The Mercury

Friday 12 September 2003, page 4

THE FIRST DAYS

 

 

8 Sept 1803, Thursday

Under the command of Lieutenant George Courtoys, the Lady Nelson arrives at Risdon Cove. They anchor in the cove at 3pm, and then settle down to wait for Lieutenant Bowen to arrive in the whaler Albion under the command of Captain Eber Bunker.

Earlier that week, they had already visited Frederick Henry Bay and Ralphs Bay, causing Lieutenant Courtoys to remark that he had found there a great abundance of grass which produces a sort of flax. In following up this important matter, Governor King later wrote to Bowen ``that when it is time for harvesting the flax, I wish as much as possible to be sent here, to try out if it will Answer for Bags, Rope, or other purpose.''

11 Sept 1803, Sunday

Early that morning the Albion also arrives in the Derwent, the ship's journal of the Lady Nelson recording that at 8am came on board Captain Bowen from the Albion. Sent the boat to assist her into the cove.

The logbook of the Lady Nelson gives no further details about the activities during the rest of the day other than that later in the day the crew was variously employed. We may, however, be quite certain that the day was used by Lieutenant Bowen and others to go ashore and inspect the general environment of the cove in order to determine the best place for the settlement and a suitable place for the landing of the stores.

During their inspection they will have realised that there was no suitable flat ground near the mouth of the bay, that the steep southern slopes fronting onto the cove precluded any development at all on that side of the water, and that the only realistic option for the location of the settlement was to go up the steep northern slope of the cove and use the land on top of the rise.

Bowen's instructions for the proposed settlement where in two parts: the General Instructions concerning the proposed settlement itself, and the Confidential Instructions.

The General Instructions required Bowen to "fix on a proper pace about Risdons Cove", clear ground for the planting of crops, check on the general nature of the soil in the area, look for coal deposits and timber stands suitable for shipbuilding and masts, make a study of the local weather and the tides, and in particular not to permit the construction of "any decked boat or vessel exceeding 20 feet keel ".

The interests of His Majesty’s Navy were, of course, to be kept firmly in mind: ``You will also inform me whether the general timber in that Country is fit for the purposes of being sent to England for the construction of Kings ships, particularising, as far as you are able, the different species, length of trunk, and diameter; also whether it grows mostly crooked or strait, and notice the facility of getting it on board ships." (Bowen's response to these particular matters was less than detailed, the sum-total being that: ``The Wood we found consists of the Blue-Gum, She-oak, Stringy Bark, and Mahogany.'')

The convicts made available to Lieutenant Bowen were to be used "for the public"; they were to "labour from daylight till sunset, allowing one hour for breakfast and two hours for dinner, except when task work is found more eligible".

(Task work meant at the start of the day the convicts would be given a certain task to fulfil, after which the rest of the day would be their own. Collins also knew of this system but did not like it: going by his experience in Sydney, the combination of convicts and free time usually spelled trouble.)
The food allowance for everybody was to be "four pounds of pork and seven pounds of biscuit a week"; the storekeeper had to keep an accurate record of what was issued each week and how much was left, while Bowen personally had to ensure that every Sunday the prayers of the Church of England were read "with all due solemnity".

Of course, no contact was to be had with any ship, English or otherwise, unless they should be in distress. The reason for this particular instruction was to avoid any encouragement to the convicts to seize a visiting ship and use it as a means to escape, an ever-present danger which all commandants had to worry about. It was, for instance, against this background that convicts were, if at all possible, housed in a location from where they were unable to see any shipping movements on the water; while the entire waterfront was out of bounds to them anyway whenever there was a ship in port, unless their job required them to be there. Even Collins experienced such an attempt, when in February 1805, some convicts from his settlement plotted to seize control of the Myrtle, then anchored (again as a safety measure) in the Derwent but within sight of the settlement.

Bowen's Confidential Instructions instructed him that should a French or any other nation also attempt to make a settlement in the area near Risdon Cove, Bowen was to inform the commanding officer of the newcomers of "His Majesty’s right to the whole of Van Diemen's Land, founded on such claims as you no doubt (are aware that) His Majesty will assert ".

Should agents of this foreign power persist, Bowen was "to prevent them carrying out their intentions, but without any Act of hostility if it can be avoided". However, on no account was Bowen to allow "His Majesty's Flag to be insulted".

