A Complete Account of the Settlement at Port Jackson
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A Complete Account of the Settlement
by Watkin Tench
When it is recollected how much has been written to describe the Settlement
of New South Wales, it seems necessary if not to offer an apology,
yet to assign a reason, for an additional publication.
The Author embarked in the fleet which sailed to found the establishment
at Botany Bay. He shortly after published a Narrative of the Proceedings
and State of the Colony, brought up to the beginning of July, 1788,
which was well received, and passed through three editions. This could not
but inspire both confidence and gratitude; but gratitude, would be
badly manifested were he on the presumption of former favour to lay claim
to present indulgence. He resumes the subject in the humble hope
of communicating information, and increasing knowledge, of the country,
which he describes.
He resided at Port Jackson nearly four years: from the 20th of January, 1788,
until the 18th of December, 1791. To an active and contemplative mind,
a new country is an inexhaustible source of curiosity and speculation.
It was the author's custom not only to note daily occurrences, and to inspect
and record the progression of improvement; but also, when not prevented by
military duties, to penetrate the surrounding country in different directions,
in order to examine its nature, and ascertain its relative geographical
The greatest part of the work is inevitably composed of those materials which
a journal supplies; but wherever reflections could be introduced without
fastidiousness and parade, he has not scrupled to indulge them, in common with
every other deviation which the strictness of narrative would allow.
When this publication was nearly ready for the press; and when many
of the opinions which it records had been declared, fresh accounts from
Port Jackson were received. To the state of a country, where so many anxious
trying hours of his life have passed, the author cannot feel indifferent.
If by any sudden revolution of the laws of nature; or by any fortunate
discovery of those on the spot, it has really become that fertile
and prosperous land, which some represent it to be, he begs permission
to add his voice to the general congratulation. He rejoices at its success:
but it is only justice to himself and those with whom he acted to declare,
that they feel no cause of reproach that so complete and happy an alteration
did not take place at an earlier period.
A Retrospect of the State of the Colony of Port Jackson,
on the Date of my former Narrative, in July, 1788.
Previous to commencing any farther account of the subject, which I am about
to treat, such a retrospection of the circumstances and situation
of the settlement, at the conclusion of my former Narrative, as shall lay
its state before the reader, seems necessary, in order to connect
the present with the past.
The departure of the first fleet of ships for Europe, on the
14th of July, 1788, had been long impatiently expected; and had filled us
with anxiety, to communicate to our friends an account of our situation;
describing the progress of improvement, and the probability of success,
or failure, in our enterprise. That men should judge very oppositely
on so doubtful and precarious an event, will hardly surprise.
Such relations could contain little besides the sanguineness of hope,
and the enumeration of hardships and difficulties, which former accounts
had not led us to expect. Since our disembarkation in the preceding January,
the efforts of every one had been unremittingly exerted, to deposit
the public stores in a state of shelter and security, and to erect habitations
for ourselves. We were eager to escape from tents, where a fold of canvas,
only, interposed to check the vertic beams of the sun in summer,
and the chilling blasts of the south in winter. A markee pitched,
in our finest season, on an English lawn; or a transient view of those
gay camps, near the metropolis, which so many remember, naturally draws forth
careless and unmeaning exclamations of rapture, which attach ideas
of pleasure only, to this part of a soldier's life. But an encampment
amidst the rocks and wilds of a new country, aggravated by the miseries
of bad diet, and incessant toil, will find few admirers.
Nor were our exertions less unsuccessful than they were laborious.
Under wretched covers of thatch lay our provisions and stores, exposed to
destruction from every flash of lightning, and every spark of fire.
A few of the convicts had got into huts; but almost all the officers,
and the whole of the soldiery, were still in tents.
In such a situation, where knowledge of the mechanic arts afforded
the surest recommendation to notice, it may be easily conceived,
that attention to the parade duty of the troops, gradually diminished.
Now were to be seen officers and soldiers not "trailing the puissant pike"
but felling the ponderous gum-tree, or breaking the stubborn clod.
And though "the broad falchion did not in a ploughshare end" the possession
of a spade, a wheelbarrow, or a dunghill, was more coveted than the most
refulgent arms in which heroism ever dazzled. Those hours, which
in other countries are devoted to martial acquirements, were here consumed
in the labours of the sawpit, the forge and the quarry*.
[* "The Swedish prisoners, taken at the battle of Pultowa,
were transported by the Czar Peter to the most remote parts of
Siberia, with a view to civilize the natives of the country, and
teach them the arts the Swedes possessed. In this hopeless situation,
all traces of discipline and subordination, between the different
ranks, were quickly obliterated. The soldiers, who were husbandmen
and artificers, found out their superiority, and assumed it:
the officers became their servants." VOLTAIRE.]
Of the two ships of war, the 'Sirius' and 'Supply', the latter was incessantly
employed in transporting troops, convicts, and stores, to Norfolk Island;
and the 'Sirius' in preparing for a voyage to some port, where provisions
for our use might be purchased, the expected supply from England not
having arrived. It is but justice to the officers and men of both these ships
to add, that, on all occasions, they fully shared every hardship and fatigue
with those on shore.
On the convicts the burden fell yet heavier: necessity compelled us to allot
to them the most slavish and laborious employments. Those operations,
which in other countries are performed by the brute creation,
were here effected by the exertions of men: but this ought not to be
considered a grievance; because they had always been taught to expect it,
as the inevitable consequence of their offences against society.
Severity was rarely exercised on them; and justice was administered
without partiality or discrimination. Their ration of provisions,
except in being debarred from an allowance of spirits, was equal to that
which the marines received. Under these circumstances I record with pleasure,
that they behaved better than had been predicted of them--to have expected
sudden and complete reformation of conduct, were romantic and chimerical.
Our cultivation of the land was yet in its infancy. We had hitherto tried
only the country contiguous to Sydney. Here the governor had established
a government-farm; at the head of which a competent person of his own household
was placed, with convicts to work under him. Almost the whole of the officers
likewise accepted of small tracts of ground, for the purpose of raising grain
and vegetables: but experience proved to us, that the soil would produce
neither without manure; and as this was not to be procured, our vigour
soon slackened; and most of the farms (among which was the one belonging
to government) were successively abandoned.
With the natives we were very little more acquainted than on our arrival
in the country. Our intercourse with them was neither frequent or cordial.
They seemed studiously to avoid us, either from fear, jealousy, or hatred.
When they met with unarmed stragglers, they sometimes killed, and sometimes
wounded them. I confess that, in common with many others, I was inclined
to attribute this conduct, to a spirit of malignant levity. But a farther
acquaintance with them, founded on several instances of their humanity
and generosity, which shall be noticed in their proper places, has entirely
reversed my opinion; and led me to conclude, that the unprovoked outrages
committed upon them, by unprincipled individuals among us, caused the evils
we had experienced. To prevent them from being plundered of
their fishing-tackle and weapons of war, a proclamation was issued,
forbidding their sale among us; but it was not attended with the good effect
which was hoped for from it.
During this period, notwithstanding the want of fresh provisions
and vegetables, and almost constant exposure to the vicissitudes
of a variable climate, disease rarely attacked us; and the number of deaths,
was too inconsiderable to deserve mention.
Norfolk Island had been taken possession of, by a party detached for that
purpose, early after our arrival. Few accounts of it had yet reached us.
And here I beg leave to observe, that as I can speak of this island
only from the relations of others, never having myself been there,
I shall in every part of this work mention it as sparingly as possible.
And this more especially, as it seems probable, that some of those gentlemen,
who from accurate knowledge, and long residence on it, are qualified to write
its history, will oblige the world with such a publication.
Transactions of the Colony from the sailing of the First Fleet in July, 1788,
to the Close of that Year.
It was impossible to behold without emotion the departure of the ships.
On their speedy arrival in England perhaps hinged our fate; by hastening
our supplies to us.
On the 20th of July, the 'Supply' sailed for Norfolk Island, and returned to us
on the 26th of August; bringing no material news, except that the soil
was found to suit grain, and other seeds, which had been sown in it, and that
a species of flax-plant was discovered to grow spontaneously on the island.
A survey of the harbour of Port Jackson was now undertaken, in order to compute
the number of canoes, and inhabitants, which it might contain:
sixty-seven canoes, and 147 people were counted. No estimate, however,
of even tolerable accuracy, can be drawn from so imperfect a datum;
though it was perhaps the best in our power to acquire.
In July and August, we experienced more inclement tempestuous weather
than had been observed at any former period of equal duration. And yet
it deserves to be remarked, in honour of the climate, that, although our number
of people exceeded 900, not a single death happened in the latter month.
The dread of want in a country destitute of natural resource is ever
peculiarly terrible. We had long turned our eyes with impatience towards
the sea, cheered by the hope of seeing supplies from England approach.
But none arriving, on the 2d of October the 'Sirius' sailed for the
Cape of Good Hope, with directions to purchase provisions there, for the use
of our garrison.
A new settlement, named by the governor Rose Hill, 16 miles inland,
was established on the 3d of November, the soil here being judged better
than that around Sydney. A small redoubt was thrown up, and a captain's
detachment posted in it, to protect the convicts who were employed
to cultivate the ground.
The two last of the transports left us for England on the 19th of November,
intending to make their passage by Cape Horn. There now remained with us
only the 'Supply'. Sequestered and cut off as we were from the rest
of civilized nature, their absence carried the effect of desolation.
About this time a convict, of the name of Daly, was hanged, for a burglary:
this culprit, who was a notorious thief and impostor, was the author
of a discovery of a gold mine, a few months before: a composition resembling
ore mingled with earth, which he pretended to have brought from it,
he produced. After a number of attendant circumstances, too ludicrous
and contemptible to relate, which befell a party, who were sent
under his guidance to explore this second Peru, he at last confessed,
that he had broken up an old pair of buckles, and mixed the pieces with sand
and stone; and on assaying the composition, the brass was detected.
The fate of this fellow I should not deem worth recording, did it not lead
to the following observation, that the utmost circumspection is necessary
to prevent imposition, in those who give accounts of what they see
in unknown countries. We found the convicts particularly happy in fertility
of invention, and exaggerated descriptions. Hence large fresh water rivers,
valuable ores, and quarries of limestone, chalk, and marble, were daily
proclaimed soon after we had landed. At first we hearkened with avidity
to such accounts; but perpetual disappointments taught us to listen
with caution, and to believe from demonstration only.
Unabated animosity continued to prevail between the natives and us:
n addition to former losses, a soldier and several convicts suddenly
disappeared, and were never afterwards heard of. Three convicts were
also wounded, and one killed by them, near Botany Bay: similar to
the vindictive spirit which Mr. Cook found to exist among their countrymen
at Endeavour River, they more than once attempted to set fire to
combustible matter, in order to annoy us. Early on the morning of the
18th of December, word was brought that they were assembled in force,
near the brick-kilns, which stand but a mile from the town of Sydney.
The terror of those who brought the first intelligence magnified the number
to two thousand; a second messenger diminished it to four hundred.
A detachment, under the command of an officer was ordered to march immediately,
and reconnoitre them. The officer soon returned, and reported,
that about fifty Indians had appeared at the brick-kilns; but upon the
convicts, who were at work there, pointing their spades and shovels at them,
in the manner of guns, they had fled into the woods.
