The Life and Experiences of an Ex-Convict in Port Macquarie
NEW SOUTH WALES:
R. Davidson, Printer, Port Macquarie.
|CHAPTER I.||Farewell To My Native Land.||1|
|CHAPTER II.||Arrival at Sydney.||5|
|CHAPTER III.||"Fresh Fields and Pastures New."||6|
|CHAPTER IV.||To Port Macquarie.||8|
|CHAPTER V.||The Iron Gang.||11|
|CHAPTER VI.||Assigned to Lake Innes.||22|
|CHAPTER VII.||The Blind Mob.||33|
|CHAPTER VIII.||The Road Parties.||35|
|CHAPTER IX.||"Specials" and Others.||49|
|CHAPTER X.||Some Notable Constables.||55|
|CHAPTER XI.||At Rollands Plains.||65|
|CHAPTER XII.||The Female Convicts.||68|
|CHAPTER XIII.||Some Practical Jokes.||72|
|CHAPTER XIV.||The Aborigines.||75|
|CHAPTER XV.||A Free Man.||79|
|CHAPTER XVI.||The Yacht "Wanderer."||84|
|CHAPTER XVII.||Escape of Prisoners.||89|
|CHAPTER XVIII.||A Last Word.||91|
Port Macquarie, as is generally known,was one of the first Settlements made inNew South Wales. It is intended herein togive a full and authentic synopsis of the Lifeof the Oldest Living Ex-Convict on theHastings River, near Port Macquarie, extendingfrom the thirties onwards. Theinformation comes purely from memory,hence exact dates on which certain eventsoccurred cannot be given; nevertheless thegreatest care has been taken to give dates asnear as possible.
The Life of an Ex-Convict.
Farewell To My Native Land.
"The web of our life is of a mingled yarn,good and ill together; our virtues wouldbe proud if our faults whipped them not,and our crimes would despair if theywere not cherished by our virtues."
I was born at Shoreditch, near London, onthe 28th of May, 1819, and was nearing theage of sixteen when one day I was accusedof committing a paltry theft. Of this I wasinnocent, and naturally denied it, but theconstable who accosted me insisted, nomatter what I said, that I had to go withhim. My feelings were anything but high-flownas I passed along the street with him—whatboy's feelings would be?—on theother hand they were down almost belowzero. It was no use; I soon realised myposition, it was this:—If I am found guiltyof this offence—and I have little hope ofproving my innocence—Heaven only knowswhere I may find myself. My trial cameon before a Bench of Magistrates in WorshipStreet, London, on July the 3rd, 1834, andI was committed to take my trial. Whena man had the bad luck to get committed,[Pg 2]he was sent to Clerkenwell, or to the OldBailey, and if he listened to the conversationsof his associates at either of theseplaces, during intervals that he might beremanded, it was quite possible that apreviously innocent man would be convertedinto an adept at picking pockets and house-screwing.I was a new-chum in places ofthis kind, and also at such pursuits. New-chumsgenerally fell into, and were madethe subject of, numbers of practical jokes,too, at the hands of these fellows, and I wassaved none the less in this respect. "Goupstairs and get the bellows," one of themsaid to me: and when I got to the top ofthe stairs, some others sent me to the farend of the ward for it. On arrival there,another crowd met me with knotted handkerchiefs,and 'pasted' me all the way back."Pricking a crow's nest," was another oftheir games. This consisted in making around ring on the wall with a piece ofcharcoal, and placing a black dot in thecentre of it. One was then blindfolded, andhis object was to place his finger on thisblack dot; but instead of doing this, anotherfellow stood with open mouth to receive thefinger, and he didn't forget to bite it either.If anyone took money into this place theymight as well say 'au revoir' to it, for theywere not asleep. After a few days of this[Pg 3]life my trial came on—I was sentenced toAustralia for 7 years' penal servitude. ThenI was sent to Newgate, and when the dooropened there, I was met by a large numberof "Jack Shepherds," all in irons, and theplace was as dismal-looking as the grave.First I entered the receiving-room, andremained there a day; afterwards I wasput in with a fine assemblage of characters,and one might as well begin to count thestars in the Heavens as attempt to definewho was the worst individual there. Nightcame on and I began to look around for abed; this I found consisted of a rug and amat, of which I availed myself. If a manwas sentenced to seven years he was onlykept there for a few days, and was thentaken in irons, by means of a van, to the"hulk" at Portsmouth. This was the fateI shared. On arrival there I was strippedof my clothes, and after the barber cameround and cut my hair so close that it wasonly with difficulty I could catch hold of it,I was washed from two tubs of water whichstood close by. Then I was dressed in apair of knee breeches, stockings, shirt, anda pair of shoes so large that I could havealmost crossed the Atlantic in them, and ahat capable of weathering the greatest hurricanethat ever blew. Whilst on board thehulk an old Jew paid several visits, for the[Pg 4]purpose of buying up all the ordinary clothesof the men, and no matter how new a suitmight be, it was either a matter of take half-a-crownfor it or throw it away. Fortunately,my best clothes were left behind, and I lostnothing by this.
