How Bushfires Are Caused 1893

Bendigo Advertiser (Vic. : 1855 – 1918), Friday 7 April 1893, page 3


An elderly man, giving the name of Charles Seward, was brought up at the City Police Court (Mr Leader, D.M., presiding), yesterday, on remand charged with wilfully and maliciously setting fire to a fence belonging to Mr. N. Ingham, of Axedale, on the 29th of March. The prisoner pleaded not guilty.

.Sergeant Fahey, who conducted the prosecution, stated to the bench that the proceedings had been brought under the 196th section of the Crimes Act.

Napthalie Ingham, contractor quarryman, and licensed victualler, residing at Axedale, deposed that the prisoner called at his hotel on the 29th of last month, at about eight o’clock in the morning. Witness was behind the bar, and accused ordered a pint of beer, which was given him, and for which he paid. Accused said, “I have come from Melbourne. I am going to Toolleen to work for a man there for 8s per week and my keep.” Witness said, “You needn’t go any further, I’ll give you that.” Accused said, ” All right.” Witness wanted to put accused to work at once, and he said that he was not particular for that day.

Accused commenced to blow the bellows in the blacksmith’s shop, and witness said to him, “If you’re going to start work, you’d better get the axe and barrow, and go out for some firewood.” Accused replied, “The **** barrow is no good, and I can’t use it.”

Witness then told him that he had better “move on” along the road to the place he intended making for originally. Accused asked for a glass of beer, but witness refused to give him any. Accused then left the place.

That was about 10 o’clock in the morning. About four o’clock that afternoon, in consequence of something he heard, he visited his property, which is situated on the Toolleen road. He took two of his men with him. They found about half a mile of brush fencing burning. Witness and his men with the assistance of several other persons extinguished the fire. The damage to the fencing amounted to about £20, Witness was positive the accused was the man who was in the bar on the morning in question, and he did not give the man the slightest provocation.

Sergeant Fahey (to prisoner) : Have you any questions to ask the witness?
Prisoner : No. It is quite correct what he says.

.John Johnson, a laborer, working at Axedale, deposed that on the 29th of March, he was walking along the road from Axedale to Toolleen. When about four or five miles from Axedale, he saw that Mr. Ingham’s fence was on fire in two places. He got a green bough and tried to beat out the fire, but could not do so. He walked on for about 20 yards, when he came across the accused, who was just getting up after having set lire to the fence in another place. Prisoner : You did not.
Sergeant Fahey (to prisoner): You’ll have an opportunity of questioning the witness later on.

Witness continuing: The accused produced a card upon which the address of P. J. Cooney, Campaspe East, was written, and said ” Am I on the right track for that ?” Witness replied in the affirmative. Accused said to witness,” Did you see me drop my match?” and witness replied, ” Yes; you set fire to the fence.” Accused asked to whom the fence belonged, and witness replied that it was the property of Mr. Ingham. Accused said ” What? That Lancashire **** on the hill. If I had known it belonged to him I would have set fire to it in 40 **** places.” Witness and accused walked along the road for some distance until they reached the place where witness was cutting wood. Accused sat down on a log and told witness that he had been at Ingham’s, but left there as he did not like cutting wood for women, and besides, the wheel barrow was no good. He sat down on a log and afterwards went to sleep.

The P.M. : Did it not surprise you to see the man setting fire to the fence?
Witness : Yes. I couldn’t understand it unless he had a “down” on Mr. Ingham.
The P.M. : But in any case did it not surprise you?
Witness : Yes.
The P.M. Didn’t you try to put the fire out?
Witness: Yes. But I couldn’t do it, as the flames were over my head.
The P.M. Did the accused help you?
Witness : No. He walked on ahead.

To Sergeant Fahev : When I was returning home in the evening, I saw Mr. Ingham and some other men putting the fire out. I gave him a description of the man I had seen set fire to the place. A man named Collins was there, but he came after I had seen the accused set fire to the fence.

Prisoner: Was it not a mile away from the fire when you caught up to me ?
Witness : No, it, was not 200 yards.

The P.M. You said that you saw the prisoner getting off his knees after setting fire to the place? Witness : Yes.your worship, I was about 50 yards away when I saw him set fire to the fence. When he saw me he walked quickly away, so that it was about 200 yards from the fire before I caught up to him.

Prisoner: Did I.not sit down on a swag and wait for you?
Witness: No.

Sergeant Fahey: Have you any other question to ask?
Prisoner : It is no use asking him anything.
Sergeant Fahey : If you could shake his evidence, it would be of some use to you.

In reply to Sergeant Fahey, the witness stated that on the day following the occurrence, he gave a description of the man to Constable Haydon. He was positive that the accused was the man.

Prisoner: Did you see me set fire to the fence?
Witness : Yes I did.
Prisoner: You did not.

Sergeant Fahey : The witness is on his oath, and his statements must be accepted.

Mounted-constable Haydon deposed that the matter was reported to him on the evening of the 29th. He arrested the accused the same night, camped about a quarter of a mile from Toolleen. There was another swagman with him at the time. After looking at both men witness said to the prisoner, ” Where did you come from?”

Sergeant Fahey: Why did you address tho prisoner?
Witness : Because he tallied with the description given me by Mr. Ingham.
Sergeant Fahey : What did he say to your first question?

Witness stated that the accused said he came from Axedale. He produced a Labor Bureau ticket bearing the name of Chas. Seward and addressed to P. J. Cooney, Campaspe East. Witness told accused that he was charged with setting fire to Mr. Ingham’s fence, and he replied ” I never set fire to it, and anyone who says that I did would be telling a lie.” Accused was then taken into custody. On the following morning witness saw Johnson, who gave him a description of the man whom he had seen setting fire to the fence. The description tallied exactly with the accused.

This closed the case for the prosecution.

The P.M. (to the accused): You are at liberty now to make a statement if you choose, or you can be sworn and give evidence on your own behalf, but I tell you that on the evidence that has been adduced, you will be committed for trial. I would advise you to reserve your defence until the case comes on in the higher court.

The prisoner: I would like this court to deal with the case now.

The P.M: It cannot be dealt with here. It is a felony.

The accused was then committed to take his trial at the next sitting of the Supreme Court for the hearing of criminal charges, to be held on the 26th inst.

*Please note Punctuation and paragraphs have been added to the above transcription for ease and speed of reading

HOW BUSH FIRES ARE CAUSED. (1893, April 7). Bendigo Advertiser (Vic. : 1855 – 1918), p. 3. Retrieved March 23, 2021, from

©2021 copyright. All rights reserved