In the State Library of New South Wales is held an album of 37 watercolour and pencil drawings by Edward Charles Close that was a gift to his daughter Marrianne Collison Close on the 17th February 1844. Four of the watercolours are scenes taken in Newcastle and Lake Macquarie. The link containing a full description of the album and its contents is here: http://acmssearch.sl.nsw.gov.au/search/itemDetailPaged.cgi?itemID=414069
There has been an ongoing and growing interest in the life and work of the Scott Sisters of Ash Island. Harriet (1830-1907) and Helena (1832-1910) Scott were the talented daughters of Alexander Walker Scott (1800-1883) and his wife Harriet (c.1802/3 – 1866). I have assembled everything to date (i.e. September 2014) that I can find on the property and its location on Ash Island. We hope to be able to sponsor a return of our 3D Artist Charles Martin to recreate the Islands of the Hunter River estuary and the homestead of A.W. Scott in the coming months.
Why so inspiring? Well, these two young girls were deprived of a University education, but, under the tutelage of their scientist father, they were educated as young scientists on Ash Island and became scientific observers and illustrators of the natural life of insects par excellence on a world class level. They collected specimens that were donated to the Australian Museum, and assisted in the mapping of species of flora and fauna across the country.
The site where all this work was undertaken now lies abandoned and has been reclaimed by the mangroves and the reeds. Their lives now haunt the rustling of the wind among the reeds that now engulfs the location of their homestead and cultivated lands of orange trees that were once famous as “Ash Island Oranges”. Such a place should be regarded as an intellectual sacred site, and should be remembered and regarded with respect, not neglected. The homestead was demolished sometime in the 1970s-80s, and one must wonder why.
The Scott Sisters recorded the Lepidoptera (the insect family including moths and butterflies) in their caterpillar, chrysalis and perfect state (aka butterfly). It was experiencing the work of artist Shan Turner-Carroll’s beautiful chrysalis dress made me think of the Ancient Egyptians and what they were doing in the mummification process, cocooning their dead for their transformations into a new perfect state, like a butterfly. If we are part of nature, then those drawings and illustrations also can tell us something about our shape of life on earth. Do we undergo a similar transformation? This butterfly symbolism really hit me following the recent Ash Island and Its Transformations exhibition at the Lockup Cultural Centre.
The information that follows comes from the late Ross Deamer’s 1971 Master of Architecture thesis entitled Houses Erected on original Land Grants in The Lower Hunter, Paterson and Williams River Valleys Between 1800-1850 pp. 103-106 (UoNCC Archives Location A9003) which he completed for the University of Newcastle’s Faculty of Architecture:
Ash Island”, or “Scotts Island”, was the name, given to the largest island at the western end of the Hunter River delta. The name, Ash Island, was its first title (and is so today) [Ed:- In the original 1801 survey today's Ash Island that Paterson is referring was at the location of Moscheto Island. The current Ash Island was named Greville Island by the original survey mission. Around 1823-4 its name changed from Greville to Ash, and has remained Ash Island since then. See the 1801 Barrallier Plan] and was given because of the trees that grew there that so resembled the English Ash. (20) The island received its alternate name because it was the location of the grant, of 2560 acres, to A.W. Scott (21) following his arrival in the Colony.
As with most other houses in the Valley erected in the early period, little information exists concerning the house Scott erected on his island.
The house has long been demolished but the remains of its cellars are discernable on the extreme north western tip of the island, adjacent to a large Moreton Bay Fig tree and a fallen pine laying in the mud of the bank. The foundation walls, some paths and the foundations of some of the out buildings still exist. Their excavation would allow a comparison of the house plan with some of those prepared by Robert Scott (22) of “Glendon” so as to determine whether he was the designer of the building.
Alexander Walker Scott was the brother of Robert and Helenus Scott of “Glendon”. He arrived in the Colony, in 1827, in the ship “Australia”, after taking a M.A. Degree at Cambridge. (23)
It is not known when A.W. Scott began building his house on the island but, on 4th January, 1832, Robert informed Helenus that he was in residence, although the house was incomplete.(24)
In support of this, Charles Boydell stated that, on 28th January, 1832, he had “visited Walter Scott at his island located 7 miles from Newcastle and named by the Governor “Ash Island” (25)
Robert Scott wrote to his mother on 9th August, 1837, to advise that “Reid’s house will suit you very well for a time and you are wise not to wait for the completion of Walkers (A.W. Scott) for under the present scarcity of labour it is impossible to say when it can be finished. I ••••• could not think why he had not sent for the plasterer we promised to send him ••• “ (26)
A.W. Scott informed Helenus on 22nd November, 1845 that he was living at that time in Newcastle in poor circumstances, not having sufficient bedding for any guests. (27)
His residence at this time must have been “Newcastle House” which he had erected near the site of the present Customs House. Due to his financial difficulties he was forced to give up this house in Newcastle and return again to his island in the year 1846, which was the year “Newcastle House” became the temporary Customs House. (28)
“Newcastle House” was advertised for sale by auction (29) in July, 1848 and the advertisement described it as being constructed of brick and containing eight rooms, stewards closet, kitchen, storerooms , and servants quarters. Outhouses were provided for stables, coachhouse and men’s quarters, the whole surrounded by a garden which was enclosed by a parapet brick fence.
The footings of this house were rediscovered in 2014 see:http://coalriver.wordpress.com/2014/04/08/9wattst-tattersalls/
No further reference, in contemporary records or journals, seems to have been made to the house on Ash Island. (Ed- See material below)
That Scott was prepared to erect a house on the island is almost unbelievable, as the site he chose is but 2′ 6″ above high water mark and is subject to inundation by a good fresh combined with a spring tide.
The writer has contacted persons who resided in the house and the descendants of other residents of Ash Island to ascertain if any photographs existed of the old house, but was informed that all the photographs the various persons had had were lost in one or other of the floods that plague the island.
A.W. Scott was an enterprising gentleman who not only engaged in agricultural pursuits but also entered into industry.
Reporting on his interests, an article in the “Maitland Mercury” of 7th January, 1843, stated that he owned an extensive iron foundry which was then casting a six hundred gallon boiler for the Maitland Brewery. His salt works were extensive and producing an excellent salt and his cloth manufactory was mainly complete.
The ironworks was located on the Stockton Peninsular, or as it was then known, “Pirates Point”, and were ultimately sold to John Roberts of South Australia as reported in the “Maitland Mercury” of 2nd October, 1847.
The “Maitland Mercury” of 16th July, 1851 also reported that Scott’s cloth factory which was known as the Stockton Tweed Factory was destroyed by fire.
Although Scott’s industrial enterprises were to founder, his farm was reasonably productive, as can be gleaned from the advertisement in the “Maitland Mercury” of July, 1847 which informed the public that he had for sale on Ash Island 70 tons of salt, 100 tons of Lucerne Hay, 8000 dozen oranges and 10 tons of pumpkins. The island , that was once an obviously fertile area, is now mostly marsh and most of the many families who once won their living from its soil have abandoned it and left it to the mud crabs.
20. Paterson, Lieut.Colonel, “Journal and Discoveries at Hunter River”, 17th June, 1801. p.449, Vol., 3, Historical Records of N.S.W.
21. Dangar, Henry • “A Guide to EmmiiD:”ants and Index and Directory of the Hunter River”, 1828. also Dixon Map 1834. Mitchell Library.
22. Scott, Robert. Plans of Farm Buildings, 1828 to 1835. Mitchell Library.
23. Scott Family Papers, Mitchell Library. also MacArthur Papers, pp.358-360. Vol. 15, 18th July, 1826, John Jnr. to his father, John MacArthur. Mitchell Library.
24. Scott Robert, Correspondence of ••• ,Scott Family Papers, Mitchell Library.
25. Boydell, Charles, Journal and Cash Book of ••• , 1830 to 1835. Mitchell Library.
26. Scott, Robert, Co~respondence of ••• ,Vol. IV, Scott Family Papers, Mitchell Library.
27. Scott Family Papers, Mitchell Library.
28. Goold, W.J. “These Old Homes”, pp.l64-165, Part III. Newcastle and Hunter District Historical Society Journal.
29. “Maitland Mercury”.
The known illustrations and visitor descriptions (to date) depicting the site.
This background scene accompanying original plate XXXIX (39) appears to be Scott’s Ash Island homestead. Compare this view with Conrad Martens’ 1841 sketch completed on the 12th May 1841.
PROPOSED CONCEPTS FOR LAYOUT OF ENTRANCE TO HOME AND INTERIOR VIEW CIRCA 1840s
(COURTESY OF AUSTRALIAN MUSEUM)
LUDWIG LEICHHARDT 1842
LUDWIG LEICHHARDT’S descriptions of Ash Island during his visit to Newcastle in 1842 from his letters published in The letters of F.W. Ludwig Leichhardt collected and newly translated [from the German, French and Italian] by M. Aurousseau (London : Published for the Hakluyt Society by Cambridge University Press, 1968).
Letter 61 [Lt Robert Lynd, Military Barracks, Sydney] [Newcastle, N.S.W., 26 September 1842] (Aurousseau p.526)
Last Friday (i.e., 23rd September 1842) we went to Ash island: it is a remarkably fine place, not only to enjoy the beauty of nature, a broad shining river, a luxuriant vegetation, a tasteful comfortable cottage with a plantation of orange trees, but to collect a great number of plants which I had never seen before. I saw at once that you must come to roam with me over the island, which is much larger than I thought, containing full 2000 acres of land. The vegetation seems very similar to that of Illawarra if I can judge by the descriptions I heard of the latter district. Climbing Polypodium, the Aerostichum growing on the trees, a great number of creepers, the nettle Tree, the Caper, the native Olive and many others which we will examine together. When you come here, and I hope you will not delay it long time, we will go together to Ash island and remain there for 3-4 days. Mr Scott has kindly offered us every accommodation we might require.-
Letter 62 [Lt Robert Lynd, Military Barracks, Sydney] [Newcastle, N.S.W., Oct. 2nd 1842] (Aurousseau p.526)
Mr Scott has kindly offered us his place at Ash island, as I wrote you last time.
Letter 63 [W. Kirchner, Sydney, NSW] [Newcastle N.S.W.,] 12 October  (Aurousseau p.532)
I’ve been to Ash Island twice. The first time was in company with ladies, who got badly in the way of my scientific activities. The second time I went with Mr Scott, in connection with his interests, which left us no time for studious pursuits. It’s a romantic place, which I like well enough to think that-perhaps-I’d be content to live and die there. I said perhaps, for who knows himself well enough to be sure? Which of us could stifle his perpetual longing for what merely seem to be better conditions?
Were I living on Ash Island, or even in a settler’s bark shanty, I could do more for entomology that I can in Newcastle. But even in Newcastle there will be a good deal for me to do, when I manage to satisfy some of my curiosity in other directions.
