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Colonial Cases

R. v. Anonymous, 1888

[shipping, mutiny]

R. v. Anonymous

Police Court, Shanghai
16 March 1888
Source: North China Herald, 23 March 1888

Shanghai, 16th March, 1888
  On Thursday in H.B.M.'s Police Court before Geo. Jamieson, Esq., Acting Assistant Judge, an Amoy man, boatswain of the Wuchang, was brought up on a charge of mutinous conduct, and assaulting the chief Mate, Mr. Paul Holtz.  The prisoner, who is a big, burly man, appeared in court surrounded by his crew numbering about a dozen.
  The Mate was sworn, and said - I have been on the ship about 5 weeks.  The boatswain is in the habit of using water out of the fresh water tanks "and I object to that when the vessel is in fresh water."  Whenever I spoke to him about it, he took no notice.  This morning the boatswain was going to the tank, and I went up and said "I'll have no more of this and I will lick you if you do I again."  He immediately called the crew, and they came.  He cried out "Tung lai. Tung lai. Ta ta." and as I did not like the look of this, there being twelve of them, I retreated to the wheel house, and took down a hatchet.
  To His Worship - There were about twelve men, I think.  They did not assault me, I only got a clout or two as I went along to the wheel house.  I don't know exactly which of them gave it, but it was not of much account.  When they came they all stood at bay, and when the boatswain saw me with the hatchet, he stepped back, and told the men to go on.  I went away because I knew they would give me a beating when they were crying out ta ta.  They had nothing in their hands when they came along.
  His Worship - Why did you think they would lick you? Because the boatswain called on them to do so, and because I have been mobbed before.
  His Worship - They did no attempt to strike you? No. because I ran into the wheelhouse.
  The Interpreter explained what the prosecutor had said to the prisoner, who said the mate gave him permission that morning to use the water in the tanks to wash the funnel, as the river water was very muddy and would discolour it.  The prosecutor struck him twice before he went into the wheelhouse, when the prisoner was in the boat, and he also told him to go to the Captain.  That was why he ran aft.  He did not call his men until the mate went to strike him with the hatchet.  He then got scared and called them to his assistance.
  Prosecutor, in reply to the Magistrate, said the men did nothing when he got the hatchet, but went away.  The Captain then came out of his cabin and said, "What do you want to use the hatchet for? Put it down."  The boatswain then made a rush at me and got hold of me by the ear, and not having a good footing, he (Holtz) fell down near the wheelhouse.  The boatswain put him down, but not by a straight blow.   The statement of the boatswain that he had struck him twice when he was in the boat was untrue.  Prosecutor would have been very foolish to do so, as the prisoner's foot was then on a level with his (Holtz's) head and he would have kicked him.  It was also untrue that he took up the hatchet before all the men rushed at him.
  His Worship directed the Interpreter to tell the prisoner what the complainant said about his statement.
  The Prisoner, in defence, said that after the Mate put down the hatcher he never caught hold of him, but when he was trying to hit him (prisoner) with the axe, he fell down.
  Captain George Vallack was sworn and deposed that he came up the river with his steamer this morning.  He heard a great commotion outside his cabin, and saw the mate rushing along the deck with about half a dozen sailors after him.  He went into the wheel house and took up a hatchet, which witness ordered him to put down.  He did so, and the boatswain rushed at him and got him down.  Witness then went between them caught he boatswain and knocked him down.  The prisoner thereupon sang out to all hands to knock off work, and they would go to the Consul. Witness asked him did he intend all the men to knock off, or only himself, adding that he would have an opportunity of seeing the Consul.  The prisoner then appeared to repent and told the men to go on with their work.
  To the Bench - The men were nearly all running after the Mate and making a great commotion.
  The Prisoner, in reply to his Worship, said the men ran aft because the Mate told them to go to the captain's cabin.  When the Captain told them they would see the consul, he (prisoner) told them to go on with their work again.
  The Captain said they rushed past his door, so that they could not be going to see him.
  The prisoner said the Mate told them to go to the Captain's cabin, but they went to the wheel house instead.
  Hs Worship said that was nonsense.
  Mr. Percival, Clerk of the Court, said there was a cross summons by the boatswain for assault against the Mate.
  His Worship intimated that he would hear it with the other charge, and asked the Captain were the men threatening.
 The Captain - Yes, especially the boatswain; the men were not very menacing.
  His Worship - Have you often heard of cases of this kind before?"  No, very seldom.  It is he first one since I have been in China that such a thing occurred.
  Did the men knock off when he old them? Yes, he seems to have a great influence over them, more so, in fact, than any boatswain I have been with.
  TSU A-CHUNG, a quartermaster on the vessel, was called to support the summons by the prisoner, and stated that he had been engaged by the boatswain six years ago, ever since which time the boatswain was on the ship. Yesterday morning he was in the wheelhouse when the Mate came in quite excited and took off his coat and picked up a hatchet.
 His Worship said he wanted someone who saw the beginning of the row.
  PING A-CHING was cautioned and said he was on the deck at the time of the disturbance.  The boatswain did no call out tung-lai tung-lai, ta ta.  Witness was not one of the men who followed the mate.
  His Worship asked the prisoner had he any other witnesses to call.
  The prisoner said he had only to all one man as to the Mate striking him in the boat.
  Another sailor said he saw the boatswain helping to get up water to the men - of whom witness was one - washing the funnel, and he saw the Chief Mate come up and strike him twice on the body.  The boatswain did no call out ta ta, nor did he try to strike the Mate, no Chinaman would try to do so.  Witness did not hear or see any of the sailors running after the Mate.  He kept on washing the funnel, and did not knock off work himself.
  His Worship asked the prisoner had he any more witnesses, to which the prisoner replied in the negative.
  His Worship said that with reference to the first part of the business, it appeared to him that one party was about as bad as the other.  He thought that the Mate had been acting rather indiscreetly, or at all events, was at the beginning of the affair.  With regard to the assault at the wheel house, which the Captain witnessed, he would convict the prisoner of a common assault, and ordered him to pay a fine of $10, with the alternative of a week's imprisonment.
  At the same time he thought the Mate had behaved with some want of care and caution in taking up the hatchet, which might have done more harm than good.  It was extremely unwise to take up such a weapon to the boatswain, and if he refused to obey orders, the Mate should have gone to the captain and told him.
  The Mate said the evidence of the last witness was altogether false.
  His Worship said he was not going upon that evidence in his decision, but upon the whole facts of the case.
  [To the Interpreter.] Tell the boatswain that he should have known he was on board an English ship and was subject to English law, and if he had thought he was badly treated he could come to the Court and have redress.  He dismissed the summons against the mate with a hope that the case would be a warning to him in future.
  The prisoner intimated that he would rather pay the fine than go to gaol.

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