Search This Blog


Saturday, 28 May 2016

Sam Weller's microscope

This is an old one that I dredged up from 2006: it never got used then, and I am trying to establish a backlog for while I go travelling, and i imagine it is now somewhat dated, but i may get one reader to run and find out. Please take that into account.

Sam Weller in Pickwick Papers spoke of the problems of seeing. "If they was a pair o' patent double million magnifyin' gas microscopes of hextra power, p'raps I might be able to see through a flight o' stairs and a deal door, but bein' only eyes, you see, my wision's limited", he declared.

As an undergraduate, I often wished we had one of Sam's microscopes, so we could look at genes, and see what the chromosomes did. This was at a time when the genetic code was just beginning to be decoded, long before anybody would think of sequencing a genome for a Ph D — something that can be done in 24 hours, these days.

The advances have been magnificent, but until now, there has been no sign that the equivalent of Sam's dreamt-of unlimited wision has escaped us. Nobody has been too surprised, because a bit of simple physics will tell you that the idea is ridiculous. Impossible, say the older and more experienced scientists.

Somebody, I think it was probably Asimov, once said something along the lines of, "If an old, respected scientist tells you something is possible, he's almost certainly right. But if an old, respected scientist tells you something is impossible, he's very likely wrong." These days, of course, we would have to eschew the gender-specific language that marks this as an old adage — but could this old adage be right?

Quite probably, where Sam's microscope is concerned. In the August 31 (2006!) issue of Nature, there was a story about using multiphoton fluorescence microscopy to watch chromosomes change their form in order to activate their genes to synthesize key proteins in fruit fly cells.

Jie Yao used MPM to make images living salivary gland tissue of Drosophila (fruit flies). Now that takes me back 40 years to crisp autumn and winter mornings in an east-facing lab, where one ripped the heads off fruit fly grubs to drag out the salivary glands, which contain massively multistranded chromosomes. These were then placed on a slide, squashed and marinated in acetic orcein — to this day, the smell of vinegar takes me back to that time.

Proust had his petites madeleines, I have maggot innards in vinegar to switch on my recollections. That is probably the least elegant contrast of the two cultures that I have ever penned before breakfast, but that's how it is, or was.

Unlike other methods, which lack penetrating power and can damage the specimen, MPM delivers crisp, clear images, even in thicker tissue samples like Drosophila salivary glands, and from here, I will rely more heavily in the account I have had from Cornell.

Whenever a cell is stressed it produces proteins that help the cell resist stress. The process is triggered by a molecule called heat shock factor (HSF), which interacts with genes to cue the synthesis of new proteins, but this well-known process had never been seen in living cells.

The polytene cells in the salivary glands, with their giant, multistranded chromosomes, have hundreds of sets of the genome instead of the usual two sets in conventional cells. This enlarges the usual nuclear dimensions by about 10 times, making them large enough to image the detail — which is why we used to squash and stain them four decades back. They are still worth looking at.

The results were stunning. "Within two weeks we had spectacular pictures," says Professor John Lis, Jie Yao's supervisor. The images included pictures of the genes (hsp70 genes) that protect flies from the effects of extreme heat. By cranking up the heat, the researchers could activate these genes, and by using fruit flies specifically bred to carry fluorescent proteins on HSF, they could watch the transcription factors in action.

"This is the first time ever that anyone has been able to see in detail, at native genes in vivo, how a transcription factor is turned on, and how it then is activated," says Watt Webb.

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Curtiosity about Art

More in Seurat than in Ingres.
— P. D. Q. Bach (1729 - 1648), Quoted by Duncan Bain in Against Contrapuntalism, a manifesto, Breek-Anathema Press, 1990.

What a delightful thing this perspective is!
— Paolo Uccello (1397 - 1475

By viewing Nature, Nature's handmaid Art,
Makes mighty things from small beginnings grow
— John Dryden (1631 - 1700

Our sight is the most perfect and delightful of our senses. It fills the mind with the largest variety of ideas, converses with its objects at the greatest distance, and continues the longest in action without being tired or satiated with its proper enjoyments.
— Joseph Addison (1672 - 1719), The Spectator, 411.

