Norfolk Island’s First Settlement

The island’s first settlement was abandoned for various reasons, and the majority of the inhabitants were re-settled in Van Diemen’s Land. The source for this article is a paper presented by Michael Roe at a conference in 2008 to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the arrival of the Norfolk Islanders in Tasmania. It can be found in the Tasmanian Historical Research Association Inc. Papers and Proceedings Vol 56 No 3 December 2009. It is titled The Slow death of Norfolk’s first Settlement.

Why did Roe use the words “slow death” in his title? From the following account you will see that it took many years to finally re-settle the Island’s inhabitants. This of course was not the renowned harsh convict settlement, but the first one which was initially established to augment the food supplies for the First Fleeters in Port Jackson. Philip Gidley King had been sent to establish the settlement on Norfolk Island in 1788. Over the ensuing years, the cost of maintaining that first settlement was often criticized, especially by Governor Hunter during his term of office from 1795 to 1800. 


On 4 June 1803, The Secretary of State for the Colonies, Lord Hobart, sent a despatchto both the
Governor of New South Wales and to Joseph Foveaux, the Commandant of Norfolk Island, suggesting a partial relocation of the Islanders to Port Dalrymple. Philip Gidley King was by now the Governor of the colony. It is interesting that Lord Hobart’s dispatch contained a geographical error as he stated that Port Dalrymple was on the southern coast of Van Diemen’s Land, but also said that it was near the eastern entrance to Bass’s Streight. So, while Foveaux informed the Islanders of the terms of relocation, Governor King sent a small detachment to possess Port Dalrymple. Forveaux had initially received a positive response from the Islanders who were to be offered four times as much land as they presently held, and they were also to be victualled for a year as part of the re-settlement. It was even suggested that they could opt to have their newly granted land at any new settlement (e.g. Port Phillip or King Island, or at the Paterson or Hunter River in NSW). When it was suggested though that the relocation should take place before harvest time, the Islanders were not happy. Some became disenchanted with the whole scheme of leaving the Island.

Some of the older settlers on Norfolk Island decided that they did not want to leave. Many were not happy with the terms offered, and refused to move. Governor King was not keen on a total relocation of the Islanders, and he decided that not only should the island continue to raise pigs to supply meat for the colony, but also it should service the British whalers in the southern ocean.

Eventually, two ships, Investigator and Harrington, took 159 people from Norfolk Island to Port Jackson in early 1805, and they were then transferred to Port Dalrymple. It took a long time to remove all the inhabitants (hence Roe’s description of it being a ‘slow death’), and there was continued political controversy over whether or not a complete evacuation was even wise. In September 1808, City of Edinburgh loaded 250 Norfolk Islanders and took them to the Derwent River.

By July 1811, there were still more than 200 people on Norfolk. Most of these left in early 1813 bound for Port Dalrymple. Final departure was in February 1814 when a dozen or so dogs were left on the island to kill any remaining pigs and goats and it was reported that “the buildings of every description were set fire to, and so completely destroyed that….there remains no inducement for human beings of any kind to visit that place.

The article also includes the “General Return of the Inhabitants of Norfolk Island, 10th April 1812”. They are listed under the following headings:- Civil Department; Detachment of the 73rd Regiment; Women of the Detachment; Children of the Detachment; Free Men Victualled; Government Servants Victualled; Free Women Victualled; Children Victualled; Free men not Victualled; Free Women Not Victualled; and Children Not Victualled.

Norfolk Island’s Second Settlement

Much has been written about Norfolk Island when it was re-opened as a harsh place of punishment in 1825. It was to be such a hostile place that the mere threat of being sent there was to act as a deterrent to those committing crimes in England.

If your ancestor was sent there, then there should be a record of time spent on the hulk Phoenix before being transferred to Norfolk Island. Convict Connections has indexed four SRNSW microfilms pertaining to the Hulk which was moored in Lavender Bay in Sydney Harbour.

The first Commandant was Captain Turton and the buildings of the first settlement at Kingston were resurrected and new ones built. Punishment was severe and was meant to degrade the men and break their spirits. Escape was near to impossible. The harsh discipline often had the opposite result and made the men more recalcitrant.

During Commandant Morisset’s rule, mutinies were attempted and were met with floggings and hangings.

SRNSW Film 2720 has a section devoted to an attempted mutiny in 1833. It includes depositions given by prisoners and soldiers, and a plan of the buildings implicated in the rather detailed attempt. These depositions give a good deal of information about conditions on the Island.