Tired of this state of petty warfare and endless uncertainty, the governor
at length determined to adopt a decisive measure, by capturing some of them,
and retaining them by force; which we supposed would either inflame the rest
to signal vengeance, in which case we should know the worst, and provide
accordingly: or else it would induce an intercourse, by the report
which our prisoners would make of the mildness and indulgence with which
we used them. And farther, it promised to unveil the cause of their
mysterious conduct, by putting us in possession of their reasons for harassing
and destroying our people, in the manner I have related. Boats were
accordingly ordered to be got ready, and every preparation made,
which could lead to the attainment of our object.
But as this subject deserves to be particularly detailed, I shall,
notwithstanding its being just within the period of time which this chapter
professes to comprise, allot it a separate place, in the beginning of the next.
Nor can I close this part of my work without congratulating both the reader
and the author. New matter now presents itself. A considerable part
of the foregoing chapters had been related before, either by others or myself.
I was however, unavoidably compelled to insert it, in order to preserve
unbroken that chain of detail, and perspicuity of arrangement, at which books
professing to convey information should especially aim.
Transactions of the Colony, from the Commencement of the Year 1789,
until the End of March.
Pursuant to his resolution, the governor on the 31st of December sent
two boats, under the command of Lieutenant Ball of the 'Supply', and
Lieutenant George Johnston of the marines, down the harbour, with directions
to those officers to seize and carry off some of the natives. The boats
proceeded to Manly Cove, where several Indians were seen standing on the beach,
who were enticed by courteous behaviour and a few presents to enter
into conversation. A proper opportunity being presented, our people rushed in
among them, and seized two men: the rest fled; but the cries of the captives
soon brought them back, with many others, to their rescue: and so desperate
were their struggles, that, in spite of every effort on our side, only one
of them was secured; the other effected his escape. The boats put off
without delay; and an attack from the shore instantly commenced:
they threw spears, stones, firebrands, and whatever else presented itself,
at the boats; nor did they retreat, agreeable to their former custom,
until many musquets were fired over them.
The prisoner was now fastened by ropes to the thwarts of the boat; and when
he saw himself irretrievably disparted from his countrymen, set up
the most piercing and lamentable cries of distress. His grief, however,
soon diminished: he accepted and ate of some broiled fish
which was given to him, and sullenly submitted to his destiny.
When the news of his arrival at Sydney was announced, I went with every other
person to see him: he appeared to be about thirty years old, not tall,
but robustly made; and of a countenance which, under happier circumstances,
I thought would display manliness and sensibility; his agitation was excessive,
and the clamourous crowds who flocked around him did not contribute
to lessen it. Curiosity and observation seemed, nevertheless, not to have
wholly deserted him; he shewed the effect of novelty upon ignorance;
he wondered at all he saw: though broken and interrupted with dismay,
his voice was soft and musical, when its natural tone could be heard;
and he readily pronounced with tolerable accuracy the names of things
which were taught him. To our ladies he quickly became extraordinarily
courteous, a sure sign that his terror was wearing off.
Every blandishment was used to soothe him, and it had its effect.
As he was entering the governor's house, some one touched a small bell
which hung over the door: he started with horror and astonishment;
but in a moment after was reconciled to the noise, and laughed at the cause
of his perturbation. When pictures were shown to him, he knew directly
those which represented the human figure: among others, a very large handsome
print of her royal highness the Dutchess of Cumberland being produced,
he called out 'woman', a name by which we had just before taught him to call
the female convicts. Plates of birds and beasts were also laid before him;
and many people were led to believe, that such as he spoke about and pointed to
were known to him. But this must have been an erroneous conjecture,
for the elephant, rhinoceros, and several others, which we must have discovered
did they exist in the country, were of the number. Again, on the other hand,
those he did not point out, were equally unknown to him.
His curiosity here being satiated, we took him to a large brick house,
which was building for the governor's residence: being about to enter,
he cast up his eyes, and seeing some people leaning out of a window
on the first story, he exclaimed aloud, and testified the most extravagant
surprise. Nothing here was observed to fix his attention so strongly
as some tame fowls, who were feeding near him: our dogs also he
particularly noticed; but seemed more fearful than fond of them.
He dined at a side-table at the governor's; and ate heartily of fish and ducks,
which he first cooled. Bread and salt meat he smelled at, but would not taste:
all our liquors he treated in the same manner, and could drink nothing
but water. On being shown that he was not to wipe his hands on the chair
which he sat upon, he used a towel which was gave to him,
with great cleanliness and decency.
In the afternoon his hair was closely cut, his head combed, and his beard
shaved; but he would not submit to these operations until he had seen them
performed on another person, when he readily acquiesced. His hair,
as might be supposed, was filled with vermin, whose destruction seemed
to afford him great triumph; nay, either revenge, or pleasure, prompted him
to eat them! but on our expressing disgust and abhorrence he left it off.
To this succeeded his immersion in a tub of water and soap, where he was
completely washed and scrubbed from head to foot; after which a shirt,
a jacket, and a pair of trousers, were put upon him. Some part
of this ablution I had the honour to perform, in order that I might ascertain
the real colour of the skin of these people. My observation then was
(and it has since been confirmed in a thousand other instances) that they are
as black as the lighter cast of the African negroes.
Many unsuccessful attempts were made to learn his name; the governor therefore
called him Manly, from the cove in which he was captured: this cove
had received its name from the manly undaunted behaviour of a party of natives
seen there, on our taking possession of the country.
To prevent his escape, a handcuff with a rope attached to it, was fastened
around his left wrist, which at first highly delighted him; he called it
'bengadee' (or ornament), but his delight changed to rage and hatred
when he discovered its use. His supper he cooked himself: some fish
were given to him for this purpose, which, without any previous preparation
whatever, he threw carelessly on the fire, and when they became warm
took them up, and first rubbed off the scales, peeled the outside
with his teeth, and ate it; afterwards he gutted them, and laying them again
on the fire, completed the dressing, and ate them.
A convict was selected to sleep with him, and to attend him wherever
he might go. When he went with his keeper into his apartment he appeared
very restless and uneasy while a light was kept in; but on its extinction,
he immediately lay down and composed himself.
Sullenness and dejection strongly marked his countenance on the following
morning; to amuse him, he was taken around the camp, and to the observatory:
casting his eyes to the opposite shore from the point where he stood,
and seeing the smoke of fire lighted by his countrymen, he looked earnestly
at it, and sighing deeply two or three times, uttered the word
His loss of spirits had not, however, the effect of impairing his appetite;
eight fish, each weighing about a pound, constituted his breakfast,
which he dressed as before. When he had finished his repast,
he turned his back to the fire in a musing posture, and crept so close to it,
that his shirt was caught by the flame; luckily his keeper soon
extinguished it; but he was so terrified at the accident, that he was
with difficulty persuaded to put on a second.
1st. January, 1789. To-day being new-year's-day, most of the officers
were invited to the governor's table: Manly dined heartily on fish
and roasted pork; he was seated on a chest near a window, out of which,
when he had done eating, he would have thrown his plate, had he not
been prevented: during dinner-time a band of music played in an adjoining
apartment; and after the cloth was removed, one of the company sang
in a very soft and superior style; but the powers of melody were lost on Manly,
which disappointed our expectations, as he had before shown pleasure
and readiness in imitating our tunes. Stretched out on his chest,
and putting his hat under his head, he fell asleep.
To convince his countrymen that he had received no injury from us,
the governor took him in a boat down the harbour, that they might see
and converse with him: when the boat arrived, and lay at a little distance
from the beach, several Indians who had retired at her approach,
on seeing Manly, returned: he was greatly affected, and shed tears.
At length they began to converse. Our ignorance of the language prevented us
from knowing much of what passed; it was, however, easily understood
that his friends asked him why he did not jump overboard, and rejoin them.
He only sighed, and pointed to the fetter on his leg, by which he was bound.
In going down the harbour he had described the names by which they distinguish
its numerous creeks and headlands: he was now often heard to repeat
that of 'Weerong' (Sydney Cove), which was doubtless to inform his countrymen
of the place of his captivity; and perhaps invite them to rescue him.
By this time his gloom was chased away, and he parted from his friends
without testifying reluctance. His vivacity and good humour continued
all the evening, and produced so good an effect on his appetite,
that he ate for supper two kangaroo rats, each of the size of
a moderate rabbit, and in addition not less than three pounds of fish.
Two days after he was taken on a similar excursion; but to our surprise
the natives kept aloof, and would neither approach the shore, or discourse
with their countryman: we could get no explanation of this difficulty,
which seemed to affect us more than it did him. Uncourteous as they were,
he performed to them an act of attentive benevolence; seeing a basket
made of bark, used by them to carry water, he conveyed into it two hawks
and another bird, which the people in the boat had shot, and carefully
covering them over, left them as a present to his old friends. But indeed
the gentleness and humanity of his disposition frequently displayed themselves:
when our children, stimulated by wanton curiosity, used to flock around him,
he never failed to fondle them, and, if he were eating at the time,
constantly offered them the choicest part of his fare.
February, 1789. His reserve, from want of confidence in us, continued
gradually to wear away: he told us his name, and Manly gave place
to Arabanoo. Bread he began to relish; and tea he drank with avidity:
strong liquors he would never taste, turning from them with disgust
and abhorrence. Our dogs and cats had ceased to be objects of fear,
and were become his greatest pets, and constant companions at table.
One of our chief amusements, after the cloth was removed, was to make him
repeat the names of things in his language, which he never hesitated to do
with the utmost alacrity, correcting our pronunciation when erroneous.
Much information relating to the customs and manners of his country
was also gained from him: but as this subject will be separately and amply
treated, I shall not anticipate myself by partially touching on it here.
On the 2nd of February died Captain John Shea of the marines,
after a lingering illness: he was interred on the following day,
with the customary military honours, amidst the regret of all who knew him.
In consequence of his decease, appointments for the promotion of the oldest
officer of each subordinate rank were signed by the major commandant
of the marine battalion, until the pleasure of the lords of the admiralty
should be notified.*
[*These appointments were confirmed by the admiralty.]
On the 17th of February the 'Supply' again sailed for Norfolk Island.
The governor went down the harbour in her, and carried Arabanoo with him,
who was observed to go on board with distrust and reluctance; when he found
she was under sail, every effort was tried without success to exhilarate him;
at length, an opportunity being presented, he plunged overboard, and struck out
for the nearest shore: believing that those who were left behind would fire
at him, he attempted to dive, at which he was known to be very expert:
but this was attended with a difficulty which he had not foreseen:
his clothes proved so buoyant, that he was unable to get more than his head
under water: a boat was immediately dispatched after him, and picked him up,
though not without struggles and resistance on his side. When brought
on board, he appeared neither afraid or ashamed of what he had done,
but sat apart, melancholy and dispirited, and continued so until he saw
the governor and his other friends descend into a boat, and heard himself
called upon to accompany them: he sprang forward, and his cheerfulness
and alacrity of temper immediately returned, and lasted during the remainder
of the day. The dread of being carried away, on an element of whose boundary
he could form no conception, joined to the uncertainty of our intention
towards him, unquestionably caused him to act as he did.
One of the principal effects which we had supposed the seizure and captivity
of Arabanoo would produce, seemed yet at as great a distance as ever;
the natives neither manifested signs of increased hostility on his account,
or attempted to ask any explanation of our conduct through the medium
of their countryman who was in our possession, and who they knew was treated
with no farther harshness than in being detained among us. Their forbearance
of open and determined attack upon can be accounted for only by recollecting
their knowledge of our numbers, and their dread of our fire-arms:
that they wanted not sufficient provocation to do so, will appear from what
I am about to relate.
