Friday, July 30, 2021

The Mt Eden Gaol “Cuckoo!!” Mutiny of 1865


Mt Eden Gaol as it was a few years after the incident, in the 1870s. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections 4-155 

I don’t know about you, but the word “mutiny” for me usually conjures up scenes of violent overthrow of authority, or at the least something involving weapons and a lot of angry shouting. There’s also the “refusal to take orders” type of mutiny.

I haven’t before now come across one involving calling out the name of a bird to drive someone utterly up the wall.

The year 1865 was when the prison at Mt Eden was under considerable scrutiny. It was on the verge of becoming Auckland’s only prison, with the last prisoners held still at Queen Street gaol moving out later that year in November. But there had been a number of high-profile escapes and near-escapes, along with public concern as to the state of the prison itself, in its then wooden shed-like form. The gaol’s governor, Flynn, was in the crosshairs of some who sat on the Auckland Provincial Council, especially in March of 1865. On 14 March, at the Provincial Council’s meeting, Hugh Carleton was in the midst of reporting back to his fellow councillors on the state of the gaol and the clearance of the lava field around the existing stockade to allow room for the construction of stout stone walls, when an urgent letter was delivered to him. He read it, then rose from his seat, and asked for a colleague to take over from him as, he said, a mutiny of the prisoners had broken out in the stockade, and his presence was required. The meeting then continued on, as Carleton hurried away.

 On that same morning, the NZ Herald had written an opinion piece on the subject of Governor Flynn, and his possible ousting from his job. They wrote: “With all due respect for the natural instinct which teaches the cuckoo to lay its egg in the nest of the sparrow, we beg leave to say that we do not see why this principle should be permitted to develop itself in the Provincial Government affairs of this province, and we trust that Mr Flynn will not be among the first on whom the principle is to be tried."


Two years earlier, the authorities had made two investments for the ongoing profitability of the gaol and its quarries. They had purchased a steam-powered stone breaking plant, hiring an engineer for it, and took on the services of one Charles Dyke as Inspector of Prison Labour and Instructor of Stone-Dressers. Dyke, though, was not liked by the prison inmates. The day before Carleton’s announcement of the mutiny, Dyke had complained to the Engineer-in-Chief about Governor Flynn’s laxness in not stamping out gambling taking place amongst the inmates, a charge which proved to be unfounded.

So, what was the mutiny?

Apparently, according to the NZ Herald, the engineer in charge of the stone breaker was a regular reader of their newspaper, and through him the prisoners learned of the Herald’s quote as to cuckoos and the eroding position Flynn was in regarding his job. So, on the day of the “cuckoo” article, 14 March 1865, when Dyke turned up to work and entered the quarries, he was met with cries of “Cuckoo!! Cuckoo!!” coming from various parts of the landscape, from behind hiding places, from a number of throats. The cry of “Cuckoo!!” resounded from all sides, and drove Dyke to a fury. “This evidently somewhat annoyed Mr. Dyke, who” the New Zealander reported, “at once proceeded to town to lodge a complaint with the Superintendent of the very unruly behaviour of the prisoners. By what stretch of imagination Mr. Dyke managed to convert this rather disagreeable system of chaff into an open mutiny of the prisoners, is best known to himself. We have been assured that the men retired at the usual time in the most orderly manner, and that the cries of “cuckoo” which so terribly aggrieved the foreman, ceased immediately on his disappearance from the scene.”

Six ringleaders were identified, and isolated to stand before the Resident Magistrate, Thomas Beckham, who held an enquiry into the “mutiny.” Beckham couldn’t see that there was a “mutiny” as such, but still warned all of the prisoners in the gaol that such behaviour as calling “Cuckoo!” at a prison employee was against regulations, and could entitle the guilty parties to a flogging. But he added he had found no real evidence, simply sentenced two men to solitary confinement for talking back to Dyke, and left it at that.

Flynn lost his job on 15 March 1865.

Dyke seems to have left Mt Eden Gaol soon after, taking up work as a construction supervisor for the new Auckland Supreme Court Building in 1866. He then leaves the historical record, and the “Cuckoo Mutiny” was forgotten.