(Of course, Bowen was not told how to enforce all this with the handful of unwilling and untrustworthy soldiers given to him.)

12 Sept 1803, Monday

Following the inspection and subsequent decisions made yesterday, the landing of the stores begins, while later we hear from Captain Bunker that they joined two longboats, side by side, thus making a convenient pontoon on which to carry the heavier cargo and the livestock. It is also from Bunker that we learn that ``A few natives were seen on their first arriving, but these were shy, and have retired from the Neighbourhood of the Place where the Settlement is made''.

The Albion was a whaling ship of 362 tonnes with 10 guns, and carrying a crew of 26. Captain Bunker's name, incidentally, crops up again some years later when, in command of the ship Venus, he is back in the Derwent with the body of his First Mate James Batchelor, who had died out at sea wile the ship was passing Van Diemen's Land (January 1810). For obscure reasons it was decided to bury him ashore some distance away from Hobart Town itself, and to this day the gravestone may still be inspected on Crayfish Point at Taroona. While we know of earlier burials occurring, it is the oldest known surviving European grave in the state.

 

The Mercury
Saturday 13 September 2003, page 24

 

September 13, 1803, Tuesday

Both ships continue to discharge their cargo.

There are no conclusive cargo lists to tell us exactly what came to Risdon Cove with these two ships, but a more general list of cargo intended to be sent to Van Diemen's Land mentions eight months provisions ``for the people'', and with an ample assortment of stores, clothing and necessaries, nine cows, one bull, 25 ewes and 2 rams.

The livestock that actually managed to make it to Risdon Cove (some died on the way out) was more: 1 bull, 9 cows, 30 sheep, 8 goats and 37 swine.

In addition, Lieutenant Bowen brought his own horse, while there also seem to have been a few dogs on board, a welcome asset in a situation where much of the meat supply had to come from the hunt.

 

Sunday Tasmanian
Sunday 14 September 2003, page 8

 

September 14, 1803, Wednesday


The unloading of the Albion continues. It may have been on this day that the women on board the ships are taken ashore, implying that sufficient shelter by now has been erected for their accommodation.


One of these women is Martha Hayes, the 16-year-old daughter of a female convict in Sydney and the companion of Bowen, who proudly recalled in her later age that she was the first one to be carried ashore by soldiers.


The accommodation awaiting this pregnant girl consists of a tent made of a mainsail wrapped around a few spars in wigwam fashion, and given by Governor King to Bowen specifically for this purpose.

 

 

Lt Bowen memorial at Risdon Cove


NOTES:
John Bean Bowen was born in 1780 at Ilfracombe, Devon, as the second son in a household of nine children. His father was Captain (and later Rear-Admiral) James Bowen, (1750-1835), who in turn was a brother of Captain Richard Bowen, (1761-1797), who in 1791 gave Jervis Bay its name. (The name of a small island in this bay still recalls his presence there).


In 1797 Richard Bowen was killed in action during the Battle of Tenerife, where he fought under the command of Rear Admiral Sit Horatio Nelson. John Bowen's brother James Edward died in India, aged 30, where he served as captain of the frigate The Phoenix.


Obviously following a family tradition, Bowen was educated at the Royal Naval College and in 1798 joined the Navy as a cadet on the Argo. He was appointed junior lieutenant in 1802, and during the next year sailed in the Glatton to Sydney.


He volunteered for colonial service, whereupon Governor King at first intended to send him to Norfolk Island as acting Lieutenant Governor, but then changed his mind and sent him instead to Risdon Cove on the Derwent to formally establish a settlement in Van Diemen's Land.


When Governor Collins shortly after also established a settlement on the Derwent he returned home again, arriving in England in January 1805 in charge of the official despatches for the Colonial Office. Once back in England, he took part in the battle of Trafalgar which earned him a commission as captain of a warship, and as such served on the Camilla from 1806 to 1809, which included the blockade of Martinique and Guadeloupe.


From 1812-1816 he served on the Salsette in the East, and was paid off in July 1816. In 1825 he married Elizabeth Lindley Clooes, a niece of the Countess of Newburg. The couple retired in the place of his birth, Ilfracombe, but Bowen died there shortly after as the result of a long and painful illness, on October 13, 1827.

John Bowen is know to have a lifelong interest in his Tasmanian daughter Martha Charlotte (his eldest daughter Henrietta died at an early age), and after his death in 1827 is said to have left her a sizeable legacy.