The following was written about Norfolk Island by the Reverend William Ullathorne in his booklet The Horrors of Transportation written after he gave evidence to the Molesworth Committee on Transportation in 1838.

The penal settlement of Norfolk Island is a small island about a thousand miles from Sydney, to which convicts are transported from New South Wales… There are above 1,200 criminals in Norfolk Island… They are fettered with heavy chains, harassed with heavy work, and fed on salt meat and maize bread. Their existence is one of desperation….

“The work,” as Sir George Arthur informs you, “being of the most incessant and galling description the settlement can produce; and any disobedience of orders, or turbulence, or other misconduct, is instantaneously punished with the lash.” So severe indeed is the privation of these men, so dreary and desolate their state of mind, cut off from all communication except with each other, and deprived of every source of human enjoyment, raising their miseries, as they herd together, upon each other, without hope as without help, so absolute is their despair, that the most daring attempts, though commonly useless, are made to escape, and murders are even committed from a vehement desire of being relieved from their own intense misery. The late Governor of Van Diemen’s Land states two cases of the kind, in one of which the man murdered his dearest friend, saying he was weary of life. I myself witnessed the execution of one in Norfolk Island who had deliberately, and without any malice against him, split open the skull of his comrade with a spade when at work, he pleaded guilty, and declared that his sole object was to obtain his own deliverance out of life. Several such cases have occurred.

The late Chief Justice of New South Wales, when interrogated by a Parliamentary Committee, on the convicts of Norfolk Island, being asked, “Would it not be better to burn them alive?” said, “I cannot say… if it were put to myself, I should not hesitate a moment in preferring death under any form that you could present to me, than such a state of endurance as Norfolk Island.”

One unhappy man on the same island, when brought up to receive sentence, wrung the heart, and brought tears to the eyes of his judge, as he exclaimed, “Let a man be what he will when he comes here, he is soon made as bad as the rest; the heart of a man is taken from him, and there is given to him the heart of a beast.

Following the harsh disciplinarian terms of Commandants Morisset and Anderson, and after the Molesworth enquiry, Maconochie arrived in February 1840 with his reformational ideas. He put in place a ‘Merits System’ which saw good behaviour rewarded. However, there was much criticism of his ideas by his superiors.

Britain had decided to end transportation to NSW and, in 1842, control of the Island came under the jurisdiction of Van Deimen’s Land. Prisoners began arriving in 1843 directly from Britain and were to spend the first stage of their transportation on Norfolk Island under a new probation system.

Maconochie was replaced by Childs in 1844 and strict measures were once again put in place. A report to the British Parliament in 1847 outlined the conditions on the island and was instrumental in the decision to close it as a penal settlement.

In 1852, when transportation of convicts to VDL ceased, the future of Norfolk Island was decided. It was to be handed over to the descendants of the mutineers of the Bounty who had been living on Pitcairn Island.


Coal River (Newcastle)

The penal colony here was established in 1804 – initially for the purpose of punishing the Irish convicts responsible for an uprising at Castle Hill. Other repeat offenders were sent here until 1824. Convicts worked in the coal mines, gathered shells and converted them into lime, constructed a break-water, and also cut timber. As settlement along the Hunter River expanded, the proximity of the convicts and the increasing number of absconders posed a threat to the settlers. New places of exile further to the north were established at Port Macquarie and Moreton Bay.


Port Macquarie

This penal settlement operated from 1822 to 1834. Convicts were sent here as a form of secondary punishment and a female factory was also established. The men mostly felled timber which was shipped down to Sydney.


Moreton Bay

As Convict Connections is a Brisbane-based group, it is imperative that we look at this place of exile a little more comprehensively.

Very little evidence of the convict era remains visible today because the Moreton Bay Penal Settlement was only ever going to be temporary – it always going to be opened up to free settlers, so there was no need for the government to outlay great expense on grand buildings.

So, why was there a need for a penal settlement at Moreton Bay? Primarily it was to move re-offending convicts further north from Port Macquarie. The increased population in that place and in other newly discovered areas coincided with a greater influx of convicts after the Napoleonic wars. There were also concerns about the French and whether or not they may attempt to set up their own strategic settlements. This fear had led to the establishment of a number of outposts such as Melville Island, King George’s Sound, and settlements either side of Bass Strait. These all had small numbers of convicts and were mostly inappropriate sites to sustain large numbers of convicts. Moreton Bay proved sustainable once it had relocated from the original site at Redcliffe.

