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Sholto Stillingflat Bowles

Polynesian cane-cutters 1906 Bundaberg

Mr Sholto Stillingflat Bowles became the Polynesian Inspector for the district in September 1886 and had worked before that for two years under Mr Pennefather, at Ingham, when the districts were worked together.


In 1888 Mr Sholto Stillingflat Bowles, the Polynesian Inspector for the district, visited the plantations regularly to see how the boys were and thought they were pretty healthy. He also saw that the hospital requirements were always in accordance with the Act.


The men would receive their wages from their employer, and if they liked they deposited a portion of what they received into a Savings Bank but as they liked to receive the money themselves they would seldom send their money to the bank.


Sometimes they would deposit one-third with the Inspector though, especially a good many of the time-expired boys, to be banked.


If a kanaka died, and any money was due him, the money would be sent to the Inspector by the planter who would forward it to the officer-in-charge of the department, in Brisbane, and if there were any claims by relations the balance of the money in possession of the Minister, after paying all burial expenses, which amounted to 2l. 10s. 0d., were given to the relations, which was often the case.


Sometimes, but seldom there were complaints made of such applications being refused but, as a rule, if the claim was a good one, the relative claiming the money got it. The claim of a cousin was never recognized, only a brother, or a husband or wife or child. At one time boys used to come from the islands and say, “Brother ‘long ‘o me die; me want money,” but there was no relationship.


The department never had a case where the deceased said he wished a certain party to get his money when he died. The Inspector did send in claims from cousins, but they were refused. A Polynesian could not will his money to whom he chose – if the money was in his own hands he could, but not if it was in the hands of the Government, except in the case of relations.


There had never been an instance in which it had been refused to a near relative. But there was an unusual one Mr Bowles encountered when 10 pounds was deposited by a boy in Maryborough some years before. He himself tried to get it but it could not be traced. The Inspector thought there must have been some mistake in the spelling of the name of the boy and he could not do anything more than to forward his case to the department after he had gotten the history of the case as well as he possibly could.                                              


If there were any complaints made by islanders of being over-worked or ill-treated they would complain to the Inspector during his visits and he would go out and inquire into the matter but there were not many.


There were only two complaints during the year and only two cases of ill-treatment in the past two years. One involved a boy refusing to carry logs and sleepers, which were not excessive in weight, but he used some very rude language to the white man, and the white man lost his temper and hit the boy hard. There was something to be said on both sides.


In each case of ill-treatment a conviction against the offender occurred, one an overseer and the other a ganger – both servants in employ. There was never a conviction against any employer of labour, who were most anxious that their kanakas should be properly protected. Employers never assisted the Inspector in his prosecutions as he did not want them involved.


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