The Yass Bridge
The Sydney Morning Herald
29 January 1853
Your correspondent from Yass, having on two recent occasions made incorrect allusion to the above subject, and Mr. H. O'Brien, "Warden of the Council of Yass," having, in your issue of the 18th instant, invited public criticism, and attempted a public justification of his conduct in the matter. As one of the greatest sufferers from its non-erection, one most interested, chiefly concerned in a former unfortunate attempt to carry it out, and one of those so cavalierly treated by the Honourable the Colonial Secretary in his support of Mr. O'Brien. I beg leave to claim the privilege of a reply.
That Mr. O'Brien's statement of 12th instant, above referred to, contains ex parte truisms I do not deny; neither will I disavow that the Colonial Secretary's explanation to the Council during last session, referred to by Mr. O'Brien, was of the same character; but I affirm that neither of them fairly, fully, or correctly, explain, their subject.
I trust that the "very respectable working carpenters," indicated by Mr. O'Brien, may observe the present correspondence; if so, I hope they will speak for themselves, and I shall not be surprised should their account of matters show their share of it in an altered light.
That there have been difficulties, connected with this, as with any other undertaking, I am free to admit, but if "The Warden of the District Council of Yass" be not competent to cope with and overcome very ordinary difficulties, be ought long ago to have made way by his retirement for some one more able: (as he well knows was the wish of the people of Yass.)
The inhabitants of Yass and neighbourhood have repeatedly and loudly expressed their dissatisfaction with Mr, O'Brien's management of the Bridge business, have repeatedly addressed the Government on the subject: sometimes with but a negative, at others without any satisfaction. The Government appear resolved to support him.
So lately as 24th September last, the Yass people forwarded through myself, the address, a copy of which I subjoin, "to Mr. Murray, Member of Council for the southern Boroughs. I invite attention to it and the consequent correspondence, which I likewise subjoin.
Mr. Murray intimated to me his intention to require from the Colonial Secretary an explanation of this matter. I am not however aware that he has done so; I believe not. I could not avoid thinking that to foist culled and imperfect papers on the Legislative Council, as genuine, might be considered rather a serious matter: it would not, however, appear that honourable members view it in such a serious light. I should like to know to what extent such a practice may be carried without offending propriety, or with impunity!
Instead of publishing a copy of the Colonial Secretary's explanation to the Council, which, under all the circumstances, may, as well as Mr. O'Brien's, or my own statements, be reasonably supposed one-sided, I beg leave to suggest to Mr. O'Brien the publication of the suppressed document referred to in letter D subjoined, (which have been withheld from the Council). As also, the reports and resolutions of two public meetings at Yass, of which his conduct in reference to the Yass Bridge formed the subject, with the correspondence in the Goulburn Herald ensuing thereon.
The private statements made by him to the government, with my contradiction of them, and the reports from the Colonial Architect's and Surveyor General's Offices consequent thereon.
The number of years during which this Yass Bridge undertaking has enjoyed his paternal care.
These will go much nearer in enabling the public to judge who or what is to blame, what has been the incubus, the evil genius of the unfortunate Yass Bridge; an undertaking which I have no doubt in other hands would have been completed under every difficulty within a half to one fourth of the period.
I beg to decline all argument on this subject with Mr. O'Brien; it has already and repeatedly been argued, proved, and demonstrated to threadbareness; I have no taste for hairsplitting and wrangling over a worn-out subject ; let him publish the missing document if he dare.
I remain, Gentlemen, Your obedient Servant, John Watson. Yass, 24th January, 1853.
Yass, September 24,1852.
To Terence Aubrey Murray, Esq., Member for the Southern Boroughs in the Legislative Council of New South Wales.
Sir, - We, the undersigned inhabitants and electors of Yass, entreat the attention of the Select Committee of the Legislative Council appointed for inquiry into the subject of the long intended bridge across the river at Yass, to the investigation of that matter; feeling, as we do, that the interests of the public of Yass, of travellers on the south road, and of all classes interested in the intercourse and communication by post on that line, have not here-to-fore been consulted therein; that our former reasonable appeals for redress to the executive have not met with attention, and that our interests, and those of the town of Yass, are now suffering, and have for some time past, suffered severely in consequence.
