The First Fleeter Andrew Fishburn arrived in
Australia in 1788 and died aged 36 in 1796, which means
he was only in the colony for eight years, so this
report is extended to include further generations. It
covers Andrew’s life pre 1788 (although knowledge is
rather limited), his voyage and arrival, his Norfolk
experience and the brief period after Norfolk Island.
Andrew’s wife Sarah Donnelley’s story is included as is
their son’s William Henry Fishburn .
Andrew was born about 1760 in
Whitby, North Yorkshire, England. The Fishburns were an
important part of that seafaring community. The family
of Fishburn was mentioned in Captain James Cook’s story
written by Richard Hough. Cook had sailed a ship built
by the Fishburns around the world –Endeavour
(formerly Earl of Pembroke). Because Cook was
impressed by the quality of Endeavour, when he
needed boats for a second voyage, he requested the
Fishburns design and build two more ships for the
The Fishburns also built the storeship Fishburn
which was part of the First Fleet.
Apart from his name there is as yet no proved familial
link between Andrew and the Fishburn shipbuilders of
Whitby. However the research continues.
Andrew was a Private in the 35th Portsmouth
Company before 1788 and was one of 212 marines who
departed England on 13th May, 1787. There
were only 7 carpenters on the First Fleet. Andrew was
listed as an ordinary carpenter. This description was
complimentary when compared to the description of others
as ‘indifferent carpenters’ or worse still as ’tolerable
Some cited records indicate that Andrew may have begun
the journey aboard the Friendship, carrying 76
male and 221 female convicts. When the fleet arrived at
Cape Town there were two problems confronting it (apart
from the weather). The flagship, Sirius, was
needing some repairwork, and as this was the last port
of call on the journey to Australia, stores and
livestock needed to be obtained and housed in pens
especially constructed on some vessels for the animals
taken on board. It is believed that Andrew was working
with the other carpenters to complete these tasks.
David Hill in his book 1788 states that
Captain Phillip was given permission, before leaving
England, to split the fleet if necessary. One week after
leaving Cape Town Phillip decided to allow the faster
ships to go ahead in order to prepare the colony for the
arrival of the remainder of the fleet and find the best
place to land. Arthur Phillip transferred to Supply,
and along with the faster ships Friendship,
Alexander and Scarborough went ahead taking
with them the carpenters and convicts with carpentry or
gardening skills. Things did not go to plan and the
trio only arrived the day before the main fleet. Andrew
Fishburn was on Alexander on arrival at Botany
At the new colony being established at Sydney Cove
Andrew worked on a barracks for one of the crew and when
that was completed he used his skills on the Commanding
Officer’s home and the marine barracks. He was attached
to the Company of John Shea at Port Jackson and
from September 1788 to the end of 1789 he received extra
pay for his work as a carpenter.
When supplies were running dangerously low in Sydney,
Governor Phillip dispatched more convict settlers on the
Sirius and Supply to the already
established settlement under Major Ross on
Norfolk Island together with a sufficient number of
marines for guard duty there. So on 4th
March, 1790 Andrew, as part of this contingent, arrived
on Norfolk Island. Although disaster struck and
Sirius was lost on the reef trying for landfall in
bad weather there was no loss of life, and most of the
livestock and stores delivered ashore intact.
The settlers on the Island had been able to produce some
food, but stores often needed to be sent from Sydney to
complement their diet. Strict rationing was enforced on
both marines and convicts. The marines were
particularly disgruntled as not only were they reduced
to three quarters of what they had previously received
but they alleged the convicts were better off than they
were. The convicts grew vegetables and the marines had
to buy them and pay for them with flour.
On 9th April, 1791 Andrew was mentioned by
Major Ross in a daily report to Governor Phillip as
having taken part in a raid on a store where flour was
taken. Second Lieutenant Ralph Clark was
Quartermaster General and Keeper of Public Stores on
Norfolk Island at the time. He had become known as an
intolerant character, delighting in meting out harsh
punishment on the Island. Clark wanted to hang the
culprits, naming Andrew as a ringleader, but fortunately
did not have the authority to do so. He was not happy
when Major Ross was ‘lenient’ with the officers.
