The Mercury

Tuesday 1 June 2004, page 22

 

The price of shelter

 June 1, 1804, Friday
The onset of winter, and the need by everybody for carpenters, blacksmiths, general labourers and the like in order to complete their huts and other forms of shelter, was causing the cost of this labour to jump sky-high.
Clearly, some form of price control was urgently needed, and for this purpose Collins, rather than set these charges himself and raise the ire from everybody in the settlement, called for a public meeting of officers and settlers (including three settlers from New Town) to discuss the matter, to be held after the divine service set for next Sunday. Their brief therefore is “to consider and settle as well as the price which shall be demanded for every kind of labour, as the value of such articles which are to be paid as an equivalent for such labour, for which purpose they will send for and examine all such persons as they may judge capable of furnishing them with information, and report their proceedings to the Lieut. Governor”.
NOTE:
the brief not only requested the meeting to set the price of the various kinds of labour, but that it also foresaw the need to use the barter system to pay for the work done. It was for this reason that the meeting also had to set a value on the articles which would probably be used for that purpose. It is not known just who took part in this meeting, and who were invited to give the required “capable information”).


Because of the very pressing demand for cut timber, Collins also wanted to get an idea of the quantity of sawn timber produced for the Government currently on hand, and for this reason ordered an inventory by Mr. Nicholls, the overseer, next Saturday after 11, a time when the sawyers finished work for the rest of the day -- usually spent, in a rapidly emerging good Australian fashion, by working very hard for someone else at high hourly rates, the very reason why the public meeting was to be held next Sunday.
Richard Clarke, the settler borrowed by Governor Collins from Lt Bowen at Risdon Cove, appeared to perform very well in his job of supervising the masons, and so Collins appointed him as an overseer of those prisoners working as stonemasons, bricklayers and lime burners. He furthermore was to report each week to the Governor in person on the work done by each worker, thus giving them a chance to quietly weed out the no-hopers in that particular occupation.
One of the first priorities Clarke was told to deal with was the completion of the powder magazine on the waterfront. This job seemed to get nowhere, mainly due to the general lack of skilled labour, and Clarke suggested to Collins that he put several young convicts on the job as apprentices and teach them the trade of masonry. This would not only help to speed up this particular job but also increase the available trade skills in the settlement. Collins accepted his suggestion eagerly, and so that project got going again.
Clarke also seemed to have brought with him five convicts from Risdon Cove (Parnell, Jones, Dennis McCarthy and Richard and William Wright), people he knew and who he put to work on the magazine project, which was eventually finished some months later and then described by Collins as “an excellent magazine, built with Stone”. Three other convicts (Flinn, Hardwicke and Wilson) were also transported that day from Risdon Cove to Hobart Town, but they were put to work with the other convict gangs until they could be put on board a ship for transport back to Sydney.
Lastly, Henry Hacking seemed to have redeemed himself sufficiently to be appointed as overseer of all boats in the settlement belonging to the Government. This was a position evidencing a great trust in him, as any boat in Sullivans Cove was a potential target for desperados wishing to escape -- a very real problem which required vigilance.
Having come to the end of his stay at Risdon Cove, Knopwood returned to Sullivans Cove in the presence of Lt Bowen, probably for Bowen to formally report to Collins on the matter of Lt Moore. Then Bowen returned home again, this time in the company of Humphrey. (The other officers clearly do not want him to be alone in the company of Lt Moore, hence the company given to Bowen at all times).
Still on the mountain, Brown has given his sprained ankle a good rest during the night. His foot still being very sore, he was nevertheless now “able to get up on the heel of my shoe and to put it down on the ground, although not without considerable pain”. Here his field notes end abruptly, and one is left to wonder how he managed to struggle back to Risdon Cove.

 

 

The Mercury

Wednesday 2 June 2004, page 30

 

 June 2,  1804, Saturday

Being Knopwood's birthday today, Bowen sent him a large kangaroo hind leg as a present, not only as recognition on Bowen's part of Knopwood's undoubtedly steadying advice but also as a welcome contribution to Knopwood's dinner table that evening, when he has several “gentlemen” as guests.

NOTE: this gift is a clear indication of how this meat is rapidly becoming an essential element of the food supply in the settlement, encouraging the growth of a sub-culture of people who began to roam the countryside full-time in order to obtain such meat for financial gain.

One of these people was Hugh Garmain, a soldier who later in life recalled how he, with the assistance of two convicts, would regularly manage that way a monthly bag of some 500kg of meat. He also recalled that Tasmanian emus (now extinct) were plentiful in the early days, as were forester kangaroos; one weighed nearly 60kg, and measured 2.7m from the tip of his nose to the toes of its hind legs.

 

 

The Mercury

Thursday 3 June 2004, page 23

 

 June 3,  1804, Sunday

Because of atrocious weather conditions the regular divine service did not take place.
The planned meeting of settlers and officers to discuss fair wages and prices, however, did go ahead but because of the inclement weather took place in Knopwood's marquee, who on the strength of his hospitality probably also chaired the meeting.

 

 

The Mercury

Friday 4 June 2004, page 17

 

 June 4,  1804, Monday

Today is officially the King's Birthday, a holiday normally to be celebrated with due pomp.
But in view of the growing concern about the non-arrival of the Ocean with the rest of the settlers, military and others from Port Phillip, nobody was in the right mood for festivities.
It is therefore a normal working day, but with the promise that festivities will be held when the Ocean finally arrives.
It would still be another three weeks before the Ocean would finally turn up in a very distressed state, and nothing was heard again later on about the promised holiday.

 

 

The Mercury

Wednesday 9 June 2004, page 26

 

 June 9,  1804, Saturday
Today is the last time that Governor Collins issues a General Order using the name Sullivans Cove, a name that he was about to change to Hobart Town.
The order stressed again that no person other than the harbour master or any other authorised person was allowed to board or have any contact with any vessel that entered the port or even the River Derwent in general, a measure obviously intended to limit any smuggling or attempts to escape.

 

 

The Mercury

Thursday 10 June 2004, page 18

 

Rough weather blows away church service

 

June 10 1804, Sunday

Once again the weather is so bad and windy that the regular open-air church service had to be cancelled once more.
Late that evening, the harbour master Mr. Collins returned in the “white cutter”' from an inspection trip to Betsey Island, a small rocky island at the head of Storm Bay which was being considered as a site for a signal beacon for shipping wishing to enter the Derwent.
But again no sighting of the Ocean could be reported, even from this advanced observation post in Storm Bay.

(Actually, the Ocean had already been in the bay trying to work its way into the Derwent, but the dreadful weather conditions, combined with contrary winds, pushed the ship still further south, where it came close to going down in horrendous seas.)

While in the area, Collins may also have visited the island where Bowen had dumped his unruly convicts, and would have been struck by their horrific living conditions: no vegetation to provide shelter, little food and no blankets or other means to ward off the cold and wet weather.

