Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Not easy for the mounted police in the West

Ah, the life of a mounted policeman in colonial West Auckland was a challenging one ... from NZ Herald 20 April 1895.


Careless observers weakly imagine that a policeman's life is all "beer and skittles," but that's where they make the mistake. Let me the tale unfold—

I know not whether true it be, But I tell the tale as told to me. It is so good that it ought to be true. As for situations, unlooked-for developments, amusing misadventures, and innocently playing at cross-purposes, the story beats any Comedy of Errors that was ever written.

On Wednesday last information was received in Auckland that a young man named Charles Bowden had been found dead in the scrub near New Lynn, and Mounted Constable Ready was at once despatched to make investigations. As bad luck would have it, his horse stumbled on a stone outside Avondale, and he came a "cropper," prophetic of the disasters detailed in the sequel, for misfortunes never come singly but in battalions. Picking himself up —for constabulary duty must be done—he proceeded to the locality indicated, made his investigations, arranged with the coroner, and for his witnesses at the morrow's inquest, and rode back to Auckland for the night. So ended the first day.

On Thursday morning, he again went out to New Lynn, for the inquest, and put up his horse in a shed at the New Lynn Hostelry. While the inquest was going on, the Auckland police authorities received word of another young man being killed, a few miles past New Lynn, and mounted Constable Kelly was despatched, to make inquiries. On reaching New Lynn, the inquest on Bowden was just finishing, and Constable Ready was preparing to ride to Henderson, at the request of the coroner, Mr. Bollard, to inquire into the matter, not being aware that Constable Kelly had been sent out. The two constables met, explanations ensued, and it was arranged that Constable Kelly should return to town, and Constable Ready proceeded to carry out the instructions he had received from the coroner.

While the inquest was going on someone wanting to use the shed had shifted Constable Ready's horse from the shed to the stable without his knowledge, and when Constable Kelly arrived, the shed being then empty, he put his horse up there. In the dusk Constable Ready went, to the shed where he had put up his horse, and not noticing the change of horses, mounted Kelly's horse and rode off. If the gallant officer did not know the transposition of horses the horse knew the transposition of riders, and having a bit of blood in him, before a mile had been cast behind his hoofs, he performed the operation known as “two and carry one," and Ready made a clear circle in the air, and came down on his centre of gravity like a pile-driver—on Henderson road metal at that—seeing not only stars, but the whole stellar system.

Constable Kelly was just in the act of getting ready to go to Auckland, when a lad rode up to the hotel with the startling intelligence that a policeman had been killed up the road, and that Constable Ready was “dead to the world for ever." Kelly rushed round to the shed for his horse, but to his horror found the shed empty, and his horse spirited into thin air. So he ran up the road on foot, while a settler who had a buggy at the hotel door, also proceeded to the scene of the accident to bring in the body. On arrival, Ready, stunned and dazed, was being resuscitated on the roadside by a settler's wife, who had witnessed the accident. He was brought back to the hotel in the buggy—his (Kelly's) horse having disappeared—to obtain that rest and comfort which a guardroom can never afford.

In the meantime Kelly, in roaming round, found Ready's horse in the stable, and mounting, skirmished away to Henderson to find his own missing horse. At Henderson all the settlers could tell him was that in the twilight a horse thundered through the village, but when they got out of their homes, he was gone! Whether he had a rider or not, or was the "Flying Dutchman," they could not say. Going on to Swanson six miles further on Kelly heard, to his dismay, that the horse had gone through the settlement "very fresh, in good Cup time, with a lot in hand." As Kelly knew that "the bloomin' 'oss” was half-brother to Mangere, the steeplechaser, he came to the conclusion that it would go on to Helensville, and therefore made a strategic movement to the rear and fell back on his base --the New Lynn Hotel -- a sadder and a wiser man. So ended the second day.

