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Week 27 - a scandal averted

[ 21st of August 1836 to 27th of August 1836 ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 27 - Navigation ]

At Kangaroo Island

Samuel Stephens is gradually settling into a routine, although his habit of rising well before 6 am in the middle of winter cannot endear him to his men. He sends the company stock off to good grazing land near the Salt Lagoon, and selects a portion of land for a more permanent Company settlement.  Finally we can confirm the identity of the diarist on the John Pirie by comparing his entry for 24 August with that of Stephens. He is indeed John Brown, who this week takes the stock to the Lagoon, where there is said to be abundant grass and water.

Stephens continues to lament the laziness of some of his employees, notably Mr Birdseye, whose ‘inattention to his duty’ is a constant source of irritation. And lazy officers are not the end of his problems. It seems that Mary Ann Powell, one of the passengers on the John Pirie, and William Staple, a member of the crew, have formed a liaison.  William wishes to stay behind when the Pirie sails and perhaps he and Mary Ann have been less discreet in their courting than others think proper. Stephens takes it on himself to negotiate a marriage between the parties, although with ‘some little difficulty’ as he puts it. ‘[B]ut I am pleased to think that 2 persons who would otherwise have been a scandal to the settlement are now likely rather to be a credit to it’, he writes.

To read his diary we would conclude that Stephens is a fine, upright young man.  But the record we leave of ourselves can be misleading.  Captain Morgan’s diary for this week casts doubt on the conduct of Stephens himself. ‘It is painful to here [sic] of the conduct of our colonial manager’, he writes. ‘[W]here ever he goes drunkenness is his prevailing sin and even leaves sailors to put him to bed’. Miss Beare may soon put a stop to that! But Morgan has not finished yet. ‘[T]he people on shore are like sheep going astray’, he adds, ‘drunkeness thieft and swareing [sic] are the prevailing sins of this infant establishment…they cannot last this way’.

Colonel Light and his party meanwhile are getting to know the Island. So far they are not impressed, noting the lack of water. Dr Woodforde treks out to the Salt Lagoon and is eaten alive by mosquitoes. The next day he and William Pullen meet some of the original settlers and describe the curious animals they call ‘wallobees’.  On first sight they find them unattractive, but are happy to eat them nevertheless. Pullen comments on the Aboriginal ‘wives’ who caught the wallabies, noting that although possibly brought to the Island by force, they ‘seemed to be contented with their lonely life’. We need to remember though that Pullen wrote these comments down some years later, in a memoir.

lithograph of a wallaby

lithograph of a wallaby, 1877

At sea

The interminable voyage of the Cygnet continues and once again Kingston and the captain are at each others’ throats. Finniss grows more and more disgusted by the discord. The Africaine on the other hand seems fairly quiet, as it drifts towards the equator. But Mary Thomas is not a happy woman, as her lengthy diary entry for this week makes clear. There is simmering resentment amongst theCabins of lesser comfort than those occupied by privileged passengers and intermediate between them and the dormitory accommodation afforded the emigrants. intermediate passengers at the poor quality of the food they are served and a strong feeling that they were misled about their entitlements on board. To make matters worse the captain tries to reduce the water ration, from three quarts per day (about 12 cups or 6 pints) to one pint, but the surgeon intervenes and the original ration is reinstated.  The captain is probably trying to avoid calling at the Cape for supplies, but Mary and the other passengers are hoping for the chance to buy their own supplies.  It is interesting to compare Mary Thomas’ account of this incident with that of Robert Gouger, who notes that the ration for the passengers is six quarts per adult per day. He is obviously referring only to cabin passengers here.


Journals from settlers in South Australia:

Monday 22 August 1836

[, who arrived in South Australia on board the wrote.]

… – It is painful to here of
the conduct of our colonial manager how he commits
himself where ever he goes drunkenness is his prevailing
sin and even leaves sailors to put him to bed
a man who has the care of thousands of pounds and
the wellfare of men whomen and children under
his direction the people on shore are like sheep going
astray drunkeness thieft & swareing are the prevailing
sins of this infant establishment and no one to say
and be faithfull that the land is poluted git thee
up hence – what will these poor degraded heathen
say see how these christains live how holy and
happy let me be a christain no no they cannot tell
the truth and say so – but still we hope thing may
have a turn they cannot last this way

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Monday 22 August 1836

[, who arrived in South Australia on board the wrote.]

