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Title: The Life and Experiences of an Ex-Convict in Port Macquarie

Author: William Delaforce

Release Date: October 27, 2018 [EBook #58176]

Language: English

Character set encoding: UTF-8


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[Pg i]

The Life and Experiences of an Ex-convict in Port Macquarie

LIFE ...


R. Davidson, Printer, Port Macquarie.

[Pg ii]

[Pg iii]


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 in New South Wales. It is intended herein to give a full and authentic synopsis of the Life of the Oldest Living Ex-Convict on the Hastings River, near Port Macquarie, extending from the thirties onwards. The information comes purely from memory, hence exact dates on which certain events occurred cannot be given; nevertheless the greatest care has been taken to give dates as near as possible.

[Pg 1]

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 would be proud if our faults whipped them not, and our crimes would despair if they were not cherished by our virtues."


I was born at Shoreditch, near London, on the 28th of May, 1819, and was nearing the age of sixteen when one day I was accused of committing a paltry theft. Of this I was innocent, and naturally denied it, but the constable who accosted me insisted, no matter what I said, that I had to go with him. My feelings were anything but high-flown as I passed along the street with him—what boy's feelings would be?—on the other hand they were down almost below zero. It was no use; I soon realised my position, it was this:—If I am found guilty of this offence—and I have little hope of proving my innocence—Heaven only knows where I may find myself. My trial came on before a Bench of Magistrates in Worship Street, London, on July the 3rd, 1834, and I was committed to take my trial. When a man had the bad luck to get committed,[Pg 2] he was sent to Clerkenwell, or to the Old Bailey, and if he listened to the conversations of his associates at either of these places, during intervals that he might be remanded, it was quite possible that a previously innocent man would be converted into an adept at picking pockets and house-screwing. I was a new-chum in places of this kind, and also at such pursuits. New-chums generally fell into, and were made the subject of, numbers of practical jokes, too, at the hands of these fellows, and I was saved none the less in this respect. "Go upstairs and get the bellows," one of them said to me: and when I got to the top of the stairs, some others sent me to the far end 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 of their games. This consisted in making a round ring on the wall with a piece of charcoal, and placing a black dot in the centre of it. One was then blindfolded, and his object was to place his finger on this black dot; but instead of doing this, another fellow stood with open mouth to receive the finger, and he didn't forget to bite it either. If anyone took money into this place they might as well say 'au revoir' to it, for they were not asleep. After a few days of this[Pg 3] life my trial came on—I was sentenced to Australia for 7 years' penal servitude. Then I was sent to Newgate, and when the door opened there, I was met by a large number of "Jack Shepherds," all in irons, and the place was as dismal-looking as the grave. First I entered the receiving-room, and remained there a day; afterwards I was put in with a fine assemblage of characters, and one might as well begin to count the stars in the Heavens as attempt to define who was the worst individual there. Night came on and I began to look around for a bed; this I found consisted of a rug and a mat, of which I availed myself. If a man was sentenced to seven years he was only kept there for a few days, and was then taken in irons, by means of a van, to the "hulk" at Portsmouth. This was the fate I shared. On arrival there I was stripped of my clothes, and after the barber came round and cut my hair so close that it was only with difficulty I could catch hold of it, I was washed from two tubs of water which stood close by. Then I was dressed in a pair of knee breeches, stockings, shirt, and a pair of shoes so large that I could have almost crossed the Atlantic in them, and a hat capable of weathering the greatest hurricane that ever blew. Whilst on board the hulk an old Jew paid several visits, for the[Pg 4] purpose of buying up all the ordinary clothes of the men, and no matter how new a suit might be, it was either a matter of take half-a-crown for it or throw it away. Fortunately, my best clothes were left behind, and I lost nothing by this.

I remained on the hulk from Friday till Monday morning, and was then transferred to what was known as the Bay Ship—the "Hoogly"—by means of a cutter. There were 260 prisoners on board this ship altogether. Before leaving the hulk, the irons worn in Australia were attached to the legs, but these were removed on getting to sea. Men, however, were branded all over—shirt, trousers, and everything else. The "Hoogly" left Portsmouth harbour on the 28th July, 1834, and was 120 days coming to Australia, and the passage on the whole was not unfavorable. Four men, however, were flogged during the passage for misconduct. One of those on board was transported for stealing articles from a Roman Catholic Chapel, and he had by some means managed to get a quantity of tobacco into his possession. One night whilst he was asleep some of the others conspired to get this tobacco, and they put his big toe into the bunghole of a cask. He used to sleep on the tobacco, and as soon as he sat up to release his toe the tobacco[Pg 5] was passed away through the crowd, and that was the last he saw of it.

Arrival at Sydney.

"Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows."


Notwithstanding the fact that the Settlement at Sydney was now nearly 50 years old, my impression on arriving there in the summer of 1834 was anything but a bright one, and by no means came up to my faintest expectations. It was a scattered-looking place—a house here and a terrace there, but miserable enough to my mind. After we had been in Sydney harbour a few days, a number of officials came aboard the ship, and, as if 'to the manner born,' took a list of the marks on the men, who were stripped to the waist. One of them, in particular, had some writing on his arm, and he was told that if it was not quickly removed, he would get 50 lashes for it when he reached shore, so he took the advice. We remained aboard ship till three days later, we were marched ashore in line, four deep, a little after daylight, and taken to Hyde Park Barracks. Here we got a beautiful breakfast, "hominy," in little tubs.[Pg 6] At 2 o'clock the same day we were called out to witness a punishment. There were no "25's" there; all "50's" and "75's"—goodness knows what the offenders had been doing. After this, it was possible for any one of us to be called out and sent to a master. If a man had a seven years' sentence, he had to serve four years with a master before he got a "ticket-of-leave;" but if he happened to prove himself a success at any particular vocation, he would never get his "ticket," as the master for whom he was working would arrange with one of the other servants to quarrel with the handy man, and he would be sent to the lock-up to be flogged, and get an addition to his sentence. If a man was sentenced to 14 years, he had to serve 6 years with a master before he got a "ticket." All the master had to give a servant in the year was 2 suits of clothes, 2 pairs of boots and a hat, also his food. The latter was supposed to be either 3½ lbs. of maizemeal and 7 lbs. of flour, or 9 lbs. of beef for the week.

"Fresh Fields and Pastures New."

"There's a divinity that shapes our ends,
Rough-hew them how we will."


My first assignment was to Mr. Sam Terry,[Pg 7] on his station at Mount Pleasant. Here I had little or nothing to do, and this man was a good master—he would never have his men flogged. But I had the misfortune to be stricken with the sandy blight at this place, and I was sent to the Windsor Hospital, where I remained for 10 months. From here I was sent to Windsor Gaol, but instead of a bed, I had to lie on a flag-stone, which was not conducive to building up my health. From Windsor I was transferred to Parramatta, and eventually to the Barracks again. Shortly after this, I was sent on to that beautiful vessel known as the "Phœnix" hulk—prison ship. This was the first occasion on which I had the extreme pleasure of meeting Dr. ——, the man who conspired with two others to rob a house, and when they were in the act of doing so, he assailed them with a gun, fired and wounded one of them as he came out of the window, and secured his freedom for catching thieves. This was a very cunning trick, as he arranged the plot himself, and he afterwards became prominent. I saw him shortly after this took place, when he was assuming all sorts of things, and I said "Hulloa! how are you getting on?" He looked at me, and said, "Why, I never saw you before, sir." "That'll do," I said, "you forget that I saw you on the "Phœnix" hulk, and don't try to put on[Pg 8] side before me." He said no more.

To Port Macquarie.

"O suffering, sad humanity!
O ye afflicted ones,
Steeped to the lips in misery."


It was not long before my health had sufficiently repaired to allow of my being sent to Port Macquarie, and as this journey had to be accomplished by water, the steamer "Little Billy," (William the Fourth) came into requisition. I left Sydney in this vessel on Monday, and she reached her destination on the following Sunday, after we had been on deck the whole time tossing about. There were a good number of us on board, and sometimes we got tea, and more often we didn't. We were inspected on arrival, and afterwards landed at the barracks, which stood on the water's edge against the river. The first incident that came under my notice on arrival was a lean, hungry-looking fellow named "Nipper," going along with his head down, apparently in a tit, until he reached and hit up against a wall, then he fell on his back like a cockroach—he was bloated out nearly as large as a cask with "hominy." Then I saw another man named "Larry"[Pg 9] coming along; he was positively mad, for he used to go along singing out "Larry! Larry!! Larry!!!" This man was reputed to have knocked his wife's brains out with a saucepan. Still another I saw, who was called "Captain." He had been a pirate, and used to walk about the roofs of houses with a piece of stick, using it as a telescope, and giving orders. I heard him sing out "Chuck us up that Jew —— to deal with," and I don't know whom he meant, but it was quite enough for me, so I left. Night came on, and one of the men—Jack Sleet—had a few shillings in his pocket. Some of the others heard the money jingle, and needless to say he was watched to bed, the money being placed very safely underneath him. Everything was quiet towards the middle of the night, when suddenly we were all awakened by hearing a man sing out, "Oh! h——, Oh! h——, somebody's cut me." It transpired that someone, in cutting the money from under him, had forced the knife rather too much, and it had entered his flesh, but the money was gone all the same, and every one appeared to be asleep.

When all the men retired to barracks at night, it was so crowded that where to lie down became a puzzle, and it was dirty besides. Men still kept on coming from Sydney, which made matters ten times[Pg 10] worse. One day while in these quarters, I was sent down to one of the wharves to help unload a boat laden with produce. I worked very hard all day, and it was late in the evening before I returned to the barracks. On arrival I asked the master's permission to bake myself a "johnny cake" for supper. In due course I had the cake mixed, and placed it on the fire to cook in an old frying-pan that was more "hol(e)y than righteous." Seated beside the fire watching my cake, I felt a nasty hit with a stick from behind, and as there was no other weapon handy with which to return the compliment, I grasped the frying-pan by the handle, and, turning round, brought it down full force on to my assailant's head. Needless to say, his head was harder than the bottom of the pan, and the next thing I remember was seeing him wriggling about with the hot pan on his neck, and exclaiming, "Oh! my G—, this pan is burning me!" Then a by-stander came up with a bucket of water and poured it on him, and afterwards the pan was removed. I turned to him, and said; "The next time I am at the fire perhaps you'll leave me alone." But my feet hardly had time to touch the ground before I was landed in the lock-up, and the next day I was brought before the court and sentenced to 36 lashes, and it would have been "100" only that the overseer[Pg 11] spoke up for me, and said that I was quite justified in my action. But even "36" was a fine cure for the "prickly heat." I got full of this and ran away to the Green Hills—15 miles distant—with a mate. When we got there, it seemed that we were to get no peace, for the aborigines came around us with their "yabber," and it was but a short time before they were off to the police and informed them of our whereabouts. Two days later we were caught, and I got "50" more to "clench the bargain."

