Sunday Tasmanian

Sunday 1 February 2004, page 16

 

 

Brush with Aborigines

 
1 February 1804
Surveyor Meehan sailed up the Derwent to explore the countryside there.
Reading his diary, we see how he commenced his survey at the First Falls, nowadays the rapids where the railway bridge crosses the Derwent a short distance upstream from New Norfolk.
He seems to have concentrated on the area on the northern side of the river; from the higher hills (Denns Hill?) he could see what were probably the plains around Bothwell, but also noted that the soil is not covered with much grass; the whole of it nearly perished with the Great Drought.
Next Monday he met up with a good number of native women and some children who proved friendly.
Later his party met a considerable body of natives who endeavour to surround us; they took one of my survey markers; am obliged to fire on them.
He then went to the top of a nearby hill, marked a gum tree and calmly continued his survey. During the afternoon he noted that the natives assemble again in a considerable body and endeavour to [hide] behind a hill [near] us. Fired another warning shot, and they dispersed.
But next morning the natives once more assemble in a large body on a hill above us. [They are] all around with spears [and display] a very menacing attitude. They followed us a short distance, then stopped; they appear to be very dexterous in throwing stones. Those who surrounded us yesterday in such multitudes had no arms but a few waddies, but several picked up stones.
And then, in the same breath, From a black gum E 14S-9 a stream bears . . . Unperturbed, he again continued his survey, eventually finishing up again on the shore of the Derwent near modern-day Bridgewater.


NOTE: This incident is thought to have taken place near Pelham, a small locality west of Elderslie.

 

 

The Mercury

Monday 9 February 2004, page 21

 

 

Arrival of the Lady Nelson

 

9 February 1804
The Lady Nelson arrives at Risdon Cove with the advance party of settlers from Port Phillip, where Governor Collins had been forced to abandon his settlement at Hobart (Sorrento, on the shores of Port Phillip Bay, southeast of Melbourne).
Much to his regret, Collins had not been able to convince Captain Woodriff of the Calcutta (the large vessel that had taken them from England to Port Phillip) to continue his engagement with the expedition and carry them onward to the Derwent in Van Diemen's Land in one group.
Woodriff argued that in view of the war with France that had been declared, it was his duty to return to England as soon as possible.
As a result, Collins had to make do with the much smaller Ocean and the even smaller brig Lady Nelson, necessitating a second journey by the Ocean to collect the remainder of the expedition.
As it was, this second journey would come close to a major maritime disaster, causing Collins later to write to Governor King in Sydney that he was still very angry with Captain Woodriff for having refused his request for further passage to the Derwent. It would have saved the additional cost of chartering the Ocean for a further four months, no major loss of livestock would have occurred as a result of the journey, while the later potentially dangerous mutiny at Risdon Cove would never have occurred because of the available extra marines.
Still on board the Lady Nelson, the settlers (all free people having to find good soil for their intended farming activities) meanwhile are anxiously scanning the surrounding shores for signs of water and good soils.
They probably were told of the findings by James Meehan, who just recently explored and surveyed the western shores of the Derwent. Armed with this information, some settlers now wish to explore the western shore of the Derwent, only a short row away from their ship on the other side of the river, and begin to make arrangements to do so.
Settler Hartley, on the other hand, promptly left the Lady Nelson with his family without formal permission and erected a tent or small hut near the store of the Risdon Cove settlement, the main reason being that he intended to run a ship building business here without the restrictions he expected to apply in the settlement about to be organised by Collins.
Another person on board the Lady Nelson also made use of their early arrival: the botanist Robert Brown almost immediately began an initial survey of the countryside around him. He collected several plants of interest, while notes in his diary also suggest that he may have interviewed some of the local Aboriginals, taking down words from their language.

 

 

The Mercury

Wednesday 11 February 2004, page 16

 

 

Long walk to Hobart for the advance party

They reach the neck of the peninsula (Lauderdale) towards sundown and then turn westward along the shoreline till darkness overtakes them, when they make camp near Rokeby.


February 11, 1804
The cumbersome and much slower Ocean with Governor Collins, his soldiers and the convicts on board is caught by a hot and exceptionally strong northerly wind so typical for southern Tasmania around that time of the year.
They can't quite make the Derwent, and around noon Captain Mertho is forced to make his way for safety in Frederick Henry Bay instead, where a short distance off Pipe Clay Lagoon they drop anchor.
The Ocean was a ship of 481 tons with a draft of 5 metres. Built in 1796 with a copper-sheathed hull, she was nearly 29 metres long, carried a crew of 35 men and was armed with 12   six-pounder guns.
Being a naval freighter, the ship was not exactly designed to accommodate that many people with all the necessary associated requirements such as ablution facilities, food stores, galleys etc.
The journey from Port Phillip to the Derwent had taken much longer than had been anticipated and the conditions on board were not all that rosy for convicts, soldiers and settlers alike when it finally went for anchor in the bay.
John Pascoe Fawkner later recalled the journey from Port Phillip to the Derwent with these words:
”The cooking facilities were only calculated for the small crew of a merchant vessel; but in our case there were at least 300 more people on board, while the decks were packed with goods.
We were told that the passage would take some 40 to 50 hours, and were asked to cook provisions to serve that time. As the accommodation was so small most people did so, but we found that our cooked food, bread as well as meat, ran out on the fourth day, and from then on the only way we could bake our bread was by making thin cakes and, taking our turn at the Cooks coppers (as they were called) slap the thin dough against the hot [sides]. As soon as it got warm the dough fell off; then we would stick the other side on until that fell off, but not half cooked. Meat could only be cooked in the coppers by those who paid the cook, or [get] some sailor to interfere, or by some of the ruffians who, forcing everybody aside, put their meat in the coppers by strength of arm.''
Governor Collins is understandably frustrated by the delay, and after some discussion accepts an offer by Lieutenant Edward Lord and geologist A.W.H. Humphrey to walk overland to the Risdon Cove settlement to let them know of their delayed arrival.
Collins hurriedly briefs them on “the dangers and difficulties'' they may encounter, writes a note to Lieutenant Bowen informing him of their presence nearby and hence their imminent arrival, and gives Humphrey, who is to act as “the pilot'', a copy of Flinders' recent chart of the area (1798) to guide the party.
They are also given the protection of two trusted convicts carrying arms plus the assistance of their personal servants, also convicts.
Soon after, the jolly (i.e. clinker-built) boat of the Ocean takes the party to a nearby beach where the surf gives them a dunking before they even manage to get ashore. They reach the neck of the peninsula (Lauderdale) towards sundown and then turn westward along the shoreline till darkness overtakes them, when they make camp near Rokeby.

 

 

The Mercury

Thursday 12 February 2004, page 32

 

Trek almost ended in disaster

 

‘I had never suffered so much for want of drink, and was almost unable to walk’

February 12, 1804
The advanced party from the Ocean get up at first light, cross the hills between Rokeby and Howrah and from there make for the hills overlooking the area of the present Eastlands shopping centre.
Here they decide to have breakfast, and then make a bad blunder. Later, geologist A.W.H. Humphrey describes what happened: “We stopped for breakfast. We had not yet come across any fresh drinking water, but firmly believing that we would do so soon, ate heartily of Salt Pork, drank our last Drop of Water and walked on''.
Being a warm day in February, the results of eating salted pork did not wait long to come: “At ten we began to be very thirsty, as the Sun was powerful. The places in which there would be fresh Water during the Rainy Season were all dry. At twelve we had passed some steep high hills (Gordons Hill?), and the Men were tempted to drink at a Salt-Water Inlet (Lindisfarne Bay?).
”I had never suffered so much for want of drink, and was almost unable to walk. Shortly after my Servant fell down, unable to go any farther. We were forced to leave one of the other Men with him, who also was very ill from Thurst, and walk on. We passed over one or two more hills (Natone Hill?), from which we could see Mount Direction, at the Foot of which is the Settlement.
”The Mount was not far, but we were so much fatigued and faint for want of Water, that we could not attempt to get up a very steep hill between us and the Settlement (Government Hills, opposite Pasminco), and therefore tried to walk around the Bays and Heads. By the time we were halfway around the (Geilston?) Bay we saw a Boat, sailing down the River. We immediately fired our guns, and shortly after saw her coming towards us''.
The exhausted party met up with Lieutenant Moore, the acting commandant in charge of the Risdon settlement while Lieutenant Bowen was absent in Sydney. Ironically, as their rescue boat sails back to the Risdon settlement, the usual south-westerly change following the hot northerlies is coming through, pelting the party with the much-needed fresh drinking water.
And so the official advance party of the Collins expedition reached its destination and safety. Wrote a much-relieved Humphrey: “Lt Moore received us very kindly, and paid us every attention in his power, which the Governor told me he had requested the Commandant, in a letter by Lt Lord, to do''.
Lieutenant Moore indeed got the message very quickly, and made use of the little time remaining to organise a formal military welcome, to be performed when Governor Collins finally would arrive at Risdon.
Meanwhile, those on board the Ocean did not remain idle. During the morning Captain Mertho and three officers went ashore, split up and explored the environs (probably in the Lauderdale-Acton area). They saw much wildlife, and also noticed “an Emu, a Woodcock, quantities of Pigeons, Quails & Paroguets in the Woods, and teal, Ducks, Black Swans & Pelicans on the Shores & Lakes, so that I am in hopes [that] we shall want no supply for Game in this new settlement''.
The crew of the Ocean had also been busy; recorded the logbook: “Sent the Jolly boat with 7 men and the seine to fish, but after toyling several Hours without success Gave it up, indeed we succeeded very little better on board with the hook having caught but a few Flatheads and them at the expense of several hooks and lines, the place being full of sharks. But we were recompensed by finding a large Bed of excellent Oyster in a fine Lagoon exactly opposite where the ship lay. They laid the boat on shore at Low water and in about half an hour filled it up.''
Surveyor Harris also commented about the oysters: “a boatload of fine Oysters and Mussels, which [provided] luxury to us.''