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Keith Russell Jones: a bit of a scoundrel


 Image from NZ Police Gazette, 2 October 1912

"Keith Russell Jones, a well-dressed young fellow of 23, who had come only recently from Sydney, admitted to Mr Cutten, SM, at the [Auckland] Police Court this morning, that he had stolen £7 10s. from a room in one hotel and cheque-book and purse containing £1 from bedrooms in another hotel.

"The history of the man given by Chief Detective Marsack was unusual. He had arrived in Auckland about three months ago, and had been for some time employed canvassing for a photographer, and later as steward on a small coastal boat. He had arranged to be married to a young lady on May 1, but the bride waited for him at the church, and he failed to turn up. He stayed at a hotel for a time and, while there (also on the fateful May day when he was due to be otherwise engaged), he entered another boarder's room and stole £7 10s. He moved to a hotel in Newmarket, and while there took a room-mate's cheque-book, and also stole from a servant girl's room a purse containing £1. At one period of his Auckland experience he took a fancy for motoring, and ran up a bill of £5 10s. with a taxi-cab owner. He paid the bill with William Wooden's money, captured at the Waverley Hotel.

"The accused, who appeared to have little sense of responsibility, explained that he committed the thefts because he was stranded, and the taxi-cab man was pressing in his demands. He added incidentally that he had private reasons for not meeting his expected bride at the church, and said he had given her notice in time to have prevented her going there. He said he was a traveller, but he had been studying accountancy, and he had been drawn to New Zealand by a desire to see a young lady in the South Island. "His Worship said he could not help a young man who committed theft after theft in the way the accused had done. He would be sentenced to three months imprisonment with hard labour."

Dominion 16 May 1912

"Keith Russell Jones was ordered to find security in £100 that he would contribute to the support of his illegitimate child at the rate of 7s 6d a week."

NZ Herald, 30 October 1912

"A sentence of 21 days' imprisonment was imposed in the case of Keith Russell Jones, who was £24 behind in respect to an order for the payment of 7s 6d a week for the support of his child, the sentence to be suspended for 14 days."

NZ Herald, 26 February 1913

"Keith Russell Jones, for failure to comply with an order respecting the maintenance of an illegitimate child was sentenced to ten days' imprisonment unless he reduced the arrears at the rate of 20/- a week."

Auckland Star, 9 December 1913

"A remand for eight days was granted in the case of Keith Russell Jones, charged with having forged the name of L W Much on a £10 cheque, drawn on the Bank of New Zealand at Manaia."

NZ Herald 18 June 1914

"When Keith Russell Jones was brought up for sentence on charges of forgery he denied that he had been twice previously convicted of theft. Sentence was therefore deferred until Tuesday next, the Court records to be produced in the meantime to prove the convictions."

NZ Herald, 24 July 1914

"Keith Russell Jones, alias Thomas, alias Leslie W Meuli, who was represented by Mr Gould, came up for sentence on the charge of forgery.

"His Honor said the accused had been previously convicted of three distinct offences. He had been sent to gaol for one month on each charge.

"Mr Gould said that Jones was quite a young man, who had been well educated in New South Wales. His mother was a very respectable woman. Soon after the accused arrived in New Zealand a maintenance order was taken out against him. He then got into financed difficulties. The order was still in force, but the woman in whose favour it was made had since married. Jones was in bad health, and out of employment when the offence was committed. If given an opportunity, his mother desired to send him to Canada and give him a new start.

"Mr. Tole said the accused frequented billiard-rooms and imposed on boardinghouse-keepers. The offence he was now charged with was a very designing and criminal one.

"His Honor said that any possible intention the accused had of going to Canada was a matter for the Prisons Board. The accused would be sentenced to six months' imprisonment, and at the expiration of that period ordered to be detained for reformative treatment for two years."

NZ Herald 29 July 1914

"Keith Russell Jones (29) charged that he was an idle and disorderly person with insufficient lawful means of support, stated that he would like to consult his solicitor before pleading. When he mentioned the solicitor's name the Chief Detective remarked that that solicitor had been communicated with on the prisoner's behalf and had not attended the Court. From the tenor of the report received by him respecting the prisoner, he (Mr McMahon) understood that the solicitor had interested himself in Jones and had to some extent been victimised. The case was stood down for a time, and a Court official sought to communicate by telephone with the solicitor, but could not get him. When the case was recalled Jones stated that he could not understand why he should have been arrested, as he had got a passport and was arranging to leave for Sydney next Monday.

