The Mercury

Thursday 1 April 2004, page 16

 

 

Easter Treat

 
1 April 1804

It is Easter Sunday, the first one far away from home, and an emotional time for all.

At 10.30 in the morning the entire settlement attends divine service in the open air.

Lieutenant Lord and Harris join Rev. Robert Knopwood in celebrating this feast day by making short work of a piece of fine Norfolk ham, “the best we ever eat”', Knopwood noted in his diary that evening.

In the afternoon Lieutenant Bowen also joined the party, and in the end everybody “was very merry”.

To Knopwood, a Norfolk countryman, the appearance of a Norfolk ham on his table would have given him immense sentimental pleasure, quite apart from the taste of the ham itself.

We are not told what everybody else enjoyed to mark the day, but we can be sure that there will have been many other improvised festive meals throughout the settlement, although this time Lieutenant-Governor Collins apparently did not see his way clear to make a special issue of one pound of raisins, as he had done last Christmas when they were all still at Port Phillip.

The members of the expedition along the Derwent managed to return to their quarters at the “first falls”' (near Plenty), from where over the next few days they returned by boat to Risdon Cove.

 

The Mercury

Monday 2 April 2004, page 32

 

 

Tough rules in the store

 
2 April 1804

With the recent appointment of John Sutton as assistant deputy commissioner of the government stores came a lot of the experience which Sutton had gained in his job as superintendent of convicts, and his presence is soon felt in the form of new no-nonsense arrangements with regards to the handling of the distribution of the “rations’'.

It has been decided that the:

 

NOTE: Reading between the lines here, one can fairly well make out the sometimes chaotic situation and security risks outside (and inside!) the store tent, especially with the servants of officers claiming privileges on behalf of their masters.

Also, in order to put the management and supervision of the water traffic in the cove on a better footing, Collins appoints William Collins to be the harbour master of Sullivans Cove.

 

 

The Mercury

Tuesday 13 April 2004, page 22

 

 

Ark of modern marvels

 
13 April 1804

 

The provision of food had its own problems. Modern food preservation techniques still had to be invented and as a result the best that could be done was to use common domestic food preservation customs such as dried and heavily salted meat, flour stored in barrels, large quantities of “kiln dried British”' wheat and barley, sea biscuits, sugar and, as a perk for the military and civil members of the expedition, “spirits and wine”.

Packed solidly with other freight and baggage the ventilation of the holds left much to be desired, and what with rats being a problem on board we frequently read later that large quantities of these foodstuffs were no longer edible when finally brought out for consumption.

Live animals such as cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, fowl and the like were also brought along. While they provided at least some fresh food on the way -- milk, eggs and the occasional butchering -- they also required large quantities of fodder, all to be stored on the ship somewhere and somehow. (The fire hazard of all that fodder and hay on a wooden ship can only be imagined!)

Upon arrival at Port Phillip, substantial quantities of garden seeds were used to get the vegetable gardens going, but then these gardens were abandoned again when Collins moved the expedition to Van Diemen's Land.

This loss had cut considerably into the available seed after their arrival in Hobart Town and it took several seasons before this shortfall in the garden had been made good again.

The ordnance packed for use by the military represented much of the equipment commonly in use toward the end of the 18th century, including four iron cannons (two 12-pounders, 9 feet long and two six-pounders, six feet long) and two “brass” carronades (6-pounders, 6 feet long), hand spikes, rammer heads, all the necessary equipment to load, fire, clean and reload large guns, tarpaulins, handcarts “with Poles for carrying Ammunition (2)”, plus weaponry such as 6 blunderbusses (short guns with a wide bore, thus causing its charge to spread widely), 12 muskets (with “Bayonets, Scabbards and Steel Rammers”), 50 pistols complete with 5000 bullets, 100 “Sea Service Swords” or cutlasses, 50 spare muskets for the marines plus 6000 balls to match, etc.

The tents supplied to the expedition appeared to be an interesting subject in its own right, as around that time a fair amount of rationalising of old and highly inefficient customs of the acquisition of military ordnance went on in England.

Many of the requirements by the various army regiments were being standardised while at the same time a considerable effort of design and actual field trials went on before large and centralised equipment purchasing contracts were issued.

