Tuesday, 29 January 2019


N.B. Approximate position

Ever wanted to circumnavigate Australia? We still have a way to go...we'll be going on quite a journey, at least virtually, and clockwise. So as to make sure all states and territories are covered, we started in Western Australia and explored a little of the early history of a small part of this massive state via TROVE...from Rottnest Island to Broome..then across to Katherine Gorge, then Tennant Creek, from there to Darwin on the way to the Tiwi Islands, Bathurst and Melville.

We've had to travel back to Darwin, before leaving the Northern Territory, then across to Cairns, in North Queensland... but we didn't stop there, instead headed to the tropical north, to one of the most beautiful areas you can imagine... isolated yes, but perfect for that great getaway... to Cape Tribulation. It seems you loved that area so well, that Cairns was the obvious place to travel to next... not too far south. That was another very popular place...as was our visit to Fraser Island...

We then headed inland, on an approximately 6 hours flight to a place steeped in history.. what a contrast to the sub tropical island of Fraser ...no waterfalls or clear lakes or rainforest, but Longreach has so much to offer.

We then returned to Hervey Bay, by plane, and then took a short drive of approximately 25 minutes to a town founded in 1847... the charming historical town of Maryborough. So many of you loved that place as I do.

What a contrast the next destination was, though it is also very much steeped in history... a beautiful place, but it was a place of horror, of deprivation and loneliness... St. Helena Island. To get there, we left on a ferry from Manly, across to the island. 

Then we returned to Brisbane, to explore the beautiful, sub tropical capital city of the Sunshine State. Brisbane today, is the third largest city in Australia and growing rapidly... 

It has come a long way from it's beginnings as the Moreton Bay convict settlement, with such an interesting history. In an earlier issue, we explored some of the history of Brisbane, then visited Brisbane of a later period. There is so much to see and do in this beautiful city, once known as the biggest country town in Australia...

After a break, we resumed our travels...  heading in to New South Wales... not too far over the border, to a place that literally stands out, begging to be noticed. It was first given a European name by Captain James Cook...  he recorded seeing " a remarkable sharp peaked mountain lying inland". That place was the very imposing Mt. Warning.. you can refresh your memory here

The New Year saw us travelling again, refreshed and ready to go to yet another beautiful place. Many of you will have stopped there, if only to get a photo taken on the border between Queensland and New South Wales..Coolangatta one side, Tweed Heads on the other. Hard to believe that this was only known as Point Danger in times past, as indeed it was... the lighthouse is a clue... 

That place brought back many wonderful memories for so many of you...it was lovely to read your comments and receive your emails..

We're moving south again, to a place that means a lot to my family, but also has a very colourful past. It is beautiful, a popular tourist place, the centre of a very busy district, steeped in Australia's colonial history.. it's the bustling town of Port Macquarie. It is around 5 hours drive south of Point Danger.

For today's article, I will concentrate on the convict history of Port Macquarie, perhaps we will return another time to see how the city has changed.

From the State Library of NSW... 
This first link will give you more detail on the history of Port Macquarie...


This second link is detailed below...


Port Macquarie

As free settlers began to move into the Newcastle area, convicts were transferred from there to the newly established penal settlement of Port Macquarie in 1821.
In 1825, Governor Brisbane decided to close Port Macquarie as a penal settlement and open the area to free settlers and over the next 8 years most of the convicts were sent to Moreton Bay (Brisbane) and Norfolk Island (McLachlan, 1988, p. 129).
Search the following resources to find out if your convict was transported to Port Macquarie under colonial sentence. You will find biographical details such as their name, the name of the ship and year of arrival, date and place of their trial, and physical description.

Port Macquarie, ca. 1840 Joseph Backler    Public Domain

Port Macquarie.net  has a brief history of the town...

Port Macquarie was named by John Oxley after the governor of NSW, Lachlan Macquarie in 1818. The Hastings river was named after the governor general of India at around the same time. Although the area had been first noticed by Captain Cook on his voyage along the coast in 1770 and again later by Matthew Flinders in 1802, it was not explored in any detail until Oxley returned in 1819. Macquarie initiated Oxley's expedition as he was interested in the sites potential as a penal settlement. 
The penal settlement would be established in 1821 under Captain Francis Allman who landed at the "town green" at the top of what is now Clarence Street. Captain Allman immediately began directing the 60 convicts sent to establish the settlement, to clear the area of trees and begin farming in order to become self-sufficient. Timber supplies further south near Newcastle where dwindling providing further impetus to the clearing. 
Sugar Cane was first grown in Australia on the site by a prisoner from the West Indies and a sugar mill was established in 1824. The penal settlement endured into the early 1840's after the area was opened up to free settlers in 1830. After being hard hit by the depression in 1840 and the final relocation of the remaining convict labour in 1847, the settlement began declining. The town began to recover in the early 1860's upon the arrival of pastoralists and by the 1880's the town had a Catholic Church, a bank, a newspaper and local government was formed in 1887. 
The North Coast Railway passed by Port Macquarie in 1910 changing the way goods were transported marking the end of the town's harbour traffic. Throughout the 1960's the town experienced rapid growth and its popularity as a holiday spot was beginning to manifest. Today the town has more than 40,000 residents and is a popular tourist destination and the old buildings that remain are a testament to the towns colourful history.

As always, there were complaints about how the settlement should be run...

Please click to enlarge...

