Location: Auckland, New Zealand
Dr Jack Gowland was a popular Australian boxing personailty in the late 1800s. What was not so apparent at the time, but is evident now with the use of online digital archives, is that he put on a false persona to impress his associates and perhaps to gain entree into places he would not otherwise have been admitted. He was often quoted in the press, and his accounts of his doings contained episodes and achievements that had no basis in fact but always sounded wonderfully exciting and lavish.
So it's interesting to read this account of his involvement in an attempted arson, which stands in stark contrast to the lifestyle he claimed to live. For comparison, see Dr Jack Gowland Writes Home
In 1905 Jack moved to New Zealand with his wife Lucy and child Doris, who was a toddler. They rented rooms in Richmond Rd, Grey Lynn, a suburb of Auckland. On Thursday night, 2nd November someone tried to burn down a door in the house. An inquest was begun on the 6th November to try and discover what had happened.
It transpired that Gowlland and his wife had had an argument when a cheque arrived and Lucy did not want Jack to have it. He had no job at the time and the cheque was all they had for their livelihood. Jack arrived home very late, and drunk. on Thursday night, in the company of a Mr Binsted. Lucy, frightened of Jack in a drunken rage, hid from him in the room of Mrs Heldt, who also lived in the house. It was the door to Mrs Heldt's room that someone had tried to set alight.
Jack told the inquest that he had been taking quinine for Malaria, as well as drinking "more than was good for him" and "he did not recall using such words in the house as frightened his wife and the other inmates away", also that he had not seen his wife since the fire. Asked by a detective next morning to explain the fire, lit with some papers, Jack said that he had been cooking that night and. "During the cooking, the fat got alight and I put the fire out with a bundle of papers which I afterwards threw in the ashcan."
At the inquest, however, he claimed this was not true and he actually had no memory of Thursday night.
The Coroner was not slow to detect Jack's propensity for fabrication."Do I understand that you told the detective tarradiddles to deceive him as to your condition the night before?"
A Mr McVeigh told the court "He commenced this bout of drinking about the 29th or 30th (October) and began to take large doses of quinine on the 31st. ... He had taken three or four glasses of drink (whiskey) a day from the 30th and had five or six whiskies on the 2nd.
The inquest went on to the next day. Gowlland was charged with drunkeness, to which he pleaded guilty. The defendant was fined 5s and costs and "prohibited" for 12 months. This prohibition meant that he could not enter a public house.