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May 1788

May 1st. James Bennet, a youth, was executed for robbing a tent, belonging to the Charlotte transport, of sugar and some other articles. Before he was turned off he confessed his guilt, and acknowledged that, young as he was, he had been an old offender. Some other trifling thefts were brought before the court at the same time, and those concerned in them sentenced to receive corporeal punishment.

The Supply tender sailed for Lord Howe's Island to fetch turtle; as did the Lady Penrhyn transport for China. The Scarborough dropped down the harbour; she was followed the next day by the Charlotte, and they sailed in company for


  ― 156 ―
China. Some of the natives came along-side the Sirius, and made signs to have their beards taken off. One of them patiently, and without fear or distrust, underwent the operation from the ship's barber, and seemed much delighted with it.

21st. William Ayres, a convict, who was in a state of convalescence, and to whom I had given permission to go a little way into the country, for the purpose of gathering a few herbs wherewith to make tea, was, after night, brought to the hospital with one of the spears used by the natives sticking in his loins. It had been darted at him as he was stooping, and while his back was turned to the assailant. The weapon was barbed, and stuck so very fast that it would admit of no motion. After dilating the wound to a considerable length and depth, with some difficulty I extracted the spear, which had penetrated the flesh nearly three inches. After the operation, he informed us that he received his wound from three of the natives, who came behind him at a time when he suspected no person to be near him except Peter Burn, whom he had met a little before, employed on the same business as himself. He added that after they had wounded him they beat him in a cruel manner, and, stripping the cloaths from his back,


  ― 157 ―
carried them off; making signs to him (as he interpreted them) to return to the camp. He further related that after they had left him he saw Burn in the possession of another party of the natives, who were dragging him along, with his head bleeding, and seemingly in


  ― 133 ―
great distress, while he himself was so exhausted with loss of blood that, instead of being able to assist his companion, he was happy to escape with his life.

Colour plate facing page 157 of 'Port Jackson Thrush'



The Port Jackson thrush, of which a plate is annexed, inhabits the neighbourhood of Port Jackson. The top of the head in this species is blueish-grey; from thence down the hind part of the neck and the back the colour is a fine chocolate brown; the wings and tail are lead colour, the edges of the feathers pale; the tail itself pretty long, and even at the end; all the under parts from chin to vent are dusky-white, except the middle of the neck, just above the breast, which inclines to chocolate. The bill is of a dull yellow; legs brown.

25th. The Supply arrived from Lord Howe's Island without a single turtle, the object for which she was sent: a dreadful disappointment to those who were languishing under the scurvy, many of whom are since dead, and there


  ― 158 ―
is great reason to fear that several others will soon share the same fate. This disorder has now risen to a most alarming height, without any possibility of checking it until some vegetables can be raised, which, from the season of the year, cannot take place for many months. And even then I am apprehensive that there will not be a sufficiency produced, such are the labour and difficulty which attend the clearing of the ground. It will scarcely be credited when I declare that I have known twelve men employed for five days in grubbing up one tree; and, when this has been effected, the timber (as already observed) has been only fit for fire-wood; so that in consequence of the great labour in clearing of the ground and the weak state of the people, to which may be added the scarcity of tools, most of those we had being either worn out by the hardness of the timber or lost in the woods among the grass through the carelessness of the convicts, the prospect before us is not of the most pleasing kind. All the stock that was landed, both public and private, seems, instead of thriving, to fall off exceedingly. The number at first was but inconsiderable, and even that number is at present much diminished. The sheep, in particular, decrease rapidly, very few being now alive in the


  ― 159 ―
colony, although there were numbers, the property of Government or individuals, when first landed.

26th. Two men of the Sirius were brought before the criminal court and tried for assaulting and beating, in a cruel manner, another man belonging to the same vessel, while employed on an island appropriated by the governor to the use of the ship. They were sentenced to receive five hundred lashes each, but could not undergo the whole of that punishment, as, like most of the persons in the colony, they were much afflicted with the scurvy.

28th. Captain Hunter, his first lieutenant, and the surgeon of the Sirius went to the point of land which forms the north head of Port Jackson. In going there they discovered an old man, with a little girl about five years of age, lying close to the ground watching their motions, and at the same time endeavouring to conceal themselves. The surgeon had his gun with him, the effects of which he let the old man see by shooting a bird, which fell at his feet. The explosion at first greatly alarmed him, but, perceiving that they intended him no ill, he soon got over his fears. The bird was then given to him, which (having barely plucked, and not more than half broiled it) he devoured,


  ― 160 ―
entrails, bones, and all. The little girl was much frightened, and endeavoured to hide herself behind the old man, to escape the least observation.

