Of all the tasks that faced the First Fleeters, both before sailing and on
arrival in N.S.W., that of managing the commissariat must have been,
to use a modern expression, "mind-blowing".
What to take ?
There were literally thousands of items that were quire basic. The list included such items as axes, shovels, hoes, iron pots, wooden platters, fishing nets and hooks, candles, bedding and clothes.
How to issue the stores ?
What they brought with them were virtually the only supplies in the colony. The officer in charge of the stores was the Commissary.
The first man to hold this important position was Andrew Miller. He came on H M S Sirius with Phillip, and for a short time, he was Secretary. Miller found the job fraught with problems, even when he was given a trustworthy assistant, Zachariah Clark. There was no coinage, and assigned servants had to be paid in rum, tobacco, tea, sugar, clothing, flour, salt pork or rice. Free workmen were paid in notes on the British Treasury. Miller's health broke down under the strain, and he resigned in 1790. He died on the return journey to England.
Another first fleeter, John Palmer, took up the task of handling
the stores. He had the experience at handling and issuing stores as the purser on
the "Sirius". He became the commissary in June 1791. The job had become more
complicated now, for, besides issuing government stores, he was responsible
for negotiating with merchants to buy in new stores.
He arranged the deals, fixed the prices and drew up treasury bills for payments. He had to keep accounts and virtually act as banker to the colony. Palmer, sophisticated and self-confident, with a friendly personality and good intellect, handled his great responsibilities well.
He decided to stay in the colony, brought out his family and built himself a fine house at Woolloomooloo. Here he entertained the highest gentry in the colony. He was seated at the Governor's table on the night of Bligh's arrest in the Rum Rebellion. His support of the governor involved him in difficulties with the N.S.W. Corps, but he was re-instated by Macquarie. However, the commissariat was re-structured, and Palmer lost some of his power. But he remained an influential man in the colony till his death in 1833.
Another first fleeter employed in the commissariat was
William Broughton who came on the "Charlotte" as servant to surgeon White. He was
the first storekeeper at Rose Hill, but his most important work was done as acting
deputy commissary of Norfolk Island. He also held the position in the commissariat
in Sydney and Hobart. he was highly praised for his honesty and hard work by Macquarie.
Later he took up farming and stayed to found a family in the colony.
Australia was fortunate to have men of such character to put
in charge of the housekeeping requirements of the young colony.
Henry Dodd came to Australia a free man, the personal servant of Governor Phillip. Having been a farm hand in his home land, he was given the task of establishing the first crops at Farm Cove on the present site of the Botanical Gardens. With the aid of convicts, he had a small area of land cleared, hoed and planted with corn. But the soil was poor, and the crop failed. Better land was found at Rose Hill, and a government farm was started. Dodd was placed in charge, and here he was able to archive much better results. His garden produced a 26 lb cabbage, which was presented to the governor for Christmas in 1789. Dodd also had a gift for managing his convict labourers, getting the best out of them without resort to too much punishment. Just before his untimely death in 1791, Dodd and his 100 convicts had cleared 200 acres, and had 88 acres under wheat, barley, oats and maize (corn).
The name SMITH
There were 25 souls on the First Fleet with the surname SMITH. The youngest, Edward or William, was the son of a convict girl, Hannah Smith. He was born en route and died at Port Jackson in June 1788.
There were two James Smiths also on the Fleet. One, a convict, on emancipation received a grant at Mulgrave Place, whilst the other James, would you believe, was the only paying passenger on the First Fleet.
Arthur Phillip was informed at Capetown that there was a tourist in his charge. On the recommendation of several officers, Phillip allowed James Smith to land at Sydney Cove, providing him with a tent, a piece of land for a garden requested that he superintend convicts at work.
In 1789 Smith was appointed Assistant Commissioner at Rosehill.
He proved a dead loss and a weight on the stores of the infant colony and was returned, bag and baggage to England by the "Gorgon" in 1791.
All that we are told that advancing age and infirmity led to his dismissal!!
Author: Peter George Christian
A Publication of talks given by the President of the Fellowship of First Fleeters
Peter G Christian, a descendant of William Tunks, Marine, "Sirius" and Sarah Lyons a Second Fleet Jewish Convict
In 1786 Thomas Townsend, Lord Sydney, announced that His Majesty, George the Third authorised the establishment of a settlement at Botany Bay. The Admiralty and Treasury were ordered, and I quote' you do forthwith take such measures as may be necessary for providing a proper number of vessels for the conveyance of 750 convicts to Botany Bay, together with such provisions, necessaries and implements for agriculture as may be necessary for their use after arrival'.
The first Act in England, authorising the transport of felons was passed in 1597 being..'An Act for the Punishment of Rogues, Vagabonds and Sturdy Beggars… to be banished out of this Realm, and all other Dominions thereof…' Further Acts were passed in 1664,1666, and 1718, permitting transport to the American Colonies.
