Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Problems at the Drayton post office in 1858

A fascinating series of newspaper articles on problems at the Drayton post office in 1858, giving an insight into how the mails operated and their importance to a small, isolated community.

Moreton Bay Courier (Brisbane), Saturday 25 September 1858, page 2


(From the Darling Downs Gazette)


Before John Watts and S. N. Isaac, Esqs.

"In consequence of a number of letters having been forwarded to the Postmaster-General, complaining of the mismanagement of the Drayton Post Office; an inquiry into the matter, at the insistence and at the request of the Postmaster-General, took place at the Court House on the 16th instant. Mr. John Douglas, of Talgai, was first examined, and his letter to the Postmaster-General read, complaining that in the mouth of July, several letters were detained, and charging the Drayton Post Office with negligence and mismanagement.

Mr. Lord said, that by the mail of the 19th July he had also received a letter which should have been received ten day's previous, and it was only reasonable to suppose that if his letters had been detained, others had been detained likewise.

Mr. John Glissan had been acting postmaster for two years or better, acting under the authority of the Postmaster-General. Remembered a letter received on the 18th July by Mr. Lord, which should have been received ten days previously, because it bore the Brisbane post mark of ten days previous date. Had always been in the habit of milking up a private mail for Mr. Douglas, placing therein his letters and papers, and forwarding it by the next morning's mail, and when Mr. Douglas' bag did not arrive he sent his mail on in a sealed packet.

Cross-examined by Mr, Douglas: He was acting postmaster; Mrs. Lord was postmistress, and was responsible for matters connected with the office. Mr. Lord had access to the office, and occasionally assisted in it. Letters sent by the government mail were stamped, but letters sent by private bags were not. The letter alluded to by Mr. Lord as not having been received by him until a late period, did not receive the Drayton stamp. Did not remember placing a bank book in the Pilton bag, or receiving one from there.

Patrick Liddy stated that he had been running the mail between Drayton and Warwick, from January 1st to September 1st. Had always delivered the Talgai bag at Clifton station on the road to Warwick, and on his return to Drayton some days subsequent, he had several times seen the Talgai bag still on the station. Had always received from the postmaster at Drayton a mail for Mr. Douglas.

Mr. Douglas then addressed the bench at considerable length, contending that as he carne to substantiate certain allegations, he thought he had satisfactorily done so.

John Boland, of Pilton, was next called, the substance of his complaint being a letter addressed to and published by the Editors of the Maitland Mercury, complaining of the irregular delivery of his paper. Mr. Holland stated his letter was written seven months ago, and since then be had no cause of complaint. He never made any direct charge against the Drayton Post Office.

Letters were then read from Mr. Marshall of Glengallen to the Postmaster-General, complaining first "that many of his papers bore the appearance of having been read and soiled with dirty hands," secondly "that he seldom received any of his English newspapers," and thirdly " that Mr. Lord had refused to make up a private bag for him." Mr Lord replied first, that no papers had been read in the office, that newspapers frequently came from Sydney with no covers on them, the Empire in particular, and many such he had had to return The Covers were rubbed off from friction and the papers in consequence were very much injured. Secondly, he knew nothing whatever about the English papers, and thirdly he admitted to having refused to make up u private bag, because he had not been paid for so doing.

The next letter was from Mr. Handcock, complaining that he could not get his letters in the evenings upon which the mail arrived, whereby he had been subject to much inconvenience.

Mr Lord said the complaint was to a certain extent true, but still he had frequently given to and received letters from Mr, Handcock both before and after the specified time, and had even registered letters at a late hour without making any extra charge, in order to oblige him.

A second letter of Mr. Handcock to the Postmaster-general, complaining that, in January last, the mail had been given to a strange person four hours before the proper time, was then read.

Mr. Lord said be had done so, but at the urgent request of the contractor,

A letter was then read from the Postmaster of Ipswich on the subject of the mail robbery in January last, and the extraction of certain registered letters from the Drayton mail bag and also as to no time bill accompanying the said mail.

Mr. Glissan said that the time bill was enclosed in the bag with the registered letters and the letter bill, as he was in doubt at the time whether the bill should be delivered to the mailman or enclosed in the bag.

