

  1. NEVER borrow money from a friend, if you wish to retain his friendship
  2. Never wear a shabby coat, even although the tailor’s bill should be unpaid, for the world regards the outer garb more than the inner man
  3. Never go to law – it is expensive and harassing, and you have often the supreme satisfaction of “gaining a loss”
  4. Never, if your wife is a vixen, ask a friend to dinner, unless it is one of her sunny days and, above all, avoid a “washing day”
  5. Never run upon the street, unless you are chased by a mad bull or the police
  6. Never, if you are given to after-dinner oratory, speak above ten minutes – conciseness in such cases is a cardinal virtue; and avoid expressions as “proudest day of my life,” “inadequate to respond,” “overpowering gratitude,” “never-to-be-forgotten honor,” “cherish till latest day of my life,” &c., &c. If you are given to action, you need not sweep the crystal from the table
  7. Never marry a young lady who depreciates her female friends – it is envy and strife; and ten to one she will turn out a shrew
  8. Never be witty at the expense of others – it may provoke laughter, but it will infallibly raise enemies
  9. Never, if you intend to sing, pretend you have caught a cold, but “strike the lyre at once”
  10. Never aim at being king of the company – it is an unamiable and usurped exaltation, at which the feelings revolt; and rather be a listener than a speaker
  11. Never lose your temper in argument – it is a sure sign that you have taken the wrong side, or got the worst of the debate
  12. Never speak disparingly [sic] of absent friends – “walls have ears,” and a “little bird will carry the tale”
  13. Never read a book on the streets – it is a silly piece of affectation
  14. Never praise yourself; and if honors are thrust upon you, carry them with meekness
  15. Never leap from a railway coach when it is flying at the rate of thirty miles an hour – it is safer to sit still at all hazards
  16. Never, when you are shaking hands with a young lady, squeeze her fingers till she is obliged, in self-defense, to call out “O, fye!”
  17. Never be surprised that your letters to your friends remain unanswered – correspondence costs trouble
  18. Never ape singularity in dress – it is arrant puppyism, excessively vulgar, and worthy only of tailors’ apprentices, who, on the Sundays, play the part of “imitation Highlanders”
  19. Never rejoice in the misfortunes of others – the clouds may be rising which will overshadow your own prospects
  20. Never oppress your dependents – it is the act of an unfeeling coward: “the merciful man is merciful to his beast”
  21. Never get into debt – it is the devil, and you are at the mercy of you know not whom
  22. Never, if you can help it, employ an attorney – the six-and-eight pennies quickly accumulate
  23. Never show “the lions” to your “country cousins,” unless you are sure they “will pay the piper”
  24. Never, though you are short-sighted, use an eye-glass, and stare ladies out of countenance – it is rude and vulgar
  25. Never fight with a bully – “it is better to flatter a fool than fight him”
  26. Never marry a widow with a small family, else you will not have your sorrows to seek
  27. Never associate with those below you in station – the world is censorious, and “a man is known by the company he keeps”
  28. Never wear your hat in a room – it is excessively vulgar, or excessively impudent
  29. Never, though you are handsome, strut before ladies like a turkey-cock
  30. Never, although you sport imposing whiskers, twist them every five minutes – as for moustaches, they should be put down by act of parliament
  31. Never play off a practical joke – it is characteristic of a weak, puerile, and vulgar mind
  32. Never listen to the tittle-tattle of “busy-bodies” – it is poison
  33. Never contradict a lady – it is rude
  34. Never despair, whatever betide – “it is a long wynd [sic] which has no turning
  35. Never pretend to knowledge which you do not possess – detection may be sudden and humiliating
  36. Never, if you are humorous, descend to buffoonery
  37. Never chuck your landlady under the chin – it may originate surmises
  38. Never live beyond your income – thus only will you maintain independence
  39. Never plead poverty – it is the most henious [sic] of crimes, and you will be shunned as if you had the plague-spot
  40. Never violate truth – veracity is the chief of virtues
  41. Never pay court to a jilt-maid, or wife, she cannot be depended upon
  42. Never do a dishonorable act, because it may escape the observation of the world – for when you lose self-respect, you lose peace of mind
  43. Never play the sycophant – he is a crawling reptile; despised by all good men
  44. Never get intoxicated, and “put an enemy into your mouth to steal away your brains”
  45. Never boast of your courage – the truly brave never boast
  46. Never, if you wear a wig, jerk off your hat in bowing to a lady, else you may cut a very ludicrous figure, to the great amusement of the good-natured public

 

The Glass Eyed Governor and the Shitty Truth behind the Proclamation

By Amy Batchelor

In her book “Family life in South Australia Fifty-Three years ago,” Watts (1890) recalls when Sir John Hindmarsh, the first Governor of South Australia, visited Kingscote in June 1838 to inspect the township and hold a levée. As Watt’s father, William Giles (1791-1862), was in charge of the South Australian Company’s station at Kingscote, it was “at once settled that [Hindmarsh] must be invited to dinner, together with his suite, and the captain of the Queen’s ship, the Pelorus.” This impending visit caused much anxiety as “the family had only just moved into the house, which was in the greatest state of confusion… and moreover that they were living in a place where frequently provisions of even the plainest description could not be procured for love or money, it must be admitted their position was a perplexing one… To provide, at only twenty-four hours’ notice, a suitable dinner to set before twenty-four persons, was no easy task.”

