Today’s story is simply a transcript of a newspaper report. I thought it was interesting, especially since “back in those days” ship wrecks were relatively common.
Christchurch Star – 16 August 1876
STEALING FROM A WRECK. – Joseph Kilpin, an elderly man, residing near the beach at New Brighton, was brought up on remand, charged with having stolen a quantity of timber forming part of the wreck of the ketch Jupiter. The ketch belonged to Major Hornbrook, and was in charge of Captain Robert Day. On August 3, she was wrecked while crossing the Sumner bar, and drifted onto the beach on the New Brighton side.
Being insured in the South British Company, the vessel was abandoned to them on August 4. The hull was sold on that day, but the cheque given in payment for it being dishonoured, the hull reverted again to the Company, whose property it had since been.
The hull broke up, and was strewn along the beach, and prisoner took a portion of it home to burn. When arrested timber to the value of several shillings was found on the prisoner’s premises, and he admitted having taken it from the wreck. In reply to prisoner, Mr Macpherson, agent for the South British Insurance Company, said he did not know there was any mark or notice on the wreck cautioning persons from removing any portions of it. He also informed the Bench that he had no desire to press the case severely against the prisoner, his sole desire being to caution people that they had no right to take away timber from wrecks. Prisoner, in defence, said he was entirely ignorant of doing wrong when he took the timber, and would never have touched it had there been any notice against its removal, or had he known that he would be acting illegally by taking it.
Three witnesses came forward voluntarily and gave prisoner a very high character for honesty and general conduct. One of them had known him eleven years, one five years, and the other three years, and they had always found him a hard working, steady, honest, and respectable man. Dr Foster said he might also inform the Bench that the habit of taking timber found on the sea beach was a very common occurrence, and he did not think it was generally known this was an offence against the law.
His Worship said he did not know whether it was generally understood that the offence complained of in this case was indictable, and persons who were guilty of it rendered themselves liable to two years’ imprisonment with hard labour. The law very properly regarded the matter as very serious, because it was an offence against a person who might have lost his all by the wreck. Supposing the owner of the vessel had not been insured, the loss would have been heavy, and the law ought to protect persons in cases of this kind from losing what little might be saved from the wreck.
A very high character had been given to prisoner, and as he might have acted in ignorance of the law, he would be discharged, but must be more careful in future. Both he and others in the habit of picking up timber from wrecks must remember by doing so that they rendered themselves liable to two years’ imprisonment with hard labour. The case would be dismissed. (Applause).