There were eight Commandants in charge while the penal settlement was in existence. They were all military men who arrived with their regiments. Henry Miller, arrived at Red Cliffe Point on 14 September 1824 with convicts who had volunteered to come in order to get a reduction in their sentences. He was replaced by Peter Bishop who was in command for about 8 months.
It was not until Patrick Logan was appointed that major work was carried out and the number of convict arrivals began to peak. Logan was murdered, and James Clunie took over. He carried on the work started by Logan and during his time the number of convicts at Moreton Bay peaked. He was the longest serving of the Commandants. Foster Fyans had been at Norfolk Island before he became the next Commandant. He was a rather eccentric man who gained the position while he was waiting for a suitable civil service appointment to come his way. The next Commandant was  Sydney Cotton. During his term, fewer convicts were being sent. By the time  George Gravatt and Owen Gorman were in charge, the settlement was winding down and preparations were underway for opening up the town to free settlers.

The Government had ordered that no free settlers could come within 50 miles of the convict settlement. By 1840 however there were a number of squatters up on the Darling Downs and they were given permission to bring their wool down for export before the settlement was thrown open to free settlers. German missionaries had also been allowed to open their German station at Zion’s Hill (now Nundah) before the last of the convicts had been removed.

Lieutenant Henry Miller of the 40th Regiment arrived at Moreton Bay with his wife and family; a sergeant, a corporal and 12 privates and their wives; Scott the store-keeper – who also acted as surgeon; Scott’s assistant; 29 convicts who had volunteered to come in the hope of gaining earlier freedom; and an overseer. They were sent to establish the settlement at Redcliffe – but the proved to be inappropriate. Miller later wrote –

…my written instructions… directed me first to build huts for the soldiers and prisoners, then a Store House, Guard House and jail, and those completed, to clear one hundred acres of land for the reception of maize. To carry these instructions into effect only 29 prisoners and one overseer were put under my command – the overseer was dissatisfied with this salary and allowances and returned immediately to Sydney……I became at once Commandant, Superintendent and Overseer; nothing was undertaken that I did not plan, nothing was carried on that I did not inspect, literally under a burning sun earning my bread in the sweat of my brow….

He stated that the soil was sandy and sterile; that there was no suitable timber for building or suitable grass for thatching in the vicinity; and the water supply was inadequate.

The supply of medicines was used up quickly as many of the prisoners became ill. Despite repeated requests, no more arrived for a further 10 months! For the first 5 months no other vessel even arrived. Illness meant that there were only 9-12 men a day to carry out the necessary work.

In May 1825, Miller abandoned the site at Redcliffe on orders from Governor Brisbane to re-establish the settlement on the banks of the Brisbane River. The intended site was to be near Breakfast Creek, but Miller seems to have miscalculated the distance and moved further upstream. He says –

In April 1825 I received orders to abandon the settlement and form another at a distance of 27 miles; this I accomplished; though the difficulties of the task, situated as I then was, with my original few wasted and enfeebled by sickness, were so many and so great …. a short time after this removal was effected, so little were our wants attended to, that our supply of flour totally failed…. we found ourselves reduced to the necessity of living on salt meat, and field pease, the baneful effects of which soon became deplorably visible, and in the midst of all this suffering, in August 1825, Captain Bishop arrived to displace me…. I was removed to cover the mistakes of others ….”

While at Moreton Bay, Mrs Miller gave birth to a son they named Charles Moreton Miller – the first white-born Queenslander.

Commandant Peter Bishop  arrived in August 1825 on the Lalla Rookh. He was also of the 40th Regiment. Arriving with him were 28 prisoners who had been specifically sentenced by the Courts to serve time at ‘Moreton Bay’. The ship unloaded its cargo and passengers at Amity Point, and a smaller boat was used to transfer everything to the new settlement. One of the 28 prisoners had a life sentence, but the rest were sent for short-term sentences of 3 years, or 18 months, or a year, or for the remainder of their original sentence. There were also runaways from Port Macquarie among them.

Bishop’s term lasted just 8 months, and, during that time, Henry Miller stayed on to act as Bishop’s Second-in-Command. On 14 March 1826, Bishop wrote his last report from Moreton Bay –

Our present buildings were merely temporary, being constructed of slabs and plastering for want of proper mechanics to erect others. I have but two men capable of doing anything. There were 10 men sent here some short time ago from Port Macquarie, as mechanics, but there really is not one amongst them.