During the late 18th century military leaders became used to “army issue” tents as a convenient and portable form of shelter for their troops and we see that by the time Collins departs from England that a number of such tents were part of the cargo.

On January 27, 1803, Lord Hobart gave permission for the purchase and delivery on board the Calcutta of “45 tents, 10 Marquees and 2 Laboratory Tents”.

Subsequent purchasing records tell us that a total of “45 Flanders tents, of substantial materials”, had been acquired for use by the troops, the prisoners and the settlers. Made from canvas imported from Flanders, these tents were a relatively recent example of a supplies-instigated invention.
The tents had been given a round shape, accommodated about 14 men each (“one man to each strip of canvas”), and normally came complete with the main spar in the middle. (Because the spars were too long for transport, they came in two halves with a newly invented “patented locking device” to join them quickly.)

How many of the 45 ordered Flanders tents actually made it on board is not known; they were bulky items, while the older type ridgepole tent would have required much less space when folded tightly. Some of the first watercolours of the settlement by G.P. Harris clearly show the presence of both types in use in the settlement itself, while two of the round Flanders-type tents appear to been put to use on Hunters Island for storage.

The 10 marquees were for the officers and other senior members of the “Establishment”, while the 2 “laboratory tents” were for the medical officers to deal with their patients, for which purpose again the round Flanders type tents seem to have been used.

No clear information came to light about the shape and sizes of these marquees, but apparently not all of them were new. Knopwood's marquee, for instance, had seen earlier use even before it left England, and by the time he pulled it down a year later to re-erect it on his new allotment facing Sullivans Cove, it was altogether much the worse for wear.

 

 

The Mercury

Wednesday 14 April 2004, page 24

 

 

Prefab digs for Collins

 
2 April 1804

It was of much interest to note that Collins himself had the advantage of living in a demountable framed Room for the accommodation of the Persons composing the Establishment upon their arrival at their Destination.

Probably originally designed as some form of a common room for the officers, it consisted of a timber frame covered with canvas, a wooden floor, windows, a door, canvas roof and walls, and all the timber needed to put it up. The bits and pieces came in large boxes, together with a model showing how the pre-cut pieces should be put together. Cost, including the packing and freight to the ship: pound stg. 155.

 

(In acquiring this structure, Collins probably relied on his earlier experience in Sydney in 1788, from which time he recalls that A portable canvas house, brought over for the Governor, was erected on the East side of the cove.)

 

The size of this structure could not be determined from the information given, but some of the details of the materials used for it could suggest a floor space of some 38m2, just enough for a bed and personal things, a dining room table with several chairs to seat any guests, and one or two desks for his clerk to write the never-ending correspondence that Collins as Governor had to deal with.

The means used to heat this tent -- or indeed any of the other ones -- is unknown. While still far from ideal, this tent would have been sheer luxury compared with what the troops, settlers and prisoners had to put up with.

After the completion of his house in March 1804, it seems that Collins passed this canvas shelter on to his marines, and the survey of the settlement by Harris in the winter of 1804 indeed shows a fairly large rectangular structure placed within the military encampment.

In July 1804, we read of several convicts being put to work within sight of the Grand Tent in this encampment, the only indication we have that the military had indeed a mess tent of some description at their disposal.

Finally, it was assumed from the experiences gained during earlier journeys such as those by Captain Cook that on meeting up with natives these seemingly simple people could easily be pacified with small gifts, and so the cargo also included 80 hatchets, 17 pairs of blankets, beads and other trinkets, as presents for the natives, to the value of pound stg. 21. (There is nothing on record to indicate what happened to these items, although it is a fair guess that the hatchets and blankets found a welcome use by the settlers themselves.)

As mentioned earlier, there was far too much cargo for the holds of the ships involved, causing occasionally very heated wharf-side arguments in London about just what to bring and what to leave.

Appreciating the essential nature of the cargo, one official in charge of the loading at one stage point blank refused to take on this responsibility, and wrote a polite but nevertheless terse note to Collins requesting him to come to the wharf and make those choices himself, such as casks of sherry versus essential hardware(!).

In the end, Collins was given vague promises that the cargo left behind would follow in later ships, and in a letter he wrote to Governor King in July 1804 still hoped to receive the Provisions and Stores which were left behind.

