This new year resolution is unique

We all make new year resolutions at this time of year. One hundred and fifty-nine years ago, this resolution was different, because it was made under oath and in court. I told a version of this story on West Bremer Radio.

The man who made the new year resolution was William Greenaway. In 1861, Greenaway was a constable with the Ipswich police in Queensland. In June, he was found guilty of disobedience of orders and fined £1. But he was promoted to sergeant none the less.

Queensland policeman 1870s

In 1862, Greenaway was assaulted by the Ipswich bootmaker, Martin Lang.

In 1863, he was assaulted by the drill-instructor of the Queensland Light Horse, William Harding. Harding administered a number of severe kicks to the sergeant, a dray had to be procured to take him to the watchhouse, and Harding even had to be tied down into the dray to get him there. That was in March of 1863.

In August that year, Sergeant Greenaway was in trouble himself and found guilty of neglect of duty. The specifics of what he did wasn’t recorded in the papers at the time, but was of such a serious nature that he was reduced to the rank of ordinary constable.

Just two days later he was reinstated as sergeant due to his previous good character and efficiency.

Then in late December 1863, Greenway was convicted of absenting himself from duty, being drunk, and with disobeying orders. What’s more, Greenaway presented himself in court in a dreadful appearance, and bore all the marks of having met with some brutal treatment.

Greenaway resigned his office of sergeant. The bench accepted his resignation as sergeant, but retained him as an ordinary constable. The magistrate even directed that Greenaway lead his own investigation to find out who had assaulted him.

It was then that Greenaway created history by stating his new year resolution in court and under oath. He said that his resolution was to never again enter a hotel unless in the discharge of his duty.

The resolution was published by the Queensland Times newspaper on the day before new year, on the 31st of December 1863. It’s possibly the only new year resolution in Australian history to have been made under oath in court and published in this way.

The very next day, to start 1864, the Queensland Police Force officially commenced. Before that date each bench including Ipswich had its own police. David Seymour, the aide-de-camp and private secretary to the Queensland governor, was appointed the colony’s inaugural police commissioner.

Police commissioner David Seymour

Greenaway started this new chapter in history by performing well under the Queensland badge. For example, in December 1864, he was commended for his great work putting out a fire at an Ipswich drapery store on Brisbane Street near the intersection with East Street.

But Greenaway never again rose to the rank of sergeant, and despite his new year resolution, his life was beset with tragedy.

His brother John worked with the lemonade and cordial company Owen Gardner & Sons. The job meant that he was constantly visiting hotels to take orders. In December 1866, John was in the South Brisbane Hotel a bit worse for liquor. His fourteen-year-old son came to take him home but was sent away. John was later found drowned in the river.

Greenaway’s own life then becomes cloudy. It appears that he retired from the police service and lived in Esk. In 1910, Greenaway went out shooting wallabies with his nephew. The boy mistook his uncle for a wallaby in the bushes and shot him twice.

Greenaway then spent his last days as an inmate at the Dunwich asylum, where he died in 1920.

Inmate at the Dunwich asylum 1920s

His historic new year resolution in 1863 prolonged both his career and life. Today the evidence connecting alcohol and serious health issues is without doubt.

However, William Greenaway needed to change more than entering history with his resolution, because he still came to a very sad end.


Photo credits:
Elderly patient Dunwich Benevolent Asylum, Stradbroke Island – The Queenslander, November 24th 1927, State Library of Queensland.
Constable with the Queensland Mounted Police, c1870s – State Library of Queensland.
David Thompson Seymour, first Queensland Commissioner of Police – State Library of Queensland.


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