The Iron Gang.

"To what base uses we may return."


Doctors, in the practice of their profession, not infrequently inform their patients that there is an insufficiency of iron in their blood, but no such assertion was ever known to be made to a man who at any time occupied a position in the Port Macquarie Iron Gang, for if there was no iron in their blood there should have been, if the "barking of shins" went for anything. I was sent into this gang, and amongst the men in it were a number termed "specials." These "specials" were sent out principally for forgery or swindling, and many of them were so flash[Pg 12] that they used to look down upon the other class of men, and try to play a game of "bluff." I was boiling my billy of tea one evening, when one of them came up and threatened to do all sorts of things to me if I did not remove my billy and allow him the fire. "What do you want?" I asked. "I want the fire," he replied. "Well," I said, "you can have it when I am finished." He took no notice of me, but persisted in removing my billy and placing his own on the fire. At last I quietly lifted his off, threw it into the swamp, and gave him a good thrashing. I was then removed, and got a little peace.

Perhaps for a fortnight now I went to work with the hand-cart, bringing firewood for the Government officers, and finally joined the iron gang again. Shortly after I re-joined this gang a man named Arger, who had been captain in a regiment, was attacked by a fierce looking fellow named Lorrens, who went up, and, drawing a knife, stabbed Arger both sides of the neck and in the ribs, then told him to "draw his sword and defend himself." This man had not the slightest provocation to commit such a murderous act, as the poor fellow never did him the least injury, and he was sent to Norfolk Island for life.

Another man in the gang named Handersen,[Pg 13] a carpenter, went up to a Frenchman named Antonio, and knocked him down with a hammer; then, turning round, he said: "I killed that b——, and I hope his soul has gone wandering." These acts were done principally for tobacco, or for half-a-loaf of bread, (even in those days "half-a-loaf" was considered to be better than "no bread") and the object was generally to get some of the flash "specials" a holiday to Sydney in charge of a man, and this was called "jeeing" them.

When a man received six or 12 months in irons, he had to sleep on the floor with one blanket, and a sleeper for a pillow; and if he got ever so wet before going to bed in rainy weather, he had to put on the same wet clothes next morning.

There was another cowardly thing done in the iron gang. A poor fellow named Freeham was met by a member of the stone-breaking party, who raised a hammer and struck him in the jaw, breaking it. This wretch got 12 months added to his former sentence, but was afterwards sent to Sydney on a charge of murder on his own word, for killing a man at Ballengarra, situated some miles up the river; but as there was no evidence except his own, he was sent[Pg 14] back to Port Macquarie for 12 months—though he said that he would rather be hanged than serve another 12 months in such a place of slavery and trials; for out of about 50 or 60 men, 14 or 15 of them would be brought before the court every week and punished, and they were all poor, harmless men. The charge against them was usually neglect or disobedience. Fancy poor wretches, with chains hanging about them being charged with neglect of work, or even disobedience. Walking about in chains was hard enough work without carrying hand-carts full of earth, and who could bring themselves to obey flash "specials?"

One poor wretch got a month in the cells on bread and water for having a piece of writing paper in his pocket, and another unfortunate fellow was sentenced to "100 lashes" for having a letter in his pocket which he was endeavouring to send to a friend. Still these officials went to Church, offered up prayer (?) and aped religion.

Tom —— was sentenced to two months on bread and water for running away; but although Tom bolted he only went a little way and brought himself to an anchor on a farm, which he never left. He used to go[Pg 15] into a hollow tree in the day time, and, opossum-like, come out at night and eat the corn. Half-an-acre of this grain disappeared in a fortnight, and then he gave himself up, as there was no more corn to eat. This man had great storage capacity, as one Sunday morning I saw him eat eight men's allowance for a ration of corn bread whilst going a distance of about 200 yards. He was transported for taking a man-o'-war boat, in company with five others, and was a 7-year man. But he was a fearful glutton, for his allowance of food was no more satisfaction to him than a straw is to a bottle. I remember one day, returning from work, he saw a woman lying drunk on the road, and he picked her up, lifted her on to his shoulder, and ran away into the bush with her. The Police Magistrate who was in the vicinity, noticing what was taking place, sang out, "Put that woman down!" "If I do," said Tom, "the d—— police will have her" and he took no further notice, but continued on his journey, and there was not a sign of him till the next day. Then he was arrested and locked up by the police, and received 14 days on bread and water for his trouble. When he came out he bore a half-starved[Pg 16] appearance—the bread and water did not suit him.

About the year 1839 the gang had completed the first road, and the lame, the blind, and those with wooden legs were furnished with a clean bed in honor of the occasion. These cripples were employed principally in taking goods to the settlers without payment, and the poor wretches often went short when their journey's end was reached. When not employed, they used to lounge about on the hills overlooking the sea sunning themselves, and it was not infrequent that they had quarrels amongst themselves. Just picture to yourself a man with wooden legs offering to "fight any b—— man on timber" as they used to put it. When these wooden-legged men had a quarrel in a boat they sat on the seats, with a man propped against the back of each, and in this fashion they would fight away in great style. I saw two of them on one occasion fight till they could not see each other. There were also one-armed men amongst them; these were employed in breaking stone, and they had a Jew for a boss, who was also a wooden-legged man. One day he went to sleep in the sun on one of the hills above the[Pg 17] harbour, and another Jew named Lewis collected a quantity of old maize stalks and other fuel, and set fire to his wooden legs whilst he was asleep. They were not burning long, however, before he awoke and found one to be shorter than the other; and it was a sight for sore eyes to see him walking down to the Old Broken Barracks, singing out to everyone that he met—"That Jew-looking b—— down there has burnt my legs nearly off."

Just after this a poor fellow died in the barracks. A coffin was made for him, and his remains were being carried away for interment by four of his fellow-prisoners. After they had proceeded some little distance, two of them had a quarrel, when they threw the coffin down, and it burst, and out rolled the corpse on to the ground. They fought their quarrel out, and after receiving satisfaction at each other's hands, they picked the body and coffin up and carried it back to the barracks, where it was tacked together again, and four other men were sent to bury it.

The making of roads in the streets of the Settlement was now being actively proceeded with, and in some instances the hills which had to be cut through were so[Pg 18] steep that a man could not comfortably ascend one of them without irons on his legs, let alone with them—but the hills had to be broken down by men with sore backs, and if one man happened to collide with another who had been recently flogged, it would be—"Oh, G——! mind my sore back." These were hard times; hard worked and half starved.

Six men once got "50" for refusing their allowance of beef—it being of inferior quality; but good meat was brought to court when they were being tried, not the kind that was refused. They were questioned, "What have you to say?" but were only allowed to get one word out when the order would be "50." And so it appeared to be "no use going to law with the Devil when the court was held in H——." Some men seemed to have a harder skin than others; a few would stand "50" like a piece of wood; they would sooner die than allow anyone to hear a groan. There was one poor little fellow named Mick whom the wretched overseer used to take a delight in bringing before the court; he would never pick out a flash-looking rascal, but only poor men who could just crawl about.

I remember one terrible schemer who came[Pg 19] into the gang. He met Mr. —— one morning, and said, "If you do not give me five 'bob' I'll lay a charge against you for buying rations off the Government men." He was thereupon caught by the collar and taken off to the watchhouse, and was sentenced to two months in the iron gang. It was about 11 o'clock in the day when he came into the gang, and that evening he got "50" for doing something. The next day he tried the same dodge, but was walked off again and got another "50." The third day he went up to the overseer and said: "Do you expect me to work after the flogging I got yesterday?" The answer was a smack with a big stick. He was compelled to go to work with the other men, dragging hand-carts full of earth. There were three men to each cart, and a soldier always accompanied the men to keep them from running away or receiving tobacco, as if any of the weed were found on a man he would get "50." No spoons, knives, or forks were allowed men in the iron gang, for if they had them they would stab each other. Some used to eat their "hominy" with a piece of iron hoop, which they used as a spade-scraper. Others used a piece of bone. One fellow had a hat with a double-crown, and he used to[Pg 20] secrete tobacco and other things in it. The overseer once picked this hat up and said to him: "You have a hat with two crowns." "Yes," he replied, "It's a good job you have nothing in it to-day," added the overseer. And so it was, for if there had been it would have meant trouble. Some of the men used to watch the boss, and scheme when his back was turned; but if he caught any of them they were sure of "50," for he never said a word—only just held up a stick and a policeman would come to the rescue.

Every Sunday the men got a small piece of soap with which to wash their clothes, and if rain happened to come on whilst they were doing it, orders were given to just gather up the clothes, and, wet or dry, they were brought into the room. These clothes then had to be worn to church by the men, who were safeguarded by a tyrannous overseer and a soldier: and there they sat listening to a minister preach, and looking at the hard-hearted wretches who were ruling them. If the men had got something to eat, it would have done them more good than hearing about the next world, for they thought very little about religion in their sad state.

Poor —— was sentenced to 12[Pg 21] months in the chain gang for running away, and he was only in the gang two days when the overseer brought him to court and got him "50." He then took the sulks, and would neither work nor eat. Then he was handcuffed and dragged up and down the street till some of the more tender-hearted officials could stand it no longer; and he was eventually chained to a bed-post, where he lay down, like an over-worked ox, and died. It was the custom to chain men to their bed when they became sick and were sent to the hospital, for fear that they would run away in the night. One man did bolt at night, and was not heard of again, the supposition being that he perished in the bush. This was a fine man, too, and once belonged to the Life Guards in London.

I was amongst a batch of men who were once marched down from the barracks to assist in unloading a little vessel—the "Waterwitch"—laden with corn, which had become wrecked whilst crossing the bar. We worked all day and were brought back at night, receiving cornmeal and water for our supper. All our clothes were wet, and we had either to sleep in them or else lie on the floor with nothing. Such was life in the iron gang.

[Pg 22]

Assigned to Lake Innes.

"Double, double toil and trouble,"


Shortly after Port Macquarie was made a Penal Settlement, several men of considerable wealth visited and settled in the district, and were granted large areas of land in and around the Settlement. Amongst these was Major Innes, who became the possessor of a large area of land about six miles from the town, which was and is known as Lake Innes. On this property the "Major" built a beautiful residence, with all the conveniences that money could command. It was not long before he commenced to breed horses for the Indian market, and frequently sent shipments of valuable horses to India. Besides this, he occupied large stores in the Settlement, and used to contract with the Government for supplying soldiers and men with provisions. A man of the "Major's" calibre could, by applying, get numbers of what were termed "assigned servants" to work on his property, and of this labour he availed himself to a great extent.

