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Saturday 6 November 1852, The Maitland Mercury & Hunter River General Advertiser

Sydney News


(From a Correspondent of the Empire.)

That more complaints have been made during the past season, on account of irregular deliveries of letters and newspapers sent by post, is no new theme, but none have entered particularly into the various causes which have occasioned these irregularities. They may be classified as under –

The impaired slate of the highways.
Successive floods.
Country postmasters' negligence.
Remissness of mail contractors.

These have all been assigned singly, severally, or altogether, as incontrovertible reasons why the most unexampled uncertainty prevailed as to the time when her Majesty’s mails would be delivered at their proper places, or whether indeed they would be ever delivered at all.

On the first head, there can be no difference of opinion, that the public roads are annually becoming worse. . By one defect, the want of drainage, they are now so cut up by torrents of water pouring down from the higher grounds that scarcely saddle horses can get over in numerous places, where the trenches are excavated a yard deep, and draymen stand aghast by the sides of the gaping ditches. It is feared that the Internal Communication Committee will have still a harder task before them, ere they can get the public roads in a passable condition for the public accommodation. In fact three fourths of the northern roads are so bad that it is almost impossible that they can get much worse. On the second head, successive flooding of the rivers, much might be said.

This excuse in general for delays ought not to he admitted in the same way as bad roads. The roads cannot be readily or easily repaired, but the delays at flooded rivers ought to be provided for by the Postmaster General or by the Executive Government.

On the Northern Road, we have the Hunter at Singleton and at Aberdeen : why not keep boats there to be ready for emergencies ? Next we are pulled up on our travels inland, by the deep and narrow Peel. A bridge could be laid over this frequently flooded stream at no great expense, sufficient for the conveyance of men and horses at all times and on all occasions, if not drays. When we have waded safely through the Peel, the mighty McDonald, prime source of the Namoi, pulls us up at Bicknell’s. A boat ! a boat ! twenty pounds for a boat.’ has been shouted many a time by travellers in greater haste by far than the post man – but all in vain. A bridge which would span the Peel could not reach more than half-way over the McDonald, so -boat, ahoy ! if you please, Messieurs the Ministry, and we will cheerfully pay sixpence for our passage, yea, a shilling, it you will be quick only, and don’t keep us waiting. The ugly hole at Salisbury, and crossing at Gostwyck on the same creek, could be avoided by sending the mails via Kentucky and Mr. McCrossin’s Inn, on the Rocky River – by-the-bye, a road much nearer, and far better, and with no dangerous interruptions at all until arrival at Armidale, the capital of New England. From thence northward to Warwick and Brisbane the natural impedimenta are small indeed. The miserable, boggy, Boyd’s Creek, at Beardy Plains, and the large Yarrowford (the Sovereign), could be bridged at little cost. In fact from Maitland to Moreton Bay, there are found only four great obstructions from casual floods, and these stand first in the list, viz. : The Hunter’s two crossings, the Peel, and the McDonald. All nations have provided means of communication from head quarters to all parts of their dominions. The Peruvians had their bridges of hide, and, in the Himalaya Mountains, conveyance across furious torrents by means of ropes are said to have been constructed. The Chinese made bridges over gulfs from mountain to mountain. But we Australians are the most lukewarm set of folks on the face of the earth ; and like the squatters, are only famous for grumbling, suffering, and doing nothing towards obtaining redress of our grievances; aye ready to cry, what are the Legislative Council doing ? but do not bestir ourselves to strengthen the hands of our representatives ; so do a precious deal less, and matters drag on, or may stick altogether if they please, and men just wonder what detains the mails and there’s the conclusion – the expression of wonder and a sort of guttural growling byway of mental relief, like a steam-boiler escape valve.

Country postmasters are generally a very respectable body of men. There may be exceptions, extra fines, in all senses of the term ; but it is difficult to please every body – impossible; so more blame is laid to their doors than can be called just or fair on the whole. Without entering into the subject of responsibilities required of them to despatch the mailbags when the contractors fail in their duties, from what they consider perilous adventure, with permission, gentlemen, let us advert to one very common subject of complaint – the non-delivery or too frequent loss of newspapers to country subscribers. In most instances you ought to be exculpated ; the fault usually lies not with you.

Whatever chaffing may be found in the contents or insides of these newspapers amongst themselves, it amounts to nothing compared to the chafing the outsides sustain against one another, when shaken, jolted, rubbed, squeezed, jammed, rough-ridden upon the backs of hard trotting brutes of horses, from Tamworth to Tenterfield, and from thence to Gayndah, or some such outlandish place, at the rate of eight miles an hour; the postboys whistling along, unthinking of the messes they are making ; nor care they a straw about it, their sole anxiety resting on doing their given distance in given times. The consequences may be anticipated.

So much chafing has reduced the frail thin covers, and their superscriptions to chaff, and considerable portions of the newspapers in addition. The distinctions of meum and tuum have become indistinguishable. The Herald fails to announce its rightful owner, nor can the Empire recognise its true subjects. The People’s Advocate cannot advocate its own cause ; and the Freeman’s Journal may be free to any one. A subscriber to the Advocate, residing on the Darling Downs, reported that he had received five papers in three months, and another expressed his satisfaction that he had better luck than many of his neighbours by getting half the numbers of the Maitland Mercury, when others obtained about one-fourth. Many persons must ride twenty, thirty, fifty miles, and back again, in the bush, to their nearest post-offices for letters, &c. A newspaper in the far interior is a god-send, to let the solitaries domiciled there understand what the world is doing, and what are the prices of wool, tallow, sheep, and bullocks, flour, sugar, tea, salt, soap, and labour. Bushmen are not famous for possessing the virtue of patience. When told that there has been no post – no papers for the last month, they anathematise all concerned, from the Printer’s Devil to the Postmaster-General-wish them in warmer quarters than shall be at present expressed, but may be understood, and gallop away, swearing, the vagabonds, that they will give up their newspapers henceforth and for evermore, and many keep their words.

The remedial means in this case are very simple. Besides the usual address on the cover, let the names and residences of the parties interested be written upon the newspapers themselves, in the same way as are done with papers to and from Britain, and there will be little cause of complaint on the score of missing newspapers in future.

Written by macalba

October 23, 2010 at 8:06 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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