An hospital and quarters for a surgeon attached and a gaol is absolutely necessary. A master builder is required here before any new permanent buildings are put up….

....We are on very good terms with the natives … I should recommend bullocks, cows and sheep to be sent here, and not pigs for they do not thrive here…. It will be very beneficial to the settlement to have some seed potatoes, onions and cabbage seeds. All the other kinds of seeds I have. Unless a man who understands gardening is sent to me, all will be of no use for the man I have in the garden knows nothing about it.

Captain Patrick Logan was appointed to replace Peter Bishop. Luckily, he knew something about agriculture!
He had arrived in NSW in 1825 with the 57th Regiment which was deployed to Moreton Bay in March 1826 on the small vessel, Amity.

He immediately saw the problem that larger ships were unable to cross the bar into the river, and saw the need for a permanent vessel to carry cargo to the settlement. He saw no reason why it could not be built in the settlement as there were two ships carpenters already in Moreton Bay.

Logan felt that the new settlement should sustain crops of sugar cane, tobacco and cotton, and he requested that seeds be brought up from Port Macquarie. He felt that the existing buildings would suffice for a few years – but that permanent buildings would require skilled tradesmen.

Logan has often been referred to as a tyrant who meted out extremely harsh discipline. There are arguments for and against this judgement. Yes he was a disciplinarian, but he was in command of a fledgling settlement made up of the worst type of criminals. He believed in the use of three types of punishment – solitary confinement, hard labour and flogging. He asked for permission to build a gaol with solitary cells, but that took time to build. There was no treadmill for hard labour.

Although the windmill was built in early 1827, a treadmill was not added until 1828 or 1829. So, Logan had no option initially but to resort to flogging to maintain discipline. On occasion he ordered up to 200 lashes as punishment – but this was not the norm. His successor, Clunie, occasionally ordered 250 and even 300 lashes.

Governor Darling visited Moreton Bay in June 1826, some 3 months after Logan’s arrival. Logan was not in the settlement. He was out on one of his many explorations of the surrounding country-side. It seems he had not been informed of the visit. The Governor apparently was not happy with the site on the river, nor was he impressed with the plan of the hospital and where it was sited. The prisoners’ barracks had been erected without his knowledge or approval. None of this, however, could be attributed to Logan.

Logan was not happy about the lack of notification of the Governor’s visit. He wrote to Governor Darling the following month agreeing that the site of the settlement would not have been his choice. He felt that Green Point (Dunwich) would have been a better choice. He advised that the headquarters of the settlement should be moved to Stradbroke Island and a small settlement should remain at Brisbane Town to supply timber and grain. He envisaged 200 or 300 of the better class of convicts being selected for this and the others could be worked on Stradbroke and Peel Islands.

This of course did not eventuate and it seems Logan enjoyed the opportunities to escape from the settlement to carry out his many expeditions. In April 1829, Governor Darling commended Logan for his exploration and the discovery of two rivers. He also recommended an increase in Logan’s salary as in the 3 years he had been Commandant, the number of convicts had increased from 200 to nearly 1000.

Doctor Bowman visited Moreton Bay and sent a report to the Colonial Secretary in June 1829. He was impressed with Logan’s management of the settlement. His report reveals that the summer months were the worst for diseases, and as the months became cooler, the number of patients decreased. It was obvious, he declared, that the hospital would not be large enough to cope with increasing numbers of convicts.

Sickness had occurred mainly because of the lack of fresh water. Ponds had initially been used to collect water during wet weather but it became stagnant and putrid. Poor diet and the effects of living on salted provisions were also factors.

However, Dr Bowman was pleased to report that there was now an abundant supply of vegetables daily and good water had been stored in purposely dug ponds. He asked that a daily allowance of fresh meat be made available to those in the hospital and once or twice a week to all in the settlement. He suggested that cattle and sheep should be sent by sea or land.

On 12 Sep 1829, Logan reported that he had commenced the new Agricultural Establishment at Eagle Farm. He had selected 150 men and would increase the number to 200 when quarters had been built. He proposed that 1000 acres would be cultivated.