 

 

The Mercury

Friday 11 June 2004, page 18

 

June 11 1804, Monday

Told by the harbour master of their inhumane living condition, Governor Collins decided to take action in the matter of the convicts dumped by Lt. Bowen without shelter on an island in Frederick Henry as a punishment for their part in a planned mutiny at Risdon Cove (April 22).
While Bowen was exploring down south, Collins sent a crew out to pick them up and, in preparation for their return later that week, instructed the store to issue them on their return with “one Wooden Bowl and Platter”.
Writing later to Governor King, Collins describes how he took pity on the poor wretches: “finding them destitute of Cloathing and Covering during the Night, I could not consistently with any Degree of Humanity exact any Labour from them in that wretched State, and accordingly supplied them with a Suit of Cloathing and a Blanket each”, but then hurriedly adds that “as they have been invariably spoken of to me as desperate and worthless characters, I have sent them to Sydney by the Ocean. (Like Knopwood, Collins also described them as ‘United Irishmen’).
To house them while in his care, he “lodged them in a Tent pitched in the Marine Square adjoining the Grand Tent, and employed them under an Overseer as was necessary about the Town”.
These last few words are of great interest, as they are virtually the sum-total of what we know about the details of the military encampment (‘barracks’) in Hobart Town during those early years.  This Barrack ‘Square’ -- in fact more like a rectangle -- was an area enclosed by a tall paling fence or stockade, of which the NE side was later used by Surveyor Meehan for the location and orientation of a new street. (As this fence ran alongside the military barracks which were at that time under the command of Capt Murray, Meehan called this fence in his survey notes of 1811 “Murray's fence”, thus giving a name to the new street running alongside it: Murray St.)
Most of the ‘barracks’ (read: a few rows of tents) were located on the site of the present Hadleys Hotel and extended some distance down towards the Hobart Rivulet. The ‘Grand Tent’ (probably a canvas mess-room -- Collins' earlier prefabricated tent?) stood some distance back from Murray St, possibly in the area nowadays behind the Queen Mary Club. The outline of the barracks and the location of the ‘Grand Tent’ are clearly noted on Harris's 1804 survey of the Hobart Rivulet.

 

 

The Mercury

Saturday 12 June 2004, page 27

 

June 12, 1804

To take the heat out of the situation at Risdon Cove and to put some physical distance between Lt Bowen and Lt Moore, an excursion was arranged.
Bowen, the botanist Brown and Dr Mountgarret were to go on an excursion, ostensibly “to examine some of the bays or harbours in Storm Bay passage” (D'Entrecasteaux Channel).
That day they got as far as Barnes Bay, North Bruny Island. It would not have been a very pleasant trip; they used an open boat, and the weather during that week was recorded as being typical for that month: cold, wet and windy.

 

 

Sunday Tasmanian

Sunday 13 June 2004, page 52

 

Violent gale takes its toll on the camp

 

June 13, 1804

A day of very severe winds; recorded Knopwood: “Very heavy gusts of wind with hard rain at intervals. Many trees around the camp were torn up by the wind. At midday Mr. Wilson came from Risdon and was nearly lost in the boat because of the winds.”
Apparently the storm did not abate; that evening the wind was accompanied by lightning, and as a result Knopwood invited Wilson to stay the night with him rather than Wilson taking the risk of going back in a boat to Risdon.
Caught by the same “violent gale”, the boating party with Lt Bowen remained trapped in the area, Brown noting that they sheltered that day in Simmonds Bay. Little did they know that only a short distance away from them on the other side of Bruny Island, the crew and passengers of the long-awaited Ocean, with the remainder of the Collins expedition on board, were fighting for their dear life south of Storm Bay to keep the ship afloat and reach the safety of their destination: Sullivans Cove . . .

 

 

The Mercury

Monday 14 June 2004, page 25

 

June 14, 1804

That afternoon a gun shot was fired from Hunters Island, and upon investigation it appeared that the guards had seen a fire on Betsy Island.
Mr. Collins was sent to investigate, but in view of the still terrible weather it was decided that instead of going straight down the Derwent hard again the wind, he would take the inside of “Ralph Bay” (now Mortimer Bay), where at the bottom end he would have had to cross a short stretch of dunes to investigate just what was going on at Betsy Island. What his findings were was not recorded.
No report came to light about the cause of the fire (false alarm/lightning?), but it certainly could not have been a fire lit by the crew of the Ocean, as on that day they were battling for their dear life in Storm Bay many miles south from Betsy Island.
After observing the island from the southern end of South Arm, Collins appears to have taken his boat from there to explore the lower reaches of the Huon River.
His party may have carried their boat across the dunes to Hope Beach, but just how he crossed the mouth of the Derwent River in his small boat with the full blast of a wintry storm from the West was not recorded.

 

 

The Mercury

Tuesday 15 June 2004, page 10

 

Hobart Town is order of the day

 

June 15, 1804

Today is the first time that Governor Collins heads a local general order with the name “Hobart Town”, thus indicating in a roundabout fashion to the general population that from now onward this will be the name of their new settlement.
He also issued instructions that, in view of the urgent need for “several public buildings”, the greatest effort was required from all those engaged in the construction of public works and building projects.
No excuses would be accepted, while those found to be slack on the job would not be permitted to work for others in their weekend free time -- an unintended admission of what sort of “private enterprise” initiative was already rapidly developing in the young settlement.
One curious instruction also issued at that time was that from then onward the settlers “will in future receive their provisions weekly instead of once in four weeks as formerly. This regulation cannot be attended with any inconvenience to them, the distance between their grounds and the Town being so inconsiderable.”
But the truth was that most of the free settlers lived along the New Town Creek, meaning from now onward they had to walk several kilometres each week instead of once a month in order to collect their food rations and other items, a time-consuming arrangement they could well do without.
Another problem was the actual access to the Government Stores on Hunters Island: it was only accessible via the tidal sandbar that linked this small lump of rock with the shore, which was half the time under water.
Recollects Fawkner: “The effort of getting these rations was great, and the inconvenience severely felt: the tides made Hunters Island difficult to get to at high water, especially with a strong south or south- westerly coming in.
On some occasions the wind held the flood tide up for a whole 24 hours, and then each person had to wade through the water knee deep, while for younger persons this could mean up to the waist or even neck deep. These experiences in the coldness of winter caused many skin complaints or other sufferings”.
It is not clear from the surviving evidence why this instruction was issued but it would seem it caused much resentment.
Meanwhile, the boating excursion with Lt Bowen on board managed to get into Simpsons Bay (South Bruny), where they had an interview “with the same party of natives that are generally in the neighbourhood of Sullivans Cove”, a remark suggesting that Brown recognised them somehow.

 

 

The Mercury

Wednesday 16 June 2004, page 45

 

Severe winter disease take a toll

 

June 6, 1804, Saturday

More cold and wet weather, and little imagination is required to think of the circumstances under which the badly dressed convicts had to work, either in the various workshops or while cutting timber in the forest and transporting the logs to the settlement.

