Captain Law and the six escapees from New Caledonia

Newcastle (Illustrated Sydney News April 1875)

Newcastle in 1875
(http://www.flickr.com/photos/uon/6048381898/)

Key to the View of Newcastle (Illustrated Sydney News 8 April 1975 p.20)


Day Shift – 17/03/2009 – 02:10 PM
Presenter: Carol Duncan
Producer: Jeanette McMahon
Interviewee: Gionni Di Gravio, Archivist, Newcastle University

University of Newcastle Archivist Gionni Di Gravio discusses the arrival in Newcastle of six escaped political prisoners from New Caledonia back in March 1874 through the eyes of Henri Rochefort. Recounting his observations of the people and places of Newcastle “Happy those peoples who have no history!” Rochefort was also very appreciative of the Newcastle Captain of the P.C. E. (Peace Comfort and Ease) who provided them with safe passage to his home town of Newcastle. We hope to find the relatives of this Captain David Law, who once lived at Pitt Street Newcastle, just behind the Public Library in Laman Street.

Broadcast Notes:

Dubbed the “Prince of the Gutter Press”, Henri Rochefort (along with 5 of his fellow escapees) visited Newcastle in 1874 after he made a daring escape from prison in New Caledonia, where he was serving time for his notorious role in the French Revolution of 1870.

Henri Rochefort

Henri Rochefort

The portion of Henri Rochefort’s full account published in his book De nouméa en Europe : 200 illustrations contenant 700 sujets / Dessins de Denis, Desjours … etc Published Paris : Ancienne Librairie Martinon, [1876?] concerning Newcastle was translated in 2002 under the title ‘Noumea to Newcastle: The Story of an Escape’ by the University of Newcastle’s Professor Ken Dutton.

The complete translation is here:
https://uoncc.wordpress.com/2010/05/04/rochefort/

These escapees arrived in Newcastle Harbour on the 27 March 1874 amid great fanfare. The ships in the Harbour had been all decked out in anticipation for the arrival of the Governor, Sir Hercules Robinson, who was to arrive that morning. Somehow they got swept up in the fanfare and became the sensation of the day and became the day’s ‘Lion’.

On their arrival they were taken arm in arm to visit the who’s who. Rochefort’s account of Newcastle and the people he encountered is hilarious.

They stayed in the most expensive place in Town, The Great Northern Hotel, and while three of them returned to Sydney to get some money to pay the bill, they left the other three as a ‘deposit’ to ensure that the bill would be eventually paid. While here, the three took a trip to Maitland and onto to the homestead of Philobert Terrier, a fellow countrymen who established St Helena’s at Lochinvar. He was a pioneer of Champagne wines.

A couple of weeks ago we hosted a visiting scholar from Melbourne, Professor Malcolm Macmillan, who is researching the local Australian reception to these escapees. He is especially interested in Newcastle, and is interested in locating additional accounts of their visit here, especially contacting relatives of those who featured in the story.

One person in particular is their rescuer, Captain Law. His full name was Captain David Cochrane Law. Captain of the P.C.E. which stands for Peace, Comfort and Ease. His wife was Harriet (Ruwald), her brothers were also Master Mariners and came out from the United Kingdom with her. They once lived at Pitt Street Newcastle, a long lost road that once ran somewhere along the carpark behind the Newcastle Public Library in Laman Street. They appear in the 1871 Census of St John’s Parish as having 4 children. Together they eventually had 6 children, 3 girls and 3 boys. We would love to get in touch with any of their descendants.

The breakdown of events is as follows:

Friday 27 March 1874

– Arrival of the P.C.E. from New Caledonia, having on board six of the most prominent French State prisoners recently exiled to that colony.

– They were:

Henri Rochefort, journalist and member of the first Provisional Government.
Pascal Grousset, Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Olivier Pain, Secretaire-General.
Francis Jourde, Minister of Finance.
Achille Bailliere, Aide de Camp to General Rossel.
Charles Bostiere Grandhille, Commandant de Bataillon.

– It was somewhat singular that these men should arrive while all the vessels in the harbour were arrayed with a display of flags in honour of his Excellency the Governor, Sir Hercules Robinson, who was expected hourly at the time.

– H. Rochefort and two of his compatriots left by the Kembla, at night, for Sydney.

Saturday 28th March 1874

– M. Henri Rochefort, M. Pascal Grousset and M. Francis Jourde arrived safely in Sydney, on Saturday morning.

– The other three, namely M. Olivier Pain, M. Achille Bailliere and M. Cavan Grant Achille [sic] still remain at Newcastle, where they will remain until remittances are received from Paris.

– M. Olivier Pain, M. Achille Bailliere and M. Cavan Grant Achille [sic] visited Maitland on Saturday.

Sunday 29th March 1874

– M. Olivier Pain, M. Achille Bailliere and M. Cavan Grant Achille [sic] at St Helena (with Mr Terrier).

Monday 30 March 1874

– M. Olivier Pain, M. Achille Bailliere and M. Cavan Grant Achille [sic] returned to Newcastle.

Tuesday 31 March 1874

– possibly returned to Sydney?

Anyone who has any further information relating to this visit, or is a descendant of any of the characters in this story are encouraged to contact us at the University.

Yours sincerely,

Gionni Di Gravio
University Archivist

‘James Farmer: Forgotten Civil Rights Visionary’

 

School of Humanities and Social Science
HISTORY SEMINAR SERIES – 2008

‘James Farmer: Forgotten Civil Rights Visionary’

Dr Michael Ondaatje, University of Newcastle

This seminar has been postponed till next semester.

This work-in-prospect paper will introduce the US civil rights leader James Farmer and consider his significance to the movement that redefined the moral landscape of America and arguably the world. During the past two decades new interpretations of the “black freedom struggle” have emerged; yet within this burgeoning field Farmer’s activism has received little attention. This historiographical neglect is indeed puzzling since the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) under Farmer often served as the “razor’s edge” of the movement, co-ordinating many of the historic protests that swept the American South in the 1960s. Widely referred to as one of the “Big Four” civil rights leaders of that decade, and subsequently honoured with the Presidential Medal of Freedom (the nation’s highest civilian honour), Farmer, however, has yet to be the subject of a book-length study – until now. In this seminar I will begin to contemplate some of the important questions that will inevitably form the basis of my biography.

Michael Ondaatje
is a Lecturer in American History at the University of Newcastle. Michael’s research centres on African American history, with a particular emphasis on black conservatism and the civil rights movement. His forthcoming book, Black Conservative Intellectuals in Modern America, is due for release with Penn Press in early 2009; and he is currently working on a biography of the US civil rights leader James Farmer.

Staff, students and members of the public are welcome

Enquiries to:
Victoria Haskins Victoria.Haskins@newcastle.edu.au Ph 49215221