The Musical Butcher

The Wagga Wagga Express of 20 August 1859 recounts an amusing incident which occurred at the launch of a punt to be used to cross the Murrumbidgee River. The punt was financed by Thomas Fox, the well-known early publican of Wagga, however Fox died shortly before the launch. His widow sold the punt to a Mr Jackson for the princely sum of one thousand pounds.

The newspaper reported that considerable excitement had been aroused by the launch of the punt, which was set down for 2.00pm on a Tuesday afternoon.

“As in Wagga Wagga, however, punctuality is a thing unknown, the general impression prevailing was, that the punt would be launched at about three or four o’clock, and almost everyone was, therefore, too late, as the ropes that held the punt in place were cut some twenty minutes before the hour fixed on.”

The launch was successful with the punt gliding down and slipping into the water in “grand style”. The greatest commotion of the event was caused when the musical butcher by the name of White, who had positioned himself in the punt to play his fiddle during the launch, had underestimated the rapid movement, and was roughly thrown against the side of the punt, breaking his fiddle to pieces and stunning himself.

“To make matters better, when he was stepping from the punt into a small boat sent to help him, the unlucky butcher tumbled overboard, and narrowly escaped being drowned. With this exception, which of course caused much amusement to all but the person chiefly concerned, the launch was favourably effected…”

Free Punt (RW110)

The punt launched in August 1859 would have closely resembled the punt in this picture, the Wagga Free Punt of 1871, which was built in direct competition to the Wagga Company Bridge and the tariffs charged to use the bridge (CSU Regional Archives collection – RW110).

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