Tag Archives: Police

The loss of a constable

After Governor Macquarie’s tour of inspection across the Blue Mountains to Bathurst in April-May 1815, his report published in the Sydney Gazette of 10 June 1815 reviewed the experiences of the trip and suggested future possibilities for exploiting the potential of the regions beyond the mountains.

One of the peculiarities of the report is the absence of reference to the Aboriginal population. Surely the party had encountered Aborigines, or at least traces of their campsites? Were there reasons to avoid mentioning these encounters? Had something happened which the Governor would prefer not to advertise to inhabitants of the colony whom he might want to encourage to develop the new districts for grazing and agriculture?

The Governor was himself conscious of the omission, as we learn from a Supplement to the Sydney Gazette a month later. The one-page sheet supplementary to the issue of 8 July contains two continuations of earlier travel narratives, the first of Surveyor Evans, adding to the report published in the Sydney Gazette over a year earlier (12 February 1814), and the second of the Governor himself, an addendum to his report of 10 June 1815. After the section which refers to Mr. Evans, the Governor adds:

Before closing the present Account, the Governor desires to observe, that having accidentally omitted some particulars in his own Tour which he had meant to remark on, he avails himself of the present occasion to notice them.

Four paragraphs follow, three dealing with observations of the ‘Natives’ and the fourth describing an impressive ‘Cataract’ which was seen falling nearly 1,000 feet from the King’s Table Land down to the Prince Regent’s Glen and was named ‘The Campbell Cataract’ after one of the four gentlemen who had observed this phenomenon, ‘one of the most stupendous and grand sights that perhaps the world can afford.’

It was perhaps additionally important to include comment on the native population because the account of Mr. Evans’ explorations refers to them; it would surely have seemed a strange contrast if the Governor had maintained a steady silence in this regard in reporting the experiences of his own party.

Furthermore, there was another circumstance which would have been in people’s minds. A week after the Governor’s original report of his tour, the following notice appeared in the Sydney Gazette:

We are sorry to conjecture the more than probable loss of William Green, a constable of Windsor, of long established character as a useful member of the Police.—The day following that of His Excellency the Governor’s departure from Bathurst, he unfortunately left his remaining companions, and went away with some natives towards their encampment, and has not since been heard of; from which we must unwillingly conjecture, that he had lost his way and perished from want, or that he has fallen a victim to his own rashness in venturing among natives with whom we are so little acquainted.

This paragraph disclosed that there had been contact with Aborigines during the tour of inspection. It was an admission not only of the loss of a constable but of a failure to engage successfully with the original inhabitants of the countryside.

Report of the Governor’s tour: Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser 10/6/1815, pp. 1-2. Addendum to the report: Supplement to the Sydney Gazette 8/7/1815, p. 1. William Green missing: Sydney Gazette 17/6/1815, p. 2.

Nelson Bay or Nelson’s Bay?

Whatever may have been the original form of the name of this bay at Port Stephens, ‘Nelson’s Bay’ seems to have been usual in the late 1820s and 1830s.

In 1829 the Australian newspaper refers to Nelson’s Bay in reporting a near-disaster that overtook the New South Wales Attorney-General Alexander Baxter in the course of an attempted voyage from Newcastle to Sydney on the schooner Samuel. After departure from Newcastle, heavy squalls blew up at night, sails had to be taken in, and by 9 o’clock there were two feet of water in the hold. The pumps were inadequate, and passengers and all hands had to bale with buckets. The ship managed to limp into Port Stephens (spelled Port Stevens in the newspaper account) and came to rest in Nelson’s Bay, with 4 feet 7 inches of water in the hold. Some of the coal on board was taken off, the ship was reprovisioned and the pumps re-rigged, and finally the Samuel was able to make it safely to Sydney; but Mr. Baxter, who had helped with the baling, remained behind. ‘His exertions and fatigues … left him, by the latest accounts, in rather a feverish state.’

A shipboard adventure of quite another type was reported by the Sydney Gazette in 1835. Nine convicts, five of them assigned servants of William Charles Wentworth, escaped from Sydney on Wentworth’s ketch Alice, which had been lying in Vaucluse Bay, taking with them some provisions, wine and plate stolen from a house belonging to him at Vaucluse. One of the convicts was already among Wentworth’s men on the vessel, which was under the command of Hamilton Ross and the Mate John House. The boat sailed past Newcastle and entered Port Stephens, coming to anchor in Nelson’s Bay or Salamander Bay. It was dark by then. The next morning one of the convicts and House, who knew the harbour, were put ashore to get water. The convict came back with an aboriginal who wanted to sell some fish. House remained on shore, and Ross was allowed to go ashore as well after he refused to join the convicts. One of the convicts, Joseph Kay, gave Ross a written discharge and an order on Mr. Wentworth for his pay, which Kay signed as commander of the Alice. (According to evidence, he had a grudge against Mr. Wentworth for punishment dealt out some six weeks before, and was threatening to murder him, a threat Mr. Wentworth took seriously, especially as he discovered some poison hidden away.) Ross and House came across a camp of aborigines and persuaded one of them to guide them to Newcastle. Three days after seizure of the vessel the Revenue Cutter Prince George under Captain Roach went in pursuit. The ketch had been seen passing Newcastle and Roach, proceeding towards Port Stephens, saw a sail at sea and gave chase. The vessel put off a boat and ran into shore itself, the convicts escaping into the bush. The cutter put into a bay and some of the men walked round to the Alice and threw the provisions into the sea to deprive the convicts of them. Roach and six of his men tracked the pirates for four or five miles but then lost the trail. They returned to the Alice and dismasted her, then sailed on the cutter back to Port Stephens, where they alerted the Police Magistrate and joined a party of police in pursuit. Some aborigines were able to point out the location of the escapees, about fifty miles from Port Stephens. Meanwhile the cutter proceeded up the ‘Miaul River’, and the crew took the captured pirates on board for the return trip to Sydney.

Over the next few years we find a number of reports of land sales which refer to Nelson’s Bay. There is also the incident of the Daniel O’Connell, reported ‘high and dry on the beach at Nelson’s Bay’ in 1836. Finally in 1839 we encounter the Sophia Jane on a voyage from Moreton Bay to Sydney, anchoring in Nelson’s Bay for supplies.

Then in January 1840 comes news of another maritime incident and a change in terminology. On 23 December the cutter Water-Witch, putting out from Port Stephens, failed to cross the bar, went broadside to the breakers, and came to grief ‘on the rocks off Nelson Bay.’ Her cargo of maize and cedar was saved; but the possessive ‘s’ and its attendant apostrophe had gone.

Samuel: Australian 16/9/1829, p. 3. Alice: Sydney Herald 2/11/1835, p. 2. Daniel O’Connell: Australian 17/6/1836, p. 3. Sophia Jane: Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser 23/5/1839, p. 2. Water-Witch: Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser 4/1/1840, p. 2. ‘Baxter, Alexander Macduff (1798-1836?)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, vol. 1, 1966, pp. 74-75, and online.