THE FIRST FLEET

Part 2

 

Part two of this story deals with the arrival of the Fleet at Botany Bay, the landing at Sydney Cove and some members of the Fleet, both bonded and free and some of their descendants.

Sources for this talk were taken from..
"The Historical Records of Australia Vol 1"
"The Founders of Australia" by Mollie Gillen AM FF John Small and Mary Parker.
"Sydney Cove 1788" by John Cobley." Sydney Cove 1791-1793" by John Cobley.
"Australia the First 12 Years" by Peter Taylor.
"The People of the First Fleet" by Don Chapman.
Archives of the Fellowship of First Fleeters.
"Where First Fleeters Lie" Joyce Cowell and Rod Best

Leaving Cape Town 0n 12th November, Phillip decided to divide the fleet in two, in the hope that the faster ships would reach Botany Bay to prepare for disembarkation. He transferred his pennant to the Supply and left Captain John Hunter in charge of the Sirius. The ships, however, arrived at their destination within two days of each other, Phillip having anchored on the 18th January. A magnificent piece of navigation.!!

Immediately Phillip went ashore and we are told that, on making contact with the original inhabitants, he ordered all weapons to be laid down and the Aborigines responded in like manner, accepting beads and trinkets albeit in a suspicious manner. We are also told that on the following day a large band of natives assembled at Cape Solander waving their spears above their heads. Many of the newcomers could not think otherwise that they were not welcome.

After visiting Port Jackson, on 21st January, Phillip decided to prepare a settlement at Sydney Cove. On the 25th January, in the afternoon, he sailed the "Supply" to Port Jackson with orders for Hunter to follow with the 10 remaining ships later that day.
Phillip anchored in Sydney Cove prior to dusk. Thea Stanley Hughes puts it so well in her book on Phillip…
"Now there was a slight pause-one night- between the sense of urgency about getting the Fleet to its destination, a a new sense of urgency about the fulfilling of his destiny"
The 26th January in the year of Our Lord, 1788 was a Saturday, clear weather, a light sou-sou east breeze and a temperature of 70 degrees Fahrenheit. They had, indeed, been transported to Paradise, unknowingly and unwillingly.!!
To the utter astonishment of Captain Hunter , leading the Fleet to Port Jackson, there appeared two French ships preparing to anchor in Botany Bay.
In the meantime Phillip and his party began clearing ground near a run of fresh water, later known as the Tank Stream, a flagstaff was erected close to the landing site, the Queen Ann jack was raised and possession was taking for His Majesty King George the Third. A toast was proposed, not only to the Royal Family, but also to the success of the colony. At about 6 pm on that day the ten remaining ships anchored in Sydney Cove.

Arthur Phillip had accomplished an incredible feat of endurance - undaunted by unknown dangers, navigating some 15000 miles of distance with nearly 1500 souls in his care he found a safe haven. Twenty-two babies were born en-route and 55 souls were lost during the voyage. The only outbreak of fever occurred on the Alexander where 16 convicts died - the ship was fumigated and cleansed which fact seemed to have abated the epidemic.

On arrival the male convicts were landed together with most of the marines - more land was cleared - a tent hospital was set up on the western side of the cove now known as the rocks, a site for barracks was laid out nearby, and Phillip chose the site of his Government House slightly uphill south east of the cove.
On 3rd February the first Religious service was held be the Rev .Richard Johnson, Chaplain. His text was taken from Psalm 116, verse 12…"What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits towards me".
One wonders what the convicts may have thought about that text.!! Little would most of them have known that those promised benefits would come their way in future years.

On Wednesday 6th February, the convict women from the Lady Penrhyn were disembarked [one might say- LET LOOSE]
Arthur Bowes-Smyth noted in his diary and I quote..
"We had long wished for the pleasure of seeing the last of them leave the ship. They were dressed, in general, very clean and some few amongst them might have been said to be well dressed." He went on to record a night of debauchery which ensued, and in the midst of which there occurred a most violent thunderstorm!

The next day all were assembled to hear the Governor's commission read by the Judge-Advocate, Captain Collins. Phillips's authority was well defined in this Commission, by Act of Parliament establishing the colony and, in Letters Patent, constituting the Courts of Law, from the very genesis of our Nation.
Amongst instructions, the Governor was enjoined thus….."to endeavor by all possible means to open an intercourse with the natives and conciliate their affections, enjoining all to live in amity and kindness with them". [Something went astray there.!!!] He was also given power to emancipate convicts for good behaviour and industry but more importantly, much more importantly, Governor Phillip was given the power to grant them land. This was to be a salvation for many of the convicts who had, indeed, for the want of circumstances and upbringing, had never had a chance in life, and, for past misdeeds, no matter how petty, had been jettisoned from one hostile environment to another.

