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Minutes of Evidence: Thomas Dick

Report of the commissioners appointed to enquire into and report upon the circumstances connected with the sufferings and death of Robert O'Hara Burke and William John Wills.
Melbourne: John Ferres, Government Printer.
Parliamentary papers, No 97, 1861-2. 1862.

Thursday 12th December 1861.

Mr Thomas Dick examined.

Q1649. What are you ?-I have been a publican at Swan Hill, and I simply come here for a certain purpose.

Q1650. In connection with this inquiry ?-Yes.

Q1651. Then you wish to volunteer some statement ?-Exactly.

Q1652. Would you be kind enough to go on with it ?-It is in relation to Charles Gray. Very few people perhaps knew much about him; but I knew more about him than anyone else, except his previous employer, and as I am in Melbourne I take the opportunity of trying to clear up his character, because it seems to be a general impression that Gray was a man not altogether right, that there was not something clear about him-about his character. I wish to state this : he was in my employ about fifteen months, and I had him at one time as a general servant, at another time as a cook, at another as an ostler, and another as puntman for the punt over the River Murray. In fact, when I was short handed, or any of the servants got the worse for drink, I generally made a point of sacking them at once; Gray was the only man that I had to fall back upon in every respect.

Q1653. Was he a sober man ?-A sober man. He has been repeatedly the worse for drink when he got his wages once a month, as I settled with him once a month. He might take a spree for an afternoon or something like that, but as a general tippler I wish to state that he was not. The fact of his being in a public house may have led Mr King to make a remark that being in a public house he might be habitually on the drink, but such was not the case.

Q1654. Mr King said he was a man of bad constitution in consequence of taking "sprees," as you call them ?-In eighteen months his sprees were about six or seven.

Q1655. That is tolerably good, is it not ?-That was about the amount of it.

Q1656. Was he a stout hearty man ?-A stout hearty man, and a better bushman was not to be found. There are gentlemen here who know what the Mallee Scrub is, behind Swan Hill, and I have sent him fifteen miles back into the scrub and he was the man to find the cattle; no man at Swan Hill was equal to him, and he was thorough honest, and I leave it to the people of Swan Hill to confirm it.

Q1657. You are here merely to clear up Mr King's statement, that Gray's constitution had been injured in consequence of intoxication ?-Yes. His previous employer, with whom he was quite as long if not longer, is at Swan Hill now; he is the mail contractor, and the whole time he was employed he was scarcely once under the influence of drink.

Q1658. Have you anything more to say ?-No nothing more. I simply wished to give my statement.

The witness withdrew.

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