Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Henry Alford and “The Tiers”

Henry Alford and “The Tiers”
Mount Lofty Ranges, 1912
Image courtesy of the State Library of South Australia, SLSA: PRG 280/1/16/278, Public Domain

 Long before the Adelaide Hills became one of the favourite holiday destination of residents in Adelaide, trying to escape the heat, and enjoy the scenic beauty of iconic locations such as Handorf, Mount Lofty, Stirling and Balhannah. The Adelaide Hills, known in the early days of South Australian settlement as “The Tiers” was home to “Duffers”, vagabonds, ruffians and other nefarious people.
 South Australia, in particular, Adelaide, was the only South Australian settlement not founded on the back of convict labour. It was a colonial utopia, designed for good, hard working, salt of the earth people. It didn’t take too long before it was overrun with the escaped convicts, army and navy deserters, runaway sailors and opportunists.
 This “underclass” or people needed to hide themselves away from the Police Force which was starting to establish itself, and to do so, hid in the Adelaide Hills, in log cabins, hidden away in nooks and crannies, caves and lonely gullies…
 These underhanded criminals could plan their raids, plunder the city, and return to their mountain caves, knowing the likely hood of being caught by the fledgling police force would be minimal.
 Duffers (cattle rustlers) would hide in the hills, steal cattle from local farmers, and slaughter them in hidden pockets in the hills. The hides would be burnt and the meat pickled, taken to Port Adelaide, or other sea ports, and sold to Sea Captains, who would turn a blind eye to where the meat came from.
 The establishment of the South Australian Police Force in 1838 saw Henry Inman selected as the Superintendent. The South Australian Police Force is the oldest in Australia and the 3rd oldest in the world.
 One of the first constables was Henry Alford, who had come to South Australia on-board the schooner John Pirie in 1838 in the employ of the South Australia Company. Alford would go on to work for the SA Police for 16 years. Within his duties, he once escorted 33,763 ounces of gold from Victoria to South Australia. He was also crucial in arresting a lot of bush-rangers which raided Adelaide from “The Tiers” in the early days of the colony.
 One of Alford's most written about conquests was the arrest of a rogue known by the name of “Spearman”.
 Spearman was a bushranger with a predilection for highway robbery, and holding up farmers. One farmer a masked bushranger held up happened to recognise the voice of his assailant from earlier legitimate business transactions, and reported to Alford that the masked bushranger he was looking for was Spearman.
 Alford and two troopers assigned to him, went into the Adelaide Hills looking for Spearman, they were pointed in the direction of where Eagle-on-the hill stands today.
 The three police officers found a shanty hut, and snuck up too it quietly, and listened to the conversation between the occupants.
 The conversation inside the house between Spearman and his wife went something like this:
 Spearman; “What did you do with the plunder?”
 Spearman’s Wife; “I have sewn it up in my stays”
That was enough evidence for Alford and his men, they snuck away, and rode up the next morning to Spearman’s hut. Spearman, who was readying to leave for Mount Barker, was taken by surprise, and was arrested, along with his wife.
 Both Mr & Mrs Spearman took offense for being arrested and asked for what reason was Alford doing so, his reply “For having stolen plunder in your possession”, Mrs Spearman protested the arrest and asked if she could change her dress before being taken to gaol.
 Alford, with a wry smile, said “No, I prefer you as you are!”
 Both were sentenced to gaol, with Mr Spearman being sentenced to transportation and hard labour in Van Diemens Land (Tasmania). Henry Alford would eventually become an Inspector in the Police Force, and after 16 years of service, retired to become the publican of the Glynde Hotel until his death in February 1892. He was buried at the West Terrace Cemetery.