Rio De Janeiro to Sullivan Bay
While the voyage to Rio de Janeiro had been relatively orderly and uneventful for those on the Calcutta, who included George and Mary Kearley, the same was not so for those travelling aboard the Ocean. Apparently the conduct of the settlers on the Ocean between Teneriffe and Rio had proved to be a problem for the Ocean's Captain Mertho. The exact nature of the misconduct was not made clear in the diaries or even in Collins' official correspondence. Nevertheless Captain Woodriff thought it serious enough to ask Collins for assistance from the Marines. Collins response was to place six privates and one corporal from the Colonial Royal Marines onto the Ocean under the command of Lt. Sladden for "the purpose of preserving the peace and good order there".1
|FIG. 9. THE AREA BETWEEN TENERIFFE AND RIO DE JANEIRO
Image Reproduced Courtesy of Microsoft Encarta
Harris records the six Marines as being Corporal William Gangell and the six privates Robert Evans, James Clisshold, John Kellan, William Davis, James Price and George Kearley. Mary Kearley's name does not appear on Harris' passenger list so it is not clear whether she accompanied George to the Ocean. We do presume that the newly weds would not have been separated and so would have continued the voyage together and that Mary would therefore have had the opportunity to meet the women among the free settlers and the wives of the Civil Officers. However given their different social status she may have found herself more isolated than she had been before aboard the Calcutta.
Aboard the Ocean George became the servant for Lieutenant Edward Lord and so was no doubt kept busy in this occupation. James Price, another private, became the servant for Lt. William Sladden.2 Neither the correspondence nor journals of Harris and Humphrey make much comment about the journey between Rio de Janeiro and Port Phillip. What they do say is that both ships set sail from Rio on 20 July 1803 and that after just two days the Ocean lost sight of the Calcutta in a gale and thereafter for the rest of the trip they did not sight any vessel. Captain Woodriff had instructed Captain Mertho that if the ships were separated the Ocean should not land at the Cape of Good Hope for fear of a hostile reception. For this reason they were unable to call into this Port.
Not being able to call into the Cape of Good Hope was a tremendous disappointment to the settlers and Officers who had been anticipating a last opportunity to replenish supplies and to take on board stock and goods to assist them in establishing themselves in the new colony. To make matters worse the weather was particularly bad for much of the trip causing much damage to crockery and the loss of valuable stock. The officers ran out of provisions and had to rely on the ship's provisions for their meals for the last fortnight. Humphrey complained that "the beef was so bad – smelling like the steam from a tallow chandlers copper and the bread having got wet and mouldy was full of insects". Unable to stomach either Humphrey said that he survived the fortnight on water and gruel. Harris too complained of the food and stinking water. Liberal amounts of vinegar would no doubt have been applied to them to ensure that they were safe to consume and perhaps to improve palatability.3
The Calcutta encountered bad weather and gales for much of the trip but the diaries and ship log mentioned also that they observed many whales. They lost a seaman John Bowers overboard on 9 August and spent some time searching for him in vain. Their next concern was the Cape of Good Hope and as the Calcutta rounded the Cape on 12 August, they prepared all their guns for action but rather than meeting with hostility at Simons Bay they received a welcome reception. The following day they saluted the battery with 11 guns which was returned with an equal number.
They departed the town on 23 August having completed their re-supply and purchases of live stock and seed. The weather continued to be stormy. The melancholy gloom that set in after their departure from the last point of civilisation could only have been worsened with the punishment of the convict, Thomas Fitzgerald. He was given 36 lashes on 10 September for theft. Three privates were also punished with lashes for drunkenness, misbehaviour and theft. As if this was not enough, two more convicts died. Jeremiah David died of dysentery on 15 September and Christopher Smith on 3 October but the cause of his death was not stated.4
HMS Calcutta sailed into Port Phillip Harbour on Sunday 9 October 1803 two days after the anxiously waiting Ocean.
After arriving in Port Phillip on 9 August 1803, it was not too long before Collins had decided that the area he named Sullivan Bay and now known as Sorrento was not a desirable place for a permanent settlement. It had low open vegetation on poor sandy soil with no obvious supply of fresh water. The limited surveys of the harbour had not revealed any better alternatives in the short time available to them. Collins had been instructed to unload the ships as soon as possible and allow them to proceed to Port Jackson. Collins organised a party to be sent on 6 November in an open boat to Sydney with a letter to Governor King asking that the settlement be moved. Collins knew that approval for such a move may not be forthcoming and that the reply would not be quick so the establishment of the camp at Sullivan Bay began in earnest.