March, 1789. Sixteen convicts left their work at the brick-kilns
without leave, and marched to Botany Bay, with a design to attack the natives,
and to plunder them of their fishing-tackle and spears: they had armed
themselves with their working tools and large clubs. When they arrived
near the bay, a body of Indians, who had probably seen them set out,
and had penetrated their intention from experience, suddenly fell upon them.
Our heroes were immediately routed, and separately endeavoured to effect
their escape by any means which were left. In their flight one was killed,
and seven were wounded, for the most part very severely: those who had
the good fortune to outstrip their comrades and arrive in camp, first gave
the alarm; and a detachment of marines, under an officer, was ordered
to march to their relief. The officer arrived too late to repel the Indians;
but he brought in the body of the man that was killed, and put an end
to the pursuit. The governor was justly incensed at what had happened,
and instituted the most rigorous scrutiny into the cause which had produced it.
At first the convicts were unanimous in affirming, that they were
quietly picking sweet-tea*, when they were without provocation assaulted
by the natives, with whom they had no wish to quarrel. Some of them, however,
more irresolute than the rest, at last disclosed the purpose for which
the expedition had been undertaken; and the whole were ordered to be
severely flogged: Arabanoo was present at the infliction of the punishment;
and was made to comprehend the cause and the necessity of it; but he displayed
on the occasion symptoms of disgust and terror only.
[*A vegetable creeper found growing on the rocks, which yields,
on infusion in hot water, a sweet astringent taste, whence it derives
its name: to its virtues the healthy state of the soldiery and convicts
must be greatly attributed. It was drank universally.]
On the 24th instant the 'Supply' arrived from Norfolk Island,
and Lord Howe Island, bringing from the latter place three turtles.
An awful and terrible example of justice took place towards the close
of this month, which I record with regret, but which it would be disingenuous
to suppress. Six marines, the flower of our battalion, were hanged
by the public executioner, on the sentence of a criminal court,
composed entirely of their own officers, for having at various times
robbed the public stores of flour, meat, spirits, tobacco,
and many other articles.
Transactions of the Colony in April and May, 1789.
An extraordinary calamity was now observed among the natives. Repeated
accounts brought by our boats of finding bodies of the Indians in all the coves
and inlets of the harbour, caused the gentlemen of our hospital to procure
some of them for the purposes of examination and anatomy. On inspection,
it appeared that all the parties had died a natural death: pustules,
similar to those occasioned by the small pox, were thickly spread
on the bodies; but how a disease, to which our former observations had led us
to suppose them strangers, could at once have introduced itself,
and have spread so widely, seemed inexplicable.* Whatever might be the cause,
the existence of the malady could no longer be doubted. Intelligence
was brought that an Indian family lay sick in a neighbouring cove:
the governor, attended by Arabanoo, and a surgeon, went in a boat immediately
to the spot. Here they found an old man stretched before a few lighted sticks,
and a boy of nine or ten years old pouring water on his head, from a shell
which he held in his hand: near them lay a female child dead,
and a little farther off, its unfortunate mother: the body of the woman
shewed that famine, superadded to disease, had occasioned her death:
eruptions covered the poor boy from head to foot; and the old man was
so reduced, that he was with difficulty got into the boat. Their situation
rendered them incapable of escape, and they quietly submitted to be led away.
Arabanoo, contrary to his usual character, seemed at first unwilling
to render them any assistance; but his shyness soon wore off, and he treated
them with the kindest attention. Nor would he leave the place until
he had buried the corpse of the child: that of the woman he did not see
from its situation; and as his countrymen did not point it out,
the governor ordered that it should not be shown to him. He scooped a grave
in the sand with his hands, of no peculiarity of shape, which he lined
completely with grass, and put the body into it, covering it also with grass;
and then he filled up the hole, and raised over it a small mound with the earth
which had been removed. Here the ceremony ended, unaccompanied
by any invocation to a superior being, or any attendant circumstance
whence an inference of their religious opinions could be deduced.
[*No solution of this difficulty had been given when I left the country,
in December, 1791. I can, therefore, only propose queries for the ingenuity
of others to exercise itself upon: is it a disease indigenous to the country?
Did the French ships under Monsieur de Peyrouse introduce it? Let it be
remembered that they had now been departed more than a year; and we had never
heard of its existence on board of them. Had it travelled across the continent
from its western shore, where Dampier and other European voyagers
had formerly landed? Was it introduced by Mr. Cook? Did we give it birth
here? No person among us had been afflicted with the disorder
since we had quitted the Cape of Good Hope, seventeen months before.
It is true, that our surgeons had brought out variolous matter in bottles;
but to infer that it was produced from this cause were a supposition
so wild as to be unworthy of consideration.]
An uninhabited house, near the hospital, was allotted for their reception,
and a cradle prepared for each of them. By the encouragement of Arabanoo,
who assured them of protection, and the soothing behaviour of our medical
gentlemen, they became at once reconciled to us, and looked happy and grateful
at the change of their situation. Sickness and hunger had, however,
so much exhausted the old man, that little hope was entertained
of his recovery. As he pointed frequently to his throat, at the instance
of Arabanoo, he tried to wash it with a gargle which was given to him;
but the obstructed, tender state of the part rendered it impracticable.
'Bado, bado' (water), was his cry: when brought to him, he drank largely
at intervals of it. He was equally importunate for fire, being seized
with shivering fits; and one was kindled. Fish were produced, to tempt him
to eat; but he turned away his head, with signs of loathing.
Nanbaree (the boy), on the contrary, no sooner saw them than he leaped
from his cradle, and eagerly seizing them, began to cook them. A warm bath
being prepared, they were immersed in it; and after being thoroughly cleansed,
they had clean shirts put on them, and were again laid in bed.
The old man lived but a few hours. He bore the pangs of dissolution
with patient composure; and though he was sensible to the last moment,
expired almost without a groan. Nanbaree appeared quite unmoved at the event;
and surveyed the corpse of his father without emotion, simply exclaiming,
'boee' (dead). This surprised us; as the tenderness and anxiety of the old man
about the boy had been very moving. Although barely able to raise his head,
while so much strength was left to him, he kept looking into
his child's cradle; he patted him gently on the bosom; and, with dying eyes,
seemed to recommend him to our humanity and protection. Nanbaree was adopted
by Mr. White, surgeon-general of the settlement, and became henceforth
one of his family.
Arabanoo had no sooner heard of the death of his countryman, than he hastened
to inter him. I was present at the ceremony, in company with the governor,
captain Ball, and two or three other persons. It differed, by the accounts
of those who were present at the funeral of the girl, in no respect
from what had passed there in the morning, except that the grave was dug
by a convict. But I was informed, that when intelligence of the death
reached Arabanoo, he expressed himself with doubt whether he should bury,
or burn the body; and seemed solicitous to ascertain which ceremony
would be most gratifying to the governor.
Indeed, Arabanoo's behaviour, during the whole of the transactions of this day,
was so strongly marked by affection to his countryman, and by confidence in us,
that the governor resolved to free him from all farther restraint,
and at once to trust to his generosity, and the impression which our treatment
of him might have made, for his future residence among us: the fetter
was accordingly taken off his leg.
In the evening, captain Ball and I crossed the harbour, and buried the corpse
of the woman before mentioned.
Distress continued to drive them in upon us. Two more natives, one of them
a young man, and the other his sister, a girl of fourteen years old,
were brought in by the governor's boat, in a most deplorable state
of wretchedness from the smallpox. The sympathy and affection of Arabanoo,
which had appeared languid in the instance of Nanbaree and his father,
here manifested themselves immediately. We conjectured that a difference
of the tribes to which they belonged might cause the preference; but nothing
afterwards happened to strengthen or confirm such a supposition.
The young man died at the end of three days: the girl recovered,
and was received as an inmate, with great kindness, in the family
of Mrs Johnson, the clergyman's wife. Her name was Booron; but from
our mistake of pronunciation she acquired that of Abaroo, by which
she was generally known, and by which she will always be called in this work.
She shewed, at the death of her brother more feeling than Nanbaree
had witnessed for the loss of his father. When she found him dying,
she crept to his side, and lay by him until forced by the cold to retire.
No exclamation, or other sign of grief, however, escaped her
for what had happened.
May 1789. At sunset, on the evening of the 2d instant, the arrival
the 'Sirius', Captain Hunter, from the Cape of Good Hope, was proclaimed,
and diffused universal joy and congratulation. The day of famine was at least
procrastinated by the supply of flour and salt provisions she brought us.
The 'Sirius' had made her passage to the Cape of Good Hope, by the route of
Cape Horn, in exactly thirteen weeks. Her highest latitude was
57 degrees 10 minutes south, where the weather proved intolerably cold. Ice,
in great quantity, was seen for many days; and in the middle of December
(which is correspondent to the middle of June, in our hemisphere),
water froze in open casks upon deck, in the moderate latitude of 44 degrees.
They were very kindly treated by the Dutch governor, and amply supplied
by the merchants at the Cape, where they remained seven weeks. Their passage
back was effected by Van Diemen's Land, near which, and close under
Tasman's Head, they were in the utmost peril of being wrecked.
In this long run, which had extended round the circle, they had always
determined their longitude, to the greatest nicety, by distances taken
between the sun and moon, or between the moon and a star. But it falls
to the lot of very few ships to possess such indefatigable and accurate
observers as Captain Hunter, and Mr. (now Captain) Bradley,
the first lieutenant of the 'Sirius'.
I feel assured, that I have no reader who will not join in regretting
the premature loss of Arabanoo, who died of the smallpox on the 18th instant,
after languishing in it six days. From some imperfect marks and indents
on his face, we were inclined to believe that he had passed this dreaded
disorder. Even when the first symptoms of sickness seized him,
we continued willing to hope that they proceeded from a different cause.
But at length the disease burst forth with irresistible fury.
It were superfluous to say, that nothing which medical skill and unremitting
attention could perform, were left unexerted to mitigate his sufferings,
and prolong a life, which humanity and affectionate concern towards
his sick compatriots, unfortunately shortened.
During his sickness he reposed entire confidence in us. Although a stranger
to medicine, and nauseating the taste of it, he swallowed with patient
submission innumerable drugs,* which the hope of relief induced us
to administer to him. The governor, who particularly regarded him, caused him
to be buried in his own garden, and attended the funeral in person.
[*Very different had been his conduct on a former occasion of a similar kind.
Soon after he was brought among us he was seized with a diarrhoea,
for which he could by no persuasion be induced to swallow any
of our prescriptions. After many ineffectual trials to deceive,
or overcome him, it was at length determined to let him pursue his own course,
and to watch if he should apply for relief to any of the productions
of the country. He was in consequence observed to dig fern-root,
and to chew it. Whether the disorder had passed its crisis, or whether
the fern-root effected a cure, I know not; but it is certain that he became
**The regard was reciprocal. His excellency had been ill but a short time
before, when Arabanoo had testified the utmost solicitude for his case
and recovery. It is probable that he acquired, on this occasion,
just notions of the benefit to be derived from medical assistance.
A doctor is, among them, a person of consequence. It is certain that he
latterly estimated our professional gentlemen very highly.]