The American War of Independence had put a sudden halt to the passage of convicts across the Atlantic. From 1718 some 50,000 of Briton's felons had been sent to the American colonies as indentured servants, which, in effect, condemned them to slavery, so, after several attempts at a solution to rid the colony of convicts, which included a trial run to the West coast of Africa, resulting in the loss of many lives, it was Botany Bay that was chosen. The British Treasury arranged eleven ships to be prepared for the journey consisting of two naval ships, Sirius and Supply, six transports, Alexander, Lady Penrhyn, Scarborough, Charlotte, Prince of Wales, Friendship and three storeships - Fishburn, Borrowdale and Golden Grove. For some months stores were loaded, in addition to guns and ammunition. In the quaint language of the day the following were listed on the ships' indents----- Barrels of Flour - Firkins of Butter - Tierces of Beef - Casks of Water and Beer - Pipes of Rum and Brandy- Chords of Wood - Cauldrons of Coal - Baggs of Bread - Portable Soup -(one would hope that it was potable!!)- Hogs heads of Seeds - in addition the usual Pease, Cheese Rice and Pork. A fair amount of livestock was carried, much having to be replaced at CapeTown, in addition to seedlings and seeds for agriculture in the new colony. There were, of course, Tools and Agricultural implements, medical supplies, surgical instruments, handcuffs, leg irons, looking glasses and other trinkets for any natives encountered; also carried was a prefabricated tent for the Governor, 5,000 bricks and the piece de resistance was a piano stored on the Sirius and belonging to Surgeon George Worgan. On Worgan's departure from the colony some years later, the piano was given to Mrs Elizabeth Macarthur.
The Fleet eventually set sail from Motherbank, Portsmouth, on Sunday 13th May 1787 so aptly put by our pianist, Surgeon Worgan ,aboard HMS Sirius in his diary 'Thus equipped each ship like another Noah's Ark, away we steered for Botany Bay'
I say eventually because of a strike by the crews of the Fishburn and Alexander, who mutinied over wages and conditions. This strike, a portent of so many to come in the land we now know was only short-lived due to the lack of Public interest, no one in Britain would have been in the least interested that a fleet of some 1500 souls was sailing into the unknown. The news of the day, for those who were literate was the secret marriage of the Prince of Wales to Mrs Fitzherbert and the impeachment of Warren Hastings for alleged imperial crimes in India!
This successful voyage was due in no small part to the navigational skills of Arthur Phillip. Phillip was born in London of an English mother and German father. He had served in the British navy during the seven-year war with France, had also served with permission from the Admiralty with the Portuguese Navy. In 1781 he was promoted to the rank of Captain and again saw action against France in 1782 and 1783. In 1786 he was handed his commission to lead the expedition to Botany Bay and was given the daunting task of the setting up of an administration of the settlement that would lay the foundations to be built upon for years to come. Thea Stanley Hughes in her book "Arthur Phillip" writes' so in 1788 the destinies of Cook, Phillip, Britain and Australia were brought into close association'
The voyage of the eleven ships continued, The Canary Islands were reached on 3rd June 1787, and at the port of Teneriffe stores were taken on board. On the 6th August Rio de Janiero was reached and the fleet stayed here for nearly a month, more stores were taken on board, the ships were caulked and Phillip and his officers were made most welcome by the Portuguese colonists.
Phillip, writing to his friend, Evan Nepean of the Home Office said 'with respect to the convicts, they have all been allowed the liberty of the deck in the day and many during the night, which has kept them much healthier than could have been expected'
The Fleet arrived in Cape Town on 13 October after an uneventful trip of 39 days. I might add that there was a hiccup in Cape Town Harbour when one of the convicts, by name Phoebe Norton, [definitely a lady of quality] fell into the harbour whilst using the outside latrine of one of the transports. She was fished out by one of the sailors, none the worse for wear!!
It was at CapeTown that Phillip was involved in long and tedious negotiations with the Dutch to purchase provisions that eventually were provided. Midshipman Newton Fowell, whose letters now repose in our NSW State Library, writing to his father said…'Honoured father, before we sailed we took in a great quantity of stock such as oxen, six cows, sheep and hogs…. All the people thoroughly clear of scurvy as the Dutch supplied us with mutton, vegetables and all other things for the preservation of men's lives on so long a voyage'
Lieutenant Ralph Clark, marine on the Friendship, noted in his diary, with regard to the 30 sheep taken on board into quarters vacated by the female convicts 'I think we will find them more agreeable shipmates than the women were'!!!