22 August-At half past six, got under way with a light breeze from the westward; at two p.m., came to an anchor about two miles from the point chosen by Mr Stephens for the South Australian Company’s Stores. I went on shore at a little sandy bay, where Mr Beare and a few others had their tents pitched. The ground here was much covered by small trees, the soil moist, and many shrubs growing with great luxuriance, perhaps from the late rains; no fresh water was to be found here, and the settlers had to depend for their supply, I believe, on Mr Stephens, who had to send across the bay four miles for it.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Monday 22 August 1836

[, who arrived in South Australia on board the wrote.]

Nepean Bay. Here we found Mr S. Stevens Manager of
S.A. Company had taken up his quarters The people who had arrived
in the three vessels York, Pelham & Pirie were chiefly
officers & labourers of the said company all busy on shore getting
tents & huts erected and what had for centuries a
wilderness was now teeming with animation and life. The spot
chosen on was about one of the best, but bad is the best no water
to be had except at the well about 5 miles distant in
a Westerly direction near Pt Marsden, the soil very light
and sandy & country at the back of where the location
had been fixed on was densely covered with a species of
tree termed tea tree the decoction of which leaves make
a beverage not at all bad & a good substitute for tea
On the Island were several Sealers runaway Sailors
from the coasting vessels of the other colonies. They told us
there were several good spots on the Island where they
were established living on the produce of their gardens
and a native animal of the size of a rabbat called
waloby, in fact a miniture Kangaroo. These waloby
were caught by their wives (native women, who had
been brought from the Main land
some of them I believe by force, however they seemed to be
contented with their lonely life and from what
I could learn comfortably off as far as house and
provision went all from their own labour. __The Bay is
a fine and extensive anchorage well sheltered from the
severest Gales which generally commence at N.W. hauling
round to the S.S.W. by the Westward. They may be generally
expected at the change of moon. __ we remained here about a fortnight for
the purpose of making a few examinations of the bay and rig the
Hatch boat brought out on purpose for the Survey and placed under
my charge.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Wednesday 24 August 1836

[, who arrived in South Australia on board the wrote.]

24th. Sent of a boat & 5 hands with tools & provisions to the Salt Lagoon to prepare a place for themselves & the stock &c under the Direction of Mr Brown. Spent an hour or two in shewing the Settlement & its vicinity to Coll Light, who took lunch under my tent. This afternoon the hands at the well came to water which sure enough turned out to be slightly Brackish, & thereupon (although we have an abundant supply from another source) I was once more prayed to abandon the place. It is not, however, my intention to act so stupidly, untill I can find a better & for all commercial purposes I am tolerably certain I cannot find a better on the Island. This morning at day light the L.M.P. got under weigh but owing to the wind shifting came to an anchor again a few miles further out. Finding that spite of all the precautions I had been able to take the small stock of ardent spirits in our store was improperly used, I ordered all that remained to be got ready in the morning for sending off to the John Pirie, Capn Martin kindly consenting to receive it. Had some conversation with Mr Birdseye about his very great inattention to his duty & hope in future he will take more interest in the Company’s service.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Wednesday 24 August 1836

[, who arrived in South Australia on board the wrote.]

Salt Lagoon Station,
Kangaroo Island, So Australia.

Augst 24th 1836, Four of the Companys Labourers and myself were
sent up to the Salt Lagoon, for the purpose of erecting Sheds
and making a Fence round two small plots of Ground, for the
live Stock, which have all to come up here, there being plenty
of both Water & Grass at present, and where it is intended to
establish a permanentThe South Australian Company’s whaling station. Station  _________

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Thursday 25 August 1836

[, who arrived in South Australia on board the wrote.]

… I had the people
called aft to know if they where satisfied to have Mr
Dorey as third mate all was willing but Jones and
Jameson We had family prayers after the employ of the day

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Friday 26 August 1836

[, who arrived in South Australia on board the wrote.]

