INQUEST AFTER A FIRE IN GEELONG
An inquiry into the circumstances attending the recent fire in Geelong was held
there on Monday, before Dr. F. Shaw, coroner ; Mr. Sub-inspector McNamara attending
on behalf of the police, Mr. Speed on behalf of Mr. Henry Gant, and Mr McCormick
for the National Insurance Company. Henry Gant stated he was a jeweller in Market-square.
Remembered the 22nd. There was a fire that night. Discovered it about a quarter
to 1. Was awoke by a tremendous noise of something falling and breaking in the
shop. The house was a two-storeyed one, built of stone and brick, the partitions
below stairs being composed of boards and canvas. Upstairs they were lath and
plaster. The shop was closed that night at 9 o'clock. The boy (James Smith) and
witness were at work till half-past 10. Mrs Gant and her mother were at church.
When they came back Mrs. Gant sent the boy to bed. He left a quarter of an hour
before witness. No one was behind the counter after he left, The shop was lit
with gas, one jet being above the working-board, and the other over the glass
case on the counter. No light was in the window after the shop closed. Witness
put the jets out. There was a main cock next the meter, hut witness never turned
it off, as he had no key for it. He kept wrapping paper and a lot of boxes containing
tools, &c, under the counter. One box contained two cups with diluted sulphuric
acid, used in cleaning.
Looked round to see that
all was safe before retiring. There were shelves round the counter containing
clocks and scents. There was only one small feeding tin of oil on one of the shelves.
There was only one box of matches in the shop. Was the last to leave the shop.
On opening the bedroom-door there was a great rush of smoke and heat. Told Mrs.
Gant to get up, and warned a young lady who slept in the house. Packed up a box
containing books and papers, and another containing jobs, and came down together.
On waking up the boy saw the reflection of fire under the doorway. Broke the shop-door
open and tried to get things out, but the flames burst out close to the door,
and witness only succeeded in saving two clocks. Tho fire was from the front to
the end of the counter one white flame. Went round into tho yarri broke into the
room, and saved some furniture. Could not in any way account for the origin of
the fire. The property was worth, as near as h could get at it, £1,057 18s,
3d, The jewellery and clocks amounted to £329. The heavier tools consisted
of two lathes/ two mills or rollers, and two draw-benches for drawing wire, the
whole valued at £529. Had effected an insurance of £500 on stock and
furniture. Had been in business two.years last October. There were two policies
of insurance, one taken out in July last and the other in September. £78
8s. 0d. worth of jewellery and two pairs of rollers had been removed since last
insurance - some in October and about £43 worth about a fortnight since.
Raised money on the jewellery from Mr. Stone. Got an _____ on new stock on Wednesday
week. Never gave any persons any orders to search the debris of the fire. Told
a man so engaged where the most valuable property ought to be found. In the presence
of the sergeant and witness the articles produced, consisting of gold and silver
brooches and pins, were found. Did not two days previous to the fire try to obtain
a loan of £300.
Wanted to give a bill of
sale over his things for £300, a month previously, to Mr. Crawcour, as an
action had been instituted against him, and he wished to protect his creditors,
his family, and himself. Supplied Crawcour with a list of his property. He did
not come to inspect it, but declined to interfere unless the stock was brought
into his place. Only received £35 from Stone for jewellery, valued at £78
8s. Gd. Hannah Maria Gant, the wife of last witness, Miss Jeffrey, the young lady
who lodged with them, and James Smith, the apprentice, gave corroborative evidence.
Josiah Covill, the next-door neighbour to Gant, having given some unimportant
testimony, Isaac Crawcour, pawnbroker, corroborated Gant'a statement as to _____
to raise a loan of £300 on his stock and furniture, but stated to have refused
to advance more than £150 for it. The principle quantity of the jewellery
was washed gold ____ man named Cook. (It) was for four months previous to the
_____ of August in the employ of Mr _____ valued the stock at £100, and
the tools and machinery at another £100. He, however, admitted that he had
an action pending against Gant. The remainder of tho evidence was unimportant,
and the inquiry, after lasting five hours, terminated by the jury return in«
an open verdict to the effect that a fire did occur, but how it occurred there
was no evidence to show.
The Argus (Melbourne, Vic.