NOTE: From April onward, there are constant remarks in the records about the poor wintry weather conditions, causing even Governor Collins to complain later that “the Winter Season in this latitude is being severely felt by the People. A Mountain in my Neighbourhood has been for some weeks covered with snow, [as a result of which] Scurvy, Diarrhoea and Catarrh are prevailing disease”.

Of these, catarrh (a cold with a runny nose) was, of course, directly attributable to the poor and insufficient clothing which was issued. Diarrhoea was a complaint caused by poor diet, aggravated in this case by the consumption of poor quality food and often compounded by the use of contaminated water containers and possibly poor quality drinking water.
But the most serious problems were caused by scurvy (scorbutas), a disease caused by a severe lack of vitamin C (ascorbic acid) brought about by the unavailability of fresh greens and fruit. Symptoms are that the patient feels weak and short of breath; the skin may show blue marks like bruising, and the gums become spongy.
Scurvy patients were soon totally unfit to do any work, and the large numbers of prisoners down with this complaint severely inhibited Governor Collins in his efforts to achieve the necessary public works around the settlement, hence his all-out efforts to grow “greens” and other fresh produce, and his attempts to get the Government Farm going.
As far as the weather itself is concerned, climatic changes since World War II have brought about a gradual but distinct change to warmer and drier weather (especially during the winter months) and our weather today can therefore not be compared with the much colder and wetter winters which the earlier settlers in Tasmania had to endure.
Still in the D'Entrecasteaux Channel, Lieutenant Bowen and his party ventured towards the direction of the mouth of the Huon River and seemed to have got as far as the area of Garden Island.

 

 

The Mercury

Thursday 17 June 2004, page 20

 

Governor’s mistress joins him at prayer

 

June 17, 1804, Sunday

In the morning Knopwood walked to the settlers at New Town Creek to hold a church service there, and found among his audience Governor Collins with his mistress, Mrs. Powers, the wife of a prisoner.
Their relationship was widely known, and not in any way different from similar arrangements by many others within that community. Knopwood may or may not have been keen to have her among his audience, but under the circumstances there was little he could have done about it.

NOTE: In 1802, Matthew and Hannah Powers were tried for fraud; Hannah was discharged but Matthew was found guilty. Sentenced to transportation for 14 years, they ended up as part of the Collins expedition where, once on board, Collins soon started an affair with Hannah. With the connivance of his wife, Matthew used the affair for what it was worth, and the whole thing developed into a three-sided arrangement with satisfied faces all round.


Being a printer by trade, Matthew was given the job of operating Collins' printing machine, which was located in a small hut down the garden from Collins' house, and the couple soon managed to erect their own hut next to this printing ‘office’ -- again a convenient arrangement which suited all concerned. Collins, whose wife had stayed behind in London, was often seen with Hannah, and their relationship was common knowledge throughout the settlement, even to the extent where the pair attended social occasions and the like.
The affair between Collins and Hannah Powers lasted until the winter of 1808 when an attractive new face turned up among the Norfolk Island settlers in the form of a very young (but otherwise quite advanced) Margaret Eddington, who by the end of 1809 gave birth to a daughter called Eliza Collins.
Having by that time already been pardoned, the Powers returned to England during that same year, but then fade from the scene.
In view of the recent General Order about the change in the distribution of food of a few days ago there was quite some unrest within the New Town community on this matter, and Collins and Knopwood probably made use of their presence at the service to discuss these issues with the settlers.
Later in the day Knopwood joined the Governor for a meal, and it is not unreasonable to think that the success or otherwise of their efforts that morning in New Town were analysed. (Neither Collins nor Knopwood made later comments on the outcome of this meeting).
Still down in the D'Entrecasteaux Channel, Bowen's boating party admire the rocky coastline near Point Labillardiere on the westernmost part of South Bruny, and after that worked their way across the Channel to Port Esperance, where they noted “the Conical mountains in the neighbourhood, the tips of which where at that time covered with snow” (a clear description of Adamsons Peak etc), and gazed in amazement at the enormous eucalypt trees on the banks of the Esperance River, where they spend the night.

 

 

The Mercury

Friday 18 June 2004, page 24

 

Exploring, drawing

 

June 18, 1804, Monday

The Surveyor Harris and several other men set out to explore and survey the Hobart Rivulet upstream to find out more about its source. Curious, Knopwood joined them for some distance then returned home.

NOTE: The drawing of the survey made by Harris at that time still exists. Judging from his drawing, Harris was a reasonable maker of charts but later gained a bad reputation as a property surveyor.

Most of his work setting out land grants to the settlers had to be redone by competent professionals such as Meehan and Evans.

Fawkner noted that the property boundary lines surveyed by Harris “frequently ran into or across each other. Few farms had their true measurement and were seldom parallel, for want of the commonest knowledge of field surveying. Luckily, Mr. (Meehan?) in re-surveying these properties often allowed some more than the acreage officially granted, so that the resurveys did not cause all the arguments that might otherwise have followed”.
ON the banks of the Esperance River, Bowen's party look in wonder and amazement at the riches of the rainforests around them. They tried to row up the river but, recorded Brown: “we went as far up in the small boat as the trunks of the trees would permit. We then proceeded on foot but could hardly get more than that”.
They clambered back through the scrub to their boat and decided to return home, a journey which would take them two days.

 

Sketching river and camp

This is part of the drawing by G. P. Harris of the Hobart Rivulet which he made as a result of the survey which he began that day, also including the layout of the Camp as it was at that time.
While cartographically probably not very accurate (the skills of Harris as a surveyor were notoriously bad), it does give us at least some impression of what had been achieved by then.
On top of the rise along the waterfront of Sullivans Cove are clearly visible the huts of several officers; Knopwood's marquee is located next to the cottage occupied by Governor Collins (Government House), while close by is the `printing office' where Collins' Daily Orders were printed, a hut also conveniently also housing the printer Matthew Powers and his wife Hannah, the mistress of Governor Collins.
The convicts are located in two orderly rows close to the Marine Barracks, from where a watchful eye could be kept on them. Away from the activities within the settlement, Lt Lord and the geologist Mr. Humphrey have their cottage and tent behind the barracks along present-day Victoria St, while the carpenters and the blacksmith shops can be found on the other side of the rivulet in the area of present-day Criterion St.
The hospital (at that time probably still a tent or at best a small hut) is already on the site where the Royal Hobart Hospital is today, while a second bridge has been constructed near the present-day intersection of Collins and Market Streets.
The number of the various tents on Hunter Island used to house the Government Stores has increased considerably since the two tents used for that purpose shortly after their arrival; the jetty which the convicts were told to construct last February is also now in position, as is the stone cottage (still under construction) alongside it. In the middle of Hunter Island the proposed new Government Store is prominently marked -- at least, that is where Governor Collins had in mind to have it erected, and as a Government Surveyor Harris knew better than leave it off the map on the basis that it wasn't there as yet
As the original survey drawing by Harris proved to be unsuitable for reproduction, the basic drawing used for the illustration shown here was taken from an 1866 copy of this plan. Superimposed on this version in modern type was the text taken from the original 1804 Harris survey, as were added the location of the jetty on Hunter Island and the ‘landing’ next to the Hope and Anchor Hotel in Market St. At that time, the hotel had not been built, but the first cottages behind the landing are already in position to take advantage from any trade arising from new arrivals.
Also added for clarity were the dotted lines indicating the sandy bar linking the shore with Hunter Island at low tide, together with the northern deepwater line of the Hobart Rivulet as it enters the Derwent.