A second letter was read from the Ipswich Postmaster, complaining that no answer had been returned to a letter sent to Drayton inquiring about the time bill and that although Mr. Lord was in Ipswich he omitted to call on the Postmaster and give an explanation.

Mr Glissan said he might have received a communication of the kind, but be had no recollection of it.

Mr. Lord said he was not sure whether he called on Mr. Gill, or otherwise, but John Aspinall on oath stated he did call with him, on the 8th or 9th of January, and that Mr. Lord and Mr. Gill had a long conversation together in an inside room.

The next letter was from Mr. Keefe of the Sydney Post Office, complaining that £50 of stamps had been sent in April and no return sent until August. Mr. Lord explained that was quite an oversight.

The above is an epitome of the evidence adduced, and which will be resumed this day (Thursday), after which the Bench have to ground a report to the Postmaster General, as to whether it is essential for the public welfare that the post-office be placed in other hands.

Sydney Morning Herald (NSW), Tuesday 12 October 1858, page 3

The inquiry into the management of the Drayton Post Office is concluded. Most of the charges preferred were pronounced to be well founded, and a recommendation has been forwarded to place the office under different management.

Darling Downs Gazette and General Advertiser (Toowoomba, Qld), Thursday 14 October 1858, pages 2 - 3

The genius who presides over the Post Office in this town seems to us to be using his utmost endeavours to disgust the public, as much as possible, before the long- wished-for notice of his dismissal has been received from the Postmaster-General for we hear complaints from all quarters of his strange and unaccountable vagaries, which can be attributed to nothing else than aberration of mind. The unfortunate man, in the teeth of the evidence adduced before the Drayton Bench during the late investigation, and the proofs of negligence and carelessness coming in from every direction, appears to be labouring under the delusions that the people of the district have no reason whatever to be dissatisfied with the management of the Post Office, so long as the printed regulations are adhered to strictly, according to the letter. If he had the smallest modicum of common sense left in his composition, it would not, however, be difficult to convince even him that the absurd course he is now pursuing must lead to his complete discomfiture, if his object be to harass the public by petty annoyances, which none but men of weak minds ever think of practising. If the consequences arising from this strange hallucination were confined to his own narrow sphere be might be as mad as he pleased, and when necessary the straight waist-coat might keep him within reasonable bounds; but when he 'runs a muck' at people indiscriminately, for the mere love of the thing, stringent measures must be taken to prevent his doing any further mischief. We have somewhere read that adversity makes the idle industrious; wise men become wiser; and that it exasperates fools. We have not far to look for the commentary.

In common, with many hundreds more, we have had the dire misfortune of falling under the displeasure of the aforesaid genius, for daring to publish the paragraph respecting the non-delivery of newspapers posted at our office, and which appears to have given great offence, though in what the offence con possibly consist we have never been able to divine, as no censure was either directly or indirectly cast upon him; for the staple reason that we did not wish to press hardly upon persons whose conduct in the management of an important office had been already been most properly condemned by the Bench of Magistrates. It appears, however, that our leniency was misplaced; the imaginary offence is not to be forgiven, and we are threatened with annihilation at the hands of Mr. Edward Lord, who it would appear is after all, de facto, if not de jure Postmaster, when it suits his purpose be to. But in order to place the matter fairly before the public, we bare reprinted the paragraph in question, and published the ireful comments of Mr. Lord, penned apparently under some less pardonable influence than that of anger.

Non delivery of papers. Having received numerous complaints from the non-delivery of the Gazette from the subscribers from both the Callandoon and Condamine postal lines and particularly of those of our issue of the 2nd and 9rd instant, we have to state that the blame does not rest with us. The fact appears to be that although the papers are directed, folded and sent to the Drayton post-office with the greatest regularity, from our office, the Postmaster informs us he has not time to sort and place them in the private bags, under the new arrangements, as these mails start at 6 am. In order to obviate this difficulty, we have provided leather bags for their conveyance on each of these lines, and we trust that the mailman will, in future, deliver these mails with punctuality. We shall feel obliged to the subscribers if they will immediately apprise us of any irregularity that may hereafter occur, in order that we may take steps to remedy it. Parties will please accept this explanation.