 

(The Coromandel which arrived in Sydney in May 1804 did indeed have at least some of these stores, causing Governor King to report back to London that The articles belonging to Lt Gov Collins's Stores also received by that ship shall be sent immediately.)

 

But there was a great deal of water between Sydney and the Derwent and as it was, the final bill for all the goods added up to pound stg. 8047.1.7 plus pound stg. 2568.0.0 under the heading of freight, making it a grand total of pound stg. 10615.1.7 for the fitting out of the expedition as it eventually landed on the shores of Sullivans Cove .



The Mercury

Thursday 15 April 2004, page 21

 

 

Huts come before prayer

 
15 April 1804

Although everybody on this morning is already assembled for the obligatory attendance of the open air divine service, the weather is once again declared to be so bad that Governor Collins lets everybody off, giving them another whole day to work on their own huts and other necessities.

With all these many Sunday services cancelled because of bad weather, one begins to get a suspicion that Collins used any excuse to give his people the badly needed extra time to complete their huts, a laborious and time-consuming job under the best of circumstances because all the materials had to be gathered from whatever the bush around them supplied.

One also gets the distinct impression from the various entries in his diary that Knopwood does not seem to have minded in the least.

 

 

The Mercury

Saturday 17 April 2004, page 14

 

 

Collins recognizes fire danger, thievery

 
17April 1804

Having delivered the repaired rudder of the Integrity back to the stricken ship, Captain Delano returns from Cape Barren Island to the Derwent in the Pilgrim, and during the afternoon drops in at Knopwood's tent to tell him how it all went.

In the settlement, most people are now living in rough huts scattered around the camp (if a contemporary plan of surveyor Harris is to be used as a guide, there are some 30 huts spread through the area, plus a number of tents).

Collins recognises the fire hazard which their occupants are exposed to and warns them to be extra careful with cooking fires and the like, as one spark may have disastrous results for the entire settlement, especially in view of the seasonal high winds (still a month of high bushfire danger).

He orders that individual prisoners are not permitted to move into other huts without permission and that the huts are to be kept clean and tidy at all times.

There seems to be much petty theft going on.

In an effort to combat this, Collins announces that he will no longer replace what was stolen (suggesting that food and probably tools in particular are the target for thieves), and points to the meanness of the very idea that prisoners would steal from each other -- not so much because they are prisoners, but rather because everybody in the settlement was facing the same difficulties and disadvantages.

 

 

The Mercury

Monday 19 April 2004, page 17

 

 

Warning after rampaging pigs cause damage

 
19 April 1804

More problems within the small community, this time from swine having a free run of the settlement and feeding on whatever scraps that may come their way.

In their search for food, these swine seem to cause a lot of damage (nothing stands between a hungry pig and nearby food!).

All owners are warned that they will be responsible to make up for any damage so caused by their swine, on penalty of having the offending swine slaughtered so that part of its meat could be used to compensate the person who suffered the loss, and with the rest of the carcass to benefit the sick in the hospital -- under the circumstances a very grim warning indeed.

Collins let it be known that he would not compensate those who took no notice of this caution, and they stood to lose their rations as a result of their carelessness.

Moored nearby in the cove, the crew of the Pilgrim is very busy filling its water casks in the holds as Captain Delano is keen to resume his whaling activities. He does seem to have enjoyed himself and he invites Knopwood, Lieutenant Lord and Mr Harris that afternoon for a meal in the cabin of his ship as a thank-you gesture for the hospitality he and his crew received while in the Derwent.

Now moored in the cove, the Integrity begins to unload its cargo from Sydney. Much of it was wheat, intended to be sown for next year's crop as a vital means to keep the settlement alive during the next year.

Although Knopwood was still quite comfortably installed in his marquee next to the Governor's new house, he too starts looking for a site where he would like to build a house.

From the many walks he liked to make around the camp he began to be quite familiar with the local environment and in the end choose a site on a rising hillside overlooking Sullivans Cove from the south -- the site of the future Cottage Green.

 

(Today, nothing is left of this cottage, which was located on what now is a parking lot in Montpellier Retreat, behind a hotel in Gladstone Street).