21 October 1842. Leichhardt visits Ash Island with Lynd, W. Scott and – Bolton.
28 November 1842 Leichhardt studies the supply of artesian water at Ash Island
Letter 72 [To w. KIRCHNER, Consul for Hamburg, Sydney, N.S.W.] (Aurousseau p.608)
Newcastle, [N.S.W.,] December 1842
“Last week we went to Ash Island to do what we could to overcome the much discussed and over-publicised shortage of water on this other’ wise richly endowed island. The cows were in a bad way and the orchard was even worse. To our great astonishment we found that the artesian bore, c which had been sending up fresh water, was now running salt; and the well nearby was full of highly saline water. We tried to get the cows to drink from the well, and they did so; but we were told the next morning that it disagreed with them and purged them. As it seemed to me that Mr S[cott]‘s men were not working in his interests and disliked having to do anything out of the ordinary, I doubt the truth of what they told us; for cattle often drink brackish water in the bush. I count little on the deepening of the artesian well-in fact, the geological considerations and the nature of the rocks around Newcastle give no promise of any success.”
1844 – G.B. WHITE
Plan of River Hunter from Port Hunter to falls at West Maitland by G.B. White Surveyor
(Courtesy State Library of NSW)
W.H. HARVEY – MAY 1855
Letter to Sisiter with Description of Scott, His Home and Girls reared as “like Miranda”
“The track is through gumstree forest as usual not far from the river with views of the water, the marshy banks & the mud flats etc. – we were nearly 3 hours going the 10 miles & then we reached Hexham (an imaginary town) with 2 houses & 4 tents where on the drawing up of the coach I saw Mr. Scott of Ash island advancing to meet me and soon found myself seating in his boat & on the way to his island… He has a very pretty cottage and garden. In front of his door stand a pair of Norfolk Island pines & beside the house are date trees now bearing fruit. Behind the house is an orange garden with 1100 orange trees, the fruit of which last year sold for £700. Beides oranges, Hay (which is cut 4 times a year) seems t be his staple crop, and on the whole he manages to live very comfortably. He is a very agreeable and well informed educated gentleman with two daughters very clever and in many respects accomplished girls reared (like Miranda) on the Island.” – Ref: S.C. Ducker, The Contented Botantist 1988 (M.U.P.) cited in Ord, 1988, 20
G. FRAUENFELD – NOVEMBER 1858
G. FRAUENFELD’S DESCRIPTIONS OF ASH ISLAND NOVEMBER 1858 (Thanks to Michael Organ, University of Wollongong REF: http://www.uow.edu.au/~morgan/frauenfeld.htm )
Notes, collected during my stay in New Holland, New Zealand and on Tahiti upon the voyage of His Majesty’s frigate Novara in their waters by G. Frauenfeld. (Delivered at the sitting of the Mathematical-Scientific Section of the Imperial Academy of Sciences, Vienna, on 13 October 1859)
I decided to use the steamer to undertake an excursion to the north as well as the south. Mr. Alex. Walker Scott, 10 a keen entomologist, had kindly invited me to his property, Ash Island, in the Hunter River to which the Maitland steamer departed from Sydney on 9 November at 11 o’clock. 11 The next morning we steered into the mouth of this river at 6 o’clock. Within this entrance lies Newcastle, which as far as the important fossil fuel [coal] is concerned, appears to be the fortunate rival in the Antipodes of its namesake. From there after an hour’s trip upstream we reached Hexham, the first post station on the Hunter, where the railway constructed from Newcastle to Maitland also passes by. I left the steamer there and sailed by boat to the island opposite, the destination of my journey.
The landscape of the river is unattractive. On the cleared banks, whose woodland remnants of dead eucalypts stand scattered ghostlike on the flat fields planted with crops, one catches sight, here and there, of the poor wooden huts of the settlers, whose cattle graze all around in the fenced paddocks. Sterna melanorhyncha, as well as Pacific Gulls (Larus pacificus) skim up and down over the river fishing. The great New Holland Eagle (Aquila fucosa), moves along the banks high in the air, while countless Cormorants sit fearlessly on the bleached, white branches of the dead trees. Here and there on the sand banks a pair of the readily recognisable Long-beaked Oyster Catchers was busy. I was not able to distinguish the busy, cheeping Strand Plover running about between them.
The attractive island [Ash Island], on which Mr. W. Scott’s idyllic home is located, diffuses far and wide an exquisite fragrance from the abundance of perfumed flowers in the well-kept garden and extensive orange grove. Not only the kindness of the whole family of the owner, who made the stay there unforgettable for me, but also the scientific entomological studies of both daughters12 of the house undertaken with enthusiasm also afforded me great interest; likewise the excellent execution of illustrations of the same merited admiration. For a large number of species they have determined the Lepidopteran fauna of New South Wales completely through all states of metamorphosis, often from the egg onwards, and their experiences of a substantial part of the Australian macro- and micro-Lepidopterans are captured and documented in a series of more than 100 folio plates.
The strange genus, Oiketicos, which bores itself a dwelling in the branches of the New Holland Proteaceae and Myrtaceae, the opening of which is surrounded with a thick cocoon like a bag and from where they emerge at night to feed, as well as the case / cocoon-bearing Psychiden and Tineiden, of which New Holland has so many, are represented in great number. Apart from several brought by Sir Thomas Mitchell from the inland, up till now the Cystosoma Saundersii was only found on this island in the Hunter River, but there in great number. On warm, still evenings, a half an hour after sunset, males begin a loud purring song for a quarter of an hour, which sounds duller and deeper and not nearly as cuttingly shrill as for real Cicadas. The creature is far lazier and easy to fasten on to. The back half looks like an empty, wind-filled bubble, which appears to serve as the resonance for the singing organ.
The next day I intended to visit the Sugarloaf, the highest mountain in the area, 3,288 feet high. It was a good ride of almost 40 miles, which I put behind me in a day and for which I set out early from Ash Island, accompanied by two settlers. For half an hour we followed the Hunter River upstream; it then turned right NE, while we went left into the mountains. The forest, perhaps somewhat more cleared than it originally would have been, since extensive traces of fire indicated frequent bushfires, is so sparse that one can ride through almost without hindrance. Even formerly, it could not have been much more dense, since no remains of older, thicker woodlands existed, and in those places where fire and man had not been at work, the forest appeared just as thin and open. Here and there, we came upon huts and cultivated areas; the large landowners lease individuals such tracts or have livestock with their own overseers there. Even in winter the animals can be left to their own devices, where, in the Bush – as the settlers typically call this wooded district – they find the most luxuriant pastures. In summer, when the parching heat dries everything out, they are fed with hay in yards or barns.
The sunny forest consists of the slender-leaved Eucalyptus, of which the Blue Gum tree is the best known, Melaleucas and other Myrtaceae, the dainty-leaved Casuarinas, Grevillias and Banksias, the Native Pear (Xylomelum), the highly valued Waratah (Telopea speciosissima), the similarly shadeless phylloden Acacias, the Native Cherry (Exocarpus) and so on through the softer Sollya, the beautiful Papilionaceae, Oxylobium, Chlorozema, Daviesia, Dillwynia, Swainsonia, Physolobium, Kennedya and the completely odd Stylidien to the lowest scrub. To me they were all old friends, which, at the time of Baron Hügel’s journey,13 in decorating the greenhouses of Vienna with their splendour, marked the highpoint of garden cultivation and I greeted them joyfully here in their motherland. I could never get my fill of seeing them, so richly bedecked with flowers, luxuriantly wild and growing all around so abundantly that the horses’ hooves crushed that which I was used to regarding as a treasure, and which I myself bent back in order to get at another plant or insect underneath. The foreignness of perfect Cycas macrozamia, which stand in groups in cleared areas, in between the most dainty Grass-trees (Xantorrhoea arborea), with their dark brown-black, foot-thick trunks and often 9-10 feet height, with a similarly high sprays of flowers. Here and there one finds the splendid Gigantic Lily (Doryanthes excelsa), of which I only saw one more in flower.
Countless birds, especially parrots drifted around the crowns of the trees screaming, the crane-like Strepera graculina, the white and black Gymnorhina tibicea, the bald-headed Leatherhead, Tropidohynchus corniculatus, the Common Soldier Bird, which is highly valued by all settlers for consuming poisonous snakes, and the carefully protected Laughing Jackass, Dacelo gigantea, countless Finches, the fantailed Muscicapiden, the Climacteris, which climbs up and down trees like our creepers, the 4-5 feet long Monitore, which quickly fled, here and there, to the trees, a prickly lizard, and a beautiful slug guaranteed plenty of diversion.
After we reached the mountain crest, we rode along there three hours in a wide circle and, just as the sun was going down, we reached a steep rock wall, where we left the horses behind and climbed further on foot. After a further half an hour’s hike, we were at another rock pile of crude, crumbly sandstone, the actual Sugarloaf, which was very eroded and between the crevices of which we laboriously wound our way upwards and thereby reached the peak at 6 o’clock. A splendid view presented itself to us; at our feet the County of Northumberland stretched around us in the evening light decorated with green forest. Left, in the far distance lay the capital, Maitland, from where the navigable Hunter wound like a silver ribbon luxuriantly through the countryside right down to distant Newcastle, where it wed the sea, whose wild foam sparkled on the distant horizon and on whose waves the ships appeared as just dazzling, white dots on a trembling background. On the right, Lake Macquarie lay stretched out shorelessly, at high tide thickly shrouded all around with forest. My companions described the same as also very poorly accessible, however as a true paradise for hunters since it contained hundreds of black swans, the Australian Stork, Numenius, Sickle Bills, Cormorants and countless other swamp and water birds. The Blue Mountain chain completed the background. The area is fairly well populated and cultivated; numerous columns of smoke showed the spots where the huts of the settlers lay hidden in the woods. My companions were also delighted by this splendid panorama; they had never ascended the peak, although the older of the two, who had been here 15 years, had often come as far as the first wall in search of stray cattle.
We could only delay a short time and hurried down to our horses to set out on the return journey. We still did not have half the mountain crest behind us as night broke so clear, so calm and mild as ordinarily only arises in the tropics. The moon rose and poured its silver light down on the pale foliage of the eucalyptus and banksias so that their light-coloured, thin trunks appeared like ghostly figures in the magical illumination. The deep silence was only interrupted occasionally by the piercing cry of a Curlew from the nearby swamp or from the rustling of a Wallaby (Halmaturus walabatus), fleeing on our approach. The giant Kangaroo (Macropus major), together with the natives, has long since withdrawn from civilisation, hundreds of miles deep into the interior. Moved by overwhelming feelings, I was often pleased to let my horse go slowly on the grassy ground. It appeared to me almost like a dream, that I rode here on these plains, where just a short time ago the moonlight illuminated a savage with his spear, creeping up on a shy Kangaroo or an Emu. About midnight we arrived at Ash Island again, from where I returned by steamer next morning to Sydney.
