Thursday, November 12, 2009


From April 1865 Captain John Austen owned the fine brig 'Reliance' - 117tons, 84.9 x 21.4 x 11 feet. She was built in Bermuda in 1841. He sailed her regularly to the gold fields on the West Coast of the South Island.
On June 4th 1867 she sailed for Fiji with a full cargo including 12 hogsheads of rum, 2 hogsheads of whisky 2 hogsheads of brandy, 2 quarter-casks of brandy, 5 kegs of tobacco, 4 cases of tobacco, 4 boxes of tobacco and 1 case of cigar, all liable for duties.
During a court case in 1868 it was alleged that the casks were put onto a cutter "Bessie" the day after "Reliance" sailed. While "Reliance" sailed on toward Fiji, "Bessie" rendezvoused with the "Ringleader" in Mercury Bay and the casks were transfered and then shipped to Poverty Bay.
Under cross-examination a seaman reported that the rum taken out of the casks and put into a teakettle for sampling it was very strong!
The "Reliance" had not returned to Auckland (she landed in Sydney instead) so John Austen did not give his side of the story. Certificates that showed the goods had been landed in Fiji were excluded by the judge in the court case and the merchants who had stood as bondsmen were found guilty and fined treble the value of the goods.
The 'Reliance' sailed from Sydney for Fiji again in March 1868. She never returned to Auckland.

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