Sydney Herald (NSW : 1831 - 1842), Thursday 26 November 1835, page 2
National Library of Australia     http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article12853539

Sydney Herald (NSW : 1831 - 1842), Monday 19 December 1836, page 2
National Library of Australia  http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article12855621

Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 - 1842), Thursday 25 January 1838, page 2. National Library of Australia  http://nla.gov.au/nla.newsarticle2551706

Macleay Argus Kempsey 17 Jun 1905

One of the most outstanding landmarks is the convict built church of St. Thomas, which can be seen on the hill in the landscape above...and in this one below... Joseph Backler painted a number of landscapes around the area, easily found online.

St Thomas' Church, painted by Joseph Backler in the 1830s  Created: between 1832 and 1842 date


List of quantities and costs of materials to build St. Thomas' church, Port Macquarie
From a booklet printed in 1966 about the ongoing restoration of this historical church.
This page lists the quantities and costs of materials and labour to build St. Thomas' church in the 1820s. Public domain

I found this quite interesting. It sure does cover some items.

Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1910 - 1954), Tuesday 13 August 1912, page 4
National Library of Australia http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article228824785

The post above certainly has the facts correct. Having been inside the beautiful St. Thomas church, I also learnt that the box pews certainly weren't for the convicts. It is still beautifully kept.


Inside St. Thomas' church, Port Macquarie c 1966

From a booklet printed in 1966 about the ongoing restoration of this historical church.

The church was built by convict labour under military supervision in the reign of King George IV, when Port Macquarie was a penal settlement. The foundation stone was laid in 1824 and the first service was held in 1828.
The initial worshippers consisted of the Chaplain, Camp Commandant, a detachment of British Infantry and the well-guarded prisoners. By 1840 the population was more diverse, consisting of farmers, free settlers, merchants and government officials.
It is of interest to note that 365,000 hand-made bricks were used to construct the walls which are 3 feet thick in the nave, and considerably more in the tower. Finger marks may be seen in some exterior bricks to indicate the progressive tally.
The mortar made from oyster shells was transported from Limeburners Creek on the North Shore of the Hastings River. The original floor was rammed earth but 9 inch thick paving bricks were laid in 1846.

Inside the Historic Church, Port Macquarie

Cgoodwin   St Thomas church, Port Macquarie, NSW

The life of the convicts was certainly not easy, but there were some lighter moments of all accounts.

Wingham Chronicle and Manning River Observer (NSW : 1898 - 1954), Saturday 14 August 1915, page 2. National Library of Australia http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article166919565

 A bullock dray loaded with wool – from S.T. Gill’s Australian Sketchbook of 1865.
On the road from Walcha to Port Macquarie..

Port Macquarie News 1899   Public Domain
Some interesting ads

Gloucester Advocate (NSW : 1905 - 1954), Wednesday 19 June 1918, page 3
National Library of Australia  http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article159076165

Dungog Chronicle : Durham and Gloucester Advertiser (NSW : 1894 - 1954), Friday 6 May 1932, page 4  National Library of Australia  http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article141143425

 Brian Tolagson    CC BY-SA 4.0
One of the convict-built sites preserved in Port Macquarie NSW

This article discusses the early work of the convicts, the most recognisable being the aforementioned St. Thomas' church.

Newcastle Sun (NSW : 1918 - 1954), Monday 17 August 1936, page 4 
National Library of Australia  http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article166551035

Of course, where there is a settlement, there is also need for a cemetery...
 Royal Australian Historical Society  courtesy of…
Port Macquarie’s historic cemetery c 1960s [PMHS] Collection

I have visited this cemetery a couple of times... as always the headstones that saddened me so much, were those of the children. It's not unusual in older cemeteries in particular, to see many children's graves, but this was heartbreaking as so many graves were of a number of children all from the same family. Though few noted cause of death, in these early days, without the medical help we have today, there were many deaths from outbreaks of influenza, typhus, and so many diseases that we now have treatments or preventative medicines for.

Port Macquarie’s Historic Cemetery, the town’s second burying ground, early 1900’s PMHS] Collection. Note St. Thomas' in the background.

Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), Saturday 2 October 1937, page 13
National Library of Australia  http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article17403280

The community of Port Macquarie takes great pride in their history, as shown by the interest in their older buildings, many of which are beautifully kept.

Spelio Own work Historic Courthouse 

Spelio Own work  Fence around Museum at Port Macquarie

 Cgoodwin - Own work

Tacking Point Lighthouse, Port Macquarie, NSW. Tacking Point was named by Matthew Flinders in July 1802. The lighthouse is the third-oldest in the country. It was built in 1879 to warn ships of the rocks near the shore and was converted to automatic operation in 1919.

 Port Macquarie waterfront c 1914 [PMHS] Collection

The Shipyards, Port Macquarie 1914  
[PMHS] Collection

Lake Innes House no date PMHS] Collection

Note..  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lake_Innes_House_Ruins

Lake Innes Ruins are 11 kilometres south of Port Macquarie, Australia. They are the relics of the house and stables once belonging to Major Archibold Clunes Innes, a retired officer of the British military. The ruins also include the remains of servants' cottages, an estate-workers' village, a farm that supplied the house with food, a brickmaking site and a boathouse by the lake. The site contains a rich history about the settlement of New South Wales, convict labour and the culture of the 1800s. It is managed by the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service and is accessible to the public. It was added to the New South Wales State Heritage Register on 2 April 1999.[1]
TROVE articles…

The lights of Port Macquarie glow out over the Hastings River, Jan 2015. Peter Neaum.

Last but not least, 
my family connection to Port Macquarie?
My beautiful parents were married there,
around the middle of last century.
It seems so strange to write that, 
but I'm proud to do so.
Rest in Peace Mum and Dad. 

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