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THE MORETON BAY COLONY, CONVICT RUNAWAYS AND "THE JOINING"
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THE BOOK "WILDFLOWER" THE BARBARA CRAWFORD THOMPSON STORY COVERS THE
LIFE OF BARBARA THOMPSON, A 12-YEAR-OLD SCOTTISH GIRL WHO WAS TAKEN FROM
HER HOME IN SYDNEY IN MARCH 1843 AND AFTER SPENDING ALMOST TWO YEARS HIDDEN AWAY BY A CONVICT AT MORETON BAY, WAS FOUND LIVING WITH HEADHUNTERS
IN THE TORRES STRAIT FIVE YEARS LATER IN OCTOBER 1849 BY THE
CREW OF THE BRITISH SURVEY SHIP HMS "RATTLESNAKE" CAPTAIN OWEN STANLEY.
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THE MORETON BAY COLONY copyright R.J.Warren 2011-2012
The first arrivals. Pamphlet, Parsons and Finnegan, 1823. From the very beginning of settlement, Northern New South Wales [later to become Queensland] was to have more than it's share of wild and very odd occurrences. Convicts first settled the colony at Brisbane in 1823/24 and the little colony was proclaimed in August 1826 after it was discovered officially by John Oxley, in November 1823 in the cutter HM ‘Mermaid’.
But although John Oxley was given the credit,Thomas Pamphlet, John Finnegan and Richard Parsons who were cast away near the mouth of the Brisbane River, showed him the site in turn. Originally there were four in this group of convicts, they were four ticket-of-leave men who had set sail for the Five Islands somewhat to the south of Port Jackson, where they were to cut cedar wood for the colony at Sydney. They set out in an open boat but had the bad luck to run into a storm, which drove them out to sea. It took them three weeks to get back to the mainland, only to be wrecked on Moreton Island, near the present day city of Brisbane, Queensland.
One of the four men [Thompson] who set out on the 21st of March 1823 died of thirst but the three others made landfall on Moreton island and were assisted by aboriginals, this help was paid for with what little food and clothing the three men had available. When John Uniacke [a guest of John Oxley while the expedition was trying to find a site for the penal colony] wrote of the finding of these men he stated. “On Sunday the 29th of November 1823, we came to anchor in Pumice-stone River, Moreton Bay, within 150 yards of the shore. This was in the very place where Captain Flinders had anchored 22 years before… Scarcely was the anchor let go, when we perceived a number of natives advancing rapidly toward the vessel. On looking at them with the glass from the mast-head, I observed one who appeared much larger than the rest, and of a lighter colour. To our surprise and satisfaction, when opposite the vessel, the man hailed us in English. The boat was immediately launched and Messrs., Oxley, Stirling and I, went ashore in her”. While approaching the beach, the natives showed many signs of joy, dancing and embracing the white man, who was nearly as wild as they. He was perfectly naked, and covered all over with white and red paint, of which the natives make good use. His name was Thomas Pamphlet; he had left Sydney on March 21st 1823 to go to the Five Islands about fifty miles south of Port Jackson. After suffering hardships at sea in a storm in which one of their number died of thirst, they had at length been wrecked on Moreton Island, which forms one side of Moreton Bay, in the upper part of which we are now lying. He was so bewildered with joy that we could make out little of his story that night; so having distributed a few knives, handkerchiefs etc among the friendly blacks, we returned on board, taking him with us. He now informed us that his two surviving companions had traveled in company with him to where we had found him, and had then left about six weeks before resolving to prosecute their way toward Sydney, that Parsons had not been heard of since his departure. Mr. Oxley, on hearing that Finnegan was gone toward the south end of the bay, resolved to seek him…
Sunday afternoon. At low water, a man was observed walking out on a sandbank from the opposite shore toward us, holding in his hand a long stick with a skin on it; upon which I took the whaleboat and pulled toward him, when it proved to be Finnegan. Both he and Pamphlet concurring in a story they told us, of a large river, which they had crossed, falling into the south end of the bay, Messrs. Oxley and Stirling started next morning in the whale-boat taking Finnegan with them and four days provisions in order to explore it.” One of the humorous things to come out of this happy encounter with the Moreton Bay aboriginals, was that for many years after, the natives were always asking for a type of biscuit that they called Faiv-ahlan [five island]. A more serious fact though, was that Thomas Pamphlet was arrested and tried for larceny a few weeks after he arrived back in Sydney and within another couple of weeks, he was back in Brisbane as a convict sent there for seven years. It is highly likely that the men were ticket-of-leave convicts when they set out to get timber, for the severity of the sentence, especially after the assistance he gave Oxley, was heavy and would have been afforded only if the crime were particularly bad in the circumstances.
