Dad had a mate call him tonight, just as we'd served up a pizza. 'Dave! How are you mate?' ' ..... ' 'Oh dear. Clove oil, you say? Well, I don't know. Have you tried the 24 hour pharmacy?' ' ... ' 'That's ridiculous. I don't think the supermarket would have clove oil either.' It was about seven o'clock. I went to his go-to medical cabinet and had a rummage. I knew I'd seen a few Bonjela tubes in there, back when the babies were teething. Fancy, a dread toothache at night and no one selling clove oil in town. 'Have you tried packing the tooth with tobacco?' I heard Dad say. 'I know that works.' ' ... ' 'Oh! Oh dear. Well I don't know if we've got anything for that.' Then I found the motherlode: TOOTH-ESE FOR DENTAL EMERGENCY. The old cardboard box looked from the era of laudanum or pink pills for pale people. I raced back to the phone where Dad was wrapping up his commiserations. Dad threw aside the Bonjela, put on his glasses and said, 'Wait Dave, we might have something here. Now let's see. Yes, 19 percent clove oil. The rest is Benzocain.' Crikey,' I thought, that would go beautiful on my breakfast. Dave said that if he couldn't get clove oil at the shop, he'd drop in on his way home. 'Poor man,' I said when Dad was back by the fire, pizza balanced on his lap. 'Toothaches are the worst.' 'He's an interesting one,' said Dad. 'He's a spiritual sort, like a Buddhist but not. He doesn't like harming animals or seeing them suffer. Well none of us do, but once he took a rabbit home that had been hit by a car, nursed it back to health and now it lives with him in the house.' I was wondering where he was going. 'You see, his goldfish is really sick. It's dying. Apparently if you rub clove oil on a fish it just ... passes away gently. So he was out and about tonight looking for some clove oil to euthanase his fish.'
There was once a man who sailed from King
George Sound to the west where he found some headless bodies buried in a sand
dune beside the inlet. But more about that later. Firstly, duelling in colonial
Western Australia. The practice of back
to back they faced each other, drew their swords and shot each other was
still going on here, a decade after the overlords had banned duelling in the
home country. It was seen as a gentleman’s recourse to insult, slander or
cuckoldry, and long before being called ‘gentleman’ meant a drooling old man in
a lazy-boy and a dressing gown.
So it was that in 1832 in Fremantle, a rather
wealthy merchant and a handsome Scottish firebrand who seemed to get away with
a bit fought a duel for the favour of a woman. George Johnson was in love with
Anne Lockyer. He had bucketloads of money but he was decades older than
the 17-year-old girl. She in turn was in love with William Nairn Clarke, who
returned her feelings. The spurned merchant set out to ruin his rival (because
that’s what you do when some uppity bint wants to sleep with someone other than
you) by buying all of Nairn Clarke’s debts. He intended to subject Nairn Clarke
to a credit squeeze so that he would be gaoled for his debts.
In court Nairn Clarke claimed he had some money
coming from England (because gentleman) and won a reprieve. So now Johnson had
less money, more debts and no girl. Some ugly scenes occurred between the two
men on the streets of Fremantle over the next few weeks and finally Johnson
challenged Nairn Clarke to a duel. On the evening of August 16, Johnson’s
second visited Nairn Clarke to work out the fine details. Dawn the next morning
at the grounds of Richmond House.
At dawn, the two men, their seconds and a
doctor gathered at the spacious residence. Johnson and Nairn Clarke chose their
weapons. Apparently, the pistols were of poor quality and probably bought specifically
for the occasion. The men loaded their guns and then walked away from each
other, guns at the ready. When one of the seconds gave a shout, they turned and
fired at each other.
Johnson died 24 hours later in Richmond House,
attended by the same doctor. Nairn Clarke and the two seconds turned themselves
into a Justice of the Peace and they were all tried for murder. Nairn Clarke,
with not a scratch on him, was acquitted, along with the seconds. Three weeks
later he married Anne Lockyer. It was called Australia’s most romantic duel, as much as a rich old man and a dashing solicitor slugging it out over a woman is