 

 

The Mercury

Saturday 19 June 2004, page 10

 

Setting up home, with a little help from their friends

 

June 19, 1804

There is still a growing concern about the whereabouts of the Ocean, with the rest of the expedition and supplies from Port Phillip, causing Knopwood to make once more the walk to a nearby hilltop to look, but again there was no sign of any ship in Storm Bay. (NOTE: by then the Ocean was off Maria Island, anchored near Darlington, hoping to find fresh drinking water.)
Later, Knopwood dined with Lt Lord “at his new house”.
This is believed to have been near the intersection of Victoria and Collins St on a town allotment of an acre.
Knopwood refers to the cottage as belonging to Lt Lord, but the geologist Humphrey writes home in a letter dated August 1: “Lt Lord and I have built a small House.”
He then goes on to say they had “much assistance from the Governor, who has kindly given us Nails, Locks, Glass, Paint, a Fire Stove, pitch and Tar for the Top, and men to help”.
They had trouble with the chimney. A 12-foot iron chimney had been ordered in England but never made it on board, and so Humphrey had to ask the Governor for some “tin” (sheet iron?) which he got, “though it impoverished the Store, as there is but little”.

(These remarks confirm Fawkner's complaint that officers and gentlemen got preferential treatment compared with the New Town Creek settlers.)

Humphrey described the cottage as having four rooms -- one used as his workshop to store and study rock specimens; what was his private bedroom he let to Lt Sladden and his wife after their arrival from Port Phillip in the Ocean; Lt Lord used the third room; and the main room was shared as a sitting room.
John P. Fawkner described this house as a “wattle-and-daub” construction. This remark is interesting, as it showed that at that time not everybody was familiar with this method of construction.
But, Fawkner noted, others studied the example with great interest, which soon “furnished ideas for use in many a more humble dwelling”.
It cost Lord and Humphrey some pound stg. 50 for materials, labour and other expenses to build this cottage, but already someone has offered more money for it and they confidently expected the cottage shortly to be worth “five times that sum”.
Although this cottage is always described as being the first one to have been occupied in the new settlement, it is clear there were many others nearby also close to completion. “Ours, . . . is now surrounded by the Frames of [other] Houses”, said Humphrey.
2 Since, after their arrival from Port Phillip, Lt Sladden and his wife rented Humphrey's bedroom, Humphrey must have been living somewhere else. In a later letter he complained that life in a tent in winter made him suffer “greatly from Cold and Rain, which latter falls very heavy in the Wet Season; and a Marquee is but a poor protection from it. I have frequently slept with the Water up to 6 inches under my Bed”.
Harris's survey shows this tent was a short distance further up the slope towards what is now Macquarie St.
Humphrey gives a graphic description of life in Tasmania's rainforests: “But this is nothing to being out all Night in the Rain after a fatiguing Day's March. Your Fire will not burn, and if it does you could not approach it for the Steam of Your Cloaths.  I have been out five succeeding rainy Nights, two of which while we were travelling over small Rocks. Two [more of such nights] would have killed us, as we could not get any Rest after travelling hard all day.  I find that since I have been in Van Diemens Land, I have slept or have been upwards of forty Nights in the Woods. You may judge I have not been idle.”

 

 

Sunday Tasmanian

Sunday 20 June 2004, page 16

 

Excursions come to end

 

June 20, 1804

That afternoon Lt Bowen, the botanist Brown and Dr Mountgarret returned from their boating excursion to Risdon, while shortly after them surveyor Harris and his party also returned from their survey trip to the lower foothills of Mt Wellington.

 

 

The Mercury

Monday 21 June 2004, page 22

 

Huon a ‘most perfect’ site to settle

 

June 21, 1804

During the afternoon Mr. Collins also returned from his exploration of the Huon River with tales of a “most perfect” situation for a settlement: lots of fresh water, good soil and trees (he would have seen fine stands of Huon pines, which at that time were still plentiful in that area) and all that with safe and good anchorage.
He had also met up with several aboriginal groups; they had been very friendly towards him and on one occasion he stayed with them all night.
Their form of transport over water appeared to be in the form of  “cattemerans or small boats made of bark that will hold about six of them”.
That evening, just when everybody was settling down for the night, the frosty silence of the darkness was suddenly disturbed by the distant sound of cannon fire and all at once there was great commotion within the small community: could it, please God, be that this indicated the arrival of the long-overdue Ocean from Port Phillip?
There were many very good reasons indeed to be very worried about the fate of the Ocean.
Apart from the possible loss of life and its attendant demoralising influence (within that small group, everybody knew everybody else), the loss of the cargo still to come with this ship would have had a horrific impact on the small band of struggling people on the shore of the Derwent.

 

 

The Mercury

Tuesday 22 June 2004, page 23

 

Ocean in sight of home

 