30th. Captain Campbell of the marines, who had been up the harbour to procure some rushes for thatch, brought to the hospital the bodies of William Okey and Samuel Davis, two rush-cutters, whom he had found murdered by the natives in a shocking manner. Okey was transfixed through the breast with one of their spears, which with great difficulty and force was pulled out. He had two other spears sticking in him to a depth which must have proved mortal. His skull was divided and comminuted so much that his brains easily found a passage through. His eyes were out, but these might have been picked away by birds. Davis was a youth, and had only some trifling marks of violence about him. This lad could not have been many hours dead, for when Captain Campbell found him, which was among some mangrove-trees, and at a considerable distance from the place where the other man lay, he was not stiff nor very cold; nor was he perfectly so when brought to the hospital. From these circumstances we have been led to think that while they were dispatching Okey he had crept to the


  ― 161 ―
trees among which he was found, and that fear, united with the cold and wet, in a great degree contributed to his death. What was the motive or cause of this melancholy catastrophe we have not been able to discover, but from the civility shewn on all occasions to the officers by the natives, whenever any of them were met, I am strongly inclined to think that they must have been provoked and injured by the convicts. We this day caught a Yellow-eared Flycatcher (see annexed plate). This bird is a native of New Holland, the size of a martin, and nearly seven inches in length; the bill is broad at the bottom and of a pale colour; the legs dusky; the plumage is mostly brown, mottled with paler brown; the edges of the wing feathers yellowish; the under part of the body white, inclining to dusky about the chin and throat; the tail is pretty long and, when spread, seems hollowed out at the tip; beneath the eye, on each side, is an irregular streak, growing wider and finishing on the ears, of a yellow or gold colour.

Colour plate facing page 161 of 'Yellow Eared Fly Catcher'



Early the next morning the governor, Lieutenants G. Johnston and Kellow, myself, six soldiers, and two armed convicts, whom we took as guides, went to the place where


  ― 162 ―
the murder had been committed, in hopes, by some means or other, to be able to find out either the actual perpetrators or those concerned. As most of their clothes and all their working tools were carried off, we expected that these might furnish us with some clue, but in this we were disappointed. We could not observe a single trace of the natives ever having been there. We then crossed the country to Botany Bay, still flattering ourselves that we might be able to discover, among a tribe at that place, some proof that they had been concerned, as the governor was resolved on whomsoever he found any of the tools or clothing to shew them his displeasure, and by every means in his power endeavour to convince them of his motives for such a procedure. In our route we saw several kangaroos, and shot a very fine teal. A little before sun-set, after a long and fatiguing march, we arrived at Botany Bay. When we approached the bay we saw eleven canoes, with two persons in each, fishing; most of them had a fire in their canoe, a convenience which they seldom go without at any time or season, but particularly at this as the weather was very cold. Here we pitched our tents, for (as I have before observed) we


  ― 163 ―
never travel without them, and kindled large fires both in front and rear; still, however, the cold was so very intense that we could scarcely close our eyes during the night. In the morning the grass was quite white with a hoar frost, so as to crackle under out feet. After breakfast we visited the grave of the French abbé who died whilst the Count de Peyrouse was here. It was truly humble indeed, being distinguished only by a common head-stone, stuck slightly into the loose earth which covered it. Against a tree, just above it, was nailed a board, with the following inscription on it:

HIC JACET LE RECEVEUR EX F. F. MINORIBUS GALLIA SACERDOS PHYSICUS IN CIRCUMNAVIGATIONE MUNDI DUCE D. DE LA PEYROUSE. OBIIT DIE 17th FEBR. ANNO 1788.

As the painting on the board could not be permanent, Governor Phillip had the inscription engraved on a plate of copper and nailed to the same tree; and at some future day he intends to have a handsome head-stone placed at


  ― 164 ―
the grave. We cut down some trees which stood between that on which the inscription is fixed and the shore, as they prevented persons passing in boats from seeing it.

