David Collins.

An Account of the English Colony in New South Wales, Volume 1 With Remarks on the Dispositions, Customs, Manners, Etc. of The Native Inhabitants of That Country. to Which Are Added, Some Particulars o online

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Online LibraryDavid CollinsAn Account of the English Colony in New South Wales, Volume 1 With Remarks on the Dispositions, Customs, Manners, Etc. of The Native Inhabitants of That Country. to Which Are Added, Some Particulars o → online text (page 35 of 61)
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it was supposed they had either got out of the harbour, or were lying
concealed until, being joined by those who had taken to the woods, they
could procure a larger and a safer conveyance from the country.

A slight change took place in the ration this month; the sugar being
expended, molasses was ordered to be served in lieu of that article, in
the proportion of a pint of molasses to a pound of sugar.

On Sunday the 15th died James Nation, a soldier in the New South Wales
corps, into which he had entered from the marine detachment. He sunk
under an inflammatory complaint brought on by hard drinking. With this
person Martha Todd cohabited at the time of her decease, which, as before
related, was occasioned by the same circumstance, and which, together
with her death, Nation had been frequently heard to say was the cause of
much unhappiness to him.

On Tuesday the 17th the signal was made at the South Head, and about six
o'clock in the evening the _Sugar Cane_ transport anchored in the cove
from Cork, whence she sailed the 13th of last April, having on board one
hundred and ten male and fifty female convicts, with a sergeant's party
of the New South Wales corps as a guard. Nothing had happened on board
her until the 25th of May, when information was given to Mr. David Wake
Bell, the agent on the part of Government, that a mutiny was intended by
the convicts, and that they had proceeded so far as to saw off some of
their irons. Insinuations were at the same time thrown out, of the
probability of their being joined by certain of the sailors and of the
guard. The agent, after making the necessary inquiry, thought it
indispensable to the safety of the ship to cause an instant example to
be made, and ordered one of the convicts who was found out of irons to
be executed that night. Others he punished the next morning; and by
these measures, as might well be expected, threw such a damp on the
spirits of the rest, that he heard no more during the voyage of attempts
or intentions to take the ship.

Since the arrival of the _Boddingtons_ many circumstances respecting the
intended mutiny in that ship had been disclosed by the convicts
themselves which were not before known. They did not hesitate to say,
that all the officers were to have been murdered, the first* mate and the
agent excepted, who were to be preserved alive for the purpose of
conducting the ship to a port, when they likewise were to be put to

[* Mr. Duncan McEver. He belonged to the _Atlantic_, which ship he
quitted at Bengal.]

As intentions of this kind had been talked of in several ships, the
military guard should never have been less than an officer's command, and
that guard (especially when embarked for the security of a ship full of
wild lawless Irish) ought never to have been composed either of young
soldiers, or of deserters from other corps.

This ship had a quick passage from Rio de Janeiro, arriving here in
sixty-five days from that port. She brought the following quantity of
provisions and stores for the colony:

Beef 46 tierces 15,496 ) 31,496 pounds;
Shipped at Cork 80 barrels 16,000 )
Pork 92 tierces 29,440 ] 45,440 pounds;
Shipped at Cork 80 barrels 16,000 ]
Flour 192 barrels, 64,512 pounds;
Lime-stone, shipped at Cork 44 tons;
Clothing and necessaries 17 bales and 5 cases

The convicts arrived in a very healthy state, nor was any one lost by
sickness during the voyage.

