ADHS Newsletter No. 203 JUNE, 2002

Items of interest –

  • An overview of the convict era by Margaret Oulton (Contd)
  • Electors from Elmhurst who voted in the 1899 Victorian Federal Election

June Meeting – The Society began its nineteenth year with over twenty members present at its monthly meeting held on Sunday, 16th June, at the Court House, with our new President, Stuart Smith, in the chair. We were delighted to have new members Len and Betty Fleming with us, also Pearl Collins and her friend Wendy, from Moama.

Discussion took place about the year’s activities and the following is a tentative programme for the coming months :-

Sunday, 21st July – A Photo Call day

Sunday, 18th August – Another interesting tour of the Talbot/Amherst area with Len Fleming

Sunday, 15th September – Walking tour of Amphitheatre

Sunday, 20th October – Bus tour

Sunday, 17th November – General meeting and Christmas break-up

Saturday, 15th February, 2003 – Garage Sale followed by General meeting

Sunday, 16th March – Regional meeting with surrounding historical societies with a speaker

Sunday, 20th April – To be advised

Sunday, 18th May – Annual General Meeting

A successful stall was conducted recently at the Glenpatrick Market, by Stuart Smith and Colleen Allan, resulting in $91.30 being added to our funds. We thank Stuart and Colleen for their enterprising effort.

Next Meeting – Next meeting day will be on Sunday, 21st July, at the Avoca Court House. On this day, we invite the folk who live in Avoca and the surrounding areas to bring along photos of local identities, family groups, events and scenes of past years pertaining to the area, to be scanned into the computer by Murray Little. The scanning will be done while you wait, so that the owners of the photos are not parted from their historic family treasures. Please number your photos on the back, and also write, on a separate sheet of paper, the details of each photo against its number, such as names, date, where taken, etc. Those who attended the Federation photographic display at Lexton last October will know the excellent work Murray does. The usual monthly meeting will be held at 1.30 p.m. after which members will continue tidying the Court House, a task which was begun after our June meeting.

New Members – A warm welcome is extended to the following new members –

Mr. Len and Mrs. Betty FLEMING, of Talbot, Vic. who are interested in local history, especially of the Talbot/Amherst area.

Mr. Rod BARNETT, of North Narrabeen, NSW, whose interests are William and Rachael BARNETT, of Avoca, and SANDBACH, of the Bendigo area.

Mr. Jim HUMPHREY, of Pascoe Vale, Vic., who is researching HUMPHREY, MURREL, CRACKNELL, SMITH and RAMAGE.

Mr. Ray and Mrs. Lorraine FEAVER, of Balnarring, Vic., whose interests are William and Eliza LEVER, who lived at Avoca from about 1853.

Mr. Ron COAD, of Castle Hill, NSW, who is researching COAD, BURNS and ENDERBY at Homebush and Avoca.

Donations to the Court House Restoration Fund – The Society is grateful to the following members for their generous donations to the Court House Restoration Fund :-

P. Boyd; F.G. Glover; R. Carless; K. and G. Christie; L. Finger; T. Woolman; L. Leyden; J. Milne; M. Gray; H. Harris; Mr. and Mrs. M. Martin; A. Hall; H. Ellett; J. Hunter; S. Savige; N. Rowland; E. McKechnie; N. Murphy; K. Grumont; R. Bundy; V. Gibbs; F. Anderson; Mr. and Mrs. M. Church; A.E. Beavis; L. Bennett; A. Smith; S. Smith; J. and L. Purser; N. Holman; N. Andrews; D. Greenwood; N.M. David; J. Wordly; J. Adams; J. Wallden; R. Barnett; L. Croft; K. Chapman; I. Macwhirter; R. and M. Stavely; L. Leerson; R. Bowen; E. Shooter; L. Griffiths; E. Graham; J. Yetman; J. Canning; F. Jenkins and Anon.

C.H.H.A. Annual General Meeting and Luncheon will be hosted by the Creswick Historical Museum, Jory Street, Creswick, on Saturday, 3rd August, 2002, in the Council Offices, next to the Museum, at 9.30 a.m. for a 10 a.m. start.. Following the meeting and prior to lunch, there will be a tour of the Museum. A three-course luncheon will follow at the Farmers’ Arms Hotel, price $15 per head. The guest speaker will be Mr. Jack Sewell. Bookings and payment for the luncheon should be forwarded to the Secretary of the C.H.H.A. at P.O. Box W 139, Ballarat West, 3350, by Friday, 26th July.

