Thursday, 28 August 2008

Just who is in charge?

Source: Touchstone. Melbourne: January 22 1870

Interesting image here. It relates to the poem published in the journal "Touchstone" reproduced below. The journal I suppose could be described as conservative in outlook.

For a bit of context: The focus of this, the second of the intercolonial conferences was on intercolonial and trade tariffs, self determination, and federalism (the British army left Australia this year, leaving the colonies responsible for their own defence). The governors of the Australasian states as they existed at the time are all represented here (New South Wales, South Australia, Queensland, Tasmania and Victoria). The notable exception is of course the New Zealand governor of the time, George Ferguson Bowen. Instead we have a Maori chief holding a bloody great war club.

War between Maori and Pakeha was raging in NZ at the time, though by 1870 the end of outright organised hostilities was near. The "New Zealand Wars" or "Maori Wars" are generally regarded as ending in 1872, though some say it is still not over. Maori by this time had the King movement (Tawhiao was King at this time), and considering previous declarations of independence and treaty with the British crown, it is interesting to think that this cartoon implicitly recognises Maori as the legitimate governors of New Zealand, and also begs the question, the answer to which we all know: Where are the Australian aborigines in this picture?

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Taking the mick out of the Irish

Source: S.T. (Samuel Thomas) Gill (1818-1880) Coffee Tent & Sly Grog Shop, Diggers Breakfast 1852. From Victoria Gold Diggings and Diggers as They Are (Melbourne: James J. Blundell, 1852).

Apologies for the title of this post but I can't resist a bad pun.

A couple of my Cornish grandfathers left South Australia for the Victorian goldrush in around 1851 or 52. The story below about two Irishmen caught up in the gold fever comes from the Illustrated Australian Magazine, published January 1852.
The Irish copped a really bad time of it in early Australia, being the butt of jokes and generally thought of as the dregs of society. In the learned journals up until around the 1850s there was often paternalistic debate about the "Irish/Catholic question" in the colonies. But, in the immortal words of the bag lady who stuck her head into a small pub in Kilburn the other day, wheezing out at the top of her lungs: "The Oirsih built this focken country!" ("Straight home dear, you've had enough" came the general reply from the retired navvies).

They did build the country to a large extent. Though the Chinese helped later along the way too (and took the heat off the Irish). Is it bad form to link to your own stuff?

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Wreck Reef

Left is a drawing of Wreck reef by William Westall. A copy engraving was made and published in Flinders' Magnum Opus (details below)
On the subject of Matthew Flinders (August seems to be SSM's Matthew Flinders Month), I didn't manage to find originals of either Palmer's or William's reports to the authorities in Bombay. Apparently the reports were recorded in a journal called "The Orphan", but the BL doesn't hold it. Yale University, of all places, does though. Sometimes you can get the story from other newspapers, but although the BL holds a lot, the newspapers published in India in 1803/04 are missing across the board. Rather bizarre that, and unfortunate. Still, you never know, there may be something in the Admiralty or Colonial office files at National Archives.
Well, the details are recorded in a long footnote in Flinders' Book (and I'll give you the title in all its full glory):

"A Voyage to Terra Australis; undertaken for the purpose of completing the discovery of that vast country, and prosecuted in the years 1801, 1802, and 1803, in His Majesty's ship the Investigator, and subsequently in the armed vessel Porpoise and Cumberland schooner. With an account of the shipwreck of the Porpoise, arrival of the Cumberland at Mauritius, and imprisonment of the commander during six years and a half in that island." The copy on my desk has a little handwritten note in the flyleaf: "Presented by the author 25th july 1814". I know it's booky-geeky, but I love that stuff.

Friday, 15 August 2008

Researching the Research

Source: Sydney Morning Herald. 15 August 1931

This is a barque that Brian and Morgan of the previous post sailed on for a time. It says in the article that it is a copy of an original the author found amongst his wife's family's things in the UK. Either this copy or the original may have been donated somewhere, either in Australia or the UK, or it may still be in the family. Unfortunately, the author uses a nom de plume. Was he being tricky in some way by spelling Flinders Bar incorrectly? Perhaps Barr is his surname. The microfilm copy isn't that great, so I'd like to get an image straight from one of these sources. Money paid!

The original was painted by J. G. F. Crawford in around 1825. More detail on him is here on a family history site, so I I'll try them next week.

Here's the article:

Saturday, 9 August 2008

Brian and Morgan

Source: The India Gazette. 14 September 1826

The blog will be a little quiet for a while as I research these two guys for an article I'm trying to write. If I can't get it published I guess I can always inflict it here!