In the year 1838 I and two others were[Pg 23] sent to Lake Innes to dig water holes for cattle, the seasons being so dry at the time that water had become a scarcity. We dug drains through the swamps, and made provision for ample water for the famishing cattle. Slopes were also made leading into the drains, so that any cattle which fell into the water, and were too weak to get out themselves, could be pulled out. One day, while there, the boss came down to see how we were progressing with the work, and after a while one of us said to him: "You ought to allow us a little more tea and sugar, for this is hard work; to say nothing of being up to our knees in water all day."

"Go on with your work," he said, "I think a good flogging would do you more good than tea and sugar. Did you get tea and sugar in the road party?"

"No, sir; but we had not to work in the water; and we left off work at 3 o'clock to cook our food, but here we have to work till 6." At this he turned and walked away.

A few days afterwards I pretended to be sick, and went up to the overseer and said: "I want a pass for the hospital."

"I can't give you one," he replied, "but if you'll bring up a pot I'll give you some castor-oil."

[Pg 24]

I went down to the hut and brought up the "Royal George"—the big pot that we used to cook in, laid it at the door and sang out.

The overseer came out, and seeing the pot, asked, "What the devil did you bring that for?"

"That's the only pot I can find," I said, "except what we make our tea in, and I could not put oil in that." Then he gave me some oil in a bottle. He came down the next day to see if the oil had done me any good. I told him that it had, but it was a fowl that I had the night before that did me good, for I went about with my eyes open and knew where they roosted—in the castor oil bushes. I did not want oiling like a steam engine.

Rain now came, and we relinquished the drain-digging; I was then sent into the vegetable garden to work. I was there but a very short time when the milkman lost his billet, and I succeeded him in that position. This job did not suit me; all the other men were comfortable in huts, and I was stuck, out in the milk yard in all sorts of weather, knee-deep in muck, as well as being growled at by the other men if I did not let them take the milk. It was a bad job for a fellow[Pg 25] if he were caught at anything like this, and at the very least it meant "50." I was in great dread, as I had to please the men by letting them take the milk, and I also had to please the master by preventing them. One morning I hit upon a plan to get out of this billet. It was raining very heavily this morning, and I was wet through. When I had finished milking I dipped my hands into the muck in the yard, and then into the milk, carried it up to the house, and gave it to the butler. He looked at me for a second, then at the milk, and said, "You d——, dirty brute! Whom do you think can drink that milk?" "Well, I can't help it," I said, "look at the yard, up to my knees in filth, and the boss won't give me time to clean it out." "Then you shall not milk any more," said the butler.

I was laughing up my sleeve to think how well I had done the business. They put another milkman on, but he soon went to the hospital with pains in his legs. A third man was put on, and after a few days he was recalled to help make bricks, so the old milkman was then engaged, and that ended the trouble.

One morning the signal bell pealed out, and all the men had to go up and see what[Pg 26] they were wanted for. There was a terrific storm raging, and we were told that we had to cut wood for the dining-room and parlour fires, but not one would stand out in such weather to do the work. We went to the boss and told him that we would cut the firewood as soon as the storm was over. "How often am I out in the rain?" he said, "it won't melt you—you're not sugar." Turning to the overseer, he ordered us to be put on Government rations, and we were then the recipients of 7 lbs. of flour, 3½ lbs. of cornmeal, and 7 lbs. of meat—what the men used to call "staggering bob"—in the week. Saturday came—ration day—and I went up for my allowance as usual; but when it came to the donation of meat, I was shown a large piece of bone with a small piece of meat attached to it. "Is that what I am going to get?" I asked. "Yes," replied the overseer, "and if you don't like it, leave it!" I left it, declaring to myself to have some more of the fowls and turkeys out of the castor-oil bushes. Two nights passed; the third was showery, and very convenient for the job; it was also very dark. I armed myself with a bag, and proceeded up to where they used to roost. My bag was soon half-full of poultry, and some[Pg 27] of them were cooked and eaten in double-quick time, for the others had onions out of the vegetable garden cooking while I was away. The remainder of the poultry, not eaten that night, was hidden in the swamp and eaten as required. It was very convenient to have the vegetable garden handy, and the gardener had just planted out a hundredweight of onions, but when he went to see how they were growing there were but very few left. This was the only way to cure hunger after a day's toil. One night about a week afterwards I went up to the castor-oil trees for another pair of fowls, and who should I see on the other side of the bushes but ——, the constable, helping himself to a fowl also. I did not have to wait long, for he soon got his, and then the coast was clear, so I got mine and departed. The constable was looked upon as a very honest fellow, but he was caught at last taking two sacks of flour and some other provisions, and 12 months in irons was his lot. At this time it took as much material to make a pair of trousers for him as would make two pairs for an ordinary man, and when his hair was cut and his whiskers shaven, he looked like a "mountain in a fog." But the hard boards and one blanket, with only a sleeper for a[Pg 28] pillow, soon told on him, for in less than three months, after good doses of "hominy" and the pick, he became as thin as a whipping post, although he was fortunate enough to escape without a flogging. Some men had wonderful luck in this way; the greatest rogue generally got off the lightest.

About half-a-dozen men were assembled in the shoemaker's shop one day, and the conversation drifted on to persons who were living in a state of adultery. "Now we will count," said the shoemaker to the boys, "all the people about here who are living in a state of adultery." "And we will commence," said another, "with you and your mother. Let me see, how many more has she got besides you, Harry?" This was a hit for a start, and poor Harry walked out of the shop as if he had committed a murder. After this there was no more talk about people living on the cross.

Flour at this time was £10 per 200 lb. sack, and, as it was so scarce, Sir George Gipps, the Governor, recommended that those who had the supplying of provisions for the prisoners should grind rice and mix it with the flour. This course was adopted, but when it was baked the loaf resembled a brick outside and a piece of clay inside.[Pg 29] The meat was horrible. This, however, could not be remedied, as there was no feed for the cattle; and as for mutton—when a sheep was skinned and dressed, if a candle were put inside of the carcase it would serve all the purposes of a lantern.

There was a screw loose at Lake Innes one morning; the store containing the provisions had been broken into and robbed. All the men's huts were searched—even the floors taken up—trying to get the slightest clue to the robbery. The police were busy as bees, but they could not get the least hint. The value of the stolen goods was estimated at £50, and they comprised a good assortment of the various household requisites. The Port Macquarie police were sent for, and the boss flung about first in one place and then in another. At last the bell rang, and all hands had to stand out before the "Lord of the Lake." It was a real field day—men strutting about as though in a field of battle. The boss offered sums of money to anyone who would tell who the robbers were, for he said that no rascal could do it single-handed. At last two suspects were picked out and sent to the lock-up, but they returned in a week, as no case could be got against them.

[Pg 30]

About three weeks afterwards I was at work with the pick and shovel, making a road down to the boat-house, for there were pleasure boats on the Lake. The constable came down to me, and said: "Ah! my boy, I've got you and ——, now; it was you two who robbed the store, and now you will have to pay for it. You were seen at the head of the tree where the bag of sugar was found." I told him that I had no hand in robbing the store, but I was marched up to the house before the boss, who said: "So you are one of the scoundrels who broke into the store and stole all that you could get your hands on, and I'll make it a bad job for you and that other scoundrel. I will teach you a lesson this time, you thieving dogs!"

Who should I see there, however, but the man that should have been at work with me, and another fellow. They had just gone up to the house and informed that I was a culprit. One of these two was to get his freedom a few days later, and he evidently thought that £5 reward would be very nice to have a spree on, no matter what an innocent man might suffer. The other man and I were taken to Port Macquarie in a cart, and brought before the[Pg 31] Bench. The informer was as deaf as a post, but the magistrate said that although the man could not hear him, he could tell what he said by the quiver of the magistrate's lips. And so we got six months added to our former sentence.

On Sundays church was held at the Lake, and Mrs. —— used to preach. I was sent for one morning to go to church, so I blackened myself and went up without a shirt. The boss met me on the way up, and asked, "Where are you going to?" "Well," I said, "I'm going to chapel." "Do you think you are going to chapel without a shirt?" he continued. "My shirt is out on the fence drying," I answered. "Then go on back again, and don't come up in that plight any more." This was all I wanted; the church did not trouble me.

During my term here my eyesight became bad again—it never had been very good from the time that I had sandy blight some years before—and it got that way at last that it was almost impossible for me to see. The life there was not improving it, either, so I informed the boss, and after a little conversation he gave me two letters—one to the Police Magistrate in the town, and the other to the doctor. I started off[Pg 32] with the letters, not knowing what was in them, for my sight was too bad to read; but on the way in I met someone who could, and soon got over the difficulty. The letter to the P.M. came first, and ran thus: "Dear ——, Inflict some severe punishment on this man and return him to me at once, for I cannot get him to work." The other one to the doctor was just asking him to have a look at my eyes, and do what he could to them. Now it was not very likely that I was going to take a note to the Magistrate to perhaps get "50" over it, so without hesitation I tore it up, and went down to the doctor, whom I did not fear, and knew to be a good man. He read the letter, looked at my eyes, and then said: "Well, if you want to see you can; and if you don't want to see you can go about with the blind mob." So I decided to give the "blind mob" a trial.

In the spring of 1847, Governor and Lady Fitzroy visited Port Macquarie, and were the guests of Major Innes at the Lake. When the steamer by which they travelled arrived at the wharf, there were two rows of soldiers drawn up on each side of the road leading from it, and waiting a little distance away was the carriage of the "Major," with[Pg 33] six horses in it—two bays, two grays, and two chestnuts—and the distinguished visitors were driven straight away to the Lake. There was high life at this place now for about a month—balls, parties, pic-nics, &c.—when they returned to Sydney again. But it was the Governor's misfortune to lose his good lady soon afterwards, for she was killed through a carriage accident in Parramatta Park in December of the same year.

The Blind Mob.

"He that is stricken blind, cannot forget
The precious treasure of his eyesight lost."


The day after the doctor told me that I could go with the "blind mob," I joined them. These blind people used to carry on a little gardening and other occupations, such as the blind were suited for. And goodness knows what they were not suited for—they could play cards, dice, toss, and all sorts and conditions of things.