The Marines led by Lt. Johnson went ashore with some convicts to pitch tents and to sink casks in the sand to create wells for fresh-water at high tide. The camp was arranged on a flat sandy plain between headlands. The convict's tents were closest to the headland Western Sister. The Marines' tents were placed next followed by the parade ground and the storage tents. Rows of tents were interspersed with roads. Collins pitched his marquee at the command post on the eastern headland with two large cannons facing the sea and a flagstaff carrying the Union Jack. But these arrangements took quite some time so that most of the convicts were not unloaded with their baggage until 16 October 1803.5
Shortly after the tents were erected a copper was installed for washing and Mary Kearley, along with Elizabeth Bean and Sarah Spooner, was named as one of the Marines Wives listed in Governor Collins’ Garrison Orders at Port Phillip on 26 Oct 1803 who would be laundresses for the Marines:
The comfort and appearance of the Military depending on their cleanliness … The Commanding Officer ... directs and appoints the following women to be employed ... in the following manner: The wife of William Bean, Pte, to wash for 15 persons. The wife of George Curley (sic), Pte, to wash for 15 persons. The wife of James Spooner, Pte, to wash for 14 persons.6
He expressed his dissatisfaction with the standard of appearance and made it clear that uncleanliness and untidiness among the Marines would not be tolerated. A Copper was also erected for the convenience of cooking, and people were appointed to dress the provisions, which were made ready every day at 12 o'clock. Fires were not permitted around the tents in case a tent should catch fire. The tents and their contents were too valuable to risk such a loss.
Collins issued many orders in the early days of the encampment. In one of these he reminded the Marines of their responsibility to their King and Country and it is partly reproduced here to provide a feel for the expectations under which the Marines worked.
The Lieutenant Colonel, on taking the command of the Detachment of Royal Marines landed at Port Phillip, entertains a hope that they will all feel a just sense of the honourable situation in which they are placed; they have been selected by their sovereign to compose the Garrison for the protection of this infant Colony; he trusts this will stimulate them to use their best exertions, and enable the Lieut. Colonel to report to the Secretary of State that such trust has not been unworthily placed in them.
He hopes they all know that obedience to orders, sobriety, and cleanliness, form the essential points in the Character of a good soldier; while he observes that these are attended to, he shall feel a pride in having them under his command, and shall hold it his duty, by every means in his power, to render their situation more comfortable.
He is unwilling to mention the word Punishment, but it is necessary they should know his firm determination to have the strictest obedience paid to such orders as he may think proper to give, from time to time, for their regulation, and he trusts that when at a future period this shall be joined by other Detachments of their brave Comrades, he shall be able with pleasure to hold up this small band as an example worthy their imitation.
David Collins, Lieutenant-Governor,
Sullivan Bay, Port Phillip, 18 October, 1803.
If there was relief at surviving the long sea voyage it was short-lived and despite Collins orders on conduct to the Marines the next day Sergeant Richard Sargent was arrested and charged with drunkenness and misconduct. His court martial sentence was "to be broke and put into line as a private". Richard Sargent's wife Maria, whom he had married on the day of their departure from Spithead, had deserted him for the surgeon Matthew Bowden. Perhaps these 'alleviating circumstances' convinced Collins to reinstate him.7
The work schedule involved the convicts awakening at sunrise to the beating of a drum. Work began at 6 am with a half-hour break at 8 am and 4 p.m. and an hour for lunch at 12 noon. The drum again sounded at 1 PM to announce the resumption of work. Work ended at 6.30 p.m. and the night curfew was at 8 p.m. Prisoners were strictly forbidden to leave their tents after the tattoo sounded at 9 p.m. The Marines worked in rostered shifts around the clock to ensure the security of the settlement.