If computer art has a future as an art form in its own right, it is to be found in the dynamic, the animated, the interactive. It should look not towards Rembrandt, but towards Verdi's 'Aïda'. Not just the classical 'Aïda', but an 'Aïda' with the audience singing along and scrambling onto the backs of the elephants on stage. Chaos? No. Total theatre.
— Philip J. Davis and Reuben Hersh, Descartes' Dream, Penguin, 1990, p. 53.

I told a seemingly sane man that I got my artistic education on the Bowery, and he said 'Oh, really? So they have a school of fine arts there?'
— Stephen Crane (1870 - 1900) to James Huneker, quoted in Alfred Kazin, An American Procession, Secker and Warburg, 1985.

'There is a pleasure in painting which none but painters know.' In writing, you have to contend with the world; in painting you have only to carry on a friendly strife with Nature.
— William Hazlitt (1778 - 1830), On the Pleasure of Painting.

TEKEL: Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting.
— Holy Bible, Daniel, 5:27.

Sunday, 15 May 2016

The Speewah dingoes

The dingoes out on the Speewah are smart, as well, but that's probably because they stole away a few of the Speewah dogs, seeing how clever the dingoes are these days.  Anyhow, that's my theory.  I mean, they won't take a bait however hard you try, and they seem to have a special sense that tells them when somebody's tracking them.

If you see one that knows it's being tracked, you can tell straight away, because it walks around backwards.  So all the good trackers know this, and always follow the tracks in the wrong direction.  But like I say, them dingoes are smart, and I reckon any day now, the dingoes will change around, and start going forward when they know they're being tracked.

They're big, the Speewah dingoes, and that's another reason why people think they're carrying some blood from the Speewah dogs, but it might just be the Speewah soil that helps them grow so big and healthy.  But being big, they need a lot to eat, and so while they'd eat a dozen or so sheep at a sitting, and one year, they'd started carrying away cattle, and so it was time to do something about them.

Now while these dingoes are smart, they're not as smart as the Speewah dogs, which can count to about a hundred.  A dingo, if it sees sixteen men go into a hut, and fifteen come out, is usually going to think the hut is empty, so you can get a few that way.  You send a crowd in, leave a few behind, and the rest go away, leaving a tempting little bunch of food behind to bring them in. 

Anyhow, that was the boss said that year, so he got a gang from the shearing shed together, and had us all walk down to a hut that Mick'd put together during his tea break the previous day, and the boss and three of his mates, all crack shots, stayed in the hut while everybody else walked away, all milling around and skylarking to make it harder for the dingoes to count them.  Then Mick came down with half a dozen rams under his arm, and popped them into a pen outside the hut, and walked away again.

It was coming up to a full moon that night, and the Speewah dingoes like to feed at a full moon.  More importantly, even though they would sneak through the shadows, the moonlight lit up their eyes and made them look like small lanterns.  I think they shine their eye light on the sheep and hold them with it.  Anyhow, the boss and his mates were all crack shots.  In fact, it was the same bunch that backed up Crooked Mick when he tackled the drop bears, and they reckoned they'd get a few dingoes by waiting for the glow, and then shooting between the eyes.

There were four of them lying in wait, and they all had repeating rifles, so they got six dingoes the first night, all smack between the eyes, before the rest realised what was happening and took off.  Next morning, Mick hauled them off and burnt the bodies, and the next night, they figured it was worth trying a second time.  Mick told the boss it'd be no good, that the dingoes'd have it all worked out, but the boss still reckoned it was worth a try.

So we all went down to the hut, same as the day before, but there were dingo trails all round the hut, and when we went in, the four rifles were gone, and so were the rams.  There were no two ways about it: the dingoes had taken the four guns when they came back later for a feed.  Well after a bit of discussion, everyone agreed there was no way the dingoes could shoot — or if they could shoot, they wouldn't know how to adjust for wind and range, so the shooters ought to be safe.  So the whole mob of us moved off again, and the shooters got four more rifles, we all went back to the hut again, and left the boss and his mates there again.

It was almost full moon that night, so the shooting ought to be good, they reckoned, but when the dingoes came, they opened fire, and nothing happened.  Then a cloud passed over the moon, there was a quick howl, a few sheepish noises, and when the moon came out again, there were no dingoes and no rams.  They blamed the new rifles, but when they tested them next day, there was no problem with the sights, so they decided they'd all been too nervous about dingoes shooting back, which they now agreed was quite silly.

