Grey’s Economies


Grey’s Economies 

At the time that Grey generated a new paid position for Eyre to solve the conflict along the Murray, he was busy reducing expenses on many different levels, even refusing to pay minor government debts. He found fault with many of the old officials and cut their salaries and allowances. His razor cutting was legendary and no item was too trivial for his scrutiny: he disallowed 30 pence for a pane of glass in an office window, refused 8 pence to an office boy for sharpening pencils, and called the emigration agent to account for using mustard at the public expense at an official function. Grey suspended work on Adelaide’s public buildings and reduced the scale of government relief given to the unemployed, hoping that they would be forced to seek work on the farms.

Against this background of extraordinary financial restraint, it was a compliment to Eyre’s abilities that the razor man was prepared to create a new paid position.

Not that Grey was a hypocrite. As the recession bit, his restraints stretched to his own comforts at Government House. He cut down drastically on their entertaining, to his young wife’s dissatisfaction. He also set an example by going without dinner himself five days a week, and ultimately gave away a significant portion of his own salary to help the poor. Despite this, there were angry demonstrations against his financial stringency. Demonstrators twice invaded the grounds of Government House. Grey was unfazed and stoically withstood the storms. One newspaper correspondent proposed to burn the Governor in effigy, and each reader of the Southern Star was urged to “think upon Grey and let thy soul despair”.

Like a Roman statue carved out of cold marble, Grey remained unmoved.