It is probable that Pamphlet was sent back to Brisbane after being caught because he had good relations with the local aboriginals. After the death of Thompson, the three men became the first white men to land on Stradbroke Island, Moreton Island, Peel Island and also the first to land at Ormiston on the mainland. They had also landed on Bribie Island to the north and had then made their way back to Moreton Island where they separated. It would be of great interest to find what happened with Pamphlet when he was sent back at the Moreton Bay colony as a second offence prisoner. He would have certainly been a good source of information on the local natives. Especially for convicts who chose to escape the rugged treatment they received from their gaolers. In fact, one could safely assume that many of the runaway convicts received their schooling in the language of the local natives direct from Thomas Pamphlet.
THE MORETON BAY SETTLEMENT [Building a Colony] AMITY’ Built 1816. Wood brig of 148 Tons.
Length: 75.6 ft: Breadth: 21.5 ft. Depth: 11.5 ft. The wood brig
‘Amity’ sat at her moorings riding the gentle swell that came
with the flat calm of a new moon over Sydney Harbour. She was a
powerful little vessel, built for the rigors of the North Atlantic
Ocean; she had been built seven years before in 1816 and had plied
the Trans-Atlantic trade without so much as a single hitch. The
‘Amity’ was bought by the Ralston family of Wigtown, Scotland,
they had decided to buy their own vessel to ship their household
goods and family, lock, stock and barrel to Australia. They departed
Scotland in late November 1823 and arrived in Sydney in May 1824.
They probably opted for a quiet voyage out to avoid the risk of
shipwreck. Private vessels of her size could easily complete the
voyage in three to four months. On June 10th
1824, the Sydney Gazette reported that the Government of New South
Wales intended to form a settlement at Moreton Bay or a nearby
vicinity. With this point in view, the government bought and equipped
the ‘Amity’ with every description of Provisions and Stores to
last the little settlement for a period of six months. The Colonial
Botanical Gardener, Mr. Fraser, selected tropical fruit plants, viz.
Pineapples, Mangoes, Lemons, Oranges, Loquats, Bananas and Guavas
etc. Seeds were also sent such as Cabbage, Lettuce, French Beans,
Turnips and Pumpkins. A small schooner was set on her deck for use in
surveying the Brisbane River. The ‘Amity’ was placed under the
captaincy of Captain Penson and she departed Sydney on the 1stof September 1824, bound for Moreton Bay. Those who went with her
were: THE ‘AMITY’
PERSONNEL 1824. John Oxley. Surveyor-General of New South
Wales. Allan Cunningham. Kings Botanist and Explorer Robert Hoddle. Assistant Surveyor Lieutenant Henry Miller. Commandant. Lt. Millers wife and two children. Walter Scott. Storekeeper/Surgeon. Lieutenant Butler. Commander of the 40th
Regiment which consisted of a Sergeant, Corporal and 12 Privates with
their wives. Twenty-nine convicts were sent aboard to get
the land cleared and the settlement made ready for further convicts
to arrive. The convicts who sailed aboard the ‘Amity’ were: FIRST CONVICTS FOR
Occupation. John Anderson -------
Sailmaker Thomas Bellington -----
Baker Robert Butler ----------
Carpenter William Carter ---------
Stone Cutter William Grady ---------
Wheelwright George Cunningham ---
Stonemason James Hazel -----------
Plasterers Labourer Robert Humphries -----
Labourer Michael Marley --------
Quarryman John Pearce ------------
Waterman Matthew Sellars --------
Brickmaker James Turner -----------
Seaman Evan Williams ----------
Carpenter John McWade ---------
Seaman James Winstanley ------
Shingle Splitter Henry Allen ------------
Carpenter James Byrnes ----------
Shoemaker James Crow -----------
Shingler William Francis --------
Sawyer William Green ---------
Bricklayer William Hartlan --------
Dry Cooper Charles Hubbard ------
Shoemaker Lewis Lazarus ---------
Sailor Michael Mills ----------
Seaman Thomas Price ----------
Sailor William Sanders --------
Seaman Thomas Warwick ------
Sawyer John Williams ----------
Seaman John Welsh ------------
Seaman. The convicts were originally under the command
of Lieutenant Miller, many of them were volunteers who hoped to gain
their ticket-of-leave as a reward for helping to establish the new
penal colony.Allan Cunningham. Allan Cunningham wrote in his journal: 'With a
light breeze from the westward, we weighed anchor and quitted the harbor. And so they were underway, the settlement was
yet to be sited and they only had old reports on which to rely for
guidance. Lt. Miller wrote to the Governor on the 30th
of September, 'We anchored here on the following evening of the 12th
instant within ¼ of a mile of Redcliffe Point. On the following day,
I accompanied the Surveyor General to examine the best island in the
bay which we found in no respect eligible, being small, swampy and
without fresh water. On the 14th,
we selected here, apparently calculated in all respects to answer the
wishes of his Excellency. [It was] well watered by a deep lagoon one
hundred and fifty yards from the place marked out for the settlement. Temporary huts, for the shelter of the soldiers
and convicts were constructed, as well as a temporary store as a
repository for the ironmongery. The Commissariat Stores for the
reception of the provision for the subsistence of the settlement were
erected of logs, under the direction of Mr. Scott. The Commandant’s
house, which had been brought from Port Jackson in frame, was also in
progress. But [due to] the actual absence of parts and other frames
not fitting together, much inconvenience had arisen. Obliging new
materials to be cut by the sawyers, who were fully employed cutting
weatherboards, scantling and rafters from the blue gum of these
forests. On the northern side of the creek, the gardens
were laid out and the planting of vegetables commenced. Although
there was a plentiful supply of water, a well was dug near the shore.