I had not been in the camp ten minutes before a notorious character, named "Teddy," came up and said to me: "Come on, come[Pg 34] on, we will go and 'shake' some melons!" "Where abouts?" I inquired. "Oh! I'll show you," he answered, "out on the Glebe." Just fancy a man as "blind as a bat" asking me to go stealing melons. "No," I said, "I'm not going to get into any trouble over melons," and he called me all the crawling hounds and scoundrels that he could think of. Shortly afterwards he said to me, "Do you ever kill snakes?" "Not often," I said; "Why, what do you want to know that for?" "Well," he returned, "I want to get a snake's head to put teeth upwards in the overseer's boot—I'll do for him yet." I told him to be careful, or he would pull up on the scaffold.

I soon found out that I had got amongst the biggest lot of thieves and robbers in the place. I became possessed of a few pence, and they knew it. That night I retired, as usual, and put my trousers under my head. As soon as things were quiet the trousers were eased from under my head. I knew it but said nothing, and as soon as they found there was no money in them, back came the pants. I came from London as well as they did, and the money was hidden in a place that they dreamt not of.

This was quite enough of the "blind[Pg 35] mob" for me. The next day at dinner time I went up to the boss and told him I would rather go into the road party than stay with thieves.

The Road Parties.

"More sinned against than sinning."


When a man had finished his sentence in the chain gang, he was sentenced to a road party, and it was Heaven to the chain gang. There was not so much slavery, and it was possible to get a sort of bed to lie down on at night, if it were only a sheet of ti-tree bark. The men got a little more food, too, and they were allowed to cook it themselves; but it was often a straggling piece of meat with about as much fat on it as would grease the eye of a packing-needle. One man always remained to mind the camp while the others were at work, and very often he used to do what was known as "weeding"—that was, taking a little out of each man's allowance of provisions, and then he had a little to sell and get money to buy himself some tea and sugar. But one of them went too far at this game at last and was caught; then[Pg 36] there was a fearful uproar. The overseer was going to take him to court straight away, but the other men said they would rather settle it amongst themselves, and this they did by each man giving him three blows on the back with a knotted handkerchief; for if he had been taken to court, he was almost certain to get six months in irons, as the authorities did not believe in the men robbing one another of their food. I gave him three good hits, and the handkerchief used to rebound like India-rubber.

In the road party it was a funny sight to see some of the flash "specials" using a cross-cut saw. Their hands were very soft, and they used to tie pieces of old shirts round the handles at each end to protect them. They generally liked a saw that would 'pinch,' so that they would have an excuse to go to the camp for a maul and wedges to drive into the cut and prevent the pinching; thus they schemed and wasted their time. In the middle of work I often heard them commence to talk about the fine wine they had drank at some of the big inns in London—"The Angel at Islington," "The Hole in the Wall," or "The Elephant and Castle," for instance, and some of them had never tasted wine in their lives. At night they[Pg 37] began to 'blow' about how they had done some of the honest merchants in England out of large and small sums of money; but it was a different tale now—they saw very little money in the road party.

But some of them had fine times of it during one boss's term of office, for he did not abuse them. It was different when old Major S—— came along to inspect them. He came along once while I was there, and said to one fellow, "Hulloa! what did you get sent out for?" "Forgery on Mr. So and So," was the answer. "Dear me! he's a particular friend of mine. Here, constable, take the tail off his coat and brand him all over."

The constable then cut the tail of his coat close off around the waist and branded him all over, leaving such a smell of paint from the brands that the flies would keep off him for a good many days afterwards.

Proceeding further the overseer pulled another fellow up—"And what was your occupation at home, and how came you to be sent out here?" "I was a schoolmaster, and was sent out for embezzlement," he answered. "A fine fellow to teach scholars how to rob people. Here, constable, take and brand him," and he shared the same[Pg 38] fate.

A third fellow, in answer to a similar question, said, "I used to drive my carriage and four at home, sir." "Then you will drive a wheelbarrow and one out here!" He was branded, too.

They looked first-class with a pick and shovel, and at making a damper—they had no more idea of this than a kangaroo. Some of them frequently said that they were well off in England, and yet they were the greatest villains under the sun. If a man were possessed of any little thing out of the common they tried all sorts of plans to get it from him, and if unsuccessful by fair means, they would steal it from him. Every man had to do his own washing, and these "specials" would rub away at their duck pants with a piece of soap about the size of a halfpenny. The soap was something like the sugar they got for their "hominy"—it was visible, and that was all.

The Police Magistrate came along once and heard one of the party pass a remark which he did not like, so he said, "Jack, if I could find a man to give you 50 lashes, you would get it." Up sprang a short fellow, named Ned ——, and exclaimed, "I will give it to him for you; if you'll promise me[Pg 39] he won't have the satisfaction of flogging me afterwards."

"I promise you he will not have that privilege," said the P.M.

"Well, then," said Ned, "I'm in office."

He got Jack on the "three-legged mare," as they used to call it, and started flogging.

Jack sang out, "You're not hitting me properly."

"I'm doing my best to please you," he said, "so you must take it as it comes."

He gave him another lash and said, "There, does that please you?"

"No," exclaimed Jack.

"My G——," he said, "it seems you're hard to please, but you will have to take it as well as I can give it to you."

This Jack was a well-educated man, and a frightful rogue into the bargain; for if he got a man drunk he would pick his pocket and then take him to the lock-up afterwards.

The chief constable said to him one day, "Jack, the men tell me that you rob them."

"Well, sir, I might as well have the money as them; for they only kill themselves with drink and put the Government to more expense."

As soon as this man got free, he went home to his friends.

[Pg 40]

Old Major —— was hard on these "specials;" if they did the least thing it meant "50," and he would sing out to the flogger, "Tip it into him," and afterwards they were sent to a road party.

Two blind men were brought before him one day on a small charge, and he asked, "What have you two to say for yourselves?" Their reply was the throwing of two half-bricks at him, and one struck him above the eye. For this they were committed for trial, and afterwards sentenced to three years at Norfolk Island.

H—— was the name of one of these "specials," and when using the spade he stood as upright as a yard of pump-water; but when the overseer spoke to him, he had the appearance of a goose looking down a bottle. When this fellow became free, he went to Sydney, and used to walk about with a gold-headed cane selling eye-lotion.

Most of the "specials" were merely clerks and were sent to this Settlement so that they would not be able to write home and tell how things were going on. They appeared to just do as they liked with those who were under them. If a man did not put his hand to his hat when passing of the bosses, and pay them what was termed "respect," he was[Pg 41] liable to "50;" if he gave any of them a sharp answer he was sure of "50," and if he said nothing at all, it was considered to be "silent contempt," and this meant the same "50," so a man might as well do something as be punished for nothing. This is how men who had to work for them were treated. It was a singular thing, however, that not one of these bosses died worth as much money as they could "jingle on a tombstone."

The worst wretches that a man could be put to work under were those who had been sent to the country themselves. They were far worse than men who came out free, and how men put up with the tyranny of these brutes is far beyond my conception.

In those days there were very few guns procurable, and it was a rare thing to see even an old flint musket. Pat —— was ordered to get "50" every morning for a week for taking to the bush with one of these muskets. He begged of the boss to let him have the whole week's flogging at once, and so he got it. This old brute used to glory in seeing a man being literally chopped to pieces, and stood by, saying, "Tip it into him!"

The bosses in these road parties were often men with wooden legs, and were put over[Pg 42] these men as they were considered unfit for any other purpose. If annoyed, they thought nothing of taking a stick—sometimes their wooden legs—and striking the men with them. One noted cripple turned on me one morning, but I retaliated with an axe-handle, and gave him a good thrashing. After this I bolted, but was caught a few days afterwards, and received 12 months in irons for my trouble. I could not put up with hard work, and be knocked about by a hopping dog of a man as well.

These cripples were only allowed a few men to gather shells, cut bridle tracks for them, and so on, in remuneration for their labor as overseers; but a man like H——, the notorious overseer, got 3s 3d per day, his rations, a hut-keeper to cook for him, and another man to get wood and water. These fools would almost stand the flesh being cut off their bones rather than lose their billets.

One mean-looking fellow in the road party was sent to this country for obtaining money under the garb of a priest, and there was one poor simple Irishman in the gang from whom he used to get flour on the pretence that he would give him his blessing. But it was the flour he was blessing—not poor O'Brady.

Perhaps the most gentlemanly and refined[Pg 43] man in the gang was a tall and stately fellow named R——, who was a great friend of the Rev. Mr. ——. This poor wretch was to be pitied. He used to go about with two old caps tied up round his feet for shoes, and his 1lb. of "staggering bob," when cooked and eaten, was almost as nothing to him by way of checking hunger. On more than one occasion he walked to Kathie Creek—10 miles along the sea-beach south from the Settlement—and there he got a meal of 'clams' or 'cockles;' he would also bring some back to the camp with him. The times were hard on a man of this kind, especially when he would walk 10 miles for a feed; but hunger was a sharp thorn, and "as a man's bed was made he had to lie on it."

There was another fine-looking man in the gang, but he was a terrible villain, and it was supposed that he murdered a man not far from the Settlement. Afterwards he went to Sydney and there met his doom, which was to be hanged for another murder, and thus ended his career.

Port Macquarie seemed to be a depot for rogues and villains such as these, for there were some noted scoundrels amongst them. The friend of a fellow named T—— was[Pg 44] doing some thieving once, and he gave T—— a box to mind, which was supposed to contain the stolen goods, until the robbery blew over. But T—— felt the weight of the box, and thought there was something wrong, so he opened it, and instead of finding the different articles, it was full of brickbats. T—— then went and informed, and got the thief 7 years. He always passed as "Brickbat T——" after that, and left Port Macquarie for the goldfields near Bathurst about the year 1851; so a very handy man to mind anything was lost.

Some of these fellows were made constables in one boss's time, but when a change occurred and another boss came, they were sent to the roads to work with a pick and shovel. And fine specimens they were at work, too; it took them nearly all their time to look at the blisters on their hands. Some of them appeared to have been brought up well, though, and one of these was Harry ——, a noted highwayman. This man had no nose; some said that he cut if off to avoid recognition, others said that it was bitten off by an assailant. However, he had a silver nose, and if he happened to lose it, had to go without till a new one came from Sydney. There was a road party at work about two[Pg 45] miles out of the town and one day Harry came riding along on his favourite mare "Biddy." On nearing the camp the mare took charge of him and bolted, and in the confusion that ensued, his nose fell off. He went some distance before the animal got controllable; then he came back and asked the road party's assistance to look for the silver "snozzle." After they had been looking a while, an old black crow arose from amongst the ferns with something (presumably a grub) in its beak. One and all then declared that this was his silver snout the bird had, and at this Harry got in a fearful rage and went off on his horse without a nose at all. He was not a bad-hearted man to his fellow prisoners, though; he would not send them to the lock-up, but rather advise them to keep out and escape the punishment that invariably followed.