The character of Arabanoo, as far as we had developed it, was distinguished
by a portion of gravity and steadiness, which our subsequent acquaintance
with his countrymen by no means led us to conclude a national characteristic.
In that daring, enterprising frame of mind, which, when combined with genius,
constitutes the leader of a horde of savages, or the ruler of a people,
boasting the power of discrimination and the resistance of ambition,
he was certainly surpassed by some of his successors, who afterwards
lived among us. His countenance was thoughtful, but not animated:
his fidelity and gratitude, particularly to his friend the governor,
were constant and undeviating, and deserve to be recorded.
Although of a gentle and placable temper, we early discovered that he was
impatient of indignity, and allowed of no superiority on our part.
He knew that he was in our power; but the independence of his mind
never forsook him. If the slightest insult were offered to him,
he would return it with interest. At retaliation of merriment he was
often happy; and frequently turned the laugh against his antagonist.
He did not want docility; but either from the difficulty of acquiring
our language, from the unskillfulness of his teachers, or from some
natural defect, his progress in learning it was not equal to what
we had expected. For the last three or four weeks of his life, hardly any
restraint was laid upon his inclinations: so that had he meditated escape,
he might easily have effected it. He was, perhaps, the only native
who was ever attached to us from choice; and who did not prefer
a precarious subsistence among wilds and precipices, to the comforts
of a civilized system.
By his death, the scheme which had invited his capture was utterly defeated.
Of five natives who had been brought among us, three had perished from a cause
which, though unavoidable, it was impossible to explain to a people,
who would condescend to enter into no intercourse with us. The same
suspicious dread of our approach, and the same scenes of vengeance acted on
unfortunate stragglers, continued to prevail.
Transactions of the Colony until the Close of the Year 1789.
The anniversary of his majesty's birth-day was celebrated, as heretofore,
at the government-house, with loyal festivity. In the evening, the play
of 'The Recruiting Officer' was performed by a party of convicts,
and honoured by the presence of his excellency, and the officers
of the garrison. That every opportunity of escape from the dreariness
and dejection of our situation should be eagerly embraced, will not
be wondered at. The exhilarating effect of a splendid theatre is well known:
and I am not ashamed to confess, that the proper distribution of three or four
yards of stained paper, and a dozen farthing candles stuck around the mud walls
of a convict-hut, failed not to diffuse general complacency on the countenances
of sixty persons, of various descriptions, who were assembled to applaud
the representation. Some of the actors acquitted themselves with great spirit,
and received the praises of the audience: a prologue and an epilogue,
written by one of the performers, were also spoken on the occasion; which,
although not worth inserting here, contained some tolerable allusions
to the situation of the parties, and the novelty of a stage-representation
in New South Wales.
Broken Bay, which was supposed to be completely explored, became again
an object of research. On the sixth instant, the governor, accompanied by
a large party in two boats, proceeded thither. Here they again wandered
over piles of mis-shapen desolation, contemplating scenes of wild solitude,
whose unvarying appearance renders them incapable of affording either novelty
or gratification. But when they had given over the hope of farther discovery,
by pursuing the windings of an inlet, which, from its appearance,
was supposed to be a short creek, they suddenly found themselves
at the entrance of a fresh water river, up which they proceeded twenty miles,
in a westerly direction; and would have farther prosecuted their research,
had not a failure of provisions obliged them to return. This river
they described to be of considerable breadth, and of great depth; but its banks
had hitherto presented nothing better than a counterpart of the rocks
and precipices which surround Broken Bay.
June, 1789. A second expedition, to ascertain its course, was undertaken
by his excellency, who now penetrated (measuring by the bed of the river)
between 60 and 70 miles, when the farther progress of the boats was stopped
by a fall. The water in every part was found to be fresh and good.
Of the adjoining country, the opinions of those who had inspected it
(of which number I was not) were so various, that I shall decline
to record them. Some saw a rich and beautiful country; and others were
so unfortunate as to discover little else than large tracts of low land,
covered with reeds, and rank with the inundations of the stream, by which
they had been recently covered. All parties, however, agreed, that the rocky,
impenetrable country, seen on the first excursion, had ended nearly about
the place whence the boats had then turned back. Close to the fall
stands a very beautiful hill, which our adventurers mounted, and enjoyed
from it an extensive prospect. Potatoes, maize, and garden seeds
of various kinds were put into the earth, by the governor's order,
on different parts of Richmond-hill, which was announced to be its name.
The latitude of Richmond-hill, as observed by captain Hunter, was settled
at 33 degrees 36 minutes south.
Here also the river received the name of Hawkesbury, in honour of
the noble lord who bears that title.
Natives were found on the banks in several parts, many of whom were labouring
under the smallpox. They did not attempt to commit hostilities
against the boats; but on the contrary shewed every sign of welcome
and friendship to the strangers.
At this period, I was unluckily invested with the command of the outpost
at Rose Hill, which prevented me from being in the list of discoverers
of the Hawkesbury. Stimulated, however, by a desire of acquiring
a further knowledge of the country, on the 26th instant, accompanied by
Mr. Arndell, assistant surgeon of the settlement, Mr. Lowes, surgeon's mate
of the 'Sirius', two marines, and a convict, I left the redoubt at day-break,
pointing our march to a hill, distant five miles, in a westerly or inland
direction, which commands a view of the great chain of mountains,
called Carmarthen hills, extending from north to south farther than
the eye can reach. Here we paused, surveying "the wild abyss;
pondering our voyage." Before us lay the trackless immeasurable desert,
in awful silence. At length, after consultation, we determined to steer
west and by north, by compass, the make of the land in that quarter indicating
the existence of a river. We continued to march all day through a country
untrodden before by an European foot. Save that a melancholy crow now and then
flew croaking over head, or a kangaroo was seen to bound at a distance,
the picture of solitude was complete and undisturbed. At four o'clock
in the afternoon we halted near a small pond of water, where we took up
our residence for the night, lighted a fire, and prepared to cook our supper:
that was, to broil over a couple of ramrods a few slices of salt pork,
and a crow which we had shot.
At daylight we renewed our peregrination; and in an hour after we found
ourselves on the banks of a river, nearly as broad as the Thames at Putney,
and apparently of great depth, the current running very slowly in
a northerly direction. Vast flocks of wild ducks were swimming in the stream;
but after being once fired at, they grew so shy that we could not get near them
a second time. Nothing is more certain than that the sound of a gun
had never before been heard within many miles of this spot.
We proceeded upwards, by a slow pace, through reeds, thickets, and a thousand
other obstacles, which impeded our progress, over coarse sandy ground,
which had been recently inundated, though full forty feet above
the present level of the river. Traces of the natives appeared at every step,
sometimes in their hunting-huts, which consist of nothing more than
a large piece of bark, bent in the middle, and open at both ends, exactly
resembling two cards, set up to form an acute angle; sometimes in marks
on trees which they had climbed; or in squirrel-traps*; or, which surprised us
more, from being new, in decoys for the purpose of ensnaring birds.
These are formed of underwood and reeds, long and narrow, shaped like
a mound raised over a grave; with a small aperture at one end for admission
of the prey; and a grate made of sticks at the other: the bird enters
at the aperture, seeing before him the light of the grate, between the bars
of which, he vainly endeavours to thrust himself, until taken. Most of these
decoys were full of feathers, chiefly those of quails, which shewed
their utility. We also met with two old damaged canoes hauled up on the beach,
which differed in no wise from those found on the sea coast.
[*A squirrel-trap is a cavity of considerable depth, formed by art,
in the body of a tree. When the Indians in their hunting parties set fire
to the surrounding country (which is a very common custom) the squirrels,
opossums, and other animals, who live in trees, flee for refuge into these
holes, whence they are easily dislodged and taken. The natives always
pitch on a part of a tree for this purpose, which has been perforated
by a worm, which indicates that the wood is in an unsound state, and will
readily yield to their efforts. If the rudeness and imperfection of the tools
with which they work be considered, it must be confessed to be an operation
of great toil and difficulty.]
Having remained out three days, we returned to our quarters at Rose-hill,
with the pleasing intelligence of our discovery. The country we had passed
through we found tolerably plain, and little encumbered with underwood,
except near the river side. It is entirely covered with the same sorts
of trees as grow near Sydney; and in some places grass springs up luxuriantly;
other places are quite bare of it. The soil is various: in many parts
a stiff and clay, covered with small pebbles; in other places, of a soft
loamy nature: but invariably, in every part near the river, it is
a coarse sterile sand. Our observations on it (particularly mine,
from carrying the compass by which we steered) were not so numerous as might
have been wished. But, certainly, if the qualities of it be such as to deserve
future cultivation, no impediment of surface, but that of cutting down
and burning the trees, exists, to prevent its being tilled.
To this river the governor gave the name of Nepean. The distance of the part
of the river which we first hit upon from the sea coast, is about 39 miles,
in a direct line almost due west.
A survey of Botany Bay took place in September. I was of the party,
with several others officers. We continued nine days in the bay,
during which time, the relative position of every part of it, to the extent
of more than thirty miles, following the windings of the shore,
was ascertained, and laid down on paper, by captain Hunter.
So complete an opportunity of forming a judgment, enables me to speak
decisively of a place, which has often engaged conversation and excited
reflection. Variety of opinions here disappeared. I shall, therefore,
transcribe literally what I wrote in my journal, on my return from
the expedition. "We were unanimously of opinion, that had not the nautical
part of Mr. Cook's description, in which we include the latitude and longitude
of the bay, been so accurately laid down, there would exist the utmost reason
to believe, that those who have described the contiguous country, had never
seen it. On the sides of the harbour, a line of sea coast more than
thirty miles long, we did not find 200 acres which could be cultivated."
September, 1789. But all our attention was not directed to explore inlets,
and toll for discovery. Our internal tranquillity was still more important.
To repress the inroads of depredation; and to secure to honest industry
the reward of its labour, had become matter of the most serious consideration;
hardly a night passing without the commission of robbery. Many expedients
were devised; and the governor at length determined to select from
the convicts, a certain number of persons, who were meant to be of the fairest
character, for the purpose of being formed into a nightly-watch,
for the preservation of public and private property, under the following
regulations, which, as the first system of police in a colony,
so peculiarly constituted as ours, may perhaps prove not uninteresting.
I. A night-watch, consisting of 12 persons, divided into four parties,
is appointed, and fully authorized to patrol at all hours in the night;
and to visit such places as may be deemed necessary, for the discovery
of any felony, trespass, or misdemeanor; and for the apprehending and securing
for examination, any person or persons who may appear to them concerned
therein, either by entrance into any suspected hut or dwelling, or by such
other measure as may seem to them expedient.
II. Those parts in which the convicts reside are to be divided and numbered,
in the following manner. The convict huts on the eastern side of the stream,
and the public farm, are to be the first division. Those at the brick-kilns,
and the detached parties in the different private farms in that district,
are to be the second division. Those on the western side of the stream,
as far as the line which separates the district of the women from the men,
to be the third division. The huts occupied from that line to the hospital,
and from there to the observatory, to be the fourth division.
III. Each of these districts or divisions is to be under the particular
inspection of one person, who may be judged qualified to inform himself
of the actual residence of each individual in his district; as well as
of his business, connections, and acquaintances.
IV. Cognizance is to be taken of such convicts as may sell or barter
their slops or provisions; and also of such as are addicted to gaming for
either of the aforesaid articles, who are to be reported to the judge advocate.