But the next night, the same thing happened again, so the boss sent Mick out to work out what was going on.  He came back grinning, and took the boss out to look at the tracks, exactly where the boss and his mates had seen the dingoes coming in.  "There's your problem," he said.

The boss looked, and saw just one set of prints, just where his target had been.  "What's the problem then, Mick?" he asked.

Mick pointed to the prints.  "You need to shoot just outside of the pair of eyes, not between them," he said.  Then he explained the tracks, which had left paws on the right, and right paws on the left.  The dogs had come in as pairs, each using the two inside legs on each dog, and with their outside eye closed, so when the boss and his mates put a bullet between the two eyes they could see, the bullet went into empty space.

That night was the last really full moon night, and it didn't come up until late, but the boss and his mates were ready, and they got four pairs of dingoes and a couple of single ones as well, and that either wiped them out or they moved away.  But it's lucky there wasn't more of the Speewah dog intelligence in them, or they'd be taking the Speewah sheep still.

* * * * *

Note: there is a whole book of these stories, which I am currently pitching to publishers, but they will probably appear in an e-book.

There will be quite a number of these on the blog, all with the tags Speewah and Crooked Mick.

Saturday, 7 May 2016

Mystery shrouds

Find the shrouds!
A shroud is a winding sheet for a corpse to most of us, but the shrouds on a ship are part of the standing rigging, heavy, tarred ropes that hold the mast firmly down, and stop it rocking from side to side.

When jolly Jack Tars went aloft in the days of sail, they did so by clambering up light lines strung between the shrouds. Fore and aft, the masts were steadied by other items, the more sensibly-named forestays and backstays, but to port and starboard, there were just shrouds.

All of the standing rigging on a ship was made of rope, and new sailors had to learn the ropes, but in truth, there was just one rope on a ship, the bell rope. All of the other pieces of rope were called by other names: lines, halyards, cables and the sheets used to trim the sails — so there we have another word meaning a flat piece of material, given to one of the pieces of specialised rope on board. There was the rope's end, used by bosuns as a 'starter' on some ships, either because it got the sailors started, or gave them a start, or maybe because it was applied to the start, or tail area.

The word shroud comes from an old Teutonic root meaning to cut, and related to the modern word 'shred', which came from scrud in Old English. Around 1580, there was a term 'shred-pie' used for a mince pie, giving a feel for how the word was used then. It seems that the shroud was cut cloth, and so a garment, but the meaning of a winding sheet or cover for a corpse seemed to take over. By the 17th century, a shroud was a place of shelter or shade, and to shroud was to hide.

In the 18th century, a shroud came to mean other things, like the annular plates on a water wheel that formed the sides of the buckets, but these were just covers to the wheel. Today, we may know the word, but shrouds are rarer — if it doesn't come from Turin, the only shroud you are likely to see will be the casing over an aircraft engine.

In Hamlet, Ophelia sings of a shroud, as white as mountain snow, while in Henry VI, Part 3, the First Keeper suggests to his companion that they shroud themselves under a thick-grown brake, though later in the same play, Queen Margaret speaks of "shrouds and tacklings", clearly referring to standing and running rigging, and in Henry VIII, there is a reference to the noise of wind in the shrouds of a ship at sea. Juliet mentions shrouds several times as she prepares to take Friar Laurence's potion, but in The Tempest, when Trinculo comes ashore after a shipwreck, he declares "I will here shroud till the dregs of the storm be past."

This gets us no closer to the shrouds on board ship, though one doubtful suggestion is that the shrouds were shrouded in leather to stop them rubbing. In fact, the leather was more commonly on the timber yards, and Antonio Pigafetta, one of the survivors of Magellan's world trip, reveals in his account of their discomfort:

We ate biscuit which was no longer biscuit, but powder of biscuits swarming with worms, for they had eaten the good. It stank strongly of the urine of rats. We drank yellow water which had been putrid for many days. We also ate some oxhides which covered the top of the mainyard to prevent the yard from chafing the shrouds, and which had become exceedingly hard because of the sun, rain and wind. We left them in the sea for four or five days, and then placed them for a few moments on top of the embers, and so ate them . . . the gums of both the lower and upper teeth of some of our men swelled, so that they could not eat under any circumstances and therefore died.
The only shroud a sailor got was his hammock, the piece of canvas he had slept in, He was sewn into this, and slipped gently over the side, feet first, with a couple of roundshot at his feet to plummet him down past the sharks — or out of sight fast enough so that the sharks would not be seen feeding on the body.