10. Alexander Walker Scott (1800-83), entrepreneur and entomologist, was said to have published over 130 scientific papers during his lifetime. The Scott family moved to Ash Island on the Hunter River in 1846 and from there Scott, assisted by his two artist daughters, carried out various scientific researches, especially with regards to Australian Lepidoptera, or butterflies. Refer Gray (1976) and Ord (1987).
11. It is unclear which steamer Frauenfeld used in his journeys north to the Hunter River and south to Illawarra. He does state that the ‘Maitland steamer’ took him to Newcastle and up the Hunter to Hexham, near Ash Island. As there is no reference to a steaming vessel called Maitland in the Shipping Gazette of that time, he was probably referring to the steamer which accommodated people travelling to Maitland. The Sydney Morning Herald does note that the steamer Collaroy departed Sydney for the Hunter at 11pm on Tuesday 9 November, and this may have been the one used by Frauenfeld.
12. Refers to Alexander Walker Scott’s two daughters Harriett (1832-1910) and Helena (1830-1907). The sisters were extremely skilled natural history artists, and at the time of Frauenfeld’s visit were working with their father on the plates for his book Australian Lepidoptera with their Transformations (1864). Joseph Selleny, artist on board the Novara, also assisted with the cover artwork during his brief stay at Ash Island in November 1858. Refer Ord (1987).
13. Baron Charles von Hügel, Austrian diplomat and natural history collector, visited Western Australia, Tasmania, New South Wales and Norfolk Island between November 1833 and October 1834, observing the flora and collecting seeds and cuttings for his gardens back home in Austria. It was these specimens which Frauenfeld refers to having studied prior to his voyage to Australia. See Dymphna Clarke, Baron Charles von Hügel – New Holland Journal, November 1833 – October 1834, Melbourne University Press, 1994, 539p.
Gray, Nancy, ‘Alexander Walker Scott’, Australian Dictionary of Biography. Volume 6: 1851-1890. R-Z, Melbourne University Press, 1976, 93-4
Ord, Marion, ‘The Scott Sisters. Art treasures of the 19th century revealed’, Australian Natural History, 22(5), Winter 1987, 194-8.
These two illustrations were published in Marion Ord’s book and appear to have both been done around 1859. Compare the two pines in the illustration above in front of the bakehouse building at the rear of Scott’s homestead, with the illustration on the cover of Volume two of the Australian Lepidoptera published in installments from 1890 but executed from 1858-1861. Also see the illustration below showing the palms at the side of the house.
The plan below (held in the State Library of NSW) is dated 12th January 1864 and shows the footprint of the homestead as well as the pier. It appears to be in accord with the 1858-1861 illustration. I have overlayed the portion of the homestead, orchard and cultivation on current Google Earth landscape.
Compare the above locations and the ones that follow with the best illustration we have of the site, which comes from the cover of Volume 2 of the Australian Lepidoptera published from 1890.
On the 20 January 1866, Alexander Scott’s wife Harriet, dropped dead unexpectedly on the sofa on the verandah. She was buried in Christ Church Cathedral cemetery. In that same year he became bankrupt and sold the estate at auction on the 27th March 1866.
Another map to cross check is this 1871 plan by J.T.Gowlland assisted by J.F. Loxton of the islands of the Hunter River Estuary (held in the National Library of Australia). Again I have overlayed the relevant sections in Google Earth to help pinpont the site of the original homestead and pier.
An article published in the Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate in 1939 The Story of Ash Island (By J.M.M.) Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, 2 December 1939 p.7 appears to imply that the homestead was demolished at the time of sale in 1866, but this appears to be false, as the pier and spot still appear on the 1871 map, as well as an 1889 land sale poster.
The 1946 aerial of Scott’s Point Ash Island below needs to be compared to the  aerial.
By 1953-1954, the fate of Ash Island was about to be sealed with the resumption of lands by the Department of Public Works for the Island Reclamation Scheme in order to allow the progress of industry. See: Ash Island Story Comes To A Close by Leo Butler. Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, 16 October 1954 p.4
The aerial below was taken around 1969 and shows building structures on the site, but not in the locations traditionally associated with Scott’s homestead and pier. Were these the structures that were later demolished by 1971, as reported by Deamer?
The house has long been demolished but the remains of its cellars are discernable on the extreme north western tip of the island, adjacent to a large Moreton Bay Fig tree and a fallen pine laying in the mud of the bank. The foundation walls, some paths and the foundations of some of the out buildings still exist. Their excavation would allow a comparison of the house plan with some of those prepared by Robert Scott (22) of “Glendon” so as to determine whether he was the designer of the building. – Deamer (1971)
Marion Ord states in her forword to Butterflies & bushland : the illustrated guide to Ash Island butterflies by Rosie Heritage & Julia Brougham, that Charlie Smith (former Chief Librarian at Newcastle Public Library) took her to the remains of the homestead and garden in the 1980s that at the time were ” a pile of dirt heaped up beside the Moreton Bay fig which had also been obliterated”.
The following set of images
At low tide, the remains of what appear to be the first row of stones that made up the river wall and original pier can be seen to this day.
Gionni Di Gravio
ENDNOTES AND COLD MERCY: CRIME STORIES FROM COLONIAL NEWCASTLE
CASE 4. JACOB’S MOB
BY DAVID MURRAY
David Murray is a university medalist with a Creative Arts Phd from Newcastle Uni. He has published two books of poetry: “Swinging from a broken clock” and “Blue bottle” (Sultana Press), and contributed to Overland, The Australasian Journal of Popular Culture and the Mascara Poetry Journal.
Murray treats historical true crime creatively as a cultural marker of everyday life. It’s a process concentrating on ordinary lives while reflecting Luc Sante’s observation that ‘violence, misery, chicanery, and insanity exist in a continuum that spans history; they prove that there never was a golden age”.
By the 1820s Britannia replaced the ill-considered compassion of Macquarie’s emancipation project with a transportation regime of systematic oppression that would also supply the expanding colony with cheap/free labour. A by-product of this new regime was a rise in bushranging. In 1830 this resulted in the Bushranger Act – a set of reactive laws encouraging the citizen arrest of any person suspected of being either an escaped convict or carrying illegal firearms.
Prince George IV was fifty-seven years old when he inherited the throne from his father Mad King George in 1820. A foppish glutton addicted to laudanum, mistresses and personal debt, the ‘first gentleman of England’ knew enough to leave the running of empire to his sharper privy brothers and bankers; men skilled in exploiting the Empire’s nirvana of global business opportunities that included far off Australia and the Australian Agricultural Company. This potentially lucrative New South Wales agri-venture had been the talk of investor drawing rooms after publication of Views of Australia: a series of prints reframing the strange colonial wilderness into an Elysium of land grants and quit rents.
The company’s government issued holdings included fertile Hunter River Valley acres along with options for parts of the recently closed penal outstation of Newcastle, where an incorrigible and alcoholic forger-artist Joseph Lycett served time and sketched out many ‘Views Of Australia’ panoramas. The company’s formation by a Parliamentary act in 1824 coincided neatly with the end of two decades of strict martial law at the town. The transition from prison to free town saw the existing military garrison kept on to protect the township – ostensibly from foreign invasion – leaving a flimsy government police force of ex-cons and retired soldiers to enforce daily law in farm communities and settlements up river. A law and order vacuum occurred that convicts took advantage of by bolting from their employment and forming chaotically brief bushranging gangs such as the Patrick Riley led ‘Jacob’s Mob’.
In 1825 Riley was assigned as indentured labour to the Wallis Plains farm of Vicars Jacob, a retired soldier turned Sydney merchant. By August that same year he was charged with neglect of duty by a local magistrate when four sheep in his care went missing. After escaping custody during his overnight transfer to Newcastle for flogging, the capable Irishman stole farm horses and rode undetected back to Jacob’s farm where he convinced fellow bondsmen Lawrence Cleary, Aaron Price and Patrick Clinch (aka Lynch) to join him on the run.
The gang was soon raiding nearby farms for weapons, food and clothing, quickly gaining a reputation for mixing callous threats with theatrical high toby gestures such as sitting down to a meal and polite conversation when females were present. Stray farm convicts joined the gang for a quick nibble before giving themselves in, innocently claiming to have been enlisted at gunpoint. Local settlers organised an armed posse that tracked down a gang campsite, but a forewarned Jacob’s Mob – as they were now known – had already slipped deeper into the bush. Locals penned letters to Sydney newspapers pleading for help while deriding the almost non-existent local police and military response. The authors’ exasperation was punctuated by anger with certain unscrupulous settlers and convicts known to be trading in the stolen goods or providing the gang with information of police movements. For many living within Lycett’s acaridan wilderness, his smooth edges and rolling hills masked a more intractable, hidden reality.
Almost a month had passed before Sydney paid for a military posse supported by police constables and native trackers. After trooping heavy August storms for a week they closed in on an outlying Wallis Plains property. The gang had holed up in a disused hut there, but quickly found themselves trapped by floodwaters as persistent rain transformed the docile, surrounding creeks into raging, impassable torrents. Outnumbered, and with their pistol and musket works saturated and useless, they surrendered meekly and were escorted in chains to the barracks at Wallis Plains in the custody of five armed soldiers. The posse’s triumphal all night grog up turned into delirium tremors the following evening when a man belonging to Dr Moran’s farm succeeded in surprising the guarding soldiers, all of whom must have been sleeping instead of attending to their very important charge, and let the gang escape, taking with them the whole of the soldiers arms, ammunition, and provisions; they also broke into a house near the barracks, from whence they stole a musket; they likewise took several horses. (i)
Within a day or two of their farcical escape the gang obtained admittance into Mr Winder’s house about two in the morning by pretending that it was constables and a party of military who were at the door and who had secured some bushrangers. They compelled Mr Winder’s servants to make a fire and cook eggs and pork. They also regaled themselves with wine, and remained carousing very deliberately for three hours – they dressed themselves in Mr Winder’s clothes, took possession of some powder, a brace of pistols, two watches, and other articles. Before they left the premises they broke three muskets, but returned the watches because they belonged to the servants. They swore revenge against all concerned in apprehending them.(ii)
The escape from custody heightened the gang’s self-belief and inspired a more anarchic banditti approach that was mercilessly inflicted on James Reid, an agribusiness friend and neighbour of Vicars Jacob. After lying in wait for the work dispersal from Reid’s homestead, the gang methodically lit fires around the homestead and a nearby barn before scampering back to their viewing hideout. The smoke brought Reid, his family and their convict workers back to find the wheat filled barn completely incinerated. Frantic efforts managed to save some furniture, clothing and a few keepsakes before the homestead was reduced to smouldering, skeletal frames of charred uneven lines worthy of a drunken Lycett sketch. For some convicts in the area the fire was clearly payback against the part-time magistrate with a reputation for dealing out excessive punishments while pompously quoting the old testament, as James Reid had done when sentencing Patrick Riley to fifty lashes over four missing sheep.