A new code of regulations for penal settlements was introduced in 1829. A letter to Logan enclosed with a copy of the long list of regulations stated – “When the convicts become numerous, as they formerly were at Port Macquarie and are now at Moreton Bay, it was difficult to find suitable employment for them. It has consequently been directed that the Spade and Hoe shall be substituted for the Plough, which, independent of other advantages, will greatly diminish the demand for Horses and Oxen, and be the means of keeping the convicts constantly and usefully employed.”

There were 81 regulations to be adhered to!

In 1830, Edward Hall Smith, the editor of the Sydney Monitor accused Logan of murder. The strongly critical editor seems to have made a lot of allegations which led to him being prosecuted for libel. The charges against Logan were unfounded and action was to be taken against Hall – but Logan himself was murdered, and the matter was dropped. As a result, Logan was never publicly cleared of the charge.

About to be deployed to India, Logan had taken the opportunity for a final exploratory trek into the Brisbane Valley. On his way back to Ipswich he was separated from his party and was murdered either by natives or convicts – depending on which story you wish to believe.

Dr Henry Cowper led the search party which eventually found Logan’s body. The next Commandant stated “Hopes were entertained of his being alive till the 28th ultimo, when Dr. Cowper, whose exertions on this occasion were very great and for which I felt indebted, discovered the dead stinking horse in a creek and not far from it, at the top of the bank, the body of Captain Logan, buried about a foot underground”

Logan was a man of vigour, courage and enterprise. He did not tolerate incompetence or laziness in either the convicts or his troops. He believed in strict discipline and wanted not only the convicts to fear him, but also his soldiers. He revelled in the thrill of exploration, and, quite possibly, he resented returning to the settlement and all of its problems. That could have possibly contributed to the harsh discipline he meted out. You have to remember that he was given increasing numbers of re-offending convicts to accommodate and feed. Convict labour, under his supervision, had to supply the food, build the shelter and the necessary buildings, fell and saw the timber, quarry the stone, dig the wells and ponds, make the roads, dig the drains, etc.

On Logan’s death, Captain Clunie of the 17th Regiment took over. His term lasted from October 1830 to November 1835 and he was the longest serving Commandant. Like Logan, Clunie was a strict disciplinarian although he sometimes showed acts of kindness towards the prisoners. Not long after taking office, two runaways were sent back to Moreton Bay. They had been apprehended at Port Macquarie after robbing a house. They were to be hanged as a deterrent to other convicts who may contemplate absconding, and orders were that the Commandant had to ensure as many as possible viewed the hanging of Charles Fagan and John Bulbridge. 

Under Logan, many of the buildings in the settlement had been completed or were in the process of being completed, so Clunie saw to their completion. Not long after his arrival the number of convicts at the settlement reached their peak.

Like Logan, Clunie had to contend with absconders – most of whom returned after finding they could not cope in the bush. Clunie also had to contend with an attempt by 11 convicts to seize a schooner at Amity. He also had to report on the indiscretions of Dr Cowper at the female factory.

On a light hearted note, I am sure he was not at all impressed when he was outwitted by two brothers – Irish convicts, Patrick and Owen Flanagan, who looked alike. Patrick had re offended in Penrith and was sent to Moreton Bay for 3 years in 1828. At much the same time, Owen was caught pig-stealing in Sydney and was sent to Moreton Bay for 7 years. They arrived on the same ship and their descriptions were recorded. The only difference recorded was that Patrick was an inch taller.

After 3 years when Patrick had done his time, Owen pretended to be his brother and obtained a certificate of freedom in his brother’s name and he returned to Sydney. Patrick then demanded his freedom. An enquiry was held and Owen was apprehended and sent back to Moreton Bay. In the meantime, Patrick, having served his time, absconded into the bush but returned a couple of months later. He was given his Ticket of Freedom and returned to Sydney.

While Clunie was Commandant there were concerns in Britain about the treatment of convicts in places of secondary punishment – especially Norfolk Island and Moreton Bay – so an inquiry was conducted in 1832.  Allan Cunningham answered questions relating to the time he spent at Moreton Bay in 1828 and 1829. He stated – “Captain Logan was a very good disciplinarian, and I do not doubt that Captain Clunie, of the 17th, has followed up the same course of discipline.”

When questioned about punishment in comparison to that on Norfolk Island, Cunningham defended the Commandant’s use of the lash saying, “It was necessary for the Commandant to act with great determination in order to govern so large a body of desperate men.” He did not believe unnecessary severity was used.