Captain Paterson, of the New South Wales corps, an account of whose
journeys in Africa appeared in print some years ago, conceiving that he
might be able to penetrate as far as, or even beyond, the western
mountains (commonly known in the colony by the name of the Blue
Mountains, from the appearance which land so high and distant generally
wears), set off from the settlement with a small party of gentlemen
(Captain Johnston, Mr. Palmer, and Mr. Laing the assistant-surgeon) well
provided with arms, and having provisions and necessaries sufficient for
a journey of six weeks, to make the attempt. Boats were sent round to
Broken Bay, whence they got into the Hawkesbury, and the fourth day
reached as far as Richmond Hill. At this place, in the year 1789, the
governor's progress up the river was obstructed by a fall of water, which
his boats were too heavy to drag over. This difficulty Captain Paterson
overcame by quitting his large boats, and proceeding from Richmond Hill
with two that were smaller and lighter. He found that this part of the
river carried him to the westward, and into the chasm that divided the
high land seen from Richmond Hill. Hither, however, he got with great
difficulty and some danger, meeting in the space of about ten miles with
not less than five waterfalls, one of which was rather steep, and was
running at the rate of ten or twelve miles an hour. Above this part the
water was about fifteen yards from side to side, and came down with some
rapidity, a fall of rain having swollen the stream. Their navigation was
here so intricate, lying between large pieces of rock that had been borne
down by torrents, and some stumps of trees which they could not always
see, that (after having loosened a plank in one boat, and driven the
other upon a stump which forced its way through her bottom) they gave up
any further progress, leaving the western mountains to be the object of
discovery at some future day. It was supposed that they had proceeded ten
miles farther up the river than had ever before been done, and named that
part of it which until then had been unseen, 'the Grose;' and a high peak
of land, which they had in view in the chasm, they called 'Harrington

Captain Paterson, as a botanist, was amply rewarded for his labour and
disappointment by discovering several new plants. Of the soil in which
they grew, he did not, however, speak very favourably.

He saw but few natives, and those who did visit them were almost
unintelligible to the natives of this place who accompanied him. He
entertained a notion that their legs and arms were longer than those of
the inhabitants of the coast. As they live by climbing trees, if there
really was any such difference, it might perhaps have been occasioned by
the custom of hanging by their arms and resting on their feet at the
utmost stretch of the body, which they practise from their infancy. The
party returned on the 22nd, having been absent about ten days.

In their walk to Pitt Water, they met with the boat which had been stolen
by some of the Irish convicts; and a few days after their return some of
those who had run into the woods came into Parramatta, with an account of
two of their party having been speared and killed by the natives. The men
who were killed were of very bad character, and had been the principals
in the intended mutiny on board the _Boddingtons_. Their destruction was
confirmed by some of the natives who lived in the town.

The foundation of another barrack for officers was begun in this month.
For the privates one only was yet erected; but this was not attended with
any inconvenience, as all those who were not in quarters had built
themselves comfortable huts between the town of Sydney and the
brick-kilns. This indulgence might be attended with some convenience to
the soldiers; but it had ever been considered, that soldiers could no
where be so well regulated as when living in quarters, where, by frequent
inspections and visitings, their characters would be known, and their
conduct attended to. In a multiplicity of scattered huts the eye of
vigilance would with difficulty find its object, and the soldier in
possession of a habitation of his own might, in a course of time, think
of himself more as an independent citizen, than as a subordinate soldier.

On the 23rd the first part of the cargo of the _Sugar Cane_ was
delivered, and in a very few days all that she had on board on account of
government was received into the store, together with some surplus
provisions of the contractor's. The convicts which she brought out were,
very soon after her arrival, sent to the settlements up the harbour. At
these places the labouring people were employed, some in getting the
Indian corn for the ensuing season into such ground as was ready, and
others in preparing the remainder. At the close of the month, through the
favourable rains which had fallen, the wheat in general wore the most
flattering appearance, giving every promise of a plenteous harvest. At
Toongabbie the wheat appeared to bid defiance to any accident but fire,
against which some precautions had however been judiciously and timely
taken. From this place, and from the settlers, a quantity of corn
sufficient to supply all our numbers for a twelvemonth was expected to be
received into the public granaries, if those who looked so far forward,
and took into their calculation much corn not yet in ear, were not too
sanguine in their expectations.