Andrew Fishburn left Norfolk Island for Port Jackson on
23rd April, 1791, and upon arrival worked as
a carpenter on the ship Gorgon. In 1791 the
marines company as such was disbanded and a new company
was raised to add to the New South Wales Corps. Andrew
offered himself, and in 1792 became a private in Captain
Shea’s Company – The Marine Garrison for the New South
Andrew and Sarah Donnelly were married at St.
Phillip’s Church of England, York St., Sydney on 24th
May, 1794, with Rev Samuel Marsden officiating.
Six months after their marriage, Andrew was allocated a
land grant by Francis Grose, Lieutenant Governor.
It reads: ‘to Andrew Fishburn, his heirs and assigns, 25
acres, to be known as ‘Fishburn Hill’ in
the district of Petersham Hill. This was later named
Liberty Plains and then became Croydon. The grant is
situated in Parramatta Road, Burwood and is marked on
the Concord Parish map in the name of Brackering. The
grant mentioned ‘rent one shilling a year, commencing
after five years’. Another NSW Corps member, Joseph
Eades also received 25 acres at Petersham Hill and
this was adjacent to Andrew’s lot. These two grants
were sold to James Bloodworth prior to a
conveyance being made by them. Both Eades and Andrew
died intestate and insolvent.
An indenture dated 16th May, 1810 between
James John Grant and James Wilshire says Andrew Fishburn
and James Eades both sold their grants of 25 acres to
James Bloodworth. Bloodworth had since died and had
made Sarah Bellamy sole administrator. She
produced the papers for the two grants and by court
order disposed of them to liquidate the debts to
Bloodworth. The properties (the farms of James Grant and
James Wilshire) were sold together for 50 pounds.
Andrew died at Parramatta on Saturday 23rd
July, 1796 aged 36. He was buried two days later at St.
John’s, Parramatta, but we are unable to find his grave.
As mentioned, Andrew married Sarah Donnelly in 1794.
She was also known as Sarah Williams as she had
come to Australia as a convict, single and pregnant. A
daughter Ann was born on 21st
December, 1791 in Sydney. The father was named as
Alexander Williams, although nothing is known of
him. In 1792 she changed her name to Williams.
Sarah and Andrew had two children, Andrew born in
1793 and William born on 28th July,
1795. Ann was also living with them. Family members
have been unable to find out what happened to Andrew.
Sarah was born at Gosport about 1765. Her trial was
held on 18th May, 1789 at Winchester,
Bridewell, England. She was found guilty of stealing
three pieces of ribbon from the shop of Ann Everett and
Rebecca Grant, and was sentenced to 7 years
transportation to NSW.
With Andrew’s death, Sarah was a widow with two,
possibly three, children to care for, four year old
Ann, one year old William and possibly Andrew junior.
Sarah met George Melon (Mellin/Millen) and had
the first of their five children on 17th
September, 1797. They eventually married on 25th
Later in her life, in 1830, Sarah had an unfortunate
experience. While acting as midwife to a Mrs Slaney,
the baby died, and Sarah was indicted for the slaying of
a male child at Windsor on 26th September.
She was found not guilty and discharged by proclamation
after a caution by the Judge in all future cases. The
doctor gave his opinion that the child met its death
from bleeding, in consequence of the umbilical cord
being negligently tied.
Sarah died on 15th August 1849 reputedly at
the age of 90. In reality, she may have been closer to
William Henry Fishburn,
the younger son of Andrew and Sarah was baptised at St.