June 22, 1804, Friday

At first light Mr. Collins, the harbourmaster, hurriedly departs in the white cutter to investigate and, yes, it was indeed the long-awaited Ocean trying to beat its way into the Derwent but which later in the day had to anchor off Opossum Bay due to adverse winds and a strong outgoing tide.
With this information in hand, a greatly relieved Collins begins to ponder on the inflationary pressures that the arrival of the people on the Ocean would be likely to create on the current prices and wages in the settlement. Remembering the various problems encountered by the Sydney settlement in the 1790s as a result of shortages of labour, food and materials, he quickly issued a General Order regulating the prices that could be asked for these essential commodities.
The best paid wages go, quite naturally, to the heaviest occupations, such as bush clearing (grubbing and burning: 80 shillings per acre), the tilling of new soil (40s an acre) and the breaking up of stubble ground (27s per acre). Splitting palings seven feet long (much needed for the cover of huts, etc) brings 3s per 100; carpenters can earn 3 1/2s per 10-hour day, while the thatching of a roof should cost sixpence per lineal foot. To put those figures into perspective: a normal weekly pay for a tradesman would have been, at best, five to 15 shillings a week, with many supervisors earning about 20 shillings a week. (Disregarding the changes in buying power, 10 shillings are equal to one modern Australian dollar).
There was, of course, a lively local trade in food produced by the settlers and prisoners themselves and to prevent their prices racing sky-high, the price for the most important staple foods was also pegged: salted beef was to cost not more than nine pence per pound, pork should go for a shilling, kangaroo meat is to cost eight pence per pound while flour is to cost a shilling per pound at the most.
In addition, a 50 per cent landing tax was levied on all items purchased from visiting ships, such as tea and sugar (at that time absolute luxury items), while a further 25 per cent tax would be levied on these commodities when sold to a third party, that is, for trade purposes.
(Perhaps it did not occur to Collins that these heavy taxes by themselves would contribute materially to any inflationary price rises already in motion.)
Apart from thus fixing the prices for the various commodities, Collins tried also to solve with this decision another difficult problem: the shortage of coinage in circulation. What had been overlooked in London was that as people began to produce goods with an economic value, a growing quantity of coinage had to be on hand to assist in the trading of these goods, otherwise only an unsatisfactory barter system could be used in the long term to facilitate the sale of the newly created goods. With regulated prices, the commodities themselves now became a currency with which other goods or services could be paid for.
A good example of how the system worked was given by Harris when soon after he wrote to his mother: “Money we have none. When you want to make a [purchase] it is customary to ask for the price of the commodity and how the person wants to be paid for it: in the form of wheat, flour, salt pork or beef or kangaroo”.
Another custom which grew up among the settlers in combating the shortage of coinage was that they began to write their own promissory notes (like cheques which could be traded).
Remembering the identical problem cropping up in Sydney in 1792, Collins did not like this very much; these notes could easily be forged or otherwise misused but, again like 1792 and after, he soon found himself in the same predicament when he simply did not have the cash to pay even his own employees.
In a report to London he later reported: “For want of Specie to pay the Superintendents and overseers their Salaries, by which they in return find themselves unable to buy [their daily requirements], I directed the Commissary to issue small Promissory Notes, not less than One Pound Sterling in value, which have proved of great accommodation to these People. These Notes will stay in Circulation until some Specie may be sent out, [which would enable me] to call them back in”. (It would be more than a year before he could actually do that.)
Meanwhile, still out in the river, Mr. Collins managed to meet up with the Ocean and later returned to the settlement with Lt Johnson who reported to Collins the horrific tale of a dreadful voyage lasting 33 days, a journey during which the ship had to endure a gale and for three weeks had to ride out storms, occasionally “with her bare masts, expecting for some days that the ship would have gone down, because of the high seas and the bad weather”.

 

 

The Mercury

Wednesday 23 June 2004, page 24

 

June 23, 1804, Saturday

The Ocean is still trying to work its way up the river, but now there was lack of wind, while also the tide was so strong that the ship was actually being pushed backwards, gaining in the end thus only a few miles upon her position yesterday.
But being so close to settlement tempted a few on board to lower a boat.
Under the cover of darkness, they sneaked into the cove and about midnight found themselves in the rivulet, where of course they were promptly spotted and challenged by the guards on duty.
In the settlement, meanwhile, Dr Mountgarret and Robert Brown arrived from Risdon to collect Knopwood, who was to perform a divine service there the next day.

 

 

The Mercury

Thursday 24 June 2004, page 10

 

Security scare on Derwent

 

June 24, 1804

As requested by Collins, Knopwood did indeed perform Divine Service at Risdon that Sunday, “but the Military did not attend”.
Perhaps Lt Moore still felt slighted about what happened between himself and Bowen earlier that month, and absented himself and his small detachment from the obligatory presence at the Sunday service.
But this time he miscalculated: Knopwood felt deeply offended at being snubbed that way, and upon his return to Sullivans Cove that afternoon went straight to Collins to complain about the matter.
It also put Lt Bowen in a very difficult position as, indeed, a breach of standing orders had been committed, and thus the next day he also formally reported the deliberate absence of Lt Moore and his men to Collins.
In the Derwent, the Ocean had now almost come within shouting distance of the harbour but was still battling weak adverse winds followed by a dead calm with heavy fog, and so had to drop anchor once again.
Meanwhile, Collins received a report regarding the rowing boat from the Ocean in the rivulet late the previous night; he was furious about the security implications of such an unauthorised arrival in the dead of night and issued strict instructions that “after the Taptoe has beat”, no boat was allowed to land at Hunters Island or enter the rivulet, and he reminded the guards on Hunters Island “to be very exact in attending to this Order”.
There is no record of a boat being unloaded during the previous evening for contact with the shore, but it later appeared that in the original logbook of the Ocean a line was removed at that very point of the proceedings with a pen knife, suggesting that upon hearing about Collins' reaction to this incident any mention of a boat having been launched may have been hastily removed from the records.

 

 

The Mercury

Friday 25 June 2004, page 16

 

New arrivals glad to get ashore at last

 

June 25, 1804

To the great relief of everybody, the long-expected Ocean finally managed to anchor in Sullivans Cove that afternoon with the remainder of Collins' settlement from Port Phillip, and Captain Mertho went ashore immediately to formally report the arrival of his ship to Governor Collins.
The weather was still terrible, but in view of the horrific conditions on board nobody wanted to wait any longer and the disembarkation began almost immediately, the free people being the first ones to leave the ship.
Incredible as it may sound to us of today, there were no reception facilities for these people.
Several decades later, James Backhouse interviewed a woman (probably Elizabeth Miller, who stayed behind with her father Edward Miller at Port Phillip to salvage as much of the planted garden seeds as possible), who told the story of how, as a young girl, she disembarked from the Ocean that afternoon, but because of the late hour of the day could not travel on any more to their destination at New Town.
Backhouse wrote later: “On landing, she was lodged with some others under a blanket supported by sticks.”
The place where this poor girl spent her wet, cold and miserable first winter night in Hobart Town was described by Backhouse as “near the place where the Commissariat Office now stands”, which brings us to the front of the City Hall in Macquarie St, at that time still a sandy bar that linked Hunters Island with the foreshore (near the Hope and Anchor Hotel), in those early days altogether a stretch of coast line till close to nature.
In other words, the longboats from the Ocean simply dropped this young girl and her family off on a narrow sandbar, where they stayed for the rest of the night
Continued Backhouse: “After spending a night there, they were taken to the area where the village of New Town now stands, and lodged in a hollow tree.  Here they were visited by the Aborigines, with whom the children were often left, and who treated them kindly.”
The officers faired somewhat better; several of the new arrivals went straight to Knopwood's marquee to have dinner with him and their other colleagues already there, regaling each other with the events of the past few weeks, while still later in the evening they are joined by Captain Mertho of the Ocean and a few others, and again the subject of their conversation is not difficult to guess.
Hardly noticed because of all the commotion on the waterfront, botanist Brown and the geologist Humphrey also returned that day from their 16-day expedition overland to the Huon River.
Brown had attempted this route before but had been defeated by the thick forests in the present Longley and Grove areas.
This time, and in the company of the geologist Mr. Humphrey, the expedition had been more successful, although the going had been very hard, very cold and very wet.
In the settlement they meet up with Lt Bowen, Wilson and Dr Mountgarret, who also had had their adventures over the past few days.
There was thus much to talk about, and in the end they all ended up at the tent of Lt Lord for dinner and, no doubt, to talk about the recent experiences of all those present.
It got late, and Bowen thus once again stayed overnight with Knopwood in his tent.