One of Watt’s sisters, seated with a full view of Hindmarsh, noted that “his eyes were of the brightest blue… but that one remained stationary in its orbit, and had a cold, unmeaning stare, which puzzled her excessively.” When she asked a sailor what was the matter with the Governor’s eyes, he gave her a single word response; “glass.” Watts recalls the Governor “was of middle height, pleasant looking, with frank, genial, affable manners, and every inch a sailor.”

Genial, affable manners – interesting, but not exactly how history paints the man.

B 45581Sir John Hindmarsh (1785-1860), c 1836. Image courtesy of SLSA B 45581

According to History SA, he was “an autocratic and abstemious captain with little time or inclination to deal with non-seafaring types, and was not well-liked by the passengers.” He regularly disagreed with the surveyor-general, Colonel Light, and Commissioner Fisher about the placement and governance of the City of Adelaide, and the disagreement continued once in the colony. The Colonial Office eventually bowed to pressure and recalled him to England.

Hindmarsh’s Diary

If you want the true story you need to go directly to the source and, luckily for us, Hindmarsh kept a very candid diary. With no holds barred, he clearly never intended the contents to become public. We can learn a lot about the man through his deepest and sometimes darkest thoughts.

The Loving Father

July 1836: Reacting to George Stevenson’s criticism of his daughter’s ship’s newspaper The Buffalo Telegraph, Hindmarsh notes: “What this stupid arse Petronius Arbiter does not understand is that my daughters merely were being kind and acted for the amusement of all on a long and tedious journey. I know they are talentless. I know they are bubble headed ninnies… but they are my talentless bubble headed ninnies and if it should come to my attention that Mr Stevenson has given public utterance to his critical judgments then he will find himself walking bow legged and in need of a truss.”

The Supportive Brother

July 1836: “Coming with us on the voyage is my sister Anne. Poor dear. Forty nine years old and never married or even been looked at to any great extent by a man. She is not, perhaps, the most attractive of women, but she is not entirely repellent and in a new colony such as South Australia single men are sure to be plentiful. I believe it is the case in Sydney that the number of single men far outweighs that of single women. And where numbers are high, standards are low, so we may yet get the old girl off our hands.”

The Humanitarian

September 1836: On explaining to the lower class passengers that “leaf tea was running short and that, naturally, the passengers of the better sort could not be expected to do without,” Hindmarsh remarks that they “clearly know their place and may even take solace in the knowledge that their doing without will make the lives of their betters more comfortable.”

When complaints were raised about his dogs having “the freedom of the ship” resulting in “one or two (or perhaps more) of the lower classes [receiving] playful nips… and their clothing and shoes soiled with dog dirt” he told them that “as members of the lower classes I do not doubt that a bit of dirt and filth will make you feel at home.”

The Dog Lover

His dogs, it seems, were the only fellow voyagers that Hindmarsh deeply cared for. In September, 1836, he notesThe voyage nearly ruined when Lion, my spaniel, fell overboard! Fortunately the crew were magnificent and… managed to turn the ship around – no easy task as a lumbering old merchant ship like the Buffalo hardly turns on a sixpence.” What amazing imagery to imagine the Buffalo turning around to pluck a spaniel from the ocean. His love for the dogs only increased when, in November 1836, he notes “to keep the animals well watered I have had to strike an extra pint of water off the allowance to the passengers and emigrants. Loud has been their whining and complaining, but I really cannot have the animals suffer and I think it unreasonable of the people to expect me to allow it.”

The Doting Husband

So numerous are the unkind comments about Mrs Hindmarsh it is very difficult choosing only one. However, the following entry I think is my favourite: November 1836: “A whale swam near the ship after sporting with two or three others nearby. It swam up and surveyed us before heading back to its fellows. As Mrs Hindmarsh was on deck at the time taking her constitutional, dressed in a large black crinoline, I am certain it turned tail and fled when it realised that it was unable to compete. I imagine the report it gave to the others was not entirely favourable.”

The Shitty Truth behind the Proclamation

Hindmarsh regularly quarrelled with the Private Secretary George Stevenson, author of the Proclamation and later editor of the Register. Watts (1890) recalls Stevenson as “tall and powerfully made, not handsome in feature, but with a good intellectual countenance and well-shaped head.” Hindmarsh did not exactly echo these generous sentiments.

November, 1836: “Scoop Stevenson has let it be known to all and sundry that the Proclamation of the New Colony is soon to be written and suggestions will be welcomed. Welcomed, bollocks! As welcome as a fart in a bottle.” When the Proclamation was finally drafted on November 16th by Stevenson, Hindmarsh placed it in the strong box in his cabin for safe keeping. “I know Scoop has worked long and hard at this and I do appreciate his efforts. Sometimes he can be an arrogant sod, but he can be a decent stick at times.”

