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Week 27 - a scandal averted

[ 21st of August 1836 to 27th of August 1836 ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 27 - Navigation ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 27 - a scandal averted ]

At Kangaroo Island

Samuel Stephens is gradually settling into a routine, although his habit of rising well before 6 am in the middle of winter cannot endear him to his men. He sends the company stock off to good grazing land near the Salt Lagoon, and selects a portion of land for a more permanent Company settlement.  Finally we can confirm the identity of the diarist on the John Pirie by comparing his entry for 24 August with that of Stephens. He is indeed John Brown, who this week takes the stock to the Lagoon, where there is said to be abundant grass and water.

Stephens continues to lament the laziness of some of his employees, notably Mr Birdseye, whose ‘inattention to his duty’ is a constant source of irritation. And lazy officers are not the end of his problems. It seems that Mary Ann Powell, one of the passengers on the John Pirie, and William Staple, a member of the crew, have formed a liaison.  William wishes to stay behind when the Pirie sails and perhaps he and Mary Ann have been less discreet in their courting than others think proper. Stephens takes it on himself to negotiate a marriage between the parties, although with ‘some little difficulty’ as he puts it. ‘[B]ut I am pleased to think that 2 persons who would otherwise have been a scandal to the settlement are now likely rather to be a credit to it’, he writes.

To read his diary we would conclude that Stephens is a fine, upright young man.  But the record we leave of ourselves can be misleading.  Captain Morgan’s diary for this week casts doubt on the conduct of Stephens himself. ‘It is painful to here [sic] of the conduct of our colonial manager’, he writes. ‘[W]here ever he goes drunkenness is his prevailing sin and even leaves sailors to put him to bed’. Miss Beare may soon put a stop to that! But Morgan has not finished yet. ‘[T]he people on shore are like sheep going astray’, he adds, ‘drunkeness thieft and swareing [sic] are the prevailing sins of this infant establishment…they cannot last this way’.

Colonel Light and his party meanwhile are getting to know the Island. So far they are not impressed, noting the lack of water. Dr Woodforde treks out to the Salt Lagoon and is eaten alive by mosquitoes. The next day he and William Pullen meet some of the original settlers and describe the curious animals they call ‘wallobees’.  On first sight they find them unattractive, but are happy to eat them nevertheless. Pullen comments on the Aboriginal ‘wives’ who caught the wallabies, noting that although possibly brought to the Island by force, they ‘seemed to be contented with their lonely life’. We need to remember though that Pullen wrote these comments down some years later, in a memoir.

lithograph of a wallaby

lithograph of a wallaby, 1877

At sea

The interminable voyage of the Cygnet continues and once again Kingston and the captain are at each others’ throats. Finniss grows more and more disgusted by the discord. The Africaine on the other hand seems fairly quiet, as it drifts towards the equator. But Mary Thomas is not a happy woman, as her lengthy diary entry for this week makes clear. There is simmering resentment amongst theCabins of lesser comfort than those occupied by privileged passengers and intermediate between them and the dormitory accommodation afforded the emigrants. intermediate passengers at the poor quality of the food they are served and a strong feeling that they were misled about their entitlements on board. To make matters worse the captain tries to reduce the water ration, from three quarts per day (about 12 cups or 6 pints) to one pint, but the surgeon intervenes and the original ration is reinstated.  The captain is probably trying to avoid calling at the Cape for supplies, but Mary and the other passengers are hoping for the chance to buy their own supplies.  It is interesting to compare Mary Thomas’ account of this incident with that of Robert Gouger, who notes that the ration for the passengers is six quarts per adult per day. He is obviously referring only to cabin passengers here.


Next week: There is a wedding at the new settlement and a party to follow, although the celebrations get a bit out of hand towards the end. Then the stand-off between Samuel Stephens and his company officers finally comes to a head.

On the Africaine Mary Thomas has her first experience of ship’s discipline and finds it distressing, while on the Buffalo the death of a young sailor reminds everyone of the fragility of life.

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Image creditProceedings of the Zoological Society of London 1877

Comments or Questions:

2 Responses to “Week 27 – a scandal averted”

  1. Colin Quin August 21, 2011 at 1:43 pm #

    Hi, I wonder if you can tell me if Hugh Quin is on board the ‘Cygnet’?
    There seems to be no mention of him in any of the journals.
    Regards,
    Colin Quin

    • Allison August 21, 2011 at 4:52 pm #

      Hi Colin.

      Hugh Quin was the 2nd mate on the Cynet from Rio.

      There is a list of everyone on board on the webiste (under the heading ‘ships’ at the top of the page.)

      Regards
      Allison – History SA

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