By Jean Schmaal

Sometimes the researcher, when delving into the depths of dusty old records, comes across a passage of pure gold among the dross.
The following extracts from a “Letter Book” once used at the former Palmer Police Station speak for themselves, their unconscious humour can be appreciated today; their annoyance and frustration of over 80 years ago may well have been imagined.

Police Station, Palmer – January, 1892.

“I have the honour respectfully to state for your information that the water closet at this station is nearly full to the seat and, being a large pit, the fumes arising are very bad at times, and dangerous to health. I beg respectfully to request that I may be allowed to engage someone to have it cleaned out as soon as possible.
Trusting that you will give the matter favourable consideration as I consider the health of my wife and family, also my own, is at stake, the closet being only about 20 yards from the kitchen.

M/C W. King

Letter from the Superintendent of Public Buildings to Officer in Charge, Police Station, Palmer:
I am directed by the Superintendent of the Public Buildings to authorise you to have the cesspit of the W.C’s emptied. In accordance with the regulations you must pay cost of carrying out this work

Police Station, Palmer. January 20, 1892:
I beg to acknowledge receipt of your memo. dated January 19, No. 45, re emptying cesspits of W.C’s at this station. I cannot quite understand the meaning. Does the Superintendent of Public Buildings expect me to bear the expenses myself or am I to send in a claim for the amount?

M/C King

From Superintendent of Public Buildings.
Occupants of Government buildings pay cost out of their own pockets for emptying the cesspits of W.C’s provided for their use.

Police Station, Palmer – January 23, 1892:
To Sub-Inspector Shaw.
I have the honour to respectfully forward for your information the attached correspondence and respectfully request that you will recommend the Government to bear the expense of emptying cesspits of the W.C’s at this Station. They have been used for a period of six or seven years by my predecessors and their families, also prisoners, I think it very unreasonable to expect me to bear any portion of the cost as the cesspits were full when I took charge of this Station in December, 1891, and it being a matter of importance to have them cleaned out at once. I trust the Superintendent of Public Buildings will give authority to have this work done at the expense of the Government.

From Sub-Inspector Shaw:
Returned to M/C King.
You had better ascertain what you can get the work done for the lowest possible amount; seeing that the closet has been used by L/C Hurley for so long a period either he or M/C Gibbons or both may be called upon to pay half between them, and I will recommend that the other half [if reasonable] be paid by the Superintendent of Public Buildings.

Respectfully returned to Sub-Inspector Shaw:
I can get the cesspits of the W.C’s emptied for 30/-

March 21, 1892:
I have to report for your information re the attached claim. I was obliged to get the cesspits of W.C’s at this station done on Feb. 3, 1982, as the private one was filled up within inches of the seat and the stench was something terrible, and I had some difficulty in getting it done as I could not get anyone about the township to undertake, but eventually got a man living some 3 miles away to do it. I consider the price charged [30/-] is very reasonable and I respectfully request that you will be pleased to recommend this amount for payment.
I beg to state that I posted the correspondence re emptying the W.C’s to H.Q. on Jan. 20., 1892 but to date have not received authority to have it done, but being urgent I took it upon myself to have it done as I could not use the W.C. without it being cleaned out.

Returned to M/C King:
It appears to me that you took on yourself to incur this expense without having obtained the necessary authority and I can see nothing for it that you pay half this expense – it’s only 15/- and I suggest in order to get over this little difficulty which your own action brought about, you had better pay this and thus avoid any further bother.

R. Saunders, Inspector.

Respectfully returned to Inspector Saunders with report attached April 21, 1892:
Re closets at this station – I most respectfully protest against paying more than an equal portion of the cost according to the length of time the W.C’s at this station have been used by my predecessors and myself, as the private one was filled within a few inches of the seat when I took charge of the station from L/C Hurley and the prisoners’ closet also required cleaning, there being nearly a cubic yard of soil in it, and the stench arising from these pits was something abominable, so much so that my neighbour Mr. P.T. Sergeant gave me to understand that if I did not have them done he would draw the attention of the Inspector of Board of Health, and as it frequently becomes the duty of the police to report nuisances of this kind I felt myself in an awkward position. Had L/C Hurley obtained the proper authority and had the W.C’ cleaned out before leaving Palmer instead of suggesting that I should bear the expense it would have been reasonable on his part.

Forwarded to Commissioner of Police:
I respectfully suggest that the above three men pay the expense of cleaning out this cesspit in proportion to the time the W.C. was used by each. If my Commissioner approves of this I will collect the money and thus settle this matter.

Richard Saunders

Approved. Money to be collected at once – 5/5/1892.  W.J. Peterswald.

Forwarded to M/C Gibbons to remit his portion of the expense – viz. 9/6d, then to L/C Hurley for his 5/2d, and thence to M/C King for his fourpence.

Respectfully returned to Inspector Saunders with 9/6d.
E. Gibbons, M/C 1st Class.

Respectfully returned to Inspector Saunders with 5/2d.
M. Hurley, L/C

Respectfully returned to Inspector Saunders with 4d.
W. King, M/C 2nd Class.

[Note – Pay at this time was £145 per year or 8/- per day – about £11 per month]


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