26th After rising at ¼ past 5, setting the hands to work breakfasting &c started at ¼ past 7 in my (hired) whale boat manned with 3 hands instead of 5 (I always steer myself) for the Salt Lagoon, distant about 8 miles. Arranged sundry matters there gave rough directions for various operations, roughly measured off 80 Acres of land for the The South Australian Company Company (with frontage to the Salt Lagoon of 1760 Yards & depth of 220 Yards.) On my return found Coll Light & party dining (on their own provisions & at Miss Beare’s special invitation) under my office tent. Had conversation with him on sundry trivial matters. After I had dined Capn Martin came ashore & we had a long talk about his Carpenter & one of his sailors both of which I agreed to engage ashore. I was to day very much insulted & annoyed by Mr Birdseye who I am reluctantly obliged to consider as a person determined to make as much of & do as little for the The South Australian Company Company as he legally dare do. I am most awkwardly situated as to officers & though both by day & night I do more than ever I thought I could have performed I am grieved to see that business is not conducted by any means to my satisfaction.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Friday 26 August 1836

[, who arrived in South Australia on board the wrote.]

Friday, 26th. August.

I again went on shore this morning with Jacob – a young surveyor – for the purpose of shooting at salt lagoon about eight miles along the shore and a more unpleasant and fatiguing walk I never remember. The heat was excessive and our pocket pistols were soon exhausted. We made a diligent but ineffectual search for fresh water, but I was determined to proceed to the lagoon which we reached about midday. Here we were very much disappointed finding instead a fine sheet of water covered with wild fowl, a miserable salt swamp – merely an inlet of the Bay – with nothing on it but screeching curlews and these so wary that we had no chance of killing any. The Island even at this Season swarms with mosquitoes and today they have bitten me so unmercifully, giving me rather an unpleasant idea of the pleasures of the summer season. On our return we penetrated a little way into the bush and here found the trees very similar to those at the Eastern side of the Bay. The Clematis grows in great abundance which together with a species of Mimosa, having very much the smell of May, imparts a delicious fragrance to the air. This, however, does not compensate for the want of water which is here very distressing. The wells that have been dug near the tents producing after much labour nothing but salt water. I hope to God we shall find better cheer when we visit the main – this is dreary enough and I begin to sigh for Old England with all her faults and all the dear Friends I have left there.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Saturday 27 August 1836

[, who arrived in South Australia on board the wrote.]

27th Spent the day in making various arrangements ashore Received (pr Duke of York’s boats) a note from Capn Ross about the runaway sailors of the L.M.P. Got all the parties concerned to consent to the Marriage of Mary Ann Powell & Wm C. Staple the former a daughter of one of the emigrants the latter one of the “John Pirie’s” Sailors who wished to remain ashore. I had some little difficulty to contend with but am pleased to think that 2 persons who would otherwise have been a scandal to the settlement are now likely rather to be a credit to it. I have taken the necessary affidavits from them both & they are to be married to morrow morning by Capn Martin on board his Schooner.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Saturday 27 August 1836

[, who arrived in South Australia on board the wrote.]

Saturday 27th August.

Some of the settlers came on board this morning bringing with them for sale two of a small species of opossum called by them “Wallobees”. These animals are anything but tempting to the sight having much the appearance of an enormous rat. They, like the opossum and kangaroo, are provided with a pouch for the reception of their young on the appearance of danger, and it is a curious fact that most of the quadrupeds of this country have the same appendage. Disgusting as these animals were to our eyes they were excessively grateful to the palate after having lived so long on ships’ fare. I breakfasted on board the “Duke of York” off hot rolls and ham so that I have come off sumptuously in the provider line today and stand well in the way of doing so tomorrow as Hill and myself with the boat’s crew have just caught two superb fish in the seine. There must have been a great mortality among the kangaroos on this island since Flinder’s time or he must have mistaken the walloby for them as we have not seen one and the Sealers say there are none

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Journals from passengers at sea:

Sunday 21 August 1836

[, on board the wrote.]

Moderate wind & hazy wr. Wind North. Steering
S.W.b W. All sail set. Divine Service – prayers, singing, &
a sermon by Revd C. Howard. Noon. Miles run 164 + 1875 = 2039.
P.M. Latitude is the distance of a point north or south of the equator as measured in degrees. The poles are at 90 degrees north and south. Lat.  22E34′ No. Longitude is the distance, measured in degrees, of the meridian on which a point lies to the meridian of Greenwich. On the other side of the earth to Greenwich is a point with a longitude of both 180 degrees east and 180 degrees west. Longe  22E45′ Wt. 8. Do Wr. {Sunday schools}
First issue of limejuice today, ½ oz. per person, per day per diem, per caput.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Tuesday 23 August 1836

[, on board the wrote.]