"Mr McMahon: I can't understand how he got a passport at all, nor how he expects to get away to Sydney when he is out of the reformatory on license. "His Worship decided to remand the prisoner till to-morrow morning, so that any communication he might desire to have with a solicitor might be arranged in the meantime."

Auckland Star 29 June 1916

"There were some peculiar circumstances in connection with a charge against Keith Russell Jones of having insufficient lawful means of support. Mr Gould stated that when the man's mother left New Zealand some time ago she left some money with him to send her son to New South Wales on the completion of a term in a reformatory to which he was sentenced by the Supreme Court. At the expiration of his sentence he was given a passport and his fare to Sydney. Jones did not leave New Zealand, however, for witness learned a month later that he was still about. After an interview with the probation officer he decided to procure another passport for the accused, the old one having expired. Since the application was made, however, Jones had broken certain conditions, and he had decided to finally wash his hands of him. The passport had now come to hand, however, and he was prepared to advance him his fare if the Court would allow him to go to Sydney next week.

"Chief-Detective McMahon said he thought the Court might consider the advisability of ridding the country of this man. The police, however, should have been informed of the issue of the passport and other circumstances as the accused would have been turned off the boat by the police, who knew that he was released on license.

"Mr Brackenrigg, probation officer, said the accused had received permission from the Justice Department to leave the country. The magistrate remanded Jones until Monday with the idea of having him placed on the next boat for Sydney."

NZ Herald 1 July 1916

The very convincing Martha Tainui


 

Image from NZ Police Gazette, 1 October 1913

Martha Tainui. Her place in New Zealand criminal history is that she had a record stretching from 1888 in Oamaru, when she was around 15 years of age, right through to at least the 1940s, her last known court appearance in Papers Past being in 1942. Amongst her many, many aliases, Martha Tainui seems to be the common thread for most of her appearances. In the main, her charges were for theft, forgery, false pretences, posing as the relative of well-known people (from a solicitor with the Public Trust to Sir Maui Pomare), and drunkenness (at least once found guilty of being drunk while in charge of a horse and cart in Wellington, 1900).

It is said that she was half-caste Maori, well educated, and almost always appeared in court well-dressed. For this blog entry I can only cherry-pick a few of the hundreds of references to her in Papers Past.

"Martha Tainui, a comely half-caste girl, who has been appearing before the Wellington Magistrate's Court at short intervals for some time, was charged yesterday with trying to obtain goods by false pretences. She pleaded guilty and asked to be sent to a Home. Chief Detective McGrath stated that leniency would be misplaced in this case, as accused had thirty previous convictions against her. As the prisoner left the dock, after having been sentenced to six months' imprisonment, she said: " I'll settle McGrath for this when I come out!" To the Bench " I'll do it again—your Worship."

Wairarapa Daily Times, 29 June 1904

"TAIHAPE, March 16. A sensation was created here yesterday half-caste woman, who had posed as the possessor of untold wealth, was arrested after being identified as Martha Tainui, an habitual criminal who had been released in October on a license. The woman had a very insinuating manner, and completely dazzled business men with her alleged wealth. She claimed to be a "daughter of Colonel Macdonald", presumably meaning Colonel McDonnell. She was driven about by land agents, entertained them and others, and talked of giving large benefactions for public objects in the town. When they searched her lodgings the police found that she possessed only one penny. She was charged with false pretences this morning and remanded till to-morrow."

Christchurch Star, 16 March 1911

"I have never before seen such a long record of convictions for false pretences,” said Air Wyvern Wilson, S.M., at the Magistrate’s Court, as he surveyed the list of Martha Tainui, who at various stages of her romantic career has posed as the “daughter” of Sir Maui Pomare, and the “niece” of Sir James Carroll, and has been the possessor of an inspiring collection of aliases. The charge preferred against her this morning was that she was deemed to be a rogue and vagabond, in that she imposed upon private individuals by verbal fraudulent representations in order to obtain money and goods. The magistrate said he proposed to treat her as an habitual criminal. The accused pleaded guilty, but said in extenuation that drink was her trouble, and nothing better could be expected of a woman who drank. Senior-Detective Gibson said that Tainui had four times been declared an habitual criminal, and the only years in which no convictions were recorded against her were those in which she was under restraint. The magistrate said that he was going to take a course which would keep the accused under supervision for a long time. She would be sentenced to twelve months’ hard labour, to be followed by three years' reformative detention. “I’ll get out." was the accused’s cheery assurance as she left the court."