Martha Charlotte Bowen married Dr Robert Garrett, and most of her later generations still live in mainland Australia.

 

The Mercury
Monday 15 September 2003, page 12

 

September 15, 1803, Thursday


A curt entry in the logbook of the Lady Nelson: am. Inflicted punishment.


Although Bowen also reported having trouble with discontented soldiers, this entry almost certainly involved the crew of the Lady Nelson, people who over the past few months seemed to have been frequently in need of punishment (usually in the form of whipping).


During the afternoon, the Albion unloads more cargo.  About this time, Lieutenant Bowen takes a boat up the river to above Bridgewater, and later comments that this area will be the best place for settlers.


Bowen's instructions gave him the authority to choose a better place for a settlement should he find one. He did so in the Herdsmans Cove area, but probably realised that this stretch of river was not suitable for large ships to anchor, and that in any case from this inland location he would have little or no knowledge of what shipping movements might occur lower downstream.


He may also have realised that, once having settled at Risdon Cove, the security aspects of moving again to another location with insufficient boats on hand, while being dependent on unreliable soldiers, would have been beyond his resources.

 

The Mercury
Tuesday 16 September 2003, page 10

 

16 Sept, 1803, Friday

More cargo is being unloaded from the Lady Nelson and during the afternoon various other jobs also appear to have been tackled.

No details are given, but the briefing from Governor King to Lieutenant Courtoys of the Lady Nelson included the instruction to give Mr Bowen "every assistance in your power in assisting him to build huts for the reception of himself and people."

In other words, the crew had to lend a hand in obtaining building materials etc in the nearby bush and help with the construction of the huts. The settlers also had to pitch in with their contribution, meaning that they had to make their own huts and that in doing so they could not expect assistance from the convicts, other than of course the two men assigned to each of the settlers.

On the other hand, the free settlers were entitled to receive food rations from the public store for the first 12 months after they had settled on the land allocated to them. This land was to consist of a town allotment of 5 acres (2ha) each, with a further allocation of 100 acres (40ha) should all go well, together with the labour of two convicts each plus the necessary seed, stock etc as far as could be spared from the public food supply.

In this case, however, Governor King decided that "as they are the first, you will allot 200 acres to each family, and provide them with rations for 18 months." Beyond that, however, they would be on their own, and could not expect any further assistance from the Government that had brought them here.
The size of a five acre town allotment was considered enough for a household to grow most of its own food supply, have a few fruit trees, run a milch cow, stable a horse and an area to dispose of the night soil in those time all activities normally associated with running of a domestic household. (At the start of the 20th century, even the gardens of many shopkeepers living within the central city blocks of Hobart still saw all of these forms of usage!).

As things turned out at Risdon, we only have evidence of 2 allotments of half an acre each ever having been set out and occupied (by settlers Birt and Clark), while the discouraging quality of the soil and the arrival of Governor Collins soon after ended any further impetus for the settlers to persevere. Birt later developed gardens on the river flats down in the valley. In August 1804 the Smith and Birt families left again for Sydney, while Richard Clark and his wife went to live in the Collins settlement across the river. Martha Hayes, on the other hand, was no doubt with the help of Lieutenant Bowen, was declared to be a female settler. In 1804 she received her allocation of land (being a female settler she only could get 20ha) in the form of a grant fronting onto the Prince of Wales Bay.

 

The Mercury
Wednesday 17 September 2003, page 10

 

17 Sept, 1803, Saturday

The crew of the Lady Nelson is employed variously, but during the afternoon the winds pick up, and gales and hard rain buffet the ships.

We are not told how the people on shore coped with this stormy spring weather.

 

The Mercury
Thursday 18 September 2003, page 30

 

18 Sept, 1803, Sunday

The weather calms down again to moderate breezes. Probably because it is a Sunday. No work is being reported on board - a welcome breather after all the hard work of the past week.

In the settlement, however, the cutting of timber and the erection of shelter hurriedly continues, especially with the distinctly cool weather still whistling about.

 

The Mercury
Friday 19 September 2003, page 21

19 Sept, 1803, Monday

During the morning the Lady Nelson unloads bricks for the colony, but in the afternoon the crew is only employed occasionally. Unfortunately, the ship journals again do not tell us what happens on shore in the settlement, but we may safely assume that all the convicts are still busily employed constructing their tents and huts, cooking ovens, latrines and the like.