On the 14th February 1788, under the command of Phillip Gidley King, the Supply sailed for Norfolk Island with a party of marines and some 15 convicts. The idea of settlement was threefold - to harvest flax for yarn and investigate the Norfolk Island pine trees for shipbuilding. Both eventually being found unsuitable. The 3rd reason was, that the authorities in Britain were rather nervous re French exploration in this region. A foreign settlement so close to the new British acquisition was unthinkable. More convicts and Marines were later sent there to alleviate victualling problems at Port Jackson, supplies were sent to the island by the "Sirius" which was wrecked at Sydney Bay on the 19th March 1790, adding to the problems of both settlements.

In 1791, Phillip in a letter to Lord Sydney reported……
"I can still say with great truth and satisfaction that the convicts, in general, behave better than every could have been expected and that their crimes, with very few exceptions, have been confined to the procuring for themselves, the common necessaries of life"

In 1797 the second Governor, John Hunter reported to Lord Sydney -" The vast number of women for whom we have had little work are a heavy weight on the stores of Government - if we estimate their merits by the charming children with which they have filled the colony, then, they deserve our care."
This was one of the most telling reports emanating from the infant settlement. At this time there was estimated some 400 young children of varying ages, descended, not only from First Fleet convict men and women and Marines, but also 2nd and 3rd Fleet arrivals.

And bearing these sentiments in mind, two centuries later, Dr Portia Robinson of the History Department at the Macquarie University, observed in her book "The Hatch and Brood of Time" that these children - the so called currency lads and lasses of these First Fleeters, were a most law abiding generation.
The first generation of First Fleeters came into their own - Dr Craig Smee in his book "First Fleet Families of Australia" says, and I quote…
"whatever the circumstances of their arrival the First Fleeters planted a seed of native born, who soon acquired a character which is both different in nature from their origins in England, and similar to each other in their newly adopted land. A character with characteristics such as self-reliance, initiative and a sense of fair play. Over succeeding generations and with an influx of migration, we are still integrating those qualities handed down by our first arrivals. Also from these early days, our distinct Australian accent evolved.
 

Contrary to opinion that the First Fleet was made up entirely of Anglo-Celtic people is wrong.

 

There were 235 Non English First Fleeters

 

There were, for instance, 141 persons known to have been born in Ireland, either born in Ireland, or whose surnames suggested the they may have been Irish or of Irish Extraction mostly convicts convicted in England for petty crimes. It is interesting that the so called Irish rebels arrived at a later date.

 

In addition there were 2 from the Channel Islands, and 33- Scottish- although No First Fleet Convict was convicted in Scotland fleet and, of these, only one convict, John Ramsay, the rest being marines and seamen. The Scots certainly looked after their own!!!!

The Welsh weren't left out – 9 in number including four convicts.

 

Also were at least 12  black Africans, Americans or West Indians plus 14 North Americans, and 15 Other Nationalities ,comprising convicts from Madagascar, West Indies, Holland, France, Germany, Norway, Portugal, Jamaica, Sweden, Bengal India,  and Scandinavia

 

At least 9 Jewish folk, in the main convicts, were also on the Fleet. It is of interest to note that these Jewish folk were mostly Sephardim… during the Diaspora or the dispersion of the Jews from Israel one tribe moved across the Northern African continent and settled in Spain. During the Inquisition in the 16th Century, they scattered north to Holland, France and England and most of those convicts from England were Sephardim.

Some of us in the Fellowship of First Fleeters have this blood in our veins.
 

Some 732 convicts were landed on these shores on that January day, about one third female, together with 245 Marines, some 20% of these stayed, married or co-habited with convict women and thereby formed dynasties which are still with us to-day. About 35 Marines brought with them a wife and children. Most returned to England but 3 families of Marines remained. Again within the Fellowship of First Fleeters, we count some descendants of these as members. There are many success stories in our historical records from both fettered and free.

It seems to be the fashion in this day and age with some in our community to be politically correct, as opposed to being historically correct. The history of the early efforts of the Friends of First Government House site bears this out only too well.!!!

Let me give some examples taken from the pages of The Sydney Morning Herald in 1988.
 

1] Governor Phillip and his hoard of Georgian louts invaded the shores of Botany Bay.
2]The convicts of the First Fleet did not amount to much, nor contributed anything of value to the colony
3]We must be careful to play down the part of the first European arrivals for fear of upsetting some members of the community.
 

What utter rubbish….
 

History is founded on facts and the history of European settlement of our nation is well and truly documented. We have with us to-day volumes of "The Historical Records of New South Wales" giving a day to day record of the colony under the Governorships of Phillip to Macquarie. We also have the diaries of some of those First Fleeters who were literate.


 


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