On the question of escapees, he said many who did escape returned even though they knew they would be flogged. They returned in a state of starvation after trying to live on fern roots. They were also afraid of being killed by the natives.

The Sydney Gazette showed praise for Clunie at the end of his term. He was described as being a rigid disciplinarian and a mild-mannered gentleman, and that he had been “relieved in his command because the gallant regiment to which he belongs is about to proceed to the East Indies.” In November 1835, Clunie was replaced by Captain Foster Fyans who was Commandant until July 1837.

Foster Fyans had arrived in the colony with the 4th Regiment in 1833, and he and his men were immediately despatched to Norfolk Island. Commandant Morrisset was ill, so Fyans took over as the acting Commandant. At that very time Morisset had been aware of rumours of a convict up-rising and Fyans also had his suspicions after an anonymous note appeared in the soldiers’ barracks warning them to “beware of poison”. The mutiny was attempted on 5th January with an elaborate and detailed plan – but the soldiers were prepared.

There was a short combat before the mutineering convicts were caught and secured. Although Fyans recalled later that there were ‘nearly one thousand ruffians’, the actual number was closer to 200. Five convicts died and about 50 were wounded. No soldiers died.

Fyans and his men took revenge in the coming months by concocting new punishments. He earned the title of Flogger Fyans and even devised a new cat of nine tails saying that “prisoners of this description cannot be treated as a Gentleman’s Servant in Sydney”. The men refused to be broken and took the punishment meted out in silence. Encouraged by Fyans, his soldiers were deliberately cruel and sadistic.

Fyans presided over the resultant proceedings and 13 of the convicts were hanged after they were made to dig their own graves. Foster Fyans was commended by Governor Bourke for his handling of the uprising.

In 1835, Fyans returned to his Regiment’s Headquarters at Parramatta. He wanted to retire from the Army so he applied for a suitable position in the Civil Service. There was no position available at the time, so he was sent to Moreton Bay as Commandant until a suitable position would become available for him.

As Commandant at Moreton Bay, it has been recorded that Foster Fyans tried to find a balance between discipline and humanity – despite how he had earlier treated the Norfolk Island mutineers. You have to remember that he was then dealing with notorious convicts and the depositions show that the ringleaders had hatched a well devised and elaborate plan to take a ship and escape the island. Had the plan worked it would have had dire repercussions for him as the acting Commandant, so would a little revenge in the meted out discipline have been unexpected?

As early as 1832, Governor Bourke had been advocating free settlement at Moreton Bay as he considered that it was no longer suitable as a penal settlement. So, during Fyan’s entire term, thoughts had already turned to the opening up of the settlement to free settlers. The numbers of convicts had decreased and only short term prisoners were being sent. Escapes were no longer as prevalent as they were when the earlier Commandants were in charge.

In March 1836 two Quaker missionaries, Backhouse and Walker visited the settlement and Fyans found them quaintly amusing. They reported on the conditions in which the convicts and the military lived, they listed all the fruits and vegetables growing in the Government Garden, and they reported on the lack of bibles. They showed concern for the female convicts in the town. Those at Eagle Farm were more secure, but the close proximity of the military men to the women at the town’s Female Factory caused them to report that the Commandant had greater difficulty in“preserving discipline among the military than among the prisoners”.

One commented, “To our regret we heard an officer swearing at the men, and using other improper and exasperating language.” They said they could find no fault with Fyan’s administration, but they criticized the amount of time the prisoners were kept on the treadmill.

Reverend Atkins visited for 8 days in January 1837. His report is not entirely accurate as he wrote that the settlement was exclusively occupied by female prisoners and that there were two establishments about six miles apart. He also noted that the Commandant had trouble keeping the soldiers away from the female convicts. Atkins described Captain Fyans as a bachelor, about 45 years of age, who was rather eccentric in his habits.

In May 1836, the Stirling Castle was wrecked north of Gladstone. Clunie sent convict John Graham with the rescue party as he had been living with the blacks in the area for some time after he absconded. Graham was credited with saving Mrs Eliza Fraser.

In 1837, the 4th Regiment was ordered to go to India. Fortunately for Fyans, the residents of the new town of Geelong in Victoria were in dire need of a magistrate, so his Civil Service position finally eventuated – and a new Commandant was appointed.

