The Mercury

Monday 1 March 2004, page 2

 

 

Set to weigh anchor

 
1 March 1804
The weather is still holding and the captain of the Lady Nelson is keen to set sail for Sydney, but again the message from the shore is that Governor Collins is still not ready with his correspondence for Sydney and London.

 

 

The Mercury

Tuesday 2 March 2004, page 8

 

 

Illness causes lamentable loss of skilled convicts


2 March 1804
The construction of a new jetty in the cove is nearing completion, thanks to William Collins' skill and supervision of the job performed by untrained and unskilled convicts.
Meanwhile, some of the available smaller boats are being used on the Derwent to fish with a net. They are successful and a good catch is made.
One of Collins' convicts left behind at Risdon Cove to recuperate, Thomas Traherne, dies. Later, Collins made specific mention of him in his report to Governor King, describing Traherne as a skilled carpenter “who I can but ill spare''.
The next day, another convict, blacksmith James Johnson, also dies. He was, like Traherne, another trusted prisoner who Collins would have loathed to lose.
And again two days later, a Jonathon Spencer dies, also a trusted man who during the journey out had shown his skills as a poulterer.
All these people were the victims of complications showing up in the form of diarrhoea -- a frequent problem on board ships, often brought about by a poor diet and contaminated water or food.
It is not known where those who died at Risdon Cove were buried.
The medical care of the settlement was in the hands of several doctors, some of whom had seen military or naval service and were therefore used to dealing with a large variety of ailments among large groups of people.
Their “surgery'' consisted of two tents erected on a hill overlooking the settlement.
Today, it is the site of the Royal Hobart Hospital.
Their hospital equipment makes interesting reading, as it fairly well suggests the medical and sanitary arrangements of the times -- two small pitchers, two sets of small weights and scales, four graduates measures, a dozen 4oz gallipots (earthenware ointment jars), 24 half-pint vials (glass beakers), one plaster spatula, four ointment spatulas, two sets of pestles and mortars to grind medication (made by Wedgwood), two “necessary buckets'', 60 nightcaps for men and 20 for women, four bedpans, four spitting pots, four tea kettles, 12 saucepans of different sizes, 40 knifes and forks, 40 wooden bowls and platters, four wooden buckets, two bathing tubs, 12 coarse towels, two airing stoves and 24 cups and saucers.
Others lists mention mattresses and the like, although it is not certain they were actually shipped, meaning patients were probably resting on litters of hay.

 

 

The Mercury

Wednesday 3 March 2004, page 10

 

 

Equipment made life miserable

 


3 March 1804
Today the food rations are being handed out and the fish catch of yesterday is being distributed instead as a welcome change from the usual salted meat.
Now that much of the hardware and other supplies sent from London in the Ocean come into use at long last, it appears -- as had already been suspected at Port Phillip -- that the quality of these essential tools is not up to scratch, and Collins made use of this “day of rest'' to write to the Under Secretary Sullivan in London, reporting angrily that: “I wish to acquaint you [with the fact] that many of the articles sent out for the Settlement intended to be formed in Bass's Straits have been constructed of very bad Material'', and then continued to detail some of the deficiencies.
For instance, the iron of the axes (which had been specified to be “Best Felling Axes'') was so soft that it would bend immediately when used; wood drills were also so soft that few could be used twice; the iron supplied was not much good either, the material for making and mending convict clothing was poor and decayed while the rolls of thread needed to sew the garments together never reached the ship.
The shoes were “of a bad Quality'' and, to add insult to injury, were mostly of the same size, while most of the medical instruments sent out for use in the new settlement appeared to be, in fact, second-hand and superseded equipment.

NOTE: Surprisingly, Collins' complaints did indeed eventually reach the London bureaucracy, but when the suppliers were asked for an explanation their answers were quite dismissive, presumably on the basis that New South Wales very far from London.
Their replies solemnly stated that the axes and other hardware had been the same as sent before; yes, perhaps the “Edge Tools'' should have been tempered, “but the time to do so had been too short''; besides, wasn't the timber in New South Wales said to be much harder than here in England? Surely, they couldn't be blamed for that.
Similarly, those involved in the supply of shoes were swearing blind that all procedures had been followed; although the shoes had indeed been cheap (only four shillings a pair), “they were supposed to have been sorted before delivery, and in any case had been inspected by the Board's [own] Inspector''.
Similarly, the `”Medical Instruments'' were described by the supplier as perfectly modern and had never been used, although there had admittedly been a slight hiccup: It had been found that they needed to be “cleaned up'' again before delivery because of rust, hence them having the appearance of being second hand.

 

 

The Mercury

Thursday 4 March 2004, page 18

 

To publicise his garrison orders and other official announcements Collins had, on the personal suggestion of Lord Hobart, brought with him an old wooden printing press which he had purchased from Fleet Street printer Thomas Bensley on the cheap for pound stg. 17.12.7.
This machine still used the old system of pressing a sheet of paper down upon hand-set letter type by turning a large handle which in turn moved a large wooden screw with a heavy pressure plate attached, a laborious process that had to be repeated for each and every copy printed.
Located in a small hut close to Collins' house, the first piece of paper printed on Tasmanian soil was a proclamation by Governor Collins dated 20 February 1804. From then onward this press was used for many years, and was also the one on which Tasmania's first newspaper, the Derwent Star and Van Diemen's Land Intelligencer was produced, when in 1810 it published the well known account of David Collins' funeral.
Some time afterwards the press became the property of Andrew Bent, who in 1828 sold the machine to John Pascoe Fawkner, who then used it to start his own newspaper in Launceston. Over the years the ageing machine remained within the Launceston newspaper world, and eventually finished up in a quiet corner of the printery of the Examiner.
Towards the end of that same century the press would still be occasionally used there for the pulling of printing proofs, but then onwards quietly faded into history.
(Source: The Age, 27.6.1931 - courtesy State Library of Victoria.)

 

Prisoners a sad bunch

4 March 1804
Like the tools issued to the expedition, the convict workforce provided was not much better either.
The task of their selection had been given to a Dr Edward Bromley, a young naval surgeon who later travelled with the expedition on the Calcutta, and in 1820 actually moved to Hobart Town. (He did well at first but then was caught with his hands in the Government till and promptly ended up back in England).
Commented Governor Collins on the prisoners that had been given to him on the basis of Bromley's assessment: “I did not expect them to be free from Vice, but I never could have imagined that among those who were intended to form a New Settlement, there would be found a collection of old, worn out and useless Men, or Children equally useless''. He pointed out that such people were ``a Burthen to a Young Settlement, and that the Provisions which they consume would be more usefully employed had they been allotted to competent tradesmen or stout Labouring Men. Of these, I am sorry to say, I have but few''.
These then were the human resources with which Collins was expected to found a new settlement. An interesting sidelight on Collins' general attitude towards his convict labour force was given by John P. Fawkner, who in his later memoirs recalled that “many men, called ‘convict’ in England, were forced to emigrate, but here in this part of the world were known as ‘Prisoners’, the word ‘convict’ being forbidden by policy''.
No formal edict or other documentation could be found to confirm Fawkner's assertion, but it is true that after their arrival in Australia -- and certainly after having landed at Sullivans Cove, Collins very rarely indeed used this word in his formal correspondence or proclamations.
By a stroke of good fortune, one of the few things that had been done well was the quality of the salted meat, which after all this time still appeared to be in a good state. Collins reports that there was still some 70 tonnes of flour in stock, enough to last for a year, and just under 40 tonnes of salted meat and pork, also enough to last a similar time.
Nevertheless, he realised the precarious position of the settlement in respect of further supplies, and therefore happily remarked that the distribution of yesterday's fish saved him from having to issue 70 precious kilos of salted meat.
Collins also requested London to send him more paper and printing type for his printing press (which turned out to be very useful), in fact, whatever “you should think proper might be forwarded with the letter Type''.
Like a few days ago in his correspondence to Governor King, Collins still feels that he cannot properly make use as yet of the place name “Hobart'', and as this letter is addressed to his superiors in London he heads it as having been sent from “Head Quarters Camp, Sullivan Cove, Derwent River''.
From this provisional name, his superiors in London would have realised that there were still certain matters to be sorted out before the name “Hobart'' could be used officially. Little did Collins know that when he wrote his letters, Lord Hobart already was no longer in office, and it is doubtful if his successor or anyone else in the new Government cared either way about Collins or his settlement.

