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Tasmanian Policeman Descended from Two Bounty Mutineers

Home > Hobart > Family | Trivia | Unusual Events
by Roz Glazebrook (subscribe)
I'm a freelance writer living in Brisbane. I love bushwalking, kayaking, wildlife, history and travel.
Published May 22nd 2022
In the 1970s a friend in Townsville showed me a diary she had obtained. My friend and her husband were collectors and used to often buy antiques and even full house contents. She thought I would be interested because I was from Tasmania and a Tasmanian policeman wrote the diary in the late 1800s.

The diarist was J M A Quintal who described his daily life as a police constable around the State. I photocopied the diary. My friend donated the original to the Tasmanian Archives Office.

After some research, I discovered John Moresby Acland Quintal was a direct descendant of two mutineers from the Mutiny on the Bounty. His great paternal grandfather was Matthew Quintal, and he was related to Fletcher Christian, Leader of the Mutiny on his mother's side. He was born on Pitcairn Island on 28th June 1853.

John moved to Norfolk Island with the other Bounty descendants on 8th June 1856 when he was three years old. He signed on as a seaman on the Tasmanian Whaling ship "Waterwitch" when it called into Norfolk Island in 1871. Under Captain William Harrison, John rose to Boatsteerer in 1872, second mate, and first headsman in 1876.

Waterwitch - Last but one of the old Hobart Whaling Ships - (Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office
Waterwitch - Last but one of the old Hobart Whaling Ships - (Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office

He joined the Tasmanian Territorial Police Force on 26th July 1881. Life for a Hobart policeman in the 1880s was fairly quiet. There were no car accidents, although there were several bad train disasters. One occurred near Brighton on Wednesday 30th June 1886. A special train from Fingal had run off the line. The driver was killed, and several passengers were injured.

As a young constable, John found it hard to conform to discipline in the Force after years of freedom at sea. He wrote in his diary "Wednesday 5 May 1886. Attended the usual trains. Office at 9am. Got a snubbing from the Superintendent for not standing to attention when he came into my room. Note (If a fellow has to jump to attention every time the Officers come into his den, he ought to have the unmentionable part of his only uniform sheathed with leather so they would not wear out too quickly."

John was transferred to George Town in August 1886 and stayed thirteen months. He was very happy there and wrote on leaving. "Everybody was on the wharf to say goodbye. The Super very nearly broke down. Goodbye dear friends, dear old George Town goodbye, despised by many for being dull and slow, thou hast a warm corner in my old gizzard".

His next transfer was Macquarie Harbour on the West Coast in 1887. His main job was measuring Huon Pine logs. He found the job boring. He enjoyed going on a trip to Kelly's Basin and the Gordon River with Mr Perrin, Conservator of Forest. They went up the Gordon for seven miles, then up the Franklin as far as they were able. They had dinner at a little Island (Perrin Island) and then back to the Gordon and up to the rapids. According to John's diary, Mr Perrin botanized all the way on this exploration trip and on Wednesday 23rd November Mr Perrin christened a waterfall on Jones' overland track "Lady Hamilton Falls".

Two days later on 25th November, John recalled the death of his great friend and cousin Chads Christian, whom he had sailed with aboard the Waterwitch, and grown up with on Norfolk Island. "Poor Chads drowned 8 years today". Chads drowned in Tasmania and was a direct descendant of Fletcher Christian.

A policeman in those days had a hard job catching crooks. John wrote about one difficult job on Wednesday, November 9th 1887.

"Beautiful and calm. At 7.30am left for King River enroute to Flannigan's Flat to serve a Court of Request summons. At 9am entered King River and proceeded about 2 miles when we changed boats. I might mention that Peever and Davis were taking provisions to King River Store and the other man MacDonald was a miner going back to his claim.

At 5.30pm arrived at our destination. The River was very low and we had to get overboard and pull the boat over the Rapids of which there were about 24, and I was not at all sorry when we were done for the day. The scenery on this River is something worth seeing.