NOTE: George P. HARRIS (1775-1810) was a lawyer by profession. He had joined the Collins expedition as a Department Surveyor, although his survey qualifications and abilities have always remained less than apparent. After their arrival at Port Phillip and again in the Derwent, Harris made several exploratory journeys for Collins, who also appointed him as a magistrate, probably on the basis of his legal training.
In 1805 he married Ann Jane Hobbs and they lived on a farm in Sandy Bay. They had three children, two of whom became respected members of the farming community around Richmond (the third one died young). Several of his watercolours have survived, as have a number of topographical sketches of the settlements at Port Phillip and Sullivans Cove.
Some time after his marriage in 1805 Harris began to show signs of epilepsy, and died of this disease in 1810.

 

The Mercury

Friday 13 February 2004, page 16

 

 

Good hunting in a new land

 

February 13 1804
In the morning a party from the Ocean set off to obtain more oysters, but this time they struck the wrong tide in the (Pipe Clay?) lagoon.
While there they met up with 17 male natives, well made, entirely naked and some of them had war weapons. They had a small boy with them about 7-years-old and he did not appear to flee from the Ocean party.
During the afternoon the captain and a companion went ashore once more to try their luck for the prized oysters.
Meanwhile, at Risdon and recuperating from their walk, Lieutenant Lord, Mr. Humphrey and the botanist Robert Brown spent their time hunting and proudly caught two large kangaroos, aided by the dogs of Mountgarret. Later in the day Surveyor Meehan returned from his latest exploration in the Macquarie Plains-Broadmarsh area.
NOTE: Edward Lord (1781-1859) was one of the several opportunists who came with Collins to Hobart Town. Lord was a well-connected Welshman, who at the age of seventeen became a second lieutenant in the Marines.
He joined Collins in 1803 and after the landing at Sullivans Cove became his deputy. He knew how to use his initiative and influence and by the end of 1806 was the largest stockowner in Van Diemen's Land.
During a visit to Sydney he picked, in the most literal sense of the word, a woman from a local female prison, and it was thus that he met his match in the person of Maria Risely, another very competent opportunist who knew a good business proposition when she saw one.
At the death of Governor Collins in 1810 Lord briefly took charge of the settlement until a successor (Captain Murray) was appointed. He then returned to England, resigned his commission and used his connections to obtain land grants in both Van Diemen's Land and New South Wales.
He returned again to Hobart Town in 1813 in his own ship loaded with merchandise, sold it to great advantage, and in 1819 returned to England for more. The next year he was back in Hobart Town with still more merchandise, and soon became the wealthiest man in the colony.
Further journeys followed, each of which increased his wealth, until in 1847 when at the age of 65 he made his seventh and last voyage.
He died in London in 1859, two months after the death of his wife Maria, who he had left behind in Hobart Town.

 

 

The Mercury

Saturday 14 February 2004, page 12

 

Wind change needed

 

14 February 1804
The Ocean is still sheltering off Cremorne in Frederick Henry Bay, unable to move due to adverse winds.
Captain Mertho uses the opportunity to go ashore once more for a short time (again after oysters?), but apart from that there is little else they could do but wait for the winds to change.

 

 

Sunday Tasmanian

Sunday 15 February 2004, page 18

 

 

Collins' expedition finally arrives

 

15 February 1804
That morning the wind changed enough to allow the Ocean to raise its anchors again and sail from Frederick Henry Bay towards the entrance of the Derwent.
Here they were met during the afternoon by a boat from the Lady Nelson with the captain of the Nelson on board and Dr Mountgarret, representing the command at Risdon Cove.
And as the incoming sea breeze pushed the Ocean upstream, Collins is informed that Lieutenant Bowen was in Sydney, that a Lieutenant Moore was now in charge, and that the situation of the settlement was quite precarious due to an unseasonable drought.
Sailing on they observed Mt Wellington and its green forest-cladded foothills cascading down to several white beaches, and at 6.30pm that evening the Ocean finally dropped its anchor off Cornelian Bay.
The Collins expedition had arrived in Van Diemen's Land.


David Collins (1756-1810) was born in London as the son of an English Marine officer and an Irish mother, and joined his father's division at the tender age of 14. Promotion soon followed, and at the age of 20 he fought in Canada.
Here he married Mary, the daughter of a colleague officer, and was again promoted and on his return to England had gained the rank of captain-lieutenant.
Now without employment, he was encouraged to join the expedition to Botany Bay, for which he was appointed as deputy judge advocate.
Leaving his wife behind, he took part in the landing of the First Fleet at Botany Bay in 1788, and then served for many years as a senior officer in the new settlement.
Returning to London in 1797, he received a shabby and unearned treatment from the Admiralty, leaving him with a small pension to fend for himself and his wife.
During this difficult period he wrote and published a book on the settlement of Sydney, on the strength of which he was appointed in 1803 to head another “First Fleet'' expedition, this time to Port Phillip on the shores of Bass Strait.
This location turned out to be unsuitable, and the expedition ended up in Sullivans Cove on the Derwent in Van Diemen's Land, where Collins founded what is now the City of Hobart.
During the years that followed, Collins' isolation from his superiors in London, the absence of his wife and the increasingly rough and insecure environment around him and his work in Van Diemen's Land in the end wore him down.
He asked to be relieved of his post, but before this request could be formally decided upon he died in March 1810, and was buried in St David's Park, Hobart, amidst much grief and sorrow from the entire community around him.
In Australia, Collins had two children each with two women, while in London his wife continued to live in London. (Some sources say that she lived in abject poverty, although other sources claim that she had a pension of pound stg. 120 a year). She died in 1830.

 

 

The Mercury

Monday 16 February 2004, page 13

 

Shake-up by Collins at Risdon

 

16 February 1804
As a salute of gunshots from the ship marks the arrival, Governor Collins officially lands at Risdon Cove, accompanied by Lieutenant Lord and the Reverend Robert Knopwood. The acting Commandant, Lieutenant Moore, put on a bit of a show welcoming the new arrivals, but Collins did not waste much time on formalities and soon set off inspecting the settlement.
In a way, Collins may have been pleased that Bowen was not present at the time of his arrival, as it made the formal handing over of the command of the Risdon settlement to Governor Collins (as instructed by Governor King) a painless de-facto event about which Lieutenant Bowen -- when he finally did return to the Derwent several weeks later -- could do little about other than make a lame complaint to Governor King.
Collins quickly realised the poor location and condition of the settlement generally.
Access to landing was via a muddy creek dry at low tide, while access to the settlement itself was via a steep slope. The soil in the area was totally unsuited to productive agriculture, and the water supply in the creek was also insufficient if not totally unreliable. Furthermore, while it had a reasonable supply of water in winter, it virtually ceased running during the summer and autumn seasons.
And to cap it all off, the hoped-for quality and numbers of the military at Risdon Cove (one of the reasons why he had decided to move to Risdon Cove) simply did not exist. In fact, they were, to the last man, an ill-disciplined bunch of layabouts that their Sydney commanding officers had been glad to get rid of.
Collins found the situation at Risdon Cove was quite precarious, if not outright desperate. Although some paddocks had been prepared, the wheat promised by Governor King ``for sowing next April'' had not arrived and as a result they were without any produce to sow. Also, no useful rain had fallen for a long time and efforts to grow food had failed.
No comments have survived on the condition of the cattle but the pigs that had been brought to the settlements with great effort no longer had any proper feed and were now starving.
Collins was of course unable to do much to resolve these problems but he at least gave them enough from his own meagre supplies to restore the settlement back to full rations, even if only to safeguard himself from possible unrest from the useless soldiers and convicts at Risdon.
Collins then issued instructions for tents to be erected and made hurried arrangements for the many sick people on board to be brought ashore and accommodated in some of the huts.
During the afternoon Collins went back on board the Ocean, where everyone is bitterly disappointed by the situation that faces them.
Noted a gloomy Knopwood in his diary: “It was the general opinion [that the Risdon settlement] was not calculated for a town''.
After the debacle of Port Phillip they were prepared to give it another try, but Risdon Cove quite obviously was not the place to do so.
The next immediate issue facing Collins was, of course, the question of where, if not here, he was to go to establish his own settlement.
Judging from the determined action the next day it is clear that Collins received very detailed and informed advice on the pros and cons of the many bays, rivers and countryside that surrounded them, and the question arises: where did that information come from?
Only a few weeks ago Surveyor Meehan had surveyed the western shoreline of the Derwent. While there, he had explored the free-flowing waters of the Hobart Rivulet for some distance, and would have noted the attractive features of the area along both the rivulet and the waterfront.
We also know that Lieutenant Bowen and his colleagues often went for trips with their boat on the river; it is therefore reasonable to assume that the merits of what was to become Sullivans Cove were fairly common knowledge within the Risdon settlement. Against this background the determined and purposeful developments that took place over the next few days therefore should not come as a surprise.
The formal role which surveyor Meehan played in all these discussions is obscure, although Collins later refers to Meehan as having ``furnished me agreeable with the observations which he has made here''.
Some of these “observations'' would certainly have covered the merits of the western foreshore, while one of his surveys clearly includes a survey line some distance up the Hobart Rivulet.
Collins would have paid careful attention to Meehan's remarks, and have come to the conclusion that this seemingly interesting area certainly warranted further investigation. His officers therefore went straight for Sullivans Cove, agreed with what they had been told about its advantages, and after that never even bothered looking anywhere else, probably because Meehan would also have pointed out that Sullivans Cove was just about the only place in the area which offered all the advantages of that particular location.
Collins has always been praised for the resolute manner in which he chose Sullivans Cove as the proper place to establish his settlement, but it is interesting to know of the background of these prompt decisions.