 

 

The Mercury

Friday 5 March 2004, page 20

 

Timber scarce


5 March 1804
THE hard work on the erection of huts and other forms of accommodation continues. To this end much timber is being cut, but they soon discovered that the timber of the nearby forests was not very suitable for splitting, a matter causing much extra work for the sawyers in the sawpits.
The settlers, still very new to Tasmania and its timbers, had yet to learn to select certain species such as blackwood, black peppermint and whitetop stringy bark for the splitting of timber into planking and shingles, although these species did not grow within a practical distance from the settlement.
This was also the reason why Governor Collins was forced to ask Governor King in Sydney that ``if some thousand of Shingles could be sent to me, they would prove of essential Service, because unfortunately none of our Timber will split into that very useful Article''.
It was because of this that the first settlers in both Risdon Cove and Hobart Town were forced to use the wattle-and-daub construction for their huts rather than the solid split timber that their next generation quickly learned to use.
Fawkner's recollections on these matters are of interest as they give us a graphic description of what the first settlers had to go through before they had a roof over their heads: “[After we had been put ashore] our family had to choose between using a third of [the floor space in] a tent or make our own hut''. The family decided to build its own hut, and he tells us how “the huts were made of 4" posts sunk some two feet into the ground and placed about two feet apart. The spaces between would then be filled in with wattle boughs and plastered [with mud or clay]. The roof was also made of round rafters interwoven with wattle boughs, and then thatched with grass. Instead of doors we used strips of canvas; the windows had no glass in them, but some people used oiled paper or thin pieces of cloth and wooden shutters. Doors were made of boards as soon as they could be had''.
From this remark, the absence of timber in the Hobart area that could be split into boards and shingles is very noticeable.
On board the Ocean another difficult job was being tackled: the unloading of the heavy guns (the cargo list mentions that there were six in total) from the ship onto the wharf off Hunters Island.
As there were no cranes or even hoists, a crew of six men under the supervision of the second mate, fabricated a three-legged hoist ashore. Probably using a yard arm on board, they managed to get the guns safely on Hunters Island, where they were being put into storage for the time being. It was also not until then that it was discovered that they were all of difference sizes and not very suited to their purpose, i.e. the defence of the settlement against hostile ships in the Derwent -- again an indication of how carelessly various senior persons in London had treated the fitting out of Collins' expedition.
Knopwood and the geologist Humphrey have for that day organised an excursion up the Derwent.
First they went to the Ocean where they and the botanist, Robert Brown, joined Captain Mertho, who then used one of his boats to take the party to the settlement at Risdon Cove. Here they enjoyed dinner with Mountgarret (dinner time for the gentlemen was usually at a midafternoon hour), and then decided to use the late summer evening light to explore the upstream reaches of the Derwent.
Using a second boat from the settlement to cater for the additional servants, and bringing a few convicts to do the hard work, they travelled to somewhere near Boyer where they spent the night ashore.

NOTE: A.W.H. HUMPHREY (1782-1829) joined the Collins expedition as a mineralogist (geologist). While in Tasmania, he made several exploratory walks into the countryside around them, including the Plenty area and the Huon River.
In August 1804 he moved to Norfolk Island, but in 1807 went back to Van Diemen's Land with Surveyor Grimes to explore the Lower Midlands area south of Launceston, and then was one of the very first to walk from there back to Hobart Town, covering this distance in only three days. But he lost his earlier interest in geology, and in 1814 was glad that his earlier temporary appointment as magistrate was confirmed by Governor Macquarie. This was followed in 1818 by a promotion to coroner, chief magistrate and superintendent of police, making him a very powerful man indeed within the small community of Van Diemen's Land.
When in 1825 Van Diemen's Land became an independent colony, Humphrey was among those appointed as a member of the Executive Council, but three years later retired due to ill health and died soon after. He was generally praised for being an honest and hard-working public servant whose decisions could not be bought, while he also contributed materially to the early development of agriculture by keeping a well-managed farm near Plenty which for many years served as an example for the newcomers to this area.

 

 

Sunday Tasmanian

Sunday 7 March 2004, page 14

 

Exploring reveals signs of river life

 

7 March 1804
The remaining party exploring the countryside behind the New Norfolk area enjoyed a hearty breakfast, after which Knopwood and Captain Mertho went hunting, while Brown climbed a nearby hill to look for botanical items of interest.
Possibly being in the Plenty-Bushy Park area, the hunters observed lots of kangaroos, emus, “pigeons'' (wattlebirds?) and parrots and noted with great interest how the River Derwent wound its way from one side of the valley to the other.
They also came across quite a few campfires and native huts, but did not meet any of their inhabitants in person.
When they finally returned to the campsite, their convict servants had made some kind of a shelter or primitive hut where that evening they spent their second night.
After dusk they noted the light of another native campfire “near where we slept. No doubt but they see us'', Knopwood later remarked in his diary.

 

 

The Mercury

Monday 8 March 2004, page 22

 

Surveyor sets a cracking pace

 

This is part of Meehan's map of his explorations in southern Tasmania.
During the few months that James Meehan was in Van Diemen's Land he explored a considerable area of land in the Hobart region: the Elderslie area, the Richmond, Buckland and the Seven Mile Beach districts, Rokeby, Bridgewater etc.
On this centre section of a composite drawing which he later made for Governor King in Sydney we can see how his survey explorations stretched from Lauderdale via Lindisfarne to Mount Direction, while on the western shore he landed at Crayfish Point, and from there worked his way north along the coastline as far as the Prince of Wales Bay in Glenorchy.
While on the way he also explored for a fair distance the course of the Hobart and Sandy Bay rivulets. (No wonder he was shortly after in a good position to advise Governor Collins on what the best places were for a better and larger settlement on the Derwent!)
Another interesting feature of this map are the first eight land allocations in Tasmania surveyed by Meehan, of which many boundaries even today are still distinguishable by the alignments of a number of streets in the area between the Moonah shopping centre and the Brooker Highway.
These land parcels could only have been surveyed in the timeslot between the landing of the free settlers at the mouth of the New Town Creek (26 February) and Meehan's departure on the Lady Nelson on March 6.
Given the many kilometres of survey lines through virgin country side, this effort implies some very fast footwork indeed on his part during that short period -- no doubt helped by the very willing and eager settlers.

 

Soil fails to impress

 

8 March 1804
The camping party in the Derwent Valley woke up early and the weather broke; rain began to fall with heavy squalls of wind, causing the party to think the better of it and decide to return home. They got into their boats again, had a late breakfast on the way at Herdsmans Cove, and while there noted an Aboriginal person in the distance.
The weather remained windy and damp but Knopwood, Brown, and Captain Mertho decided to make a dash for it. They reached Sullivans Cove in deteriorating weather, but on their return enjoyed a fine meal in the great cabin of the Ocean as the guest of Captain Mertho.
There was of course much to talk about their adventures of the past few days but they all agreed on one thing -- the soil they saw in the area they visited didn't seem to be all that good. Back in his tent that evening, Knopwood proudly confides to his diary that this excursion had been the first one to explore the higher reaches of the river.
(Knopwood clearly did not know -- or did not wish to know -- that Lieutenant Bowen had already made several similar trips up the river and had reported to Governor King that some areas would make good farming country, as they indeed would be used for within a few years.)
He also must have been unfamiliar with the exploration of surveyor Meehan in that area or chose to ignore the efforts of someone who, after all, was only a prisoner.
Humphrey, meanwhile, stayed behind at Risdon Cove because he had arranged with the surveyor Harris, the harbourmaster Collins and Mountgarret to embark the next morning on yet another excursion, this time in the area of present day Richmond.
In Sullivans Cove, the Ocean is now being readied for the return journey to Port Phillip to collect the rest of the Collins expedition. An essential task was the taking on board of drinking water, and so they began taking the water casks ashore to have them filled, a heavy and laborious job usually given to prisoners to complete.