The foregoing paragraph appeared in our issue of the 30th ultimo, and on the following day Mr Lord sent us the following subjoined missive, which is so characteristic of the vindictive spirit of the man, that we do not hesitate in publishing it, as it shows to what length some persons will go when they are unable to control their constitutional irritability.
Ipswich, 1st October, 1858
Dear Sir – After receipt of this note your will please cause your “Gazette” to be delivered direct from your office to the postman.

I am not pleased with your unjust and un- conduct in attempting to make the public believe that the irregularity in the delivery of your paper is the fault of the postal authorities at Drayton.

Now, with a view to avoid all possibility of future complaints and irregularities, I will tell you the regulations shall, from this date, be strictly adhered to, not only as regards receipt of papers and letters, but also as regards delivery of the same

Yours very truly

Edward Lord

In the above production our worthy Postmaster “behind the scenes” adopts a style of sham familiarity towards us, which we swish to discourage for the future. It is quite out of place and particularly distasteful to us just now. But in order to enable the public to understand the meaning of this man’s threats, it will be necessary to mention a few particulars, with a view to place his highly reprehensible conduct in its proper light. By the printed regulations the post office is directed to be open, for the reception and delivery of newspapers and letters from 9 till 6 ‘o clock. Now, as our newspaper is published before the former hour, and the mails for the country start at 6 a.m, or are supposed to do so, on the morning of publication, it is in the power of the party in charge of the office, under pretence of strictly adhering to the letter of the regulations, or, actuated, it may be, by malicious motives, to refuse to receive them before 9 a.m, which is three hours after the time the mailmen leave the town for the Condamine and Callandoon, and five hours after the mail time for Ipswich. Hitherto we have been in receipt of our letters on the evening of publication, generally about two hours after the arrival of the mail; but we are now to be deprived of the privilege at the pleasure of the party who is supposed to to attend to the postal business. We need scarcely point out to advertisers, and the subscribers to this journal, the annoyance and inconvenience to which they will be temporally subjected by having their favours postponed for a week, and the injury that may be caused to as by this ill-natured and insidious course of proceeding. We not, of course, intend to submit quietly to such treatment, and it is our intention to write to the Postmaster-General on the subject without delay, when we have no doubt that full justice will be done to our cause, which, indeed, is that of the public. It would be an insult to the understanding of that Government officer to suppose that he will not discountenance this 'gagging’ system, and carry out immediately the recommendation of the Bench of Magistrates to dismiss the paid official who, unfortunately for the public, is now 'running a muck'' at parties whom either with or without reason he may happen to be at enmity with; they form a pretty numerous body in this district, where his eccentricities, and talent for detraction, are too well known. We would, however, remind Mr. Lord that the impotence of resentment must lead to secret vexation, and that if he persist, like a bad tenant, in pulling down the Post Office about his ears, he will have no one else but himself to blame for the consequences that must follow his present suicidal course of proceeding. The encounter of Don 'Quixote with the windmills is quite reasonable and judicious compared with his own.

We shall enter more fully into the subject of the mismanagement of the Post Office in our next.

Darling Downs Gazette and General Advertiser 

(Toowoomba), Thursday 21 October 1858, page 3

Some blame may perhaps be imputed to us for not having animadverted somewhat more promptly on the conduct of the postmaster, or the person in charge of the office, for no one seems to know who is in reality the responsible party; but the reason for our own silence was simply because we had remonstrated privately on several occasions and we were sanguine enough to expect that the postmaster would see the folly of his conduct, and that he would evince same disposition to accommodate the public, even at the risk of slight personal inconvenience to himself. But we were disappointed; instead of expressing his contrition and regret at the negligence and carelessness which was proved by respectable witnesses in the course of the investigation at the Post Office, he has endeavoured to pooh pooh the charges so satisfactorily substantiated, and has since assumed such a supercilious air — such an attitude of defiance of public opinion, now so strongly set in against hint that it is quite hopeless to expect any change for the better in the management of the Post Office, until he is summarily dismissed by the Postmaster-General, and a very different kind of person appointed in his stead. Such a consummation of the well-founded hope of the inhabitants is most devoutly to be wished, and is not likely to be much longer delayed, as steps have now been taken to expedite his removal from the post he now occupies.