 

 

The Mercury

Saturday 26 June 2004, page 28

 

Voyage to hell and back

 

June 26, 1804, Tuesday

The weather conditions were still atrocious, with strong wind and squalls of sleet, but that did not stop the marines and some of the prisoners also from disembarking from the Ocean with their luggage during the morning.
Ashore, the servant of Knopwood managed to down a tall “kanerro” weighing nearly 70kg. He was very pleased indeed with this very welcome addition to the rations on his table and proudly noted that one hindquarter alone weighed about 11kg.
When
the decision was made by Governor Collins to move his settlement from Port Phillip to the Derwent in Tasmania there was not a ship available to him that was large enough to make the transfer in one operation.
After Collins' arrival in Sullivans Cove in February 1804, he therefore had to send the ship Ocean back to collect the people he had to leave behind, plus most of the all-important stores and virtually all of his livestock. This return journey was to be made in late autumn and into the early winter season which, from all accounts, that year came in with a vengeance.
The Ocean had left Sullivans Cove on March 24 but a week later was still off Flinders Island battling heavy sou'westerly weather, with big waves breaking over the deck. They managed to get the ship into Bass Strait but again a week later still suffered enormous waves crashing through the rigging, requiring the crew to make dangerous emergency repairs in very wild weather.
On April 11 the weather improved somewhat; they got a vague view of Cape Howe (south of Eden, indicating they had been blown way off course), from where it was still four more days before they finally made the entrance into Port Phillip and, with much relief, dropped the anchor near the small settlement anxiously awaiting their arrival (April 15).
The next week was spent repairing and preparing the ship for its return to the Derwent. The weather was still so bad that the longboats of the Ocean could not be safely moored alongside the ship, so the time was used to tackle the problem of the many rats aboard the ship. As a precaution the gunpowder was first offloaded into one of the longboats, which was then moored a safe distance away; after which wet clay was used to seal the portholes and other openings of the decks below.
They then lit several charcoal fires in braziers positioned throughout the ship, thus choking the vermin with fumes and smoke.
The ship's journal noted: “At 4pm we opened the hatches, Ports, etc, put the fires out and took the powder back on board. Found upwards of 200 rats about the fires and on the Gun deck.” (The gun deck is the one below the main deck, used to accommodate the free passengers, with the convicts still further down in the ship.)
They then cleaned the ship thoroughly and discovered that they had to dispose also of “Provisions in the Afterhole, which we found destroyed by the rats” -- all in all, telling comments on the conditions in which the first settlers in Tasmania had to travel from their homeland to their new country.
On Monday, May 7 they began loading “the Colonial stores”, while on deck the carpenter “fitted up a place for the cattle and stock”. A fortnight later the crew was still hard at work when the odour of tobacco smoke rose up from below. Result: “Convict James Nowland was punished with fifty lashes on the back for smoking in the Lower prison room and nearly setting fire to the ship”.
Work continued but two days later convict Nowland showed that he hadn't learned: once again they found him smoking in the holds and once again he was punished with fifty lashes “for the above offence”.
During the next few days still more cargo was loaded into the holds but by Friday, May 17 everybody seemed to be aboard, the last ones being Lt Sladden, the acting commandant of the settlement and his wife. The longboats were hauled in, the sails readied and Capt Mertho formally informed Lt Sladden the Ocean was ready to sail.
Sladden gave the nod and early next morning they departed from Hobart on the shores of Port Phillip to a new Hobart on the Derwent. However, the wind and tides were against them and it was not until a full day later that they managed to get through the Entrance into the open waters of Bass Strait.
Sailing east, they cornered Flinders Island later that week; the course was then set south along the East Coast and at midday of Sunday, June 3 they passed Cape Pillar. So far, so good -- the Derwent was ahead of them and everybody began counting the hours before they could set foot on shore again.
Little could they have expected what was still in store for them.
During the next day the Ocean was still battling strong westerly gusts in the notoriously unpredictable Storm Bay, while on Tuesday they found themselves back again where they were three days before, near Tasman Island.
By now the journey was really beginning to last far longer than had been bargained for, big seas were beginning to break over the ship and the weather prospects didn't look very good to the crew who, as a precaution, reduced the water ration to just over two litres per person per day.
Still the wind and weather did not co-operate and two days later the daily water ration was again reduced, this time to just over a litre -- and a bad omen to all. On Friday the 8th some urgent repairs were made to the rigging but then there was a sudden change in the wind: the ship wallowed in heavy cross seas and by next Monday they could only vaguely see the southernmost tip of Tasmania.
By Wednesday, June 13 they still were in that area; the gale had increased in strength and as a result the sails had to be further reduced.
Noted the journal: “The ship is labouring very much in a very heavy sea and frequently shipping seas all over. At Noon the Gale increased to a Hurricane, the sea making a fair drift over the Ship”. (The journal made no note of the livestock which were penned up on the main deck.)
During the next day “the Gale increased to as Great violence as before and shifted more to the South, so that the ship headed the sea which occasioned her frequently to pitch. The Jibb boom, spritsail Yard and Bowsprit were several feet under water, which alarmed us for the safety of our masts. In one of those heavy pitches we lost the larboard Bowsprit Bith and sprung the starboard one. Got shores up against them to prevent the bowsprit coming [undone] . . . the Gale continued with [great] violence until 7am . . . when it began to moderate a little”. (With this sort of weather about, no wonder Captain Mertho would later talk of being in fear of the ship actually going under.)
We know little of how the passengers fared during that dreadful night below decks, although James Grove recalled later that “everything presented the most dreary appearance throughout the ship”. With fodder running out, the public livestock was being fed with flour from the “public store” but the captain thought he could not justify feeding the private stock from the public property as well and with no more fodder to hand many of them therefore had to be killed off. (Grove later recalled that he managed to keep his own sheep alive by feeding them on “tea leaves” -- made from the leaves of tea-tree bushes (Leptospermum) and only suffered the loss of an old hen that flew overboard.)
With all that mayhem going on above decks, there is no mention of life below decks.
On Friday, June 15 they found themselves a considerable distance south of Tasmania in strong gales and with only “eight crew able to stand the deck”. Captain Mertho realised that with this weather there was no hope of getting through Storm Bay into the Derwent, while the ship's water supply also was critically short.
In utter desperation, they decided to turn around and sail with the wind, heading northeast for Maria Island where they hoped to find some respite from the weather and in the meantime obtain urgently needed drinking water. On Sunday the 18th they were near the island and the next day tacked around its northern end into Mercury Passage where at nightfall everybody was greatly relieved when they finally dropped their anchors in the shelter of a small bay (possibly Boomer Bay, just south of Darlington).
There, everybody enjoyed some relief from the terrible weather of the past days; warm food could be prepared again and clothes could be hung out to dry. There was no let-up, though, for the crew and other able hands who the next day were sent ashore to collect fresh water to supplement the water supply.
The journal for June 19 recorded that “on landing we met some natives and by making signs they readily understood what we wanted. One of them went with us about 2 miles from where we landed and showed us a swamp with some holes of very good water. We then sent the cutter back to the ship for empty casks, of which we sunk some five to obtain water” (possibly at a small pool just south of Darlington, still there).
Much hard work was done throughout the night and into the next day carting empty water casks to the waterhole and taking the full ones back to the ship but at the end of their hard work they had the satisfaction of having resupplied the ship with some two tons of water. They continued doing this for another day, after which a further 10 tons of water had been stored aboard, plus a quantity of grass to feed the hungry livestock.
Late on Thursday the 21st they thought to have enough water to last the remainder of the voyage to the Derwent and raised anchor to continue the voyage -- but this time without seamen Mosley and Mansfield, two of the crew, who clearly had had enough of it all and had “run in the Woods”. (The two soon found that Maria Island in winter was not the place to wander about without food, clothing and shelter and were lucky when soon after the whaler Alexander also sheltered off Maria Island. The crew of this ship soon came across two very sorry seamen, took them aboard and handed them over to the authorities at Hobart Town).
After leaving Maria Island it still took the Ocean a further four whole days to round Tasman Island. They then frustratedly spent a wind-still day anchored off Betsy Island, then had to cope with an abnormally strong outflowing tide in the Derwent before reaching Hobart Town.
What had been thought of as an easy five-day journey had turned into a maritime nightmare lasting nearly five weeks, one which had gone perilously close to the loss of the ship, all those aboard, plus nearly all of the expedition's vital equipment, food and livestock.
The Ocean was a ship of 481 tons with a draft of five metres. Built in 1796 with a copper-sheathed hull, it was nearly 29 metres long, carried a crew of 35 and was armed with 12 six-pounder guns. Being a freighter, the ship was not exactly designed to accommodate many passengers with all the necessary associated facilities, such as ablutions areas, food stores, galleys, etc, not to mention parlours and other places to be when conditions on deck were “not favourable”. After its service for Collins “in the Derwent”, the ship went via Sydney to the Far East and returned to London in 1806, after which it seems to have faded out of sight.