The trees lining the path to the shore were marked on
both sides so the soldiers would not lose their way”. Lt. Henry Miller. The official party returned to Sydney aboard
the ‘Amity’ and arrived there after a passage of only four days.
John Oxley reported leaving the settlement in good health and
spirits. The site of the settlement was dry and open to the sea
breeze. Governor Brisbane was pleased with the report
and decided to visit Moreton Bay and the river that had been named
after him. The chief Justice, John Macarthur and Francis Stephens
accompanied the governor on the settlement first vice-regal visit to
When they arrived, they found the settlement progressing
well and the officials went sight seeing on the Brisbane River and
marveled at its beauty. A site was fixed for a new town to be built
on the river, a few miles upstream, the chief justice wanted to name
it ‘Edenglassie’ but the name never stuck and the town became
known by the same name as the Brisbane River. Despite the fact that the new settlement had
plenty of water, it was decided to look around for a new port.
Redcliffe was too open to the weather and the ‘Amity’ almost came
to grief while at anchor, she had to ride out a storm, about four
miles offshore. Cleveland was looked at but after wading
through knee high mud at low tide, that thought was abandoned and the
decision was made to take the settlement to Brisbane, the move was
probably completed by the end of May 1825. A monument stands at Redcliffe to commemorate
Matthew Flinders, John Oxley, Lieutenant Henry Miller and the
convicts who opened up the City of Brisbane and the State of
CONVICT RUNAWAYS IN THE BUSH From the arrival of the first fleet onward, convicts ran from the harshness of life in the penal colonies, many were to die at the hands of the natives and others were killed by drowning or other forms of misadventure. Although the list of convicts shown here is only a small number of those who did run away, it is enough to show the desperation and suffering of the men who would not be chained. Some of the convicts who escaped to the bush found it relatively easy to live among the natives. The lifestyle while rough, to say the least, was somewhat better [for some] than remaining at the penal settlements.
William Buckley [Murrangurk] In 1802, a thirty two-year-old 6 ft 6 inch Englishman from Macclesfield, Cheshire, ran away from the failed first settlement at Port Phillip. Buckley absconded in company with a few other convicts [about seven in number] and went to live with the local aboriginals.
Buckley was a huge man who outlived the other convicts that escaped with him and he spent the next 33 years with natives near Indented Head, Victoria. He was originally charged with desertion and was given life in the Australian Colony. When he came in from the wild, he was given a pardon and a yearly wage of 75 pounds, for assisting to interpret the ways of the new Victorian colony to the local aboriginal tribes.
James Wilson [Bun-Bo-ee] James Wilson was also a convict from the Sydney settlement; he served out his sentence but then went to live among the Hawksbury river natives, for some reason, he preferred the wild side of life. Wilson was adopted by an old woman that recognised him as her son whom she thought returned from the dead. He received the name Bun-Bo-ee from his adoptive tribe and lived with them for many years until explorers, who wanted to find a way across the Blue Mountains, approached him. Although this attempt was a failure, Wilson received plaudits for his work among the natives. Barringtons History of New South Wales, shows the intolerance and stupidity of some authors of old. That work states that ‘Bun-Bo-ee only managed to stay with the natives in the first place because he made them think that he was a spirit of a man long dead and that he convinced the decrepit old woman that he was the real Bun-Bo-ee’. Barringtons History also stated that the very tribe he had lived with for so many years killed Wilson. They gave as a reason; ‘he had raped his old aboriginal mother'.