Major Sydney Cotton of the 28th Regiment was Commandant from July 1837 to May 1839. He had previously served in Burma before being transferred to NSW in 1835 and had earlier been knighted for his service during the Indian Mutiny.

Andrew Petrie also arrived in 1837 as the Foreman of Works. Also in 1837, German missionaries arrived and settled at Zion’s Hill (now Nundah).

Governor Bourke was replaced by Governor Gipps in February 1838 and plans were well underway to open Moreton Bay to free settlers. Three assistant surveyors were sent to draw up town plans and to draw maps so that land could be advertised for sale.

With fewer convicts arriving, the settlement was easier to manage. When Major Cotton departed in May 1839, with him went 57 female convicts and 19 male convicts.

Lieutenant George Gravatt was also of the 28th Regiment. He was the Commandant for a very short period, from May to July 1839. By then only 94 convicts remained at Moreton Bay. He took charge only until the next Commandant arrived as his Regiment was being sent to India where he died in 1843.

Lieutenant Owen Gorman of the 80th Regiment was born in Ireland in 1799. He arrived in NSW in February 1839, and was appointed as Commandant from July 1839 to May 1842 when the settlement was finally closed.

On arrival he reported to Governor Gipps – “The whole of the women, 57 in number, have been withdrawn, and the male convicts reduced to 94 – a number which will barely be sufficient for the custody and protection of the property of the home Government, particularly of the flocks and herds which cannot be advantageously disposed of until the country shall be open to settlers.” 
Gorman’s main responsibility was to provide a military outpost as so few convicts remained. The last load of prisoners arrived in November 1839.

Gorman can be credited with the active role he took in developing the district when it was in its transition stage. A month after his appointment he sent a party of explorers, led by ex-convict George Brown, to New England. They went via Cunningham’s Gap to the Darling Downs and reached Inverell. The intention was to set up communication between the settlement and the stations on the Darling Downs and to the south. It was obvious that Brisbane Town would become an important port for inland produce. Squatters began arriving on the Darling Downs and, in 1840, Patrick Leslie had won approval from Governor Gipps to allow his supplies to be landed at Brisbane Town. Despite the 50 mile barrier, the squatters were able to export their wool and pick up their supplies through the port before the convicts were officially removed.

With the gradual withdrawal of convicts in operation, the land was surveyed in preparation for free settlement. I have two laminated maps if you want to look at them later. One of the surveyors was Robert Dixon, and he and the Commandant were not always on friendly terms.

Gorman’s character seems to have come into disrepute. He was dismissed from his position as Magistrate due to his immoral association with a female convict. When Governor Gipps came to Moreton Bay in March 1842, he was informed that Gorman’s conduct with the female convicts and the native women was common knowledge in the settlement. One of the German missionaries was keen to voice his opinion. Gipps concluded that there was a great deal of jealousy shown towards Gorman because he had risen up from the ranks in the military.

The Governor announced the closure of the penal settlement on 10 February 1842 and it was officially proclaimed a free settlement on 4 May 1842. On 7 December the first Brisbane land sales were held in Sydney.

In all 2259 males and 144 females came to Moreton Bay as convicts. The most that were here at any one time was 1020. Over 500 absconded – many briefly, and some making more than one attempt.

King George’s Sound, Western Australia

David Murray, the Superintendent of His Majesty’s Hulk Phoenix, wrote in March 1829 –

I have the honour to state for your information that the prisoner named in the margin, {Adam Moore, “Asia”} who was received at this establishment on the 27th of December 1828, from Port Macquarie, and was discharged to Hyde Park Barracks on the 3rd of January 1829, and on the 6th of January was again received at this establishment from His Majesty’s Gaol, being convicted at the usual sessions, Sydney, on the 5th of January 1829 for stealing in a dwelling house and sentenced to 3 years to a Penal Settlement.

On 25th July 1829,  Adam Moore and four other convicts John Murphy, William Hanley, Henry Stassleton and John Fitzgerald are listed as having been discharged from the Phoenix Hulk and sent to King George’s Sound.

This is the only incidence I found on AONSW Reel 822 of prisoners being sent to this far-off settlement from the hulk Phoenix. The 1828 Census on CD shows there were 41 inhabitants at King George’s Sound in that year.

When and why was the penal settlement at King George’s Sound established? It was greatly feared that France would claim the west coast and encourage settlement around King George’s Sound (Albany). They already had ships in the vicinity. As this part of the continent was on the shipping route between Britain and Port Jackson, Earl Bathurst instructed Governor Darling to claim a suitable site for settlement to thwart the French. On 9th November 1826, the brig Amity sailed from Sydney to establish a convict settlement.