The conflagration raised settler vigilance to paranoia and during a subsequent raid on Doctor Radford’s farm, where it seemed the Doctor had notice of their approach, the doctor fired, and wounded one man severely the moment he spotted the gang approaching. One of Dr Radford’s men also acted with great courage, and wounded another – this man deserves great credit for supporting his Master, as it seems not one prisoner in fifty in this district would have followed his example. The parties fired fourteen shots (iii) and a blood soaked, discarded waistcoat was later found in the surrounding bush.
The gang’s adamantine exploits saw The Australian newspaper send a reporter from Sydney to follow the story first-hand, though he preferred the safety of garrisoned Newcastle to treks into the renegade badlands. Drawing copy from official police reports and bridle-track gossip, he would quickly articulate a new narrative redefining the gang’s bravado into the nihilism of desperados living for whatever the next moment might bring. Rumour was now erring into legend and Jacob’s Mob was said to be scandalously abducting and misusing native girls, while talk of infighting and the fear of capture reduced them to gaunt, desperate and murderous shadows walking the bush in torn shoes.
The Australian’s reporter spent his spare time studying the decrepit state of the township after witnessing a storm-tossed, fully loaded schooner rip a massive mooring pole from the wharf like a rotten tooth. With a poetic nudge to the fashionable Byronic ruin he lamented the penal outstation’s closure which had left the Government buildings there in a ruinous state and it would seem that the persons whose duty it is to have them kept in repair hardly know which building first to begin upon. It is really melancholy to see the state to which that once pretty little town is reduced. (iv)
While the journalist indulged an imaginary Romanticist nostalgia for what never was, a determined town regiment commanded by Captain Allman was upriver investigating a whisper that the gang was heading to Newcastle to pirate a vessel. Guided by the local knowledge of native trackers Allman’s men were systematically scouting in and around Hexham, almost a day’s walk from the township. The men were split into search groups of three to five. After days of false alarms, shadows and startled kangaroos Sergeant Wilcox and Privates Wright and Coffee were searching in an area known as Black Creek when a smoke plume appeared above the tree line in the slow, still morning air. Expecting natives they nonetheless headed towards it. As the bush morphed into thicker scrub they began hearing fragments of exclamation and laughter cutting in and out of the air around them, seemingly without geography or origin, but definitely English. With their heartbeats tuned to their footsteps and muskets firm in their hands the three men moved warily in the direction of the noise’s likely source, which brought them to a cleared circle of land fronting an abandoned settler hut. The soldiers slinked carefully in the camouflaging perimeter wall of bush, until they could clearly determine two men standing side-by-side on the verandah with their cocks out, pissing in mock competition – more for height than distance it seemed. Wilcox silently gestured Wright and Coffee into a rudimentary crossfire phalanx before he yelled out fiercely for the two men to stand still and announce their names. In a mess of spraying urine and jerking arms the men turned and bolted inside the hut.
Wilcox called his two charges to hold fast and steady their barrel aim before repeating the order. The ensuing seconds stretched beyond a clock’s measure before Patrick Riley appeared at the door. Unlike the first Wallis Plains confrontation, his death wish and pistols were primed and ready. With erratic supporting fire from within the hut he stamped fearlessly off the verandah and fired in the direction of Wilcox’s voice before sheltering behind one of the ringbarked tree stumps still dotted in the clearing. British soldiers were trained to shoot four to five rounds a minute and Wilcox set up a sequential pattern to maintain a constant volley of shot covering the hut and the now isolated and vulnerable Riley. Having shakily reloaded behind his scant cover, Riley lifted a pistol and scanned the bush for tufts of residual musket smoke. Before he could fire the coolly accurate Coffee nailed a ball-shot through his left eye. Riley stood, dropped his pistol and squeezed his hands to his face before collapsing where he stood. Shooting stopped as both sides paused to listen in on the belligerent curses of the indestructible legend now fish-wriggling in smaller and slower gyrations until freezing and gargling to a deathly stop. In the clean sunlight blood leaked freely from Riley’s bullet wound before congealing on his face and through his thick brown hair; unlike the bright clear red of superficial wounds and cuts, death is purple-grey.
Riley’s final moments gave way to the fast approaching Allman and more troops. The Captain’s methodical planning ensured each search party remained in constant ear or gunshot to support each other. Cleary, Clinch and Thomas Moss made a final attempt to escape but were rounded up without incident, while Price slipped away to spend one more night on the run before being captured. Inside the hut was 200 weight of flour, 100 weight of pork, 12 pounds of tea, 40 pound of sugar, 11 pounds of tobacco, a blunderbuss, a powder-horn with a quantity of powder and shot, a silver watch, and sundry wearing apparel. (v) The final haul, stolen from the farm of Leslie Duguid Esquire, would have seen the gang through to Newcastle and see enough left over – if pirating was beyond them – to pull for the price of a stowaway passage.
The Sydney trial sentenced the four surviving bushrangers to death by hanging, but in the end Riley’s death would satisfy the state and the men found their sentences revised to long-term incarceration at the newly reopened Norfolk Island penal outstation. Aaron Price learned of his clemency hand tied on a gallows dropboard. Stunned and heart twisted by his melodramatic reprieve, he dropped speechlessly to his knees and sucked greedily on sweet, free air. Price would remain at Norfolk as a public works overseer when his sentence expired, and see the island fulfil its designers’ promise of a penal industrial hell built on humiliation, dehumanisation and abject terror.
When the hunt for Jacob’s mob seemed to be stalling, authorities sent for the services of a crack Hobart Town horse troop that had dealt with infamous renegades such as the cannibal Alexander Pearce and Michael Howe, the first Australian bushranger to be memorialised in print. Thanks to Allman and his men, the bushrangers were already on their way to Sydney when the Hobart patrol disembarked at Newcastle. Allman’s men could proudly claimed to be the patrol’s strutting equal as man-hunters, and know they had more generally regained locals’ respect for the military after the Wallis Plains fiasco.
In the months following, the burning of Reid’s farm would be used to question the powers of part-time gentleman-magistrates like Reid in regards their punishing of their neighbour’s – or their own – indentured convict labour. In just a few years after it was expediently enacted, the law was already being reconsidered as an anachronism in the contrary evolution from open prison to free colony.
(i) The Australian (Sydney, NSW: 1824 – 1848) Online (www.trove.nla.gov.au), 11 August 1825, page 3, accessed 2 Feb. 2012.
(ii) The Australian (Sydney, NSW: 1824 – 1848) Online (www.trove.nla.gov.au), 8 September 1825, page 4, accessed 2 Feb. 2012
(iii) The Australian (Sydney, NSW: 1824 – 1848) Online (www.trove.nla.gov.au), 22 September 1825, page3, accessed 2 Feb. 2012.
(iv) The Australian (Sydney, NSW: 1824 – 1848) Online (www.trove.nla.gov.au), 22 September 1825, page3, accessed 2 Feb. 2012.
(v) The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW: 1803 – 1842), Online (www.trove.nla.gov.au), 10 October 1825, page3, accessed 8 September, 2014.
We recently received a call for help from Tourism Newcastle relating to an enquiry (presumably from a Tasmanian) questioning Newcastle’s claim of being Australia’s second oldest city:
“I was recently visiting your “visitnewcastle.com.au” website and was surprised to see that it is claiming Newcastle to be Australia’s second oldest city. I would like to point out to you that Hobart is in fact Australia’s second oldest city being founded in February 1804 which is prior to the founding of Newcastle in that same year. I would suggest you may want to update your website as to not mislead people. http://www.visitnewcastle.com.au/pages/newcastle-snapshot/“
Here is some historical information to assist in answering this question. The links contain transcribed excerpts from the Historical Records of Australia and the Historical Records of New South Wales.
Newcastle has a number of birthdays. Its first European “discovery” was in September 1797.
Evidence exists that Newcastle’s earliest settlement was founded at Fresh Water Bay, (now Stockton) as early as April 1801 to May 1801:
Newcastle’s second European settlement was founded in July 1801 under the leadership of Corporal Wixstead, arriving on the 23rd July 1801.
There was a mutiny, and the military guard appears to have been there until April/early May 1802.
After this episode it is unclear what became of the settlement, but it is generally assumed that it was abandoned, not to be re-established until March 1804.
However, there is evidence that coal continued to be discovered, mined and transported from there during the years 1802 and 1803. For example the Sydney Gazette reported on the 8th May 1803 that a new mine had been found there by John Platt, the convict miner who established the first Government mines, so we can assume he was still there working for private traders.
Newcastle’s third (and ongoing) settlement was founded in March 1804 under Commandant Menzies.
At this point it is also important not to forget Newcastle (Mulubinba) ‘s Aboriginal past, and its various names across at least 7000 years.
Here is some info:
The Many Names of Newcastle-Mulubinba
With regards to Hobart’s claim, this comes from Historical Records of Australia (commentary – page 685):
The name Hobart was applied to the settlement at Risdon Cove in the
Derwent River, and was used by Lieutenant Bowen in his second despatch
to Governor King, dated 27th September, 1803 (see volume I, series III),
written after the arrival of the first establishment. When the establishment
for Port Phillip was removed to the Derwent River, Lieutenant-Governor
Collins named the seat of his government at Sullivan’s Cove, Hobart Town.
The first use of the name by Collins in general orders was on the 15th of
June, 1804; the preceding order was dated at Sullivan Cove, River Derwent,
on the 9th of June, 1804. The modern city of Hobart is situated at and
around the latter site.”
So, it appears that Newcastle’s claim to be Australia’s second oldest settlement is justified. Let the new motto be:
Newcastle: First Among Seconds
Gionni Di Gravio
2nd September 2014
The aerial view of Newcastle by Milton Kent, located in TROVE, and reproduced above was originally published in The Australasian on the 22nd June 1929 page 71, and appears to come from the same set of original glass negatives reproduced below. This may provide some evidence to the dating of at least some of the images to before 1929.
We recently uploaded a number of aerial images of Newcastle taken in the 1920s here: http://coalriver.wordpress.com/2014/07/18/newcastle-air/
The originals were held in the archives of the former A. Goninan & Co. Ltd. originally established in 1899, which later changed its name to United Goninan before being taken over by the United Group in 1999. The company designs, manufactures and undertakes maintenance work on railway rolling stock, locomotives and light rail vehicles.
Phillip Warren arranged for the original glass negatives to be re-scanned by Greg and Sylvia Ray. They have kindly provided us with the higher resolution files to assist in dating the images, please see below.
