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NOTES.

In a recent issue we gave a sketch of the provisions of the Bill introA Desirable duced into the Victorian LegisUcform. lative Council by Mr Service

with the object of preventing witnesses being improperly questioned whije giving testimony in the recollected that the measure met with an exceedingly favorable reception, alike from layman and legal members of the House, and there is little doubt that had it been pressed its passage through the Council could have been carried there and then, especially as it was stamped with the approval of Chief Justice Higinbotham and other eminent legal authorities. But its mover preferred that ample time should be given for the consideration of its provisions, and in the interval he made the discovery that its good effects might be considerably discounted if it were possible that the decision of a Court as to the relevancy of a question could be appealed from. Accordingly he again consulted his legal friends, and at their instigation submitted this new clause:—“ Every decision under the provisions of this Act by any Court, and every disallowance of any questions or inquiries as aforesaid, shall be final and without appeal, whether by consent of parties or otherwise, and shall not be liable to be reviewed in any Court, or to be made a. ground for upsetting or reviewing any decision or determination of any Court in any matter whatsoever.” This fortifying of the hands of the Judges was also generally approved, but exception was taken to include benches of honorary magistrates, whose notions of “relevancy” were very severely and adversely criticised; Eventually it was suggested that the operation of the clause should be limited to the Judges of the Supreme Court, the County Court, and the Insolvency Court; and in that shape the Bill went through, it may be fairly said, with flying colors.

In the course of the debate on Mr Service’s Bill mention was frequently made of the name of the Chief Example. Justice, and lion, gentlemen Vitd with each other in eulogising Mr Higinbotham’s patriotic endeavors to bring the legal procedure of the colony into harmony with the spirit of the time; and it was shown that he was determined not to screen in any way officers of his Court who had committed offences against right dealing. There had come before His Honor a case in which a solicitor was charged with improperly retaining moneys. Now, the custom in dealing with charges of this kind against the profession is to conceal the alleged transgressor’s name and to speak indefinitely of the case as, for example, that of Mt A- —. But Chief Justice Higinbotham, holding that all parties are equal before the law, not only published the name of the person whose conduct was under review, but intimated in open Court that “ in all future cases he would see that the name of the person guilty of such conduct should not be withheld simply because he was a solicitor.”

At the last meeting of the Otago Education

Board considerable stress was About Travel- 2 a id by some of the members— Expenses, notably Mi John M’Kenzie—on the fact that the return of the travelling expenses of members of education boards, which was laid before the House of Representatives towards the close of the late session, was neither a true nor a correct copy of the information that had been furnished by the secretary of the Otago Board, It will be remembered that particular reference was made to the omission from the return of Mr Fulton’s name, and the inference attempted to be drawn from that circumstance unquestionably was that the omission was the reverse of accidental. We have made a little inquiry into the matter, and find the following to be the actual facts;— The return was to the order of Mr Saunders (member for Lincoln), who had moved in these terms: “ That a return be laid before this House showing the total amount of money expended during the last three years by each of the education boards of the colony in payment of the travelling expenses of its members, the amount paid to each member, the distance at which each member resides from the place of meeting, the number of board and committee meetings that each member has attended, and whether travelling to such meetings by rail or road.” That the return supplied by our Board in answer to this order did not comply literally with its terms will at once be seen from a perusal of the subjoined copy of the document furnished by Mr Pryde :

It will be noticed that what was asked for by Mr Saunders’s resolution was the ‘‘total amount ” of money expended by way of travelling expenses during the past three years by the members of the several education boards. The other details required are beside the question. What Mr Pryde’s T eturn shows is the amount paid to each member of the Otago Board during three specified years. To meet the requirements of the order of the House, the sums paid to each member during those three years were added together and the total embodied in the return presented to Parliament. This, with the exception of the omission of Mr Fulton’s name, was, we believe, the only point of difference between the two returns. Now', it goes almost without saying that, since Mr Fulton, during any -of these years, was not paid any money for travelling expenses, the inclusion of his name in the return would have been equally absurd and useless. It is noticeable that in 1888 Mr M'Kenzie, who, as a member of Parliament, is entitled to free railway travel, was paid at the same rate per meeting as Mr H. Clark, who did not enjoy a like privilege. This curious circumstance may possibly admit of easy explanation, and no doubt the member for Waihemo is quite prepared to give it.

