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Week 27 - a scandal averted

[ 1836 to 1836 ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 45: Proclamation and Celebration ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 43: Kangaroo Island ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 40 - Finally! The harbour is found ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 37: Building a Home ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 36: Family Life ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 35: Pastimes ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 34 - a tempest ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 26: Whose story? ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 25 - The demon drink ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 22: In Good Time ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 20 - infectious disease ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 18 - the port of Rio ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 16: Crossing the Line ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 16 - towards Australia ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 15 - high drama on the John Pirie ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 08: Employment ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 06 : Weathering the Storm ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 05: Ship Shape ]

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

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 the[tooltip color=”grey” text=”Cabins of lesser comfort than those occupied by privileged passengers and intermediate between them and the dormitory accommodation afforded the emigrants.”] intermediate passengers [/tooltip] 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.

Journals from passengers at sea:

Week 42: Numeracy Onboard

Over the past eight months we have read many journal entries, diaries and letters describing the experiences, thoughts, ideas and feelings of those onboard the nine ships. We have followed the authors…

[ Read the full journal extract ]

Week 25 – The demon drink

[ | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | , on board the | | | | | | | | wrote.]

On land It is one week into the grand experiment of colonisation and things are not going well at Nepean Bay. Samuel Stephens and Captains Morgan and Ross have their hands full, with both the company …

[ Read the full journal extract ]

Week 20 – infectious disease

[ | | | | | | | | | | , on board the | | | | | | wrote.]

The Duke of York is now in the Southern Ocean, making good progress. It is Captain Morgan’s wife’s birthday and he reflects endearingly on his love for her and his happiness in the married state….

[ Read the full journal extract ]

Week 14 – steady progress

[ | | | | | | | | | , on board the | | | | | wrote.]

All six ships are making steady progress, sailing south in the Atlantic. The weather is fine and conditions pleasant, but relations on board the John Pirie and the Cygnet are tense. On the John Pirie …

[ Read the full journal extract ]

Week 13 – tensions reach breaking point

[ | | | | | | | , on board the | | | | | wrote.]

This week we catch up with the Cygnet as it approaches the Equator. A bout of bad weather has seen many of the passengers sick and conditions below deck are foul. Boyle Travers Finniss is impatient with…

[ Read the full journal extract ]

Week 06 – a ‘perfect Hurricane’

[ | | | | , on board the | | | wrote.]

On 26 March the John Pirie seemed to be making progress, as it finally cleared the English Channel and struck out for the Atlantic Ocean. But just west of the Bay of Biscay the weather worsened…

[ Read the full journal extract ]