A prominent figure in the Settlement in those days was a man named H——, who was sent to the country for forging a will to rob his orphan niece and nephew out of their property; and a poor miserable player he looked, carrying the "hominy" about on his head. But finally he got out of the Government, and his family came to the country[Pg 46] and started business. After this he got on well, and one of his daughters married to advantage. The man whom this girl became the wife of was, however, an obstinate fellow, and if everything did not go his way, there was always trouble. He was expecting his father to die, and frequently went to the post office in anticipation of news to that effect, but when he did not get a letter, he used to say: "My G—! how much longer is that old wretch going to live?" At last the poor old fellow did "shuffle off," and, although he had comfortable means, he did not leave the son a penny, only some tools. H—— was a wide-awake old fellow, and at one time had a boot and tannery business; but he had a man working for him who was equally wide awake. This fellow used to cut hides down the back, and take strips out of them wide enough to make soles for boots or shoes. He was caught at last, however, and received two months in the iron gang. After this he returned to his old master. One day, not long afterwards, the boss went out, and this fellow was making a pair of boots for sale on the sly. When the boss returned, he popped in rather suddenly, and only for the presence of mind of his employer, a bowl out was certain. In a second he threw himself on the floor and[Pg 47] pretended to be in a fit. The boss walked in, and, seeing him, immediately went for help—not noticing the boots he was working at or anything else. As soon as the boss made his exit, he got up, hid the boots he was working at, and put another pair in their place; and on the master's return, he was just coming out of the fit, and soon got alright. This man got on well afterwards in the Settlement.

The notorious "special," H——, brought twelve men to court one day for neglect of work, but Mr. G——, the Police Magistrate, said that he and another gentleman had been looking at the poor men at work, and they could not understand how men ran down the slopes where they were making the road without falling, more especially in irons; they looked as if they were worked to death, and he could not see in what way it would be possible for them to neglect their work. From the appearance of them, he thought something to eat would do them more good than a flogging. Then, turning to the notorious H——, he said; "You are a prisoner yourself, I suppose?"

"Yes, Your Worship," he answered.

The P. M.: "I thought so; you get so much a day for bossing the men?"

[Pg 48]

"Yes," replied H——.

The P. M.: "Take them away, and don't bring them before me again on such a charge!"

The men turned to the Magistrate and thanked him. They told him it was only tyranny, and said it was a wonder how they escaped without broken limbs, running down such hills with loaded carts behind them.

This put an end to flogging, for the residents of the town commenced to talk about it. But the place did not seem to thrive, for as soon as the Government men had gone, and no more were coming, things were on a downward move. There was no more convict labor; no more fashionable balls and parties; no more cases of wines, spirits, and beers—nay, it was all bread, meat, and tea, and lucky these tyrannous wretches were if they could get that, for they had to "look ere they leaped" too far, lest they should fall.

Some of the flash officials lived at the rate of about £500 a year, but as soon as the prisoners were removed their harvest was finished, and it was as much as they could do to keep the bailiff out. It was not, "Go on, you rascal, or I'll take you to court," then; but if they wanted a man to work they had to pay him wages. And although employers[Pg 49] were supposed to pay men wages, they soon adopted another method of doing them out of their earnings. This was done by hiring men for six months, and, just before their term had expired, find some fault with them, take them to court, and get their agreement cancelled and their pay stopped. So it will be seen that use had bred such habits in them that it was hard to discontinue bringing the men to court. However, this did not bring back the beer and wine; a store account would soon be upon them for the necessaries of life, and if this were not paid within a reasonable time there would soon be a bailiff from Sydney. Thus they found out the loss of the poor prisoners, whom they treated worse than most men treat a dog, and it eventually ended in selling off their cattle and horses for what they would bring.

"Specials" and Others.

"Nature hath framed strange fellows in her time."


It was not often that any of the "Specials" were sent out to work as farm labourers, because they were suited for[Pg 50] anything but hard work; so they were generally made constables. Conspicuous amongst these was a man named Fred ——, who, it was said, forged the largest cheque which had been forged on the Bank of England up to that time. This was a well-educated man. He could read and write French, Spanish, and Portuguese, and had once been interpreter for the Court of India. He had not been in the country long before forgery commenced to worry him again. For this, a sentence of two years in the Port Macquarie Iron Gang was given him, and he became the worst man in it, for he fretted. When a man gave way to the hardship, he became the victim of insects, and this was the case with him. Small wonder at any man giving way to the hardship in such a place, for it was nothing but hard work, hunger, and flogging, the floor to sleep on, and one blanket as a covering. After this man had finished his two years in the Iron Gang, he was sent to a road party for about six months, and then became a constable on a salary of 3s 3d per day. While a constable he wrote to his father, who was a shareholder in a coal mine at Newcastle-on-Tyne, England, and received a reply to the effect that if he[Pg 51] could get good characters from the Police Magistrate and a clergyman, he would endeavour to get him his freedom. Besides this, his father sent him £1 per week, which with his salary, amounted to nearly £2 weekly; but here the pen and ink was introduced again, and he forged the very man's name who was paying him the £1 per week. He was then locked up, tried, and committed, finally being sentenced to Norfolk Island for life. This ended his career in Port Macquarie.

Punishment appeared to be no warning to some of these men, and it seemed that 'just as the twig was bent, the tree inclined.' The misery that this fellow suffered the second time he was committed should have been quite sufficient, for most of those who had a taste of the Iron Gang did not return to it any more. It must have been severe when the authorities sent Charles —— from Sydney into the Gang for 12 months, as punishment for the murder of M——, on the Hunter River, and afterwards burning him to ashes. In this case there was no evidence except the murderer's own word, but they declined to hang him on that, both in this country and in England. He was as quiet as a sheep in[Pg 52] the Gang, but, notwithstanding this fact, the boss took good care to keep out of his way.

L—— was a Jew, and a very old hand in the country. Originally he was sent to Moreton Bay, but having found Captain ——, who was killed by the blacks there, he was shifted to Sydney, and was practically a free man at that place. But he could not keep out of trouble, and for an offence was sent to a road party in Port Macquarie, from which he did not get his liberty for about 22 years, and when it did come, the news was too late. He was working in a party on the road leading from the coast to the table-land (the New England Road) when his ticket-of-leave became due, but a few minutes before the news of his freedom arrived, he was killed by a log rolling on him, and was buried in the vicinity of the camp. His fellow-workmen cut a stone and erected it on his grave, as he was very much liked by all the men on the road, but someone afterwards removed the stone and used it for grinding purposes. Every day, as soon as this poor fellow had finished his work, he would retire to his bunk and sit with a needle and thread making cabbage-tree hats. These hats were always saleable,[Pg 53] and making them was the only means by which a man could earn a few pence to buy tea, sugar, and tobacco.

Tom P—— was one of the first men sent to Port Macquarie when it was made a Settlement, and he was a most peculiar individual. Pigs seemed to be his whole existence, for he appeared to love these animals. He possessed some 'grunters' nine or ten years old, besides cattle and horses. Tom used to sleep with the pigs, and even with this precaution against thieves it was not infrequent that he lost one. Teddy H—— went out to Tom's abode one night and stole a pig. When he returned another fellow went for one. While the second thief was in the act, however, of getting his pig, Tom sat up amongst them, and said, "How many more of you are coming to-night?" But they earned these pigs, for they had to carry them about a mile. Anyone who saw Teddy the next morning after this could swear that he had made a rise—for he had such a corporation—and it was then a password among the men, "Hulloa! Teddy made a rise last night." Then they said to Teddy, "Have you got any more for to-morrow, Ted? Perhaps you could give us a leg!"

[Pg 54]

"Go for it yourselves, you crawling hounds," he returned, "and chance it. I'm not going to shake it and give it to you fellows that are frightened of your own shadows. If they grab me I must put up with it like the rest of you."

Then they used to say to him, "Have you got any cabbage or spuds to sell, Teddy? We want some onions, too!"

This was how they questioned him, because he had robbed a garden, and was proved guilty by the police smelling the onions in his breath. So poor Teddy got "50" on what was termed the "Broad Bean Racket" (robbing a garden). But what did these men care? If there was a garden handy, "50" or no "50" they would be into it, as they never got any vegetables except by stealing. They were merry as crickets, too, when they had had a good 'blow out.'

A number of the Government men were assembled in a hut at a place known as the "Stockyard," about a mile from the barracks, one Saturday afternoon. It was their intention to have a good feed, and they had a big plum "duff" cooking; besides this, by some means they got some wine. Three of the number, thinking there was not enough for everyone to have a decent allowance from,[Pg 55] decided to make another pudding out of pipe-clay. This was done, and, at a given signal, two of them pretended to start fighting outside, while the other was to remove the pudding from the pot when nearly cooked, put the pipe-clay padding in its place, and take the wine also. All at once the cry was raised, "A Fight! A Fight!" Everybody rushed out to see it, and then the business was done. The cook afterwards went to see how the pudding was getting on, and saw the water discoloured with pipeclay. "Dear me," he said, "the sugar has all evaporated." It was not the sugar that had evaporated, though; it was the pudding. One old fellow who was nearly three feet across the shoulders was sitting by, and when he became aware of what had taken place, he made his usual remark, which was: "Well, well, well! capitally done!" They did not try feasting in a crowd again.

Some Notable Constables.

"Once a constable, no more a man."


"Return good for evil" may be a very good maxim to follow, but it was out of the question when a man came into contact with[Pg 56] some of the constables who were located in the Settlement in olden days.

One of these, J—— ——, had been a captain in the Native Cavalry in India, and he was a fine horseman. But he was very severe on the men, and if a man did the least thing, swearing anything did not trouble him. He occupied the position of barrack-master till the men were robbed of their rations, and then he got six months in irons. During this six months the men had a chance of paying back old debts, and they treated him like a dog. This was only his deserts, however, for he would lie in ambush with traps set on purpose to catch a man, then get him flogged. One of the men tried to cut his nose off, but only got two years in irons for it, besides 100 lashes, and all the time he was being flogged he was singing out: "What do I see but G— Almighty looking at me!"

This constable quarrelled with one of the publicans, and brought a stool opposite the hotel, where, on Sundays, he used to sit with some other constables and watch that men got no drink. I and some others arranged to get into the hotel yard, and I came out the front with a bottle of water under my coat. Then, as soon as he saw me, up he got off his stool and gave chase. I[Pg 57] went once round the block, and then, coming to a crowd, let him catch up to me. He grabbed the bottle, and found it was only water; then he started to perform. "By G—!" he said, "I'll bring you to court to-morrow, I will, you d——d scoundrel," gasping for breath all the time, after the run I had given him.