 

The Mercury
Saturday 20 September 2003, page 22

 

20 Sept 1803 Tuesday

Today Bowen prepares his first report to Governor King, writing that there are so many fine spots on the borders of the river that ``I was a little puzzled to fix upon the best place, but there being a much better stream of fresh water falling into Risdon Cove than into any of the others, and with very extensive valleys laying at the back of it, I judged it the most convenient place to settle."

NOTE: Of course, it could be argued that Bowen was somewhat less than truthful in what he wrote here. There is clear evidence that at least some of the shores of the Derwent received a closer inspection, as Capt. Bunker later mentioned a creek "that runs with a force sufficient to turn a mill" (a description which could almost certainly only refer to the Hobart or New Town Rivulets).

Had Bowen indeed after his arrival made a more thorough survey of the environment he found himself in, he would have found that the Risdon Creek was only a minor stream entering the Derwent, and that the "extensive valley" behind the Risdon Cove was in fact a very small and minor one with very little good soil. Of course, once established at Risdon Cove he had virtually committed himself to that site, and with every day that went by the option of moving on to another site became more and more remote.

Bowen then goes on to say that: ``We disembarked all the men and the stores, and have since been wholly employed in securing ourselves from the weather'', that he is now located on a hill with a good view over the Derwent, and that there is good farming land further up the river (modern-day Bridgewater).
He further adds that he saw many places where the plough might be used immediately, but regrets that our workmen are very few and very bad.

His soldiers appear to be not much better; they are very discontented, and appear to have had too easy a life before they came here. They also think that they are hard done by if ordered to do sentry duties, and in general are giving Bowen some trouble.

Finally, Bowen remarks that he hasn't as yet personally met any of the local Aborigines, but some others in the camp had met one of them. Armed with a spear the visitor had entered the camp and was cordially greeted by the men. The visitor had half-heartedly accepted some small presents and didn't seem to mind that the newcomers were there, but objected to being followed when he disappeared into the bush again.

Bowen doesn't think they would be of any use to the settlers, and therefore had not made any search after them, ``thinking myself well off if I never see them again.''

The Lady Nelson unloads a barrel of powder and a bell.

The bringing ashore of musket powder indicates that by that time, at least in the opinion of Lt. Bowen, sufficient security arrangements had been made to insure its storage safe from any attempts for theft by rebellious convicts.

The (usually bronze) bell was customarily mounted at the end of a tall pole, and served to indicate the start and finish of the working periods, parade times, raise the alarm, etc. We have no documented knowledge of where the bell was located, but the immediate environs of the sergeants' huts may be a good guess.

 

Sunday Tasmanian
Sunday 21 September 2003, page 21

 

21 Sept, 1803, Wednesday


Probable date of the departure of the Albion returning to Sydney. On board are a few black swans for Governor King and his wife, sent to Sydney as a present from Lieutenant Bowen and Captain Bunker, writes Captain Bunker in a note to Governor King.


``Governor Bowen sends Mrs King a pair of black swans which he bages his exceptance (Oct 6, 1803).'' They were probably caught alive, and kept on board in a cage, as from later comments in Hobart Town we know that these birds were easily domesticated (they will eat with the swine), and their delivery in a fresh condition in far-off Sydney would therefore have posed no problem.


Of course, Captain Bunker's part in the operation would not go unrewarded, but what with goods being preferred over cash, he bartered instead for 100 kg of tobacco (probably obtained for use by his sailors), a set of rudder chains, some 70 metres of (used) heavy rope, one foresail and a few bales of junk or oakum - used by sailors to stop up the seams between the planks of their ships.


Oakum was usually made from the remnants of old rope or old clothing returned to the government stores in return for new issue. The unraveling of these ropes and rags was often done by the sailors during slack time, or by convict women in workhouses.


The crew of the Lady Nelson in the meantime is engaged with sail maintenance.


NOTE: One interesting member of the crew on the Lady Nelson was a Danish adventurer by the name of Jorgen Jorgenson, who after his arrival in Sydney in 1801 had joined the ship under the assumed name of John Johnson. Working his way up to Second Mate, he was present at the landing of Bowen's party at Risdon Cove, while we meet him again a few months later on the same ship when Governor Collins lands his people in Sullivans Cove.