Quarantine Station, Point Nepean, Portsea – A celebration to mark 150 years since quarantine commenced at Portsea will be held on 9th and 10th November, 2002. There will be displays in quarantine buildings, a memorial service at the cemetery, unveiling of plaques and an opportunity to explore the area. Information is sought on passengers and crew of ships in quarantine, staff, nurses and doctors employed over the period 1852 until closure in 1880. If you can help, please contact Friends of the Quarantine Museum, C/o Nepean Historical Society, P.O. Box 139, Sorrento, Vic. 3943, fax 03 5984 0935.

Family History Fair – The Maryborough Family History Group will hold a Family History Fair on Sunday, 1st September, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., at the Maryborough Resource Centre, Cnr. Alma and Nolan Streets, Maryborough. For further details, contact Elaine Murphy on 03 5464 2453 or e-mailemurphy@origin.net.au

Onward Then! A Lovely Diary, 1883-1887, is the diary of Margaret (Maggie) Simson, telling of her life in those years in Geelong, on the family property Roseneath, near Casterton, Victoria, in New Zealand, Britain and Europe. The diary is published as a transcript and is studded with many names of school friends, squatter families of Western Victoria, townspeople in Geelong and Casterton, and relatives in Australia and Britain (especially Scotland). This indexed and illustrated book of 322 pages makes an excellent resource for family researchers and social historians. Available from the editor, Euphemia Grant Lipp, 86 Dexter Street, Cook, ACT 2614, at a cost of $27.50, including postage and packing.

AN OVERVIEW OF THE CONVICT ERA – by Margaret Oulton (contd.)

We continue Margaret Oulton’s interesting talk on the convict era which she gave at our A.G.M. in May. In our last newsletter, we looked at why the British Government established penal colonies, the various crimes and their punishments and life on the hulks before transportation. The story continues with the preparation of the First Fleet :-

The fitting out, assembling, provisioning and despatch of the First Fleet was predominately organised by the Royal Navy. By the 11th May, 1787, the First Fleet had assembled off Portsmouth. It consisted of 11 ships, including 2 naval escorts, 3 store ships and 6 commercial ships carrying convicts. On board were 570 free men made up of 19 officers, 24 non-commissioned officers, 8 drummers, 160 privates, and 4 companies of Marines, 30 wives and 12 children. There were 729 convicts on the voyage, 565 men, 153 women, 6 boys and 5 girls. By the 13th May, all ships were under sail and, two days later, on the 15th, Captain Phillip decided to let the convicts out of their chains.

On the 16th May, there was a strike of seamen over insufficient rations on board the vessel Friendship. On the 18th, plans for a mutiny on board the Scarborough were foiled.

On the 3rd June, 1787, the fleet reached Santa Cruz at Teneriffe in the Canary Islands in the Atlantic, off north-west Africa. After a stay of 10 days to take on food and water, the fleet left on the next part of their voyage to Rio de Janeiro in South America. After 2 months, on 4th August, the fleet reached Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, which was a Portuguese dependency. Here they received a great welcome because Captain Phillip was well respected, having been in the Portuguese Navy and fought for them against the Spanish. One month was spent at Rio de Janeiro replenishing supplies, repairing ships and building up the health and stamina of the convicts and crew ready for the next part of the voyage to Cape Town.

The fleet arrived in Cape Town on 13th October and again stayed for one month stocking up for the last leg of the journey to New South Wales. The ships resembled Noah’s Ark when they left the Cape to sail across the Indian Ocean. Unfortunately, they met gale force winds and heavy seas for 68 days, which resulted in the convicts being forced to remain battened below, almost continually wet from storm seas crashing into their crowded cells. It was usual for four convicts to sleep (if they could) on a 6-ft. square berth – allowing 18 inches of space each.

Christmas Day, 1787, was a restrained affair for all on board. Just before Christmas, supplies had begun to run low and permission was given to break into stores ear-marked for Botany Bay. During New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, 1788, the weather was so bad that convicts were washed out of their berths by mountainous seas. During these storms, much damage was done to the animals being carried on deck. On 20th January, all ships were at anchor in Botany Bay after a voyage of 8 months. Remarkably, there were only 40 lives lost, 23 during the voyage and 17 between embarkation and sailing. Unhappy with Botany Bay as a site for settlement, the First Fleet moved to Port Jackson, where the British flag was finally hoisted on 26th January, 1788.

