Maurice O’Connell Letter 1854
To the Honorable
The Colonial Secretary
Gladstone, Port Curtis
July 27th 1854
- Referring to my letter of the 10th instant reporting that I had on the certificate of the Resident Surgeon at this place, granted a passage to Sydney in the “Tom Tough” to William Berry, a man who had been attached to the party of Mr Surveyor MacCabe and that I would make it my duty to ask that Officer for an explanation relative to some claim, which Berry stated to me he had to prefer, I have now the honor to forward a copy of the answer which I have received from Mr MacCabe.
- You will perceive that Mr MacCabe declines to acknowledge my authority to require from him officially an explanation on this subject and from the verbal communication I have since had with him I learn that he supposes his department here to be, in all respects, independent of my official interference unless through the Surveyor General in Sydney.
- On the inconvenience generally which it appears to me would follow from the adoption of a system of disunited action in the Departments of this residency, distant as it is from the centre of Government of the Colony, I will address you in a separate communication, merely remarking in reference to the subject now under discussion, that I understood when leaving Sydney, that, in accordance with the tenor of my instructions the Crown lands Department was the only one not under my control as Resident and with regard to the Survey Department especially, this belief was confirmed by the reference to me, under cover of your letter of the [ ] of Acting Surveyor General’s communication relative to a requisition from Mr MacCabe for some furniture for his office.
- To revert to William Berry however, as Mr MacCabe has refused to forward any explanation of his own, I must state from the best information I can obtain, what appears to me to be the merits of his case.
- This man had been returned to me by the Resident Surgeon as under his care, in his weekly sick reports from the very commencement of his duties here in May last. On the 1st July I received a letter from Mr Grey, requesting that Berry might be allowed a passage to Sydney in consequence of suffering from disease of the shin and chronic rheumatism contracted whilst on duty.
- I took no step with reference to this matter for some days, expecting to receive an application to the same effect as Mr Grey’s from Mr MacCabe, but hearing from the latter in a private note that he would make no such application, I, on Berry’s crawling to my tent, in an evident state of utter helplessness from disease and stating that he had no place of lodging sent him on board the “Tom Tough” as reported in my letter of the 10th
- What appears to me extraordinary in Mr MacCabe’s conduct in this matter is this, that as he must have known Berry’s state of helplessness he ought to have applied to me, as he was brought here a servant in his Department, to relieve me from the encumbrance of having on the part of Government, to support a pauper, for whose case there was neither proper accommodation nor the means of providing it.
- The man was either incapacitated for service when hired in Sydney or he acquired his illness here on duty – in either case the Department employing him was bound in common humanity to see that he was properly provided for in a newly settled place like this where there are no public charities and no room for the exercise of private benevolence in such a case. To discharge him and cast him on the protection of the public was merely to throw him on my hands who on the part of Government could not allow any person to perish from want.
- Official courtesy alone I think should have required a reference to me on this subject, but I am further of opinion the chief officer of the Government here should have paramount authority, sufficiently defined to prevent the occurrence of trifling inconveniences similar to the one under consideration.
- I merely however submit the matter to form a precedent in future cases of a like nature.
I have the honor to be Sir
Your obedient servant,
(Queensland State Archives Series 6614 Letterbooks, Item ID: 212594 Letterbook – Government Resident, Port Curtis. Transcribed from the original. Reproduced with permission from Queensland Department of the Premier and Cabinet)