Phillip’s Church of England on 6th August,
1795. He was their only known child to survive to
adulthood and was one of the colony’s original Currency
lads. It appears William spent his childhood around
Parramatta and Windsor with his mother, elder half
sister Ann (who was now known as Ann Fishburn) and his
younger half siblings – George, Mary, Sarah and Edward
According to the 1810 Muster, William was by now
apprenticed to a big landholder, G. J. Palmer, at
Windsor. He was still employed by Palmer in 1814 when
the Muster of that year showed a young convict girl,
Mary Harlow, as being a servant at the same
establishment. Mary Harlow gave birth to a daughter,
also called Mary, on 21st September, 1815 and
when the child was baptised at Windsor, William Fishburn
was named as the father. Mary Harlow married a
Joseph Huff six months later but the record of the
baby’s death has not survived.
Rev. Samuel Marsden had married William’s parents, and
he also married William and Catherine Ash on 8th
July, 1816 at St. John’s Church of England, Parramatta.
William and Catherine spent the early part of their
marriage at Windsor where the first two children were
born. They had thirteen children in all, the eldest
being Elizabeth Fishburn, the ancestor of the
contributor of this story
Sixty acres of land were granted to William on 13th
January, 1818 at Castle Hill by Governor Lachlan
Macquarie. The area is located west of the Old
Northern Road, where Fishburn Crescent and Parsonage
Road are located today. It appears they did not reside
at the farm until the birth of their third child,
Eleanor, in 1820.
On 3rd September, 1821, a letter was sent
from the Court magistracy at Parramatta by Hannibal
Hawkins Macarthur, a nephew of the wool
producer John Macarthur, to the Colonial Secretary,
Frederick Goulburn recommending: ‘William Fishburn, a
free man and landholder at Castle Hill to act as
Constable for the District of Castle Hill and Pennant
Hills in lieu of John Rogan – dismissed from that
situation for drunken conduct and neglect of duty’. The
recommendation was accepted and five days later the
appointment was confirmed in the Sydney Gazette. The
previous constable, John Rogan, was the father of Jane
who was to later marry William and Catherine’s eldest
In his early farming life, William supplied wheat to the
Government in 1822. In 1823 and 1824 he applied for a
further grant, as the land was ‘insufficient’ (1823) and
‘extremely bad’ (1824). He was unsuccessful on both
William’s resignation from the position of District
Constable was announced in the Sydney Gazette on 18th
According to the first census taken in NSW in November,
1828 William was then aged 33, born in the colony, a
protestant living at Baulkham Hills and was a publican.
His family was listed as Catherine, 32 years old and
incorrectly stated as having been born in the colony.
The children, all born in the colony and protestants,
were: Elizabeth 11, William Jnr. 8, Ellen 7, Andrew 6,
John 4, Sarah 2 and Ann 9 months. At the time William
had 60 acres, 20 cleared 20 cultivated, 2 horses and 2
head of cattle.
William and Catherine had five other children besides
the 8 mentioned in the 1828 census. The youngest was
George born in 1838. Eight months after George’s birth,
Catherine died (14th February, 1839) and then
three weeks later baby George died. They were both
buried at the Devonshire Street Cemetery with
Catherine’s father, Christopher Ash. When Central
Railway was built on the site in 1901, their headstones
were moved to Botany Cemetery but have not survived the
elements of time.
Four years after Catherine’s death, William (with eight
unmarried children) married Elizabeth Bean (nee
Bradley), the widow of William Bean. Elizabeth also had
8 children. The Beans, Bradleys and Fishburns had been
neighbours for many years.
After 27 years of marriage to William, Elizabeth died on
20th October, 1870 and was buried at St.
Paul’s Church of England, opposite their Castle Hill
farm. She was 74. William died 18 months later after
suffering a heart attack. He was buried next to
Elizabeth. He left 10 children and 73 grandchildren.
Contributor: #7407 Margaret Morelli
This biographical account has been compiled from
information in Fishburn Family newsletters and personal
contact with descendant researchers.
Two books were also used:
‘In Their Footsteps’ by Shirley Sanderson, and
Captain James Cook, a Biography by Richard Hough.