We have the honour to be, Sir, Your most obedient servants.
Council Chamber, Sydney, October 1st, 1852.
Gentlemen - In reply to your letter of the 24th ultimo, I have the honour to inform you, that the Internal Communication Committee met on Wednesday last to consider the papers relating to the Yass Bridge.
The committee have authorised me to state to the townspeople, that if they desire to have the construction of the bridge entrusted to themselves, and elect some competent gentlemen from among themselves to carry out the work, they (the committee) will recommend to the government that that course should be adopted.
I received however, yesterday, from the Colonial Secretary's Office, the enclosed copy of a letter which he addressed on the 15th of July last to the Warden, and which was not included in the papers above referred to.
This communication shows that the government have it in contemplation to take the work into their own hands, and I beg you will inform me at your earliest convenience, which course will be the more agreeable to you.
I have the honour to be, Gentlemen, Your most obedient servant, (Signed) , T. A. Murray. John Watson, Esq., George Allman, Esq., and the other gentlemen signing the letter,
Yass, 15th November, 1852. Sir, - We do ourselves the honour to acknowledge receipt of your letter of 1st October last, in reply to that from the inhabitants of Yass to you, of 24th September last, on the subject of the intended Bridge at Yass.
In reply, we beg leave to refer to the petition from the inhabitants of Yass to His Excellency the Governor, of 8th July, 1850, in which, as one of two alternatives, they solicited that the Government would take the erection of the bridge at Yass into their own hands "on account of the utter improbability of its being carried out under its then management."
We have consulted with the townspeople since receipt of your letter, and find them unanimously satisfied that the Government do take the election of the Yass Bridge into their own hands.
We have the honour to be, Sir, Your most obedient servants, (Signed) G. Cimitiere Allman, John Watson. Terence Aubrey Murray, Esq., M.C., Yarrowlumla.
Yass, 16th November, 1852. Sir, - I do myself the honour to enclose herewith a reply to your letter of 1st October last, to the inhabitants of Yass, on the subject of the bridge.
I trust the spirit in which the inhabitants have met, as they formerly desired to meet, the Government in this matter, may fully obviate any misconstruction of their motives.
I have seen, in Sydney, the papers furnished to the Council as the correspondence connected with the Yass bridge.
While fully concurring in the general satisfaction here, with the prospect of that undertaking being carried out directly by the Government, I cannot pass by without noting to the Committee of the Legislative Council, through you, my protest, with the inquiry - For what reason orders have been given that no copies or extracts should be permitted from the aforesaid papers ?
For what good reason certain portions of those papers and correspondence have not been furnished with the rest to the Council; For instance - A petition from the inhabitants of Yass, 8th July, 1850, soliciting that the Government would take the erection of the bridge into their own hands, "on account of the utter improbability of its ever being carried out while Mr. O'Brien continued his influence over the funds and arrangements," and giving reasons there for.
Portions of my letter to the Colonial Secretary, of 7th June, 1850, in my capacity of a member of the District Council, and of the committee thereof, for the erection of the Yass bridge ; explaining Mr. O'Brien's illegitimate proceedings, in bringing strangers into a Committee of the District Council, to swamp a majority therein.
Mr. Hume's and my joint letter to the Colonial Secretary, explanatory of several most extraordinary and irregular proceedings on Mr. O'Brien's part.
Other portions of correspondence ensuing thereon, explanatory of the same matters, and up to their extraordinary result, viz,, Mr. O'Brien and those strangers seizing the funds in the bank at the credit, by name of the members of the District Council Committee.
In short - For what reason those papers have been furnished in an imperfect state, and those material portions withheld ?
I trust the Committee will credit my assurance that I have no wish to protract unnecessarily so unpleasant a subject. I content myself for the present with noting these facts for their observation; but should, unhappily, this " questio vexata, again come before the public, I shall have more to say thereon.
I have the honour to be, Sir, Your most obedient servant, (Signed) John Watson. Terence Aubrey Murray, M.C., Sydney.