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Concerning "Bully" Hayes ... »

By Louis Becke

Sea stories ‌ Adventure stories, Australian ‌ Pacific Area – Social life and customs – Fiction

Concerning “Bully” Hayes

From “The Strange Adventure Of James Shervinton and Other

Stories“ - 1902


Louis Becke




“BULLY” HAYES! Oh, halcyon days of the sixties and seventies, when the Pacific was not, as now, patrolled by men—of—war from lonely Pylstaart, in the Friendlies, to the low—lying far—away Marshalls and the coral lagoons of the north—west; when the Queensland schooners ran full “nigger” cargoes to Bundaberg, Maryborough, and Port Mackay; when the Government agents, drunk nine days out of ten, did as much recruiting as the recruiters themselves, and drew–even as they may draw to—day–thumping bonuses from the planters sub rosa! In those days the nigger—catching fleet from the Hawaiian Islands cruised right away south to palm—clad Arorai, in the Line Islands, and ran the Queensland ships close in the business. They came down from Honolulu in ballast—trim, save for the liquor and firearms, and went back full of a sweating mass of black—haired, copper—coloured Line Islanders, driven below at dark to take their chance of being smothered if it came on to blow. Better for them had it so happened, as befel the Tahiti a few years ago when four hundred of these poor people went to the bottom on their way to slavery in San Jose de Guatemala.

Merry times, indeed, had those who ran the labour vessels then in the trade, when Queensland rivalled the Hawaiian Islands in the exciting business of “black—birding,” and when Captain William Henry Hayes, of Cleveland, Ohio, U.S.A.–vulgarly called “Bully” Hayes–came twice a year to fair Samoa with full cargoes of oil, copra, and brown—skinned kanakas, all obtained on the stalwart captain’s peculiar time—payment system.

* * * * *

One hardly ever hears the name of the redoubtable Bully mentioned nowadays, yet it is scarcely thirty years ago since his name was a power all over the wide Pacific, from Manila to Valparaiso. In those days did a German trading—vessel in the Islands sight a white—painted brig with yacht—like lines and carrying Cunningham’s patent topsails, the Teutonic skipper cracked on all his ship could stagger under, and thanked heaven when he saw the stranger hull—down; for Bully, with his fidus achates, the almost equally notorious Captain Ben Peese, had a penchant for boarding Dutchmen and asking for a look at their chronometers, and in his absent—minded way, taking these latter away with him.

And in Sydney, and Melbourne especially, people will remember the gay, dashing, black—whiskered Yankee captain who, in the sixties, came to these ports in a flash clipper ship, where he spent his money royally, flirting–alas! if he had but stopped at that–with every accessible woman of high or low degree–provided she was fair to look upon–and playing the devil generally in every known and unknown manner, and who then sailed gaily away to China, neglecting to attend to many little financial matters in connection with the refitting of his ship, and leaving the affections of a number of disconsolate beauties in a very bad state of repair.

The writer happened to know the gentleman well, and although it is now sixteen years since his body was thrown to the sharks among the lagoons of the Marshall Group, it is not too late to rescue his memory from much undeserved obloquy. Many a fancifully embroidered tale has been told and printed of the terrible “massacres” he perpetrated among the inhabitants of the South Seas. These massacres were purely apocryphal and only worthy of appearing–as they did in the first place–in an unreliable daily paper in San Francisco.

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