The hammock, by the way, was a name garnered from the Spaniards, who called it a hamaca, after they adapted the Carib name for the same thing, which was hamac. But why the side stays on a ship are shrouds must remain a mystery, like the purpose of the futtock shrouds. They are the white rods sloping down and in, towards the mast, in the picture above: the rest is left as an exercise for the reader.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Curtiosity about food

 Yes, there has been little coming from me.  I aitn't dead yet, as Granny Weatherwax was given to asserting. I have just had a tight focus on getting the first drafts of two books complete.  Here are some more of the epigraphs that never made it into books.

Australia favours an eclectic diet.
In a world where Australian wheat goes to China and the phosphate to grow it comes from Nauru, where iron ore goes from Australia to Japan and returns in part as heavy mining equipment to produce more iron ore, it is obvious that any meaningful human ecosystem must cover the world.
— Macfarlane Burnet, Dominant Mammal, Heinemann 1970, 128.

We have here but five loaves, and two fishes.
Holy Bible, the Gospel according to St Matthew, 14: 17.

A certain young gourmet of Crediton
Took some paté de foie gras and spread it on
    A chocolate biscuit
    Then murmured, 'I'll risk it':
His tomb bears the date that he said it on.
— Limerick

The chief defect of Henry King
Was chewing little bits of string
— Hilaire Belloc (1870 - 1953) Cautionary Tales

I am the fire in the stomach which digests all food.
Bhagavad Gita, 15:14, in the translation of Eknath Easwaran, Arkana Books, 1985.

Some have meat and cannot eat,
  Some cannot eat that want it:
But we have meat and we can eat,
  Sae let the Lord be thankit.
— Robert Burns (1759 - 1796), The Kirkcudbright Grace.

Jack, eating rotten cheese, did say,
Like Samson I my thousands slay:
I vow, quoth Roger, so you do,
And with the self-same weapon too.
— Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) Impromptu

The Earle of Oxford, making of his low obeisance to Queen Elizabeth, happened to let a Fart, at which he was so abashed and ashamed that he went to Travell, 7 yeares.  On his returne the Queen welcomed him home, and sayd, My Lord, I had forgott the Fart.
— John Aubrey (1625 - 1697), Brief Lives, Penguin edition, p. 465.

Amasis . . . prepared to lead them against Apries, who hearing of the danger which threatened him, sent Patarbemis, a distiguished member of his court, with orders to bring Amasis live into his presence.  Amasis, however, in answer to Patarbemis' summons, rose in his saddle (he was on horseback at the time), broke wind, and told him to take that back to his master.
— Herodotus (c. 480 BC - 425 BC), The Histories, Book 2, Penguin Classics, p. 195.

O, that this too too solid flesh would melt,
Thaw and resolve itself into a dew!
— William Shakespeare (1564-1616), Hamlet, I, ii, 129.

Who's your fat friend?
— Beau Brummell (1778 - 1840), of the then Prince of Wales.

When he lies on the opposite side, I can look directly into the cavity of the stomach, and almost see the process of digestion ... I have frequently suspended flesh, raw and wasted, and other substances into the perforation to ascertain the length of time required to digest each.
— William Beaumont, describing his experiments on Alexis St Martin.

Modern Australian breakfast, Alice Springs, N.T.
We enjoyed most gratefully our two wallabies, which were stewed, and to which I had added some greenhide to render the broth more substantial.  This hide was almost five months old, and had served as a case to my botanical collection, which, unfortunately, I had been compelled to leave behind.  It required, however, a little longer stewing than a fresh hide, and was rather tasteless.
— Ludwig Leichhardt, Journal of an Inland Expedition in Australia, 1847, quoted by A. B. and J. W. Cribb, Wild Food in  Australia, p. 15.

Should I refuse a good dinner, simply because I do not understand the process of digestion?
— Oliver Heaviside (1850 - 1925), on being accused of using mathematics he did not fully understand).