At 11pm retired to rest. Thursday 10th November 1887. Breakfasted at 8.30am then left for Flannigan's Flat in company with MacDonald, who was carrying a 50lb swag of provisions. After crossing the Bridge, which by the way is a suspension one, we commenced climbing a hill called Gentle Annie.

There is a good track cut which is a mile and 5 chains long, but it is fearfully steep in parts. We then descended another one with only a bush foot track. It must be a hard life, this gold-digging with such country and such tracks carrying tucker on one's back for 4, 5 and 6 miles. After winding and twisting about we arrived at the Flats about 1.30pm. I found my man (John Glover) hard at work, served him with a copy of summons and at 3.30 in company with J Lawlor left for King River Store, arriving at 6pm".

I wonder if this John Glover was a descendant of John Glover, the famous artist who has a statue at Evandale, and an art prize named after him. The artist arrived in Tasmania in 1831 and died in 1849. John, the policeman didn't say what the summons was for.

John didn't get on with his Superintendent at Macquarie Harbour and asked for a transfer back to Hobart. It finally came through. He received a telegram with the long-expected transfer on 9th March, "thank heaven it has come at last". He left Macquarie Harbour on 14th March 1889 and started work the next day at police headquarters in Hobart.

By this time he had married and had three children, John aged five years, Elizabeth Esther (Cissy) born in 1886 and Roy. He found a house to rent in Glebe Town for 10/- per week. His wife, Harriett Cawthray, was a Tasmanian born in Hobart. Her father was from Yorkshire and her mother was from Surrey in England. He was transferred to Franklin the following year on 26th July 1890.

Unfortunately, the next year in December 1891 John drowned in a boating accident. There was some mystery surrounding his death as he was a very strong swimmer and the boat was found only 80 yards from the shore and John's body 20 yards from shore.

The Mercury newspaper reported "On Wednesday 16th. December 1891, Constable John MA Quintal and William Muskett left Southport for Ida Bay, a distance of three miles, in the sailing punt Lily. They left at lunchtime and were expected home in the afternoon. It was found they did not reach Ida Bay and fears were held for their safety. A search party was sent out with grappling irons.

The body of Constable Quintal was found on 18 December, 50 yards from where the boat capsized and only 20 yards from the shore. It was a mystery he did not get to shore because he was an excellent simmer and very skilful in the management of boats".

John was only 38 years old when he drowned. He had come a long way from his mutineering ancestors.

John's daughter, Elizabeth (Cissy) must have owned the diary because it had E Robinson on the inside cover. I found an article in Trove about her. It said she was a Political Activist, Political Candidate and Women's Rights Activist. She married Henry Charles Robinson in 1913. The article said she sought parliamentary honours in the Newcastle district. At the time of her campaign, she had been a resident in Newcastle for five years and had founded the Women's Citizens Association to engage in the relief of distress. She was a well-known public speaker, both in Tasmania and Newcastle. She died in Newcastle in 1943. This could explain why my friend found the diary on the mainland.

I also found some information about Roy Quintal. He was killed in action in 1917.

Roy Quintal
Roy Quintal

John Moresby Quintal, the elder son was elected to Parliament in the seat of Bass for the ALP from 1942 till 1946. He was elected on the death of TH Davies and was believed to be the first direct descendant of a Bounty mutineer to enter any Australian parliament. He died in my hometown of Launceston in 1961 so I could have passed him in the street. I'm sure my parents knew him as they were ardent labour supporters.

John Morseby Quintal
John Morseby Quintal

I read recently unpublished diaries of policemen are scare so it is great that John Quintal's original diary is now safely in the Archives in Tasmania. It only covers the period from 1886 to 1889 but gives a good idea of what it was like to be a policeman in Tasmania during those years. I still have my copy and may take it over to Norfolk Island one day, as they are very interested in it.

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