This day our allowance of water, which had hitherto been three quarts daily to each adult and half or two-thirds to children, according to their age, was reduced to one pint for each person. Generally speaking, we had a sufficiency, though it was sometimes such as no one in England would think of giving to a dog. It was as black as ink, with a thick sediment at the bottom, and smelt worse than a stagnant ditch. Those who go to sea, however, must make up their minds not to be over-nice or over-particular about anything.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Tuesday 23 August 1836

[, on board the wrote.]

23. 11 oclock P.M – A great row in
the The galley or pantry of a small ship. Cuddy Kingston, the Captain and
Doctor.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Wednesday 24 August 1836

[, on board the wrote.]

I mentioned yesterday that our allowance of water had been reduced, but last night the surgeon, conceiving that it was a scheme to avoid, if possible, stopping at the Cape of Good Hope, which would have been a great disappointment to many of the passengers (ourselves among others, for we were not only desirous of seeing the Cape, but wished to purchase some articles there which might be useful to us), urged the The area of between-decks occupied by steerage passengers, that is, those travelling at the cheapest rate. steerage passengers to send a letter to Mr. Brown, who, being agent for the emigrants sent out by the Commissioners, was bound to see that the terms stipulated by them were strictly fulfilled. One of these was that each person should be supplied with three quarts of water per day per diem. In consequence of this we again had our full quantity. In the state cabin, I believe, there was no restriction, but though all the Cabins of lesser comfort than those occupied by privileged passengers and intermediate between them and the dormitory accommodation afforded the emigrants. intermediate passengers paid handsomely for their passages, our own costing us nearly two hundred pounds, in respect to supplies of every description we were no better off than the The area of between-decks occupied by steerage passengers, that is, those travelling at the cheapest rate. steerage passengers, and even they ought to have had better provisions than were often served to us.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Wednesday 24 August 1836

[, on board the wrote.]

— Yesterday an attempt was made by Captain Duff to decrease the allowance of water to every passenger throughout the ship with the obvious view of avoiding the necessity of putting in at the Cape; this however was resisted by all, and on Mr Brown representing to the Captain that as ‘Agent for Emigration’ he would consider the decrease of allowance of water as a breach of contract with the Commissioners, and would so prevent the payment of the passage money of the steerage passengers, the Captain countermanded his order and the usual allowance of water was today served out. The quantity allowed is six quarts a day for each adult (children have less in proportion to age) and when it is remembered that this is to suffice for washing, cooking, tea and all other uses, it cannot be said to be extravagant.–

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Wednesday 24 August 1836

[, on board the wrote.]

Wednsday Aug 25
S.S.W ½ W     Mr Allen and
Mrs Allen Got drunk and abused
the Captain by Cawling him a
Scoundral and a Blaguard Caught
one turtle Motionless for lack of wind. Beclmed makeing
2½ Knots a hower

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Next week: There is a wedding at the new settlement and a party to follow, although the celebrations get a bit out of hand towards the end. Then the stand-off between Samuel Stephens and his company officers finally comes to a head.

On the Africaine Mary Thomas has her first experience of ship’s discipline and finds it distressing, while on the Buffalo the death of a young sailor reminds everyone of the fragility of life.

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Image creditProceedings of the Zoological Society of London 1877

Comments or Questions:

2 Responses to “Week 27 – a scandal averted”

  1. Colin Quin August 21, 2011 at 1:43 pm #

    Hi, I wonder if you can tell me if Hugh Quin is on board the ‘Cygnet’?
    There seems to be no mention of him in any of the journals.
    Regards,
    Colin Quin

    • Allison August 21, 2011 at 4:52 pm #

      Hi Colin.

      Hugh Quin was the 2nd mate on the Cynet from Rio.

      There is a list of everyone on board on the webiste (under the heading ‘ships’ at the top of the page.)

      Regards
      Allison – History SA

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