V. Any soldier or seaman found straggling after the beating of the tattoo;
or who may be found in a convict's hut, is to be detained; and information
of him immediately given to the nearest guard.
VI. Any person who may be robbed during the night, is to give immediate
information thereof to the watch of his district, who, on the instant
of application being made, shall use the most effectual means to trace out the
offender, or offenders, so that he, she, or they, may be brought to justice.
VII. The watch of each district is to be under the direction of one person,
who will be named for that purpose. All the patrols are placed under
the immediate inspection of Herbert Keeling. They are never to receive
any fee, gratuity, or reward, from any individual whatever, to engage
their exertions in the execution of the above trust. Nor will they receive
any stipulated encouragement for the conviction of any offender.
But their diligence and good behaviour will be rewarded by the governor.
And for this purpose their conduct will be strictly attended to, by those
who are placed in authority over them.
VIII. The night-watch is to go out as soon as the tattoo ceases beating:
to return to their huts when the working drum beats in the morning:
and are to make their report to the judge advocate, through Herbert Keeling,
of all robberies and misdemeanors which may have been committed.
Any assistance the patrols may require, will be given to them, on applying
to the officer commanding the nearest guard; and by the civil power,
if necessary; for which last, application is to be made to the provost martial.
IX. Any negligence on the part of those who shall be employed on this duty,
will be punished with the utmost rigour of the law.
X. The night-watch is to consist of 12 persons.
Every political code, either from a defect of its constitution, or from
the corruptness of those who are entrusted to execute it, will be found
less perfect in practice than speculation had promised itself. It were,
however, prejudice to deny, that for some time following the institution
of this patrol, nightly depredations became less frequent and alarming:
the petty villains, at least, were restrained by it. And to keep even a garden
unravaged was now become a subject of the deepest concern.
For in October our weekly allowance of provisions, which had hitherto been
eight pounds of flour, five pounds of salt pork, three pints of pease,
six ounces of butter, was reduced to five pounds five ounces of flour,
three pounds five ounces of pork, and two pints of pease.
In order to lessen the consumption from the public stores, the 'Supply'
was ordered to touch at Lord Howe Island, in her way from Norfolk Island,
to try if turtle could be procured, for the purpose of being publicly served
in lieu of salt provisions. But she brought back only three turtles,
which were distributed in the garrison.
December, 1789. At the request of his excellency, lieutenant Dawes
of the marines, accompanied by lieutenant Johnston and Mr. Lowes,
about this time undertook the attempt to cross the Nepean river,
and to penetrate to Carmarthen mountains. Having discovered a ford
in the river, they passed it, and proceeded in a westerly direction.
But they found the country so rugged, and the difficulty of walking
so excessive, that in three days they were able to penetrate only
fifteen miles, and were therefore obliged to relinquish their object.
This party, at the time they turned back, were farther inland than any other
persons ever were before or since, being fifty-four miles in a direct line
from the sea coast when on the summit of mount Twiss, a hill so named by them,
and which bounded their peregrination.
Intercourse with the natives, for the purpose of knowing whether or not
the country possessed any resources, by which life might be prolonged*,
as well as on other accounts, becoming every day more desirable,
the governor resolved to make prisoners of two more of them.
[*One of the convicts, a negro, had twice eloped, with an intention
of establishing himself in the society of the natives, with a wish to adopt
their customs and to live with them: but he was always repulsed by them;
and compelled to return to us from hunger and wretchedness.]
Boats properly provided, under the command of lieutenant Bradley of the
'Sirius', were accordingly dispatched on this service; and completely succeeded
in trepanning and carrying off, without opposition, two fine young men,
who were safely landed among us at Sydney.
Nanbaree and Abaroo welcomed them on shore; calling them immediately
by their names, Baneelon (Bennelong), and Colbee. But they seemed
little disposed to receive the congratulations, or repose confidence
in the assurances of their friends. The same scenes of awkward wonder
and impatient constraint, which had attended the introduction of Arabanoo,
succeeded. Baneelon we judged to be about twenty-six years old,
of good stature, and stoutly made, with a bold intrepid countenance,
which bespoke defiance and revenge. Colbee was perhaps near thirty,
of a less sullen aspect than his comrade, considerably shorter, and not
so robustly framed, though better fitted for purposes of activity.
They had both evidently had the smallpox; indeed Colbee's face was very
thickly imprinted with the marks of it.
Positive orders were issued by the governor to treat them indulgently,
and guard them strictly; notwithstanding which Colbee contrived to effect
his escape in about a week, with a small iron ring round his leg.
Had those appointed to watch them been a moment later, his companion
would have contrived to accompany him.
But Baneelon, though haughty, knew how to temporize. He quickly threw off
all reserve; and pretended, nay, at particular moments, perhaps felt
satisfaction in his new state. Unlike poor Arabanoo, he became at once fond
of our viands, and would drink the strongest liquors, not simply
without reluctance, but with eager marks of delight and enjoyment.
He was the only native we ever knew who immediately shewed a fondness
for spirits: Colbee would not at first touch them. Nor was the effect
of wine or brandy upon him more perceptible than an equal quantity
would have produced upon one of us, although fermented liquor was new to him.
In his eating, he was alike compliant. When a turtle was shown to Arabanoo,
he would not allow it to be a fish, and could not be induced to eat of it.
Baneelon also denied it to be a fish; but no common councilman in Europe
could do more justice than he did to a very fine one, that the 'Supply'
had brought from Lord Howe Island, and which was served up at the governor's
table on Christmas Day.
His powers of mind were certainly far above mediocrity. He acquired knowledge,
both of our manners and language, faster than his predecessor had done.
He willingly communicated information; sang, danced, and capered, told us
all the customs of his country, and all the details of his family economy.
Love and war seemed his favourite pursuits; in both of which he had suffered
severely. His head was disfigured by several scars; a spear had passed
through his arm, and another through his leg. Half of one of his thumbs
was carried away; and the mark of a wound appeared on the back of his hand.
The cause and attendant circumstances of all these disasters, except one,
he related to us.
"But the wound on the back of your hand, Baneelon! How did you get that?"
He laughed, and owned that it was received in carrying off a lady
of another tribe by force. "I was dragging her away. She cried aloud,
and stuck her teeth in me."
"And what did you do then?"
"I knocked her down, and beat her till she was insensible,
and covered with blood. Then..."
Whenever he recounted his battles, "poised his lance, and showed how fields
were won", the most violent exclamations of rage and vengeance against
his competitors in arms, those of the tribe called Cameeragal in particular,
would burst from him. And he never failed at such times to solicit
the governor to accompany him, with a body of soldiers, in order that
he might exterminate this hated name.
Although I call him only Baneelon, he had besides several appellations,
and for a while he chose to be distinguished by that of Wolarawaree.
Again, as a mark of affection and respect to the governor, he conferred
on him the name of Wolarawaree, and sometimes called him 'Beenena' (father),
adopting to himself the name of governor. This interchange we found
is a constant symbol of friendship among them*. In a word, his temper
seemed pliant, and his relish of our society so great, that hardly any one
judged he would attempt to quit us, were the means of escape put within
his reach. Nevertheless it was thought proper to continue a watch over him.
[*It is observable that this custom prevails as a pledge of friendship
and kindness all over Asia, and has also been mentioned by Captain Cook
to exist among the natives in the South Sea Islands.]
Transactions of the Colony, from the Beginning of the Year 1790
until the End of May following.
Our impatience of news from Europe strongly marked the commencement
of the year. We had now been two years in the country, and thirty-two months
from England, in which long period no supplies, except what had been procured
at the Cape of Good Hope by the 'Sirius', had reached us. From intelligence
of our friends and connections we had been entirely cut off, no communication
whatever having passed with our native country since the 13th of May 1787,
the day of our departure from Portsmouth. Famine besides was approaching
with gigantic strides, and gloom and dejection overspread every countenance.
Men abandoned themselves to the most desponding reflections, and adopted
the most extravagant conjectures.
Still we were on the tiptoe of expectation. If thunder broke at a distance,
or a fowling-piece of louder than ordinary report resounded in the woods,
"a gun from a ship" was echoed on every side, and nothing but hurry
and agitation prevailed. For eighteen months after we had landed
in the country, a party of marines used to go weekly to Botany Bay,
to see whether any vessel, ignorant of our removal to Port Jackson,
might be arrived there. But a better plan was now devised, on the suggestion
of captain Hunter. A party of seamen were fixed on a high bluff,
called the South-head, at the entrance of the harbour, on which a flag
was ordered to be hoisted, whenever a ship might appear, which should serve
as a direction to her, and as a signal of approach to us. Every officer
stepped forward to volunteer a service which promised to be so replete
with beneficial consequences. But the zeal and alacrity of captain Hunter,
and our brethren of the 'Sirius', rendered superfluous all assistance
Here on the summit of the hill, every morning from daylight until the sun sunk,
did we sweep the horizon, in hope of seeing a sail. At every fleeting speck
which arose from the bosom of the sea, the heart bounded, and the telescope
was lifted to the eye. If a ship appeared here, we knew she must be bound
to us; for on the shores of this vast ocean (the largest in the world)
we were the only community which possessed the art of navigation,
and languished for intercourse with civilized society.
To say that we were disappointed and shocked, would very inadequately describe
our sensations. But the misery and horror of such a situation
cannot be imparted, even by those who have suffered under it.
March, 1790. Vigorous measures were become indispensable. The governor
therefore, early in February, ordered the 'Sirius' to prepare for a voyage
to China; and a farther retrenchment of our ration, we were given
to understand, would take place on her sailing.
But the 'Sirius' was destined not to reach China. Previously to her intended
departure on that voyage, she was ordered, in concert with the 'Supply',
to convey Major Ross, with a large detachment of marines, and more than
two hundred convicts, to Norfolk Island, it being hoped that such a division
of our numbers would increase the means of subsistence, by diversified
exertions. She sailed on the 6th of March. And on the 27th of the same month,
the following order was issued from headquarters.
The expected supply of provisions not having arrived,
makes it necessary to reduce the present ration.
And the commissary is directed to issue, from the
1st of April, the under-mentioned allowance, to every
person in the settlement without distinction.
Four pounds of flour, two pounds and a half of salt
pork, and one pound and a half of rice, per week.
On the 5th of April news was brought, that the flag on the South-head
was hoisted. Less emotion was created by the news than might be expected.
Every one coldly said to his neighbour, "the 'Sirius' and 'Supply' are returned
from Norfolk Island." To satisfy myself that the flag was really flying,
I went to the observatory, and looked for it through the large astronomical
telescope, when I plainly saw it. But I was immediately convinced that
it was not to announce the arrival of ships from England; for I could see
nobody near the flagstaff except one solitary being, who kept strolling around,
unmoved by what he saw. I well knew how different an effect the sight
of strange ships would produce.
April, 1790. The governor, however, determined to go down the harbour,
and I begged permission to accompany him. Having turned a point about
half way down, we were surprised to see a boat, which was known to belong to
the 'Supply', rowing towards us. On nearer approach, I saw captain Ball
make an extraordinary motion with his hand, which too plainly indicated
that something disastrous had happened; and I could not help turning
to the governor, near whom I sat, and saying, "Sir, prepare yourself
for bad news." A few minutes changed doubt into certainty; and to our
unspeakable consternation we learned, that the 'Sirius' had been wrecked
on Norfolk Island, on the 19th of February. Happily, however, Captain Hunter,
and every other person belonging to her, were saved.