 

 

The Mercury

Tuesday 17 February 2004, page 21

 

 

Water lure at Sullivans Cove

 

In this continuing series Frank Bolt tells how Governor Collins decides to move the struggling settlement from Risdon to Sullivans Cove


17 February 1804

AT first daylight, Surveyor G.P. Harris and the Harbour Master William Collins took off to Sullivans Cove and the entrance of the rivulet, and after a quick scout around soon came to the opinion that indeed this site seemed to meet with all the requirements of a new settlement.
Wrote Harris later: “. . . we found a capital spot with a fine freshwater river running into a snug bay with good anchorage & a small Island in it, admirably calculated for Storehouse & and Battery''.
They hurried back to report to Governor Collins what they found on their initial inspection, and in doing so confirmed the earlier comments by others about the same location.
Encouraged by these reports, Collins later that same morning went there himself in the company of his senior advisor, Knopwood, and again the Harbour Master Collins.
And as their boat entered Sullivans Cove they admired the superb features of the bay, passed a little island on the left of the mouth of a creek, and then rowed up the (Hobart) rivulet, landing at the head of a narrow sandbar alongside the creek.
They wandered around all day, enjoyed the luxury of the cool and clear waters of the Hobart Rivulet (Fawkner tells us that “Upon quenching his thirst with a glass of the pure, clear, cool water of the rivulet, the Governor immediately declared he would settle there, if only for the sake of the water''), and looked approvingly at an area of gentle sloping ground with seemingly good topsoil washed down from the mountain and covered by massive gum trees (nowadays the present Hobart city centre).
Having different criteria for their selection of a site than what the free settlers looked for in their search for arable land, they also appreciated the strategic advantages of this spot such as the merits of the bay and the desirable locations to house the convicts, the soldiers and the senior officers.
Meanwhile on the Ocean, Catherine Potaskie, the free wife of a convict of Polish origin, gave birth to a healthy girl called Catherine. Ann Potaskie, born on the West coast of Ireland as Catherine Sullivan, was one of the courageous women who stood by their convict husbands and joined them in their exile into unknown parts of the world.

 She and her husband John Potaskie later had several other children and he became a very industrious farmer in the Clarence area.
Potaskie had been sentenced early in 1802, and in May of the next year his wife and their small son had joined him in the prison room on board the Calcutta. They and similar couples profited very much from Collins' very humane treatment of those convicts who behaved well and displayed a genuine effort to -- literally -- start a new life in a new country.
Collins was still able to do so because of the relatively small number of convicts involved.
But when in coming decades convicts started to arrive in large numbers (Tasmania in the end received some 60,000 of them) and also the philosophy of how to treat prisoners changed greatly, these displays of humane support and grace were withdrawn, and both male and female convicts began to receive a much stricter and harsher treatment.
Governor Arthur in particular became notorious for the many prison settlements (Port Arthur etc), female “factories'' and harsh work gangs which were created under his governance, and it was during his period and those of his immediate successors that Tasmania gained its later reputation as a “hell on earth''.
Meanwhile, out in the river those still on board threw out a baited line and manage to catch a large shark, which was eagerly hoisted aboard the ship using a tackle from one of the yardarms.
Fawkner recalled that “a fine fresh meal was obtained when a 14 foot shark was caught. It was soon cut up in minute portions, cooked and devoured, for our food had, for months, been salt pork (not of the best quality) and a substance handed out as beef, but commonly called ‘old horse’, being very hard, very dry, very salty and nearly black''.
Late that afternoon the party returned to the Ocean, fully convinced that this site would indeed make a good choice. All senior officers then dined in the large ship's cabin with the Governor, who later was said to be “much delighted with the excursion''; clearly, there was general agreement among them that the right place for a new settlement has indeed been found.
This general atmosphere of relief, mingled with new hope, soon began to spread around, and Knopwood later that evening wrote in his diary: “. . . the plain is well calculated in every degree for a settlement . . . much delighted with the excursion''.
The decision is clear: This indeed was the place for a new Hobart.

 

 

The Mercury

Wednesday 18 February 2004, page 18

 

New Town farm choice

 

8 February 1804
Since their arrival several days ago, the free settlers aboard the Lady Nelson did not stay idle.
Fawkner tells us how Richard Pitt, Thomas Preston and Thomas Littlefield, accompanied by the Agricultural Superintendent Thomas Clark, have been scouting around and after the bad experiences of Port Phillip were more inclined to use their own judgment rather than go along with Collins' strategic considerations.
They spent two days inspecting the area opposite Risdon Cove, and ranging as far south as Sullivans Cove they agreed that the latter would make an excellent site for the new settlement, but that for farming purposes the soil around the New Town creek would be the best choice.

NOTE: On Christmas Eve 1798 Matthew Flinders had visited this stretch of the Derwent River during his circumnavigation of Tasmania, and remarked that “At the northern foot of the mount [Wellington] lie King George's Plains, a name given by Mr. Hayes to about three hundred acres of pasture land; and in the front of the plain is his Prince of Wales' Bay, a small shallow cove''.


The “Plains'' he talks about here probably extended in those days from the present New Town Creek to Glenorchy or even Claremont, the very area where the first settlers would go ashore a week later.
Although hard pressed for time, Collins also visited that area during the day but after his return argued that the condition of the creek suggested much trouble with flooding -- but in fact was more likely to have been worried about the spreading of his people over too wide an area.
But a year later Collins bowed to the inevitable, and during one of his visits to the Government Farm (probably during a meeting with the local settlers) graciously gave his blessing to the separate community growing up along this rivulet, formally naming it New Town -- 9 January 1805.
This name originally referred to the area occupied by the settlers on both sides of New Town Creek, but the area north of the creek gradually changed its name into that of Moonah -- aboriginal for gum tree -- after the Tasmanian Railways had christened their new railway station with that word in 1895.
By some strange quirk of history this new name never became official until the year 2000, when it was formally recognised by the Tasmanian Nomenclature Board.
But whatever the future location of the settlers would be, the Risdon Cove camp was clearly not the right “place for a settlement'', and early that evening Collins returned there to tell them of his decision.
Instructions were promptly issued that all people from the Ocean, except the sick, were to return on board in preparation for the move to the other side of the river, and even the starving pigs at Risdon should come with them so that they could forage for themselves around Sullivans Cove.
Meanwhile, botanist Brown had set off to climb to the top of the mountain. He seems to have gone via the Ferntree area and then pushed on towards the summit, which he reached towards sunset. He spent one or two nights, making several observations and then came down again, although his route is unknown.
This documented ascent made him the first European known to have climbed Mt Wellington to its summit.

 

 

The Mercury

Thursday 19 February 2004, page 24

 

Pity about the hills

 

9 February 1804
Later in the morning and after much hard work the entire Collins expedition was back on board of the Ocean and the Lady Nelson, after which the ships moved their anchorage from near Cornelian Bay downstream to a spot outside the small bay where it was decided to locate the new settlement.
They named the bay Sullivans Cove, after John Sullivan, the Under-Secretary of War and a brother-in-law of Lord Hobart.

NOTE: At the time of the preparations for the expedition to Port Phillip, John Sullivan was a highly placed public servant who had been very helpful in assisting Collins with the organising paper work, the purchasing of materials and the general need for networking as a result of the fact that no less than six(!) different departments were involved in getting the expedition on its way, each with their own ideas about the merits of the whole exercise and the extent to which all this should warrant their departmental involvement.