Christchurch Star 20 December 1922

"When Martha Tainui (56), a Maori domestic, was found on premises at 135 Grafton Road, about five o'clock this morning, she declared that she was inquiring the way to the Mater Misericordiae Hospital. When she appeared in the Police Court later on a charge of being found on the premises without lawful excuse, she told Mr F K Hunt, SM, that she had made a mistake in the house. But Chief Detective Hammond told another story. Tainui, he said, had been stealing milk jugs from houses for some time. This morning she was watched and was seen to enter the premises of 135 Grafton Road. There was no milk jug out at this house and Tainui, when questioned by a detective, said she was asking the way to the Mater Hospital.

"There are several other charges," said the chief detective, in asking for a remand for one week."

Auckland Star 19 February 1930

"Martha Tainui, aged 64, domestic (Mr Ackins), pleaded guilty in the Police Court, before Mr W R McKean, SM, yesterday, to a charge of stealing on January 11 a fur valued at £3 15s, the property of Rita Alcott. Sub-Inspector Fox prosecuted. "If you give me a chance I will mend again." said accused. "For five years I have been leading a good Christian life. It is drink that is my trouble." Accused was convicted and ordered to come up for sentence if called upon within two years."

NZ Herald 20 January 1939

"This is her 55th appearance before the Court and she first appeared in 1897," said Senior-Detective Walsh, when Martha Tainui, a Maori, aged 68, was charged before Mr J H Luxford, SM, yesterday, with the theft of 42 sheets, 21 pillow slips, and 12 towels, valued at £47 I7s, the property of Percy Norman Wright, and with the theft of numerous articles valued at £10, the property of persons unknown. Accused pleaded guilty to the first charge and not guilty to the second. "It was difficult to know what to do with the woman, said Mr. Walsh. From time to time she broke out, although she had not been in trouble in the last few years. She was addicted to drink. A large quantity of articles had been found in accused's room, said Detective W H Cromwell. She stated that she brought them from America. They were articles that could be purchased in any department store. Accused was sentenced to 12 months' imprisonment on the first charge and the second charge was dismissed."

NZ Herald 6 October 1942

Thomas Francis Hill: "a waster in uniform."


Image: NZ Police Gazette, 4 November 1914.

Thomas Francis Hill (DOB noted in the military file as 1890, but could be wrong) seems to have joined the Auckland Infantry Regiment on 14 August, 10 days after war was declared.

"It is a despicable thing to misuse the King's uniform at a time like this and to utilise it to impose upon generously inclined people," said Mr F V Frazer SM, when Thomas Francis Hill and Frank Wilson were brought before him in the Police Court yesterday on a charge of soliciting alms. Hill, who appeared in the dock wearing a territorial uniform, was stated to have joined the Epsom camp on August 15. The same night he absented himself without leave, being arrested a fortnight later by the guard. He was sent to the hospital to recover from a drinking bout, but left and was finally discharged from the force on September 7.

"Since then, with Wilson, he had been begging in the streets from other territorials and civilians, the proceeds being spent in drink. His Worship said that 14 days' hard labour would have a beneficial effect in the case of each of the accused."

NZ Herald, 16 September 1914

Uh, no, it had little effect whatsoever ...

"Charged with insobriety and a breach of his prohibition order, Thomas Francis Hill was allowed to go without penalty, a friend offering to pay for his passage to Coromandel to get him away from the town."

NZ Herald 1 January 1915

On 25 October 1915, he was at Avondale, enlisting to join the Tunnellers as a sapper.

"A WASTER IN UNIFORM.
OUT FOR BEER AND GLORY.
A young man who had managed to spend a considerable amount of time in the uniform of a soldier without getting anywhere near the firing-line, came before Mr E C Cutten, SM, this morning in the person of Thomas Francis Hill, aged 25 years. The history of his life as a soldier, as retailed by Sub-Inspector McIlveney, was that he joined the Main Expeditionary Force, but after some weeks was discharged because of his unruly conduct and generally bad disposition. He, however, managed to retain his uniform, and on the strength of it had a generally good time about the bars in Auckland.

