Legality of Crossing the River by the Old Ford

23 May 1868 The Gundagai Times and Tumut, Adelong and Murrumbidgee District Advertiser

It seems questionable whether under existing circumstances the lessee of the Gundagai bridge has a legal right to prohibit residents in the township, or even travellers, ''from crossing the river by the old ford, and thus avoiding, if not evading, payment of toll.

To establish legally a case of evasion of toll, it must be proved, according to the Act in force in this colony relative to such matters, that the person offending went off with his horse or passed from "any turnpike road, through or over any land or ground near or adjoining thereto, not being a public highway, with intent to evade toll."

Now there still exist, unconcelled, various wide streets, laid out in olden time, before the disastrous flood occurred that swept away the former township, which lead from North Gundagai across the flats to the bank of the river, along which there is on each side a reserve allotted for a public recreation ground; while similar streets from the southern township communicate with the Southern bank.

If those streets can be considered highways or thoroughfares, as defined by the act, it follows that a resident, or a traveller, may start from the Northern town-ship, pass along one of them - Byron-street for instance- to the old ford, which it seems the Attorney-General admits can still be used, cross the river, pass up Ferry-street, and, join the Main Southern Road, without having gone on private ground or quitted a thoroughfare; therefore without having illegally evaded the bridge toll.

Such seemed the view taken of the legal bearings of the question by our Police Magistrate on Friday last, when a case brought forward to test the matter was adjourned for future hearing, but it cannot be doubted that persons who travel thus are morally guilty of an evasion of toll dues, and it is equally clear that if the above be the proper interpretation of the law the lessee, who pays Government £50 or so a month for these tolls, would materially suffer for many months of the year if this means of crossing the river were generally resorted to.

We trust it may be found that there exists a legal power to compel all travellers to use the bridge, and we hope none of our townsmen will be shabby enough to evade paying toll, even if it should turn out that they can legally do so.

Government has most liberally voted and expended many thousand pounds to provide a splendid bridge for the accommodation of all travellers on the Main Southern Road, and a permanent approach which will, when finished, fitly join it to the Northern township.

We have only to remember how in former days travellers, even in fine weather, fretted and fumed on the banks of the river, awaiting the tardy arrival of the crazy old punt by which they were compelled to cross; we need but recall how frequently, in winter time, transit of goods across the flooded river was for weeks, often months, utterly hopeless and impracticable, to realise how great are the benefits the bridge has already conferred, and will, when the permanent approach is finished, secure for time to same for all classes of the community.

We shall be ungrateful if we do not bear these things in mind, and shabby and morally dishonest if we try to shirk payment of a fee fairly and legally due for the advantages and facilities that have been bestowed on us.

As human nature is constituted, although we may like and esteem a man as a private character, it is hardly possible that we should feel any special kindliness or preference for him when, in his official capacity, he subsists by levying contributions on our pockets.

The time probably never will arrive when the tax gatherer will be received with smiles of welcome, and invited by tax-payers to partake of refreshments, or when toll-collectors will be beloved, honored, and revered for exercising their function, but let us give even the toll taker his due, and pay him, if not with exultation, at least with cheerfulness and contentment.