The revival of the flax industry is one of

the most notable things in the A Hopeful recent experience of New ZeaSign.. i an( j t About twenty years dgo sanguine colonists believed that our phormium tenax would make the fortune of the colony; but the hopes built upon that belief soon died. The fibre itself was strong and good enough, but somehow it could not be properly dressed. The gummy substance which is, no doubt, essential to its growth tends to hasten its decay after it Is cut and dried; and it seems that this deleterious component defied all the methods tried for its exclusion. New Zealand flax—or hemp, as it is now commonly called—was accordingly soon at the bottom of the market. A great deal of money was lost by those who, a year or two before, imagined they were going to make their pile; and the trade has dragged on a not very prosperous existence ever since. We mean till just about a year ago, when the revival we have mentioned began. This revival was not owing to improved methods of dressing the flax, but simply to the fact that there bad been a less plentiful supply of some of the competing fibres in the London market. The price went up in quite a phenomenal manner, and this no sooner happened than all the old flax mills in the colony were furbished up and lots of new ones erected. There was again a strong belief that phormium tenax would do something handsome for the colony; and the likelihood is that it will not this time disappoint the hopes of the colonists so miserably as it did before—that it will, in fact, redeem its character. The price has fallen a good bit of late ; but it is still high enough to satisfy the flax millers, or

if not exactly to satisfythem, at all events to induce them to keep their mills going briskly. These mills are unfortunately not all tb’xt they ought to be. The inventive, genius of the colonists has scarcely awakened yet. Perhaps the diggings and the Government stroke have .helped, to keep it quiescent Ajs long as lots, of gpld and good wagfs arp the .order of the day, men do not need to sharpen theft wits. The fact is that we peeded a turn of adversity for this very purpose.. The colonial intellect would have fallen into a dead sleep had the prosperity which made New Zealand the talk of the world continued. The depression has done us a world of good in many ways; and there arealready signs thatour inventive powersare beginning to waken up. A telegram from Christchurch told us the other day that a Mr Chinnety at Rangiora has perfected an appliance for dressing phormium lenax as doe as silk; and the same dayit was telegraphed from Blenheim that the Rev. T. S. Grace’s flax fibre dryer, newly patented, bad proved s success. There is thus a hope that New Zealand flax will soon appear in the London market in a shape worthy of itself. And high time, too. The carelessness, selfishness, and we fear we must add the unsornpulousness, of some of the colonists have already done much to injure the reputation of New Zealand hemp. It is, perhaps, too much to expect patriotism in every colonist; and we ought to be tolerably well satisfied if we can find a substitute—so far, at least, as flax-dressing is concernedin improved machinery.

Some years ago a small colony of Shetlanders settled in Southland. Helping the They were induced to leave Shetlanders, their treeless homes for bush ; clad Stewart Island, and the intention was that they should develop the fishing trade in that quarter. But the canny Shetlanders soon found that the Government stroke paid better than catching groper and blue cod, and the Stewart Island fisheries are not developed yet. Most of the immigrants from Ultima thvk accordingly moved away from Stewart Island to follow more remunerative occupations. A good many of them, however, still remain in Southland, and the other week they assembled at Invercargill, along with a number of other colonists, to give a public testimony of their sympathy with their oppressed fellow-countrymen at Home. It seems that the owners of the foreshore in some of the islands claim a third part of the value of the whales which the islanders manage to capture. These whales are comparatively a small species; but they yield a large quantity of oil, and are thus part of the “ harvest of the sea ” gathered in by the Shetlanders. Whenever the creatures are espied disporting themselves off the coast, the islanders at once muster in their boats armed with harpoons and other implements of destruction. The chasing and massacring of a school of whales is a most exciting, though not a very pleasant, affair. It is, in fact, a very repulsive kind of butchery. But it is not looked upon as a sport so much as a means of acquiring a little money—a thing which is far from plentiful in those high northern latitudes. It is little wonder then if, in these days, when the people all over the so-called civilised world are getting alive to their rights, tke Shetlandersshould grudge to pay such a heavy tribute to the owners of the foreshore. To this tribute they have, indeed, no right. It has all along been anunjnstexaction—therightof might; and though it was once enforced, both in Orkney and Shetland, it lingers now only in some of the more northern group. Recently a case was raised in the Law Court, which will probably put an end to the oppressive custom. The Islanders having resisted payment of the “ third ” on the occasion of a fortunate capture, the proprietor sued them in the local Court. The Sheriff decided in their favor; but as his decision has been appealed against, the case will now have to be tried at Edinburgh. This will, of coarse, cost money. The spirit of the islanders, however, is fairly roused ; and though they are a gentle, peaceable people, it is probable that some of the old Norse temper still slumbers under their somewhat docile exterior. They are, at any rate, determined to fight the case, and they have appealed for assistance to their fellowcountrymen in foreign parts. Hence the public meeting and public speechifying at Invercargill, The islanders have the “ spirit of the age ” on their side, as the good effects of the Crofters’ Commission clearly show. The present action is sure to prove the deathblow of the whale tribute, and probably of other forms of oppression as well. But in the meantime the sinews of war must be obtained; and we have no donbt that the Shetlanders in New Zealand will be glad to strengthen the hands of their militant friends among the sounds and voes.

