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Colonial Cases

R v. Wang Soo, 1852

[shipping, mutiny]

R. v. Wang Soo, Kee Chih, Catcheong and Ali

Consular Court, Shanghai
Source: The North-China Herald, Shanghae, 4 September 1852


We give this week an account of the trial of the mutineers on board the Island Queen, for their mutinous and outrageous conduct on the 18th and 19th ultimo.


Shanghae, 23rd August, 1852

Wang Soo  Serang - Kee Chih Tindal - Catcheong Tindal - and Ali Seaman -

were charged by Walter Macfarlane, Master of the Schooner Island Queen, with acts of mutiny and insubordination at Woosung on the morning of the 19th instant, in rescuing and inciting the rest of the crew to rescue the Serang Wang Soo, whom Captain Macfarlane had endeavoured to put into irons for his conduct that morning, while the vessel was entering the Yang-tsze-kiang.

Walter Macfarlane being sworn, deposed.  That at day-break the vessel was close on the bar at the entrance of the River, and an order he gave not being quickly obeyed he asked for the Serang, who answered in an insolent manner "here I am what do you want?"  He then went forward with his night-glass under his arm, and in the dark tripped over the jib sheet and put his hand out to save himself, when the Serang closed on him taking him by the throat, he shook him off and going aft desired the Chief Mate to put the man into irons.  The Chief Mate went but the Serang ran forward brandishing his knife.  This was reported to Captain Macfarlane, who thinking his first care was for the vessel with a valuable cargo and he could see to the Serang when she had anchored in safety, replied it was of no consequence.  Shortly after he anchored the vessel and sent for the Serang, but he was not to be found.  At day-light he weighed and in the afternoon anchored at Woosung.  The Serang then made his appearance.

Captain Macfarlane directed the Chief Officer to bring him aft, who proceeded to do so, but the Serang calling out to the crew who were aloft furling sails, a general rush was made and the Chief Officer overpowered; Captain Macfarlane seeing this went below, for his Pistols and returning on Deck the Serang and Tindal Kee Chih advanced calling out to him to shoot, and brandishing hand-spikes.  Captain Macfarlane, being unwilling to fire simply ordered them all forward, the Mate was released and the whole of the crew struck work.  He then sent up to Shanghae for assistance, and a party from H.M.S. Lily coming down arrested the ringleaders but not without some show of resistance being offered.

The above evidence was confirmed by Julius Hallpike Chief Officer, who added that the crew rushed on him and made him fast to the fore-rigging.

Thomas Duins Chief Officer of the receiving vessels Science, deposed that the Island Queen, was anchored close along side and he saw, the disturbance and the gleaming of knives or other weapons.  He hailed the Schooner and hastened on board to render assistance.

The Prisoners admitted the charge but said the Serang had been beaten.

Captain Macfarlane stated he had been confined below from illness the greater part of the voyage and on coming on Deck a-day or two previous to the occurrence, the Officers complained the crew were slow and would not work.  On giving some order and finding they were not very quick in their movements he called to his Boy to give him his cane and gave two or three a slight blow which had the desired effect.  It was a standing rule in his vessel that no man should be struck; if it was necessary to administer punishment it was done by the Serang and among themselves.  The Serang had been with him several years before and most of the crew for a long time.

Several of the crew on being questioned by the Court deposed they were never punished, and were comfortable in the ship, they went to the rescue of the Serang because he called them.

The Court in passing sentence remarked on the discretion Captain Macfarlane had shown in the matter and was satisfied that no charge of illusage of the crew had been established.  The Serang was known to have been drunk on one or two occasions and therefore little could be said in his favour.  At all events the admission of the prisoners of their guilt, without almost an attempt to excuse it, made it incumbent on the Court to inflict such punishment as would mark its sense of the gravity of the offence.

It had clearly been proved that the Serang, and at his instigation, the rest of the Prisoners had risen upon their Officers, and with weapons in their hands had resisted the Master's lawful authority; and with such violence that nothing but the Master's forbearance had apparently prevented bloodshed, and, in all probability, loss of life.  Acts of this nature could not be justified even if they had been able to prove any real cause of complaint.

The sentence of the Court therefore was that the Prisoners Wang Soo and Kee Chih be respectively imprisoned in one of H.M. Gaols for a period of twelve, and Catcheong and Seden for a period of six calendar months.  Ali and the rest of the crew to be discharged.

Published by Centre for Comparative Law, History and Governance at Macquarie Law School