NOTE: Fresh water on board ships was usually stored in hogsheads, large casks containing some 230 litres. Because of their size and weight they had to be filled by first filling smaller casks in a nearby creek (Hobart Rivulet?), after which these smaller casks would be carried back onto the ship and the contents poured into the larger hogsheads in the holds.
All this was a lengthy and laborious job requiring much traffic between the ship and shore and the heaving about of filled casks. It was heavy labour performed by convicts and supervised by a soldier or seaman who had to ensure that the water was fresh and clean. Even so, because of its sometimes questionable sources the water would occasionally still “go bad'', causing many stomach problems among those on board.

 

 

The Mercury

Tuesday 9 March 2004, page 10

 

Collins wary of Aborigines

 

9 March 1804

Early in the morning several Aborigines were seen curiously observing the activities in the settlement from a safe distance. In order to avoid problems they were not deliberately encouraged to enter the camp, although Captain Mertho and botanist Brown later on did have a meeting with them on the waterfront.
In a later comment to Governor King, Governor Collins wrote that “at present we have not met up with [the Aborigines], which I do not regret; and not finding any inclination [by them] to wander among my People, I shall wait until my Numbers are increased, when I shall inform everybody that the Aborigines of this Country are as much under the Protection of the Laws of Great Britain as they themselves are''.
(After their arrival back in Sydney, the crew of the Lady Nelson told the Sydney Gazette that “the Natives are very numerous and undaunted, even at the explosion of a musket, but are very friendly to small parties they meet accidentally, though they cannot be prevailed upon to visit the Encampment''.)
One of the activities these visitors may have seen was the gang of prisoners, working very hard to complete a residence for Governor Collins, located on a site near what is now the Elizabeth St entrance of the Town Hall. The job was just about finished, and that night the Governor slept for the first time in his “Government House''.
A very important feature of the house was its (at that time) prominent location, overlooking from one side much of what went on in the settlement, and from the other side the activities in the cove and on the Derwent in general. Collins would never forget that, as the military and civil commandant of the settlement, his lines of communication with the outside world depended on his access to ships in the port and their safety.
Given the hurried circumstances under which this cottage had been erected we should not expect a majestic building. There are suggestions that it was only a glorified hut. Later comments by John P. Fawkner mention a “three-roomed wooden cottage on sandstone foundations''. This may indicate an outside cover of pit-sawn timber boards, and with inside walls of wattle-and-daub construction.
Note the mention of sandstone foundation (rubble stone?), a luxury by itself at that early stage because it implied an elevated timber floor, again a great privilege in a time when most people would still have been living on a dirt floor.
(What happened with Collins' earlier prefabricated tent is not recorded, but a few months later Collins mentions to Governor King a “Grand Tent'' in use by the soldiers as a mess room.)
At Risdon, Humphrey, Harris and Mountgarret (“and several Men to carry our luggage'') set off at first daylight to explore the area around the Coal River.
Some months ago Surveyor Meehan had noted several outcrops of coal in this area, and the purpose of this trip is a follow-up study of these earlier finds. They seemed to know precisely where to go (perhaps guided by the convicts who had already been there with Meehan?), because Humphrey recorded later that “after a most fatiguing walk of about 12 Miles, we arrived [at our destination] at one in the Afternoon. I procured many Specimens of Coal, which I found here in great abundance, and tolerably good but apparently full of impurities. This coal may, at some future period, be very beneficial to the Colony''.
(There were several outcrops of coal along the Coal River -- hence its name -- but the commercial optimism expressed by Humphrey was not shared by others in later years. One vein was still worked for some time near Colebrook as late as the early 1900s but was then abandoned.)
Later in the day they “got part of the way back the same Night, and slept at a Hole of Water, after supping off a fine Duck shot by Mr Collins, and, early the next Morning, returned to Risdon''.
The belated mention of William Collins here is an interesting comment on the class distinctions which they had brought with them from the old Country. Because Collins was not quite a “gentleman'' like the other three he would normally not have rated a mention as being a member of the party, but he clearly redeemed himself when shooting the duck.

 

 

The Mercury

Wednesday 10 March 2004, page 26

 

Bowen caught over a barrel

 

10 March 1804
Safely back at Risdon, the explorers enjoyed a few hours of rest and then returned by boat to Sullivans Cove, arriving there just in time to see the American vessel Pilgrim drop its anchor in the cove.
Soon the word got around that Lieutenant Bowen, the Commandant of Risdon Cove, was among the passengers on board.


NOTE: Bowen had left Sydney at the end of January in the government-chartered Integrity (then on its maiden voyage) for Port Phillip for the purpose of meeting up with Governor Collins, but on arrival there found that Collins had already left for the Derwent.
After a few days they also departed again, but during rough weather the ship lost its rudder near Cape Barren Island. Here, Captain Delano of the American whaler Pilgrim found them and offered to take the marooned officer and his other passengers to Hobart for the grossly inflated amount of pound stg. 400.
Bowen was then faced with either accepting Delano's offer or awaiting an uncertain rescue with a rapidly diminishing food supply on board. Placed between a rock and a hard place, he accepted the offer.
Unfortunately, there is no record of what passed between Governor Collins and the newly returned Commandant of Risdon Cove when they met, although we do know that Bowen was under strict instructions from Governor King “to resign the Command of the Settlement to Gov. Collins''. But from later correspondence it becomes clear that Bowen was very unhappy indeed about the manner in which he saw his command of the settlement at Risdon come undone -- and in fact made irrelevant -- by circumstances totally beyond his control.
The wiser and more mature Collins did not make an issue of Bowen's attitude; he knew that the situation at Risdon Cove was coming to an end anyway and the Derwent formed a safe barrier between the two camps.
Also on board the Pilgrim were the parents of Bowen's companion, Henry and Maria Hayes, and arriving later that day at Risdon, Bowen would have been happy to reunite Martha with her parents, who had not seen each other for quite some time.
And so the whole affair of Bowen's sudden journey to Sydney became a case of “cherchez la femme'' after all.