This unworthy statement places that whole work in a very doubtful position. If the old lady were so ‘old and decrepit’, would it not be safe to assume that Wilson would have gone for a younger woman? It is very well known that tribal aboriginals at the time were very intelligent and that they had their superstitions just as the white world has theirs. Wilson may have died in an inter-tribal fight or due to illness but after having lived among them for many years, he certainly would have known what would prove dangerous for his well being. He knew only too well that Aboriginal law could be very harsh. Barringtons History perhaps decided that anyone who lived with natives must be evil and so came the comments.
Pamphlet, Parsons and Finnegan. Perhaps the most interesting place in Australia for convict runaways was Queensland; the tropical climate and its distant location from the main settlements gave convicts and castaways isolation for years from the European settlements and landholders that very slowly, settled the tropics. It is highly likely that one of the first men to live among the natives near Brisbane was also an intermediary between white and black, possibly aided escaping convicts to make a home among the wild tribes of Queensland. Thomas Pamphlet along with Parsons and Finnegan, had been part of a small timber-seeking group that had been caught in a storm near Sydney. Their boat was driven or drifted to a point near the Brisbane River where they made a landfall. Three of the original four men survived the storm and Pamphlet along with Finnegan and Parsons became the first white men to live along the Brisbane River. They found the Aboriginals joyful at having whites live among them for they were considered ghosts of departed relatives whom had returned to the tribe.
For native women who had become widows, it became a wonderful way to regain family pride and to have a man to hunt and fish for her and her children. The esteem shown to her by other women of the tribe would have been boundless.
Pamphlet, after having been rescued from being cast away, was sentenced to seven years in the Moreton Bay settlement for larceny. He was one of the first convicts to be sent to that colony. As he already had a working knowledge of the language, he would have been very useful as an interpreter. He would have also been even more useful to those convicts, who did not want to remain in the harsh settlement commanded by the rather cruel commander, Patrick Logan.
It is thought that each time a man wanted to escape, he would first gain tuition from Pamphlet on the way he could be recognised and also in some of the language. Once this was completed, the convict could run knowing that he had some chance of surviving among the natives.
That this convict ‘underground’ existed is more than a possibility, in truth it is a high probability for almost all of the runaways ran north and not south or west, almost all of them remained with the Kabi Kabi tribe or one of their sub-groups. The convicts of the Moreton Bay settlement were able to escape with ease from their captors and were able to go among the natives and adapt to the lifestyle in a very short space of time.
Although history has told us little in the way of reality regarding the effect that Pamphlet had upon prisoners at Moreton Bay, especially from the convict side. We can see that even though they were poorly educated and were convicts, they were no less able to create a better way of life when they could no longer bear up to the cruelty administered by Logan.
John Baker –Runaway. The convict ship ‘Malabar’ arrived in Sydney in 1821, aboard her was a 21-year-old convict, John Baker. He was sentenced to life for theft and upon arriving in Sydney, he was re-assigned to the Moreton Bay settlement at which place he arrived in 1825. Baker was unhappy with his sentence and resolved to make his break in January 1826, he probably received intelligence reports from Thomas Pamphlet as to which way he should go and what to do in the case of running into the local tribesmen. He wandered for many days along the banks of the Brisbane River until finally he was met by members of the Lockyer Valley tribe, who gave him food. While eating with them, an old woman ran forward and calling out, ‘Boraltchou’! ‘Boraltchou’! which Baker repeated back to her, he was soon to understand that the woman had claimed him as her son returned from the dead and she had called him by name. The simple act of repeating the word had given Baker an instant family and safety for as long as he needed it. John Baker began his life roaming up and down the Lockyer Valley with his adoptive tribe, he became the first white man to visit the Gatton and Laidley areas and to wander the famous Darling Downs many years before its discoverer, John Cunningham, arrived on the scene. On the 4th of August 1840, John Baker walked back into the settlement and gave himself up to the Government officials. In November of that same year, he was made scout for Commandant Gorman whom Baker took through Gorman's Gap and up into the ranges to the Darling Downs.
Baker was pardoned and for many years, he worked as a scout, interpreter and advisor, his tribe were unable to accept the incursion of the many settlers who began taking over the Lockyer Valley and without his influence among them, terrorised the new arrivals. This continued until the natives were all finally exterminated.