The original negatives were aerial photographs taken by Milton Kent Airplane Photographs, Sydney. Along with the digital files was a scan of a listing of the glass negatives undertaken in 1988 by a J.L.N. Southern. The title of the document is Aerial Photographs of Port Hunter, Stockton, Newcastle, Carrington, Walsh Island, Port Waratah, Morandoo, Tirrikiba, Mayfield, Georgetown, Swansea Heads by Milton Kent Airplane Photographs, Sydney. It appears that Mr Southern was responsible for the numbering and dating of the images.
We have decided to retain the descriptions but ignore the dates that Southern assigned to each image, as it became clear that many of the images were taken in the late 1920s, and not the 1930s as Southern surmised. Click on the image to download the high resolution images, and again, many thanks to Phillip Warren, Greg and Sylvia Ray.
Gionni Di Gravio
University Archivist & Chair, University of Newcastle’s Coal River Working Party
Dr Ann Hardy’s thesis “. . . here is an Asylum open . . .” Constructing a Culture of Government Care in Australia 1801 – 2014″ on the national significance of the former James Fletcher Hospital site is now available free of charge on the University’s NOVA database. It explores the earliest permanent settlement at Coal River, NSW, the Newcastle Government Domain.
The Newcastle Government Domain was was the site of Government House, early convict administration, military barracks, then Girl’s Industrial School and Reformatory and finally as a ‘lunatic asylum’. Newcastle Government Domain was a site of penal administration assisted in the strengthening of Government and private enterprise, particularly related to coal. The Domain was a place from which labour was administered and where officials were involved in artistic pursuits alongside convicts.
The planting of an outpost at Newcastle was motivated by coal and promised to produce a commodity that could be exported offering some return on British investment in its convict colony. Newcastle coal provided energy for local manufacturing and steel-making in the twentieth century, for transport, industry and electricity generation in other Australian cities and now the city exports more coal than any other port in the world. Coal mining has significantly contributed to the cultural and social fabric of Australian society.
This research is a case study of the Domain, exploring the diverse strands of use and linking this history with contemporary heritage conservation issues.
Dr Ann Hardy’s Thesis can now be downloaded in full here: http://hdl.handle.net/1959.13/1045262
The University of Newcastle’s Coal River Working Party is very honoured with the recognition of the outstanding services of one of its researchers, Dr Ann Hardy. At a ceremony held on Wednesday 30th July 2014 at Souths Leagues Club Merewether, Dr Hardy received a 2014 Newcastle Volunteer Service Award for her services to Newcastle and its historic recognition. She was in fine company, as one of a number of distinguished people from all walks of life, who were recognised for their wonderful work across the community. Federal Member for Newcastle, Sharon Claydon MP, hoped that this gesture was a step towards a thank you for people who held the community together through their generosity of spirit.
Ann’s nomination read:
“Since 2007, Ann has been one of our core volunteers, undertaking research and preparing applications and submissions with regards to acknowledging Newcastle’s historical achievements and contribution to the making of Australia as a nation.
Ann is a great advocate for our City and its unique history. She is known as an excellent collaborator, working with staff and families of those connected to the former James Fletcher Hospital and preserving the history of that site.
Her historical research relating to the James Fletcher Hospital in particular, has helped in acknowledging the site’s contribution to the innovative medicine and psychological advances pioneered right here in Newcastle.”
On behalf of the University’s Coal River Working Party her colleagues sincerely thank Ann for all her wonderful work and welcome this recognition for her years of service.
Gionni Di Gravio
University Archivist and Chair, CRWP
Researchers at the University of Newcastle’s Coal River Working Party are currently preparing biographies and histories of Newcastle’s most iconic buildings, places and cultural icons for a mobile device application.
An initiative of University researcher Dr Ann Hardy, who, as Secretary of the Hunter Regional Committee of the National Trust of Australia (HRCNT), spent the last two years fundraising for a “Lost Newcastle App” to be produced that would include the historic places of Newcastle. The App was inspired by the ‘Lost Melbourne App’ developed by the National Trust (Victoria).
“Newcastle has many historic themes and items and we believe that the ‘Lost Newcastle’ App will be an exciting digital product and a first for the National Trust (NSW). To cover the cost of the software licensing fee both the University of Newcastle and the Vera Deacon Regional History Fund have contributed to get the project off the ground for which we are very grateful” – Dr Hardy said.
Dr Hardy also thanked the University Librarian, Mr Greg Anderson, for providing the in kind support of the Auchmuty Library’s Cultural Collections as a base to work on the histories and consult the University’s vast collections of historical resources.
The HRCNT has been liaising with the University of Newcastle’s Coal River Working Party (CRWP) about the project and a small research group has been formed to plan, organise and oversee the content of the App. The CRWP is a multi-disciplinary team with diverse expertise to assist with development of the App. At this stage information about each item (historical, social, cultural etc) is being compiled and will later be uploaded to the App by the Melbourne based software designers.
The idea of having a ‘Lost Newcastle App’ came about when the HRCNT was contacted by radio broadcaster and founder of the Lost Newcastle Facebook group, Carol Duncan from 1233ABC radio, drawing our attention to the App developed by the National Trust in Victoria. The interest in history in the Hunter seems to be on the increase, especially since the Lost Newcastle Facebook page which was established in August 2012 has now over 15,700 active participants and has surpassed the ‘Lost Sydney’ Facebook page. Digital media is a terrific way to connect with the community, to share the region’s history and the University’s rich archival material held in its Cultural Collections.
Dr Hardy has been based in the University’s Cultural Collections in the Auchmuty Library volunteering her time and professional expertise for the past year carrying out the research and sourcing images from across the University’s collections and the private hoards of the Lost Newcastle Facebook “Losties”.
Much of the research and compiling of data is being conducted by Ann Hardy in consultation with others. Dr Hardy is an historian who has been a volunteer on the Coal River Working Party for the past 9 years, and has post graduate qualifications in history and cultural heritage, and is at present the Administration Officer for the CRWP.
We will keep you all informed of the progress of this exciting initiative.
Gionni Di Gravio
University Archivist and Chair, CRWP
[August 2014 Update] I contacted Mr Phillip Warren who was able to shed further light on the origin of the images.
The originals were held in the archives of the former A. Goninan & Co. Ltd. originally established in 1899, which later changed its name to United Goninan before being taken over by the United Group in 1999. The company designs manufactures and undertakes maintenance work on railway rolling stock, locomotives and light rail vehicles. Phillip arranged for the original glass negatives to be re-scanned by Greg and Sylvia Ray. They have kindly provided us with the higher resolution files to assist in dating the images. We will upload as soon as we can.
Along with the digital files was a scan of an original listing of the glass negatives undertaken in 1988 by a J.L.N. Southern. The original negatives were aerial photographs taken by Milton Kent Airplane Photographs, Sydney. The title of the document is “Aerial Photographs of Port Hunter, Stockton, Newcastle, Carrington, Walsh Island, Port Waratah, Morandoo, Tirrikiba, Mayfield, Georgetown, Swansea Heads by Milton Kent Airplane Photographs, Sydney.” It appears Southern was responsible for the numbering and dating of the images.
[Updated] These aerial photographs were taken over Newcastle during the late 1920s, providing a bird’s eye view of the Newcastle landscape. We thank Phillip Warren for sharing these images with us. Please click on the images to view the larger photograph. We are always interested in people’s thoughts and comments, and any further information they wish to share. Please leave a comment in the box below the post. We also thank Mr Russell Rigby for observing that there is no Newcastle Town Hall (dating the photographs to pre 1929) and Cathedral is under building scaffold for alterations (circa 1928). Dr Ann Hardy also relayed news from her son that the last photograph was of the Swansea Channel, rather than the Newcastle peninsula. Further comments and corrections are welcome.
Gionni Di Gravio
University Archivist, and Chair, Coal River Working Party
James Thomas Morisset – A Family Story
by Ronald and Margaret Thompson
Lieutenant Colonel James Thomas Morisset was my great grandfather x 3 and I am extremely proud of him, his achievements as a soldier, pioneer and family man.
Some years ago we were told of a family connection to James Thomas Morisset and that he was called “King Lash”.
This comment was the beginning of a thorough and extensive search of historical and family records to hopefully discover the true story of this remarkable man and his many descendants.
Firstly we wish to thank Mr Gionni Di Gravio, Chair of the Coal River Working Party at The University of Newcastle (Australia) for inviting us to write a family perspective of James Thomas Morisset.
Genealogy is often regarded by historians as light weight and not relevant but our research has thoroughly investigated the historical records of the day.
It is difficult to write this without addressing the hard criticisms written over the years and particularly in more recent publications continually denigrating the character of our ancestor. Some of these publications have been written over 100 years after the event. For those who quote Windross and Ralston who wrote a History of Newcastle should remember that their story is hearsay and they were not born when Morisset was deceased.
It is our view of his character that forms his life and his family. The attacks not only on James Morisset but also his family has caused immeasurable distress to many of his descendants whilst others struggle to understand the reasons for this treatment but more sadly there are probably descendants who have come to believe the outrageous stories.
The vast majority of stories about Morisset were based on hearsay or blatant untruths and copies from one bad publication to another without anyone really delving into the whole story or the historical records of the time which can reveal a different record.
We also have to state that we do not hold any credence to memoirs written many many years after the fact. Memoirs are at best simply unreliable and mostly based on hearsay.
One such memoir which has been copied continually was written by Captain Foster Fyans and the paper ridiculed the appearance of James Morisset. Fyans was known to his own family as the Frustratingly, Fanciful, Fictional Foster Fyans. These memoirs were unfinished, unedited, unreviewed and probably never ever intended for publication. We can hardly blame Fyans but we do abhor the continued abuse in the description of the facial injury to James Morisset caused whilst he was a serving soldier involved in combat for his country. What self-respecting author today would dare to publish any writing denigrating the appearance or injury to our soldiers who have been wounded whilst defending their country or assisting another country during the course of a battle.
It is our belief that if Morisset was so badly disfigured there would not be any prominent positions available to him and would he have found a beautiful wife in Emily Vaux. We have a copy of a letter written by a lady that James and Emily visited and welcomed to the settlement of Bathurst. This letter was sent to a friend in England and was full of local gossip and requests for haberdashery. At no point is there a reference to a horrible disfigurement of the Commandant. The letter stated that “Colonel Morisset was the Chief Magistrate and I know not what”. Mrs Morisset is described as “a remarkably ladylike agreeable little woman”.
James Thomas Morisset was born into a refined family and a life of comfort living in Brunswick Square in London. The only surviving son and eldest child of James and Jannette Morisset. The Verger of St Giles in the Fields, London kindly provided the baptism records for all the children of James and Janette. Another son, Thomas, was born in 1781 but no further records so we assume he died as an infant. The death notice in the London Gazette records James Thomas as the only son of James Morisset. James Thomas had 5 sisters who we have no doubt adored their older brother. The name of Thomas probably came from the brother of Janette who was Admiral Thomas Stone of the Portuguese Navy.