NOTE: After the landing of the Collins' expedition at Port Phillip, Henry Hayes was one of those “free settlers'' who travelled onto Sydney on board the Calcutta, the reason being that he knew that his convict wife Maria was there and wished to join her.
Upon his arrival in Sydney, he soon learned that, although his wife was still there, his daughter had moved to the Risdon settlement and she was pregnant, and that the commandant of this settlement, Lieutenant John Bowen, was in Sydney endeavouring to get permission for her mother to join her in Van Diemens Land.
Reunited at last, both Henry and his wife Maria received permission from Governor King to travel on with Lieutenant Bowen to the Derwent to join their daughter. They all arrived with Bowen in Hobart, where Henry met his daughter again after a separation of many years.
The infant, a girl called Henrietta, was born soon after on March 29 and Maria stayed with her until the entire settlement was closed down. Martha and her baby then moved to a cottage which Bowen had erected for her across the river near the shore of the Prince of Wales Bay.
There is no formal record of what happened to her convict mother Maria, but it is reasonable to assume that on arrival she was “assigned'' to her (free) husband Henry as a servant, making it legally possible for her to join her husband again and, for all practical purposes, live once again as a free woman.
Their 100-acre allotment (nowadays roughly the area between Pedder St and the New Town High School) ran alongside another 100 acres farmed by his brother Henry (roughly a strip of land nowadays covering the village of New Town up to New Town Creek).
The hut which Henry erected soon after was located on or close to the site of the present New Town High School in New Town.
Within the general scheme of things, the story of these people would not have had any significance for the settlement of Hobart Town, but it does throw an interesting sidelight on the flexibility of the authorities of the times that where genuine efforts were made to establish (or, as was the case here, to re-establish family ties), the exact status of the persons involved was often looked upon as a secondary matter to be ignored where appropriate.
In fact, such efforts (including marriages) were encouraged by the authorities because they were perceived as having a stabilising influence on the fabric of this new, raw, and, initially very fragmented society.
To stress this point further, it was found that when Henry Hayes wanted to travel on to Sydney, he did so under the name of his brother Thomas, who had official permission to do so. To cover the journey of his wife from Sydney to the Derwent, Maria Hayes, officially a convict, travelled under the name of Elizabeth Hayes, Thomas Hayes' free spouse
This was only discovered when it appeared that Elizabeth and her husband Thomas never left the Collins party, and were present when the New Town settlers were landed at the mouth of the New Town Creek.
The presence of large numbers of black swans in the Derwent (and especially around Bridgewater) was already well known to the Risdon settlers, who used them to supplement their food rations.
However, a wholesale onslaught on these birds commenced in earnest when the Collins' expedition arrived, creating a greatly increased demand. Their numbers rapidly diminished to such a degree that Collins soon realised that efforts had to be made to reduce this slaughter and protect their numbers, as at the current rate of killing few birds would be left during the middle of winter, while none might be left for the next season.
And so Collins issued an order to his people that from now the upper reaches of the river were out of bounds to all, and he requested Lieutenant Moore -- who at that moment was still in charge of the settlement at Risdon Cove -- to press home the need for these conservation measures to his people as well.
Reading between the lines here it is fair to suspect that the Risdon settlement, being beyond the direct supervision of Collins, was probably running a very profitable sideline in supplying the free settlers in the New Town area and some of the cashed-up people at Sullivans Cove with birds for the cooking pot.
To further prevent, or at least make this trade of birds between Risdon Cove and the Collins settlement much more difficult, Collins also issued instructions that the coxswain in charge of the boat operating between the two settlements was not to leave the boat while on the way (meaning, that none of the crew could go ashore for a short while to shoot birds or collect a few waiting for them to be picked up).
It doesn't need much imagination about the “creative thinking'' that went on here by the crew of the boat plying between Risdon Cove and Sullivans Cove.
That day, the working hours of the prisoners were changed from the earlier sunrise-to-sunset hours to the periods from 5am till 8, then from 9 till the midday bell at noon, and from 1.30pm again until 6 in the evening (that was still 10 1/2 hours each day!), but on Tuesdays “the midday bell will ring at 11am'' instead, affording them an extra hour to collect their rations etc.

NOTE: The expedition's cargo included two ship's bells “to assemble the people to labour'' which were rung by three bellringers, some elderly convicts who doubled up as barbers.
Unfortunately, the purchase of a proper clock to regulate all these activities had been overlooked in the rush, a matter which Collins realised during one of his last days in Portsmouth Harbour prior to their departure. He hurriedly wrote a letter to London asking for permission to purchase one locally, but in reply received from the naval agent in Plymouth a wooden case containing four four-hour, four two-hour and four one-hour time glasses -- a much cheaper solution as far as the authorities in London were concerned.
After his arrival in Rio de Janeiro some weeks later -- and far away from the London bureaucrats -- Collins saw his opportunity when a British ship's captain in port happened to have a spare clock of Arnold's construction. (John Arnold was a well known London clockmaker who had simplified the famous Harrison chronometer, and the fact that Collins had been able to pick up a surplus one in Rio de Janeiro was a sign of the speed with which these new timepieces were finding their way into the nautical world at the time.)
Collins' purchase would have looked like a normal vest pocket watch but about double in size, and with the works inside engineered to a very great precision. What eventually happened to it is not known.

 

 

The Mercury

Thursday 11 March 2004, page 23

 

Disorderly record of Risdon

 

10 March 1804
The usual divine service is held at 11am, after which everybody is allowed to do their own thing -- that is, build huts, animal enclosures and so on.
Meanwhile, Lieutenant Bowen is settling back into the daily routine of the management of the settlement at Risdon, in the course of which he requested Lt Moore to return the “General Order Book'' which Bowen gave him when leaving early in January for Sydney.
Moore did so but, on going through it, Bowen noticed that several pages were missing and that the whole book was in an incomplete and generally disorderly condition.
That evening Bowen, Moore and Mountgarret go to Sullivans Cove to join Captain Mertho and his guest Capt Delano for dinner aboard the Ocean. Knopwood notes later in his journal: “We all stayed late.''
Other passengers from the Integrity arriving yesterday were former convict Elizabeth Cummings and the two children she had with settler Jonathon Blinkworth when he was a convict serving his time at Port Jackson, while a further passenger was George R. Collins, the son of Governor Collins.
This boy was the second child of a liaison between Collins and Ann Yeats during his period of office in Sydney after the settlement of the First Fleet there in 1788. (The first child of that liaison was Marianne, a daughter born in 1790.) Almost 11, the boy had been sent by Governor King from Sydney to his father after a separation of many years.
Still other passengers were stonemason Anthony Fletcher and his wife; they had come with the Collins expedition as far as Port Phillip and then went on in the Calcutta to Port Jackson. Once there, they apparently thought better of it and indicated their desire to join the Collins group again.
The last passenger on board the Integrity was Sergeant Thomas Prentice, who was sent by Governor King to be added to the military at Risdon, perhaps in case the present sergeant serving there had to return to Sydney to be present at the court-martial of the soldier taken to Sydney by Bowen earlier that year. (A year later Prentice himself also had to face court-martial and was dismissed from the corps.)

 

 

The Mercury

Friday 12 March 2004, page 41

 

Farm vital to survive

 