John Graham--Runaway On the 14th of July 1827, John Graham escaped from Moreton Bay Penal Settlement and headed north toward the Glass House Mountains. He continued on to the north after finding no help forthcoming from aborigines until he arrived in the Noosa district, roughly 100 miles from the new colony. He fell in with the Kabi Kabi people who inhabited the area and was recognised as the dead husband of a tribeswoman named Mamba. Her husband had been known as Moilow and this was the name given to John Graham on his joining with the tribe. Her two sons, Murrowdooling and Caravanti also agreed that this was indeed the returning spirit of their dead father and they readily accepted him as such. Graham learned the language quickly and for the next six and a half years, he lived and hunted with the natives of the Tewantin and Maroochydore tribes, providing for his new family and keeping well away from any whites that might come exploring. There were of course, other runaways in the bush at that time and he undoubtedly came into contact with them from time to time. There was perhaps even a help situation for those who chose to escape for it seemed rather easy for the men who did run away, to gain entry to the tribes outside of the penal settlement. Graham's wife Mamba, died and this probably gave him reason to want to go back to civilisation, he waited until his sentence had expired before heading to Brisbane where he gave himself up. He did in fact arrive three days after the expiry of his sentence. John Graham did not count on new laws being made, for in 1830, a law had been passed that any absconder would have to serve out the remainder of his sentence, no matter when he gave himself up. In November 1833, Graham was sentenced to serve out the rest of his time. In August 1836, came news that a white woman and some white men were stranded among the blacks near Noosa, which is about 100 miles north of Brisbane. Graham quickly volunteered to accompany the rescue party, telling the authorities that he knew exactly where the whites were being held. Graham was able to rescue four of the survivors from the vessel ‘Stirling Castle’ although his sole efforts in the rescue are in doubt, he did in fact help the whites to regain civilisation and for that he received a twenty-pound reward and his freedom. [See Eliza Fraser story in “Castaways on wild shores”]
Samuel Derrington, runaway On the 22nd of December 1827, another convict escaped the Moreton Bay penal colony. Samuel Derrington left Brisbane some five months after John Graham and like him, headed north to Toorbul then on to Caloundra and into Kabi Kabi territory. By 1829, he had arrived at the Burnett river, having drifted from tribe to tribe learning the language and trying to be recognised as a returning spirit by one of the tribal families, he finally settled with a tribal group at Tin Can Bay.
Derrington found himself able to live quietly with the aborigines. He kept well away from any contact with white settlers, in an effort to see out his sentence in the bush. He soon developed into a good hunter and was initiated into the tribal ways and customs. He provided for himself and his new family as he went. Derrington spent 9 years with the Burnett River blacks who gave him the name “Tursi”, I believe that this man is the “Tallbois” that met with the mate of the ‘Stirling Castle’, John Baxter who was the 2nd mate of the ‘Stirling Castle’ [see Eliza Fraser story] which vessel had been wrecked in 1836.
Samuel Derrington must have met or at least, seen Eliza Fraser [who was also on the ‘Stirling Castle’] when she was brought to Tin Can Bay, for soon after she was rescued, he headed back to the penal colony. Derrington had ran away because he had hated his treatment at the penal colony and it can only be surmised that he had hoped to be granted an end to his sentence for having helped the white woman to get back to civilization. In early 1837, Derrington gave himself up telling the officials that he too, had been involved in the rescue of the white woman. He was not believed and was probably made to serve out his sentence. If Samuel Derrington did meet Eliza Fraser, she did not mention it to anyone except for one reference to “that other white man” about whom she was extremely angry.
It is almost impossible to believe that this man would put so much at risk if he had no contact with the survivors of the wreck, there was no reason for him to give himself up, unless he thought that he had a credible story to offer. Derrington was probably not the white man with whom Eliza Fraser was angry, this is reserved for our next convict escapee. Eliza Fraser was already headed back to England when Derrington turned himself in. It is highly probable that the convict runaways always had contact with the settlement through the natives who lived nearby. They were able to converse with the Kabi people and any information required from the settlement, would have been easy to procure via the bush telegraph.
David Bracewell Runaway. David Bracewell was an enigma, he also, of the several escaped convicts in Queensland, can lay claim to the rescue of Eliza Fraser. Bracewell absconded from the Moreton Bay settlement on the 8th of February 1831; he went north along the coast until he reached a tribe of aborigines, who were known as the Eumundi people.
Although it was only about 100 miles north and a little west of Moreton Bay, it was a good place for Bracewell as the Eumundi were a fierce group who were ruled by a tough old elder named Huon Mundi. Bracewell was given the name Turrawandi [Wandi] by that tribe and he lived with them for the next five years without interference from the settlement. When found some time later by timber seekers, Bracewell told them how he had rescued Eliza Fraser from the tribe who lived in the Tin Can Bay region about 50 miles further north. This area also had its resident ‘ghost’, Samuel Derrington, who had resided there for nine years. It is thought that he requested that the woman be brought to Tin Can Bay so that he could talk to her in the spirit language. His aboriginal name is thought to have been ‘Tursi’ or maybe he was the ‘Tallboi’ whom John Baxter met on Fraser Island. Bracewell also wanted a look at the white woman so he went to Tin Can Bay and during the night, he managed to sneak her away while the others were pre-occupied with a corroboree [dance]. Bracewell stated that he brought her to ‘Wa Wa’ [place of the crow] near Lake Cootharaba and then into the main camp of the Eumundi tribe. It is believed that Bracewell forced himself on Mrs. Fraser while bringing her back to his camp at Eumundi. He probably intended taking her back to the settlement, hoping that his sentence might be dismissed but his need to have the white woman must have been too intense. He later asked her to speak well for him when she got back to Brisbane but she angrily refused. That ended his chance of returning to freedom and civilisation.
