Tuesday, 14 November 2017


Convicts in a prison ship

We can learn so much about our early colonial history not just from the history books and newspapers, but also from the Gazettes of the time. Some Gazettes were the newspapers of the time, full of all manner of news and snippets, while others were rather dour government  publications.

 I can't resist the former... take the following for example...

Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 - 1842), Saturday 5 February 1820, page 3 
National Library of Australia

John Oxley

It begins with Ship News, the arrival from New Zealand of the schooner Elizabeth and Mary, then after a short paragraph which mentions at least one very well known name and his then position in the colony, goes into detail about a common problem that still occurs today... lack of room in a burial ground, causing it's 
closure, and the provision of a new one.

Courtesy of wikipedia
John Oxley
Kirkham Abbey, Yorkshire, England
Died1828 (aged 44)
Camden, New South Wales
OccupationBritish explorer

Seems it was quite an occasion at the time... interesting to note that the sermon at the opening was presented by the Rev. Mr. Marsden, who just happened to marry my fourth great grandparents, Robet Hobbs and Bridget Eslin/Heslin, on the 30th October, 1815, at St. Matthew's C of E, Windsor... along with quite a few others over the years...

I was interested to see that the old Burial Ground was 'closed and shut up'... to keep some out or to keep all in?
Old Sydney burial ground map detail
That then became the Old Sydney Burial Ground.. the 'new one' was at Brickfield Hill.

Detail from Sheet E1 of the 1865 Trigonometrical Survey of Sydney (City of Sydney Archives/State Records) showing the size and boundaries of the Old Sydney Burial Ground. Druitt Street runs along the bottom of the picture, Bathurst Street along the top, and George Street to the left. The building within the cemetery grounds is the wooden temporary St Andrews Church.

In this early part of the year, a ship, Castle Forbes, arrived carrying 140 male prisoners...all in good health. I wonder just what standard of good health... as the Captains were often paid according to the condition of their 'cargo' when they arrived, so long as they were fit to work, all would be well.

N.B. More re the Castle Forbes https://www.jenwilletts.com/convict_ship_castle_forbes_1820.htm

News from home, whether it be England, Ireland or elsewhere, was very well received..and the scandals of the day made good reading. America also featured heavily in overseas news...including the riots that had occurred late in May the previous year.

The passing of 'Assistant Surgeon Hamilton, of the 48th Regiment, at Hobart Town, on the 16th January' was mentioned at length.

The 'melancholy ocasion' of the funeral was well attended by many dignitaries.

 Quite a contrast to the 'Anniversary of the Commemoration of the Establishment of this Colony' and the rousing song sung at the dinner on January 26, 1820.. I think I might prefer Advance Australia Fair..

 It seems this edition has a few celebrations to report, including the Fifteenth Anniversary of the British and Foreign Bible Society.. quite a number of impressive titled men were present

There was even a very formal apology re non attendance.. these days, you are never quite sure who is attending an event till you count them on the day. How manners and customs have changed over time.

The rest of this edition seems to be concerned about the printing of millions of bibles and their distribution .. interesting to read the 'flowery' language of the time, where the thought of using just a few words instead of dozens simply 'didn't do'.

A month later and the news was about shipwrecks, in detail, plus some of the court cases, which seemed to result in far heavier sentences then in comparison to those meted out today...

Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 - 1842), Saturday 25 March 1820, page 2 
National Library of Australia

Ships involved were the Duke of Wellington, under Captain William Collins, accompanied by the Frederick, under Captain Williams. So much livestock was lost, due to the conditions. Sadly, the Frederick was wrecked, and 22 of her crew, with just the Captain and four others, including two boys, surviving. The details of their survival and their subsequent transfer to the 'Wellington' and what happened on that voyage are hard to comprehend.

N.B. more on the Frederick  https://www.jenwilletts.com/convict_ship_frederick_1817.htm
More info frederick https://convictrecords.com.au/ships/frederick

Frederick A convict ship..

The sad and horrific tales continued, including the raiding by pirates, formerly seamen who had been shipwrecked, seems almost unbelieveable today. Sea journeys were for the brave...

The brig, the Greyhound, under Captain William Campbell, was another that suffered a nearly total loss...

 N.B. more on the Greyhound  https://www.jenwilletts.com/convict_ship_greyhound_1818.htm

We leave shipwrecks for a while and read of the trials in the 'Court of Criminal Jurisdiction...'

Some of those before the court include...
Thomas Till, Michael Haggerty.. stealing sheep
William Brown.. stealing a colt
Thomas Smith, Thomas Blaney, Edward Aibney (?), Thomas Fox and John Sears...stealing a boat... (What's with all the Thomas'?)
Joseph Cunningham, Samuel Medworth.. stealing cattle
John Davidson..contempt of court 'the most vile, most insolent, and intolerable'
Theophilus Chamberlain..stealing a mare

Dominick McIntyre.. stealing sheep
George Ison.. acquitted from charge of larceny
William Jones..charge of assault
John Davis..stealing a bullock
Thomas Rourke..stealing sundry articles of wearing apparel (female?)
James Francis..stealing a cow

Threatened by the prospect of execution... enough to bring about a sense of contrition?

What do you think about their ultimate sentences? Were they stealing for food, or profit, or did one 'marry' with the other?

The Age

 From these wretched souls to the report of a loss of an infant by drowning..then the passing of a Mr. Richard Tuckwell at his house in Pitt Street..

to the loss of a 'useful member of society', something to which we all aspire to be, I would hope...
'William Denman, an old and well known inhabitant'

 This edition finished with some advice 'One Being Out of Debt'.. as much as things change, they remain the same...


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