12 March 1804
The first wave of enthusiasm for the environment of Sullivans Cove as a perfect place to settle is now fading, and the grim realities of the bad soil covering much of the hilly slopes surrounding the settlement are becoming obvious. Noted a pessimistic James Grove: “The country around [us] is hilly and stony, and the flat land so scant that [I think that] after it has been tried a year or two, it will be found not the answer, and the colony ultimately [will have to] go to Port Jackson, or north of it''.
Governor Collins and his advisors also realised the urgent need to grow fresh produce and decided to organise a government farm.
And so, (on the advice of Thomas Clark, the Agricultural Superintendent, Fawkner tells us) a site was chosen on a patch of seemingly fine black soil on the southern slopes of the Hobart Rivulet, an area from Macquarie Street and covering the site of the old Hutchins School, the present Taxation Department and the Village cinema complex. (In some small forgotten corners, the black soil of this first government garden could still be found there until a few years ago.)
Employing six convicts full time, this garden remained in use for a number of years to grow vegetables and other greens. Governor Collins mentions that he used “such vegetables as I can obtain from time to time from the Garden'' to make soup and the like to nourish his patients being treated in hospital. (Later, the settlement suffered much from scurvy and other diseases mainly due to an ongoing lack of vitamins, and Collins knew that the only effective way of combating this problem was to give the patients the benefit of fresh greens, a food item which was very difficult to get at that time.)
It is unclear just which kinds of vegetables were grown in this Government Garden. An early invoice identified a variety of peas only, but it is hard to believe that other vegetables, such as carrots, unions and potatoes etc would not have been included, as would have been a variety of kitchen herbs such as basil, chives, dill, horse radish, mint and parsley.
Grain seeds mentioned included “English”' wheat, “English'' barley, oats etc, plus rye grass, field turnips and also included a “Collection of Gordon Seeds'' -- possibly referring to seeds from James Gordon's Mile End Nursery, one of the earlier Englishmen who concentrated on producing garden seeds and plants on a commercial basis.
But the site chosen for this “Government garden'' was not really suited for the establishment of the many paddocks needed for the breeding and grazing of stock.
Settler Richard Pitt was not impressed with it and suggested to Superintendent Clark to have a look at the river flats alongside the New Town Creek, offering much better soils and much larger areas suitable for the creation of paddocks and the like. The two went and inspected the area and Clark agreed with him, and after Collins himself also inspected the area approval was promptly given to proceed.
A gang of prisoners cleared the ground, made shelters and fenced off some paddocks for the cattle and other stock to graze.
Eventually, the farm stretched from Runnymede all the way to Selfs Point, and from the (then) shoreline of New Town Bay to the northern end of the Domain.
The huts and sheds of this “Government Farm'' were located on a site now covered by the sports grounds alongside the Brooker Avenue, in the middle of the better soils.
The hut of the supervisor (Thomas Clark) was upgraded to a proper homestead, a place which rapidly became a major focus of the community along the New Town Creek. Here, divine services and marriages were celebrated for the free settlers in this area, and we read of meetings taking place here to discus community matters.
Because of the essential nature of the farm as a food-producing unit on which the success of the settlement depended, the building and operations of the farm proceeded rapidly and by the end of July employed over 30 people, including a thatcher, someone to make farm implements and others specialised in farm work. The farm was also employing three convicts to work on boats. (It was probably for security reasons that this work was done here rather than on the shore of Sullivans Cove, close to the main body of prisoners.)
The results of all these efforts were impressive. Early that next spring the farm counted three bulls, 129 cows and several calves, together with four horses. Pigs on the other hand were kept at Hobart Town, presumably because there would have been more slop to feed them with and a closer security on hand to guard their numbers!
The farmstead also became a popular “away-from-it-all'' place for the senior officers from the settlement to enjoy themselves.
Knopwood was a frequent visitor, while Governor Collins also sought here the occasional relief from the pressures of work by going there with his mistress, Hannah Power, often with a suitably filled picnic hamper and “other essentials'' (probably a euphemism for a few bottles of wine).
During the following years the government farm expanded its operations considerably and soon became the point of delivery for cattle purchased by the government to maintain a steady supply of meat for the Hobart population.
The operation of the government farm lasted for three decades but after then began to loose much of its utility because of the steadily increasing development of private farming in the Hobart area and the development of private commercial enterprise filling the demand for meat and other farm produce. (There are still several old properties in southern Tasmania, and especially along the Derwent, that can trace their early successes to these government meat contracts and other farm produce).

 

 

The Mercury

Saturday 13 March 2004, page 18

 

In awe of mountain eucalypts

 

13 March 1804
At Risdon Cove, Lieutenant Bowen raises again with Lieutenant Moore the untidy and incomplete condition of the “General Order Book''. Moore, somewhat irritated, insisted that the book, together with the loose pieces of paper in it, was a complete record of all the orders, but that Bowen could have a “correct copy'' of the orders if he wanted to. Bowen, still trying to avoid making an unpleasant issue of it, replies that that would be fine: “whenever it suits you''.
In the cove, the Pilgrim is still unloading its cargo from Sydney, according to a note from Governor King consisting of “80 Bushels of the best Seed Wheat we have, and [also] a Quantity of Bricks and Shingles, which will be found useful''.
The geologist Humphrey and the botanist Brown left yesterday for an exploration of Mt Wellington, at that time still called Table Mountain. Aided by three prisoners, carrying provisions for four days, they worked their way up the foothills and probably got as far as the Fern Tree Bower area where only a few weeks ago Brown had passed through. They admired the tall and beautiful ferns, and express their astonishment at the tall and enormous eucalypt trees growing on the mountain.
Noted an amazed Humphrey in his diary: “At the Foot of the Mount we found a small Hole of good Water, surrounded by Fern Trees of the most beautiful kind: many of them 14 or 15 feet high, with leaves of 8 or 9 feet long, hanging gracefully from the Top on all sides''.
He later noted that “On the sides of the Mountain are some of the largest Trees in the World the largest I have seen is of that kind called Stringy Bark.''
And to emphasise the size of these trees he added that “this Night we slept in the hollow of one, which hollow measured eleven feet in diameter. This is but a small tree; one near the Camp measures 44 feet (13.4m) round at breast height. Mr Brown told me that he had seen a Tree lying on the Earth, large enough for a Coach and Six [horses] to be driven along it; it measured upward of 70 feet (23.5 m.) in circumference''.
To study this amazing environment further, Humphrey and Brown this morning leave the shelter of their hollow log and, taking the same route as Brown did a few weeks ago, commenced climbing the steep slope of the mountain and after a hard slog of some six hours through the forest, scrub and scree they manage to reach the top where “we found ourselves in a heavy Shower of Snow. The Wind was piercing cold, and everything had a wretched, comfortless appearance. No trees were to be seen here, and the few Shrubs that we observed thinly scattered over the Spot were stunted in growth and almost bare of leaves''.
After a few hours of fossicking around they went back the same way they came, and happily managed to return to their hollow tree just before dark.
Today's bush walkers familiar with the rigours of Mt Wellington will give them full credit for their efforts that day, and certainly for successfully navigating their way back to their log in the dense forests and steep terrain of Mt Wellington without the use of walking tracks.
Also of much interest is their scathing description of the wilderness environment on the top of the mountain, very much a contemporary observation when the then still prevailing civilised late-18th century society perception of “wilderness'' was one of a place of ugliness, and in need of the civilising influence of mankind.

 

 

Sunday Tasmanian

Sunday 14 March 2004, page 19

 

Mountain that rose from sea

 

March 14, 1804
That day Brown and Humphrey again scrambled up the mountain, this time making a more detailed study of the local geology, and at high altitude discovered deposits containing marine shells, a find which clearly implied that a long time ago the high ground they walked on had been at the bottom of a sea. Given the still very primitive state of the science of geology, this discovery would have made a profound impact on them. From the summit they also noted several rivers making their way down from the mountaintop, and in the distance clearly observed the Huon River.
That night they slept for the third time in their hollow tree, and the following morning made their way home again, well satisfied with the discoveries of their expedition.
Meanwhile, the carpenters in their workshop alongside the Hobart Rivulet were working hard on the fabrication of a new rudder for the Integrity, still stranded on a lonely beach in the Furneaux Group. This job also involved sawyers, blacksmiths and shipwrights, while all the time the Pilgrim was waiting in the cove to take the new rudder back to the Integrity.
That day, Knopwood recorded in his diary that Lieutenant Moore and Mr Wilson, the store keeper at Risdon Cove (and an ex-army officer himself) called on him, after which Moore returned home but Wilson stayed on with Knopwood, and was in fact having dinner with him, with Lieutenant Lord joining them.
This was one of the first times that Wilson joined Knopwood on a social basis (there were very many more times to come), indicating that the senior officers at “The Camp'' quietly decided to ignore Governor King's instruction “to inform the Storekeeper that in Consequence of his Neglect, His Majesty's Services has not further Occasion for his Services''.
It is not exactly clear on what basis Governor King made this decision, as Wilson clearly comes through in the correspondence as a fairly reliable man who had a steadying influence on the, at times, stormy relationship between Lieutenant Bowen and Lieutenant Moore.

NOTE: Thomas Wilson, reputedly to have been a former army officer, came out on the Glatton as the captain's clerk. This was a responsible position, on the strength of which Governor King appointed him in charge of the public stores at Risdon Cove.
Towards the end of 1803, Governor King wanted to dismiss him for (unspecified) problems, but Wilson was nevertheless kept on.

