Recollections of Early Colonists
John William Adams
My Early days in the Colony, 1902.
Alford was employed by Barton Hack as a stockkeeper in July 1837. Alford gave the following account of his life in the South Australian Advertiser of 27 December 1886.
THE FIRST POLICE CONSTABLE.
Mr. Henry Alford, a hale and hearty old gentleman, now residing in Kent Town, relates his arrival and subsequent adventures in the colony with a considerable amount of gusto. He says—“I arrived here by the schooner John Pirie, 110 tons, Captain Martin, in the latter end of the year 1836. At least I did not land in South Australia proper, but on Kangaroo Island, at Nepean Bay. There were two vessels that arrived two days before us. These were the Lady Mary Pelham and the Duke of York, but our ship was the first to start from London for the new land of South Australia. I and others came out in the employ of the South Australian Company. What had we to do? Well, we simply had to do what we were told. On landing there was nothing for it but to make the best of matters, and we had to camp under bushes or whatever other shelter there was to be found. Two days after we landed there arrived the Rapid with Colonel Light and Admiral Pullen on board. I remember I also saw Dr. Woodforde, Mr. Hiram Mildred (who was then a lad), Mr. Barker, Mr. A. Hodges, Mr. Jacob and some others on the Rapid. Mr. Samuel Stephens, who came out for the South Australian Company, had arrived two days before our vessel. Well, we found that there were some white people already living on Kangaroo Island, but we did not know who they were. Certainly they did not come out with the expedition to colonise South Australia, and we understood that they had come over from Tasmania. These men came down to us, one at a time, and we became a little alarmed, because we did not know how many there were. About seven or eight put in an appearance altogether. Our great object was to find fresh water, because although we had some on the ships that would not last very long. Mr. Stephens asked these men to show us where we could get water, but they declined. After some solicitation, however, they relented and pointed out where the very requisite fluid was to be obtained. It was some distance across the gulf, whether on the island or on the mainland I cannot now say, but it took four of us the best part of a day to pull there. Then we worked during the night in filling a large cask, and started back on the following morning towing the cask behind the boat; but we had a head wind, and we were the whole day in getting back. These people who were on the island had small holdings, and I think they did a little cultivation. The John Pirie, I may say, never returned to England, but afterwards traded about the colonies. Well, I was engaged by the company for 12 months, and after helping to discharge cargo I and some others went in the John Pirie to Tasmania, and we brought back two horses and two bullocks—the first stock that were landed in South Australia. We called at the island on the way back, leaving some cargo there, and then we came on to the mainland. I finished my 12 months with the company, and then I went into the service of Mr. J. B. Hack, and remained with him until a lot of desperate bushranging broke out around Adelaide. I and two others volunteered, in response to a call from the Governor, and there were also several special constables. We were ordered to arrest the desperadoes, of whom there were three. They used to stick people up all about the place. We took two of them in town, and the other one, named Morgan, bolted to Encounter Bay. I and the other two volunteers were sent after him, and we caught him too, but he would not walk, and the result was that we had to handcuff him around a tree at Currency Creek while we sent in for a cart to fetch him along. Our orders were to bring him in dead or alive. One of these ruffians named Yeates was hung. This was in I838. On coming in for the cart the Governor summoned his colleagues in the management of the settlement, and it was thereupon decided that they must establish a police force. Captain Inman was selected as superintendent, and was entrusted with the duty of forming the force. First, however, he went back with us for Morgan, and as soon as we brought him in Captain Inman was sworn in as superintendent, and I and one of my mates were sworn in as constables on police pay. Now that was the absolute foundation of the police force in South Australia. Captain Inman subsequently went home, and is now, I believe, a clergyman in charge of a parish somewhere in Kent. Well, I remained in the force for 16 years, and as inspector I brought over the gold escort from Victoria in 1853 and 1854. In one escort we brought over 33,763 ounces of gold, and in another 42,119 ounces. Of course in my time I had a lot of desperadoes to deal with and I arrested a good many. There were a lot of them who used to take work as splitters in the Tiers, but they would retire from the avocation of sawyers and take to the profession of bushrangers whenever the opportunity offered. Then they would get together a lot of money and actually come into town and knock it down. Sometimes they would put on masks and make a raid on that part of the Adelaide plains which is now Kensington. I was nearly forgetting to tell you about proclamation of the colony. It took place on the day after I had come back from the trip to Tasmania. There was great fun. They had one fife, an old tambourine, and some other instrument they had made themselves, and that was the band. There was a regular spree that day.”
His obituary in the Advertiser of 22 February 1892 essentially repeated this article. The misnaming of Michael Magee as Yeates was not corrected.
DEATH OF MR. HENRY ALFORD.