There isn't any nitrogen or phosphorus or albumen in ordinary things to eat.  In any decent household all that sort of stuff is washed out in the kitchen sink before the food is put on the table.
— Stephen Leacock (1869-1944), Literary Lapses (1910)

Slept not soe well after eating Rice pudden.
— Robert Hooke (1635-1703), diary.

And they spoke politely about the currents and the depths they had drifted their lines at and the steady good weather and of what they had seen.
— Ernest Hemingway (1899 - 1961), The Old Man and the Sea, 1952.

... whoever could make two ears of corn, or two blades of grass, to grow upon a spot of ground where only one grew before, would deserve better of mankind, and do more essential service to his country, than the whole race of politicians put together.
— Jonathan Swift (1667 - 1745), 'A Voyage to Brobdingnag' in Gulliver's Travels.

If I were a Cassowary
On the plains of Timbuctoo,
I would eat a missionary
Coat and bands and Hymn-book too.
— attributed to Bishop 'Soapy Sam' Samuel Wilberforce

Less spectacularly, but more catastrophically, the insane farming practices in the south are steadily reducing the fertility per acre, which has fallen, in spite of machines and artificial fertilizers, forty per cent in the last seventy years.  In another forty years, they expect it to be at zero over large areas . . .
— Aldous Huxley, letter to Julian Huxley from California, 1941, Letters of Aldous Huxley, Chatto and Windus, 1969, p. 465.

. . . will the public and those in authority pay any attention to what you say, or will the politicians go on with their lunatic game of power politics, ignoring the fact that the world they are squabbling over will very shortly cease to exist in its old familiar form, but will be transformed, unless they mobilize all available intelligence and all available good will, into one huge dust bowl, inhabited by creatures whom hunger will make more and more sub-human?
— Aldous Huxley, letter to Fairfield Osborn, 16/1/1948, Letters of Aldous Huxley, Chatto and Windus, 1969, p. 578.

Mary, Mary, quite contrary,
How does your garden grow?
— Nursery rhyme.

How can you or I or anyone know
How oats and beans and barley grow?
— English nursery rhyme

Thurs 18 Feb, 1790
... after I was relieved from Guard I went down to my Island to look at my Garden and found that Some Boat had landed since I had been there last and taken away the Greatest part of a fine Bed of Onions — it is impossible for any body to attemp to raise any Gardin Stuff for before it comes to perfection the[y] will Steal it — I thought that having a Garden on an island it would be more Secure but I find that they even get at it — my corn comes on as well as corn can doe...

Sunday 21 Feb
... Soon after Breackfast I went out in my Boat down to my Island to See my Garden and found that Some persons had been the again and have taken away all my potatoes — however the[y] are I wish that the[y] were in hell for the kindness..

Sunday 28th
... they have stole about 1500 Cobbs of corn...
— Ralph Clark, The Journal and Letters of Lt. Ralph Clark 1787-1792.  Sydney: Australian Documents Library, 1981.

Although they appear to treat their children kindly when they can in some measure help themselves, yet infanticide is frequent among the women, who often dislike the trouble of taking care of their babies, and destroy them immediately after birth, saying that 'Yahoo' or 'Devil-devil' took them. One woman, whom Mr. Meredith saw a day after the birth of her baby, on being asked where it was, replied with perfect nonchalance, 'I believe Dingo patta!' — She believed the dog had eaten it!  Numbers of hapless little beings are no doubt disposed of by their unnatural mothers in a similar manner.
— Louise Ann (Mrs Charles) Meredith, Notes and Sketches of New South Wales.  London: John Murray, 1844, and Ringwood:  Penguin Books, 1973, page 95.

You ought to be roasted alive, not that even well-cooked you would be to my taste.
— J. M. Barrie, to George Bernard Shaw, in response to GBS's criticism of his plays.

When I am dead, I hope it may be said:
'His sins were scarlet, but his books were read.'
— Hilaire Belloc (1870 - 1953), 'On His Books' in Stories Essays and Poems, Everyman Library 948, 1957, 413.

One word's as good as ten.
Wire in.  Amen.
— Trad., Australian shearer's grace.

Sunday, 27 March 2016

The Wicked Publican

G. K. Chesterton wrote his Song Against Grocers at a time when it was normal for grocers to adulterate all the stuff they sold.