Dismay was painted on every countenance, when the tidings were proclaimed
at Sydney. The most distracting apprehensions were entertained All hopes
were now concentred in the little 'Supply'.
At six o'clock in the evening, all the officers of the garrison,
both civil and military, were summoned to meet the governor in council,
when the nature of our situation was fully discussed and an account
of the provisions yet remaining in store laid before the council
by the commissary. This account stated, that on the present ration*
the public stores contained salt meat sufficient to serve until the
2nd of July, flour until the 20th of August, and rice, or pease in lieu of it,
until the 1st of October.
[*See the ration of the 27th of March, a few pages back.]
Several regulations for the more effectual preservation of gardens,
and other private property, were proposed, and adopted and after some
interchange of opinion, the following ration was decreed to commence
immediately, a vigorous exertion to prolong existence, or the chance of relief,
being all now left to us.
Two pounds of pork, two pounds and a half of flour,
two pounds of rice, or a quart of pease, per week,
to every grown person, and to every child of more
than eighteen months old.
To every child under eighteen months old, the same
quantity of rice and flour, and one pound of pork.**
[**When the age of this provision is recollected, its inadequacy will more
strikingly appear. The pork and rice were brought with us from England.
The pork had been salted between three and four years, and every grain
of rice was a moving body, from the inhabitants lodged within it.
We soon left off boiling the pork, as it had become so old and dry,
that it shrunk one half in its dimensions when so dressed. Our usual method
of cooking it was to cut off the daily morsel, and toast it on a fork
before the fire, catching the drops which fell on a slice of bread,
or in a saucer of rice. Our flour was the remnant of what was brought
from the Cape, by the 'Sirius', and was good. Instead of baking it,
the soldiers and convicts used to boil it up with greens.]
The immediate departure of the 'Supply', for Batavia, was also determined.
Nor did our zeal stop here. The governor being resolved to employ
all the boats, public and private, m procuring fish--which was intended
to be served in lieu of salt meat--all the officers, civil and military,
including the clergyman, and the surgeons of the hospital, made the voluntary
offer, in addition to their other duties, to go alternately every night
in these boats, in order to see that every exertion was made, and that all
the fish which might be caught was deposited with the commissary.
The best marksmen of the marines and convicts were also selected,
and put under the command of a trusty sergeant, with directions to range
the woods in search of kangaroos, which were ordered, when brought in,
to be delivered to the commissary.
And as it was judged that the inevitable fatigues of shooting and fishing
could not be supported on the common ration, a small additional quantity
of flour and pork was appropriated to the use of the game-keepers; and each
fisherman, who had been out during the preceding night had, on his return
in the morning, a pound of uncleaned fish allowed for his breakfast.
On the 17th instant, the 'Supply', captain Ball, sailed for Batavia.
We followed her with anxious eyes until she was no longer visible.
Truly did we say to her "In te omnis domus inclinata recumbit." We were,
however, consoled by reflecting, that every thing which zeal, fortitude,
and seamanship, could produce, was concentred in her commander.
Our bosoms consequently became less perturbed; and all our labour
and attention were turned on one object--the procuring of food. "Pride,
pomp, and circumstance of glorious war" were no more.
The distress of the lower classes for clothes was almost equal to their
other wants. The stores had been long exhausted, and winter was at hand.
Nothing more ludicrous can be conceived than the expedients of substituting,
shifting, and patching, which ingenuity devised, to eke out wretchedness,
and preserve the remains of decency. The superior dexterity of the women
was particularly conspicuous. Many a guard have I seen mount, in which
the number of soldiers without shoes exceeded that which had yet preserved
remnants of leather.
Nor was another part of our domestic economy less whimsical. If a lucky man,
who had knocked down a dinner with his gun, or caught a fish by angling
from the rocks, invited a neighbour to dine with him, the invitation
always ran, "bring your own bread." Even at the governor's table,
this custom was constantly observed. Every man when he sat down pulled
his bread out of his pocket, and laid it by his plate.
The insufficiency of our ration soon diminished our execution of labour.
Both soldiers and convicts pleaded such loss of strength, as to find themselves
unable to perform their accustomed tasks. The hours of public work were
accordingly shortened or, rather, every man was ordered to do as much
as his strength would permit, and every other possible indulgence was granted.
May, 1790. In proportion, however, as lenity and mitigation were extended
to inability and helplessness, inasmuch was the most rigorous justice executed
on disturbers of the public tranquillity. Persons detected in robbing gardens,
or pilfering provisions, were never screened because, as every man
could possess, by his utmost exertions, but a bare sufficiency to preserve
life*, he who deprived his neighbour of that little, drove him to desperation.
No new laws for the punishment of theft were enacted; but persons of all
descriptions were publicly warned, that the severest penalties,
which the existing law in its greatest latitude would authorise,
should be inflicted on offenders. The following sentence of a court
of justice, of which I was a member, on a convict detected in a garden
stealing potatoes, will illustrate the subject. He was ordered to receive
three hundred lashes immediately, to be chained for six months to two
other criminals, who were thus fettered for former offences, and to have
his allowance of flour stopped for six months. So that during the operation
of the sentence, two pounds of pork, and two pounds of rice (or in lieu
of the latter, a quart of pease) per week, constituted his whole subsistence.
Such was the melancholy length to which we were compelled to stretch
our penal system.
[*Its preservation in some cases was found impracticable. Three or four
instances of persons who perished from want have been related to me.
One only, however, fell within my own observation. I was passing
the provision store, when a man, with a wild haggard countenance,
who had just received his daily pittance to carry home, came out.
His faltering gait, and eager devouring eye, led me to watch him,
and he had not proceeded ten steps before he fell. I ordered him
to be carried to the hospital, where, when he arrived, he was found dead.
On opening the body, the cause of death was pronounced to be inanition.]
Farther to contribute to the detection of villainy, a proclamation,
offering a reward of sixty pounds of flour, more tempting than the ore
of Peru or Potosi, was promised to any one who should apprehend,
and bring to justice, a robber of garden ground.
Our friend Baneelon, during this season of scarcity, was as well taken care of
as our desperate circumstances would allow. We knew not how to keep him,
and yet were unwilling to part with him. Had he penetrated our state,
perhaps he might have given his countrymen such a description of our
diminished numbers, and diminished strength, as would have emboldened them
to become more troublesome. Every expedient was used to keep him in ignorance.
His allowance was regularly received by the governor's servant, like that
of any other person, but the ration of a week was insufficient to have
kept him for a day. The deficiency was supplied by fish whenever it could be
procured, and a little Indian corn, which had been reserved was ground
and appropriated to his use. In spite of all these aids, want of food
has been known to make him furious and often melancholy.
There is reason to believe that he had long meditated his escape,
which he effected in the night of the 3rd instant. About two o'clock
in the morning, he pretended illness, and awaking the servant who lay
in the room with him, begged to go down stairs. The other attended him
without suspicion of his design; and Baneelon no sooner found himself
in a backyard, than he nimbly leaped over a slight paling, and bade us adieu.
The following public order was issued within the date of this chapter,
and is too pleasing a proof that universal depravity did not prevail
among the convicts, to be omitted.
The governor, in consequence of the unremitted good behaviour
and meritorious conduct of John Irving, is pleased to remit
the remainder of the term for which he was sentenced to
transportation. He is therefore to be considered as restored
to all those rights and privileges, which had been suspended
in consequence of the sentence of the law. And as such,
he is hereby appointed to act as an assistant to the surgeon
at Norfolk Island.
Transactions of the Colony in June, July, and August, 1790.
At length the clouds of misfortune began to separate, and on the evening
of the 3rd of June, the joyful cry of "the flag's up" resounded
in every direction.
I was sitting in my hut, musing on our fate, when a confused clamour
in the street drew my attention. I opened my door, and saw several women
with children in their arms running to and fro with distracted looks,
congratulating each other, and kissing their infants with the most passionate
and extravagant marks of fondness. I needed no more; but instantly
started out, and ran to a hill, where, by the assistance of a pocket glass,
my hopes were realized. My next door neighbour, a brother-officer,
was with me, but we could not speak. We wrung each other by the hand,
with eyes and hearts overflowing.
Finding that the governor intended to go immediately in his boat
down the harbour, I begged to be of his party.
As we proceeded, the object of our hopes soon appeared: a large ship,
with English colours flying, working in, between the heads which form
the entrance of the harbour. The tumultuous state of our minds represented her
in danger; and we were in agony. Soon after, the governor, having ascertained
what she was, left us, and stepped into a fishing boat to return to Sydney.
The weather was wet and tempestuous but the body is delicate only when
the soul is at ease. We pushed through wind and rain, the anxiety of our
sensations every moment redoubling. At last we read the word 'London'
on her stern. "Pull away, my lads! She is from Old England! A few strokes
more, and we shall be aboard! Hurrah for a bellyfull, and news from
our friends!" Such were our exhortations to the boat's crew.
A few minutes completed our wishes, and we found ourselves on board
the 'Lady Juliana' transport, with two hundred and twenty-five of our
countrywomen whom crime or misfortune had condemned to exile. We learned
that they had been almost eleven months on their passage, having left Plymouth,
into which port they had put in July, 1789. We continued to ask a thousand
questions on a breath. Stimulated by curiosity, they inquired in turn;
but the right of being first answered, we thought, lay on our side.
"Letters, letters!" was the cry. They were produced, and torn open
in trembling agitation. News burst upon us like meridian splendor
on a blind man. We were overwhelmed with it: public, private, general,
and particular. Nor was it until some days had elapsed, that we were able
to methodise it, or reduce it into form. We now heard for the first time
of our sovereign's illness, and his happy restoration to health.
The French revolution of 1789, with all the attendant circumstances
of that wonderful and unexpected event, succeeded to amaze us*. Now, too,
the disaster which had befallen the 'Guardian', and the liberal and enlarged plan
on which she had been stored and fitted out by government for our use,
was promulged. It served also, in some measure, to account why we had not
sooner heard from England. For had not the 'Guardian' struck on an island
of ice, she would probably have reached us three months before, and in this
case have prevented the loss of the 'Sirius', although she had sailed
from England three months after the 'Lady Juliana'.
[*These words bring to my mind an anecdote, which, though rather out of place,
I shall offer no apology for introducing. Among other inquiries, we were
anxious to learn whether M. de la Peyrouse, with the two ships under
his command, bound on a voyage of discovery, had arrived in France.
We heard with concern, that no accounts of them had been received,
since they had left Botany Bay, in March, 1788. I remember when they were
at that place, one day conversing with Monsieur de la Peyrouse, about the best
method of treating savage people, "Sir" said he, "I have sometimes been
compelled to commit hostilities upon them, but never without suffering
the most poignant regret; for, independent of my own feelings on the occasion,
his Majesty's (Louis XVI) last words to me, de sa propre bouche, when I took
leave of him at Versailles, were: 'It is my express injunction,
that you always treat the Indian nations with kindness and humanity.
Gratify their wishes, and never, but in a case of the last necessity,
when self-defence requires it, shed human blood.' Are these the sentiments
of a tyrant, of a sanguinary and perfidious man?"
