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June 1788

June 4th. This being the anniversary of his Majesty's birth-day, and the first celebration of it in New South Wales, his excellency ordered the Sirius and Supply to fire twenty-one guns at sun-rise, at one o'clock, and at sun-set. Immediately after the King's ships had ceased firing, at one o'clock, the Borrowdale, Friendship, Fishburne, Golden Grove, and Prince of Wales fired five guns each. The battalion was under arms at twelve and fired three vollies, succeeded by three cheers. After this ceremony had taken place, the lieutenant-governor, with all the officers of the settlement, civil and military, paid their respects to his excellency at his house. At two o'clock they all met there again to dinner, during which the band of musick


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played “God save the King” and several excellent marches. After the cloth was removed, his Majesty's health was drank with three cheers. The Prince of Wales, the Queen and royal family, the Cumberland family, and his Royal Highness Prince William Henry succeeded. His Majesty's ministers were next given; who, it was observed, may be Pitted against any that ever conducted the affairs of Great Britain.

When all the public toasts had gone round, the governor nominated the district which he had taken possession of, Cumberland County; and gave it such an extent of boundary as to make it the largest county in the whole world. His excellency said that he had intended to have named the town, and laid the first stone, on this auspicious day, but the unexpected difficulties which he had met with, in clearing the ground and from a want of artificers, had rendered it impossible; he therefore put it off till a future day. Its name, however, we understand, is to be ALBION. The day was passed in cheerfulness and good-humour; but it was a little damped by our perceiving that the governor was in great pain, from a return of his complaint. Though his countenance too plainly indicated


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the torture which he suffered, he took every method in his power to conceal it, lest it should break in upon the festivity and harmony of the day. His excellency ordered every soldier a pint of porter, besides his allowance of grog, and every convict half a pint of spirits, made into grog, that they all might drink his Majesty's health; and, as it was a day of general rejoicing and festivity, he likewise made it a day of forgiveness, remitting the remainder of the punishment to which the sailors of the Sirius were subject, and pardoning Lovel, Sideway, Hall, and Gordon, who had been confined on a little sterile island, or rather rock, situated in the harbour, until a place of banishment could be found. This act of lenity and mercy, added to many others which the governor had shewn, it is to be hoped will work some change on the minds of these men. Indeed some good may be expected from Hall and Gordon, who, since their sentence, have appeared penitent; but from Lovel and Sideway very little change for the better can be expected, because they seem so truly abandoned and incorrigible. At night every person attended an immense bonfire that was lighted for the occasion, after which the principal officers of the settlement, and of


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the men of war, supped at the governor's, where they terminated the day in pleasantry, good humour and cheerfulness.

The next morning we were astonished at the number of thefts which had been committed, during the general festivity, by the villanous part of the convicts, on one another, and on some of the officers, whose servants did not keep a strict look-out after their marquees. Availing themselves thus of the particular circumstances of the day, is a strong instance of their unabated depravity and want of principle. Scarcely a day passes without an example being made of some one or other of these wretches, but it seems to have no manner of effect upon them.

10th. John Ascott and Patrick Burn, two convicts, were brought before the criminal court and prosecuted by Lieutenant G. William Maxwell of the Sirius, and Mr Kelter, the Master of the same ship, for having, a few nights before, in a riotous manner, with many more of the convicts, attacked some seamen belonging to the men of war, and behaving in an insolent and contemptuous manner to them. After a long and judicious hearing, the prisoners were acquitted, as the charge brought against them was by no means substantiated.




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26th. About four in the afternoon a slight shock of an earthquake was felt at Sydney Cove and its environs. This incident had so wonderful an effect on Edward Corbett, a convict, who had eloped about three weeks before, on a discovery being made of his having stolen a frock, that he returned and gave himself up to justice. A few days antecedent to his return he had been outlawed, and was supposed to have driven off with him four cows, the only animals of this kind in the colony. This, however, he declared himself innocent of, but confessed his having committed the theft laid to his charge. The strictest search was made, but in vain, after the cows. It is probable that they have strayed so far off, in this endless wild, as to be irrecoverably lost. Previously to the return of Corbett he must have suffered very severely from hunger; his eyes were sunk into his head and his whole appearance shewed that he had been half starved. While he was absent, he says, he frequently fell in with the natives, who, though they never treated him ill, did not seem to like his company. He informed us that, in a bay adjacent to that where the governor and his party had met with so many of the natives, he saw the head of one of the convicts lying near


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the place where the body had been burnt in a large fire. This, in all likelihood, was Burn, who was carried off at the time Ayres was wounded, as he has not been heard of since.

