|Robert O'Hara Burke, circa 1860. Courtesy of the State Library of Victoria Collection|
Friday, March 27, 1857
(Before R. O'H. Bourke, Esq., J.P. and J, S. Morphy, Esq., J.P.)
George Zeplin v John Johnson.
A claim for £5 6s 8d, balance of wages, for playing a harp at defendant's house for two weeks and two days at £5 per week. Plaintiff had received £5, and now sued for the balance.
Mrs Griffith was sworn, and stated that she was present when Zeplin agreed with Johnson to play for him at £5 per week each. Would swear positively that the word "each" was mentioned.
Mr Johnson, having been sworn, stated that he engaged the plaintiff and his mate for £5 per week, and board, but never dreamt of paying them that amount each.
The magistrates said they had no...........the amount claimed.
[There appears to be a fold in the newspaper in the above sentence, and it is not clear just what the magistrates thought.]
George Griffith v John Johnson. A claim for £5 6s 8d.
This case was exactly similar to the last, and judgment for the amount was taken by consent.
POLICE COURT. (1857, March 28). Ovens and Murray Advertiser (Beechworth, Vic. : 1857 - 1918), p. 2. Retrieved October 8, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article113014651
George Zaplin was a fruiterer and greengrocer (and evidently a harpist) at Woolshed, per Ovens directory 1857. John Johnson was a publican at One Mile (about one mile south of the centre of Beechworth).
The most interesting aspect of this post, to me, was George and Susan's brush with fame - the case was heard before Police Magistrate Robert O'Hara Burke, who would later go on to lead the ill-fated Victorian Exploring Expedition in 1860.
In the nineteenth century citizens were probably more familiar with the inside of a Magistrates' Court, which they used to chase wages owed, payments for goods, unpaid rent or board, and so on.
We learn from this that George was employed at £5 a week in a hotel to play what one imagines woud have been popular music. We don't know what sort of week that entailed - all day for six days, or every evening for six days, five days? The wage for a carpenter was £1-10-0 per day, a bricklayer could earn £1-5-0 per day, and a labourer between 15 shillings and £1 a day. So these musicians (had they been paid) would have been earning less than a labourer - or the day was not a full working day. It is hard to know unless we can shed some more light on it.