 

 

The Mercury

Thursday 18 March 2004, page 18

 

Collins keen on marriages

 

18 March 1804
Yesterday was St Patrick Day and the work schedules would have given little time to celebrate. Nor would Governor Collins have given them the opportunity to do so, what with his experiences of such celebrations and the subsequent general mayhem of earlier St Patrick Days during his time in Sydney.
The marriage takes place between William Gangell from the Royal Marines and Anne Skeltorne, the widow of a free settler who died last October at Port Phillip. The ceremony was probably intended to be performed during the usual open-air divine service, but because of inclement weather (the service itself had to be cancelled) it took place in the parlour of Governor Collins's new house.
The background to Collins's apparent kindness in this matter is interesting.
Although Anne Skeltorne's earlier husband had only died a few months ago, the circumstances that everybody found themselves in made it desirable for single women to be attached to a man (and especially, as in this case, a widow with a small daughter).
As a result, many women lived openly with a man not always necessarily their married husband, although officialdom preferred a proper marriage (but not always demonstrated this by their own example). It was for this reason that Collins went out of his way to show his approval of the fact that these two people had decided to get married in a proper manner, and even played host to the bridal party in his parlour when the weather turned foul.
Of course, it helped that the groom was one of his marines, and being a marine officer himself and totally dependent on the loyalty of his troops, Collins clearly recognised a good PR opportunity when he saw one.
(Note: there are still many descendents of this couple living in southern Tasmania to this very day.)
In the afternoon, Knopwood and Lieutenant Lord were rowed to the Pilgrim, where they spend a pleasant few hours as the guest of Captain Delano. “We stayed till 6pm'', confided a well-contented Knopwood that evening to his diary.

NOTE: AMASA DELANO (1763-18??) was a well-educated American who had seen service during the War of Independence, and as a ship captain cherished his independence very much. He had travelled much and had circumnavigated the world three times when he retired to his home town of Boston, where he spent his time writing about his travels in which he was very sympathetic to what he had seen during his time in Hobart Town.
He was less popular in Sydney, where he became known for an altercation with sealers working for Sydney interests. It took some doing on the part of Delano, but in the end the sealers lost.

 

 

The Mercury

Friday 19 March 2004, page 24

 

Fawkner makes his mark in Victoria

 

JOHN PASCOE FAWKNER (1792-1869)
When his father was convicted of receiving stolen goods and sentenced to transportation the entire household joined the Collins expedition.
As a result, Fawkner, 11, took part in and generally witnessed the settlement of Hobart Town.
The family did reasonably well on their farm near Austins Ferry and with other property in town, but then the young Fawkner became involved in the escape attempt by some convicts, which earned him a three-year sentence in northern New South Wales.
After his return to Hobart Town he took up trading again, but in 1822 he and his bride-to-be moved to Launceston in search of greener fields. The energetic Fawkner did well, studied hard, overcame many problems and in 1828 started his own newspaper. In 1835 he and others visited Port Phillip Bay, found good grassland, and decided to settle there. From here onward Fawkner had many adventures but on the whole did very well.
Eventually he became a member of the first Legislative Council of Victoria (1851), and then concerned himself with many public issues and affairs. Aware that he had taken part in a very interesting era of Australian history, he began writing his “Reminiscences'' during the mid-1860s. He died in 1869.

 

The Mercury

Friday 19 March 2004, page 24

 

Ocean returns to Port Phillip

 

19 March 1804
The unloading of the Ocean and making the ship ready for sea is reaching completion, enabling Governor Collins to issue his formal instruction to Captain Mertho “to proceed with the first fair Wind to Port Phillip, where you will receive the remainder of the Officers, Settlers, Soldiers, Prisoners, Stores, Provisions and Stock belonging to this Establishment, with which you will return to this Cove''.
Armed with this order, Captain Mertho returned to the Ocean and commenced briefing his crew for their departure.
Having been ashore now for a few weeks, little has been heard from the settlers along the New Town Creek. Although Collins gave them some 30 prisoners to work for them, they still had to obtain their own building materials wherever they could find them in the bush, and the classic tales of families living in hollow trees and the like are still with us today.
Their choice to go it alone was paid for dearly. Faraway from the direct circle of benefits from “the system'', they did not have ready access to the organised convict workforce and general support more readily available to those living at Sullivans Cove. (The old saying about hot bread and living close to the bakehouse was never truer than here!)
In later years Fawkner claimed (although not entirely truthfully) that “The settlers were sadly neglected by the Governor, and this made our wants to be more severely felt''.
He then went on to paint a very graphic picture of how these first pioneers battled to get established on the land they had chosen to live on.  “The best of their land [i.e. the alluvial flood banks alongside the rivulet] was thickly set with trees and scrub; the cutting down and burning off this timber was a heavy drawback, and then, when cleared, the ground all had to be dug by hand: not a horse, bullock mule or ass to assist. All work, even the drawing of the timber, or water required, was all done by men, harnessed as horses to vehicles.
And whilst the Governor would allow the civil and military officers whatever number of men they asked for (and were fed at public cost), the settlers could, with great difficulty, get one man each. Judge what progress these farmers could make in cultivating their land, when on these heavy timbered flats it would cost from ten to fifteen pounds an acre to clear them, and one shilling a rod (25m2) for digging the ground, and not less than sixpence a rod for breaking it up with the hoe''.
What of course did not help was that few of the settlers had any experience whatsoever of farming, or indeed of bush life in general. For many of them, their earlier life in England had been far away from paddocks, wheat fields or cattle, and while later census returns show that several of them appeared to do reasonably well with growing numbers of stock and paddocks in cultivation, the truth is that much of this was forced upon them during the earlier years in their battle for subsistence.
From about the death of Collins in 1810 onward they begin to fall by the wayside as a farmer for one reason or another, and after another few decades most of the original allocations of land had been sold to later settlers who had a better knowledge of farming.
Some of this had already been foreseen by Collins while still at Port Phillip, when he wrote to Governor King that “I am sorry to observe that in general [the settlers] are a poor and worthless set of People'', and again in July 1804 when he wrote to Governor King that “with one or two Exceptions, the Settlers who came with me from England do not hold out much hope of my drawing any aid from their Exertions. However, as soon as my Sick [prisoners] recover, I intend to leave them no room for complaints on that Head''.
In other words, if the settlers failed, it would not have been for the lack of convict labour supplied to them.

 

 

The Mercury

Saturday 20 March 2004, page 31

 

Menu a tummy turner

 

20 March 1804
The supply of food soon became a major problem, especially for the settlers along the New Town Creek.
During those first few months everybody lived from the food rations distributed by the government stores at Sullivans Cove, while anything fresh had to be obtained from whatever their environment had to offer.
Fresh meat could only be obtained by hunting the wildlife around them, which could only be done at the expense of the time needed for clearing their allotment. Other urgent jobs involved the turning over of garden plots so that garden seeds could be sown, which in turn required firm (brush?) fencing around them in order to keep out any domestic animals or wildlife.
Other daily jobs involved the collecting of water from the creek, and for the women the testing task of tending their gardens and the making of edible meals from whatever food supplies came their way.
The children were also not spared; John Fawkner tells us how he and other children would go to the tidal foreshores of the Derwent to look for “wild parsley'' and other greens, which would then be cooked by the hard-pressed women according to some trial-and-error recipe to make them edible.
Someone else later also recalled this ``parsley'' and similar vegetation as a source of food: ``when provisions became scarce, the people often cooked maritime plants collected on the seashore, which bear to this day the name of Botany Bay Greens''. Fawkner described the same greens as ``a vegetable with a leaf, in size and shape resembling sage. It grows on bushes about five feet high on the banks of the tidal portion of the River Derwent along with the wild parsley'' (nowadays known as “saltbush'' -- Atriplex cinerea.)
The name “Botany Bay Greens'' clearly indicates of course the source of knowledge about this plant. Although nearly all members of the Collins settlement came straight from England and for that reason could not have known that it was edible, there were a few -- such as Collins, Hacking and Brown -- who had been at Botany Bay, while those at Risdon Cove (who also came from Sydney) also would have known about its use in the cooking pot. And in a time of need, knowledge of this kind would spread fast.
The same person also recalled how, after the whaling industry got going, another source of food found on the foreshore was “crap'' (an old English word for rubbish) or whale blubber from which the oil had been extracted by boiling it, after which the remainder would be disposed of by throwing it back into the Derwent.
The tides would then push some of it onshore, where it could be collected. As it was, this “food'' was not exactly popular; its smell can only be imagined, and even tainted the taste of pork where it had been fed to the pigs.
(The very fact that this material would be even considered for human consumption indicates how difficult a few years later the food situation was at the settlement.)
Meanwhile, Knopwood and Captain Delano are “employed'' all day, meaning that they kept busy with hunting.