 

 

Sunday Tasmanian

Sunday 27 June 2004, page 52

 

Concern over scurvy victims on sick list

 

June 27, 1804

Another terrible day with strong winds, sleet and rain, and with the surrounding hills covered with a layer of snow.
But the disembarkation continued, and by the afternoon all 99 prisoners and their luggage now also got ashore, together with 12 sick seamen.
Another seaman, a Richard Lucas, had already been ill for several months, but is now so critical that his removal to the settlement's hospital could not even be contemplated.
All in all, Collins is obviously very pleased with the manner in which those prisoners already here were making room in their huts for the newcomers, and in order to assist these new arrivals in erecting their own huts they will have the next few days off to do so.
As it was in the middle of the week, the new prisoners would also get an allowance of four days of food, but as from next Saturday onward (the normal day for the issue of rations) they would of course have to join with the rest of the settlement for the collection of their weekly allocations of food.
Also, the quartermaster is asked to issue each of the newly arrived prisoners with the same new clothing as the others received last April.
One matter that caused much concern was the very large sick list with which the Ocean arrived back in the Derwent.
Collins reported to Gov. King that most of these people suffered from scurvy, which “lately has also begun to manifest among the People who came with me. But the fresh meat, which I was able to give the sick through the abundance of Kangaroos which we still meet with will, I hope, soon overcome it”.
And then he added with a deep sigh of frustration: “I trust that now that we are altogether again, I shall not meet with any more unpleasant Disappointments.”
This letter, and especially the last line, is one of the few occasions where Collins clearly shows his profound personal feelings and concern for the well-being of the people for which he was responsible.
He knew perfectly well what the medical reasons were for their illnesses but simply did not have the necessary greens and fruit to effectively treat them.
Beyond that, Collins was fully aware of the long-term prospect that faced them: much of the food in store on Hunter Island was of poor quality, much of his seed grain worthless, and the long-term outlook on their situation was very grim indeed. The first suspicions of having been abandoned by his masters in London begin to enter his mind, while he knew full well that any real support from Sydney would also be minimal.
And he was right: during the next few years the shortage of food would cause real distress, encouraging prisoners and settlers alike to venture into the bush for kangaroo meat, and in the process create a new lifestyle which soon would be called “bush ranging” -- with all the consequences of what that eventually entailed.
But the settlement had not as yet reached that stage.
The arrival of so many more people put much pressure on the stores in the Government tents on Hunter Island, causing Collins to ask for an audit of all stock and medical supplies, while he also instructed the Commissary responsible for these stocks to move his private tent to Hunter Island in order to keep a closer eye on what was going on there at any time of the day -- or in the darkness of night, for that matter. We are not being told of what Mr. Fosbrook and his paramour Mrs. Ankers thought of the idea of living in a tent on a small island catching the full force of any wind blowing about...


(A late addition to Collins' expedition, LEONARD FOSBROOK was appointed as the deputy-commissary of the Government stores. Fosbrook indeed moved to Hunters Island as instructed but promptly used his influence to have a house erected there. He apparently succeeded in that, as a new cottage on the island is clearly shown on an 1806 watercolour.
He also held an early land grant on the Domain, but some years later was charged with fraudulent conduct and dismissed. He returned to England in 1814.)

 

 

The Mercury

Monday 28 June 2004, page 18

 

Journey hard on stock and Marines

 

June 28, 1804

The Ocean is still unloading its cargo of livestock from Port Phillip. We do not know exactly what went on board there and what came off again after the ship's arrival in Hobart Town, but the official record mentions the loss of livestock during the journey as being 18 sheep, 17 hogs, ten ducks, one male goat and six fowls -- an amazingly low loss, considering the terrible conditions these animals had to endure, locked up in their pens on the open deck in all weathers.
Nevertheless, it was still a setback, as at that critical stage the loss of any livestock would have been a serious matter.
Meanwhile, the crew on board the Ocean remained very busy unloading more cargo, while they also began taking down the bulkheads on the deck which had been temporarily arranged there to hold the live stock.
Collins also appreciated the difficulties under which troops of the Royal Marines on board of the Ocean had laboured, soldiers who, for all practical purposes, had been living on the ship in cramped conditions probably not all that much different from the convicts.
They obviously deserved a public pat on the back, and so he issued a proclamation in which he formally thanked them for their “healthy and soldier like appearance and demeanour” since he left them last January.
He then hoped “that by their continuing in the same line of conduct, they will equally merit his approbation”.
Well might he wish so, because these were the same soldiers who had given him considerable and indeed serious problems when still at Port Phillip, but yet he remained dependent on them to maintain discipline among the prisoners.
Also, with the return of Governor Collin's adjutant, Lt Sladden, the services of Lt Lord as such were no longer required, and so the Public Notices for that day stated that “The Adjutant having arrived, the services of Lieut. Lord in that department are dispensed with; and he desires to that Officer his thanks for the attention to the duties of his profession, and the assistance he [Collins] has received from him since his arrival at Hobart Town”.
Last night Mr. Wilson and Lt Johnson stayed the night over in the tent of Knopwood.
They then had breakfast with him, after which the three walk in the clear frosty air of the morning to the Government Far along the New Town Creek, from where a boat is commandeered to ferry Wilson across the Derwent back to Risdon Cove.
Then Knopwood and Johnson walk back to Sullivans Cove, giving Knopwood an opportunity to brief the newly arrived senior officer on the local politics and general gossip of the new settlement.
They end the day with having dinner at his tent.
And while thus pleasantly engaged, they hear outside in the background the rustling and blowing noises of an enormous school of whales in the river, reminding all and sundry of the commercial potential of these animals.
(Whale oil began being used in England and Western Europe in increasing quantities as a convenient fuel for lighting, thus replacing candles as the traditional form of illumination).