Our first news of James Thomas is at age 15 when he was a witness to the marriage of his half-sister Ann Tadwell.
The Morisset family were artisans – watch makers, enamellists, silver and gold smiths. His father, James Morisset, was a highly skilled goldsmith who crafted some of the most elaborate and exquisite presentation swords of his time.
A famous sword now held in the London Museum was crafted for Admiral Lord Nelson following his victory at the Battle of the Nile.
James junior was not destined to follow his father’s profession. He wanted action and excitement and maybe he saw that was possible in a Military career. The British military were moving into new territories such as India, Afghanistan, Africa and China and constantly defending their territories against their old arch enemy the French. Napoleon was on the move.
James became involved with young men of his age who shared enthusiasm for a military career. Most of them were fortunate in having aristocratic titles or family connections such as a relative already in the military. The method of appointment was by purchase if there was a vacancy.
In 1798 James Thomas Morisset wrote to Major General St Leger of the 80th Foot, the Staffordshire Volunteers requesting that an application be made to His Majesty The King for an appointment as an Ensign by Purchase. This request was granted on 28 January 1798 upon purchase of £400.00.
On 1 February 1798 he joined the Regiment in India and within 2 years he was promoted to Lieutenant, without purchase. The 80th were involved in the battle of Alexandria and the officers were awarded the Sultan’s Medal for Egypt.
The regiment was sent back to India and at some period James Morisset became ill and returned to England. A lot of illness amongst soldiers was caused by drinking the potent local brews.
Whilst on leave he purchased a Captaincy in the 2/48th Regiment this was at a cost of £1500.00. He was obviously a very keen soldier to pay this amount of money to become a Captain or more than likely he was assisted by his father.
This move put him on the battle front of the Peninsula Wars and he was awarded clasps for seven battles. He fought at the crossing of Douro, at Talavera and at the worst battle of the war Albuera. It was during the heavy fighting that he received a facial wound. It is not known whether it was an exploding shell or a sabre cut which caused the injury but in all he was lucky to survive as many soldiers lost their lives. The medics of the day which included the dedicated surgeon George James had a battle to provide sufficient medical treatment to the huge number of wounded. James Morisset was on the casualty list but the London Gazette recorded that he had been slightly wounded.
If he was as badly wounded and disfigured as is now the widely held belief he would not have continued to stay on the Peninsular to take part in further battles but he would have been repatriated back to England.
He soldiered on to fight in further conflicts at Vittoria, Nive, Orthes and Toulouse. He did have some relief as ADC to General William Inglis from 1813-1814.
A pension was awarded for his injury during the battle of Albuera.
The year 1817 sees the 48th Regiment sent on duty to New South Wales and James Morisset arrived in August of that year. He spent time on duty in Sydney where he became a firm friend of the Governor Lachlan Macquarie and his family. James Morisset did not have a problem with Macquarie’s policies of assimilating emancipists into society and he was willing to attend any functions that included ex-convicts unlike some of his fellow officers who preferred to shun people not considered of suitable class. Governor Macquarie was obviously impressed with Morisset’s abilities and posted him to the penal settlement of Newcastle as Commandant. He was promoted to Brevet Major in 1819.
Morisset’s command in Newcastle in 1820 comprised of himself as Commandant, two lieutenants, one assistant surgeon, three sergeants, three corporals and 78 privates in all 88 military personnel. With them were ten women and twelve children. A convict population of 671 men, women and children and he was also responsible for the care of settlers and their families.
The duties in Newcastle were onerous, difficult and disagreeable according to Commissioner Bigge after conducting an enquiry into the colonial society. James Morisset was meticulous in his administration which is noted by the number of letters he despatched during this period. Often he was requesting extra medicinal supplies, food or clothing for the convicts. We believe that he was a caring Commandant in a difficult position and he believed that he could reform convicts. It has been recorded that he did not favour flogging as a punishment and would rather find other methods of punishment.
The term ‘King Lash” was attributed to a Captain Mark Currie. Who said that this remark was ever made by Currie and where is the truth in this statement?
We have not found any such evidence in historical records or written in a diary not even an unreliable memoir and can only assume this is another case of hearsay.
Captain Currie spent a short time in Newcastle when he took the Governor to visit and it is hardly likely that extreme and harsh punishment was carried out during the visit of then Governor Brisbane. It has now been recorded in the diaries and by the descendants of Captain Mark Currie that he was not referring to James Morisset but to the general use of the lash. If one reads the early editions of the Sydney Gazette it reveals that flogging was a constant and daily punishment in the town square in Sydney and this is prior to anyone who reoffends being sent to Newcastle. The sentencing was given by the sitting magistrates of the day.
There is no doubt that Commissioner Bigge saw men in working at the lime burners in Newcastle with scarred backs. This is the result of punishment inflicted in Sydney not in Newcastle. The use of leg irons was only for runaways and men sent to work at Lime burning were the men who constantly offended. Morisset had a Superintendent of Convicts who was responsible for enforcing discipline and punishment and at no time would the Commandant use the whip. In fact one of Morisset’s first things was to try and reduce the number of tails to lessen the effects of the lash.
It must be remembered that all punishments were set by the Government of the day and not by the appointed Commandants.
The Bigge inquiry reveals that Morisset was a much more humane person and Commandant than his predecessor. Morisset banned the overseers from the use of sticks to strike the convicts which was allowed during the previous command. The Returns of Prisoners punished between 1819-1821 were no greater under Morisset than reports from his predecessor.
It was said that Morisset listened to all the woes of the convicts and was sympathetic to their needs. He was quoted as saying “he knew all their priggings”. As we know the word “prigging” is convict slang for thieving and Morisset would certainly have to know all about this crime in fact he probably meant that he understood the desperation of men and women who had resorted to theft.
The Governor’s instructions to Morisset when he was sent to Newcastle was to develop the coal industry and open the settlement for business and development. This included the completion and further construction of the many buildings needed for a growing community. This was accomplished and we know that business was encouraged by the visit of Mr John Bingle who was impressed with what Morisset had to show of Newcastle and surrounds. Bingle in his memoirs written much later in life also mentioned how all stood to attention when Morisset passed. Anyone who is familiar with the Military would know that is a requirement to stand to attention and salute if appropriately dressed all superior officers and especially the Commandant. This rule would again have been enforced by Morisset’s Superintendant of Convicts and Sergeants.
Morisset was certainly strict with the amount of alcohol consumed and rationed its use by all very closely as he knew what unruly behaviour would result and law and order would dissipate rapidly. This would have been a very unpopular decision but vital for control of the settlement.
Morisset continued the tradition of employing aboriginals as trackers for chasing runaway convicts. Whether this practice was the correct one or not for the original owners of the land is debateable but there were good relations between the military and the native population but perhaps not so with the convicts who were tracked and returned to Newcastle. Morisset certainly did not hesitate to punish anyone inflicting harm on the natives of Newcastle. He was probably the only Commandant or officer to send a convict for trial for the murder of an aboriginal elder. All trials of a serious nature were held in Sydney and Morisset had doubts about a conviction due to language and cultural differences but it was proved and the convict Kirby was executed.
We must mention the five Cato Street Conspirators who were part of a radical political group tried in England and sentenced to transportation. On arrival in New South Wales they were transferred to Newcastle. Morisset was warned they were possible troublemakers and they were to be placed in hard labour in the goal gang. Initially Morisset followed the order of the Governor but he found that from their quiet and orderly conduct he released them from the goal gang and they were employed in other duties. They did prove to be well-behaved prisoners and Morisset’s interest and understanding encouraged at least 3 of them to request transfer with Morisset to Bathurst. They were not the only prisoners to want to follow Morisset.
Morisset was highly praised for his prompt and kind assistance to the Captain and Crew of the stranded brig “Calder”. He was also publicly praised for the kind reception and able assistance he provided to Mr William Smith of the First Public School and his party when they were inspecting branches of the Hunter River.
Governor Macquarie’s diaries record how much he valued the friendship and kindness afforded to him by James Morisset. He was praised for his diligence and the zealous and unremitting attention for the progress and advancement of Newcastle. The Governor was very pleased with the good order and regularity of all aspects of public service conducted at the settlement.
When Macquarie finally departed the Colony he penned a letter to the incoming Governor, Sir Thomas Brisbane with a list of people he trusted and relied upon during his time in New South Wales – James Morisset was top of this list. Macquarie strongly recommended Morisset to the incoming Governor for Patronage, Protection and kindness. This is a strong indication that Morisset was sympathetic to the same ideals as Governor Lachlan Macquarie and therefore could not be the cruel and vicious person as some writers like to assume.
In 1823 the Sydney Gazette reported on the expedition of Major Morisset making the first overland journey from Newcastle to Windsor. An arduous journey taking 9 days through inhospitable country. His first camp on this journey was at a tree where now the township of Morisset exists. In 1978 the town celebrated a Back to Morisset festival and the main attraction was Major James Thomas Morisset. The guests of honour were a great grandson, Mr Christian Morisset and his wife Patricia.
A plaque dedicated to Major Morisset was unveiled by Mr Chris Morisset during a tree dedication ceremony. It was planned to declare the tree and surrounds a historic place.
Another arduous journey that was undertaken by James Morisset was to row in an open boat from Newcastle to Sydney Cove. The journey by sea took only eleven hours as reported in The Sydney Gazette in March 1822.
Whilst in Newcastle Major Morisset organised the construction of a windmill on a hill overlooking the port. It was built to replace the unsatisfactory hand mills that the convicts had to use to grind flour from their wheat rations. The windmill was demolished in late 1840 but this caused an outcry from shipping captains as the windmill was used as landmark for the approach to Newcastle. This is the place where the current obelisk is now standing.
One lasting legacy of Morisset was due to his fastidious nature and unlike a lot of his fellow countrymen he liked to keep clean and therefore a bathing area was built and called the Commandant’s bath or Morisset’s bath. It is now known as the “Bogey Hole” which is the aboriginal word or meaning for bath or bathe. This is now a very popular swimming area of Newcastle.
The city of Newcastle should be very proud of its heritage and the people who made it the vibrant and industrial city it is today.
Many esteemed historians have written of Morisset and they wrote honestly and with the available records of the day.
Benjamin Champion , a noted Newcastle historian was amongst the first to write about Morisset although he did not have access to all records and he was not aware of all the Morisset family details.
Professor John Turner an esteemed historian and author of Newcastle University was a supporter of Morisset and he was known to refer to the book by Robert Hughes as “The Fatal Slur”
Dan O’Donnell who wrote historical stories on the History of Newcastle and the people. He encouraged us to write more about James Morisset.
John Delaney, a well-respected and valued historian of Newcastle. In his book on “Newcastle Its first 20 years”, he states that:
“ when one thinks of the highly paid executive of today, one has to wonder how they would have handled the onerous problems and the multiplicity of duties needed as Commandant”.