If we were to enumerate all the complaints made against the present management of the Post Office, our space would not be sufficient for the purpose. Suffice it to say that on every hand we hear the language of reproach against the continuance of the present annoying regulations, which however suitable they may be in a large town, are quite inapplicable to a small community like ours. Our readers are aware that the mails usually arrive before 8 o'clock in the evening, and it would not occupy the time of the Postmaster more than an hour to sort the Drayton letters ready for delivery on the same evening. If this were done, it would be no more than the public have a right to expect, as it is now impossible for them to answer their letters, some of them perhaps of the utmost importance, by return of post, in consequence of the mail leaving at 4 o'clock on the following morning. The postmaster has been repeatedly asked to deliver the letters belonging to the townspeople and to temporary sojourners from the country, two hours after the arrival of the mail, when it happened to reach Drayton early in the evening, but this reasonable request has been churlishly refused, and parties have had the mortification of being needlessly delayed on their journey in consequence. There was a time when this functionary was more accommodating, and we have frequently seen him, when he had a purpose to subserve, act as a letter-carrier, and deliver the letters to parties staying at the inns personally. But these persons, it may be, were special favourites of his, and the regulations could not, of course, apply to them. Had one of his brother storekeepers solicited a similar favour the probability is, he would have been refused, perhaps not in the most courteous manner. Thus we see that when it suits the views of the Postmaster, these printed regulations are relaxed, and when otherwise, they are stretched beyond their proper tone. To imagine that the public will patiently submit to such a frivolous and vexatious course of proceedings is an insult to their understanding, and would only encourage and increase the mischief. They expect something more from a recipient of public money than blind obedience to inappropriate regulations framed in ignorance of the present wants and requirements of the country districts, and which none but weak and interested men would rigidly adhere to.

It may be said in extenuation of the present wretched system adopted by the Postmaster that the salary in not proportionate to the proper performance of his duties, and that he cannot spare the time necessary for transaction of the postal business without injury to his personal concerns. If this be the excuse, and we have heard it alleged that he has made it, why did he not resign the trust long ago, and gratify the inhabitants by retiring from a post, which they would be glad to see filled by a better man – by one whose character and habits of life would be a sufficient guarantee that the postal service would be satisfactorily conducted? But the excuse is not likely to avail him and we hope that whenever is shall be deemed necessary to increase the remuneration attached to the Postmaster’s berth, the recipient of the salary will be more worthy of it, in every respect, than the person whose capricious conduct has so long disgusted all the respectable and ? portion of our community.

We understand that the ? we considered it our duty to offer has moved the postmaster into more than an ordinary state of ? and excitement. He feels so very ? ? at the castigation he has received  … [The rest of the paragraph is illegible due to the way the microfilm has been scanned].

We have been informed, on good authority, that he has even gone so far as to request that the mail contractor not convey the Brisbane and Ipswich papers to their destination! Is that a fit man to hold the responsible office of Postmaster for even a day? – no, not for a single hour, but the time is not far distant,  … [rest of sentence is illegible]. It is really unkind of him, however, to alarm and alienate the affections of the very few friends he has left.

Darling Downs Gazette and General Advertiser (Toowoomba), Thursday 28 October 1858, page 3


The up country mail arrived in Drayton at 6 p.m. yesterday, and, as a matter of course, it was generally expected that the town letters would have been sorted and ready for delivery about two hours after that time. On sending to the Post Office at 8 p.m., our messenger was informed by the acting Postmaster that "no letters would be delivered until 9 o'clock in the morning." The mail was an unusually small one, and could have been sorted with ordinary despatch in about half an hour; but it pleased the individual aforesaid to refuse letters to all applicants, which refusal is in direct opposition to the spirit, if not to the letter, of instructions forwarded by the Postmaster-General to his subordinate at Toowoomba. The above needs no comment. We do not despair, however, of making the Postmaster as thoroughly ashamed of himself as the public are ashamed of him.