From the correspondence that has survived from those hectic few weeks one cannot fail to get the impression that the whole exercise was a classic public service situation, whereby someone (Col Collins) had been given a task to perform (establish a settlement on the other side of the world) without a proper cost survey and subsequent budget allocations.
The result was that many tasks had to be delegated to other departments, which had not allowed for these unexpected expenses in their budgets and in consequence were less than keen to co-operate. Furthermore, there were many egos to deal with (right from King George III down to wharf side officials), all of whom required an appropriate display of due deference to lubricate any progress.
All in all a detail of local heritage background to be remembered next time when we see the word Sullivans Cove.
That afternoon some of the officers had another quick look ashore to work out the operational details for tomorrow, but then a silence descends onto the two ships as those aboard mentally prepared themselves for a second attempt to found a settlement.
There could be no failure this time.
Was this location indeed a good place to build a town?
It is of interest to note that a modern analysis of the Hobart site as a place to build a city might not have been so favourable -- as Collins already was to find out very soon.
Yes, the cove was indeed very suitable for even modern shipping (as small coastal inlets go, the cove is very deep) and, in fact, happened by chance to be the only bay nearby facing the Derwent with such advantages. But further inshore, the original contours of the Hobart site were steep to very steep indeed.
They were covered with very poor soil and punctuated with many rocky outcrops and cliff faces, a fact nowadays very much masked by the many smoothened streets of which the contours have since been levelled endlessly to make them suitable for wheeled traffic.
For instance, the section of Argyle Street between the Town Hall and the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery was so steep that it needed stone steps for pedestrians to negotiate the difference in height, a problem also seen in Murray Street (in front of the present State Archives) during the early 1800s between Bathurst Street and Liverpool Street.
Between the present Brooker Highway (on the western slopes of the Domain) and Campbell Street was a very deep and steep gully, an obstacle which lasted well into the 20th century before it was sufficiently filled in so as not to be noticed any more.
The passage of Barrack Street across the Hobart Rivulet was so steep that it took many decades before a bridge was made here, and even then it remained an unpleasantly steep street for horse drawn traffic.
Within the very centre of Hobart, today's bitumen at the intersection of Elizabeth St with Collins St is resting directly on a sandstone cliff, which falls away steeply towards the Elizabeth Mall. A small creek, which came from behind the Central Bar and Cafe and ran underneath the present Kodak building, and flowed into the Hobart Rivulet.
The surface of this early Hobart street (of which some of its sub-surface cobble stoned remains are still there) then continued about a metre below the present pavement of the Mall towards its crossing with the Hobart Rivulet near Liverpool Street.
The soil in the area was also the cause of many problems and associated hard work.
For many miles around it consisted of poor bush soils which did not allow the cultivation of the much-needed vegetable gardens and orchards other than with the endless dressing of manure and other soil conditioners. Of course, some pockets of reasonable soil could always be found alongside the various creeks in the area (especially alongside the lower reaches of the Hobart Rivulet), but even then these soils had to be nurtured if they were to continue producing the badly needed produce necessary to feed the population.
The settlers along the New Town Creek experienced similar problems, and many of the settlers located in the Moonah and Lenah Valley areas eventually had to sell their grant to others who had a better understanding of working such soils.
The builders did not fare much better. The ever-changing sub-soils throughout Hobart Town were very troublesome for the erection of anything more substantial than very small structures (good foundations always had to be cut right down to solid sandstone), while the sinking of a well for drinking water was in many cases a major exercise in view of the sandstone underground.
But to the newcomers in February 1804 all these harsh realities were still to appear.
There were, of course, those who took a fairly dim view anyway of their new environment. Wrote one lady to her friends back in England: ``. . . We arrived [at Port Phillip] in October 1803. My pen is not able to describe half the beauties of that delightful spot: we were four months there [but] were obliged to abandon it through the whim and caprice of the Lieutenant-Governor: additional expense to government and additional loss to individuals were incurred by removing to Van Diemen's Land, which [could never have been justified]. Port Phillip is my favourite, and has my warmest wishes. During the time we were there I never felt one ache or pain, and I parted from it with more regret than I did from my native land''.
(The author of this nave litany was Mrs. Hartley, the wife of settler John Hartley, who had come out to profit from whaling and shipbuilding. He was a great troublemaker, and shortly after returned again to England -- missed in the settlement by nobody.)

 

 

The Mercury

Friday 20 February 2004, page 18


Hobart name a problem

 

In order to ward off any attempt by the French explorers near Tasmania at that time, Lieutenant John Bowen was specifically instructed by New South Wales Governor Philip Gidley King “to establish His Majesty's Right to that Island, it being within the limits of this Territory'' (New South Wales).
This he did in September 1803 -- at least, we may assume that Bowen went through the motions of hoisting a flag, reading his commission and so on, although this young naval officer never formally reported or even recorded that he had done so.
Thus it was that, rightly or wrongly, British rule came to Tasmania. The date for this event is usually given as 12 September 1803, although some landing activities already had taken place on September 11.
As it happened, Lieutenant Governor David Collins also had been instructed (but this time by the British government directly) to form a settlement, also with the purpose to ward off any French attempt to create a foothold anywhere in the region.
His very specific instructions were to locate his settlement strategically on the northern shores of Bass Strait, thus enabling him to protect British shipping through the strait -- although, like Lieutenant Bowen, he was not given the means to enforce this (ships, troops, supplies).
As it was, he ended up in Port Phillip Bay, out of sight of Bass Strait in a very poor harbour and with no means to enforce his charge. Although Collins also did go through the formal motions of Reading his Commission, the chosen location was substandard in all respects. The expedition failed to find good water (by sheer bad luck they missed finding the Yarra River), good soil and good land. After a hurried consultation with Governor King in Sydney, Collins decided to join “the Bowen settlement on the Derwent''.
On arrival there he quickly discovered that the Risdon site itself, as well as its general location, was quite unsuitable for his much larger party of well over 400 people and, tipped off by surveyor James Meehan about the advantages of the area around the mouth of the Hobart Rivulet, promptly moved his people a few miles further downstream to this place. The date: February 20, 1804.
Possibly because he already had gone through the formalities of establishing a settlement when they landed on the shores of Port Phillip (reading his Commission, raising the flag and so on) and also because the Risdon Cove settlement had -- in the strict sense of the word -- preceded his arrival, he did not repeat these formalities again but merely held a full dress parade and church service, attended by the entire settlement (see the story on February 26).
The name of this second settlement on the River Derwent posed a problem to Collins; he was keen (if not expected) to use the name of his direct employer, Lord Hobart (then secretary of state for the colonies) -- as he had done at the abortive settlement at Port Phillip. But as this name was already in use by Bowen for the Risdon Cove settlement, Collins had to wait for a suitable opportunity to “pinch'' this name -- and some time later coyly came up with the name Hobart Town for his own settlement on the banks of Sullivans Cove.
In the spring of 1880 the Tasmanian Parliament abbreviated this double name to the present Hobart, a decision to come into effect on January 1, 1881. (Strange as it may seem, the official reasons for this name change never seem to have been properly documented and preserved.)
Meanwhile, in a letter dated November 26, 1803, Lieutenant Bowen had been instructed by Governor King “to immediately resign your Command of the Settlement to [Collins]''.
But Bowen was not there when Collins arrived at Risdon Cove, and he did not become aware of all these developments until he arrived in Sydney in January 1804; and thus it was that by the time he returned to the Derwent in March, the purpose of his settlement and his command over it had, to all intent and purposes, collapsed.
Bowen, much put out by this erosion of his mission and status, soon found a reason to disappear from the scene and after arranging ``his private affairs'' did so in August 1804. With his departure the Risdon Cove settlement also collapsed and was closed down by Collins in the winter of 1804.
For some unclear reason present politically correct thinking in government circles fervently wishes the whole thing would go away, and even a special series of “commemorative'' postage stamps touches on anything but the events of 1803/1804.
It is unquestionable that the Risdon Cove site is, legally as well as factually, the first formal European settlement in Tasmania but was for practical reasons replaced with another settlement on the shores of Sullivans Cove on February 20, 1804.

 

 

The Mercury

Friday 20 February 2004, page 2

 

 