Mr Delaney also thought that Morisset was the best Commandant that Newcastle ever had. Such a pity the local historians of the Newcastle Herald do not have a similar view but prefer to follow the radical and unproven stories.
Modern day critics who might be horrified by the punishments dealt to convicts many of whom were hardened criminals transferred to places of secondary punishment (much like reoffending criminals in our gaols today) should look at the codes for discipline in the time period of the day and not be so quick to condemn such punishments. Law and order especially in the military was harsh and punishments more severe than dealt to convicts. Remember that up to World War 1 soldiers were executed for falling asleep on duty – that is harsh.
The 48th Regiment and Morisset in particular were due to return to England for a much earned period of leave. The 48th left but the Governor still had further duties for James Thomas Morisset.
There were problems in Bathurst between the settlers and the indigenous Wiradjuri people. The Governor was being harassed by the Sydney property owners who complained of their stock and stockmen being killed by natives. This of course was due to the rapid expansion of the Bathurst plains and more settlers moving into the area. The Wiradjuri people were led by a young and brave warrior named Windradyne who was doing his best to ensure the safety of his people and retain their tribal lands.
Morisset was sent into the fray to attempt some sort of reconciliation between the settlers and the native population. This was a very difficult situation and probably made worse by Brisbane proclaiming Martial Law. The biggest problem facing James Morisset was the lawlessness of the settlers who were intent on removing the aboriginal population from their land. Atrocities were committed on all sides and Morisset was extremely distressed when a group of settlers attacked and killed natives and he arrested the perpetrators and sent them to Sydney for trial. He was over ruled due to Governor Brisbane’s use of martial law. Morisset had Windradyne brought in and he kept him imprisoned for some time and we have no doubt this time was spent with Morisset trying to reason the Wiradjuri leader to surrender and save his tribe.
Some writers have tried to claim that soldiers were the main culprits in this confrontation but that is not true. The soldiers were foot soldiers and not only did they not have horses to pursue the natives, the majority of the soldiers could not ride a horse. Morisset tried in vain to order horses and saddles from Sydney but to no avail. The realisation by the rulers in England of the vastness of the land and this inability to search and pursue any criminals led to the eventual formation of the Mounted Police.
Luckily the natives knew their land and were able to escape detection on many occasions. Windradyne eventually gave up and attended the annual assemblage of aboriginals which was hosted by the Governor. No doubt Morisset attended this gala prior to leaving for England for a well-deserved rest and overdue leave.
Major Morisset received high praise in a report from Sir Thomas Brisbane to London in regard to his judgement, prudence and moderation in settling the situation in Bathurst.
The Sydney Gazette dated 6th January, 1823 published an editorial on hearing of the intention to relieve Major Morisset of his duties in Bathurst prior to his return to England. This paper wrote that an eyewitness reported,
“ that the improvements made at Bathurst by Morisset are truly astonishing. It said that the Commandant had not lost sight of the comfort of the unfortunate but deserving prisoners of the crown. He keeps them diligently employed, at the time looks to their necessities. Within about a quarter of a mile of the town, a neat street of comfortable huts or cottages have been erected, solely for the prisoners. The town is considerably altered for the better”
When Morisset first arrived in Bathurst he sent a report to the Governor detailing the state of the settlement. His report stated that very little was in the stores and an inventory would be sent as soon as possible. One complaint was that not a sheet of paper nor any certificates or reports forms were available. Morisset’s predecessor was William Lawson of the Blue Mountains fame and a veteran soldier. Lawson was more occupied with settling on his property “Veteran Hall” at Prospect than administering the settlement of Bathurst.
No Commandant was more prolific in generating meticulous reports and letters than James Thomas Morisset as can be evidenced by the large amount sent to the Governor and the Colonial Secretary.
Before we send James Thomas Morisset back to England on leave we must mention Johanna Deasey. There are a number of spelling for Johanna’s surname. We have not been able to establish the exact relationship of James and Johanna but we do know that Johanna gave birth to a son, Ambrose Gripus Australia Morisset and Ambrose was baptised on 6 Feb 1825 at St John’s Church, Parramatta and his father’s name was recorded as James Thomas Morisset. Did James know of the birth of Ambrose? This is an unknown but we do know that Johanna with her son Ambrose moved to Newcastle to stay with her mother in 1825. Johanna had another relationship with a William Innes and a daughter was born. Johanna married in 1828 to Thomas Davies an ex-convict and they had a number of children. Ambrose took his step father’s surname and he later married but there were no children. We did make contact with the descendants of Johanna who were pleased to know of a link to a well-known pioneer of Australia in James Thomas Morisset.
Prior to his departure from New South Wales in 1823 Major Morisset had received a request from the Governor’s Secretary, Mr Hay, to write a report on Convict Control. We do not know the result of this report as we have been unable to locate such a copy.
Morisset did report for duty on his arrival in England and he requested an appointment as Commandant of the soon to be reopened penal settlement on Norfolk Island. This appointment was granted and Morisset was also promoted to Lieutenant Colonel.
The penal establishment on Norfolk Island was decreed by the Government to be a place of secondary punishment and only habitual and the worst criminals were to be sent to Norfolk and they were not expected to leave the Island.
It is our belief that Morisset saw his time in Newcastle as one of successfully rehabilitating convicts and that his rapport with them led him to believe he could reform the prisoners to be sent to Norfolk.
Major Morisset sailed from Sydney in January 1825 to return to England for a well-deserved period of leave. He was busy catching up with his family whilst on leave. At this time he met Emily Louisa Vaux who was the daughter of John Vaux and Elizabeth Louisa Liddiard. John Vaux was a retired Deputy Commissary General and Elizabeth’s mother was the sister of Lord Craven of Coombe Abbey in England. The Vaux family lived on the Isle of Wight.
In 1826 James was witness to the marriage of Emily’s sister, Julia Prudence Vaux and William Lukin. In 1827 he was again a witness to a marriage this time for his sister Eliza Morisset and Hugh Hughes.
James and Emily were married on 2 May 1826 at Newchurch Ryde, Isle of Wight. Their daughter who was to become my GG.grandmother was born in England. Janetta Louisa Morisset was born 28 Feb 1827 and she was baptised on 2 Apr 1827 at Sevenoaks, Kent, England.
James and his family departed England on board the ship “Harmony” and arrived in New South Wales on 27 September 1827 where he was expecting to take on the role of Commandant of Norfolk Island.
He did not foresee that this appointment would not cater for a married man and there was no accommodation available for his family. He was extremely disappointed and refused to leave without Emily. It was possible that he would return to London. The Governor ordered the construction of a new Government House with accommodation suitable for a family and women were allowed back on Norfolk Island. In the meantime James Morisset was given the position of Police Superintendant of Sydney. This was very interesting especially for the number of newspaper articles praising his handling of all cases brought before him when sitting Magistrate. Morisset also cleaned up the drunkenness which was causing chaos in the streets as especially amongst constables responsible for keeping law and order. No drinking establishments were allowed to open on Sundays. He was continually praised in the press for his studious, well-informed and judicious handling of all cases. He was always anxious to go by the law of the day and preferred not to sentence anyone to flogging. He did not wish to send women to the Government factory because of the hard labour involved. He ordered that any woman sent to the stocks was not to be exposed and to have her feet covered. There are many examples of his consideration in sentencing and always taking into account the length of service and previous good conduct of prisoners brought before the bench.
James and Emily had their second child born in Sydney during this period. Edith Julia Eliza Morisset was born on 25 November 1828.
Earlier in the year James and Emily were involved in an accident which caused them to be flung from their carriage with James suffering a severe cut to his forehead and Emily’s injuries to cause serious blood loss.
Prior to departure for Norfolk Island the Sydney Gazette of the day wrote their opinion of Colonel Morisset:
“regards the upright and impartial manner in which he discharged the important duties that he had to perform. Colonel Morisset was an inflexible, but just Magistrate and in the multifarious business which he had to transact we have scarcely heard an instance wherein his conduct did not give complete satisfaction to all parties.”
The Morisset family arrived on Norfolk Island in late 1829 and settled into life at Government House. It was interesting to read an article titled “Government House “A Living National Treasure” by Mr Bruce Baskerville. The article described the contribution made by Emily Morisset and there is no doubt Emily had good taste in her decoration of Government House on Norfolk Island. The furniture in the house was mostly brought to the island by the family. This wonderful building is available to viewing by the public on special open days.
Emily Morisset gave birth to three more children: firstly their son Edric Norfolk Vaux Morisset, then two more daughters, Fleurette and Laura Theresa. It has been stated that Turtle Bay on Norfolk was renamed Emily Bay in honour of Mrs Morisset but no official record has been found of the naming.
Emily was no doubt very happy when her brother Henry Edward Vaux was posted to Norfolk as the Deputy Commissary. Henry was a graduate of Oxford College due to his patronage by Lord Craven. A well read and gentle person whose companions were his two dogs who always accompanied him on his fishing trips around the Island.
There were many daily distractions and visitors arriving amongst them the well-known botanist Allan Cunningham and in his diary he wrote how he was grateful for the kindness and the assistance given to him by Colonel Morisset.
Judge Dowling sent to the Island to hold court for convicts who had committed murder was also in praise of the kindness shown to him by Colonel and Mrs Morisset.
Lieutenant Foster Fyans arrived as second in command as he wrote that he was received by the Commandant and his lady, Mrs Morisset with much kindness. Foster also wrote that Colonel Morisset was friendly and affable which is in contrast to the person who was described as vicious and cruel.
In 1831, Mr Rennoldson the Commander of the Brig “Queen Charlotte” was accidently shot during the accidental discharge of a musket by a guard. Colonel Morisset immediately had Mr Rennoldson taken to Government House for medical treatment. Distressingly for all concerned Mr Rennoldson died from the wound but mention must be made of a report in the Sydney Gazette at the time of the incident.
“ The solicitude of Colonel Morisset and the attention he paid to the necessities of the unfortunate young man during his sickness, was characteristic of that philanthropy and benevolence which ever formed a prominent feature in that officer’s character.”
Sadly Norfolk Island was the downfall of James Morisset in his endeavour to administer control and rehabilitation of the prisoners on the Island. Some of these men were habitual criminals, desperate and will attempt anything to escape life on an island where there is no escape. Times had also changed for Morisset as he now had a devoted wife and growing family to consider.
The only written account by a convict was that of Laurence Frayne. Frayne was no doubt a troubled young man with no respect for authority or his fellow man. He was an habitual offender prior to and whilst on Norfolk Island. His writing have been held up as evidence against Morisset but this is unreliable writing. Morisset attempted to talk to him on numerous occasions but the final offence was too much. Frayne broke into Government House where the Commandant and his family were sleeping. Frayne entered the rooms of two female assigned convicts and assaulted them sexually. These women were immediately returned to Sydney but all Frayne could do was boast of his conquest.