The _Boddingtons_ and _Sugar Cane_ sail
A mill erected
Thefts committed
Convicts emancipated
Two persons killed by lightning
The _Fairy_ arrives
Farms sold
Public works
The _Francis_ returns from New Zealand
The _Fairy_ sails
Ration altered
Harvest begun
Criminal Court held
A convict executed
Mill at Parramatta
Christmas Day
Grants of land
Public works
Expenses how to be calculated
Deaths in 1793
Prices of grain, stock, and labour

October.] The _Boddingtons_ and _Sugar Cane_ being both bound for the
same port in India (Bengal) the masters agreed to proceed together; and
on the 13th, the _Sugar Cane_ having set up her rigging, and hurried
through such refitting as was indispensably necessary, both ships left
the harbour with a fair wind, purposing to follow in the _Atlantic's_
track. The master of the _Boddingtons_ was furnished by us with a copy of
a chart made on board the _Pitt_ Indiaman, and brought hither by the
_Britannia_, of a passage or channel found by that ship in the land named
by Lieutenant Shortland New Georgia; which channel was placed in the
latitude of 8 degrees 30 minutes S and in the longitude of 158 degrees 30
minutes E and named 'Manning's Straits,' from the commander of the

The master of the _Sugar Cane_, had he been left to sail alone,
determined to have tried the passage to India by the way of the South
Cape of this country, instead of proceeding to the northward, and seemed
not to have any doubt of meeting with favourable winds after rounding the
cape. By their proceeding together, however, it remained yet to be
determined, whether a passage to India round the South Cape of this
country was practicable, and whether it would be a safer and a shorter
route than one through Endeavour or Torres Strait, the practicability of
which was likewise undetermined as to any knowledge which was had of it
in this colony.

Seven persons whose terms of transportation had expired, were permitted
to quit the colony in these ships, and the master of the _Sugar Cane_ had
shipped Benjamin Williams, the last of the _Kitty's_ people who remained
undisposed of. One free woman, the wife of a convict, took her passage in
the _Sugar Cane_.

Notwithstanding the facility with which passages from this place were
procured (very little more being required by the masters than permission
to receive them, and that the parties should find their own provisions)
it was found after the departure of these ships that some convicts had,
by being secreted on board, made their escape from the colony; and two
men, whose terms as convicts had expired, were brought up from the _Sugar
Cane_ the day she sailed, having got on board without permission; for
which the lieutenant-governor directed them to be punished with fifty
lashes each, and sent up to Toongabbie.

Early in the month an alteration took place in the weekly ration, the
four pounds of wheat served to the convicts were discontinued, and a
substitution of one pint of rice, and two pints of gram (an East India
grain resembling dholl) took place. The serving of wheat was discontinued
for the purpose of issuing it as flour; to accomplish which a mill had
been constructed by a convict of the name of James Wilkinson, who came to
this country in the _Neptune_. His abilities as a millwright had hitherto
lain dormant, and perhaps would longer have continued so, had they not
been called forth by a desire of placing himself in competition with
Thorpe the millwright sent out by government.

His machine was a walking mill, the principal wheel of which was fifteen
feet in diameter, and was worked by two men; while this wheel was
performing one revolution, the mill-stones performed twenty. As it was in
opposition to the public millwright that he undertook to construct this
mill, he of course derived no assistance whatever from Thorpe's knowledge
of the business, and had to contend not only with his opinion, but the
opinion of such as he could prejudice against him. The heavy part of the
work, cutting and bringing in the timber, and afterwards preparing it,
was performed by his fellow-prisoners, who gave him their labour
voluntarily. He was three months and five days from taking it in hand to
his offering it for the first trial. On this trial it was found defective
in some of the machinery, which was all constructed of the timber of the
country, and not properly seasoned. Its effects in grinding were various;
at first it would grind no more than two bushels an hour; with some
alteration, it ground more, and did for some time complete four bushels;
it afterwards ground less, and at the end of the month produced not more
than one bushel. Had the whole of the machinery been upon a larger scale,
there was reason to suppose it would have answered every expectation of
the most interested. The constructor, however, had a great deal of merit,
and perceiving himself what the defects were in this, he undertook to
make another upon a larger scale at Sydney, and on an improved plan. For
this purpose, all the artificers and a gang of convicts were brought down
from Parramatta, and were first employed in forming a timber-yard at
Petersham, two hundred feet square.

At that place, a small district in the neighbourhood of Sydney so named
by the lieutenant-governor, nine huts for labouring convicts were built,
and sixty acres of government ground cleared of timber, twenty of which
were sown with Indian corn. This was the only addition made to the public
ground this season; and the sole difference that was observable in the
progress of our cultivation consisted in sowing this year with wheat a
large portion of that ground which last year grew Indian corn. The
weather throughout the month continued extremely favourable for wheat.