TASMANIA 200

200 Years ago today Lt David Collins led his party ashore to establish Hobart.

February 20, 1804
AS the first light of dawn strikes the River Derwent, several longboats with convicts and soldiers leave the supply ship Ocean and make for the entrance of the rivulet marked by a small rocky island.
Soon the creek takes a sharp turn to the left and then the boats come to rest against a sandbar close to dry ground, where the first sailors jump ashore to fasten their boats. ( A bronze plaque in the footpath at the corner of the City Hall facing the Hope and Anchor Hotel refers to this spot. )
Under the supervision of Lieutenant Edward Lord, much clearing is done that day and by late afternoon Lieutenant Governor David Collins and his officers are able to determine the layout of the camp.
In order to avoid problems encountered at Collins' earlier settlement at Port Phillip, the convicts are to be kept together in one area, and are therefore told to pitch their tents near the area of what is now the intersection of Argyle and Collins streets; the marines are to be located in the area between what is now the post office and Murray St, a location which guarded the landing place while at the same time forming a buffer area between the convicts and the Governor with his senior officers.
The free settlers face fewer restrictions but for the time being are told to find suitable spots along the Hobart Rivulet between what is now Murray St and Elizabeth Mall.
Other gangs work very hard on clearing the high ground overlooking the bay, the area intended for the tents of the Governor and his officers; Collins' prefabricated tent is being erected somewhere between today's Franklin Square and the side entrance of the Hobart Town Hall; Reverend Robert Knopwood's tent is placed on the Town Hall side of Collins' tent, while the other officers find their places nearby - although a few go further a field towards Victoria St.
(John Pascoe Fawkner recalled that at that early stage "the only house framed provided was one for the Governor" while everyone else "had, at first, two take two tents and marquies".)
An open “square'' (probably a hastily cleared space between the tall gum trees) for public meetings, parades and church meetings also was established. Its precise location remains uncertain; we know that in 1811 the official flagpole was located on a spot below the present reception room in the Town Hall, and for this reason the area of Macquarie St in front of the present Town Hall and The Mercury newspaper offices may be a good guess.
Now that the settlement had started, one major issue that needed to be dealt with immediately was the distribution of food, resulting in Collins' first General Order after his arrival: as at Port Philip, all male persons were to receive a weekly ration of just over 3kg of beef or just under 2kg of pork (all salted, of course), 3kg of flour (instead of the biscuit they received at Port Phillip) and a cup of sugar. According to the custom of the time, the women were to receive only two-thirds of these rations and children under the age of five a quarter.
(There are two ways of looking at the difference in the rations for men and women. One is the implication that the contribution of the women was only worth two-thirds of that of the men, and there are no instances on record of women performing heavy work similar to that of the men. Another and perhaps more likely explanation is that because of the hard physical labour expected from them, the men were to receive an extra 50 per cent allowance. There remains of course the question of how much hard work it was for the women to worry about obtaining and cooking the food, cleaning and repairing the damaged clothing of their husbands and children, keeping the huts clean, searching for food for their domestic animals, and all the other many chores that fell on their shoulders.)
For reasons probably more connected with holding onto their service and loyalty, the military would continue receiving their traditional twice-daily handout of “grog'': half a pint (280ml) of “spirits''.
From earlier instructions while the detachment was still at Port Phillip, we know that certain formalities had to be observed before the troops actually got their hands on their liquid refreshments. To begin with, 'the Quarter Master will (obtain) the daily allowance This order prescribed that "the allowance of Spirits (rum) shall be mixed with 3 (parts of) Water and issued twice a day to the Detachment) , and just to make doubly sure that there would be no further arguments about the quality of the drinks (which was more generous than the customary 1:4 mixture), it was further ordained that " The Officer of the Day will taste it when mixed" . The soldiers were also reminded that "their allowance of watered Spirits shall not be taken to their Tents, but drank at the place where it is mixed, in the presence of the Officer of the day". .
(The issue of “grog'' twice a day to the troops was a custom dating back to 1740; it continued to be issued to the ratings throughout the 19th century and was not finally abolished until as recently as 1970.)
Continuing his earlier practice at Port Phillip of issuing General Orders, Collins then publishes his first order at the Derwent, headed " Sullivans Cove, Derwent River, 20 February 1804". Copies of these orders and notices are posted on an Order Board for all to read, but no details about its location have survived.
As at Port Phillip, Collins would prefer to use the name Hobart again for his new settlement but cannot do so because it is in use for Bowen's settlement at Risdon Cove. He realises already that the Risdon settlement will not last and that he simply has to bide his time before he can claim this name for his own settlement.
Later in the afternoon more convicts join the workforce on shore; the effect of the axe and fire is considerable, and that evening they and their soldier guards are the first ones to spend the night ashore.
The history of Hobart has begun.

 

 

The Mercury

Saturday 21 February 2004, page 26

 

 

Dense bush greets first settlers

In the continuing series Frank Bolt outlines the daunting task that faced Hobart's settlers on their first day.

 

21 February 1804
Having established a beachhead, no time was lost in getting the necessary baggage and provisions ashore. Throughout the day the longboats ferried the cargo from the Ocean to the landing place, while a change in the wind allowed the ship to be brought closer to shore and in the end was moved right inside Sullivans Cove, making the transport of the people and their cargo to the shore much more convenient.
Knopwood supervised the pitching of his tent (probably on the site of the present Hobart Town Hall), and glowed with satisfaction that he has been chosen to be the neighbour of the Governor -- an important social score in the local pecking order of the officials. The other officers and even Governor Collins himself joined him later, and that evening the officers also spent their first night ashore.
Meanwhile, the prisoners continued the job of erecting huts and generally clearing the area of vegetation, but such was the effect of their activities that Collins became alarmed at the impact of it on the environment in general and issued a “General Proclamation'' on the subject, the first conservation order ever issued in Tasmania (and ignored by Hobartians ever since).
In it, he pointed to the value of the Hobart Rivulet as a beautiful source of pure running water, warned against its pollution or causing damage to the vegetation alongside it, and undertook to arrange for a proper spot at the creek's edge where people could collect their water from this stream.
The place selected for this purpose was an area near the Liverpool St end of the present Mall, but to get there was no easy matter.
Recalled Fawkner: “The [Hobart site in general] was open forest land, with trees up to four feet in diameter; but near the banks of the rivulet the trees were larger and more closely set. From the fall of the hill [i.e. from the Collins St end of the Elizabeth Mall, in those days being a very steep area with a small sandstone cliff rising over a small creek] to about 150 metres on the other side of the rivulet, the ground was very closely set with scrub and underwood of all sizes up to trees, so closely grown that a track had to be cut and cleared before we could procure water from the rivulet for our use.''
The location of this watering spot was underneath what is nowadays the rear of the shops facing the Mall between the entrance of the Cat and Fiddle Arcade and the nearby corner of Liverpool Street. It was here that the leather water buckets were dropped into the rivulet, and where soon after the first (log) bridge across the rivulet was built. (The present old Wellington Bridge in the Mall was built several metres further downstream from this spot following a re-alignment of Elizabeth St by Surveyor Meehan in 1811 and 1813.)
Furthermore, the adjacent Mall end of the Cat and Fiddle Arcade (the old Elizabeth Lane) is in fact an old street, which also dates back to those early days of the Collins period, faced with small cottages, which backed onto the Hobart Rivulet.
The Elizabeth Mall of today covers much of this early track through the bush, while some remnants of the old cobble stoned pavement over which Governor Collins and his settlers and convicts once walked still survive to this day about a metre below its modern tiled pavement.
This general appearance of what is now central Hobart was later confirmed by Jorgen Jorgenson, who many years later recalled the area as “. . . an impervious grove of the thickest brushwood, surmounted with some of the largest gum trees that this island can produce; all along the rivulet [the area] was impassable from the denseness of the shrubs and underwood; huge collections of fallen trees and dead timber had been washed down by the stream and were strewn all around. These [trees often] blocked up the channel, and many places . . . were covered with rushes and water.''
For Collins himself, the whole scene must have very much been the replay of a dream from his past in Sydney during the first few days of settlement there in January 1788, which he later described in his book about the settlement of Sydney as follows: “. . . The governor, with a party of marines and some skilled workmen selected from the seamen . . . anchored off the mouth of the cove intended for the settlement. In the course of the following day sufficient ground was cleared for encamping the officer's guard and the convicts who had been landed in the morning. The spot chosen for this purpose was the head of the cove near the run of fresh water, which stole silently along through a very thick wood, the stillness of which then, for the first time since the creation, was interrupted by the rude sound of the labourer's axe and the downfall of its ancient inhabitants; a stillness and tranquility which from that day were to give way to the voice of labour, the confusion of camps and towns, and the busy hum of its new possessors.
”. . . The disembarkation of the troops and convicts took place from the following day until the whole were landed. The confusion that ensued will not be wondered at when it is considered that every man stepped from the boat literally into a wood. Parties of people were everywhere heard and seen variously employed; some in clearing ground for the different encampments, others in pitching tents, or bringing up such stores as were more immediately wanted; and a spot which had so lately been the abode of silence and tranquility was now changed to that of noise, clamour and confusion.
But after a time order gradually prevailed everywhere. As the woods were opened and the ground cleared, the various encampments were extended, and all wore the appearance of regularity.
A portable canvas house, brought over for the governor, was erected on the side of the cove . . . where also a small body of convicts was put under tents. The detachment of marines was encamped at the head of the cove near the stream . . .''
Those notes from 16 years before could have been written on February 21, 1804.

 

 

The Mercury

Monday 23 February 2004, page 17

 

 

Jetty an early priority

 

23 February 1804
The cargo from the Ocean begins to bank up on the sandbar where it is being landed (Macquarie/Market Street intersection), causing Collins to send a message to Captain Mertho to halt any further unloading till they have sorted out the backlog on shore.
As the immediate priority of the first arrivals would have been the construction of huts, very little livestock had been brought with them (only one cow and one calf).
The sea journey between the Derwent and Port Phillip was assumed to be a few days anyway, and the plan was to send the Ocean back as soon as possible to collect the remainder of the people still there, with the rest of the livestock. That would give the prisoners time to clear the necessary paddocks and other enclosures, and this is as it was done.
Little could they have expected that it would last until June before the rest of the settlement and the livestock would finally arrive in Sullivans Cove, and that with much loss of stock due to the dreadfully bad weather the Ocean suffered on its way back to the Derwent. But all this was still to come . . .
The unloading of crates, barrels and hardware from a rowing boat onto a sandy beach is clearly cumbersome and inconvenient, and a better solution is looked for. It had already been found that the cove was quite deep, so deep in fact that large ships could easily moor almost directly alongside the little rocky island in the middle of it and “admirably adapted for the landing and reception of Stores and Provisions''.
They now decide to make use of this island by building a jetty from it, and use the island itself for the storage of the government cargo. It could only be reached at low tide via a sandbar, and because of this should also be a reasonably safe place to store the more essential ordnance -- such as weapons and gunpowder.
Soon the first storage tents go up on this island, and a gang of bewildered prisoners are told to instantly commence building a jetty or wharf nearby. They had built jetties before at Port Phillip, but that had been in fairly shallow water and a sandy bottom. Sullivans Cove, on the other hand, was very deep and posed many engineering problems, especially as no barges or specialised machinery was available to drive the piles into the sea floor.
In addition, piles in the form of suitably long timber trunks had to come from the bush anyway, an additional extra for which much manpower had to be made available, first to find such trees, then to drop and carry(!) these heavy logs to Hunters Island.
(The location of this jetty was across Hunter Street, underneath the northwestern end of the present No1 shed on Macquarie Wharf.)
That morning, Knopwood and Surveyor Harris made use of the fine summer weather to venture some distance away from the settlement to explore the countryside beyond.
On their return, Collins discussed with Knopwood the various formalities that would have to be gone through; they decided that next Saturday a muster (census) was to be held of all military officers, their servants, and the prisoners, to be followed the next day by Divine Service and a morale boosting parade.
With these decisions made, Knopwood sat down that evening to prepare his first sermon in Van Diemen's Land.