A general thanksgiving to Almighty God, for his Majesty's recovery,
and happy restoration to his family and subjects, was ordered to be offered up
on the following Wednesday, when all public labour was suspended;
and every person in the settlement attended at church, where a sermon,
suited to an occasion, at once so full of gratitude and solemnity,
was preached by the Reverend Richard Johnson, chaplain of the colony.
All the officers were afterwards entertained at dinner by the governor.
And in the evening, an address to his excellency, expressive of congratulation
and loyalty, was agreed upon; and in two days after was presented,
and very graciously received.
The following invitation to the non-commissioned officers and private soldiers
of the marine battalion, was also about this time published.
In consequence of the assurance that was given to the
non-commissioned officers and men belonging to the
battalion of marines, on their embarking for the service
of this country, that such of them as should behave well,
would be allowed to quit the service, on their return
to England; or be discharged abroad, upon the relief
taking place, and permitted to settle in the country--
His Majesty has been graciously pleased to direct the
following encouragement to be held up to such
non-commissioned officers and privates, as may be
disposed to become settlers in this country, or in any
of the islands comprised within the government of the
continent of New South Wales, on the arrival of the corps
raised and intended for the service of this colony, and
for their relief, viz:
To every non-commissioned officer, an allotment of
one hundred and thirty acres of land, if single, and of
one hundred and fifty acres, if married. To every
private soldier, an allotment of eighty acres, if single,
and of one hundred acres if married; and also an allotment
of ten acres for every child, whether of a
non-commissioned officer, or of a private soldier.
These allotments will be free of all fines, taxes,
quit-rents, and other acknowledgments, for the space
of ten years; but after the expiration of that period,
will be subject to an annual quit-rent of one shilling
for every fifty acres.
His Majesty has likewise been farther pleased to signify
his royal will and pleasure, that a bounty of three pounds
be offered to each non-commissioned officer and soldier,
who may be disposed to continue in this country, and
enlist in the corps appointed for the service of
New South Wales; with a farther assurance, that in case
of a proper demeanour on their part, they shall, after
a farther service of five years, be entitled to double
the former portion of land, provided they then choose
to become settlers in the country, free of all taxes,
fines, and quit-rents, for the space of fifteen years;
but after that time, to be subject to the beforementioned
annual quit-rent of one shilling for every fifty acres.
And as a farther encouragement to those men who may be
desirous to become settlers, and continue in the country,
his Majesty has been likewise pleased to direct, that
every man shall, on being discharged, receive out of the
public store, a portion of clothing and provisions,
sufficient for his support for one year; together with
a suitable quantity of seeds, grain, etc. for the tillage
of the land; and a portion of tools and implements of
agriculture, proper for their use. And whenever any man,
who may become a settler, can maintain, feed, and clothe,
such number of convicts as may be judged necessary by
the governor, for the time being, to assist him in
clearing and cultivating the land, the service of such
convicts shall be assigned to him.
We were joyfully surprised on the 20th of the month to see another sail enter
the harbour. She proved to be the Justinian transport, commanded by
Captain Maitland, and our rapture was doubled on finding that she was laden
entirely with provisions for our use. Full allowance, and general
congratulation, immediately took place. This ship had left Falmouth
on the preceding 20th of January, and completed her passage exactly in
five months*. She had staid at Madeira one day, and four at Sao Tiago,
from which last place she had steered directly for New South Wales,
neglecting Rio de Janeiro on her right, and the Cape of Good Hope on her left;
and notwithstanding the immense tract of ocean she had passed, brought
her crew without sickness into harbour. When the novelty and boldness
of such an attempt shall be recollected, too much praise, on the spirit
and activity of Mr. Maitland, cannot be bestowed.
[*Accident only prevented her from making it in eighteen days less,
for she was then in sight of the harbour's mouth, when an unpropitious gale
of wind blew her off. Otherwise she would have reached us one day sooner
than the 'Lady Juliana'. It is a curious circumstance, that these two ships
had sailed together from the river Thames, one bound to Port Jackson,
and the other bound to Jamaica. The Justinian carried her cargo to the last
mentioned place, landed it; and loaded afresh with sugars, which she returned
with, and delivered in London. She was then hired as a transport, reladen,
and sailed for New South Wales. Let it be remembered, that no material
accident had happened to either vessel. But what will not zeal
and diligence accomplish!]
Good fortune continued to befriend us. Before the end of the month,
three more transports, having on board two companies of the
New South Wales corps, arrived to add to our society. These ships also brought
out a large body of convicts, whose state and sufferings will be best
estimated by the following return.
Names of No. of people No. of persons who died No. landed sick
Ships embarked on the passage at Port Jackson
Neptune 530 163 269
Surprise 252 42 121
Scarborough 256 68 96
1038 273 486
N.B. Of those landed sick, one hundred and twenty-four died
in the hospital at Sydney.
On our passage from England, which had lasted more than eight months
and with nearly an equal number of persons, only twenty-four had died,
and not thirty were landed sick. The difference can be accounted for,
only by comparing the manner in which each fleet was fitted out and conducted.
With us the provisions, served on board, were laid in by a contractor,
who sent a deputy to serve them out; and it became a part of duty for the
officers of the troops to inspect their quality, and to order that every one
received his just proportion. Whereas, in the fleet now arrived,
the distribution of provisions rested entirely with the masters of the
merchantmen, and the officers were expressly forbidden to interfere
in any shape farther about the convicts than to prevent their escape.
Seventeen pounds, in full of all expense, was the sum paid by the public
for the passage of each person. And this sum was certainly competent
to afford fair profit to the merchant who contracted. But there is reason
to believe, that some of those who were employed to act for him, violated
every principle of justice, and rioted on the spoils of misery, for want of
a controlling power to check their enormities. No doubt can be entertained,
that a humane and liberal government will interpose its authority, to prevent
the repetition of such flagitious conduct.
Although the convicts had landed from these ships with every mark of meagre
misery, yet it was soon seen, that a want of room, in which more conveniences
might have been stowed for their use, had not caused it. Several of the
masters of the transports immediately opened stores, and exposed large
quantities of goods to sale, which, though at most extortionate prices,
were eagerly bought up.
Such was the weakly state of the new corners, that for several weeks
little real benefit to the colony was derived from so great a nominal addition
to our number. However, as fast as they recovered, employment was immediately
assigned to them. The old hours of labour, which had been reduced
in our distress, were re-established, and the most vigorous measures adopted
to give prosperity to the settlement. New buildings were immediately planned,
and large tracts of ground, at Rose-hill, ordered to be cleared, and prepared
for cultivation. Some superintendents who had arrived in the fleet,
and were hired by government for the purpose of overlooking and directing
the convicts, were found extremely serviceable in accelerating the progress
July, 1790. This month was marked by nothing worth communication,
except a melancholy accident which befell a young gentleman of amiable
character (one of the midshipmen lately belonging to the 'Sirius')
and two marines. He was in a small boat, with three marines, in the harbour,
when a whale was seen near them. Sensible of their danger, they used
every effort to avoid the cause of it, by rowing in a contrary direction
from that which the fish seemed to take, but the monster suddenly arose
close to them, and nearly filled the boat with water. By exerting themselves,
they baled her out, and again steered from it. For some time it was not seen,
and they conceived themselves safe, when, rising immediately under the boat,
it lifted her to the height of many yards on its back, whence slipping off,
she dropped as from a precipice, and immediately filled and sunk.
The midshipman and one of the marines were sucked into the vortex which
the whale had made, and disappeared at once. The two other marines swam
for the nearest shore, but one only reached it, to recount the fate
of his companions.
August, 1790. In the beginning of this month, in company with Mr. Dawes
and Mr. Worgan, late surgeon of the 'Sirius', I undertook an expedition
to the southward and westward of Rose Hill, where the country had never
been explored. We remained out seven days, and penetrated to a considerable
distance in a S.S.W. direction, bounding our course at a remarkable hill,
to which, from its conical shape, we gave the name of Pyramid-hill.
Except the discovery of a river (which is unquestionably the Nepean
near its source) to which we gave the name of the Worgan, in honour of one of
our party, nothing very interesting was remarked.
Towards the end of the month, we made a second excursion to the north-west
of Rose Hill, when we again fell in with the Nepean, and traced it to the spot
where it had been first discovered by the party of which I was a member,
fourteen months before, examining the country as we went along.
Little doubt now subsisted that the Hawkesbury and Nepean were one river.
We undertook a third expedition soon after to Broken Bay, which place we found
had not been exaggerated in description, whether its capacious harbour,
or its desolate incultivable shores, be considered. On all these excursions
we brought away, in small bags, as many specimens of the soil of the country
we had passed through, as could be conveniently carried, in order that
by analysis its qualities might be ascertained.
Transactions of the Colony in the Beginning of September, 1790.
The tremendous monster who had occasioned the unhappy catastrophe
just recorded was fated to be the cause of farther mischief to us.
On the 7th instant, Captain Nepean, of the New South Wales Corps,
and Mr. White, accompanied by little Nanbaree, and a party of men,
went in a boat to Manly Cove, intending to land there, and walk on to
Broken Bay. On drawing near the shore, a dead whale, in the most disgusting
state of putrefaction, was seen lying on the beach, and at least two hundred
Indians surrounding it, broiling the flesh on different fires, and feasting
on it with the most extravagant marks of greediness and rapture.
As the boat continued to approach, they were observed to fall into confusion
and to pick up their spears, on which our people lay upon their oars
and Nanbaree stepping forward, harangued them for some time, assuring them
that we were friends. Mr. White now called for Baneelon who, on hearing
his name, came forth, and entered into conversation. He was greatly emaciated,
and so far disfigured by a long beard, that our people not without difficulty
recognized their old acquaintance. His answering in broken English,
and inquiring for the governor, however, soon corrected their doubts.
He seemed quite friendly. And soon after Colbee came up, pointing to his leg,
to show that he had freed himself from the fetter which was upon him,
when he had escaped from us.
When Baneelon was told that the governor was not far off, he expressed
great joy, and declared that he would immediately go in search of him,
and if he found him not, would follow him to Sydney. "Have you brought
any hatchets with you?" cried he. Unluckily they had not any which they chose
to spare; but two or three shirts, some handkerchiefs, knives, and
other trifles, were given to them, and seemed to satisfy. Baneelon,
willing to instruct his countrymen, tried to put on a shirt, but managed it
so awkwardly, that a man of the name of M'Entire, the governor's gamekeeper,
was directed by Mr. White to assist him. This man, who was well known to him,
he positively forbade to approach, eyeing him ferociously, and with every mark
of horror and resentment. He was in consequence left to himself,
and the conversation proceeded as before. The length of his beard seemed
to annoy him much, and he expressed eager wishes to be shaved,
asking repeatedly for a razor. A pair of scissors was given to him,
and he shewed he had not forgotten how to use such an instrument,
for he forthwith began to clip his hair with it.
During this time, the women and children, to the number of more than fifty,
stood at a distance, and refused all invitations, which could be conveyed
by signs and gestures, to approach nearer. "Which of them is your old
favourite, Barangaroo, of whom you used to speak so often?"
"Oh," said he, "she is become the wife of Colbee! But I have got
'bulla muree deein' (two large women) to compensate for her loss."
It was observed that he had received two wounds, in addition to his former
numerous ones, since he had left us; one of them from a spear,
which had passed through the fleshy part of his arm; and the other displayed
itself in a large scar above his left eye. They were both healed,
and probably were acquired in the conflict wherein he had asserted
his pretensions to the two ladies.