Her concern that she was pregnant again, so soon after childbirth, gives rise to the fact that she was sexually active in the latter part of her stay among the aborigines. She asked the doctor about this only about two weeks later. This makes one suspicious of her sexuality; she had three previous full-term pregnancies and would have well known the symptoms. Eliza had lost her newborn some seven or eight weeks prior to her arrival in Brisbane and it was perhaps only because of the slight possibility, that she was concerned. But why was she so concerned after a one-time stand with Bracewell [of this fact we are unsure]. She had so little time with the men of the Kabi tribe and the only two possible white contacts are Derrington and Bracewell, both of whom she met in the last two days of her five-week sojourn among the natives.
David Bracewell was to remain with the Eumundi tribe for over eleven years. Andrew Petrie and Henry Stuart Russell at Noosa Heads found him in 1842, where he told them his story. When he had finished, they convinced him to come in from the wild. The penal settlement was no more and he would probably be made a free man. A strange point to the story is that Samuel Derrington immediately went to Moreton Bay, after Mrs. Fraser had left Brisbane in early 1837. He gave himself up to the officials, hoping to be rewarded for assisting in her safe return. The officials disregarded this story, and Derrington suffered the consequences.
In turn, Bracewell was so afraid that Mrs. Fraser had made him look bad, that he remained with the aboigines for another 6 years. This points rather strongly to him having forced himself upon her, whilst travelling back from Tin Can Bay to Eumundi. Why did the officials disregard Derrington’s story? Simple: John Graham. He would and did not want anyone sharing in the rescue, he excluded all others and claimed that he alone rescued the woman. Whilst wanting his own freedom and with all the men who accompanied the rescue party on his side, the officials had no choice but to believe he had acted alone in her rescue.
James Davis Runaway Born in Glasgow in 1814, James Davis was a tough looking, freckled, sandy haired, grey-eyed lad who was found guilty of stealing half a crown [25 cents] from a church collection box. He was sentenced to seven years and was transported to Australia. He must have misbehaved while at the main Colony, for he was given three years on top of that which remained of his original sentence and was then sent to Moreton Bay to serve out his time. This colony was deemed the place to send misfits, as the tropics would soon quiet them. On the 30th of March 1829, he ran away from the penal colony at Brisbane and, like the runaways before him, headed north to Kabi Kabi country He made his way to Toorbul and then onward to the tribes where other runaways had made their homes. These men believed it better, to stay well apart, so as to have a much better chance of keeping clear of the soldiers from the settlement.
When Davis escaped, he was forced to keep going north due to John Graham, Samuel Derrington and David Bracewell already being entrenched around the southern Wide Bay district. He arrived at the tribal area of the Ginginburra people who traversed a region that ran from Gympie in the south, almost to Rockhampton in the north. This was an area that was nearly 600 Kilometres and Davis is said to have walked that distance many times with his tribe. His adoptive father ‘Pamby Pamby’ gave James Davis the name Durramboi, after his dead son whom Pamby Pamby thought had returned. For many years, Davis was a well-respected member of the Ginginburra tribe; his name meant Kangaroo Rat, which was usually given to those who were small and fleet of foot. He certainly lived up to this; especially where any contact with whites was concerned. About 1842, David Bracewell was taken as a guide to an area north of Gympie and while searching for timber, he made contact with Davis who thought he had brought soldiers from the settlement.