NOTE: The word “muster'' originally indicated an assembly of everybody, young and old, so that the number of men able to bear arms could be counted, the number of tradesmen and others who would perform a useful backup role in case of war or unrest, and the number of women and children.
In Collins' times, the purpose of a muster was very similar: a physical head count, of which the result could be used to work out the food rations and other essentials needed to maintain the settlement as a functioning unit.
Over the next few months and indeed years Collins would hold several of these musters, giving us today a fair idea of how his settlement at Sullivans Cove grew and at what rate.

 

 

The Mercury

Tuesday 24 February 2004, page 18

 

Roo added to the menu

The handling of these trees through the bush soon created tracks.  Fresh meat was a problem in the early days and the settlers had to look to local wildlife


24 February 1804
The messing of the prisoners begins to produce several problems.
Each tent was expected to cook their own meals; but not all tents seemed to have the necessary pots to do so, and the storekeeper is told to issue two iron pots to those tents still without them.
Furthermore, apparently not all convict tents had a competent cook to call on anyway and so, like at Port Phillip, “a copper will be forthwith erected'' again, presumably to serve as some form of a public kitchen.
There were other problems: will the storekeeper please make sure that all prisoners have hairbrushes and combs, and will he please see to it that they are indeed being used . . .
Also, at least some of the convicts appear to be less than particular about their ablution habits; they are accused of depositing “filth'' into the rivulet, and an unfortunate Robert Stuart (later to create much trouble with his frequent escapes) is given the responsibility “to point out to them a proper place for a privy'', and is then to ensure that the prisoners will indeed use that place, and that place only.
NOTE: In those days, much of the usual food prepared in quantity was in the form of a brew or stew, a meal easily prepared in a large iron pot kept hot over a wood fire, from where it would be ladled out into the wooden bowls issued to convicts, soldiers and settlers alike.
In that day and age much of all this would have been a quite normal way of life, the real issue not being the method of cooking but rather where the ingredients were to come from.
As nearly all livestock had been left behind at Port Phillip, any meat available would only be the dried and salted variety as issued from the public stores, creating an almost immediate demand to hunt for kangaroo and other wildlife such as emus and black swans.
Although some kangaroo meat had already been tasted at Port Phillip (where in the open terrain they had proved to be elusive and difficult to shoot), its preparation and taste would have been very new indeed for most of the new arrivals.
However, British cooking and table manners of the times were not renowned for their finesse, and the combination of need and the primitive on-site kitchen conditions would therefore not have caused major worries for most of them.
Emus were also a new item for the cooks to deal with (they must have been scarcer, as they are not frequently mentioned), but native hens and black swans were, of course, close to what settlers had been familiar with at home.
The creek (soon given the name of Hobart Rivulet) appeared to be deep enough to indicate the need for a bridge, to be located near the place where many collect their water.
A gang was set to work to cut down a few trees, manoeuvring them in place across the rivulet and covering them with decking. This enabled the blacksmiths and the carpenters to establish their workshops and sawpits on the other side of the creek (near present-day Criterion Street), and conveniently close to the bottom end of a bush run up the hills from where gangs of prisoners collected their logs from.
Fawkner tells us how the men chosen to transport these logs did so by physically pulling them with the help of a timber jinker with large wheels.
This was very onerous and dangerous work, especially when “descending downhill, the wheels occasionally touched a stump or root; this would then cause the heavy log to swing about wildly, causing some men to be struck down and severely cut by the yokes with which, fastened to long ropes, they used to drag the loads''.
The handling of these trees through the bush soon created tracks; one went from the workshops eastwards and westwards (the birth of Liverpool Street), while another took a northerly direction towards timber runs in the present North Hobart area (the origin of Elizabeth Street).
Soon this track extended further north, where at the top of the rise (Augusta Road intersection) it veered off in the direction of the settlers near the bay at the mouth of the New Town Creek -- hence the fact that even today, the New Town section of this old bush track is still called Bay Road.
And so the day wears on. The stream of cargo from the holds in the ships has started to flow again, Collins was asked to settle a grudge fight between two ships officers on board the Ocean, and Knopwood spotted some nearby kangaroos but then sat down and continued his preparation for the sermon next Sunday.
But there is a different mood beginning to pervade the settlement: the rising smoke of several fires from the nearby hills around them makes it clear that they are not alone in this wilderness.
Collins would very much have liked to have got on friendly terms with the Aborigines in the bush around them, but this was not made easier when it appeared that, unbeknown to him, some people had already got hold of a small Aboriginal boy and had kept him against his will.
The boy had managed to escape again, but this incident certainly would not have helped things.

 

 

The Mercury

Wednesday 25 February 2004, page 20

 

Rations a constant worry

 

25 February 1804
Ii was a busy day for many, and one which didn't start too well for the Reverend Robert Knopwood, who discovered that two of his chickens had been killed overnight by, he suspected, “a bandicoot''.
This loss, the forerunner of many similar problems that the settlers had to cope with, was a serious matter, as these chickens were expected to produce eggs as a supplement to their official rations. No wonder that Knopwood's priority for the day was the construction of a trap, partly to protect his fowls, and partly to see what predator he is up against.
The prisoners who were told to build the jetty on Hunters Island (the first time that this name quietly slips into use) turned out to be quite useless for their assigned task, causing Governor Collins to accept with both hands an offer from William Collins to supervise this job.

NOTE: John Hunter (1737-1821) had been second-in-command when the First Fleet landed at Port Jackson in 1788, and succeeded Arthur Phillip as Governor of NSW in 1795. He got into many difficulties with the powerful and freewheeling clique of officers in Sydney, and was recalled again in 1799.
William Collins (no relation of Governor Collins) was an experienced mariner, but as there was no demand on his skills at that very moment, this was a very efficient way to use his initiative and organising ability.
Collins remained around in Hobart Town for some years, but died 15 years later from cholera while on his way to India.
The muster took place that afternoon and the officials counted 178 male prisoners, nine female prisoners (this figure probably included some free wives of prisoners) and eight children belonging to the convicts. Military and civil personnel added up to 33 people; there were 18 male and female settlers with 13 children, plus three visitors (including Robert Brown the botanist), people who were not formally a member of the settlement. Grand total of the population at Sullivans Cove in February 1804: about 262 souls.
Because their board and lodgings were the responsibilities of their employers, this census did not take into account the presence of a few men who worked as servants or similar. It is unclear where these people came from; at least some of them were deserters from the Ferret, a ship that visited Risdon Cove early in January), but most of them disappeared again in one way or another during the autumn and winter, the last few leaving on the Ocean in August of that year.
And with that head count out of the way, the storekeeper began to issues to the food rations to everyone for the next week; iron cooking pots were also handed out, the prisoners received their combs, brushes and shoes, and there is no record of any further work being done that day, although we can be quite sure that much private enterprise went on in the construction of huts and making them comfortable.
As usual, the food situation remained a worry for Collins (we still have to enter the era of preserved food pre-packed in handy sized tins, bottles, jars and other packages.)
He was well aware of the fact that they arrived here in the middle of summer, and that no wheat or any other seed could be sown until at least later that year. There was a fair amount of grain in the holds of the Ocean reserved for that purpose but now that at long last they can get at it, it appeared that much of it was of an inferior quality.
Furthermore, much of the garden seeds they had with them had already been used in Port Phillip, but “of the Eighteen or Twenty different sorts which were put into the Ground, not one succeeded'', and Collins suspected that “they must have been injured by the Heat of the Ship's Hold''.
Fortunately, the “Seed Corn'' that had been bought in Cape Town on the way out turned out to be still quite good, and they seem to be optimistic about its possible success here in Tasmania.