The natives of this country, though their mode of subsisting seems to be so very scanty and precarious, are, I am convinced, not cannibals. One of their graves, which I saw opened, the only one I have met with, contained a body which had evidently been burned, as small pieces of the bones lay in the bottom of it. The grave was neatly made, and well covered with earth and boughs of trees.

The Pennantian Parrot (of which see plate annexed) was about this time first noticed. The general colour of the body, in the male, is crimson; the feathers of the back black in their middle; the chin and throat blue; the wings blue, with a bar of a paler colour down the middle of them; the tail is long, and blue also, and all but the two middle feathers have the ends very pale.

Colour plate facing page 174 of 'Pennantian Parrot'



The female differs in having the upper parts of the neck and body of a greenish colour; the top of the head red, and a patch of the same under each eye; the chin and


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throat blue; lower part of the neck and breast red, as are the rump and vent; the middle of the belly dusky green; tail dark blue, fringed with chestnut; shoulders blue; the rest of the wing the same, but darker; bill and legs as in the male.

Colour plate facing page 175 of 'Pennantian Parrot, female'



24th. The governor revoked the decree by which Corbett was outlawed, and he was tried by the criminal court simply for the theft he had committed, and sentenced to be hanged. Samuel Payton, a convict, likewise received the same sentence, for feloniously entering the marquee of Lieutenant Fuzer, on the night of the fourth of June, and stealing from thence some shirts, stockings and combs. His trial had been put off to the present time on account of a wound in his head, which he had received from Captain Lieutenant Meredith, who, on his return from the bonfire, found Payton in his marquée. When brought to the hospital, in consequence of the wound which he had received, he was perfectly senseless. During the time he remained under my care, I frequently admonished him to think of the perilous situation he then stood in, and to make known the accomplices whom he was supposed to have; but he firmly and uniformly denied his guilt and disclaimed his having any


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knowledge of, or concern in, robbing Lieutenant Fuzer. He further said that he did not recollect how he came to Captain Lieutenant Meredith's tent, or any circumstance relative to it. However, since he received his sentence he has confessed that he robbed Lieutenant Fuzer, and gave him information where to find the articles he had been robbed of; he at the same time acknowledged that he entered Mr. Meredith's marquee with an intention to rob him, doubting not but he should be able to make his escape undiscovered, as every one seemed so fully engaged on the pleasures of the day.

When he and Corbett were brought to the fatal tree, they (particularly Payton) addressed the convicts in a pathetic, eloquent, and well-directed speech. He acknowledged the justice of his sentence, a sentence, which (he said) he had long deserved. He added that he hoped and trusted that the ignominious death he was about to suffer would serve as a caution and warning to those who saw and heard him. They both prayed most fervently, begging forgiveness of an offended GOD. They likewise hoped that those whom they had injured would not only forgive them, as they themselves did all mankind, but offer up their prayers to


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a merciful REDEEMER that, though so great sinners, they might be received into that bliss which the good and virtuous only can either deserve or expect. They were now turned off, and in the agonizing moments of the separation of the soul from the body seemed to embrace each other. The execution of these unhappy youths, the eldest of whom was not twenty-four years of age, which seemed to make a greater impression on the convicts than any circumstance had done since their landing, will induce them, it is to be hoped, to change their conduct, and to adopt a better mode of life than, I am sorry to say, they have hitherto pursued.

The principal business now going forward is the erecting huts for the marines and convicts, with the cabbage-tree. We have been here nearly six months and four officers only as yet got huts: when the rest will be provided with them seems uncertain, but this I well know, that living in tents, as the rainy season has commenced, is truly uncomfortable and likely to give a severe trial to the strongest and most robust constitution.

The trees of this country are immensely large, and clear of branches to an amazing height. While standing, many


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of them look fair and good to the eye, and appear sufficient to make a mast for the largest ship, but, when cut down, they are scarcely convertible to any use whatever. At the heart they are full of veins through which an amazing quantity of an astringent red gum issues. This gum I have found very serviceable in an obstinate dysentery that raged at our first landing, and still continues to do so, though with less obstinacy and violence. When these trees are sawed, and any way exposed to the sun, the gum melts, or gets so very brittle, that the wood falls to pieces, and appears as if the pieces had been joined together with this substance. How any kind of houses, except those built of the cabbage tree, can be raised up, the timber being so exceedingly bad, it is impossible to determine.