This angered Davis who grabbed his spears and shouted a war challenge at Bracewell who immediately backed off and explained to Davis that he could come in from the bush for a pardon had been issued to all convicts as the penal colony had been discontinued. Davis accepted the welcome news and he too, returned to the settlement now known as Brisbane. He met and married a white woman and slowly became a respected member of the fledgling Society. He and his new wife opened a small Crockery shop in George Street, through smart use of his past life; he proceeded to increase his fortune. James Davis never disregarded his Aboriginal life and he received regular visits from his mixed race son who obviously loved his father very much. Davis is said to have married twice to white women before his own death. He left 10,000 pounds to the Brisbane Hospital and can be considered one of its founders. His portrait still proudly resides in the Royal Brisbane Hospital as a mark of respect to the ex convict; he died in Brisbane in 1889, aged about 75 years. James Davis also featured very strongly in the Barbara Crawford Thompson saga. [See Castaways or above advertisement]
JOHN FAHEY NEW SOUTH WALES RUNAWAY. John Fahey was one of the last convicts to abscond from the authorities and he made his escape from Grose’s Farm where he was serving out his sentence. His master was obviously a hard taskmaster, for while working on the farm, which was situated at Monaro, New South Wales, he made his first attempt at absconding on the 6th of March 1840. He was recaptured and then waited for over a year, before absconding again on the 11th of November 1841. He was again recaptured. He finally he got clear away on the 24th of April, 1842, making his way northward to the Blackall range, where he spent time in the Bunya Mountains. Here food was plentiful in and it was here that he finally met with his adoptive tribe. He and his tribe ranged over the same areas as Graham, Bracewell, Derrington and Davis. For over eleven years he enjoyed the protection of his tribe, who helped him to avoid capture on many occasions. In late December 1854, Lieutenant Bligh came upon him unexpectedly. John Fahey was immediately captured and as Bligh’s men held him, Fahey’s tribe began violently resisting the white men and for a time, it looked as if Bligh and his men would be beaten off. However, Fahey seemed glad to surrender and gave himself up without a very hard struggle. The day of the Mothervane [ghost] and the Dokkai [white aborigine] had gone, the natives no longer believed that these were the ghosts of their departed loved ones. Soon, the settlers no longer needed the convict escapees to act as guide or interpreter and the black wars began. All friends of the aborigines were suspect, perhaps with good reason, or because of the killing methods the white settlers were employing, the escapees went in fear of their own lives from members of the tribes with whom they resided. When Fahey returned to the settlement, he was given one year working on the chain gangs. It is from here that he disappears into history. Summation. That the convicts who escaped from the penal colonies had, in Queensland at least, an underground network that afforded assistance to those who wished to escape, is undoubted. They were able to keep clear of the officials with ease and although they were not supposed to have knowledge of the Aboriginal language, they knew how to respond, so as to survive among them. Only one escaped convict appears to have died at the hands of aborigine's, with whom he had begun to live. Only some form of schooling in the language and native ways would have helped the escapees survive the rigours of tribal life.James Davis and David Bracewell were believed to have taken part in revenge attacks on a farm near Kilkoy owned by a man named McKenzie who is believed to have ordered his shepherds to give the local natives flour laced with the Arsenic.McKenzie then left the farm and headed for Brisbane and his shepherds distributed flour to a tribe of about 200 blacks. The natives were happy with their bags of flour and made off with them to their camp where they made up a form of bread. As the younger and stronger men were away hunting, the old, the very young and the women, were the ones to suffer and seventy [according to Official reports] old men, women and children died agonising deaths.Although it is unproven that Mr. McKenzie actually ordered the distribution of the poisoned flour. The fact remains that as owner of the station on which the natives were murdered and as employer of the men who were the distributors of death. Absolute responsibility for the death of so many women, children and aged persons, is and will always remain his.This event was so despised by the natives that a large group of warriors from all over the Wide Bay district went to Kilcoy and captured the two shepherds who worked for Mr. McKenzie’s farm.The shepherds were slaughtered on the spot and it is believed that Davis and Bracewell were with the angry tribesmen when the two men were killed.
THE JOINING OF LAZARUS HOWLETT AND SARAH COPLEY To understand why people were convicted, in the greater number of cases, of such petty crimes and why they were given such heavy sentences, one must understand that England needed to control the southern latitudes to enable her to maintain control of the wealth gained from the East Indies. To do this, England had to have British citizens in position on a full time basis.