 

 

The Mercury

Monday 22 March 2004, page 24

 

Laying down the law in port


22 March 1804
Instead of giving the requested permission for departure, Collins sends an urgent signal to the master of the Ocean to stay in port.
It appears that a serious altercation took place on board the Pilgrim between its captain, Delano, and one of his officers, a James Miles.
As with an earlier incident of this kind on the ocean, Collins was well aware of the fragility of his lines of communications with the outside world and it was very much in his interest to see that no undue problems endangered the legitimate command of any ship while they were in port.
Fortunately, the dispute on board the Pilgrim was contained during the day and that evening Collins let the master of the Ocean know that he could depart.
Whether this shipboard problem was connected with anything or anybody on shore is not clear but, with so much going on everywhere, the security of the government stores on Hunters Island, still sheltering under canvas sheets, seems to have been prejudiced somewhat.
This caused Collins to repeat his instructions that nobody was to come anywhere near the island after sunset without written authority, while anyone approaching the island from the water was to hold off until instructions were received “from Head Quarters''.

 

 

The Mercury

Tuesday 23 March 2004, page 16

 

Plan to ship Risdon settlers to Sydney

23 March 1804
The Ocean is still ready to depart; the longboat is hoisted on board, but Captain Mertho still has not as yet received permission from the Governor to leave for Port Phillip.
It would seem from later comments by Collins that he made use of this opportunity to discuss with Captain Mertho the issue of transporting the entire Risdon population back to Sydney. Mertho saw no problems with that, as it would extend the hire of his ship by that many more days and also pay for the travel of an otherwise empty ship between the Derwent and Sydney.
An arrangement was therefore made between the two that after the Ocean had delivered its second cargo from Port Phillip to Sullivans Cove, the ship would on its return journey to Sydney carry a number of passengers, being Lieutenant Bowen and his soldiers, the settlers and most of the convicts from Risdon Cove, plus a few others.
With this agreement with Captain Mertho in hand, the way was now open for Collins to prepare for the final closing down of the Risdon settlement and the return of its undisciplined and useless population from the Derwent back to Sydney.
(There were, however, some people at Risdon Cove who Collins wanted to keep, one of them being George Clark, a settler and skilled stone mason who that week was transferred to Hobart Town with his wife. Unfortunately, probably because of dietary problems, Clark became sickly soon after and died later that year in Hobart Town.)
What with the Ocean about to depart, one person who had to leave the comforts of his lodgings on board was Robert Brown, the botanist.
His position within the circle of senior officers in the settlement was a curious one; officially he was not a member of the Collins expedition, yet his salary was near to that of Collins himself and he was known to enjoy the personal patronage and protection of Sir Joseph Banks, altogether a string of credentials that none of the others could even begin to match.
He had remained on board the Ocean but now that this ship was being readied to go back to Port Phillip it became time for him to look for other lodgings.
Although very clever and witty, he also could at times be remote, a personality trait which may explain why he looked for a quiet place to live away from the busy Collins settlement at Sullivans Cove. This he found at Risdon Cove, where he seems to have obtained a room in the hut of Mountgarret, whose hospitality he apparently repaid by planting a fine garden around the house.
A few years later this garden disappeared as a result of a grass fire deliberately lit by some convicts, and all that remains of the hut today are a few archaeological remnants of the fireplace, a silent witness of the many discussions that would have occurred in front of it as several of the main figures of our story would gather there on a cool evening in front of a hot fire.
Fortunately, the problems on board the Pilgrim had meanwhile been sorted out, allowing Governor Collins to permit the Ocean to depart for Port Phillip.

 

 

The Mercury

Wednesday 24 March 2004, page 23

 

Quiet life on the farm

 

24 March 1804
At first light, the Ocean sails for Port Phillip to collect the remainder of Collins' party who were left behind.
Then, after breakfast, Knopwood and Lieutenant Lord go aboard the Pilgrim. Knopwood does not mention the reason of the visit, but it is very probable that at least Knopwood was there as a ``consulting magistrate'' (and with the uniformed Lieutenant Lord as a backup) to deal with yesterday's troublemakers. That settled, Captain Delano accompanies them back ashore, and the three no doubt finish up in Knopwood's marquee to perform a post mortem of the events over a good glass of “spirits''.
In the ``General Order'' published that day, Collins now formally announces the establishment of a Government Farm at “Stainforth Cove'' (New Town Bay), which from then onward is to be called “Farm Bay''. The prisoners working on this farm are to do so in strict isolation: nobody is to approach the gang and the nearby settlers in particular are warned not to engage any of them during their time off for work on any of the “free'' farms, the penalty being a hefty pound stg. 5 per man.
Also, in this particular instance the prisoners working on the farm are being employed on the “task work'' system instead of day labour, meaning that should they finish their job for the day earlier than expected the rest of the day is theirs. Being an experienced administrator, Collins did not like this system because he firmly believed that the less time these prisoners have to themselves the less time they had to get into mischief, but thought that given the isolated location of Cornelian Bay there is little likelihood that any problems might result. Nevertheless, he later confided to Governor King that “it is a practice which I shall not continue''.
(Bowen also used this “task system'' at Risdon Cove, but his experiences with it are not known).

 

 

The Mercury

Thursday 25 March 2004, page 18

 

Chaplain with unique style

 

25 March 1804
In the morning, Knopwood holds a divine service, after which everybody is allowed to work (notwithstanding this being a Sunday) on the completion of their huts.
Those who do not manage to complete that job by the end of the day will be allowed another two days next week to do so -- a favour suggesting that a month after their arrival, a great many huts had not been completed as yet.