 

 

The Mercury

Tuesday 20 April 2004, page 10

 

 

Browns River discovered

 
20 April 1804

The botanist Robert Brown drops in on Reverend Knopwood telling him of his latest expedition, during which he had tried to beat his way through the bush from the settlement in an effort to reach the Huon River.

He had failed because he found the going in the steep valleys and dense forests too difficult. The details of his excursion are unclear, but it is thought he assumed the run of what is now named the North West Bay River would lead him to the Huon River.

This, of course, was not so and he finished up instead at the head of the North West Bay where he erected a temporary shelter to spend the night.

He clearly did not feel inclined to trace his way back to the top of Mt Wellington for another effort so he worked his way back home via the western shore of the River Derwent, a ramble during which he discovered another fine river, due south from the camp.

This river, later named after him, runs into the Derwent at Kingston Beach where a stone memorial still commemorates Brown's presence.

 

 

The Mercury

Wednesday 21 April 2004, page 28

 

Rum time at Risdon

 

21 April 1804

Today an allocation of spirits ration for the military arrived at Risdon Cove from the Collins settlement.

Because of the lack of discipline in the settlement, the results were immediate and predictable -- most, if not all, soldiers get drunk.

 

 

The Mercury

Thursday 22 April 2004, page 22

 

 

Collins almost loses control

 
22 April 1804

At an early morning inspection of the soldiers at Risdon Cove under his command, Lieutenant Moore is faced with insubordination from three: a John Carr (claiming much fatigue from last night), a William Burke and a William Page.

A rowdy argument follows, ending with all three soldiers handcuffed and later in the day taken by Moore to the Integrity, still in port anxiously awaiting to depart for Sydney where a trial would be held.

Right in the middle of all this commotion, Lieutenant Bowen also discovered a wild plot by some by his convicts (all of them appear to be Irishmen, sent out to Port Jackson for taking part in the famous Uprising of 1798) to murder all officers and military men, arm themselves and urge their fellow prisoners on the other side of the river to join them.

After having settled things down, Bowen hurried to Governor Collins to report on the events and discuss the situation with him.

Collins realised the potential seriousness of the situation and the first thing he does is to delay the imminent sailing of the Integrity.

He then requested Knopwood to cancel the usual divine service about to begin and accompany Bowen back to Risdon, ostensibly for the purpose of performing Divine Service there in the afternoon, but on their arrival they find the settlement in too much Confusion to [permit] the People being assembled for that purpose.

No wonder, because while Bowen was absent more trouble erupted with some of the soldiers, effectively leaving only six non-commissioned officers and a few (hopefully loyal) soldiers to maintain order and security.

The return of Bowen accompanied by Knopwood has some stabilising influence on the situation, but the chaplain decides to stay for the night anyway to keep an eye on things.

 

 

The Mercury

Saturday 24 April 2004, page 40

 

 

How Hobart gets its name

 
24 April 1804

Governor Collins is still holding up the departure of the Integrity back to Sydney, so that he also can report to Governor King on the events of the past few days.

In his letter he once again points out to King the need to remove all the dangerous Members of the Military and Civil Part of the Establishment at Risdon Cove. I cannot think they are at all to be trusted, and among the prisoners there are several daring, flagitious and desperate characters who I do not want to be mixed with mine. You will know by now with what rapidity the Schemes of these people are embraced, and that nothing but a strong and well Disciplined Military Force can keep them in proper subjection.

In other words, there does not seem to be much difference between the soldiers and the convicts at Risdon Cove, a telling assessment by Governor Collins of the human resources that were given to Lieutenant Bowen to claim and defend His Majesty's Rights to that Island.

And as a final argument for his wish to close down the Risdon Cove settlement, he concludes: There certainly can no longer be any advantage in maintaining an Establishment at Risdon Creek, as I am settled in a much more eligible situation; and I should, therefore, hope that the removal of these people may as speedily be effected as Your Excellency may have it in your power.

This is the first official letter by Collins which he proudly heads as having been written at Government House, Hobart Town, implying that not only is he now living in a formal government residence (however primitive it might still have been at that time), but he also feels free to use the name Hobart as the official name of the settlement.

There remains of course the question of the reason for Bowen's choice of the name Hobart for his settlement on the Derwent in September 1803.