I remained on the hulk from Friday tillMonday morning, and was then transferredto what was known as the Bay Ship—the"Hoogly"—by means of a cutter. Therewere 260 prisoners on board this shipaltogether. Before leaving the hulk, theirons worn in Australia were attached tothe legs, but these were removed on gettingto sea. Men, however, were branded allover—shirt, trousers, and everything else.The "Hoogly" left Portsmouth harbouron the 28th July, 1834, and was 120 dayscoming to Australia, and the passage onthe whole was not unfavorable. Four men,however, were flogged during the passagefor misconduct. One of those on board wastransported for stealing articles from aRoman Catholic Chapel, and he had bysome means managed to get a quantity oftobacco into his possession. One nightwhilst he was asleep some of the othersconspired to get this tobacco, and they puthis big toe into the bunghole of a cask. Heused to sleep on the tobacco, and as soonas he sat up to release his toe the tobacco[Pg 5]was passed away through the crowd, andthat was the last he saw of it.
Arrival at Sydney.
"Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows."
Notwithstanding the fact that the Settlementat Sydney was now nearly 50 years old,my impression on arriving there in thesummer of 1834 was anything but a brightone, and by no means came up to myfaintest expectations. It was a scattered-lookingplace—a house here and a terracethere, but miserable enough to my mind.After we had been in Sydney harbour a fewdays, a number of officials came aboard theship, and, as if 'to the manner born,' tooka list of the marks on the men, who werestripped to the waist. One of them, inparticular, had some writing on his arm,and he was told that if it was not quicklyremoved, he would get 50 lashes for itwhen he reached shore, so he took theadvice. We remained aboard ship till threedays later, we were marched ashore in line,four deep, a little after daylight, and taken toHyde Park Barracks. Here we got a beautifulbreakfast, "hominy," in little tubs.[Pg 6]At 2 o'clock the same day we were calledout to witness a punishment. There wereno "25's" there; all "50's" and "75's"—goodnessknows what the offenders had beendoing. After this, it was possible for anyone of us to be called out and sent to amaster. If a man had a seven years' sentence,he had to serve four years with a master beforehe got a "ticket-of-leave;" but if he happenedto prove himself a success at anyparticular vocation, he would never get his"ticket," as the master for whom he wasworking would arrange with one of the otherservants to quarrel with the handy man, andhe would be sent to the lock-up to be flogged,and get an addition to his sentence. If aman was sentenced to 14 years, he had toserve 6 years with a master before he got a"ticket." All the master had to give aservant in the year was 2 suits of clothes, 2pairs of boots and a hat, also his food. Thelatter was supposed to be either 3½ lbs. ofmaizemeal and 7 lbs. of flour, or 9 lbs. of beeffor the week.
"Fresh Fields and Pastures New."
Rough-hew them how we will."
My first assignment was to Mr. Sam Terry,[Pg 7]on his station at Mount Pleasant. Here Ihad little or nothing to do, and this manwas a good master—he would never have hismen flogged. But I had the misfortune tobe stricken with the sandy blight at thisplace, and I was sent to the Windsor Hospital,where I remained for 10 months. Fromhere I was sent to Windsor Gaol, butinstead of a bed, I had to lie on a flag-stone,which was not conducive to building up myhealth. From Windsor I was transferred toParramatta, and eventually to the Barracksagain. Shortly after this, I was sent on tothat beautiful vessel known as the "Phœnix"hulk—prison ship. This was the first occasionon which I had the extreme pleasure ofmeeting Dr. ——, the man who conspiredwith two others to rob a house, and whenthey were in the act of doing so, heassailed them with a gun,