In Sydney in 1805 he joined the whaler Alexander on its return journey to London, where he signed off. A few years later he had some bizarre adventures in Iceland, followed by an interesting life in England during which he somehow also managed to witness the Battle of Waterloo as a silent spectator (June, 1815).


Back in London he fell in with bad company and eventually returned to Van Diemen's Land as a convict (1826). He soon made himself useful as a clerk, and later became involved with the exploration of the unknown forests of Northern Tasmania, during which he met many Aborigines. He became interested in them and their lifestyle, and nowadays his notes, letters and various publications are among the first detailed observations we have on this subject.


He died in Hobart in 1841 at the age of 60 in reduced circumstances.

 

The Mercury
Monday 22 September 2003, page 12

 

22 Sept, 1803, Thursday

During the morning, the Lady Nelson unloads the remainder of the bricks. The ship now appears to be empty, and the crew spends the next week cleaning the hold, organising fresh water for the water casks, and generally preparing the ship for its return to Sydney.

Probably joined by Dr Mountgarret, Lieutenant Bowen makes a second boat trip up the Derwent, and is clearly impressed with the scenic beauty of the river valley and the possibilities it offers. Once again he seems to have gone about as far as Mt Dromedary, while he also inspected the Prince of Wales Bay opposite Risdon Cove.


NOTE: Jacob Mountgarret, RN (1774-1828) served in the navy from 1790 to 1803, probably commencing his career as a medical orderly, but gained his registration as a surgeon in May 1798. He took part in several sea battles, but after the Treaty of Amiens in 1802 found himself unemployed, encouraging him to join the convict transport Glatton to Sydney. Once there, he accepted an appointment as a medical doctor to the settlement to be established by Bowen at Risdon on the Derwent, Van Diemen's Land.

Here, Mountgarret was able to employ convict labour not only to build for himself a very comfortable hut, but also to run stock, his first venture into cattle breeding. After the closing down of the Risdon Cove settlement he returned to Sydney in August 1804, and again was appointed as a surgeon to a new settlement, this time one to be established in Northern Tasmania on the shores of the Tamar.

Once there, Mountgarret soon came across the fertile river valleys of the North and South Esk rivers, and commenced stock breeding there as early as 1807. As a result of an argument between Mountgarret and the local military his services as a magistrate and surgeon were dispensed with, causing him to suddenly lose his income, his status and his convict labour force all at once.

Early in 1811 Knopwood visited the area and found his old friend not only having acquired a house in Launceston but also was living now with a Bridget Edwards and, mindful of the newly expressed policy of the government regarding the many unmarried couples in Van Diemen's Land, promptly united the two in holy matrimony.

Some six months later, Governor Macquarie also visited the Launceston area and noted the existence of Mountgarret's farm, a remark again indicating the doctors activities as a farmer.

A few years later, Mountgarret became involved with bushrangers; a subsequent court case in Sydney portrayed him very much in an unsavory light, but he had to be acquitted due to lack of acceptable evidence. By this time his health had started to suffer, and he had to have one of his arms amputated, possibly as a result of an infection incurred from his work as a surgeon.

He then asked Governor Macquarie for a pension, but this was refused; in fact, Macquarie wanted him to be dismissed. After Mountgarret returned to Launceston in 1817, his behaviour and reliability as a surgeon once again began to raise questions, while he was a notoriously bad debtor.
In 1821 Mountgarret was succeeded in his duties as a surgeon and placed on half-pay. He continued running his herds of cattle (on or near the site of the present Woolmers estate near Longford) but died in 1828 at the early age of 55 as an insolvent, leaving his wife Bridget destitute.
The small cottage in which he lived during this last period of his life is still being preserved in the present garden of the Woolmers property.

 

The Mercury
Tuesday 23 September 2003, page 17

 

23 Sept, 1803

The crew of the Lady Nelson is still preparing the ship for her departure, but ``the crew being rather sickly, obliges Lieutenant Curtoys to leave the Derwent much sooner than he first intended''. (Curtoys himself also was a sick man, and upon his return to Sydney had to return to England.)
Lieutenant Bowen begins to work on his report to Governor King, for which he compiles a census of the entire population of Risdon Cove at that time.

However, Bowen's two returns of ``the Inhabitants of His Majesty's Settlement on Van Diemen's Land'' dated September 1803 are somewhat ambiguous, as in the two reports he seems to use different yardsticks in determining who is what and who is or is not receiving rations from the government stores, resulting in different numbers.