The Fleet sailed from Cape Town on Monday 12th November 1787 on the last leg of its voyage to Botany Bay. This was the dangerous part of the voyage, as Phillip had to sail deep into the Southern Ocean to make full use of the Trade Winds, there was also the threat of icebergs in this region. The storeship of the Second Fleet, the "Guardian" came to grief after leaving CapeTown, jettisoning its vital cargo for the new colony, and just limping back to Table Bay.
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 endeavour 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. We know for instance that there were at least 15 West Indians and Negroes, there
were Dutch, Portuguese, Swedes and one Indian from Bengal. Some Asians were included in
At least 14 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.
There were 33 Scottish people on the fleet and, of these, only one convict, John Ramsay,
the rest being marines and seamen. The Scots certainly looked after their own!!!!
Of the free men, one was John Hunter, the second Governor, and another was Surgeon William Balmain.
The Welsh weren't left out - nine in number including four convicts. There were 141 persons known to have been born in Ireland, mostly convicts convicted in England for petty crimes. It is interesting that the so called Irish rebels arrived at a later date.
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.
EDWARD MILES. - convicted in March 1785 for stealing clothhing and other goods - his sentence was 7 years transportation. Having served his time he received several grants of land at Prospect and later at Minto. In 1803 he married Susannah Smith, convict and had an issue of four daughters. As a landowner he wasn't that successful and whilst he found no brilliant career in the Colony he did found a family and among his descendants was one, Stella Maria Miles Franklin.
St.Anne's churchyard, Ryde, holds the remains of a number of First Fleeters in addition
to other pioneers of this area. John Small, Richard Hatton, James Bradley and Edward
Goodin to name but a few. Time unfortunately only permits me to dwell on the
misfortunes and later fortunes of John Small, and his wife Mary Parker.
John was convicted and sentenced to death for highway robbery in 1785, the sentence later being commuted to seven years transportation. He met and married his convict wife on 12th October 1788 and later settled on a grant of 30 acres at Ryde. Actually most of the area contained these days by Top Ryde.!!
In 1808 he was sworn in as District Constable in which capacity he served for some 17 years. He died at the age of 88 years in 1850, a well respected citizen in a community amongst whom he had laboured so well in his new found way of life. He and Mary raised seven children, poor Mary had drowned in a dam on the property some descendants of whom became famous within the Commonwealth. A great of these two pioneers married the son of a newspaper proprietor by the name of Fairfax. grandaughter he became the first Lady Fairfax !!!
Another famous descendant is Richard Bonynge, spouse of Dame Joan Sutherland.
I could go on for ages here, but I have to share with you, the fact that the Packer family through Gretel Bullmore, the late Lady Packer, was a descendant of Frederick Meredith, a seaman who arrived on the Fleet and received grants of land including most of Bankstown, where some descendants still reside to-day. Thereby hangs another tale!!!
In a bush cemetery at Castlereagh where the Hawkesbury River becomes the Nepean lie the
remains of many pioneers of the Penrith-Richmond area. Two First Fleeters are buried here,
Anthony Rope and Elizabeth Pulley. Just imagine this combination???!!!
Elizabeth was convicted and sentenced to death, later reprieved to 7 years, for the theft of 2 cheeses, four pieces of bacon, several ½ pints of butter, a quarter stone of raisins, ½ stone of flour and two rolls of worsted. At the age of 26 years, Elizabeth was embarked on the Friendship unwittingly for a new beginning in life. She met and married Anthony Rope, convict on 19th May 1788.
In their early years they seemed to be in and out of trouble, even their wedding breakfast landed then in trouble.
They had a number of guests on that day in May 1788 and partook of something called "sea pie".
Well, George Johnston was missing a goat at this time…. and the two newly weds were hauled up before the magistrate charged with stealing the said goat. They both maintained, with witnesses, that they found the goat as if it had been savaged by a wild animal and used part of it for their feast.!!
Charge was dismissed.. another plus for justice in this far land!!
"In Sacred Respect to the Loving Remains of Mr. Jas. Squire, late of Kissing Point who
departed this Life May 16th 1822at the age of 67 years.
He arrived in the colony in the First Fleet and by Integrity and Industry acquired and maintained an unsullied reputation. [note no mention of convicts!!!]
Under his care the Hop Plant was first Cultivated in this Settlement and the first Brewery erected which Progressively matured to Perfection. [aside.. the beer or the brewery???]
As a Father, Friend and Christian he Lived Respected and Died Lamented.
That fine epitaph, now lost for posterity, may be compared with a rather lowly grave and headstone in Parramatta Cemetery to a settler, which simply states,…
"Ye who wish to lie here, drink Squire's beer."
A descendant of James , actually his grandson, by name James Squire Farnell, became Premier[Prime Minister] of New South Wales in the 1880's, evidently keeping it very quiet that he was descended from a convict or two!!!!]