Major Edmund Lockyer led the expedition to the west with twenty troops, twenty-three convicts and provisions for six months. They commenced work on the settlement on 30 December 1826, and the Union Jack was unfurled on 21 January 1827. Lockyer named the settlement Frederickstown. He left in April, and Captain Joseph Wakefield was left in command. The settlement operated for several years with Commandants Sleeman and Barker following Wakefield.

The new Swan River Colony for free settlers was officially proclaimed on 18th June 1829 with Captain James Stirling as the first Governor. There was opposition to having convicts and a New South Wales military outpost in this new colony, so they were removed in March 1831.


Port Phillip, Victoria

As early as 1803 penal settlements were being established either side of Bass Strait as there was a real fear that the French may set up their own settlements along this new trade route.  Port Phillip was the site chosen and Lieutenant Colonel David Collins and his party arrived on 27 April 1803 with 299 male convicts and 29 wives and children of those convicts. There were also 19 free settlers, many with wives and children.  There were also 50 marines and civil officers.

The settlement had its share of problems. Water was scarce, and there was not an abundant supply of timber. For boats the entrance to Port Phillip was narrow and dangerous. Orders were given for Collins to abandon the site and re-locate in the south of Van Diemen’s Land. The Calcutta soon after arrived direct from London with 307 convicts on board.

Although small settlements were set up afterwards, it was not until 1836 that a permanent settlement was established in Melbourne. Most of the convicts were sent here from Sydney. In 1841, with transportation to NSW abandoned, convicts arrived direct from Britain. They were classed as exiles who would receive conditional pardons when they arrived.

As free settlement increased, there was a strong lobby group who fought for the cessation of convicts to Port Phillip Bay.

Fort Dundas, Melville Island and Fort Wellington, Raffles Bay

It may come as a surprise to some that convicts were sent to the northern coast of Australia. Once again, this was a trade route and outposts were necessary to deter the French.

Fort Dundas on Melville Island was the first area settled here, but in 1826 unfavourable reports led to the establishment of Fort Wellington at Raffles Bay. Captain James Sterling and some of the men of the 39th Regiment arrived with several convicts. There were problems with the climate, the isolation, disease and attacks by the natives. Collet Barker arrived in 1828 and he fostered good relations with the natives and also encouraged settlement by East India inhabitants. It was closed in 1829 and Barker was sent to take command at King George’s Sound.


Van Diemen’s Land

The first settlement was on the Derwent River in 1803 when Collins relocated from Port Phillip. There were 33 convicts who were joined by the 307 who had arrived at Port Phillip on the Calcutta direct from Britain.

Up until 1812, Van Diemen’s Land received convicts from NSW or Norfolk Island. It was the arrival of the Indefatigable in Hobart with her cargo of 200 convicts that saw direct transportation from Britain. No other direct arrivals occurred until 1818 and from then they arrived frequently. All the while, convicts were also arriving from NSW.

A place for re-offenders was needed and Macquarie Harbour on the west coast of the island was settled in 1822.
It operated until asettlement at Port Arthur was created. Sarah Island or Settlement Island was in the far south western corner of Macquarie Harbour. This isolated island was used between 1822 and 1833 and gained a reputation as a terrible place.

The Reverend Ullathorne had the following to say in 1838 – Port Arthur is also a penal settlement, to which convicts are re-transported from Van Diemen’s Land. It is a peninsula, cut off from the rest of the colony except by a neck of land. This neck is guarded by a detachment of soldiers, and by a line of very fierce bull-dogs, from shore to shore. These dogs have been so trained, that, on the least noise, they give the alarm, by day or by night, and so successful has been this guard, that not more than two prisoners were ever known to escape; one of these was taken, the other is supposed to have perished in the woods. The general description of this Peninsula is exceedingly desolate, and the convicts are employed in working coal mines. 

Van Diemen’s Land was also the recipient of a number of young male convicts who arrived during the 1830s. A rehabilitation centre was established for them at Point Puer.

When transportation to NSW was winding down, the worst of the convicts in Van Diemen’s Land were sent to Norfolk Island making way for an increase in the numbers to be sent direct from England. Public pressure put an end to the transportation in 1853 and the southern colony became Tasmania in 1855.