Between this and the harbour's mouth we found forty-nine canoes hauled upon the beach, but not a native to be seen. After we had passed them, we fell in with an Indian path, and, as it took a turn towards the camp, we followed it about two miles, when, on a sudden, in a valley or little bay to the northward of Botany Bay we were surprised at hearing the sound of voices, which we instantly found to proceed from a great number of the natives, sitting behind a rock, who appeared to be equally astonished with ourselves, as, from the silence we observed, they had not perceived us till we were within twenty yards of them. Every one of them, as they got up, armed himself with a long spear, the short stick before described, used in throwing it, a shield made of bark, and either a large club, pointed at one end, or a stone hatchet. At first they seemed rather hostilely inclined, and made signs, with apparent tokens of anger, for us to return; but when they saw the governor advance


  ― 165 ―
towards them, unarmed, and with his hands opened wide (a signal we had observed among them of amity and peace), they, with great confidence, came up to him, and received from him some trifles which he had in his pocket, such as fish-hooks, beads, and a looking-glass. As there appeared not to be less than three hundred of them in this bay, all armed, the soldiers were ordered to fix their bayonets, and to observe a close, well-connected order of march, as they descended the hill. These people (as already mentioned) seem to dislike red coats and and those who carry arms, but on the present occasion they shewed very little fear or distrust; on the contrary, they in a few minutes mixed with us, and conducted us to a very fine stream of water, out of which some of them drank, to shew that it was good. The women and children kept at some distance, one or two more forward than the rest excepted, who came to the governor for some presents. While he was distributing his gifts, the women danced (an exercise every description of people in this country seem fond of), and threw themselves into some not very decent attitudes.

The men in general had their skins smeared all over


  ― 166 ―
with grease, or some stinking, oily substance; some wore a small stick or fish-bone, fixed cross-ways, in the division of the nose, which had a very strange appearance; others were painted in a variety of ways, and had their hair ornamented with the teeth of fish, fastened on by gum, and the skin of the kangaroo. As they conducted us to the water, a toadstool was picked up by one of our company, which, some of the natives perceiving, they made signs for us to throw it away, as not being good to eat. Soon after I gathered some wood-sorrel, which grew in our way, but none of them endeavoured to prevent me from eating it; on the contrary, if a conclusion may be drawn from the signs which they made relative to the toadstool, they shewed, by their looks, that there was nothing hurtful in it.

We halted but a short time with them, as it was growing late and we had a long way to walk. Before we parted from them the governor gave them two small hand-axes, in exchange for some of their stone axes and two of their spears. As we ascended a hill, after our departure from them, eight of them followed us until we had nearly reached the top, where one of those who had


  ― 167 ―
been most familiar with us made signs for us to stop; which we readily complying with, he ran to the summit and made a strange kind of hallooing, holding at the same time his hands open above his head. As soon as we came up to him, we discovered another large body of them in a bay, about half a mile below us. Our new friend seemed anxious to carry us down to them, but, it not being in our way, we declined his offer. Seeing us take another direction, he halted and opened his hands, in order, as we supposed, to put us in mind that he had received nothing from us; upon which we presented him with a bird, the only thing we had, with which he returned, to appearance, fully content and satisfied. We now proceeded towards the camp, where we arrived about sun-set.

This was the greatest number of the natives we had ever seen together since our coming among them. What could be the cause of their assembling in such numbers gave rise to a variety of conjectures. Some thought they were going to war among themselves, as they had with them a temporary store of half-stinking fish and fern-root, the latter of which they use for bread. This we remarked as several of them were eating it at the time we were among them.


  ― 168 ―
Others conjectured that some of them had been concerned in the murder of our men, notwithstanding we did not meet with the smallest trace to countenance such an opinion, and that, fearing we should revenge it, they had formed this convention in order to defend themselves against us. Others imagined that the assemblage might be occasioned by a burial, a marriage, or some religious meeting.

The Tabuan Parrot, one of which was observed here, and of which a plate is annexed, is a bird about eighteen inches in length, and bigger than the Scarlet Lory. The head, neck, and under parts are of a fine scarlet; the upper parts of the body and wings are of a beautiful green; across the upper part of the wing coverts is an oblique bar of yellowish green, more glossy than the rest; the lower part of the back and rump is blue; there is also a small patch of blue at the lower part of the neck behind, between a scarlet and green, dividing those colours; the tail is pretty long, and of an olive brown colour; the bill is reddish; the legs deep brown, nearly black.

Colour plate facing page 168 of 'Tabuan Parrot'



The female is mostly green; the head, neck, and under parts olive brown; belly red; rump blue; tail, on the upper surface, green, beneath dusky.




  ― 169 ―
The above inhabits Botany Bay, and seems much allied to the Tabuan Parrot described by Mr. Latham in his Synopsis of Birds; but in that the head, neck, and under parts incline to purplish or chocolate colour; both quills and tail are blue, more or less edged with green, and a crescent of blue at the back part of the neck; it has also the under jaw surrounded with green feathers. It is probable, therefore, that our bird is only a variety of the Tabuan species.

Colour plate facing page 168 of 'Tabuan Parrot, female'



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