The number of convicts which it was intended to receive for the present
into the New South Wales corps being determined, a warrant of
emancipation passed the seal of the territory, giving conditional freedom
to twenty three persons of that description, seven of whom were
transported for life, and three had between six and nine years to serve,
having been sent out for fourteen. The condition of the pardon was, their
continuing to serve in the corps into which they had enlisted until they
should be regularly discharged therefrom.

Several instances of irregularity and villainy among the convicts
occurred during this month. From Parramatta, information was received,
that in the night of the 15th four people broke into the house of John
Randall, a settler, where with large bludgeons they had beaten and nearly
murdered two men who lived with him. The hands and faces of these
miscreants were blackened; and it was observed, that they did not speak
during the time they were in the hut. It was supposed, that they were
some of the new-comers, and meant to rob the house; and this they would
have effected, but for the activity of the two men whom they attacked,
and for the resistance which they met with from them. At this time seven
of the male convicts lately arrived from Ireland, with one woman, had
absconded into the woods. Some of these people were afterwards brought in
to Parramatta, where they confessed that they had planned the robbing of
the millhouse, the governor's, and other houses; and that they were to be
visited from time to time in their places of concealment by others of
their associates who were to reside in the town, and to supply them with
provisions, and such occasional information as might appear to be
necessary to their safety. They also acknowledged that the assault at
Randall's hut was committed by them and their companions.

About the same time the house of Mr. Atkins at Parramatta was broken
into, and a large quantity of provisions, and a cask of wine, removed
from his store-room to the garden fence, where they left them on being
discovered and pursued. They, however, got clear off, though without
their booty.

At Sydney, in the night of the 26th, a box belonging to John Sparrow (a
convict) was broke open, and three watches stolen out, one of which with
the seals had cost thirty-two guineas, and belonged to an officer. This
theft was committed at the hospital, where Sparrow was at the time a
patient, although able to work occasionally at his business; and being a
young man of abilities as a watchmaker, and of good character, was
employed by most of the gentlemen of the settlement. Suspicion fell upon
a notorious thief who was in the same ward, and who had some time before
proposed to another man to take the box. On his examination he accused
two others of the theft, but with such equivocation in his tale as
clearly proved the falsehood of it. As there was no evidence against him,
except the proposal just mentioned, he was discharged, and during the
month nothing was heard of the watches. An old man belonging to the
hospital was robbed at the same time of eight guineas and some dollars,
which he had got together for the purpose of paying for his passage and
provisions in any ship that would take him home.

During a storm of rain and thunder which happened in the afternoon of
Saturday the 26th, two convict lads Dennis Reardon and William Meredith,
who were employed in cutting wood just by the town when the rain
commenced, ran to a tree for shelter, where they were found the next
morning lying dead, together with a dog which followed them. There was no
doubt that the shelter which they sought had proved their destruction,
having been struck dead by lightning, one or two flashes of which had
been observed to be very vivid and near. One of them, when he received
the stroke, had his hands in his bosom; the hands of the other were
across his breast, and he seemed to have had something in them. The
pupils of their eyes were considerably dilated, and the tongue of each,
as well as that of the dog, was forced out between the teeth. Their faces
were livid, and the same appearance was visible on several parts of their
bodies. The tree at the foot of which they were found was barked at the
top, and some of its branches torn off. In the evening they were decently
buried in one grave, to which they were attended by many of their
fellow-prisoners. Mr. Johnson, to a discourse which he afterwards
preached on the subject, prefixed as a text these words from the first
book of Samuel, chap xx verse 3. 'There is but a step between me and

This was the first accident of the kind that, to our knowledge, had
occurred in the colony, though lightning more vivid and alarming had
often been seen in storms of longer duration.

