3 weeks ago

Fitzgerald's Town

33. Report of larceny at

33. Report of larceny at Lincoln. Lyttelton Times. 20 September 1880. Courtesy of Papers Past. A civil case brought against FitzGerald barely a year after Lincoln was founded was reported at length and must have attracted a great deal of local attention 27 . Some time in 1861 a Mr Guild purchased 200 acres out of the Springs Run and sowed 80 acres down in oats. In February 1862, shortly before the crop was due to be harvested, FitzGerald's cattle breached a sod fence and destroyed the crop. FitzGerald agreed to pay compensation, but then refused to accept the estimate of independent assessors, one of whom was William Tod, and so forced Guild to sue. The verdict was found in favour of the plaintiff who was awarded 75 pounds in damages. Apparently the sod fence was three feet high, the ditch from which the sods were taken was six feet wide, and in the centre of the nine feet wide gateway were two posts to which rails were attached with flax and wound around with Wild Irishman to discourage any attempt to enter. 88

Some introduced plants, including thistles, water cress and sorrel, were troublesome weeds in the early days of settlement and their control was important. It is no surprise then that anyone suspected of sowing sorrel seed in a neighbour’s paddock out of spite was treated as a criminal. 28 Patrick Gallagher was indicted for wilful damage of land belonging to George Curragh, his neighbour, by sowing sorrel seed in a recently ploughed field. The two neighbours were not on good terms and had been overheard arguing over Gallagher’s horses which apparently strayed onto Curragh’s land. Harry Feast, arresting officer, gave evidence that he had followed footprints from Gallagher’s gate across the road onto the ploughed field and on comparison found that they compared with the length of stride and boot size of the accused, but admitted that he had not made the same comparison with an employee’s boots. Despite the rather casual police work and protestations of innocence by the accused, the jury clearly believed in his guilt and taking into account the cost of eradication and restoring the field to its original condition they estimated the damage to be about 80 pounds. In pronouncing sentence of two years hard labour in Lyttelton gaol the judge remarked that he had no doubts about the matter and that the accused was guilty. There was a happy sequel for the defendant however, for Gallagher appealed the sentence and was released on the grounds that the evidence against him was inconclusive. A fire one night in May 1888 involved the Springs Road Board when its office in Springston was burnt to the ground. The next morning the Board’s clerk was able to follow hoof marks from the scene of the fire to a farm about four miles away leading him to suspect that the fire had been deliberately lit and so a detective was sent from Christchurch to investigate the incident. The detective duly arrived by train and with the clerk set out to confront the suspected arsonist, a farmer who was noted for his violent temper. The suspect refused to co-operate and in the course of a scuffle produced a shot gun and shot the clerk in his legs as he ran to the road. 29 The detective and the clerk managed to escape and a team of armed policemen, including Constable Cartmill, the Lincoln constable, arrived by the afternoon train to arrest the man who again threatened violence when ordered to surrender “in the name of the Queen”. He was eventually subdued, arrested and his gun unloaded; his son was also arrested for obstructing the police. The man’s wife was a witness to these events and although somewhat distraught she eventually offered the police team a cup of tea which apparently relieved the tension sufficiently for the arrested men to be led away without the constraint of handcuffs. The offender was 89

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