Another Sunday a man came out of an hotel, and this constable went up to him and said: "You've been drinking, haven't you?"

"No," he answered.

"Let me smell your breath," he continued.

The constable went to smell his breath, and the man spat in his face, exclaiming, "There, you can smell that, and taste it too!"

He came on a group of cripples once, gambling in the Old Stockade, and proceeded to lock them up. This was a great sight. There were wooden legs, crutches, sticks and fists flying in all directions. At last, however, he got help, and they were taken away and locked up, brought to court the next day and punished for their fun. Some got six months in irons, others received fifty lashes; but little did they care so long as he got knocked about, for everybody disliked him.

As well as being constable, he was bailiff in connection with the Small Debts Court,[Pg 58] and if he got a chance, people were put to as much trouble as possible. A woman whom he had treated harshly in this way one day went up and threw a dipper of hot water on him, for which offence she was imprisoned a week, but he did not have the satisfaction of selling any of her furniture, as friends came to the rescue and paid the debt.

At the first general election in 1843, a large cask of ale was deposited on the main street of the Settlement, and anyone who wished could go and have a few drinks. The pilot's crew got on the spree and attacked the cripples, and it took this constable all his time to look after them. Two boys also started to fight, and he proceeded to lock them up, but the crowd took their part and prevented him. Some got fifty lashes, and others twelve months in irons, while three men were fined for not assisting the police. As usual, the crutch and stick were freely used. The pilot afterwards brought his men to court, and some of them got a week in the cells for abuse. Most of the men, however, would rather have had "50" than go to the cells, which were infested with vermin.

This constable once got information that there was a private still some miles up the river from the Settlement, and he lost no[Pg 59] time in going to the Police Magistrate for a search warrant. The granting of this warrant, however, was delayed till a message was sent to the owner of the still, who was a great friend of the magistrate, to put him on his guard. And when the constable arrived on the scene, the still was removed, and he could only find warm bricks. The manager of the still met the constable with "Good evening; it has been a warm day."

He said "Good evening," and proceeded to read the warrant; then went and opened the trap-door to look for the still.

"What are you looking for?" asked the manager, "can I do anything for you?"

"Yes; get me some tea, please!" he replied.

"Very good," said the manager, "you had better stop here to-night; you must be tired after such a long ride in the heat. When did you leave the Settlement?"

"Not soon enough to catch you," came the reply.

"Catch me?" asked the manager. "Why, you surprise me. What have I done?"

"You're very green," answered the constable; "but I'll have you yet."

The constable searched all the next day, but found no trace of the still, so the long[Pg 60] journey was for nothing. The fact was, this still belonged to the aristocracy, who could do almost as they pleased, but it was nearly a case when the "broad arrow" was put on a vessel in Sydney harbour on her arrival from the Settlement with some casks of grog aboard, and also the time that a great quantity of grog was let loose in Port Macquarie harbour one morning about breakfast-time. This was hushed up somehow, for there was not another word said about it.

After this useless search, the constable offered a reward of £20 to any man who would go and stop for a while at the places where this sly grog was sold, but he couldn't get anybody to go, so he never caught them.

Many a wool-grower lost his sheep through the sly grog-sellers. The liquor was made at —— ——, by —— ——, and publicly sold on the New England road, without a license. But as it came from ——, there was no notice taken of it by those whose business it was to remedy such evils.

On a Sunday, about this time, a ship arrived at the Settlement with a number of Government girls on board, who were all as drunk as they could be, and this constable, as usual, was down to see them land. The first thing they did, when landed, was to catch[Pg 61] hold of him by the two shoulders and legs, and throw him into the sea. They treated Lankey, the flogger, in a similar manner, and if it had not been for the interference of the onlookers, they would probably have drowned both of them, for they were looked upon as the greatest ruffians of girls that had yet landed in the Settlement. After considerable trouble all were safely landed in the lock-up, and if there was fun on Sunday, there was still more on Monday, when they were brought before the Bench. Here they swore like troopers, and called the magistrates everything they could think of; but this did no good, for they got 12 months more added to their sentence. One of them, when leaving the court, hit a bystander across the mouth with her shoe, and for this she received still another 12 months. Imprisonment, however, only made them worse and shortly afterwards they were sent back to Sydney. The captain of the ship which brought these women was fined £20 for allowing them to have drink, and he also lost his certificate.

This constable had one good point, and it was that he would neither take tip nor drink from anyone, and if he told a man he would have him, that man had to look out or[Pg 62] he was run in. Eventually his services as constable were dispensed with, and he afterwards opened an hotel. The case was altered now, for the men on whom he had been so severe used to go and 'stick up' drinks, and never pay for them. Any of the men who could get into his books only grinned at him, and told him to go to a warmer climate when asked for payment. "You cannot put us in the lock-up as you could once, you old brute; it is our turn now. Neither can you stop us and smell our breath, for we have smelt yours," they used to tell him. "Let us have a couple more drinks, and then we will pay you for the whole lot," and so on.

Tom —— got five gallons of beer out of him, and tendered him a "joey" in payment for it. He found out after Tom had gone, and went after him. Tom only laughed and told him to go up to Mr. So and So, and he would get the cash, but he never got it.

Everybody took a delight in swindling him; they did not forget the times when he dragged them before the court and had them flogged, just to show the P.M. what a strict man he was.

One night he was having a snooze in his easy chair on the verandah of the hotel, when a man who knew him well, from a flogging[Pg 63] point of view, got some pepper and put it under his nose, and the noise he made sneezing was nearly as good as a brass band.

At last he became insolvent, and everything he had was sold under the hammer; then he went to Sydney, much to the satisfaction of all. There he would rent a house, and in a short time make a "moonlight flit" and let the landlord in for the rent. This game did not last long, though, for he met one who knew as much as he did, and he put the bailiff in and sold him off.

Constable, No. 2, was a different man to this, for he would take tips and drink with a man, put him in the lock-up, let him out again, and then tell another constable so that he could arrest the same man and get a few shillings. He was a flash, stuck-up fellow, and thought more of himself than anyone else did—but he would drink with all sorts of men, no matter who they were. He was plucky, though, for once when six men took to the bush, he and some armed soldiers went after them. These six men were located in a house, and the constable ran up to the window, pointed a pistol through, and told them to surrender up their firearms and come out one by one, which they did. A soldier shot one of the runaways in the arm,[Pg 64] which was a cowardly thing to do when the men had given up their firearms, and had no other means of defence. They were only possessed of a few shillings, which they scattered about the ground. These offenders did little or no harm, and were only a set of cowards after all to let one man take them. This was all the better, however, as if they had stuck out there must have been blood spilt, for this constable declared that if there had been any pluck in them, they could have shot him and the soldiers into the bargain. These men were sent to Sydney a few days after being arrested, and finally to Norfolk Island. One of them got hurt while at Norfolk Island, returned to Port Macquarie, and died.

This was not the only plucky capture that the constable made, for he and another took three armed bushrangers on the road leading to the Manning River. One of these men was from Lake Innes, and was doing a term of 12 months for knocking a man down in company with three others. After getting out of the iron gang he was sent to a road party, from which he took to the bush, and when arrested was sent to Norfolk Island for life.

When this constable went to Sydney with[Pg 65] a few prisoners on one occasion, he got into the company of some soldiers and officers, and to them he passed as a captain. They invited him to dine with them in his uniform, but he had no other uniform than the convict dress, and this invitation took the "wind out of his sails." When the officers found out how nicely they had trapped him, they tried to ascertain his whereabouts, but he had returned to Port Macquarie where he posed as what he really was. The officers afterwards found out where he was, and wrote to the Police Magistrate regarding the incident. The P.M. then accosted him, and he said: "I made as much of myself in Sydney as I could, and no one could blame me for it."

Some time afterwards this constable became sick and died, and thus ended his career.

At Rollands Plains.

"Life as tedious as a twice-told tale."


Rollands Plains is situated some twenty miles from Port Macquarie in a westerly[Pg 66] direction, and derived its name from Surveyor Rollands, who laid it out. This place was made a farming centre some time after a settlement was formed at Port Macquarie, as it was considered good country both for agricultural and pastoral pursuits.

Early in the forties a road party was picked out of the men who were in the main Settlement, and they were despatched to Rollands Plains for road-making purposes—many of the thoroughfares which remain there at the present time being the outcome of the labour of these men.

About this time there was a doctor residing at the Plains, and as an experiment to make some kind of ointment, he had several large cedar boxes constructed, each one being of sufficient size to hold the carcases of four bullocks. In due course the cases were filled with the dead oxen, and the four boxes lowered into the bed of the creek—the supposition being that in a certain length of time all the flesh and fat would become separate substances. The boxes had not been under water long, however, before heavy weather came on, which caused the creek to become flooded, and the encased oxen were swept down stream. When the flood waters subsided search was made for[Pg 67] these cases, but only one was found, and it was filled with sand, mud, etc. So the doctor's loss was considerable, as the cedar boxes alone were worth some money.

During this flood most of the farms around the place were in a state of inundation, and all kinds of farm produce was strewn about in all directions; cedar logs, which had been washed down, were plentiful, too. The men in the road party went about gathering these products, for it was seldom that they got anything of the kind. They proceeded to cook some potatoes which had been collected, when the supposed owner of the "spuds" came up and wanted to take a number of sweet potatoes out of the pot whilst they were boiling, claiming them as his property. The men could not see losing the potatoes, and blankly refused to give them up. He then laid a complaint to the boss of the party, who said: "Well, if you can swear that nobody else about here has sweet potatoes but yourself, you can take them." But the hungry individual failed to do this, and so had to go without his "murphys."

The weather cleared up, and the men in the party were sent to assist the residents near at hand to pull what remained of their maize crops, and when the first day's labour[Pg 68] was over, they asked the farmer whom they had been helping for some tea and sugar. He looked at them for a moment, and then answered: "I will not give you a d—— bit; you have stolen plenty of potatoes and pumpkins, and if you don't help me finish the corn-pulling, I'll get your rumps tanned. Since the road party came here, I can't keep fowls, turnips, cabbage, or anything else." This was his thanks, and also his usual way of doing business.

One young fellow tried to do the men in the road party a good turn, by killing one of his master's calves for them. But while he was in the act of killing it, the calf bellowed out and drew the master's attention, when he ran up and caught the culprit, and got him six months in irons for trying to do others a good turn.

The Female Convicts.

