Error and Trial – wreckage and the tattletale crimson shirt
So what did happen to all the wreckage from the Walter Hood that was taken from the beach by local scavengers?
By the sound of it, there was a LOT of loot to hide from the authorities.
By early June, the papers start to report court cases of people charged with being in possession of Walter Hood wreckage.
The hilarious coincidence of the crimson shirt
On 12 July 1870, Thomas Hapgood faced court for stealing items, including a blanket and checked crimson shirt, from William Avery. Hapgood tried to explain that he’d found the goods between “two sheets of bark”. Avery produced good evidence of the theft, but then probably wished he’d never involved the police when his wife inconveniently admitted in court that these items ‘might’ have come originally from the Walter Hood. The Justices were convinced that Hapgood had stolen them from Avery and gave him three months in Wollongong gaol. The constable then immediately arrested Avery for having goods stolen from the Walter Hood.
Avery tried to explain his way out of it by saying he’d ‘found them’ in a sack on the other side of Conjola Creek but the Justices were obviously not convinced. Goods confiscated, fined 20s or 14 days in prison.
The court then turned its attention to the next case, between Adam McArthur and Henry Moon, in dispute over a land clearing contract. Moon’s father, William Moon appeared as a witness in the case. The Bench suggested a mutual arrangement for the completion of the work.
But then Constable Beatty detained Henry Moon, defendant in the previous case. Just where had he got that nice crimson shirt he was wearing for his court appearance? And that coat? Moon said that he’d found them about half a mile from the creek and didn’t think it any harm to pick them up. Fined 10s and costs or seven days in the lockup.
Then the Constable’s attention turned to William Moon, witness in the previous case. Just where had he got that coat he was wearing in court? Moon (senior) stated that he’d “picked the coat off the second rail of a fence on an allotment he rented“. Fined 5s and costs or seven days in the lockup.
All coats and shirts to be handed to the underwriters. It must have been a cold walk home!
The plebs cop it and the toffs get off?
Although several men were arrested and tried for taking or receiving goods from the Walter Hood, they were all small items and those found guilty were tenant farmers or manual labourers. What had become of the ‘big-ticket’ items, like furniture, wine casks and beer barrels?
The Illawarra Mercury of 31 May 1870 gives us a clue…
Perhaps someone you know still has treasures from the Walter Hood handed down through generations of their family. Perhaps they have no idea from where they originally came. Or perhaps they do!
As the years passed, the Walter Hood graves were burned in bushfires and the high tide was encroaching. Locals decided it was time for renewed respect…