For instance, the overseer Smith may have been a free person, but when it comes to the allocation of the weekly rations, there is a great suspicion that he receives his share with those of the convicts.

Correlating this census with the ration allocation and known persons has its moments, but an ``informed guess'' tends to come to the following conclusions:


Name occupation rations details

In charge of the settlement was John Bowen Commandant full naval lieutenant.  Assisting him were two civil officers - Jacob Mountgarret (surgeon full ex-naval surgeon) and Thomas Wilson (store keeper full former army officer), who was a clerk on the Gatton, the ship on which Bowen came out.

The military consisted of John Wixsted (lance sergeant full a former Marine and ' First Fleeter') and John Curry (soldier full).

Most of these soldiers had had a troublesome past, the very reason (George Hazler - soldier full) why their Regiments in Sydney had used this opportunity to off-load (John Lamb soldier full) their dead wood to an out-of-sight-out-of mind' location (John Lawrence soldier full, George Morrison soldier full, Jeremiah Smith soldier full and James Staikes soldier full).

In order to do the cooking and the laundry, some wives were permitted to join their soldier-husbands, and for this reason we also find in Bowen's group (unknown woman 2/3, Eliz. Staikes woman 2/3, Mary Morrison woman 2/3, William Morrison child half).

The group of 21 convicts consisted of convicts full care of stock, convict full blacksmith (a bad tradesman),  convicts full sawyers, 11 convicts full.  These 11 formed the 'town gang', i.e. general labour (convict full house carpenter, convict full carrying wood and water [water had to be brought up from the
creek below], convict full Servant to Lt. Bowen, convict full Servant to Mr. Mountgarret. convict full Servant to Thomas Wilson.

(Note: because of many uncertainties, no attempt was made here to name them.)

Unknown female convict 2/3 cutting grass, Elizabeth Fielder(?) ditto 2/3 cutting grass, Mary Lawler ditto 2/3 - her husband came out with Collins, who re-united the pair in Hobart in 1804.

The settlers: Smith full A former stockkeeper/overseer at Port Jackson and, as suggested by Gov. King, was also given that job at Risdon. Curiously, he is never mentioned again.

Unknown (Stephenson?) full Not identified by Bowen, but his name is mentioned by Surveyor.

Meehan.  Aaron (William?) Birt full, wife Birt 2/3 Martha Hayes not on rations. Bowen's mistress, child of Birt half, child of Birt half. Their third child is not mentioned, and may have been an infant.  Woman unknown Not on rations - suggesting a dependency on a male person (Smith?). Richard Clark settler not on rations. A former private, discharged in March 1803. Became a stonemason, and was later appointed by Collins to supervise the building gang in Hobart Town.

Maria Clark his wife not on rations.

In total: 49 person as per 27 September 1803.

(Authors note: I am grateful for some supplementary comments re the above given to me by Phillip Tardif, Canberra, whose book entitled John Bowen's Hobart was published recently.)

NOTE:
While this list is an improvement on what was generally know until recently, there still remain a number of question marks concerning the identity of some of Bowen's party, especially where they concern the convicts. Of some names we can be ``fairly'' certain but that is about as far as it goes, while we cannot relate these names with their occupation.

The notation of rations is significant in that it helps us to determine the status or relationship of the person named. Male members of the settlement usually were on ``full'' rations, except in such cases where they were their own free agent, and in consequence had to supply their own food. (To what extent that actually happened is altogether a different matter!)

Women only received 2/3 ration, while children were on half rations. With this in mind we can work out that, for instance, no 44 above was not an independent person but would have been Martha Hayes, who came to Risdon as the companion of Lieutenant Bowen and therefore fully dependent on him for her food and general maintenance.

Early in November more people come and go, making the tracking of individuals very difficult indeed. Also, some names never turn up again in the official correspondence, and their ultimate fate can not be determined.

 

The Mercury
Saturday 27 September 2003, page 22

 

September, 27, 1803, Tuesday


Lieutenant Bowen writes a second report for Governor King, heading his letter Hobart, Van Diemen's Land, 27th September, the very first time that the name Hobart is used as a place name in Tasmania.

In his letter, Bowen reports on the journey out, the arrival, and that by now that his soldiers and his prisoners are living in very comfortable huts.