While every one was expecting our colonial vessel, the _Francis_, from
New Zealand. the signal for a sail was made on the 29th; and shortly
after the _Fairy_, an American snow, anchored in the cove from Boston in
New England, and last from the island of St. Paul, whence she had a
passage of only four weeks. The master, Mr. Rogers, touched at False
Bay; but from there not having been any recent arrivals from Europe, he
procured no other intelligence at that port, than what we had already
received. At the island of St. Paul he found five seamen who had been
left there from a ship two years before, and who had procured several
thousand seal-skins. They informed him, that Lord Macartney in his
Majesty's ship the _Lion_, and the _Hindostan_ East-Indiaman, had
touched there in their way to China, and Mr. Rogers expected to have
heard that his lordship had visited this settlement.

The _Fairy_ was to proceed from this place to the north-west coast of
America, where the master hoped to arrive the first for the fur market.
Thence he was to go to China with his skins, and from China back to St.
Paul, where he had left a mate and two sailors. Their success was to
regulate his future voyages.

Mr. Rogers expressed a surprise that we had not any small craft on the
coast, as he had observed a plentiful harvest of seals as he came along.
He came in here merely to refresh, not having any thing on board for
sale, his cargo consisting wholly of articles of traffic for the
north-west coast of America.

Charles Williams, the settler so often mentioned in this narrative,
wearied of being in a state of independence, sold his farm with the
house, crop, and stock, for something less than one hundred pounds, to an
officer of the New South Wales corps, Lieutenant Cummings, to whose
allotment of twenty-five acres Williams's ground was contiguous. James
Ruse also, the owner of Experiment farm, anxious to return to England,
and disappointed in his present crop, which he had sown too late, sold
his estate with the house and some stock (four goats and three sheep) for
forty pounds. Both these people had to seek employment until they could
get away; and Williams was condemned to work as a hireling upon the
ground of which he had been the master. But he was a stranger to the
feelings which would have rendered this circumstance disagreeable to him.

The allotment of thirty acres, late in the possession of James Richards,
a settler at the Ponds, deceased, was put into the occupation of a
private soldier of the New South Wales corps; and a grant of thirty acres
at the Eastern Farms was purchased for as many pounds by another soldier.

The greatest inconvenience attending this transfer of landed property
was the return of such a miscreant as Williams, and others of his
description, to England, to be let loose again upon the public. The land
itself came into the possession of people who were interested in making
the most of it, and who would be more studious to raise plentiful crops
for market.

Building and covering the new barrack, and bringing in timber for the new
mill-house, which was not to be built of brick, formed the principal
labour of this month at Sydney. The shipwrights were employed in putting
up the frame of a long-boat purchased of the master of the _Britannia_,
and repairing the hoy, which had been lying for some months useless for
want of repairs, having been much injured by the destructive worm that
was found in the waters of this cove.

At the other settlements the convicts were employed in planting the
Indian corn. About four hundred and twenty acres were planted with that
article for this season's crop.

November.] In the night of Thursday the 7th of November, the _Francis_
schooner anchored in the cove from Dusky Bay in New Zealand; her long
absence from this place (nearly nine weeks) having been occasioned by
meeting with contrary and heavy gales of wind. The alteration which had
been made in this vessel by rigging her as a schooner instead of a sloop,
for which she was built, was found to have materially affected her
sailing; for a schooner she was too short, and, for want of proper sail,
she did not work well. Four times she was blown off the coast of New
Zealand, the _Britannia_ having anchored in Dusky Bay sixteen days before
the _Francis_.

Mr. Raven found in health and safety all the people whom he had left
there. They had procured him only four thousand five hundred seal-skins,
having been principally occupied in constructing a vessel to serve them
in the event of any accident happening to the _Britannia_. This they had
nearly completed when Mr. Raven arrived. She was calculated to measure
about sixty-five tons, and was chiefly built of the spruce fir, which
Mr. Raven stated to be the fittest wood he had observed there for
ship-building, and which might be procured in any quantity or of any
size. The carpenter of the _Britannia_, an ingenious man, and master of

Online LibraryDavid CollinsAn Account of the English Colony in New South Wales, Volume 1 With Remarks on the Dispositions, Customs, Manners, Etc. of The Native Inhabitants of That Country. to Which Are Added, Some Particulars o → online text (page 35 of 61)