Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Unpaid Wages, March 1857 UPDATED


Robert O'Hara Burke, circa 1860.  Courtesy of the State Library of Victoria Collection
 POLICE COURT.
Friday, March 27, 1857
(Before R. O'H. Bourke, Esq., J.P. and J, S. Morphy, Esq., J.P.)

WAGES
George Zeplin v John Johnson.
A claim for £5 6s 8d, balance of wages, for playing a harp at defendant's house for two weeks and two days at £5 per week. Plaintiff had received £5, and now sued for the balance.
Mrs Griffith was sworn, and stated that she was present when Zeplin agreed with Johnson to play for him at £5 per week each. Would swear positively that the word "each" was mentioned.

Mr Johnson, having been sworn, stated that he engaged the plaintiff and his mate for £5 per week, and board, but never dreamt of paying them that amount each.


The magistrates said they had no...........the amount claimed.  

[There appears  to be a fold in the newspaper in the above sentence, and it is not clear just what the magistrates thought.] 
 WAGES.
George Griffith v John Johnson. A claim for £5 6s 8d.
This case was exactly similar to the last, and judgment for the amount was taken by consent.

POLICE COURT. (1857, March 28). Ovens and Murray Advertiser (Beechworth, Vic. : 1857 - 1918), p. 2. Retrieved October 8, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article113014651

George Zeplin was a fruiterer and greengrocer (and evidently a harpist) at Woolshed, per Ovens directory 1857.  John Johnson was a publican at One Mile (about one mile south of the centre of Beechworth).    Henry Johnson was listed in the Ovens Directory as a publican at Woolshed.  According to Nobblers and Lushingtons: a history of the hotels of Beechworth and the Ovens District, by Richard Patterson, Johnston's Hotel was located at Upper Woolshed, where it had been from 1856. In September 1858 the hotel was described as 'the best finished house on the Woolshed'. (Patterson, p 302.)


The most interesting aspect of this post, to me, was George and Susan's brush with fame - the case was heard before Police Magistrate Robert O'Hara Burke, who would later go on to lead the ill-fated Victorian Exploring Expedition in 1860.

In the nineteenth century citizens were probably more familiar with the inside of a Magistrates' Court, which they used to chase wages owed, payments for goods, unpaid rent or board, and so on.

We learn from this that George was employed at £5 a week in a hotel to play what one imagines woud have been popular music.   We don't know what sort of week that entailed - all day for six days, or every evening for six days, five days?  The wage for a carpenter was £1-10-0 per day, a bricklayer could earn £1-5-0 per day, and a labourer between 15 shillings and £1 a day.  So these musicians (had they been paid) would have been earning less than a labourer - or the day was not a full working day.  It is hard to know unless we can shed some more light on it.

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