: 1848-1954) Wednesday 1 December 1869
THE STORY OF A VICTORIA CROSS. IS IT AN IMPOSTURE?
Some weeks ago there was
published in the Melbourne Argus an account of a gathering of old soldiers at
Fitzroy, at which special honour was done to two of the company who were represented
as "Victoria Cross heroes. These were Lieutenant H. J. G. Gant, 70th R.S.,
and Sergeant-major D. S. Lilly, 64th Regiment. The chairman of the meeting (Major
J. C. Dempsty) "thus described the circumstances under which ."Lieutenant"
Gant was alleged to have obtained the prized distinction of the V.C. : "He
was one of the first six who volunteered for the New Zealand war from the Geelong
Volunteer Artillery. He joined Colonel Pitt's Waikato Militia, which left in the
Star of India, which was the first ship to leave Victoria with volunteers to fight
under the flag of the British Empire in 1 63. The act by which he won the Victoria
Cross was a daring one. He left camp with a little company, including two young
officers. The party were met by an overwhelming number of the enemy. The two officers
were discovered behind a clump of scrub and supplejack, where Lieutenant Gant
had pluckily drawn them out of danger. He had then drawn the enemy off, afterwards
working his way through an almost impenetrable bush with his little band. The
road was blocked by the enemy, whom he kept at bay until nearing the camp, when
the firing was heard, and a relief party sent to their assistance." This
circumstantial narrative of the daring exploit by which '"Lieutenant"
Gant is said to have gained the Victoria Cross attracted the attention of some
old soldiers who were through the Maori war, bm, strangely enough, had never heard
of this particular incident, and their curiosity respecting the matter led to
their making certain inquiries on the subject. It was natural that they should
turn for information to Mr Bartlett Provo, of this city, until lately sergeant
in the Dunedin City Guards, for he was an old member of the Geelong Volunteer
Artillery, and he was one of the six who volunteered from Geelong for New Zealand
in 1863, and came to this colony in the Star of India. With him, therefore, Lieutenanc-colonel
Rashleiga, who was in command of the Geelong Artillery almost from its formation,
recently communicated on the subject. Now, it is quite true that a volunteer called
Gant came to New Zealand in the vessel named, but Mr Provo is quite clear in his
own mind that if the " Lieutenant " Gant, who was recently honoured
in Melbourne, be identical with that Gant, then it was impossible for him to have
obtained the Victoria Cross, for that indvidual was discharged from the force
in 1863 as unfit for duty, and saw no action at all. Moreover, the Gant who, with
Mr Provo and four others from Geelong, came to New Zealand in the Star of India
was not a lieutenant, nor was he a member of the Geelong Artillery.
Mr Provo has not relied
on his own recollection entirely in this matter. He forwarded to the Defence department
in Wellington the letters he had received from Melbourne, and requested that the
records might be searched to see if they would throw any light on the subject.
To this letter he has received the following reply irom Sir Arthur Douglas, U
rider-secretary for Defence: -
In reply to your letter
of the 17th inst., I have the honour to inform you that the name of Gant does
not appear in either of the nominal roll books of the Ist, 2nd, 3rd, or 4th Regiments
of Waikato Militia, who served through the Native war in this colony during the
years 1863 to 1866.
It, however, does not follow
that the person named did not actually serve, but from previous known cases it
appears that the names were not entered in the roll books, where a man only served
for a short period.
However, no person of the
name served as a lieutenant in either of the regiments, neither did any person
of that name receive the New Zealand war medal or the free grant of land, and,
so far as is known, Major Heaphy was the only colonial officer who was awarded
the Victoria Cross.
The letter from the department,
it will be seen, bears out Mr Provo's recollection relative to Gant's service,
and absolutely disposes of any suggestion that there might have been a Lieutenant
Gant in the Waikato Militia besides the Gant known to Mr Provo.
Beyond all this, however,
there is the fairly conclusive answer to "Lieutenant" Gant's claim to
have won the Victoria Cross that no such name appears in the official lists of
the recipients of that distinction.
Source: Otago Witness,
Issue 2431, 17 October 1900, Page 45
(The Witness began in Dunedin in January 1851 as a four page, fortnightly newspaper.
It became a weekly in August that year. At this time illustrated weekly newspapers
were a popular and important form of publication in New Zealand and the paper
continued to be published until 1932.)
Records online at http://www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/