- Wilson, Graham, Warrant Officer Class Two, Australian Intelligence Corps
- History - pre-Federation, Colonial navies
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Gayundah
- June 1996 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
Commander Wright was not having any of it, however, and immediately placed Taylor under arrest for technical mutiny. His reasoning was that the government’s actions were tantamount to dismissal and that as he held an Imperial commission and his ship flew the White Ensign, the only person who could dismiss him was the admiral commanding the Australian Station. The situation quickly escalated as the Colonial Secretary, learning of Wright’s actions, formally dismissed him on 24 October, 1888. But Commander Wright was not to be got rid of so easily and he had one trump card left to play – his ship. He called the coaling lighters alongside and sent orders for food and stores, apparently in the intention of taking Gayundah to sea, where, once he was beyond the three mile limit, he would no longer be subject to colonial control but would come under the discipline of the Royal Navy Squadron instead. Wright could thus use the threat of sailing the ship in order to have his way with the government and at the worst he could actually carry out his threat and then lay his case before the admiral.
If Wright was planning to carry out his activities without the advance knowledge of the government, however, he was to be disappointed. As a result of his earlier misdealings, the captain’s delegation to purchase stores directly had been removed and the bills for the coal and stores he had ordered were tendered on the Colonial Secretary’s office. The Colonial Secretary immediately sent a senior officer of his department to Gayundah to ascertain the state of affairs. On boarding the ship the officer, a Mr. Ryder, discovered that Wright was ashore at the Naval Office and the ship was in charge of Sub-Lieutenant Russell (Taylor was also aboard but of course he was under arrest and therefore could not exercise the duty of officer of the day). Mr Ryder requested both officers to accompany him ashore to try and sort things out. Taylor refused as he believed to do so would be a breach of discipline and although Russell complied, it was only with a great deal of misgiving. As Ryder and Russell disembarked from the boat at the ferry landing, they were met by Wright who ordered Russell to return board under threat of dire consequences, and sent Ryder on his way. The ball was now in the Colonial Secretary’s court and he immediately contacted the Commissioner of Police and requested him to “proceed on board the Gayundah and remove Captain Wright from the ship“. As twenty armed policemen marched down Edward Street, a large crowd quickly gathered and took up every available vantage point. The crew of Gayundah were at their normal stations and as the police deployed to take up firing positions covering his ship, Wright, who remained totally calm throughout the whole incident, casually asked his gunner: ‘If I asked you to fire on Parliament House, where would you aim?’ The unflappable Gunner Blake replied: ‘About amidships, Sir!’ Watching the drama unfold before them, many of the crowd speculated whether Gayundah would fire on the Police and possibly even sail off as a pirate – terrific melodramatic stuff!
With his men deployed, the Commissioner boarded ship accompanied by a police Inspector, the Colonial Under Secretary and a magistrate and informed the cool and collected Commander Wright that he intended to take the ship, by force if necessary. In reply, Wright read his Imperial Commission aloud. A great deal of argument ensued. Wright never lost his temper and very astutely ensured that the government party admitted that his removal was by force. Having achieved his aim he went to his cabin and wrote a letter of protest, making sure that a copy was available for the press. He then piped all hands and read to the crew the government letters and his protest and formally released Lieutenant Taylor from arrest. This done, he took leave of all hands and departed the ship. As he rowed away, Lieutenant Taylor read his commission to the crew as the White Ensign was hauled down and replaced by the Queensland Blue Ensign – to the great relief no doubt of the Queensland government, the admiral Commanding the Australian Station and, doubtless, Lieutenant Taylor.
Luckily for all concerned, the affair had been concluded without violence or bloodshed, although probably to the great disappointment of the crowd. Commander Wright left the colony in due course and it has not proved possible to discover what became of him. Presumably he resumed to England but that is only speculation. Lieutenant Taylor remained Commander of the Queensland Marine Defence Force until 1891 when he was replaced by Commander Drake. For reasons unknown, possibly because by his action in obeying Wright’s order to return to the ship, he was deemed to have sided with Wright in the affair, the unfortunate Sub-Lieutenant Russell was dismissed from the service.