God made the wicked Grocer
For a mystery and a sign,
That men might shun the awful shops
And go to inns to dine;

Today, I would like to indicate that sometimes, inns weren't such a good place to go, either. This is a sample chapter from a book I am working on (working title: Not Your Usual Villains).

Some of the other chapters  include Women in Trousers, Drewery's case, the Archdeacon was a curate's egg, Dight's Light Horse, The Cato Street Conspirators, The Escape of the Boy Brown, The Composer Who Ran, Turning the Earth Inside Out, Off They All Ran, The Licensed Thief and The First Anzac Day. A couple of those chapters cover material to be found in entries in this blog.

Anyhow, here is one tale with a caveat: being dragged from the ms, it contains many more footnotes than I expect to see in the final version.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

I became interested in a public house called the ‘Sheer Hulk’ when I saw it mentioned by Alexander Harris. Now first, a word about Harris: the consensus is that he was probably a real person, but he left few traces in the colony, and he prefaced the book he published this way:

ADVERTISEMENT: IT is almost unnecessary to state that, though published anonymously, the truth of the accounts given in this little work may be fully depended upon; and the Author can substantiate all the great facts by an exact reference to the names, dates, and places. Of course this would be unwillingly done, on account of the ill-feeling that it would inevitably engender. He has carefully endeavoured to avoid the possibility of the identification of the parties whose actions are the subject of his remarks. His object has been rather to draw attention to a system than to interest by the detail of his mere private adventures. [1]

Not only did he disguise situations, he also muddled them. The reader [of the whole book] will have recently encountered the case of Archdeacon Scott prosecuting the Broadbears, while in Harris’ telling, it was the Broadbears’ employer, Mr Walker, who was prosecuted. In brief, then, Harris may not be a reliable witness in this passage:

We went into two houses, the one called “The Black Dog,” a licensed house, the other close beside it, an old dilapidated place, properly enough called “The Sheer Hulk,” which had been deprived of its licence on account of the practices and characters admitted by its landlord; it was, however, still occupied, and as the occupier was no longer under the apprehension of losing his licence, the scenes displayed nightly were of tenfold worse character than ever. [2]

It turns out that both houses existed, though the ‘Sheer Hulk’ pub was more interesting. It appeared in the public records in July 1818, when three successive issues of The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser listed the liquor licences for Sydney, Parramatta, Liverpool and Windsor.

There were 14 beer and spirit licences in Cambridge Street, Cumberland Street, Gloucester Street and Harrington Street, and so part of ‘The Rocks’. The ‘Black Dog’ was not there, yet, but the area included Samuel Hulbert’s ‘Sheer Hulk’ in Cambridge Street, where its neighbours included the ‘Governor King’. The ‘Punch Bowl’ and the ‘Turk’s Head’ (all spirits licences) plus ‘Chequers’, with a beer licence. [3]

In 1823, Hulbert moved premises:

NOTICE.— Mr. Samuel Hulbert, of the Sign of the Sheer Hulk, Cambridge-street, Rocks, begs to acquaint his Friends and the Public, that he is about to REMOVE to his House, No. 14, Prince-street, Rocks, opposite the Sign of the Edinburgh Castle, where he hopes for a Continuance of their Custom. [4]

Hulbert now leaves our tale, though he appears to have  died “after a lingering illness” in 1829. By September 1823, William Foster appeared to have control of the ‘Sheer Hulk’ [5] There were coroner’s inquests held there in 1825 and 1826 (it was normal practice to conduct inquests in public houses at that time), and in 1828, the ‘Sheer Hulk’ saw some drama.

ON the morning of Saturday last, from private information given our Chief Constable, he proceeded well armed, to the Sheer Hulk Public House, on the Rocks, and succeeded in capturing the unfortunate Lookay alias Edwards, for whom a reward of Fifty pounds (and a ticket of leave, should the person, be a prisoner) was offered. He was conducted before the Superintendent of Police, who refused to hear what he had to say in his defence; he will be brought up for examination again to day. [6]

Clearly, as Harris indicated, the house lost its licence at some point, because in 1830, it was offered for sale in this way:

TO be Let or Sold, all that well-known old established Public-house, the Sheer Hulk No. 30, Cambridge-street; this House was for many Years licensed, and has recently been put into thorough repair, and is an excellent situation for business. Application to be made to Mrs. BRUNTON Prince-street. April 16, 1830. [7]