"Be to her virtues very kind,
Be to her faults a little blind."

It was not an unusual thing in the old days to see one or more of the female[Pg 69] convicts sitting in stocks about the streets of the Settlement, suffering a recovery from drink. Most of these women were quite equal to their liquor, like the men, when they could get it. The principal drink was rum, and nice stuff it was, too; there was plenty of tobacco juice in it, so that when anyone got two or three drinks aboard, they were in a fairly muddled state. When a man went into an hotel, the cry was generally: "Shout, now, or out you go!" and some of the publicans kept a plate of salt herring on the counter, and it goes without saying that they soon got paid for the fish.

Two servants, Polly —— and Sarah ——, used to be employed at one of the hotels, and the fact that they each had a sweetheart was well known to almost everybody. These two servants were working away in the hotel as usual one day, and there was a good gathering of men discussing different matters not far away. While thus assembled they noticed these two girls at the hotel, and the conversation immediately drifted on to them. This wound up in betting me a bottle of rum that I could not start the two fighting. I at once undertook the contract, proceeded up to Polly, and, pointing to Sarah, said: "She pretends to[Pg 70] be a great friend of yours, doesn't she?" "Yes," was the reply. "Well," I said, "you should hear the way that she runs you and your sweetheart down." I got her sufficiently excited in this way, and then went to Sarah and told her the same things about Polly. They flew at each other in a terrible rage, and fought like two cats, then I commenced to laugh and to think how nice the rum would be. But they found out the joke also, when the crowd began to laugh, and it was a good job for me that I could run well, as they each picked up a clothes prop and chased me for my life. I then went and got my rum.

Polly was sent to this country for trying to poison her uncle and aunt to get their money. She had not been long in the Settlement before she became intimate with a man who was sent from Sydney for having sore legs. One day she quarrelled with this fellow, and, when night came on, she attempted to commit suicide by taking a dose of oxalic acid. The poison was taken shortly before retiring to bed, when she laid out a number of clean underclothes on a table in the servants' room, and said to her mate: "Sarah, to-night when I'm dead, I want you to put these clothes on me; I had[Pg 71] a row with Jack to-day, and I've taken some oxalic acid, as I don't wish to live any longer."

Sarah was thunder-stricken at this state of affairs, and when she recovered herself, said: "You big fool; I would not poison myself for all the sore-legged brutes in the world." She then went and told the boss of the hotel all the circumstances, and in a few minutes the whole house was in a state of confusion. The doctor arrived, and the police also came on the scene. The former took the necessary steps to extract the poison from her, while the latter inquired into the circumstances and "wet their whistle." After a few days Polly got better, and was then sent to the lock-up for a week for being silly.

Afterwards she returned to the hotel, and made it up with the rotten-legged man—both the servants then getting into their usual habit of going out at night to meet their sweethearts. One night the boss forbade them to go out, as his wife was ill with an abscess on her arm. They, however, would not be baffled after making an appointment, so they dressed up two "dummies," and affixed a melon with a night-cap on as a head-piece for each, giving anyone the impression at first sight that they were both[Pg 72] in bed and asleep. Towards the middle of the night the boss went to their door and called them, as his wife's arm was very painful, and she wanted another poultice made for it. He got no answer, so opened the door, looked in, and believed both of them to be asleep. Finally, he walked over and shook one of them, but when one of the night caps rolled off, and the melon became exposed to view, his language of flowers was not choice.

Some Practical Jokes.

"A little devilment now and then,
Is indulged in by the best of men."


A crowd of men were assembled in the main street of the Settlement one night, and as everything was very quiet, and the place seemed to be practically dead, they decided to try and make some fun. A crotchety old couple lived in a house not far away, so it was suggested and agreed that a commencement be made on them. Two tom-cats were caught and knotted together with wire, and[Pg 73] swung across the knob of the front door. There was a continuous strain of cats' music for a few seconds, and then Old —— opened the door, only to receive a nasty scratch from one of the cats as he did it. The crowd lay in ambush watching the proceedings, and enjoying the fun immensely, and the next thing they saw was a knife on the end of a stick being used to cut the cats asunder; but wire was not so easily cut, and this only tended to increase the music, as one of the "toms" received a gash occasionally. Finally, when everything failed, he got a clothes-prop and lifted them off the door-knob, carried them down to the wharf, and hurled them into the river. So the play ended.

Two conspicuous individuals in the Settlement were always quarrelling over a girl, so it was decided to persuade them to fight a duel, and this was arranged after a little difficulty. An hour was then appointed on a certain day, when they should both put in an appearance on the beach, there to settle all disputes. The day came, and the men turned up. Two pistols were handed to them, each one being loaded with thick bullock's blood, and a substantial wad separating it from the powder. The two[Pg 74] stood up, shook hands, then walked a few paces, and, turning round, fired at each other. Both were now besmattered with blood, and thought that they were really wounded. I thought the spectators would never stop laughing, but at last the duellers saw through the joke, and after this similar events were at a standstill.

"Flash ——" was a well-known character in the Settlement in former days, and was a carpenter by trade. He built a house for a colonel's wife once, and when it was finished she would not pay him. But he had bought liquor from her on several occasions, and when she refused to pay him he informed on her, and she was fined £30 for sly-grog selling.

A tall old fellow, named S——, used to be a kind of "flunky" in Port Macquarie, and he was a great rum-drinker. His bed was near the window in a house facing the main street. Fish were biting well, and one night a shovel-nosed shark was landed. This old fellow was lying in his bed drunk, so it was arranged to have some fun with him. The shark was carried up; one of the crowd raised the window gently and pulled the blankets off him, while another lowered the shark in on top of him. The fish naturally[Pg 75] began to wriggle, and all that the crowd heard as they made a hurried exit, was "Murder!" "murder!!" The next morning a lifeless shark lay scenting the street gutter.

The Aborigines.

"Gimme 'bacca, you pleas, massa."

—Australian Aboriginal.

Aboriginals were plentiful in the forties, and they had the "run of their knife" then a little more than they do now. A murder amongst them was a common occurrence, and not infrequently was a head severed from a body in a quarrel over a bottle of rum. Occasionally they went further than this, for several members of a white family were murdered by blacks at Rollands Plains. The father of this family was a sawyer, and they killed him first while working at a cedar tree in the bush. The house containing the mother and children was then attacked, but the mother, it is supposed, on hearing the blacks trying to enter the house, threw her infant, only a few months old, out of the back window, and this child was the only[Pg 76] member of the family that escaped, it being found the day afterwards. The chief perpetrator of this deed was a blackfellow named "Terramidgee," who paid the penalty by being hanged in front of the Port Macquarie Gaol. To act as a warning, all the aborigines around the Settlement were collected together to witness the punishment.

It did not appear to be much of a warning, however, as about the year 1849 another cedar-cutter was murdered on the upper portion of Rollands Plains. This sawyer had adopted a young aboriginal, and when considered old enough to learn, he was sent to school in Sydney. After being away for some years he grew into a fine youth, and on returning, used to assist his master with the cedar. Two or three years elapsed in this way, until one day a tribe of blacks came to the old sawyer and demanded tobacco and rations, which he refused to give them. This colored youth, however, whose name was "Mogo Gard," made the necessary arrangements with the other aboriginals to murder the master that night, which was accordingly done, and they cleared the hut of everything and took to the bush. When the murder became known, the police were communicated with, and, on arrival, they[Pg 77] suspected "Mogo," and shortly afterwards he was arrested and conveyed to Port Macquarie. He was placed in heavy irons, tried, and afterwards transferred to Sydney, where a sentence of death was passed on him. When the vessel which conveyed this murderer to Sydney entered the Heads, he attempted to jump overboard, but was noticed in time to be prevented from doing so. At the gallows, when the rope was being put around his neck, he looked at the hangman, and said; "No, bale you put 'im that place, you put 'im here," pointing to his waist. But he had to pay the last penalty of the law. He was a tremendous man, standing six feet seven inches in height, besides being broad in proportion; and was a splendid specimen of the Australian aboriginal.

Amongst the other aboriginals who were in the main Settlement was a notorious thief, named "Micky," who was also a splendidly-built blackfellow. I caught him one day stealing money from a man who was stopping at Colley's hotel. I informed on him, and the magistrate ordered him to be given 50 lashes. In due course he received the flogging, and at every smack, he said, "By G—, G——, I not Guv'ment man!"

[Pg 78]

Once I had a keg of rum, and when I was away from home "Micky" used to break in and steal it; so I vowed at last that I'd get even with him. I had some laudanum on hand, which I used for my eyes, so I got a bottle, put some rum in it, and then added some of the laudanum. This I left in a convenient place for him, and went away as usual to my work. Sure enough the bait was taken, and then he lay asleep on the road for a day and a-half. I was driving a cart at the time, and would have driven over him (for he was a terrible thief) only I was afraid the cart would be tracked, and I'd get into trouble. "Micky" did not come back for any more rum.

Perhaps the cleverest piece of work ever done by an aboriginal in the Settlement, was carried out by "Charles Merriman," a well-known blackfellow. On one occasion some prisoners bolted from the gaol, and a black-tracker was wanted. "Merriman" was the chosen tracker, but did not seem to care about the billet. He, however, was forced to accompany two policemen in search of the runaways, and was attired in the usual uniform of a policeman. As they travelled away from the town on horseback, the police noticed that the tracker was going very much[Pg 79] against his will. At last when they had gone six or seven miles out, he asked one of the police to hold his horse saying: "I been see it something up in the ferns, there." He ran up into the tall ferns, picked up a stick, took the cap off and placed it on top of the stick, which he stuck in the ground, so that only the cap could be seen above the ferns. He then made a bee-line for the Settlement. Some time elapsed, and the constable rode up to see what he was doing, only to find, much to his disgust, that, snake-like, "Merriman" had shed his coat.

A Free Man.

"I must have liberty
Withal, as large a charter as the wind,
To blow on whom I please."


In 1843 I became a free man, and, after the knocking about I had had for some years, sought the most comfortable quarters I could. I went to the "Speed the Plough" hotel, which was kept by Mr. C——, and there I found a good home, besides plenty to eat and drink, and a good bed to sleep on. After a[Pg 80] few months, however, I decided to leave Port Macquarie and go to Sydney, from whence I walked to Windsor, Parramatta, and other places in search of work. Not being successful in this direction, however, I decided to wend my way back to Port, and eventually arrived overland at Maitland. Here a constable came up to me and inquired where I had come from, and "Was I free?" I told him where I had been, and also that I was a free man. He then asked me what proof I had to show that I was free, and I presented to him the pass that I had received from the Police Office in Port Macquarie. He looked at this for a little while, and then informed me that it was no good, and that I would have to go with him to the lock-up. I told him that it was a hard case after serving my term to be shut up in the lock-up again; but he said that the pass was no good, and he could not help it—so off I went.