Convict life on arrival in the new colony – When the First Fleet convicts were unloaded, they were put to work clearing land, cutting down trees and putting up tents. One of the first things Governor Phillip did was to set up a Criminal Court. Among the convicts were hardened and petty criminals as well as political offenders. In 1789, it was not only convicts who got into trouble. The public executioner hung 6 Marines. They were sentenced by a Criminal Court of their own officers for having stolen food, spirits, etc., from the Government Stores.

Provisions in the new settlement were in very short supply and the fragile colony had no contact with England during its first two years. It was left with only two ships and they were both sent to obtain food, the Sirius to the Cape of Good Hope, first in October, 1788, and the Supply to Batavia. Starvation was a real fear in the Colony. Fortunately, a store ship did arrive with the Second Fleet in 1790, saving the Colony from a dreadful fate.

The Second Fleet experienced a disastrous voyage. Profits were considered more important than people. Private shipowners were contracted by the British Government to bring convicts to New South Wales. These contractors were paid according to the number of convicts they transported. It is not surprising that the ships were heavily overcrowded. It was said that the Government supplied enough food for the voyage but the contractors held back some of the food to sell at a profit on arrival in the Colony.

Three ships carried 1017 convicts, 25% of whom were women, but 267 died during the voyage. Dysentery, fever and scurvy affected 480 of the remaining convicts. On arrival in Sydney, many could not stand or walk and had to be assisted from the ships. Conditions were so bad on board that, in some cases, convicts would hide the fact that one of their number had died so that they might continue to receive that person’s rations to share between them. The Colony’s chaplain wrote a graphic account of the condition of the Second Fleet convicts on their arrival in the Colony in June, 1790.

In 1791, the Third Fleet sailed with over 2,000 convicts, of whom only 8.4% were women. The Government tried to rectify the imbalance of women but there were just not enough women in the gaols in Britain.

In 1815, Governor Macquarie and Surgeon Redfern strongly recommended to the British Government the appointment of a Royal Naval Surgeon to accompany each convict ship. The surgeon was to have the responsibility for the health and welfare of the convicts and work conjointly with the Master of the ship and the Commander of the Guard. By the mid-1820s, this became reality and there was an improvement on board the ships making the voyage to New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land.

Discipline, punishment and rewards – After they left the ship, convicts were sent to the barracks and told where they would be serving their sentence. The worst offenders were directed to hard labour in chains, under strict supervision, working on Government works such as constructing roads and building bridges. Conditions for these convicts were made extremely difficult when the leg irons attached to them could weigh anything from 4 to 70lbs. – 56lbs. would be considered a heavy weight.

Convicts who committed disciplinary offences could be given 500 lashes, or more serious offences could result in a convict being sent to one of the dreaded places such as Port Arthur, in Van Diemen’s Land, working in the coal mines at Newcastle, or the other penal settlements at Moreton Bay or Norfolk Island. In later years, conditions were so bad on Norfolk Island that some convicts would kill another of their number just so that they could be hung rather than endure the misery that was this penal settlement.

Under a system of assignment, the Government had first choice of convicts and was particularly keen to obtain prisoners who were mechanics, stonemasons, bricklayers, etc., to work on their projects. Assigned convicts received their food, clothing and shelter.

Other convicts were assigned to work for free settlers – this might be on a farm, in a small town or in Sydney. Some were fortunate and found considerate masters and were almost treated like one of the family. All assigned convicts had to report to their local magistrate once a month and attend church each Sunday.

Convicts could earn a Ticket of Leave for good behaviour. Possessing this ticket meant that a convict could work for himself after he had completed his master’s work. However, he had to continue to report regularly to the magistrate in his own Police District, usually every three months, and he still had to serve the remainder of his sentence.

The Governor could approve a Conditional Pardon for any Ticket of Leave convict who was observed to be of good conduct. This gave him his freedom within the Colony but he could not leave. In some cases, Ticket of Leave men were given a Conditional Pardon so that they could join the Police Force! In 1796, George Barrington, a convict who was a celebrated pick-pocket, became Chief Constable at Parramatta. As Marines refused to become overseers of convicts, well-behaved convicts who could be trusted were employed in this role. A full or absolute pardon granted by the Governor restored a convict to complete freedom. From 1810, convicts received a Certificate of Freedom when they had served the full length of their sentence.

