An Unusual Token of Esteem

A Retirement Gift for Constable Herbert Norman Palmer

As a retirement gift this silver ink stand made by Barker Brothers of England is perfect. But it is much more than a retirement gift, it is a symbol of the high regard in which the recipient was held and the exercise of commonsense in uncertain and difficult times. The ink stand was presented to Constable Herbert Norman Palmer (1857–1931) upon his retirement in 1917 after 30 years in the police force and, as the inscription on the base tells us, it was presented by the ‘Unnaturalised Germans at Jindera’.

During the First World War unnaturalised Germans were interned unless they were in essential industries, such as farming, in which case they were placed on a bond and were required to report to the local police station. As many of the Germans in the Jindera district were farm workers the bond restrictions would have been extremely disruptive to their work. Palmer, as a former drover recognised the disruption such restrictions would cause so made an agreement with the workers that each day as he rode around the district, he would wave to the workers in the fields, who had to wave back. In this manner Palmer ensured that the bond requirements were fulfilled without disrupting the workers.

Ralph Palmer wrote that his father had a ‘very keen appreciation of this unusual token of esteem’ and that he highly valued it as a memento of his time at Jindera. It is worthwhile wondering if the use of the term ‘unusual’ here refers to the figure on the inkstand who is engaged in lawn bowls. Was Constable Palmer a keen bowler? Maybe a story for another day.