On Friday Kelly was up betimes, visited the scene of the fatal accident to young Lodge, got his jury summoned, and then came to Avondale to open communication with Auckland. It being a holiday the Avondale bureau was shut, a 'bus not running, and it was evening before his note, by a late 'bus, explaining matters reached Sergeant Gamble, who was beginning to think there was going to be a third inquest at New Lynn. That officer, under orders from Inspector Hickson, proceeded in a buggy to the New Lynn Hotel, and brought in the injured Ready that night, and he was subsequently sent to the hospital for treatment, having objections, on principle, to sitting anywhere else than on a sofa. Kelly remained behind to attend to the inquest, as it was adjourned till next day. So ended the third day.

At ten o'clock on Thursday night a settler, riding from Big Muddy Creek to New Lynn, encountered, four miles from the hotel, a horse saddled and bridled, but riderless. It was travel-stained, exhausted, and seemed to have been through all the swamps in the country. After some trouble he captured it, and failing to find a rider, brought it on to New Lynn at midnight, where the people of the hostelry hailed it as the missing horse of Constable Ready (Kelly), as it appeared to be a bay, as well as the mud would permit of descrying it, and it was put into a paddock.

Early on Saturday morning Sergeant McMahon and Constable Lowry got the route for "the front" -- the New Lynn Hotel—the sergeant to take in the situation, and the constable to join in the pursuit of "that 'ere bloomin' "oss." No better selection than that of the worthy sergeant could have been made. He is a good judge of horse-flesh, generally has his "little bit" on, and scoops the pool. He opened up communication with Kelly, who was "holding the fort" at the New Lynn Hotel, attending to the inquest. Constable Lowry, pivotting on the hotel, swung his right heavily round to Hobsonville, and skirmished up to Swanson on foot in the dreary, drizzling rain, but no sign of “that horse,” and he therefore plunged into the Waitakerei ranges.

Some six miles in, he fell across a settler named Ashe, who had found Kelly's horse in a swamp, tangled up in the reins, and looking as if it wanted a square meal. He had given the horse oats, sent his boy roaming round fruitlessly to find the rider or owner, and, "not to put too fine a point upon it," there was £1 to pay. Lowry squared Ashe, the moot point of who was ultimately to pay the pound being left to a future date “without prejudice.” Lowry, in no way discouraged by the story of the record of the horse, mounted it, and ib was quick and lively, bub by performing the operation of “saw'rin' its bloomin' 'ad off” Lowry reached Auckland in safety.

In the meantime Kelly, the inquest over, was scouring the country for his horse, and as he went a la John Gilpin, the settlers came to the conclusion, as he rode across country, that he was after an escaped prisoner, or, at the least, a dangerous lunatic. He was sanguine of success, for the saddle and bridle were “the property of Her Majesty the Queen,” besides that horse had the “broad arrow,” as they said in the art jargon at the Art Exhibition, “judiciously placed.” In his journeyings he learned of Lowry's recovery of the horse, and he returned to Auckland, in very much the frame of mind of the Commissioners at the Treaty of Ghent, “pleased, but not proud.” So ended the fourth day.

Kelly's horse being recovered by Ashe, to whom does the mysterious bay in the paddock at the New Lynn Hotel belong, which was recognised by the people of the house as Ready's bay, and what has been the fate of its equally unknown rider, for the horse has never been claimed, so far as the police are aware. Counting the gains and losses of the campaign, when the police had again concentrated at Auckland, it was found that the police had got a new horse, saddle, and bridle, the horse “eating its head off” at New Lynn on the other hand a constable has been placed temporarily hors de combat, and a little bill run up at New Lynn for “accommodation for man and beast”—more particularly beast— as the unknown horse is “going through” the bin like a maize-crusher.

The air is now rather sultry at the police barracks, and the phraseology generally is assuming a vermilion hue. It would not be healthy for a civilian to mention New Lynn just now in the guard-room, or to make inquiries as to whether “that 'oss” had been recovered. Constable Ready has been in perils oft, and was in the famous march of General Roberts to Candahar, but he “draws the line” now—at Kelly's horse. When he gets his patch of sticking plaister off (the size of a dinner plate), the Star of India will be, as of yore, "Ready, aye, Ready!” …

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