Every day except Sunday or when weather prevented it a daily parade of the Marines was held at 9 am and 7 p.m. The parade included 12 of the off duty privates together with one Serjeant, corporal and Lieutenant who mounted guard in front of the Marine Encampment. It seems likely that one day in four George Kearley participated in the parade and at other times took his turn on sentinel duty vigilantly preserving the peace and good order at the camp. The officer of the day was responsible for the daily guard and in the evening would do a visiting round. A patrol of a corporal and two privates did rounds of the encampment. Guards were also placed at various points around the camp, the Lieutenant Governor's tent, the landing site, the water sources and of course at the store. After the beating of the tattoo, sentinels were not to allow anybody to pass them without the Countersign. Prisoners taken during the night were sent to the Quarter Guard. The Sentinels at the Landing Place were particularly instructed to ensure that no one tarried around their post or interfered with the landing of provisions. They were also to prevent any Spirits to be landed at, or near their Post without a written Permit, signed by the Lieutenant Governor.8
The stores were strictly supervised and protected against pillaging by sentinels 24 hours per day. The store sentinel was instructed not to permit anyone but the Lieutenant Governor, the commissary officer or his immediate sub-ordinates to enter the store. The limited rations were issued weekly, with women receiving a two-third ration, children over five a half ration while children less than five years received a one-fourth ration. The full ration issued to all men was:
- 7 Pounds of Beef, or 4 pounds of Pork;
- 7 Pounds of Biscuit;
- 1 Pounds of Flour;
- 6 Ounces of Sugar; and
- half a pint of spirits (to military men).
Despite the apparently tight security, absconding and robberies had become a problem for Collins. Five deserters were found and brought back to camp on 16 November, the same day that the Ocean finally set sail for Port Jackson with the intention of heading to China. Two other absconders were later found dead. The following day Knopwood read Collins’ commission to the entire camp, which empowered Collins to deliver punishment to these escaped convicts and the Drummer delivered 100 lashes to each. Despite this example of corporal punishment another two convicts George Lee and David Gibson escaped on 12 December the day the Ocean returned from Port Jackson. Although Gibson did eventually return to the camp at Sullivan Bay with news of the location of a large river (the Yarra) for Collins, Lee refused to return with him and was never found.9 Other convicts including William Buckley absconded on Christmas day and he was presumed dead by the time the settlement was abandoned. The expression ‘Buckley’s chance’ originated because in 1835 Buckley was found alive and well having been living a life of freedom for 32 years in friendship with the Aborigines.10
Collins commented in his letter to Lord Hobart that the Marines spent a lot of time searching for the absconders. It was for this reason and the generally low morale amongst Collins' Marines, that one sergeant and ten privates were enlisted from Captain Woodriff's Marines and landed to assist with Garrison duty and the security of the settlement.11
Whilst Collins continued to wait for news from Port Jackson, the routine of establishing the settlement continued. The married Marines were given time to build themselves houses. A stone battery was commenced and seeds were sown for crops. Illness began to take hold in the population only a few weeks after they had arrived with 30 people recorded on the hospital lists. Much of this was attributed to the brackish water but scurvy was also becoming prevalent.
On 12 December, to the surprise and pleasure of everyone at the camp, the Ocean reappeared in Port Phillip Bay. It brought news that the settlement could indeed be moved and that the Ocean had been commissioned by King to assist with the move. Less settling was the news that war had again resumed between France and Britain. Upon hearing this Captain Woodriff decided he must depart with his warship to return home. The Calcutta departed Port Phillip Bay on 18 December much to the dismay of Collins.12
The Marines were obviously unhappy with their situation at Port Phillip and news that they were to be moving even further from Port Jackson did nothing to improve their mood. Drunkenness was becoming prevalent. With the loss of the Calcutta the Marines had been reduced to their original numbers and increased sickness meant a reduction in daytime sentinels. Complaints were being made about the daily drills and some Marines decided to express their grievances to Collins by waiting upon him in a group. Collins responded harshly to this discontent that he must have felt was akin to mutiny and singled out two of the privates, James Ray and Robert Andrews, whom he believed to be ringleaders to be confined and court martialled for mutiny. They were sentenced to receive 900 lashes each, and were actually dealt out 700 and 500 respectively.13
Perhaps due to fear of mutiny from the Marines or perhaps because of his belief in their inadequacy, Collins established an association of Civil Officers to mount a nightly watch at the camp. The night watch included the most trusted of the convicts including six ex soldiers, Gibraltar mutineers. Also included was Matthew Powers perhaps because his wife Hannah was still in favour with Collins. To prevent drunkenness Collins ordered that the Marines drink their ration of spirits on the spot and were no longer permitted to return with them to their tents, which prevented trading.14
With the continued and growing discontent amongst both the convicts and the Marines it is doubtless that Collins was looking forward to removing himself from the shores of Port Phillip Bay. Although he was well aware of the strategic interest in establishing a settlement on Bass Strait and now knew the location of the Yarra River, he nevertheless opted instead to relocate his discontent community to the Derwent in Van Diemen’s Land. There he thought he would be able to join forces with Lt. John Bowen and reduce the hardship of establishing themselves in another camp.