Nanbaree, all this while, though he continued to interrogate his countrymen,
and to interpret on both sides, shewed little desire to return to their
society, and stuck very close to his new friends. On being asked the cause
of their present meeting, Baneelon pointed to the whale, which stunk
immoderately, and Colbee made signals, that it was common among them
to cat until the stomach was so overladen as to occasion sickness.
Their demand of hatchets being re-iterated, notwithstanding our refusal,
they were asked why they had not brought with them some of their own?
They excused themselves by saying, that on an occasion of the present sort,
they always left them at home, and cut up the whale with the shell
which is affixed to the end of the throwing-stick.
Our party now thought it time to proceed on their original expedition,
and having taken leave of their sable friends, rowed to some distance,
where they landed, and set out for Broken Bay, ordering the coxswain
of the boat, in which they had come down, to go immediately and acquaint
the governor of all that had passed. When the natives saw that the boat
was about to depart, they crowded around her, and brought down, by way of
present, three or four great junks of the whale, and put them on board of her,
the largest of which, Baneelon expressly requested might be offered,
in his name, to the governor.
It happened that his excellency had this day gone to a landmark,
which was building on the South-head, near the flag-staff, to serve as
a direction to ships at sea, and the boat met him on his return to Sydney.
Immediately on receiving the intelligence, he hastened back to the South-head,
and having procured all the fire-arms which could be mustered there,
consisting of four muskets and a pistol, set out, attended by Mr. Collins
and Lieutenant Waterhouse of the navy.
When the boat reached Manly Cove, the natives were found still busily employed
around the whale. As they expressed not any consternation on seeing us row
to the beach, governor Phillip stepped out unarmed, and attended by one seaman
only, and called for Baneelon, who appeared, but, notwithstanding his former
eagerness, would not suffer the other to approach him for several minutes.
Gradually, however, he warmed into friendship and frankness, and presently
after Colbee came up. They discoursed for some time, Baneelon expressing
pleasure to see his old acquaintance, and inquiring by name for every person
whom he could recollect at Sydney; and among others for a French cook,
one of the governor's servants, whom he had constantly made the butt of
his ridicule, by mimicking his voice, gait, and other peculiarities,
all of which he again went through with his wonted exactness and drollery.
He asked also particularly for a lady from whom he had once ventured
to snatch a kiss; and on being told that she was well, by way of proving that
the token was fresh in his remembrance, he kissed Lieutenant Waterhouse,
and laughed aloud. On his wounds being noticed, he coldly said, that he had
received them at Botany Bay, but went no farther into their history.
Hatchets still continued to be called for with redoubled eagerness,
which rather surprised us, as formerly they had always been accepted
with indifference. But Baneelon had probably demonstrated to them
their superiority over those of their own manufacturing. To appease their
importunity, the governor gave them a knife, some bread, pork, and other
articles, and promised that in two days he would return hither,
and bring with him hatchets to be distributed among them, which appeared
to diffuse general satisfaction.
Baneelon's love of wine has been mentioned; and the governor, to try whether
it still subsisted, uncorked a bottle, and poured out a glass of it,
which the other drank off with his former marks of relish and good humour,
giving for a toast, as he had been taught, "The King."
Our party now advanced from the beach but, perceiving many of the Indians
filing off to the right and left, so as in some measure to surround them,
they retreated gently to their old situation, which produced neither alarm
or offence. The others by degrees also resumed their former position.
A very fine barbed spear of uncommon size being seen by the governor,
he asked for it. But Baneelon, instead of complying with the request,
took it away, and laid it at some distance, and brought back a throwing-stick,
which he presented to his excellency.
Matters had proceeded in this friendly train for more than half an hour,
when a native, with a spear in his hand, came forward, and stopped
at the distance of between twenty and thirty yards from the place where
the governor, Mr. Collins, Lieutenant Waterhouse, and a seaman stood.
His excellency held out his hand, and called to him, advancing towards him
at the same time, Mr. Collins following close behind. He appeared to be
a man of middle age, short of stature, sturdy, and well set, seemingly
a stranger, and but little acquainted with Baneelon and Colbee. The nearer
the governor approached, the greater became the terror and agitation
of the Indian. To remove his fear, governor Phillip threw down a dirk,
which he wore at his side. The other, alarmed at the rattle of the dirk,
and probably misconstruing the action, instantly fixed his lance
in his throwing-stick*.
[*Such preparation is equal to what cocking a gun, and directing it
at its object, would be with us. To launch the spear, or to touch the trigger,
To retreat, his excellency now thought would be more dangerous than to advance.
He therefore cried out to the man, Weeeree, Weeree, (bad; you are doing wrong)
displaying at the same time, every token of amity and confidence.
The words had, however, hardly gone forth, when the Indian, stepping back
with one foot, aimed his lance with such force and dexterity, that striking*
the governor's right shoulder, just above the collar-bone, the point
glancing downward, came out at his back, having made a wound
of many inches long. The man was observed to keep his eye steadily fixed
on the lance until it struck its object, when he directly dashed into the woods
and was seen no more.
[*His excellency described the shock to me as similar to a violent blow,
with such energy was the weapon thrown.]
Instant confusion on both sides took place. Baneelon and Colbee disappeared
and several spears were thrown from different quarters, though without effect.
Our party retreated as fast as they could, calling to those who were left
in the boat, to hasten up with firearms. A situation more distressing
than that of the governor, during the time that this lasted, cannot readily
be conceived: the pole of the spear, not less than ten feet in length,
sticking out before him, and impeding his flight, the butt frequently striking
the ground, and lacerating the wound. In vain did Mr. Waterhouse try
to break it; and the barb, which appeared on the other side, forbade
extraction, until that could be performed. At length it was broken,
and his excellency reached the boat, by which time the seamen with the muskets
had got up, and were endeavouring to fire them, but one only would go off,
and there is no room to believe that it was attended with any execution.
When the governor got home, the wound was examined. It had bled a good deal
in the boat, and it was doubtful whether the subclavian artery might not
be divided. On moving the spear, it was found, however, that it might be
safely extracted, which was accordingly performed.
Apprehension for the safety of the party who had gone to Broken Bay,
now took place. Lieutenant Long, with a detachment of marines,
was immediately sent to escort them back, lest any ambush might be laid
by the natives to cut them off. When Mr. Long reached Manly Cove,
the sun had set; however, he pursued his way in the dark, scrambling over
rocks and thickets, as well as he could, until two o'clock on the following
morning, when he overtook them at a place where they had halted to sleep,
about half-way between the two harbours.
At day-break they all returned, and were surprised to find tracks in the sand
of the feet of the Indians, almost the whole way from the place where
they had slept to the Cove. By this it should seem as if these last
had secretly followed them, probably with hostile intentions but,
on discovering their strength, and that they were on their guard,
had abandoned their design.
On reaching Manly Cove, three Indians were observed standing on a rock,
with whom they entered into conversation. The Indians informed them,
that the man who had wounded the governor belonged to a tribe residing
at Broken Bay, and they seemed highly to condemn what he had done.
Our gentlemen asked them for a spear, which they immediately gave.
The boat's crew said that Baneelon and Colbee had just departed,
after a friendly intercourse. Like the others, they had pretended highly
to disapprove the conduct of the man who had thrown the spear,
vowing to execute vengeance upon him.
From this time, until the 14th, no communication passed between the natives
and us. On that day, the chaplain and lieutenant Dawes, having Abaroo
with them in a boat, learned from two Indians that Wileemarin was the name
of the person who had wounded the governor. These two people inquired kindly
how his excellency did, and seemed pleased to hear that he was likely
to recover. They said that they were inhabitants of Rose Hill, and expressed
great dissatisfaction at the number of white men who had settled
in their former territories. In consequence of which declaration,
the detachment at that post was reinforced on the following day.
A hazardous enterprise (but when liberty is the stake, what enterprise
is too hazardous for its attainment!) was undertaken in this month
by five convicts at Rose Hill, who, in the night, seized a small punt there,
and proceeded in her to the South Head, whence they seized and carried off
a boat, appropriated to the use of the lookout house, and put to sea in her,
doubtless with a view of reaching any port they could arrive at, and asserting
their freedom. They had all come out in the last fleet; and for some time
previous to their elopement, had been collecting fishing tackle,
and hoarding up provisions, to enable them to put their scheme into execution*.
[*They have never since been heard of. Before they went away, they tried
in vain to procure firearms. If they were not swallowed by the sea, probably
they were cut off by the natives, on some part of the coast where their
necessities obliged them to land.]
Transactions of the Colony in part of September and October, 1790.
From so unfavourable an omen as I have just related, who could prognosticate
that an intercourse with the natives was about to commence! That the
foundation of what neither entreaty, munificence, or humanity, could induce,
should be laid by a deed, which threatened to accumulate scenes of bloodshed
and horror was a consequence which neither speculation could predict,
or hope expect to see accomplished.
On the 15th a fire being seen on the north shore of the harbour, a party
of our people went thither, accompanied by Nanbaree and Abaroo. They found
there Baneelon, and several other natives, and much civility passed,
which was cemented by a mutual promise to meet in the afternoon at the same
place. Both sides were punctual to their engagement, and no objection
being made to our landing, a party of us went ashore to them unarmed.
Several little presents, which had been purposely brought, were distributed
among them; and to Baneelon were given a hatchet and a fish. At a distance
stood some children, who, though at first timorous and unwilling to approach,
were soon persuaded to advance, and join the men.
A bottle of wine was produced, and Baneelon immediately prepared for
the charge. Bread and beef he called loudly for, which were given to him,
and he began to eat, offering a part of his fare to his countrymen,
two of whom tasted the beef, but none of them would touch the bread.
Having finished his repast, he made a motion to be shaved, and a barber
being present, his request was complied with, to the great admiration
of his countrymen, who laughed and exclaimed at the operation. They would not,
however, consent to undergo it, but suffered their beards to be clipped
with a pair of scissors.
On being asked where their women were, they pointed to the spot, but seemed
not desirous that we should approach it. However, in a few minutes,
a female appeared not far off, and Abaroo was dispatched to her.
Baneelon now joined with Abaroo to persuade her to come to us, telling us
she was Barangaroo, and his wife, notwithstanding he had so lately pretended
that she had left him for Colbee. At length she yielded, and Abaroo,
having first put a petticoat on her, brought her to us. But this was
the prudery of the wilderness, which her husband joined us to ridicule,
and we soon laughed her out of it. The petticoat was dropped with hesitation,
and Barangaroo stood "armed cap-a-pee in nakedness." At the request
of Baneelon, we combed and cut her hair, and she seemed pleased with
the operation. Wine she would not taste, but turned from it with disgust,
though heartily invited to drink by the example and persuasion of Baneelon.
In short, she behaved so well, and assumed the character of gentleness
and timidity to such advantage, that had our acquaintance ended here,
a very moderate share of the spirit of travelling would have sufficed
to record, that amidst a horde of roaming savages, in the desert wastes
of New South Wales, might be found as much feminine innocence, softness,
and modesty (allowing for inevitable difference of education),
as the most finished system could bestow, or the most polished circle produce.
So little fitted are we to judge of human nature at once! And yet
on such grounds have countries been described, and nations characterized.
Hence have arisen those speculative and laborious compositions on
the advantages and superiority of a state of nature. But to resume my subject.
Supposing, that by a private conversation, she might be induced to visit
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