We announce with regret the death, at the age of 76, of Mr. Henry Alford, which occurred at his residence, Kent Town, early on Saturday morning. The deceased gentleman was born on February 12, 1816, at Acton, Middlesex, England, and arrived in South Australia in 1836 by the schooner John Pirie, 100 tons, Captain Martin. He landed at Nepean Bay, Kangaroo Island, two days after the Lady Mary Pelham and the Duke of York, both of which ships were at anchor in the harbor when the John Pirie put in an appearance, although the latter was the first to sail from England. Mr. Alford came out to Australia in the employ of the South Australian Land Company, and on his arrival at Kangaroo Island his experiences were of a somewhat rough nature. Two days after landing the Rapid arrived with Colonel Light and Admiral Pullen on board, and the party from the three previous boats were augmented by Dr. Woodforde, Mr. Hiram Mildred (who was then a lad), Mr. Barker, Mr. A. Hodges, Mr. Jacob, and others. Mr. Alford and the other settlers found that there were then white people living on the island, but were soon acquainted with the fact that they were convicts who had come over from Tasmania. About seven or eight of these customers were met with, and the new arrivals became some what alarmed when on being asked the convicts refused to show them where they could obtain water. Mr. Alford was under engagement to the S.A. Land Company for twelve months and went in the John Pirie to Tasmania, and brought back two horses and two bullocks—the first stock that were landed in this colony. The deceased gentleman then went into the employ of Mr. J. B. Hack, and remained with him until some desperate bushranging broke out around Adelaide, when in response to a call from the Governor he, with two others, volunteered their services, and several special constables were enrolled to arrest the desperadoes, of whom there were three. Some difficulty was experienced in taking the men, who used to stick people up in all directions; but two of them were eventually captured in the township, while the other (Morgan) bolted to Encounter Bay. Mr. Alford with two other volunteers was sent after him. After arresting the man they found that he would not walk, so the deceased handcuffed him around a tree at Currency Creek while he sent in for a cart to convey him to the city, the orders being to “bring him in dead or alive.” One of these ruffians, named Yeates, was hanged. This was in 1838. On the arrival of the cart in the city the Governor summoned his colleagues in the management of the settlement, and it was decided thereupon to establish a police force. Captain Inman was selected as superintendent, and was entrusted with the duty of forming the force. Mr. Alford and one of the men who accompanied him to Encounter Bay were then sworn in as constables on police pay. This was the foundation of the police force in South Australia. Mr. Alford occupied various positions in the body for 16 years, and from the first exhibited great zeal and activity in the maintenance of law and order. For his courageous conduct in capturing several outlaws, having arrested 54 in three years, he gained rapid promotion, and in 1849, on the death of Inspector Gordon, he attained the rank of inspector. In this capacity he brought over the gold escort from Victoria in 1853 and 1854, bringing 33,763 oz. over at one time and 42,119 oz. on another occasion. Mr. Alford delighted in telling the numerous and varied incidents in connection with his life in South Australia, and used to relate with a considerable amount of gusto the proceedings at the proclamation of the colony, which took place the day after his return from the trip to Tasmania. The old gentleman used to say with a merry twinkle in his eye— “There was great fun at the demonstration, and there was a regular good spree all round that day. A funny thing in connection with the affair was that the band consisted of one fife, an old tambourine, and some other instrument that had been manufactured by one of the settlers.” With Mr. Tolmer the deceased made several plucky arrests of outlaws in the hills near Mount Lofty, and was also of great assistance in hunting down the riotous tribes of blacks, many of whom were very troublesome. Mr. Alford gained great praise through his display of pluck in capturing the Black Forest cattle-stealers, while he also played a prominent part in the arrest of Gofton, who was subsequently supposed to have been murdered by Stagg in the Gawler Belt. Stagg was hanged for the offence, having been arrested in the Black Bull Hotel by a trooper who some time later acknowledged having committed the crime for which Stagg suffered. Mr. Alford was associated with numerous other affrays of equal notoriety, and Mr. Tolmer in his “Early Reminiscences of Life in South Australia” frequently alludes to him in eulogistic terms. In 1852 he severed his connection with the police force and went into business. For some years after this he kept the Glynde Hotel, and being very successful in business pursuits was soon enabled to lead a retired life. This he had done for a number of years, devoting himself to a great extent to amateur gardening. By his generous disposition and geniality he made numerous friends in all classes of society. Until recently he had been hale and hearty, but lately had contracted a severe throat affection, which ultimately caused his death. The end was not altogether unexpected, but when it was made known on Saturday regret was very generally expressed. A widow and one son, with several grandchildren and great-grandchildren, are left to mourn his demise. The deceased gentleman will be buried at the West-terrace Cemetery this afternoon, and the members of the police force will attend the funeral.