Australia had all the attributes required for a base in the Southern Hemisphere and it also had the world’s premier deep-water port. Its landmass was so large that control of both the South Pacific and Indian oceans would be easily accomplished. A sentence of less than the seven years meted out for even the paltriest reason would not be sufficient and would be too costly when the prisoners had to be returned. Perhaps one of the better examples of the way, in which many convicts were first exported and then shaped into new settlers for a new continent, can be found in the tale of Lazarus Howlett and Sarah Copley. Lazarus Howlett Howlett was born to a farming family in 1800 and by the time he was 27 years old, had married and begun raising two children. He was employed as a farm hand and was, by later reports, a ‘good and well behaved fellow’. In July 1827, he was arrested by the Suffolk Town police and charged with Grand Larceny. He was brought to trial on the 24th of July 1827 at the Ipswich sessions and his crime was one of stealing. He is alleged to have stolen one shaving brush from the stable of the farm at which he was employed, Lazarus Howlett was sentenced to 7 years transportation to the Australian Colony. His wife and children were left behind at the farm. Howlett was given a gaol report and he was described thus: Status; Married with 2 children. Wife: Lucy Howlett. Trade: Farmer-Ploughman. Age: 27 years. Height: 5ft 7inches. Complexion: Dark and ruddy. Head: Small. Hair: Dark brown. Whiskers. Small Visage: Oval. Forehead: Low. Eyebrows: Dark, arched and black. Eyes: Dark brown. Nose: Large, straight and thin. Mouth: Small. Chin: Narrow and pointed. Remarks: Ears pierced, scar on first knuckle of ring finger, left hand. Native of: Holbrook, Suffolk. Howlett arrived at Hobart aboard the vessel ‘Woodford’ on the 25th of August 1828 and was quickly settled into the way of the Tasmanian prison system. Like England, the rather overbearingly strict regimen placed on the lower classes by the ruling aristocracy was also in place in the new colonies. For what are now classed as irrelevant crimes, men were subjected to ridiculous, if they had not been so severe, stupidly childish punishments. Lazarus Howlett was assigned to a master in the trade he knew, farming. He was quickly on report for suspicion of having stolen a piece of bark belonging to his master, Mr. J. Petchey, on the 31st of March, 1831.There was no prosecution for the crime as there was no real evidence, perhaps the tree grew it back. On the 6th of February 1832, he was severely reprimanded for disobedience when he failed to take his master's horse to the farm when he was ordered to do so. On The 4th of May 1832, while assigned to a Mr. Jellicoe, Constable Smith of the local police charged him for being drunk at Kangaroo Point, Tasmania. The charge was dismissed when his overseer defended his character for sobriety. On the 13th of March 1834, he was returned to the Public Works department and he returned to his earlier employment on the road gangs at Constitution Hill. He was ordered not to be re-assigned to the Richmond or Campbelltown Districts due to his neglect of duty in making way or allowing his masters property to be stolen and with having made bad connections in the Richmond district. Lazarus Howlett received his free certificate, No 215 in 1834 after completion of his six months on the road gang. On the 31st of December 1836, Howlett applied to the Lieutenant Governor for the right to marry Sarah Copley, a convict. Permission was granted and they were married by Banns in St Luke’s Church of England in Richmond, Tasmania. Lazarus Howlett was listed in the Census for the Richmond district in 1842, as living in a wooden house at Native Corners, Richmond. It also showed that residing with him, were two male children under the age of two years and one married female and two single females aged between 22 years and 45 years. Sarah Copley Sarah Copley was a single housemaid and needlewoman by trade and was reported to be of good behavior when she arrived in Hobart. She was tried at Somerset Quarter Sessions on the 23rd of March 1835 for receiving stolen goods [chickens] and was sentenced to 7 years transportation along with her sister, Mary who was also transported at the same time. Sarah Copley arrived at Hobart aboard the vessel ‘Hector’ on the 20th of October 1835. She committed no Colonial offences and was reported by the gaol surgeon to be very well conducted. Her personal report runs: Height 5ft 1 and ¾ inches. Age 21 years. Complexion: Fair. Head: Small and oval. Hair: Dark brown. Eyes: Blue. Visage: Small. Forehead: High and round. Nose: Small. Mouth: Wide. Chin: Small. Freckled face. Native of Ponsford, Somerset. She received her ticket of leave on the 12th of November 1839 and her free certificate number 567 in 1843. The Howlett's must have had a happy life in the new settlement as free persons. They went on to have eleven children over the twenty-year period 1838-1858. They had 7 male and 4 female children of whom, 5 remained in Tasmania and 6 settled in Victoria. The two oldest sons, Charles and John Howlett were having financial problems at one stage of their farming careers so they gave themselves a helping hand by constructing a Still for making Spirits from Potatoes. Lazarus got back into the act by over drinking at the Richmond Hotel one evening and he began bragging that his sons made better Whisky than the Hotel was selling. This had a very bad effect for making Spirits was illegal and the boys had to decamp the still and after some trying times, John went to join two of his brothers who had left for Victoria.
The Howlett family went on to be very large and made up of working peoples in both Tasmania and Victoria. [As reported by Mr. Ted and Ina Howlett in 1979.] This report is not an unusual one, far be-it from that. In fact, there were hundreds just like this but that is why I have shown how a settlement system could be arranged among a people who are traditionally tied to their homeland.
Britain supplied peoples from both England and Ireland from the only way it could gain the manpower required the prison system. It is obvious that many thousands of people were fraudulently sent to the penal colonies on trumped up charges that were done so that the required personnel could be transported quickly enough to develop a settlement in the southern hemisphere before any other seapower [i.e.; France] could do so. Just as America was populated and settled, so too was Australia but one must feel for poor Lucy Howlett and her two small children left behind in England without husband or father. I wonder do the descendants of Lucy and Lazarus know what happened to their great grandparents?