 

 

The Mercury

Thursday 26 February 2004, page 27

 

The other settlement

 

26 February 1804
During the morning the parade of the soldiers and their officers takes place in a clearing on or near the site of today's GPO. All officers -- including Lieutenant Moore and Mr. Wilson from Risdon Cove -- are in full uniform.
The soldiers have done the best they can with their worn uniforms, and the colourful display will not have failed to make a deep impression on all those present.
Then everyone gathered around the Reverend Knopwood who, under the blue Australian sky, read his first sermon in Van Diemen's Land. Using, at the request of Collins, as his text verse 43 of psalm 107 “Whoever is wise will consider these things, and they shall understand the loving kindness of the Lord'', he emphasized how after the harsh conditions of Port Phillip the bounteous environment around this new location should be seen by all as a gift from heaven, obliging the settlers and convicts alike to a gratitude which could only be demonstrated by devotion and lots of hard and honest work -- a thinly-veiled message which few would have failed to understand.
There is no record of Governor Collins' commission “having been read'' that day to the assembled members of the settlement, most likely because of the nagging legal problems relating to the existence of the earlier Risdon Cove settlement.
This “Commission'', signed in name of King George III by Lord Hobart on January 14, 1803, clearly spelled out by whom (the King) and for what reason (“to take the said settlement in your care and charge'') Collins had been given his appointment; it also “. . . required all our Officers and Soldiers . . . and all others whom it may concern, to obey you as our Lieutenant Governor thereof''.
Interestingly, and in contrast to the Commission of Governor Hunter in 1788, the Commission of Lieutenant Governor Collins did not include the line subjecting all members of the Collins expedition to “the rules and discipline of war'', indicating that the establishment under Collins could be run on a more liberal basis.
And it was. Later that day the chaplain, accompanied by several other officers, went to Risdon Cove where he conducted another service for the soldiers, settlers and convicts there. Then they dined with Dr Mountgarret, chatted at length about the weather (a worrying matter, as no proper rain had fallen over the past four months) and returned home again late that evening.
Knopwood studiously avoided mentioning in his diary another major event that took place the same day just across the Derwent. The free settlers still aboard the Ocean and the Lady Nelson had disembarked into the longboats and were taken up the river, where they were unceremoniously dumped “with their baggage'' at the swampy mouth of the New Town Creek.
And so the history of New Town and Moonah had now also begun.

NOTE: Often ignored when describing the settlement of Hobart, this action was, in fact, the third settlement on the Derwent within six months.
For the first few years or so it was totally separate from the encampment at Sullivans Cove, and it took some time to establish a recognised trail and later a track between the two settlements.
It began at the crossing of Elizabeth Street and the Hobart Rivulet and traversed from here alongside a hill toward a saddle (the present Augusta Road turn-off), from where it went down again towards the New Town Rivulet, creating as it went a route through the bush that has since become Bay Road.
In the past, this Bay Road ended on the shore of the New Town Bay at a location just below the present hockey ground where there was a small foreshore or beach, nowadays covered by Queens Walk in New Town.
If a guess may be made exactly where the settlers were put ashore that day this small stretch of coastline is a very likely candidate, as the rest of the mouth of this rivulet was very swampy.
However, another possible location may have been the eastern end of Albert Road where it (used to) end at the northern mouth of the New Town Rivulet. It is known that almost immediately from the day of the settlers' arrival a track developed from here in a westerly direction, thus giving access to the (relatively) open plains in this area, the place where these first settlers chose to have their land allocations.
Whatever the case might be, it can be said that Albert Road Moonah is, with Macquarie St and Elizabeth St, among the oldest streets of Tasmania.
Some of these early bush tracks disappeared again during the next few decades following the formal granting and surveying of land in those areas. These surveys brought with them several new roads to serve the new landowners, while the construction of New Town Road by Dennis McCarthy in 1819 also ended the role of Bay Road as a major traffic link.
But yes, Bay Road still exists, and when later on we read that Knopwood walks to the Government Farm (nowadays covered by the New Town sports grounds) on his way to Risdon Cove, we can visualise him wandering over a badly made track in the forest, his servant following him at a respectful distance carrying his knapsack.
They might have met some prisoners cutting timber or heard distant gunshots, fired by hunters chasing after kangaroos, which were to be sold at the settlement for use in the cooking pots.

 

 

The Mercury

Friday 27 February 2004, page 20

 

 

Felling timber a problem

 

27 February 1804
The indiscriminate felling of trees in and around the small settlement now begins to make it more difficult to find quality timber suitable for building purposes, and for that reason an order is issued that no further timber “near the Encampment'' is to be cut down unless the prior permission is obtained from the Superintendent, Mr. William Nicholls, a free settler and an experienced carpenter who knew his timber.
As the General Order points out, “there is an abundance of wood for fuel everywhere about the settlement, and there can therefore be no pretext for disobeying this order''.
What with the various convicts being active all over the place (and often out of sight as well) their full-time direction and supervisor becomes somewhat of a problem, and for this reason Collins discharges Corporal Sutton from the marines under his command, and appoints him as a superintendent in charge of the convicts.
To what extent Sutton earned this promotion on his own merits or by the fact that Collins had taken him on at the suggestion of Sir Evan Nepean (the Under Secretary of the Home Office) on behalf of a friend, is not known. Collins must, however, have been impressed by his performance as some weeks later Sutton is promoted again, this time to the trusted position of Deputy Commissary, a position which put him in the daily charge of the government stores on Hunter Island.
Meanwhile, the botanist Robert Brown must have been greatly intrigued by the environment of Mount Wellington, as he leaves once more for an ascent. He probably departed from the new settlement at the cove as he gives the temperature of the water in the Hobart Rivulet “a mile above [the] Camp'' as 15C.

 

 

The Mercury

Saturday 28 February 2004, page 20

 

Roo kill led to conflict

 

28 February 1804
The Reverend Robert Knopwood's efforts of building a trap near his chicken coop have produced results. It had been a very wet night, but that clearly did not deter a quoll or native cat (Dasyurus viverrinus) coming back and trying to snatch another chicken. The strange animal is looked at by all and sundry with great interest, and then earns itself a mention in Knopwood's diary as “a spotted cat''.
And with that out of the way, Knopwood takes down the evidence of Risdon convict John Harris who, in the company of John Druce and other convicts, had stolen a boat from that settlement (October 1803) and made off with it towards the Furneaux Group.
Here they met up with sealers and whalers and Harris, realising that not only he was in very bad company indeed but that also his very life was in danger, sensibly gave himself up to the master of the Edwin, who shortly after visited Port Phillip and handed him over to Governor Collins.
In his evidence, Harris gave a rather harrowing but also fascinating account of the rough world of escaping convicts and the equally rough sealers living and working within, at that time, the totally lawless environment on the Bass Strait islands.
Collins used this evidence to stress once again to Governor King not to send any more of this kind of “hard cases'' like those at Risdon Cove, people who he described as “even more hardened and atrocious than those who may be imported from the Jails in England''.
He further argued that he was “exceedingly anxious for the well-being of the Settlement for which I had the Honour of being appointed the Governor; You will therefore, I hope Sir, agree with this and excuse the earnestness with which I plead against any Interference with them of the kind as mentioned above''. Collins then added an interesting final comment which clearly showed that he knew what he was talking about: “Should these Sentences of the Criminal Court (in Sydney) be implemented without your specific approval, I shall not hesitate to send these Culprits back, as I believe that the consent of the State must first be obtained before it could be made the Seat of Transportation''.
In other words, Collins maintained that as long as Van Diemen's Land (and Hobart Town in particular) has not officially been declared a “Seat of Transportation'' like Sydney, Governor King should stop sending his troublemakers to the Derwent as a secondary form of punishment.
(Interestingly, this view was confirmed again in 1805, when the Judge Advocate General in London reminded Governor King “that a Sentence of Transportation away from [the penal] Settlement at New South Wales could scarcely have been in Contemplation of the Legislature''.)
That evening the yarn went around the huts and cooking fires in the settlement of how the former Sydney harbour pilot, Henry Hacking, had been out hunting for Governor Collins in the company of John Salamander, his Aboriginal servant from Sydney. After stalking a large kangaroo for some time he had managed to shoot it, but then discovered that a few local Aborigines also had been hunting the same animal, and seeing it fall to the ground wanted to claim it.
A confrontation between Hacking and the Aborigines followed, but after a few anxious moments the aborigines finally backed off, allowing Hacking to take his kill home, no doubt recalling in his mind an almost identical incident that happened to him some 15 years ago in Sydney.
Upon hearing this story, Knopwood noted the matter in his diary as “the first kangaroo killed in this colony''. (Clearly, Knopwood didn't want to know about earlier experiences at Risdon Cove).
In fact, this kangaroo would be the first one of very many more to be taken on the western side of the Derwent to supplement the settlement's precarious food supply.
But few people would have realised at this early stage that this encounter was also the beginning of the main source of conflict which would soon arise between the original inhabitants of the island and the newcomers, both of whom saw the meat of the kangaroo as an essential need for their existence.

NOTE: Stories such as these are the first indications that the newcomers begin to adapt themselves to the new forms of wildlife around them as a source of fresh meat. When later in August some of the soldiers and settlers returned to Sydney on the Ocean, they commented to the Sydney Gazette about the seeming abundance of wildlife around the settlement: “In the beginning of December innumerable flights of black swans frequent the river and hatch their young upon its banks, which afford them ample shelter. Wild animals are excessively abundant, and delicious food; the flesh of the kangaroo is by far superior to that of its species found [around Sydney], and the emue plentiful''.

