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Early Wellington

Frequent Fines

Frequent Fines.

Referring to cases of misdemeanour, Jerningham Wakefield, in his Adventure in N.Z., p. 264, writes in his amusing fashion:—

“The Bench of Magistrates had been particularly remarkable for its summary infliction of large fines in almost every case brought before them.

Five or ten pounds were very often required in cases of common assault, and from three to five pounds for drunkenness and breach of the peace.

Complaints of the arbitrary nature of the proceedings were often made; but then, no one knew how to get them investigated, and money was plentiful in those early days.

One man, a drunken, foul-mouthed bullock driver from a neighbouring Colony, was a frequent contributor to the public revenues. He was an excellent hand at his profession (a flourishing one then) and made good money, which he spent in drinking large doses of ardent spirits.

His predilection was interfered with by the magistrates and constables; he paid his fines regularly, but the manner of inflicting them seemed to offend him, page 69 and he took his own means of revenging himself. His team of bullocks were soon christened “Shortland,” “Smart,” “Best” and “Cole;” and he used to apply the coarsest epithets to them as he flogged them along. One day the Colonial Secretary, stately and pompous as usual, happened to pass the dray which they were dragging over the beach (Lambton Quay). Brutal threats to “cut Shortland's tail off if he didn't move on;” or to “whip his skin off” startled him in his promenade; and on turning suddenly round he beheld old “Sam” “whacking” his team.

To the surprise of the spectators, the Chief Magistrate asked the bullock driver whether “he applied those expressions to him?”

Sam answered with an innocent grin, “I wasn't a speakin' to you; I'm a driving my bullocks; that's my business;” and the Colonial Secretary retreated from the scene, amid a loud repetition of the most frightful imprecations, threats and mockery of the bullocks by their driver. A crowd of the lower classes roared with laughter during the whole scene.

He changed the names of his bullocks according to those of the magistrates who fined him. “Colonel,” “Murphy,” “Halswell,” etc., were subsequently substituted for the first offenders, as fresh magistrates sat on the bench.” (“Wakefield's Adventures in N.Z.,” p. 264.)