There were apparently no takers, and in June, the ‘Sheer Hulk’ was offered at auction:

MR. BODENHAM respectfully announces, that he has received instructions to sell those valuable promises, known by the sign of the Sheer Hulk, and containing 5 rooms, now ready for immediate occupation, and in which a large fortune was accumulated by the recent Proprietor. The property is surrounded by a large population of Mechanics, from which cause there can be no doubt but an excellent livelihood, if not an independence may be secured. [8]

In July 1830, a list of Sydney publicans, licensed for the “ensuing year” was published. It included the following in our target area:
Essex Lane. — George Johnson, Ship Inn. Joseph le Burn, Sheer Hulk.
Cambridge-street . — Jasper Tunn, Whale Fishery. Daniel Rogers, Bird in Hand. Daniel Hill, Black Dog. [9]
Now comes a curious story that is best told in the words of the victim, Alexander Monaghan, who appears twice in one issue of the Sydney Monitor before disappearing. Did he die in gaol? Did Davis (or Davy) drop the law suit? Our only sources are an editorial, quoted below, written in response to this letter to the Editor of the Sydney Monitor, and written from gaol on 28 August 1830:
As you are famed for taking up the cause of the unfortunate, I beg to lay before you my distressed case:—
I am about sixty-four years of age. I came to the Colony in the Dromedary along with Governor Macquarie, a private in the 73d. and was made a veteran on the departure of the Regt. for Ceylon. On the 25th March, four years ago, I received from Commissary Wemyss £6. 0s. 2d. being my quarter's pension, and placed it for safety in the hands of one George Davy or Davis, who kept the Sheer Hulk on the Rocks. But the sign was down at that time. I stayed with him four or five days — one day and one night of which I took more liquor than did me good. On the third or fourth day (the 28th) I wished to settle, but he put me off. On the next day he presented my bill. It amounted to £9. I told him he had robbed me, for that it was impossible my board and lodging, including the liquor I had drunk, could come to more than one third of that sum. He told me he would broomstick me out of the house. I went off to my master, Mr. Ikin, of Liverpool, who told me I had been served right for my folly; so I never took further notice of Davy's cheating. Davy now keeps a green stall on the Brickfieldshill. The books of the Sydney Bench for years back, on inspection, will shew him to have been a very unfortunate man, supposing him to have conducted himself with propriety at all times. After I had been with Mr. Ikin for about five months, I received a summons from Davy to attend the Court of Requests at Sydney. Mr. Ikin told me, that as I resided at Liverpool, the summons was good for nothing. He sent me up the Country with some cattle, and I never heard any more of the summons till about six months after, when I was told, that an execution was out against me; but it was never served on me. I left Mr. lkin in 1828, and went to live at Jem Core's at Prospect, where I remained about twelve months. In the course of that twelve months, Davy one day came into the house with a cord in his hand and a stick, and told me to come along with him to gaol. We went to Parramatta, and called for a pot of beer at Lacey's at the toll-bar. It was the races. A parcel of native lads remonstrated with Davy on taking an old man like me to gaol, and they got between him and me, and I went home the same day. Davy never shewed me any writ for his capturing me.
On the 25th June last, I drew my quarter's pension, and on the 26th, Davy and a bailiff took me again at the toll-bar at Lacey's, where I had formerly been rescued. I refused to walk, but offered to go if they would provide me a conveyance. They took hold of me, one of one side, and the other of the other, and forced me along half down the hill, and then let me fall on my face. It was a dead fall and hurt me. They then took hold of my feet, and dragged me on my back, without my hat, nearly as far as the bridge, my old head bumping against the ground all the time, and my arms flying back. My head was much cut, as the military surgeon in this place saw after I came in. The bailiff then lifted up his staff, which had a great knob at the end of it and said, " you d--d old scoundrel, if you don't walk, I'll knock your brains out." To which Davy replied, " Aye do, and we'll throw him under the bridge." I began to be much frightened, and promised to do my best at walking. Davy seeing I was cowed, then went his way, and I went on with the bailiff, as far as the first public house, kept by one Wright, since dead. There the bailiff gave me a glass of grog. We then went on, and at last turned off to the left, opposite Mr. Squires's, and put up at a settler's for the night. I found next morning my shoulder was hurt by means of the dragging. I kept my bed on Sunday. On Monday I could not eat my breakfast, but I got up, and went with the bailiff to Sydney, but never broke my fast. I remained at Davy's house on the Brickfield Hill about two hours. I suspected that from their whispering and manner, the execution was wrong, and that they had gone to the office to fetch a new one. I have been told since, that they could not take me again lawfully on a new execution; and that this second capture by the bailiff was illegal. But I say the first was illegal, not only as to justice, but also not being served in Liverpool. On entering the gaol, I found my arm very bad, and at last I asked the surgeon to look at it. I do not expect to have the use of it any more.
One possibility, of course, is that Monaghan did not exist, but the following editorial describes his appearance, so there really was somebody of this name in gaol in Sydney in 1830.
We call the attention of the Commissioner of the Court of Requests to a letter in the 1st column of our last page, signed Alexander Monaghan. If the statements therein made be true, we never read any thing more villainous from beginning to end. We have seen [the] old Veteran, and he bears the character of a quiet harmless old man. It is to be regretted that his late master Mr. Ikin, should have conceived, that because the old man resided in Liverpool, the service on him of the summons in person in Sydney, was invalid. Had Monaghan defended the case in person, and proved to the Commissioner the facts he alleges in his letter, we are satisfied the verdict would have been in his favour, and that a balance would have been found coming to him. This however is only one of a thousand instances, which have come to our knowledge, of the ruin of poor people from their ignorance of the forms of law, and of their strong aversion from paying that attention to lawyer's letters and writs, which they ought to pay. If the people of this Country detested a public house, as much as they do a lawyer's office, it would be well. But men naturally neglect that, which they are averse from. They are in this respect like cowards in a field of battle, who turn their backs, when the shewing of a good front, would save them from what they dread. The conduct of Davy, the Bailiff, on the last execution, by which they have maimed the grey-haired Veteran for the remainder of his miserable existence, if true, is most atrocious; and it is a pity, but he and the rascally bailiff should be trounced for it by an action for damages, in the Supreme Court at Monaghan's suit. [11]
The problem is that there is no evidence that Alexander Monaghan existed: somebody of that name gained a land grant in the Illawarra in 1832, but by then, our chap would have been something like 66. I would offer the Scots verdict of “not proven”, on the basis that there is no evidence of a licensee named Davis or Davy, either.