In 1821, 33 years after the arrival of the First Fleet, 7 out of every 8 people in New South Wales were convicts or had been convicts. Emancipists were convicts who had obtained their freedom whether by ticket of leave, by conditional or full pardon, or by serving their full sentence.

Although emancipists became a very large group in the Colony and played an important role in the growth of New South Wales, they had a lengthy struggle before they obtained real freedom. Some married the children of free settlers which helped improve their standing in the community. Some obtained small grants of land and were able to establish farms or businesses. Some returned to working at their former profession, e.g., Francis Greenway, the architect, Redfern, the surgeon, etc.

(This most interesting overview of the convict era will be concluded in our next newsletter. This talk, the result of Margaret Oulton’s thorough research, has given those of us with convict ancestors a very clear picture of what our ancestors endured, and is worthy of being reported in full. Ed.)

Subscriptions Are Now Due – Please note that this will be the last newsletter to be posted out to unfinancial members. We would ask members to look up their April newsletter to check if they have returned their renewal slip and cheque to the Treasurer. We are grateful to those who have already rejoined the Society; your prompt attention to this matter is of great assistance to those working behind the scenes. If, for some reason, you do not wish to rejoin, a short note to this effect would be most appreciated.

FEDERATION – We continue the listing of names shown on the Electoral Roll in the wider Avoca area who voted at the Victorian Federal Election in 1899 :-


ARMITAGE Alfred Labourer BARRETT Isaac Farmer

BAILEY Henry Groom BURGESS William Labourer

CALLENDER Joseph Painter CARTER Andrew M. Labourer

CAMERON Donald McK. Gardener CHASTON Ernest E. Station Master

CAMERON Duncan Farmer CROFT Edward Labourer

CAMERON John Farmer CROFT Henry Farmer

CAMERON Malcolm Farmer CROFT Matthew Farmer

CAMPBELL John Cook CROFT Thomas Farmer

CROFT William Farmer

DOUGLASS Alexander Farmer DYER Charles Miner

DYER Samuel Farmer

EASTERBROOK John Labourer EMERY George Labourer

EASTERBROOK Thomas J. Labourer EMERY James Farmer

EASTERBROOK George W. Labourer EMERY William J. Labourer

GEDLING Frank Labourer GRAY Henry E. Carrier

GOODE Frederick H. Storeman GRAY Walter Farmer

GRANT James, jnr. Farmer

HANKIN William Farmer HILLARY Henry Labourer

JONES Henry Labourer HILLARY Joseph Labourer

KEAM John Butcher KEITH Charles B. Farmer

KEAME Isaac Farmer

LENDERMAN John Miner LUCAS William C. Baker

LOAS Joseph Farmer

McBAIN George Engineer McPHEE Jonathan Labourer

McNAB Donald Farmer

MANGAN James Labourer MORAN Martin Labourer

MELROSE William Farmer MORRIS James G. Labourer

MILNE Charles Labourer MORRIS James G., sen. Labourer

MOORE Thomas F. Farmer

OLNEY Edwin Baker ORROCK Alexander Blacksmith

ORROCK Robert Blacksmith

PATTERSON David Labourer PRESTON William Farmer

POTTER Thomas Farmer PRIMROSE Robert H. Labourer

RANSON Samuel Farmer RICHARDSON Thomas Labourer

RAPKINS Alfred Bookkeeper RICHARDSON William H. Carrier

RAPKINS Benjamin Farmer ROBERTSON Kenneth Labourer

RAPKINS James, jun. Farmer RUSSELL Richard Labourer

SANDERSON James Sawmiller STEPHENSON John Constable

SCHMIDT John Labourer STRACHAN James Farmer

SCHMIDT Samuel Blacksmith

TREWIN William, jun. Farmer TURNER Atkinson L. Labourer

UNDERWOOD James Farmer

WEBSTER William Hotel keeper WILTSHIRE William H. Labourer

WHITE George Labourer WISE James Storekeeper

WHITE James, sen. Farmer WISE John Storekeeper

WHITE Robert Farmer WOODARD Thomas Miner

WHITE Thomas Farmer WOODARD Thomas F. Labourer

WILLIAMSON Walter Manager

WILLIAMSON Walter Grazier

(To be continued)