Whilst searching Trove, the National Library of Australia’s free website containing digitised records of Australian Newspapers, I came across an article I had not seen before. This article about old James Heneker made my hackles rise. I felt for my great great grandfather, and wished I could reach out in time and give him a hug.
The article, published in 1903, (13 years before James’ death) shows that even back then bureaucracy was at work, trying to get every cent out of the ordinary man. For the things that dear James had done in his long life in South Australia, I could hardly believe the courts had even bothered to take on his case. Thankfully he had an understanding Magistrate, however I felt his humiliation yet strength in telling the court what he thought. The story is as follows:
Magistrates Court Beltana, Thursday February 5
James Heneker, snr., an old man, was charged by Crown Lands Ranger Birt with having removed timber from off leased lands of the Crown without first obtaining a licence, contrary to clause 185 of the Crown Lands Act, 1888. Defendant pleaded guilty. He considered the Government had not treated him fairly, as he had applied and paid for a dray licence, but the Surveyor General would not grant it unless a cutting licence was also taken out. Being an aged man in poor circumstances he could not afford to pay the 10 shillings now demanded for the cutting licence (the fee was formerly 5 shillings), as the wood he was carting was merely firewood picked up in creeks. The Bench considered the Government should have refunded the fees paid or have granted a dray licence, so in the circumstances would fine the defendant 40 shillings but reduce the amount to 5 shillings without costs.
“Adelaide Observer (SA: 1843-1904) Saturday 21 February 1903 page 4”
The more I read this article, the more I wonder at why James was even charged by Ranger Birt? Although Beltana was a much larger and busier town than it is today (basically it is known as a ghost town, with some homes being restored mainly by ancestors), it was in a remote outback area of South Australia. James had lived for many years in the town, and was well known by most people in the north of the state. Also, it was interesting that the fee for the licence required had increased from 5 shillings to 10 shillings, which seems a huge jump. The fact that James even had to plead guilty and be in this situation upsets me greatly. I think that even if he wasn’t my great great grandfather, my heart would go out to him after reading this. It seems such a petty thing to try to bring down this strong and hardworking man, to such a position!!!