This is an interesting remark, as in one of his instructions Governor King speaks of tent huts for the prisoners and officers, suggesting that either canvas was used over hurriedly made timber frames, or that some form of pre-fabricated construction had been provided. Either way, this would explain the seemingly very rapid readiness of accommodation for everybody on shore.

From then onward, the convicts begin to make more permanent accommodation, a difficult job, given the fact that the local vegetation would have provided very little usable straight timber.

Nevertheless, a fair number of huts, new and more permanent timber huts, were commenced and were at various stages of completion when surveyor Meehan charted them a few weeks later.

Bowen seems to have been quite happy with the provisions given to him by Governor King, except that water had spoilt some of the flour and sugar, while there also appears to be a shortage of large-sized nails.

He reports that his settlers have been given their 5-acre (2ha) town allotments a short distance to the east, ``but there hasn't been time as yet to draw any lines for the town, a job which is waiting till I can cut down the large timber about the hill, when my view will not be so obstructed.''
He encloses with these remarks a sketch plan of the settlement at that time, in hindsight a surprisingly accurate drawing given that it is made entirely freehand without any surveys.

From the location of his tent (which could be re-established from later survey data made by surveyor Meehan), Bowen would indeed have seen at least some glimpses of the Derwent River, while a government garden (an essential part of the settlement's food supply) had been commenced uphill from this spot. A short distance to the east were three huts for the military, while down the slope from them - but still within sight of the military - were a few (tent?) huts to accommodate the convicts.

The settlers Clark and Birt were located still further to the east on their ``town allotments'', while Dr Mountgarret was again further down the slope close to a creek (nowadays called Risdon Brook), from where at least some fresh water could be obtained for most of the year. Beyond here Bowen indicated the existence of a ``fine valley'', no doubt referring to a patch of good topsoil which had just been discovered, and even today can still be found below the Risdon prison complex.

The landing alongside the Risdon Cove was located where it still is today (the present stone wall and the drive uphill are from a later date), and it was from here that an impossibly steep track would lead the visitor directly past Bowen's tent into the settlement. There are, however, indications that another landing further downstream may also have been used. If so, the walk from there to the settlement would have been longer but over a much easier gradient.

A few weeks later surveyor Meehan would survey the settlement in some detail, but by this time the first tents and huts of the convicts had already been relocated and rebuilt into an orderly row stretching from the soldiers' huts towards the ``town allotments'' of the two settlers, enabling Meehan to use the alignment of these huts to create two streets.

The arrival of Collins, however, made it very clear that Risdon Cove as a settlement was doomed, and that any further attempts to create a township at Risdon would be a wasted effort.

Bowen further reports that he has made an arrangement with settler Clark to build him a stone store to safeguard the government provisions, and in particular the food rations, weapons and the powder for his firearms.

 

Sunday Tasmanian
Sunday 28 September 2003, page 14

 

September 28, 1803, Wednesday

The Lady Nelson is now ready to leave. Lieutenant Courtoys visits his friend and colleague Lieutenant Bowen that day for the last time, and it is not until late that evening when Courtoys finally returns to his ship and the longboats can be hauled aboard in readiness for tomorrow's departure.

 

The Mercury
Tuesday 30 September 2003, page 10

 

September 29, 1803, Thursday

That morning at daybreak, the Lady Nelson raises its anchor and departs, leaving Lieutenant Bowen and his 48 men, women and children to their own resources.

On board are the despatches from Lieutenant Bowen for Governor King, together with the stuffed skin of an animal hitherto entirely unknown, together with some specimens of new birds, and several very fine live black swans. Later in Sydney, the crew also reports that close to the settlement are an abundance of emues, large kangaroos, and swans, in those day an important consideration for the supply of fresh meat.

The settlement of Europeans in Tasmania has begun.

There is no indication that Lieutenant Bowen ever formally ``read'' his commission to the assembled members of the settlement, as was the normal requirement when a new settlement was founded.

Bowen's Commission dated 28 March 1803 directed him "to proceed to Van Diemen's Land to form an Establishment'', and appointed him as ``Commandant and Superintendant of the said Settlement'', while he furthermore should ``Cause the Commission to be publicly read''.

"Reading the Commission'' was a public formality , validating and making known to all and sundry the power and duties of the officer in charge, and had the legal effect of placing all those under his control under the provisions of British law.