Governor King had arranged for the two vessels the Ocean and Lady Nelson to assist Collins with removing his settlement. The Lady Nelson was built in England in 1798 and commenced her maiden voyage to Australia in 1800 a voyage that took 10 months. The British government specifically built her for government use in the Colony of New South Wales.15
The Lady Nelson was under the command of Lieut. Simmons, with Jorgen Jorgenson as first mate when she set sail from Port Phillip for the Derwent on 30 January 1804 with the free settlers aboard.16 The Ocean set sail with her but was soon left behind her carrying 200 prisoners, their wives and children and a guard of 25 marines, Lieut. Edward Lord, and the civil establishment. Altogether with the crew, the number of people on board the Ocean was close to 300. So overloaded was the ship that one third of the convicts were rostered on the deck at all times. Though Captain Mertho estimated that the voyage would take less than a week it took 16 days due to ill-winds and bad weather. This resulted in severe food shortages. The precooked food for the trip ran out after only four days. There were no facilities to cook for the number of people on board and so the convicts fared very poorly indeed. Mr. J. P. Fawkner commented that “they had a miserable time of it during their 15 days passage, couped up in a small vessel of 480 tons." The expedition finally reached Frederick Henry Bay on 11 February 1804, but the weather again was unfavourable for reaching Risdon Cove and they were forced to wait a further four days.17
Although no passenger lists exist it seems likely that George and Mary Kearley accompanied the first group across Bass Strait with Collins on the Ocean, Mary as the only wife of a Marine to accompany the party. If George Kearley continued to be employed as Lt. Lord's servant he would have had to accompany Lord on this voyage and his wife with him.18
It wasn't until 18 May 1804 that the Ocean finally set sail from Port Phillip with the remainder of the settlement and supplies and what small harvest they had managed to reap from the crops that had been planted. They left behind them a few huts and other constructions as relicts of their short occupation.
- 1. Collins to Hobart, 16 July 1803, HRA series 3, volume 1, p 24.
- 2. Harris, GP: Letters of G. P. Harris 1803-1812, Edited by Barbara Hamilton-Arnold, Arden Press, Sorrento, Victoria, 1994, p 18.
- 3. Ibid, pp. 45-46. Humphrey, A. W. H.: Narrative of a Voyage to Port Phillip & Van Diemen's Land with Lieut. Governor Collins 1803-1804, edited by John Currey, Melbourne Colony Press, 1984, pp. 54-55.
- 4. Nicholls, M (ed.): The Diary of Reverend Robert Knopwood 1803-1838, The Tasmanian Research Association, 1977, pp. 15-22; Currey, John: David Collins, A Colonial Life, Melbourne University Press, Victoria, 2000, p. 203; Tipping, Marjorie: Convicts Unbound, The Story of the Calcutta Convicts and their Settlement in Australia, Viking O'Neill, Victoria, 1988, p 267 & 311.
- 5. Currey, John: David Collins, A Colonial Life, Melbourne University Press, Victoria, 2000, p 203.
- 6. Given, John W., 'The Royal Marines at Port Philip, New South Wales and at Hobart Town, Van Diemen's Land: 1803-1812', Hobart Town 1804 First Settlers Association, September 1997, ISBN: 0-646-34198-7, p 42.
- 7. Currey: David Collins, p 203.
- 8. Collins, David, Lieutenant-Governor: Garrison Orders; Sullivan Bay, Port Phillip, 16 October, 1803.
- 9. Tipping, Marjorie: Convicts Unbound, The Story of the Calcutta Convicts and their Settlement in Australia, Viking O'Neill, Victoria, p 276, 290.
- 10. Ibid. p 260.
- 11. Collins to Hobart 28 February 1804, HRA Series 3, volume 1, p 59.
- 12. Currey: David Collins, p 211.
- 13. Collins to King, 28 Feb 1804, HRA Series 3, volume 1, p 217; Currey: David Collins, p 214.
- 14. Tipping, Convicts unbound, p 94; Currey: David Collins, p 214.
- 15. Tasmania on line: http://www.tased.edu.au/tasonline/ladynel/history.htm accessed 13 September 2003.
- 16. Backhouse-Walker, James: ‘The Founding of Hobart, by Lieut.-Governor Collins’ In Early Tasmania; M.C.Reed, Government Printer, 1989, p 60-61; Currey: David Collins, p 60.
- 17. Ibid., p 60-61; Currey: David Collins, p 215-216.
- 18. Collins to King 29 February 1804, Enclosure 2: Numbers of people victualled at the Derwent on 26 February 1804, HRA series 3, volume 1, p 227.