 

 

The Mercury

Tuesday 29 June 2004, page 20

 

Collins selects his three magistrates

 

June 29, 1804

Governor Collins some time ago foresaw the need for a proper bench of magistrates to deal with disputes and criminal matters, and for this purpose had written a letter to Governor King recommending the appointments of the Rev Robert Knopwood, Lieutenant W. Sladden and Mr. G.P. Harris as Justices of the Peace.
Governor King accepted this recommendation and promptly published a General Order to this effect in the Sydney Gazette of March 18. Collins received the requested approval early in May, but could not implement it due to the continuing absence of Lieutenant Sladden. (During this period, Collins used the occasional services of Knopwood to deal with justice business).
But now that Sladden was finally available he did not need to wait any longer, and he announced their appointment (Collins used the term magistrates) to serve the enlarged community of colonists.

NOTE: WILLIAM SLADDEN (c1773-1814) was appointed a second lieutenant in the Marines in 1793, and was a captain by the time he arrived at Port Phillip in 1803 with the Collins expedition. Further promotion followed in 1804 and 1805, but he left Hobart Town for England again in 1806.
In 1814, Sladden was promoted to major, but died that same year. He was one of the few officers who had brought his wife with him.
MEANWHILE, Collins had not forgotten the snub by Lieutenant Moore towards Knopwood when he and his detachment absented themselves during the recent divine service at Risdon, and so today's General Order announces that The Reverend Mr. Knopwood will, if the weather permits, perform Divine Service at Risdon Cove in the forenoon of Sunday 1st July. In view of what occurred at Risdon Cove the previous Sunday, the message from the Governor to the military at Risdon Cove is clear.
As the closing down of the Risdon Cove establishment will soon commence, Collins also issued another General Order requesting that Captain Bowen will not suffer any of the buildings [at Risdon Cove], either public or private, to be injured or taken down; such only excepted as he may previously send for.
Reading between the lines here, we probably may be justified in thinking that some of the more entrepreneurial elements at Sullivans Cove and New Town had already begun using the deserted huts at Risdon as a welcome quarry of urgently needed building material.
The original Risdon storehouse (it measured 18m by 8.2m) was located close to the water's edge, a location which exposed it to a risk of flooding already remarked upon by Collins when he visited the site in February. Precisely what happened to this structure is not known, although it seems that perhaps its doors were taken away to be used elsewhere.
There are indications that the rest of the building burned at some later stage, the rubble to be used again by a later occupant of the site (Major Geils) to erect another stone store at a higher level behind it (remains of the foundations of that structure can still be seen today behind the monument).
In 1903 the site of the original 1803 store was raised considerably over any surviving rubble and then used for the erection of the monument commemorating the original landing of Lieutenant Bowen in September 1803. This monument is still in existence today.
There were also a number of other remnants of stone structures still about on the Risdon site (most likely barns and the like), but it would be difficult to give a more precise description of what they looked like if they ever were completed and used at all. Beyond that, it should not be forgotten that the workforce at Risdon Cove was lazy, that their management and supervision was probably not very focussed, and any effort or even inclination to build major structures would have been very minimal indeed.
After the arrival of Collins and his party some five months later, it soon became clear that it would be only a matter of time before the Risdon settlement would be abandoned anyway, and that any further erection of huts or other structures had no purpose.
Bowen's official residence had already been commenced in October 1803 but never got beyond the partial construction of its stone foundations. Their present remains suggest a house with a frontage of some 20m with a central door and a bay window on each side.
Dr Mountgarret's house (a glorified hut located some distance north of the Shone's Corner traffic intersection) was fairly large, had a generous fireplace and for the perceptions of the time (and circumstances!) was quite comfortable. It contained several rooms to house the occasional guests and was often used during and shortly after the occupation of the settlement, but it was burnt down by a convict a few years later.
On the Ocean still more freight is being unloaded, while the carpenter took out the pieces that were left of the bowsprit that was carried away in the heavy seas of Storm Bay. That was a major job, which kept him and a few crew men busy throughout the day.

 

 

The Mercury

Wednesday 30 June 2004, page 28

 

Fragile food supply troubles settlement

 

June 30, 1804

During the previous evening, some person or persons unknown stole a ewe lamb of Dr Matthew Bowden from an enclosure behind the settlement hospital (now the site of the Royal Hobart Hospital).
In view of the precarious position of the present and future food supply this was a serious matter, as the entire immediate future of the livestock of the settlement in general depended on keeping such animals alive and well for breeding purposes, not used in cooking pots.
Reverend Knopwood and Mr. Grover walked to the Government Farm in New Town to inspect the condition of the newly arrived cattle from Port Phillip. This stock suffered much during the journey and needed all the attention and care they could get to bring them into better condition. Wisely, more paddocks already had been prepared in anticipation of the expected arrival of the bengal cattle, while the convict work gangs also were busy preparing more farm sheds and stockyards.
A new enterprise recently begun was the clearing of about 2ha of bush in a well sheltered spot (no location was mentioned) for the specific purpose of experimenting with planting maize, although the seed for this still had to come from Sydney.
Wrote Governor Collins to Governor King: As I have several Hogs and some Poultry to provide Subsistence for, I would be very grateful for a supply of Maize for their use.
To what extent Collins was successful with this first trial planting is not clear but later farmers certainly repeated this experiment. It proved to be very successful and from then on maize became an important part of the annual crop of many farmers.
Meanwhile, the carpenter of the Ocean managed to collect the remains of the broken bowsprit and took them ashore to the carpentry workshop, where he and a few prisoners set to work to fashion a new one. * The caption under yesterday's picture of the Bowen Memorial was incorrect. It should have said that the present Bowen monument rests on an elevation on top of the rubble of the original store, which was erected in 1803.