When Governor King sent Lieutenant Bowen to the Derwent he would have been very much aware of the strategic significance of his (officially at that time still unauthorised) move, and although of course totally unaware of the Collins expedition then being on its way, clearly used his political nous when he instructed Bowen to use the name of the then Secretary for the Colonies, in the same way as in 1788 Sydney had been named after the then Home Secretary of Britain, Lord Sydney.
Against this background, it will become clear why the official declaration of the name of his new settlement also weighed heavily with Collins, who was still prevented from using the name Hobart, at that time legally the name of an existing locality elsewhere. It had since become the scene of several alleged offences involving military personnel which still had to be dealt with by a military court, together with a number of other offences committed by convicts, matters which also still had to be dealt with by a court in Sydney.

(The legal sensitivity of this matter was such that all references to the name Hobart in the handwritten minutes of the subsequent Court Martial in Sydney in August 1804 were later promptly changed to the settlement or, at best, Risdon Cove).

Collins eventually solved his dilemma by adding the word Town to the name Hobart, so the name Hobart Town came into being. This double name would remain in use until 1880, when legislation was passed to drop the word Town at the stroke of midnight on the night of December 31 -- without a murmur being raised about it.

That same day, Lieutenant Bowen also writes a letter to Governor King. The contents of this letter are unknown, but almost certainly contain his comments on the events of the past few days at Risdon Cove, together with the reasons why he was not there when it all happened.

 

 

Sunday Tasmanian

Sunday 25 April 2004, page 12

 

 

Troublemakers Sydney bound

 
25 April 1804

With all the last-minute official correspondence now ready, the Integrity can finally set sail for Sydney.

Among those on board are the four troublemakers from Risdon Cove, returned by Collins to Sydney because he “deemed it expedient for the safety of both Settlements to secure these people in the best manner I could”.

 

(At a later court-martial in Sydney, Carr was sentenced to receive 1000 lashes “on his bare back” plus -- ironically – “being transported for a period of seven years to Risdon Cove”; the fate of Pricket is unclear, while the other two received a sentence of 500 lashes each.)


Governor King later commuted the last two sentences while Carr, the ringleader, actually received only 175 lashes and stayed in Sydney.

The members of the Bench later got into much trouble from London over this sentence, being sternly reminded that a transportation sentence away from Sydney, given the fact that it had been established precisely for such miscreants as had now been sentenced, could hardly be seen as a punishment . . . )

But against the explicit instructions of Governor King to return to Sydney, Lt Bowen is still not on board the Integrity, probably because he has not as yet completed the arrangements he wishes to make for the future well being of Martha Hayes and her child.

 

 

The Mercury

Monday 26 April 2004, page 10

 

 

Punishment and creating semblance of order

 
26 April 1804

Lieutenant Bowen visits Knopwood, the events of the past few days at Risdon still very much on their mind.

The punishment of the troublesome convicts also figured greatly in their discussions.

As a magistrate, Knopwood gave Bowen certain advice with regards to their sentence and it is then left to Bowen to put this into practise.

Meanwhile, the prisoners at Sullivans Cove are working hard to put some semblance of order into the place.

They had been divided into various task groups. There was, for instance, a town gang of about 40 men working on building roads; they also created some much-needed drainage within the built-up area and improved the access to the stores on Hunter Island, still separated twice a day from the settlement by the tides washing over the bar linking the island with the shore.

The boat crews organised huts and other accommodation on the Domain side of the Hobart Rivulet near Hunter Island. Eleven people are employed full-time cutting timber while a further 26 men got the job of transporting this timber from the bush to the camp.

Others make bricks, blacksmiths work their iron, cooks prepare meals and the carpenters make furniture -- one commodity of which there is a great shortage -- and so the whole community slowly developed a certain order and purpose of action.

One item of bad news beginning to filter through from the stores on Hunter Island, however, was that the wheat unloaded only a few days ago from the Integrity was “injured by the weevil”.

This meant that, apart from its use as stock food, this wheat would not be much good for sowing, as they knew already was the case with another quantity of wheat and rye that came with them from England.

Collins became very concerned about all this, but could not do much else than mention it in his next letter to Governor King.