Joseph Leburn held the licence at the ‘Sheer Hulk’ for a number of years before Daniel Rogers took it over, and we drift out of our period of interest. 

Then again, Davis or Davy may have been real and run the place without being the licensee. Alexander Harris usually described the places and people he wrote about, but he was quite open about the ‘Sheer Hulk’. Harris returned later in his book to the ‘Sheer Hulk’, and this appears to confirm that Davy or Davis may have been real:
Our next movement was to a house on the rocks much frequented by boatmen, and known as “The Sheer Hulk,” already mentioned. It was kept at this time by a man of the name of D——, a convict free by servitude (so convicts are designated whose term of sentence has expired), as a lodging house for sailors … There is no doubt nevertheless that such a nest would have been rooted out long before but for the handsome “sweeteners” (bribes) which old D——'s profits enabled him to give the constables. [12]

There was certainly a villain, but was it Davis/Davy, or was it whoever created the letter that appeared in the Monitor? We will probably never know, now, but if Davis/Davy existed, he may well have been the George Davy who was charged with selling spirits without a license in 1832, fined £30, with 7s. 6d. costs, and given three days to pay, the alternative being four months in gaol. (The details will be found in the Sydney Herald, 9 April 1832, 2.)

[1] Alexander Harris, Settlers and Convicts, London, 1847.
[2] Alexander Harris, Settlers and Convicts, London, 1847, ch. 1.
[3] The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser, 18 July 1818, 2,
[4] The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser, 27 March 1823, 4,
[5] The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser, 4 September 1823, 2,
[6] The Monitor (Sydney), 14 January 1828, 7,
[7] The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser, 17 April 1830, 4,
[8] The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser, 1 June 1830, 4,
[9] The Australian (Sydney), 7 July 1830, 1,
[10] The Sydney Monitor, 1 September 1830, 4,
[11] The Sydney Monitor, 1 September 1830, 3,
[12] Alexander Harris, Settlers and Convicts, London, 1847, ch. 6.