There are many, many stories of success in the colony pioneered by both bonded and
free and it would take some considerable time to relate the history of these men and
women . I would commend to you a volume called " The Founders of Australia"
written by a Dr. Mollie Gillen AM., a Life Member of the Fellowship of First
This book contains the profile of each person who arrived at Sydney Cove on the 26th January 1788.
It tells one of pioneers such as Ann Forbes, a descendant of whom is a millionaire to-day, and I, might add, an extremely proud member of the Fellowship, John Herbert, Thomas Acres, Robert Forrester, James Ruse who saved the infant colony from starvation, Augustus Alt, Nathaniel Lucas, James Bloodworth, the convict who built first Government House and on his demise was given a State Funeral.
Personally I believe that it would be an inevitable accident of history that any settlement of this land in the Eighteenth Century would have encroached on the original inhabitants. Given these circumstances one may be forgiven that it was fortuitous to the Aborigines that it was the British who arrived first and not the French, Dutch or Spanish.. but there is another side to the coin!!!
In her introduction to this book, Mollie Gillen writes…
"Little enough attention has been paid to the destruction of Aboriginal Society which began with the First Settlement" OK lets look at this statement.. On reflection the First Fleet did bring the diseases.. diseases from which the natives had no immunity.. we brought alcohol and we also brought an alien culture , incomprehensible to the original inhabitants of this land.
Gillen goes on to say….
"Maybe if we can bring ourselves to face the reality of this event it may help to contribute to a spirit of Reconciliation and forge a new and confident sense of identity."
Whilst I hope and fervently pray that a spirit of Reconciliation will eventually come to reality, some prejudices must be put aside from both sides. This is the way modern Australia was founded and there should be no "beg your pardons" about this. We, all of us, should never forget that our land sprung from man's inhumanity to man.
In conclusion I leave you with some words by Dame Mary Gilmour…
"I am old Botany Bay, stiff in the joints, little to say
I am he who paved the way that you may walk at ease to-day,
I was the conscript sent to hell, to make the desert a living well,
I bore the heat, I blazed the track - furrowed and bloody upon my back,
I split the rock,
I felled the tree,
The nation was, because of me.
Sources for this article have been taken from :
The Founders of Australia by Dr Mollie Gillen AM.
Sydney Cove 1788 by John Cobley
Sydney Cove 1791-1993 by John Cobley
Australia the First 12 Years by Peter Taylor
1788 The People of the First Fleet by Don Chapman
Archives of the Fellowship of First Fleeters
Where First Fleeters Lie by Rod Best and Joyce Cowell
Arthur Phillip by Thea Stanley Hughes
Historical Records of NSW Vol.1.
It was close to 9am one morning in 1789, and Isabella Rosson was busily engaged in
converting her poorly furnished room from a bedsitter to a schoolroom. Her personal possessions
were put aside. She placed a few poor books on the table, arranged some wooden stools for
her pupils and took her only teaching aid from a drawer. This was a horn book - a sheet of paper
about 8 inches (20cm) long by 5 inches (13cm) wide, pasted on a thin piece of wood, and covered
with thin transparent horn.
On this sheet was printed the alphabet, figures from 1 to 9 in Roman and Arabic numbers, a few simple words and the Lord's Prayer.
Preparing thus for her day's work, the first Australian schoolmistress could contemplate with satisfaction her situation in the colony. Here she was, at the age of 35 years, the proprietor of a "Dame's School", the First in Australia. Only 2 years ago on the 10th Jan, 1787, she had stood in the dock at the Old Bailey and been sentenced to 7 years transportation for stealing household furnishings to the value of 12 shillings. She had endured the long sea voyage as a convict in the "Lady Penrhyn", a transport in the First Fleet. Now she was free and able to earn a living by passing on her meagre knowledge.
The official attitude to education was that it was important, but that it was essentially a task for the church to undertake. The colony's first Chaplain, who came out on the "Golden Grove", was Rev. Richard Johnson. He was a well educated man who had been a teacher in England before entering the ministry. In the first years, he taught some children himself, and later, he was made responsible for the supervision of all schools. In 1793, when Johnston's church was erected, a schoolroom was incorporated. The first teacher was William Richardson, a First Fleeter who had been transported on the "Alexander", He had married Isbella Rosson of the first Dame's School. The school did well and soon had 3 teachers and 150 pupils, the children of N.S.W. Corps members, settlers and convicts.
Soon schools were being established in other districts. Some were government orphanage schools, some were private academies and many church schools, all of them attending to the educational needs of the young Australians of the early 19th Century. They were building on the foundations laid by the First Fleet Educators.
Author unknown - Copy right Fellowship of First Fleeters
Wanted! A menu in a day's meal for a convict and a Marine, in transport and after arrival 1788.