NOTE: ROBERT KNOPWOOD (1763-1838) came from an old but impoverished family in the Norfolk district. He was ordained as Deacon in 1788 and gained a DD in 1796. By this time his inheritance (whatever there still was of it) had well and truly evaporated, forcing him in 1801 to take on a chaplaincy in the Navy, and over the next 18 months saw action at sea against the French.
His services no longer being required after the peace of 1802 he was in need of a new position and obtained an appointment to join the Collins expedition as a chaplain. This brought him with the rest of the expedition first to Port Phillip and then to Sullivans Cove, where his “parish'' would be for the next 20 years, after which his health and changing circumstances in the settlement in general forced the ageing chaplain to resign.
He then was given the chaplaincy of Rokeby, a small rural community on the other side of the river where, presumably, the pressures of his office would be less onerous.
Still with financial troubles, Knopwood remained here until his death in 1838. Much of his fame nowadays rests on his well known “Diary'', in which he penned his day-by-day experiences and observations.
As a young man, Fawkner had many opportunities to observe Knopwood from up close, and later drew the following pen sketch of him: “[He] was fond of drink and women, and given to the coarse and vulgar habit of swearing if not blaspheming. He was a somewhat strange man, known never to look anybody directly in the face. When talking with anybody, he would turn his head to one side, scowling under his very dark eyebrows with a one-sided glance. If looked at, he would invariably cast his eyes down, still holding his head at an angle with his body and almost always looking down, his head finally settling on one side with a sinister scowl. Altogether a bad man, and he looked it as well as acted it''.
Fawkner described Knopwood in his role as a magistrate as “a most cruel and vindictive man. Although a so-called Christian, he invariably inflicted the greatest amount of punishment by flogging. He seldom gave less than 100 lashes, and often ordered as many as 500 lashes to each man, so much so that Governor Collins . . . often reduced his sentences to one half or one quarter''.
When still working in Hobart Town, Fawkner got to know the parson at a very personal level. Staying one evening with some other workmen at the parsonage for a building job, he recalled how “a violent thunderstorm came over Hobart Town. When the thunder [got very] violent, the parson and his madam came out of the parsonage to the men's hut for protection from the lightin''.
(The woman in Fawkner's story was Mary McAuley, the wife of sergeant McAuley. As Knopwood's “housekeeper'' she would in later years have a daily routine of walking to a nearby grog shop in Macquarie Street where she would get half a gallon of rum poured into a harmless looking lime juice bottle.
After her return to Cottage Green, she and the good chaplain would polish off its contents during the rest of the day and, presumably, enjoy themselves while doing so. Commented a scandalised Fawkner: “there were no other people living in this house but the parson and this woman''.)

 

 

The Mercury

Friday 26 March 2004, page 16

 

Repairs on ship rudder

 

26 March 1804
Since the Pilgrim arrived in the Derwent a fortnight ago with the damaged rudder of the Integrity, a group of tradesmen and others have been working very hard to repair it.
All this is now finished and the new rudder is hoisted on board the Pilgrim, which then hurriedly departs for Kent Bay at Cape Barren Island, where the crew of the Integrity are still waiting for this essential item to continue their voyage.

 

 

Sunday Tasmanian

Sunday 28 March 2004, page 22

 

Workload on the increase

 

March 28, 1804
Governor Collins announces two appointments, clearly indicating the increasing workload problems some of his senior officers are facing.
The job of the distribution of food rations and other items from the public stores required an enormous amount of careful paperwork and attention to detail. Also, the presence of long queues of people within close proximity of sensitive items such as firearms and ammunition demanded an ongoing vigilance, and the present two officers responsible for this clearly could no longer handle it all.
To improve this situation, Collins let it be known that he had promoted John Sutton, the present Superintendent of Convicts, to the job of Assistant Deputy Commissary.
Similarly, he seems to have been impressed with the performance of prisoner Francis Shipman, the assistant of the surveyor G.P. Harris, and grabbed him for the job as a “private clerk''. This meant that Shipman was added to the office staff of the Governor and became the assistant of Sam Warriner, a trusted prisoner serving as Collin's chief clerk. (We are still in a time and age here when all communications had to be laboriously written -- and copied! -- in longhand!).

NOTE: Within a decade, the life of Francis Shipman came to a sad and sudden end. After first doing very well, he returned to London after the expiry of his sentence but then, very unwisely, made an anonymous charge against Leonard Fosbrook, one of his former employers in Hobart Town who also had returned to London.
The resulting court case brought up other matters ultimately unfavourable to him; once again he was tried and convicted, but this time he was promptly hanged in London in 1813.
Meanwhile, the party exploring “the upper reaches of the Derwent'' had left their boats at the rapids (just above New Norfolk), and then found themselves in the Macquarie Plains-Rosegarland area. Here they were surrounded by high hills and cliffs, and noted that the valley floor itself had “several extensive flats nearly destitute of trees''.
Clearly all this land was suitable for farming or grazing purposes.

 

 

The Mercury

Tuesday 30 March 2004, page 16

 

Pressure to finish huts

 

30 March 1804
Today being Good Friday, its observance was “strictly adhered to'' -- well, that is not quite the case.
In the morning the usual open-air divine service was conducted by the Reverend Knopwood, but after that the prisoners were allowed to make good use of their promised free time to finish off their huts -- a job that had to be done anyway.
Lately, this had already happened on a number of Sundays, indicating Collins' concern to get his people under roof before onset of the coming winter season.
The poor security and physical safety of the gunpowder stored in barrels in the tented government stores on Hunters Island remained a constant worry to Governor Collins and his officers, and it was around this time that it was decided to erect a stone powder magazine.
For practical reasons it should be close to whatever defences the settlement was going to have along the waterfront, while for security reasons it also should be away as much as possible from the prying eyes of the prisoners. After some scouting around they decided on a spot on the cliff overlooking the cove.
The two-roomed structure (based on a design by William Collins) was, of course, to be made of sandstone, but at that early stage it was not very clear who was to actually build this magazine.
(Later sketches of the Hobart waterfront suggest a standard powder magazine about 12 metres long and with an arched stone roof, the whole structure set halfway into the surrounding ground.
It was located near the northern corner of the upper end of Brook and Despard streets, just below the present Davey St).
Meanwhile, Knopwood noted in his diary that yesterday at Risdon Cove Bowen's “young friend was confined to her bed'' in the comforting presence of her mother Maria. And thus it was that Martha Hayes' daughter Henrietta became the first child of European descent to be born on Tasmanian soil.
Notwithstanding the rogue environment in which she was conceived, born and brought up in, Henrietta became a very nice girl who unfortunately died at an early age (1823).
Rough as they were, her grandparents Henry and Mary Hayes were very proud of this grandchild and even named their small farmstead in New Town after her. “Henrietta Farm'' was located on the site of the present New Town High School. (The name Henrietta would appear to have come from the Bowen family.)

 

 

The Mercury           

Wednesday 31 March 2004, page 18

 

Family reunited on Derwent banks

 

31 March 1804
The party still exploring the Derwent valley now seemed to find themselves in the area of the present Meadowbank Lake, although Brown's field notes are very unclear. They again spent the night near the banks of the Derwent, but on the next day decided to commence their return journey.
No doubt encouraged by the marriage a fortnight ago between corporal Gangell and the widow Ann Skeltorne and also the approach of Easter, settler John Blinkworth and Elizabeth Cummings are also getting married.
Their marriage did, however, not seem to merit a mention in Knopwood's diary, possibly because the bride and groom had already been living together for several years.
There is an interesting story hiding behind this seemingly normal event, and one that very much indicates the free and enterprising atmosphere that was still possible during the first few years of settlement in Tasmania, and so very different from the later attitude of Governor Arthur and his regime.
Blinkworth had originally been a convict at Botany Bay where he had fathered a boy named Robert and another child with a convict woman called Elizabeth Cummings. After serving out his time, Blinkworth returned to England where apparently he still had another child, possibly from a previous marriage.
Reunited with this boy, he then applied for permission to go back to Australia in order to join once again Elizabeth Cummings and his two other children.
Receiving permission for himself and his boy (they were in fact recommended by Governor Hunter and Colonel Collins personally), the Collins expedition offered an ideal opportunity to do so.
With the others, Blinkworth and his son first went to Port Phillip and then travelled on to the Derwent, in the meantime succeeding in alerting Elizabeth Cummings of his whereabouts.
The opportunity for her and her two children to travel to Van Diemen's Land came when Lieutenant Bowen was hurriedly shipped back to Risdon Cove, and so they all met up again on the banks of the Derwent.
Their somewhat belated wedding, uniting in this case five people as a formal family unit, very much had the support of the authorities as they saw it as a means of stabilising an otherwise very loose-knit group of people in which for many the boundaries between right and wrong was at best a vague one.
Blinkworth became one of the early New Town settlers, where his allocation stretched alongside today's Fletcher Ave from Albert Rd to the lower end of the Prince of Wales Bay.