George Jones, the Bunce Bollard and the Naughty Girl
George Jones was the Friends’ first President as well as a long-time Volunteer Guide. Since ‘retiring’ George continues to join the active Guides for their regular monthly meetings. He usually delights us with a short, manually typed story of the Gardens or one of our plants which we can include in our file of stories.
Since taking a particular interest in the history of the Gardens, I am sometimes the recipient of a real typed letter from George, filling me in on some additional piece of history. I received one such letter shortly before Christmas providing a number of snippets relating to pilfering at the Gardens.
Visitors to our Gardens pass through the Hansen Gates to be greeted by the ‘Bunce Bollards'. They frequently pose for photographs beside the elegantly dressed lady and the stern looking Daniel Bunce. Jan Mitchell designed each set of bollards to reflect a real Geelong story. Ours reflect the difficulties that the first curator, Daniel Bunce, had in keeping his flowers and plants in the Gardens rather than gracing the gardens or mantelpieces of the local Geelong ladies.
Visitors who take the time to look will notice that the lady is hiding a sprig of Sturt’s desert pea and a flower press behind her back. Originally, Mr Bunce was holding a pot of the pea. His stern demeanour and her guilty look gave the visitor a clear message that this ‘lady’ had been caught in the act.
George’s researches reveal that the story behind our bollards is a little more complicated. Mr Bunce did indeed have trouble with specimens of Sturt’s desert pea being the object of constant pilfering – presumably as an object of curiosity, so it is highly likely that blooms would have found their way into many a lady’s flower press. However, it was not just individual flowers that went missing. In September 1862, a couple were seen to uproot some choice tulip bulbs as well as a quantity of other plants.
The bollards give the impression that the prevailing fashion was rather “Jane Austin-ish” with clinging skirts, but by 1862, crinolines with wide hooped petticoats were all the rage. Such skirts provided ample hiding places for a few young plants or bouquets. The problem was so bad that the lodge keeper – or rather his wife –was detailed to check the skirts of visitors leaving the gardens. The Argus reports that she intercepted a number of thefts in this manner.
But do we know who the lady in the bollard might be? In 1871, the Geelong Advertiser reported the case of Mary Sibley who had been caught picking flowers in the gardens by a gardener named John Reeve.
A fine of five shillings and five shillings costs was imposed; the Bench hinting “that persons picking flowers in the Gardens, rendered themselves liable to six months imprisonment”.
Jenny Possingham (volunteer guide) with information supplied by George Jones