"Eventually he was detected begging money from real soldiers in uniform and brought before the Court. That was on May 3, and he then explained that he wore the uniform because he had no other clothes and no means to get a fresh outfit. He was given a chance then by being convicted and ordered to come up for sentence when called on, and he was given an outfit by the Rev F Jeffreys, while another gentleman supplied his steamer fare to a place where he said he could get work.

"He did not go to work there, but went on to Pukekohe, where he came under notice of the police and got a sentence for vagrancy. By some means he got back into the Expeditionary Force recently, and the day before yesterday he was found drunk in uniform in Auckland. The military authorities had now intimated that they wanted no more of him, and the police had brought him up on the old vagrancy charge on which he was ordered to come up for sentence when called on as he appeared to be an absolute waster, who had made no effort at all to settle down to honest work, and seemed determined to bring the uniform into disgrace. He had absented himself from camp for eight days, and had finally been found drunk in the city.

"Hill protested at being brought up on a charge that was over six months' old, but his Worship told him he had had his chance and didn't take it, consequently he would be sentenced to three months hard labour."

Auckland Star 11 November 1915

On 17 February 1916, he enlisted again, at Trentham Camp.

Then, he went south, to Dunedin.

"On Tuesday forenoon Detective Hammerley apprehended a man named Thomas Francis Hill, alias Thomas Howard, alias George Hill, alias Williams, in the city on a charge of being a rogue, and a vagabond. The arrest of the accused was the outcome of a number of complaints received by the police authorities, and latterly by the detective office, to the effect that a man giving the name of "Corporal" Hill was going about the city under the guise of a returned soldier, imposing upon various sympathetic people by means of concocted stories of how the Turks were slaughtered by his company at Gallipoli. The stories were invariably so well told that in few instances only did accused fail to play upon the feelings of his auditors, the result being that accused collected various sums of money.

"Accused appeared in the City Police Court yesterday on the charge mentioned above, to which he pleaded "Guilty."

"Chief-Detective Bishop said this was one of the worst cases of its kind that had ever come before the court. Accused was one of the greatest wasters that had ever been in a dock. He arrived here five or six months ago, and ever since had been imposing upon the public. It was true that he had joined one of the early contingents, but had no doubt been. dismissed from the Army through his own misconduct. Accused had stated that he was discharged for having varicose veins in his legs, but it was only of recent date that the military authorities took men into camp who had varicose veins. Accused was an absolute menace to the city, and he had a number of convictions against him.

"Since 1906 he had spent a good deal of his time in gaol. He had been sentenced for theft vagrancy (on two occasions), rogue and vagabond, and obscene language. He urged that this was not a case for lenient treatment. The Magistrate (Mr Widdowson) sentenced the accused to twelve months' imprisonment with hard labour."

North Otago Times, 15 September 1916

He enlisted again, at Christchurch, 27 June 1917. By this stage, his military file is a mess of enlistments, medical exam reports, and not a lot else.

Hill was still passing himself off as a returned soldier in Dunedin in 1918, and received 12 months with hard labour, plus three years' reformative treatment. He was caught in Gisborne in 1926 passing bad cheques (six months' imprisonment), stole two coats in Christchurch in 1930 (six months' imprisonment), stole more clothing in Christchurch in 1931 (six months' hard labour, three months imprisonment on two charges), got drunk in Dunedin 1932 (one month and a fine) ... and so it went on. Until ...

"Thomas Francis Hill appeared before Messrs J R Copland and J W Fenton, at Balclutha yesterday morning on a charge of being idle and disorderly. Constable McCormack said the accused was very fortunate to be alive. He had camped in a public works whare at Clinton. He had been drinking heavily, and had taken to methylated spirits. He lit a fire in the whare and then dozed off to sleep. Some rubbish on the floor caught alight, the fire spread, and the canvas wall at one end of the whare was completely burned. The accused had spent a considerable portion of his life in gaol for various offences; in all he had 37 previous convictions. A sentence of three months’ imprisonment was imposed."

Evening Star, 9 November 1940

Looks like he died two years later, aged 57.