 

 

Sunday Tasmanian

Sunday 29 February 2004, page 35

 

Collins' Hobart Town through today's eyes A busy city takes shape

 

Much of David Collins' experience in the administration of a brand new settlement came from his earlier stay in Sydney, where he took part in the first landing by Governor Phillip in 1788.
In his subsequent position there as a legal officer he learned fast, and with these experiences behind him it was to be expected that his governance would not be all that much different from what he had learned then, especially as the physical conditions of the site were almost identical to those he had experienced in Sydney some 16 years earlier.
But, when Governor Macquarie made a visit to Hobart Town after Collins' death in 1810, to see for himself just what had been done here during the six years, he was quite shocked at the mess in which the settlement still found itself and meager were the town's public works.
No formal streets had been laid out; no public buildings had been erected (although a beginning had been made with new government stores facing Macquarie Street now in use by the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery as offices), while even Government House, the centre of the island's administration, was still a miserable little cottage lost in the jumble of the confusion around it.
Macquarie immediately fired off a number of specific instructions, which not only included the start of the construction of the Anglesea Barracks in its present location, but also instructed the Government Surveyor, James Meehan, to instantly prepare a plan for a formal layout of Hobart Town. This Meehan did and returned in 1813 to finish off this job, and it is thanks to him that the streets of central Hobart are the way they are today.
From Meehan's survey notes it is still possible today to recreate at least some appearance of what the Collins settlement would have looked like when Meehan returned to Hobart Town in 1811. The map overleaf was based on his survey notes made then. We now know precisely where Collins and his men landed: the head of a narrow sandbar running from the shoreline into the cove, a site nowadays hidden underneath the bitumen of Macquarie Street near the front entrance of the Hope and Anchor Tavern and the front of the City Hall.
We also know that the day before the landing his officers had made a quick reconnaissance on shore to decide where to locate the officers, the military, the convicts and the settlers.
According to standard practice of the times, the officers selected for their own tents a location along the waterfront, which in this instance was along the top of the cliff that faced Sullivans Cove (two sections of this cliff, one at the top end of Brooke Street and the other behind the museum, have survived to this day).
The convicts, on the other hand, were located well away from the waterfront on the banks of the Hobart Rivulet, near the present-day intersection of Argyle and Collins Streets.
Another priority was the encampment of the military. They chose an area nowadays between Hadleys Hotel and Victoria Street. Much of the heavier military gear required transport on carts etc (pulled by teams of convicts!), hence the rapid growth of a track with an easy slope to this location.
This track ran from the head of the sandbar along the slowly rising contours towards to what is now the intersection of Elizabeth and Collins Street, where the track continued uphill until it got near what is now the entry of Hadleys Hotel. Here the soldiers made their camp, and there are indications that as the track went straight for this location, the entry to the
barracks may also have been at or near that spot.
Little evidence of this track has survived other than some angled property boundary lines along its alignment, although the angled rear section of Trafalgar Place recalls the location of the rear fences of the small cottages and gardens that once faced the track.
Collins camped between the Town Hall and Franklin Square. This meant that there was an immediate demand for two more tracks: the first one was a direct line from the landing beach (now in front of the City Hall) towards the officers tents (the birth of Macquarie Street), and another track from the officers tents to the banks of the rivulet for the collection of water. This was the early start of what was to become Elizabeth St.
The map shows how this track reached the rivulet upstream from its present crossing underneath Elizabeth Mall in Elizabeth St, while on the other side of the creek another track also began to form slowly working its way up the contours towards the forests further north, a location where the convicts collected their tree trunks for use in the settlement.
This track (after a re-alignment to become Elizabeth St) was also soon used by the settlers along the New Town Creek, who had to make a weekly journey from there to Sullivans Cove in order to collect their rations.
Halfway between its crossing with the Hobart Rivulet and its arrival at the New Town Creek the track split into two: one route swerved towards the north-west (later to be rationalised into Augusta Rd), while the other fork continued its way along what is nowadays Bay Rd, appropriately named so because it ended at the head of New Town Bay, the spot where many of the free settlers had landed to commence farming there.
Little is known about the location of the free settlers who stayed with Governor Collins in Hobart Town.
Some of their huts were erected in the area of the present CBD, while the Cat and Fiddle Arcade is a remnant of what was once a narrow street (Elisabeth Lane) which formed itself along the rear of the huts which began to line the bank of the rivulet, all made from whatever building materials the nearby bush would offer their owners.
NOTE: the shape of the original waterfront of the cove in 1804. The rivulet flowed on to tidal flats, of which one side was high enough to give access at low tide to a small rocky island in the cove, soon to become a safe storage place for food, weapons and ammunition because the access to this island was under water for most of the time.
(Fawkner recalled that those who went there for their rations frequently had to wade hip-deep through icy water to collect their food rations for the week!)
Near the present Parliament House another creek entered the cove, and because the force of the waves was less powerful in that corner a waterfront wetland environment had developed, attracting waterfowl and other animals. (Knopwood often shot his occasional bird there to supplement his own rations.)
Today, the entire appearance of the cove is, of course, vastly different from what it was 200 years ago.
The original Collins' waterfront was constantly altered to meet changing demands, beginning with Governor Franklin, who during the 1840s initiated the construction of new wharfs to accommodate the larger ships that arrived. His efforts in bringing about these improvements are still remembered in the name Franklin Wharf.
The ends of the two modern piers now projecting into the cove are close to what used to be the middle of the cove, the place where the ships which brought Collins and his people anchored in order to be sheltered from the sea breeze.
The edge of Princes Wharf is also quite some distance out from the original rocky shoreline below Battery Point, while on the opposite side of the cove the new Macquarie Wharf ventures far away from the old foreshore, now buried deep underneath the railway yards below the Hobart Cenotaph and the container storage area.
Away from the shoreline, virtually nothing survived of the original settlement as Collins would have known it, although the location of lower Macquarie St is still in place, as is Franklin Square, originally conceived as a market square.
The alignment of the (Elizabeth St) bush track beyond its crossing with the Hobart Rivulet was straightened out by later surveyors, and from then onward remained as it was set out by them (1820s).
One original landmark surviving from the Collins period is St Davids Park, a quiet spot chosen by David Collins and Knopwood personally, and where many of the first settlers found their last resting place (note the location of the first graves in this cemetery). During the 1930s it was closed and changed into a public park, while the tombstones of the settlers were gathered in a Memorial Wall.
Meehan's survey work also facilitated a proper internal subdivision of the street blocks he had created: allotments with decent frontages and enough space at the rear to have a horse and grow some vegetables and/or fruit trees (100 years ago all still present, even in the central business block!).
Unfortunately, the streets Meehan created were only a narrow 60 feet (18m) wide, even then already an old-fashioned width that would have been near enough for Hobart in his day and age but today gives many problems to hard-pressed traffic engineers.
The only exception to this was Macquarie Street. It is not known why this was done, although there are many reasons to suspect that Meehan was leaned on in order to please the more influential officers in the small settlement who had land facing that street.
In later surveys of other townships throughout Tasmania the standard width of streets was soon changed to that of one chain (20m), but for some reason the width of 100 feet or two chains (40m), so popular in mainland townships, never became accepted as a standard width in Tasmania. (There are the occasional exceptions to that, such as in Westbury and St Helens).
With this in mind, one can only wonder what present-day Hobart would have looked like if Government Surveyor James Meehan had given us streets two chains wide.

 

 

Sunday Tasmanian

Sunday 29 February 2004, page 16

 

Risdon or the bush woes

 

29 February 1804
While Collins hurriedly wrote his many reports to Governor King (the brig Lady Nelson is waiting in the cove to sail for Sydney), Knopwood went that afternoon for a stroll in the forests around the settlement and noticed the presence of many “native huts''. But they seemed to have been abandoned, as he did not notice any inhabitants.
Lieutenant Moore called in at the camp to report to Collins that one of the convicts who escaped from Risdon Cove a week ago had voluntarily returned to the settlement, followed the next day by the other four escapees.
They clearly had found the going in the bush too much and had come back to the comfort of the Risdon settlement -- and even returned with their stolen muskets and most of the gunpowder.
Under normal circumstances these “wretches'' would have been facing a court trial, but Collins had no legal power to institute such a court, while in any case the inconvenience and loss of manpower brought about by the transport of these convicts back to Port Jackson (plus the loss of output from those who would have to testify against them) was a luxury which the hard-pressed Governor was unable to permit.
After discussing the matter with Lieut Moore it therefore was decided to give the culprits the usual flogging, put them in irons and consign the them to “labour as a jail gang''.
Having returned from his walk to Mount Wellington, Brown must have been very enthusiastic about the environment around him, so different from that encountered during his travels elsewhere around Sydney and beyond.
He therefore had a talk with Governor Collins and suggested that he should stay on for a while to do more work here.
Collins was quite happy to give him the requested permission, and the next day wrote to Governor King that “the Botanist, wishing to pursue his researches here for some time longer, has taken up his residence on board the Ocean until her departure for Port Phillip; and I have directed the storekeeper to place him on the victualling books''.
And so Brown moved to the relative comfort of a cabin on the Ocean while this ship was still in port, while “On her return to port Phillip I intend going to Risdon, where, by the politeness of Messrs Mountgarret & Moore, I can have a small house & live much more retired than it possible to do with the larger Colony''.