The Shetlanders are pure Norse. In Orkney, though the Norse An Interesting element predominates, there People. is a certain admixture of

Southern, at least of more Southern blood. The ferry-loupers , as the settlers from the mainland of Scotland are called, form quite an appreciable part of the population. It is believed, besides, on pretty good evidence, that Orkney was inhabited by Celts before the Sea Rovers discovered it and made it their base of operations against Caledonia, or, rather, against the whole island now called Great Britain. But in Shetland there is no trace of a previous race, though it is scarcely believable that the Celts had not found their way thither too. They have, at any rate, left no very distinct marks on the present population, which, we say, has all the marks of a Scandinavian origin. Dark eyes and black hair are not, indeed, altogether unknown, and these may possibly be survivals. But blue eyes and flaxen hair are the rule, and the manners and habits of the people are indisputably Norse. The country is rather a melancholy one to the visitor. It is absolutely treeless. An attempt—not a very successful one—has been made to grow a plantation in Orkney —between Stromness and Kirkwall; but Shetland has no plant larger than the heather, except, if we remember right, a few elder trees, that maintain an uncertain existence in Lerwick. In summer the country has a certain melancholy charm—we can scarcely say beauty—and it has latterly become a haunt of tourists, who get plenty of fishing and boating. The chief interest lies, however, in the people, and their customs and general way of life. In this respect Shetland is a regular Old World place, where the antiquity of man can be studied, as well In the living inhabitants as in the cairns and the atone coffins and old pottery which they cover. The quern or hand-mill is (at least was lately) to be found in almost every house. The one-stilted plough is still in&se. Men and women wear rivlim, or shoes made of untanned hides. The general style of living, from Hermaness to Sumburgh Head, is .primitive to a degree. The visitor, as we say, beholds antiquity before his eyes, and may make what reflections he pleases. It is somewhat strange that the character of the people, descended as they are from the old Sea Rovers, should be so gentle. But so it is. They rove no more, except those who go to the Greenland whale-fishing, and they are back again to their homes in a few months. Their long residence in their misty melancholy clime has subdued their rugged valor. But they are splendid boatmen. The sea may be said to be their home. In this they are quite different from the Celts, who have no native passion for the deep, preferring to hug the shore and cultivate their potato patches in characteristically lazy bed fashion. It is the Norse element in the Scottish Highlanders that makes them fishers—such fishers, as they are; and the Irish, who have comparatively little of the Northern blood, can scarcely be said to fish at all. The great potato famine might almost have been prevented had they possessed the Shetlanders’ love of the sea.

Members, Diatnce from D’ned'n. <M 0) © * -o fl S ©5* 3 © 5 % Travelling by - 18S0. £ b. d. Freer, 11. 60 32 rail 54 19 0 Elder, Wm. 9 7 do 8 1 0 Green, James 19 20 road and rai 2118 10 Clark, Hy. 38 29 rail 35 IT 10 M‘Kenz;e, John M'Gronor, Dr 46 20 do 21 9 0 78 27 do 51 0 0 £196 5 8 1887. Freer, M. 60 23 rail 33 0 0 Green, James Clark, Henry 19 55 road and rai 29 17 6 38 27 rail 28 6 1 M'Kenzie, John 40 15 do 15 0 0 M'Gresor, Dr 78 4 do 7 5 0 Fulton, James 22 No ex p’ns'sch’rg’t £118 8 7 1888. Fraer, M. 60 24 rail 40 5 0 Green, James Clark, Henry 19 26 road and rail 31 6 0 38 26 rail 26 0 0 M'Kerzle, John 46 14 do 14 0 0 Fulton, James n No ex p’ns’sch’rg’d £111 10 0

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Bibliographic details

NOTES., Issue 8024, 28 September 1889

Word Count
2,836

NOTES. Issue 8024, 28 September 1889

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