 

NOTE: The wheat seems to have been planted just the same (there was nothing else they could do), as some months later Collins reports to Lord Hobart in London that the seed he had received from Sydney was now “thriving luxuriantly and I trust will continue to do so until it is reaped”.

Later in the year this early optimism proved to have been sadly misplaced.

 

 

The Mercury

Tuesday 27 April 2004, page 13

 

 

The search for a burial ground

 
27 April 1804

Elizabeth Edwards, the young daughter of a prisoner and his free wife, dies. Normally not overly concerned with the lives of convicts, her death made the Reverend Knopwood nevertheless realise that there was in this case a need for an officially recognised burial ground.

He discussed the matter with Governor Collins who agreed with him, and that day the pair set off on a walk to look for a suitable site. It posed a difficult choice as much of the ground around them is very hard and poor. But because Knopwood has had more time than Collins to wander around and become familiar with the environment of the settlement he may have been the one to suggest an area a short distance to the south where they decided on a quiet and gently sloping area on both sides of a small creek, well away from the bustle of the settlement itself.


NOTE: The small creek ran from somewhere near the intersection of Davey and Harrington Sts and ended in a quiet corner of Sullivans Cove, an area now under the garden before Parliament House. For the first few years after the settlement in 1804, this swampy and reedy area was carefully left alone as it was an area favoured by wildlife and waterfowl, a welcome source for the hunters out for the next meal in their cooking pot.

The cemetery, within a few years to be called St David's Park, was in use until about the end of that century. It then became neglected and forgotten until it was converted in 1937 into a public park. Within the park now is a memorial wall in which some tombstones of the first settlers mentioned in this story may still be seen.

Also still present is the elaborate tomb in honour of David Collins, erected close to the site of his grave.
Because of all this and also the preparation of the funeral tomorrow (the first proper one in the new settlement), Knopwood could not accept an invitation by Lieutenant Bowen to come to Risdon, probably to discuss still further the problems with the soldiers and the convicts. But Collins thought it to be a good idea just the same, and suggested to the chaplain to perform the normal Divine Service there next Sunday in an effort to encourage a sense of order and normality again in the Risdon settlement.

A new attempt to hold a muster of the convicts at Sullivans Cove is announced, to be held next Sunday at 10am at the hut of Michael Michaels, a trusted convict given the job of overseer. All convicts will have to produce the clothes which were issued to them some six months ago, whereupon they would be issued with new clothing next Monday to cover the next six months.

 

 

The Mercury

Wednesday 28 April 2004, page 25

 

 

Convicts banished to an island

 
28 April 1804

Dr Mountgarret arrived during the morning from Risdon Cove to find out if Knopwood still wanted to travel to Risdon. Knopwood resaid he would, but the funeral of the Edwards girl -- the first formal one in the new colony -- was the first priority.

The event took place early that afternoon, with the Governor, all officers and many of the settlers in attendance. With that ceremony out of the way Knopwood left immediately after for Risdon Cove, joined by Mountgarret, Dr Bowden and the surveyor, G.P. Harris, and that evening these gentlemen dined there.

As night fell a somewhat melancholy mood begins to descend on the company around the table.

That very day it was exactly one year ago that they had waved farewell to their home country.

Much had happened since, but one thing had stayed the same. Their future remained as uncertain as it had been 12 months before and none of those around the table that evening would ever see the green fields of England again.

Absent from that dinner was Lieutenant Bowen, who earlier that day had left the Risdon settlement to take his mutinous convicts (all Irishmen, scoffed Knopwood in his diary) in a boat and dumps them on Smooth Island in Frederick Henry Bay with enough provisions for one month. Bowen then continued his journey by carrying his boat across the neck on Bruny Island into the D'Entrecasteaux Channel and up the Huon River for an exploratory journey.

 

(There is some confusion about the exact island on which the convicts were dropped off. Later, Collins gives their return to Hobart Town as from Hope Island, in other correspondence becoming an Island in Storm Bay).


NOTE: (United) Irishmen: During the 1790s many social, economic and especially political issues caused great unrest in Ireland, resulting in an uprising against the British in 1798.

As a result of this and subsequent events, many Irish people over the years ended up in British jails and were then sent out to Australia as convicts. But nothing was resolved by all this, and the long-term results of 1798 still bedevil the relationship between England and Ireland to this very day.