The next day I was brought before the Police Magistrate, Mr. D——, as a bolter; he asked me where I got the pass, and I told him. He then asked me how long I had been at Port Macquarie, adding that anyone could buy a pass like the one I had for half-a-crown. I told him I wished I had known[Pg 81] that, and I would have got one years ago. On hearing this, he ordered the constable to take me away, and bring me up again next morning, when he would sentence me to 100 lashes. "That," I said, "is more than you dare do!" and I was marched away.

Instead of being brought up again the next morning, I was sent away to Newcastle Gaol for identification. There I was kept three weeks, until one afternoon Major C—— walked in, and I spoke to him, with the result was that I was sent to Sydney the same night.

The next day Old Tim came into the lock-up, where I and some others were. He gave them orders to do something but I was not on a par with other prisoners, and so did not comply with it. He sang out to me, "Here, you with the whiskers, stand up and let me see you!" I stood up, and as soon as he saw me he said, "Your face is quite familiar to me; you've been here often, and it's not the first time you've tried the same dodge, you scoundrel!" I said, "You've never seen me before, Tim," and at being called Tim he got into a terrible rage, while I stood grinning at him. Then he said, "By G—, you're not free, I'll get it sent home to you, you saucy b——!" Then he left,[Pg 82] and one of his flash subordinates came into the lock-up with the "hominy," and he told me that if I were not a free man I would catch it, as the super was in a great rage at being called "Tim."

At 10 o'clock the same day I was sent into the office before Mr. R——, and "Tim" was there to see how things went. I was put under the stand to have my height tested, and my marks were taken, the result of the examination being that my freedom was proved. A paper to this effect was handed to me before leaving the office, and I shook it at "Tim" as I left.

When I was put into the lock-up, I was possessed of three shirts, a razor, a new silk handkerchief, and a new pair of trousers. I asked the lock-up-keeper for them, but was only pushed out and told to go to ——. So I went back to Mr. R—— and complained, and he soon ordered my things to be handed over to me.

I now started a second time to walk from Sydney to Port Macquarie—a distance of over 200 miles—with ninepence in my pocket with which to buy food on the journey. I got along all right until I reached the A. A. Company's land near Stroud, where I was almost starving. Coming through this land,[Pg 83] however, I came by good fortune on a camp in which there was a piece of damper about a week old, which I gladly ate, and I would have eaten it had it been a year old, for it was a matter of eat what you could get.

I could not swim then, nor have I learned since, consequently, when I came to a river, I either had to cross it at the head, or else lash some dead timber together, make a raft, and get across the rivers in that manner.

Finally I arrived at the Manning river, and at this place had a peculiar experience with a woman named Miss ——. She stuck me up with a pistol, asked me my name and also where I had come from. I gave her these particulars satisfactorily, and she then asked me if I were free, and to show her my freedom. I told her that I had travelled all the way from Sydney, and she was the first woman policeman I had met. After this she wanted me to take a letter to Port Macquarie for her, but I declined, and notwithstanding that she assured me it was not heavy, I told her to take it herself, as it was only fifty miles. So I proceeded to Port Macquarie without the letter after her impudence to me, and arrived there two days later. It was not long after this before I got constant work.

[Pg 84]

The Yacht "Wanderer."

"She walks the waters like a thing of life,
And seems to dare the elements to strife."


On Saturday, November 15, 1851, there was great excitement in Port Macquarie, for this was the day on which, in attempting to cross the bar at the entrance to the harbor, the yacht "Wanderer" had become a total wreck. This yacht had sailed nearly all round the world, besides to a good many islands in the Pacific. She was owned by a man named Boyd, and was a picture as she appeared on the ocean in full sail. This unfortunate man, however, went ashore at the Island of Guadalcama, where the ship had been prior to coming to Port Macquarie, and never returned to the yacht again, the supposition being that he was murdered by the natives. There were four white men on board the "Wanderer" when she arrived at Port Macquarie, who were:—Captain Ottowell, master; Mr. Webster, artist; Mr. Barnes, botanist; and Mr. Crawford (Boyd's nephew), mate. Besides these there were a number of natives from different islands, and one of the publicans in Port Macquarie got the "niggers"[Pg 85] dancing in his hotel to draw custom.

All the men came ashore from the wreck on rope, and, save a little wetting, were none the worse for their experience. The wreck was sold to a local man. On board the ship were some beautiful paintings and views of the different places that the yacht had visited, besides many skulls, native implements of war, shells, and many other things. Amongst the articles were suits of both the Emperor of China and the Shah of Persia, and for a wager two gentlemen of the town donned these costumes and walked the streets. All the goods out of the vessel were afterwards open to public view in a large store, and some of the cannon balls and other material which belonged to the yacht yet remain in Port Macquarie. The white men from the yacht afterwards spent a good deal of their time at Lake Innes, where they engaged in sporting and other pursuits.

The "Rosetta Joseph."

"Flung from the rock, on Ocean's foam to sail
Where'er the surge may sweep, the tempest's breath prevail."


On a sunny summer's day, in the year 1850, three little girls were playing on the[Pg 86] green slopes overlooking the sea at Port Macquarie. "Look!" said one of them to her playmates, "what are those little dots out on the sea?" All three now stood in amazement, watching the little specs which were being wafted nearer and nearer as each emerald wave of the ocean hurried onward to its destination—the shore. They were not specs very long; it was soon discernible that they were boats, but who were the occupants? This was a question yet to be solved. The pilot boat went off, but the people in the other boats bore such a rough appearance that the pilot was almost afraid to go near them. At last a member of the pilot's crew recognised one of the men in the strange boats, and they then proceeded to go alongside. A tale of shipwreck was now related. It transpired that some time previously one of the shipwrecked crew had left Port Macquarie for the Californian goldfields, whither there was a general rush from most parts of the world. Now he was returning, but not under very auspicious circumstances.

The fact was that the barque "Rosetta Joseph" had left San Francisco about the 15th October, 1850, bound for Sydney. All went well with her until the 2nd day of December following, when to the dismay of[Pg 87] all on board, the ill-fated vessel struck upon a reef, known as the "Elizabeth Reef," at 11 o'clock on a Sunday night. There was no hope of saving the ship. The passengers, captain, and crew managed to leave the wreck by means of the boats, and 48 souls in all left the vessel, 32 being in the largest boat, and 16 in a smaller one—the third and smallest boat being used as a sea-anchor. A course was then steered for Port Macquarie, and after eight days and nine nights their destination was safely reached on the 11th December, when they landed at a spot known as Boat Harbour. This object was not accomplished, however, without the usual adventures of the sea. Two gales were encountered while in the boats, and it was during the first of these gales, in the open sea, that the third boat was made into a sea-anchor, and they then lay-to till the weather abated. The second gale arose when the boats had made the coast, and were off a spot known as Point Plomer, near Port Macquarie. Here they again lay-to, but were driven to the south, the next place that land was sighted being off the Camden Haven river. From this place they steered north towards Tacking Point, as some of those on board, from previous experience of the coast, knew[Pg 88] where they were. On arrival at the Boat Harbour, the boats being too large to enter, the pilot boat brought a few of the shipwrecked persons in at a time till they were all safely landed.

The experience at sea was a perilous one, and those in the boats suffered terribly from exposure. At one time it was thought that the second largest boat and its occupants were lost. A huge wave swept over her, and for a short time she seemed swallowed up, but a few seconds later she reappeared on the crest of another wave, the occupants being engaged in bailing water for their lives. A box of gold valued at £30,000 was put into the largest boat on leaving the ship, but when the first gale was encountered it had to be jettisoned, as well as all the passengers' clothes, with the exception of what they wore, in order to lighten the boat. There was only a limited supply of food in the boats, too, and a small quantity of this, together with a cup of water, was served out to each person every day, because they did not know how long it would be before land was sighted. So that besides losing the gold, the food supply in the boats was none too large.

[Pg 89]

Escape of Prisoners.

"Liberty's in every blow!
Let us do or die."


After the convicts left Port Macquarie, the gaol was made a kind of relieving place for other gaols in the colony which became overcrowded, and at times there were a good many prisoners within its walls. About the year 1866, six prisoners who were evidently full of being shut up in the large brick structure overlooking the Pacific ocean, were successful in making their escape. This they accomplished by digging a hole in the wall with a piece of an old knife, the work extending over a period of several weeks. The floor of the gaol was not right on the ground, but built up somewhat, and therefore an aperture existed between it and the ground. A flooring board used to be removed underneath one of the beds, and only one man worked at a time, being relieved by another when he had done his quota. It was one morning about daylight that these six men made their escape, and proceeded along the Old Lake road (which leads from Port Macquarie to Lake Innes), removing[Pg 90] the leg irons which they wore as soon as the bush was reached. They walked along the road one behind the other, leaving a track which appeared as though only one man had traversed the road. Arriving at Lake Innes they secured breakfast, and sought firearms, but the residents at the Lake at that time (not Major Innes) told the prisoners that they possessed no guns. The six men were afterwards seated on a log eating their breakfast when a Port Macquarie citizen, who had heard of their escape, galloped to Lake Innes and fired a gun over the runaways' heads. This naturally had the effect of scattering them, and they proceeded further south to the Green Hills, near the Camden Haven river, and hid in ambush.

Whilst all this had been going on, the police were informed of their escape, and went in search of the men. They, however, did not effect a capture, although the prisoners saw them go past while they lay hidden in the bush, and they returned unsuccessful.

In crossing Kathie Creek, which lies to the south between Port Macquarie and the Green Hills, one of the escapees was stung by a stingray, and he in company with another afterwards gave themselves up to[Pg 91] the authorities. The other men were captured by the police on the New England road, about 20 miles from Port Macquarie.


"Man's inhumanity to man
Makes countless thousands mourn."


Such was the life in Old Port Macquarie. But what does it all matter now? Did any of the tyrants ever derive any benefit by hounding down and torturing their fellow men? Nay! most of those whose career I have followed did no good, while some died like dogs. They say that there is punishment for doers of harsh deeds this side of the grave, and if ever this fact were realised, it was by many of those heartless wretches who gloried in driving their subordinates to desperation day by day. Thank Heaven I have lived all this down, and although "declined into the vale of years," still I am glad to know and say that there yet remains a gleam of sunshine, as there is a silver lining to every cloud, for me to enjoy in my latter days.

Transcriber's notes:

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