I have already said that the stone of this country is well calculated for building, could any kind of cement be found to keep them together. As for lime-stone, we have not yet discovered any in the country, and the shells collected for that purpose have been but inconsiderable. From Captain Cook's account, one would be led to suppose that oyster and cockle shells might be procured in such quantities as to make a sufficiency of lime, for the


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purpose of constructing at least a few public buildings, but this is by no means the case. That great navigator, notwithstanding his usual accuracy and candour, was certainly too lavish of his praises on Botany Bay.

The peculiarity I have mentioned relative to the wood of this place is strange. There are only three kinds of it, and neither of them will float on the water. We have found another resin here, not unlike the balsam Tolu in smell and effect, but differing widely in colour, being of a clear yellow, which exudes from the tree. This, however, is not to be met with in such quantities as the red gum before mentioned, nor do I think that its medicinal virtues are by any means so powerful. A kind of earth has been discovered which makes good bricks, but we still are in want of cement for them as well as for the stone.

What animals we have yet met with have been mostly of the Opossum kind. The Kangaroo, so very accurately delineated by Captain Cook, is certainly of that class, and the largest animal seen in the country. One has been brought into camp which weighed a hundred and forty-nine pounds. See plate annexed. The conformation of this animal is peculiarly singular. Its hinder parts have great muscular


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power, and are, perhaps, beyond all parallel out of proportion when compared with the fore parts. As it goes, it jumps on its two hind legs, from twenty to twenty-eight feet, and keeps the two fore ones close to the breast; these are small and short, and it seems to use them much like a squirrel. The tail of these animals is thick and long; they keep it extended, and it serves as a kind of counterpoise to the head, which they carry erect, when bounding at full speed. The velocity of a Kangaroo as far outstrips that of a greyhound as that animal exceeds in swiftness a common dog. It is a very timid, shy, and inoffensive creature, evidently of the granivorous kind. Upon our first discovering one of them, as it does not use its fore feet to assist it in running, or rather jumping, many were of opinion that the tail, which is immensely large and long, was made use of by them in the act of progression; but this is by no means the case. Had it been used in such a manner, the hair would probably have been worn away from the part which, of course, must be applied to the ground. The tail, from its size and weight, seems to serve it for a weapon both of defence and offence; for it does not appear that nature has provided it with any other. Its mouth and head,


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even when full grown, are too small for it to do much execution with the teeth; nor is the conformation of either at all calculated for the purpose. Indeed, its fore feet, which it uses, as a squirrel or monkey, to handle any thing with, and which assist it in lying down, are too small


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and out of proportion, as are all the superior parts, to admit of its either possessing or exerting much strength. It has been reported by some convicts who were out one day, accompanied by a large Newfoundland dog, that the latter seized a very large Kangaroo but could not preserve its hold. They observed that the animal effected its escape by the defensive use it made of its tail, with which it struck its assailant in a most tremendous manner. The blows were applied with such force and efficacy, that the dog was bruised, in many places, till the blood flowed. They observed that the Kangaroo did not seem to make any use of either its teeth or fore feet, but fairly beat off the dog with its tail, and escaped before the convicts, though at no great distance, could get up to secure it.

The female has a pouch or pocket, like the Opossum, in which she carries her young. Some have been shot with a young one, not larger than a walnut, sticking to a teat


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in this pocket. Others, with young ones not bigger than a rat: one of which, most perfectly formed, with every mark and distinguishing characteristic of the Kangaroo, I have sent to Mr. Wilson, of Gower Street, Bedford Square.

There is a peculiar formation in the generative parts of this animal. Of its natural history we at present know little, and therefore, as we are so unacquainted with its habits, haunts, and customs, to attempt particular and accurate descriptions of it might beget error, which time, or a fuller knowledge of its properties, would directly contradict. As to mere conjectures (and such too often are imposed upon the public for incontestible facts), it cannot be improper to suppress them.

Every animal in this country partakes, in a great measure, of the nature of the Kangaroo. We have the Kangaroo Opossum, the Kangaroo Rat, &c. In fact every quadruped that we have seen, except the flying squirrel, and a spotted creature, nearly the size of a Martin, resembles the Kangaroo in the formation of the fore legs and feet, which bear no proportion to the length of the hind legs.

The scarcity of boats will prevent our being so well supplied with fish as otherwise might be expected. Fish


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is far from abounding at the cold season of the year, but, in the summer, judging from the latter end of the last, we have every reason to conclude that the little bays and coves in the harbour are well stored with them. The fish caught here are, in general, excellent, but several of them, like the animals in some degree resembling the Kangaroo, partake of the properties of the shark. The land, the grass, the trees, the animals, the birds, and the fish, in their different species, approach by strong shades of similitude to each other. A certain likeness runs through the whole.

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