Strange sort of stories these - obviously tongue in cheek, and the real identities of the two men is never given, so it will be a bit of detective work through various memoirs of those who came in contact with them. They got around a bit, NZ, India, Australia and several of the Pacific Islands.

They were on a very serious mission - to get muskets to fight against the Nga Puhi under Hongi Hika who were well armed. The man with whom they travelled had his own glorious goal, and the colourful natures of the three of them were milked in the press and at parties. Brian, Morgan and Peter Dillon got their treasures, but it was all downhill from there.

Sunday, 3 August 2008

News on the Macoa Roads

("Roads" in a nautical sense refers the approaches to a harbour from the sea)

Flinders could have done with this knowledge. Despite being on a scientific expedition and in possession of a passport issued by the French government allowing him free passage (Baudin had one as well issued by the English), he may have thought to change his mind and not gone to Isle de France. He was arrested there and interned for seven years.
Britain and France were at war on and off all the time and it was very difficult for people in the South Seas to keep track of it all.

The log entries for when the Rolla was in the road and in harbour are written on seperate sheets and tipped into the logbook, whence it starts again once having left the port. Not sure of course, but I think this is because the ship's papers - including the log - would have been in the hands of the Harbour authorities to make sure their was no shenanigans.
I've copied out the entry here:
Monday 5 December
Moderate breeze with cloudy weather People variously employ'd
seamen as necessary Passed down the River three Americans
hailed one of them named the New York bound to
New York who informed us it was believed there was
war between Great Brittain and France Wind ESE

Friday, 1 August 2008

Brevity is the virtue of busy people

This is the rather funny log entry for the Rolla, currently sitting on my desk. (And before anyone panics, I took the photo without the flash)

The space was obviously left blank and then at some time next year the gap filled in. Probably from notes. 1803 is the correct year, but the skipper forgets himself and writes in 1804 by mistake at the 10th and 11th. I've copied it out below as 19th century handwriting can be difficult. Although I've got to say it's better than my 21st Century handwriting.

The log also suffers from its own end of century bug - the printed headings for the dates are all 17_ _. He's had to write over it.

Back Story:

Matthew Flinders had left Port Jackson after a lovely bit of work charting the Southern coast of Australia (in competition with Frenchman Nicolas Baudin, who was doing the same thing at the same time). Much of their work is still to be found on modern charts. Flinders was on his way back to England on board the Porpoise in convoy with two East India merchant ships, the Cato (John Park) and the Bridgewater(E H Palmer), when the Porpoise and the Cato struck a sandbank off the coast of what is now Queensland on 19 August.

The Porpoise crew got off safely, and rescued provisions. They managed to help the crew of the Cato abandon next day. Most men survived. The Bridgewater saw all this happen, and next day captain Palmer made the call to sail blithely on to Bombay, where he reported Cato and Porpoise lost. The 3rd mate of the Bridgewater was scandalised (as were most of the officers and crew but they didn't mutiny) and filed a contradictory report, telling the truth of the matter. I'll see if they still exist in the East India Office files. The 3rd mate (I only know him as Williams - but will check the files) quit the ship in disgust, and the Bridgewater left for England, never to be seen again. Karma for the skipper, but rough to say the least on the rest of the crew.

Meanwhile, Flinders and some others took one of Porpoise's small boats and sailed back to Port Jackson, leaving the other castaways to make a comfortable camp and begin building new boats from the wrecks. The first of these boats was doing its sea trials when help arrived. It came in the form of the East India ship Rolla, and two schooners: the Cumberland (now under Flinders' command for the intended return journey to England) and the Francis. Rolla's log entry takes up the story:

7 October Friday 1803.

Noon fine breeze & clear. Saw a reef to the SW Dist about 4 Leagues.

8 October Saturday 1803.
Fine breeze & clear Wr at 3pm
Came to an anchor at Wreck Reef Bay in 20 Faths The
flag staff bears NE Dist 1 1/2 Miles

9th day Oct Sunday
Fine breezes & clear weather Employed in taking on board
the officers seamen & stores belonging to H M the late ship Porpoise
and Mercht ship Cato Wind ENE

10 Oct 1804 Monday
Moderate & cloudy Wr. Employed taking on board the
remainder of the crew that was wrecked with some??
& provisions wind ?? E

11 Oct 1804 Tuesday
Light airs nearly calm at 6am have ?? after taking on board 57 men belonging to the Porpoise & 15 belonging
to Cato and at 8am weighed & ?? the Cumberland Capt
M Fletcher at noon Wreck Reef Sand bank bore S & W
Dist 10 miles