11th December, 1836: “Oh my giddy aunt! What a disaster of a day! Early this morning great excitement at the sight of Cape Chatham, the first land seen of the new country… But all this paled when I discovered that the Proclamation for the new Colony… was missing!” When told that Mrs Hindmarsh had recently been seen at the strongbox he writes “well of course. If there’s trouble the devil must be involved.”

It seems that her cat, “that creature from the deepest pits of Hell, that foul, vicious bundle of claws and teeth, otherwise known as dear little Tinkles,” needed a liner for his litter tray and Mrs Hindmarsh had found some old papers to tear up. “God above! Tinkles has pissed on the Proclamation!”

He writes: “The rest of the day I spent retrieving bits of paper, cleaning them off and piecing them back together like some child’s puzzle. By the time I had finished I had most of the thing in order, although a few sentences, including, I am sad to say, a rather uplifting quotation from Lord Glenelg, were so badly stained with ordure that they were unreadable… Not exactly the Proclamation that was intended, but close enough, I hope, to fool the Commissioners.”

Charles_Hill_-_The_Proclamation_of_South_Australia_1836_-_Google_Art_ProjectThe Proclamation of South Australia 1836, Charles Hill. Image courtesy of findmypast.com.au

Fortunately Hindmarsh managed to find some spare paper and forged Stevenson’s handwriting to re-write the Proclamation. Apart from Stevenson’s quizzical looks and a comment that he couldn’t read his own writing, the deceit went undiscovered and all was well. This was lucky, as Hindmarsh notes, as “already I have only to sneeze out of turn and Fisher looks at me with all the warmth he might normally reserve for a maggot that just unexpectedly crawled out of his salt beef. So what he would say if he learned that the cat shat on the Proclamation, I fear to think.”

“Family life in South Australia Fifty-Three years ago (Dating from October 1837)” by Jane Isabella Watts (1824-1894)

My Directed Study involves investigating the living conditions for 19th century staff at the Old Adelaide Gaol. By comparing primary and secondary sources we can construct an understanding of the average daily life in Adelaide during the mid to late 19th century.

As any fellow student of cultural heritage will understand, it is very easy to get carried away in second hand bookshops, particularly those with a section on Adelaide’s colonial history. When I saw the small red hardcover titled “Family life in South Australia Fifty-Three years ago (Dating from October 1837)” I simply added it to my growing stack of purchases and took it home without much thought. It wasn’t until months later that I realised I had purchased a primary source gold mine.

photo

“Family life in South Australia Fifty-Three years ago” with a few of my favourite pages marked.

Encouraged by her husband of seven years, Alfred (Consul for Sweden), Jane Isabella Watts began writing the book in 1851 (aged 25) after a doctor (one of the best available in Adelaide at the time) so incompetently treated her severely sprained ankle that she never fully recovered. To “banish the miserable present from her mind” she decided to “write an account of the arrival of her family in the ship Hartley (see the passenger list here), and try to record the many droll adventures they met with while on Kangaroo Island,” and, in later years, Adelaide.

B7966 - ca. 1865 Mr. Mrs. Alfred Watts. Jane Isabella Watts was the author of Family Life in South Australia. Alfred Watts was Consul for Sweden

Mr. & Mrs. Alfred Watts. Ca. 1865. Image courtesy of SLSA B 7966

Terrible luck for Watts, yes, but we are the lucky ones who get to share in her stories, so vividly written that you could almost be aboard the “floating lunatic asylum” with 13 year old Watts in 1837, as her fellow hungry voyagers attempted to make a ”three-decker sea pie” from albatross meat; seated at a Kingscote dining table “with the Governor himself – Captain (afterwards Sir John) Hindmarsh” in 1838, curiously observing his glass eye; or a guest at the 1841 Drawing-Room Queen’s birthday celebration at Government House, attended also by “a number of natives, in new blankets, bestowed upon them by a paternal Government.”

Not published until 1890 by W. K. Thomas & Co., Watts (then aged 66) dedicated the book to her relatives, with the explicit request that they “kindly not allow this book to go out of their possession, or to be read by strangers during her lifetime.” She states that “these incidents in their daily lives, though not particularly interesting, are just recorded to show the young relatives of the writer, for whom this narrative is specially intended, that all was by no means couleur [sic] de rose with [their] family in those early days.” However it is these everyday incidents which give us the best insight into life in those times and, written as they are with such vibrant description, we can only be grateful that Watts had the time and inclination to record this history for future generations to enjoy.

B5190 - Mrs. Alfred Watts ca. 1875

Mrs. Alfred Watts ca. 1875. Image courtesy of SLSA B 5190

In future blogs I intend to reflect on some of my favourites amongst Watts’ stories. Gossip, politics, fashion, decorating, architecture, tent life, town planning, cooking, picnics, parklands and Indigenous encounters – this book has it all. Stay tuned!