Frayne was later transferred from Norfolk where he continued with more offences.
A mutiny occurred which would have caused terror amongst the families living on Norfolk as the plans the mutineers had for their victims is appalling and should confirm that these men were nothing more than murderers.
Colonel Morisset had made requests to be relieved of his position on Norfolk Island as it had become apparent to him that this was no place in which to raise a family.
Governor Burke denied his requests and in desperation in January 1834 Morisset wrote to Mr Robert Hay, The Undersecretary for the Colonies:
“I have been induced to take this step by the consideration of my large and increasing family, chiefly girls the eldest seven years and the youngest five months old, whom it becomes highly necessary to withdraw from an abode so unfit for them, as well as by the expectation of the Medical Officer here, that my health has considerably suffered from the constant harrowing nature of the duties of this Station.”
Morisset’s health deteriorated to such an extent he was bedridden and unable to enforce calm during the dreadful mutiny. There is no doubt that due to his age and the years spent in combat in India and the Peninsular Wars that he was suffering from what we know today as PTSD. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. A common disorder amongst those who have suffered trauma in their lives and it is most common to soldiers. Sometimes the worst cases of stress occur many years after the initial trauma and new events can cause a severe breakdown.
James Morisset was almost immediately returned to Sydney for medical treatment and there was no time for Emily and the children to leave with him.
Emily and the children had the protection of her brother Henry and Lieutenant Fyans, his fellow officers and soldiers.
Tragically this was not to last as Henry Vaux was swept off rocks whilst fishing and he was not seen again. His companion dogs leapt into the water but they also drowned. One cannot imagine how distressed Emily Morisset would have been at the loss of a beloved brother and her husband now desperately ill in Sydney. These events all happening within weeks. The family immediately packed and were on the next ship back to New South Wales.
Lieutenant Colonel Morisset was granted leave in order to recover and the family lived in Sydney until a position was granted as the Police Magistrate in Bathurst. His appointments included Commissioner of the Court of Requests and a Commissioner for Insolvent Estates and Visiting Magistrate to the goal at Bathurst.
Morisset’s applications for land grants were received with mixed results due to his arrivals and departures and the positions that he administered being between Military and Civil appointments. At one stage land was granted at an area originally known as Canberry Plains which was between the now known places of Canberra and Queanbeyan. This resulted in Morisset Street in Queanbeyan being named after James Morisset.
Morrisset Street in Bathurst also named after Lieutenant Colonel Morisset.
Another grant was north of Sydney in the area known as Brisbane Water but when Morisset discovered that it had been given to another grantee during his absence he withdrew his offer of the grant.
James Morisset obtained land in 1838 near Bathurst in the county of Wellington which today is near the town of Orange. This property of 2,560 acres was at Nandillion Ponds and was named by the Morissets as “Ammerdown”.
James and Emily Morisset later sold the property in the same year for a large sum of money to John Bowler. It is not known where the family were living in Bathurst or if they were in Kelso.
During his busy time as Chief Magistrate of Bathurst and surrounds James Morisset was involved in many community positions. He was appointed as a Director of the Bank of Australia which had opened a branch in Bathurst.
A serious blow to the family’s financial position was the collapse of the Bank owing many of its creditors. James Morisset had invested the sale of his commission and the property sale into this bank.
Emily wrote in a later petition that her husband as an appointed director or shareholder he felt responsible for loss of monies not only by himself but for all the others who had monies in the bank. Mrs Morisset said that her husband continued working and putting much of his salary back into the receivership. He may have been the only person to do this.
The following was written by Emily in a petition:
“Shareholder in the Bank of Australia by investing therein the whole of the proceeds arising from the sale of his Commission as well as of other monies which he had accumulated during his life became involved in the ruin which befell that Establishment and although not in fact a party to any of the transactions which were the immediate cause of the disaster, was, in common with the other Shareholders responsible for its liabilities and being so responsible not only lost the whole of the money which he had invested in the Bank but was obliged to part with all his other property and for some years gave up a portion of his Salary as Police Magistrate (his sole remaining source of profit) to pay off the portion allotted to him of such liabilities;”
Needless to say James Morisset continued to work tirelessly in his position as only a dedicated and conscientious person would do.
Family life continued and was mostly happy and socially active for the family. More children were born namely Otho, Rudolf, Ronan, Aulaire, Ada and Pauline.
In 1847 Emily’s younger brother John Vaux arrived in Australia. John Vaux had been a member of the Honourable East India Company and he had been a ship owner and captain working for the Jardine Company. John Vaux sailed between India and Hong Kong with cargoes of opium for the Chinese trade.
John Vaux received civil positions in Bathurst and Hartley. A letter written by John to my ggreat grandmother Janetta prior to her marriage remains in the possession of Morisset descendants. Emily would have been thrilled to have her brother now living in Australia but this happiness was not to last.
The youngest child of James and Emily was Pauline Caroline Morisset but sadly Pauline died in May 1849 at age 2 years and 8 months. A family vault was built in the burial ground of the Holy Trinity Church of Kelso, New South Wales.
Another tragic event for Emily was the death in January 1851 of her brother John. He was found dead in Bligh Street in Sydney. Cause of death was not recorded but suspicion is that he died from an opium overdose or a mugging. John Vaux is buried in the Camperdown Cemetery in Sydney.
In August 1852 the worst event for Emily and her children was the death of their beloved husband and father James Thomas Morisset.
The Bathurst Free Press quote at the time of his death:
“ he has served his country with fidelity and zeal during the best years of a long life-time, in both of which he has seen hard service, and is not unworthy of its favourable remembrance.”
Mr B. Champion, the noted Newcastle historian in his writing to the Royal Australian Historical Society wrote the following:
“ In August 1852, Colonel J.T. Morisset answered his last roll call, having been on the active list for fifty-four years.”
It has not been determined how many financial difficulties faced Emily and the family at that time but Emily Morisset did submit a petition requesting assistance in the form of a pension due to the long and difficult service given to the country by her dedicated husband.
We have not been able to find the result of Emily Morisset’s petition but to quote B. Champion again:
“the family certainly deserved well of the Government”
In his last will and testament James Thomas Morisset bequeathed all to his dear wife Emily. Probate granted to Emily Morisset in November 1852.
This is our family story of James Thomas Morisset and we have only taken notice of the facts written in historical records and ignored ravings and ranting’s in books and papers submitted by those who have used unreliable memoirs and have twisted quotes into their own interpretations.
As accused by one author of wanting to white wash our family this is not true as we can only judge a person by the historical records, family writing and the character of all family ancestors and descendants.
We believe that James Thomas Morisset was a truly remarkable man who is worthy of respect and admiration for the dedication of his long and meritorious service to this country. His achievements should be held up with pride and not denigrated by today’s writers.
Emily Morisset (nee Vaux)
In 1855 Emily and four of her children departed Australia for the port of London sailing on-board the ship “Cyclone”.
Emily’s elderly parents lived in Barfield Cottage, Ryde on the Isle of Wight.
Emily’s mother Elizabeth died in 1861 and her father John Vaux died in 1862.
Emily has now lost her beloved husband, a child, her parents and both brothers.
Emily remained living in Kent Cottage on the Isle of Wight with her daughters, Ada and Laura until they departed London on-board the ship “Duncan Dunbar” arriving in New South Wales in December 1862.
Two of Emily’s sons had also sailed to England but Aulaire returned in 1859 and it is not confirmed who the other son was but possibly Ronan and his return date unknown.
Emily returned to Sydney and eventually purchased a property in McDougall Street, North Sydney where she resided until her death in 1892. Emily is buried in the cemetery of St Thomas now known as the Heritage Listed St Thomas’ Rest Park in North Sydney.
Much more could be written on the life of Emily Morisset as she was obviously a remarkable woman and one of great strength of character. There is no doubt she was very supportive and protective of her beloved husband and she would be appalled to find that he had not been given the respect that he truly deserves by the historians and writers of today.
The children of James Thomas and Emily Louisa (nee Vaux) Morisset:
Janetta Louisa Morisset The eldest child was who was born in England and Janetta is my Ggreat grandmother. Janetta married in 1850 in the Holy Trinity Church of Kelso to Prosper John de Mestre. They lived in Millbank Cottage at Terrara, New South Wales. They had 6 children but sadly Prosper John died in 1863 leaving a young widow and children. Janetta remarried to a Shoalhaven Solicitor , Thomas Morton Richards who had emigrated from Wales. Janetta and Thomas had a son. Janetta was very involved in the local church in Terrara and later in Cambewarra. Following the death of her second husband Janetta moved to Sydney where she lived in Chatswood again becoming involved in church activities and teaching children at Sunday School. Janetta was also a member of the temperance society “Band of Hope”.
Janetta died in 1918 and she was buried in Gore Cemetery in Sydney.
Edith Julia Eliza Morisset was born in Sydney and she was to become perhaps the rebellious child of the family or one of the most unfortunate. At age 22 Edith married James Cassidy, the son of an Irish catholic ex-convict. At the time of her marriage Edith was 5 months pregnant and she married in St Stephen’s catholic church in Bathurst. Edith had 5 children and it is not known what went wrong in her marriage but possibly infidelity on the part of her or her husband but Edith disappeared from her family.
It is known that Edith moved to Melbourne and changed her name to Emily Jane and she lived with a Thomas Mayflower Crispe. Both Edith/Emily and Thomas are buried together in the Melbourne General Cemetery.
Her family continued to look for Edith by placing advertisements in local newspapers.
Edric Norfolk Vaux Morisset born on Norfolk Island. Edric commenced his schooling in Bathurst but then went to the King’s School in Parramatta. In 1853 Edric was appointed to the Native Police Force and in 1857 he became the Commandant of the Native Police Force and Inspector of the Police in Queensland. Edric married in 1860 to Eliza Lawson at St Bartholomew’s Church in Prospect, New South Wales but Eliza was unable to cope with the Queensland heat and humidity in Rockhampton where Edric was based.
Edric resigned and returned to New South Wales to take up a position with the Police Force in Bathurst. Edric also served in Maitland and lastly in Goulburn where he died in 1887 and he is buried in the local cemetery. Edric and Eliza did not have children.
Fleurette Morisset was proud to have been born on Norfolk Island.
Little is known of her life but she first married in Bathurst in 1853 to Andrew Kinsman but just two years later at age 35 Andrew died. They had one son, Andrew who died in Newcastle in 1892.
Fleurette married second to Carl Reimenschneider who was born in Havana, Cuba and he became a naturalised Australian in 1856. They had 9 children.
It is in this family where we start to see the paranoia that existed in Australia during the period of the first world war all because of the name Reimenschneider which people associated with German sounding names. Whilst the family never had any connection to Germany it caused such pain that some of them changed their surname back to Morisset. Now we have the Morisset name being cast aspersions upon because of the sudden love affair of convicts.
Fleurette lived a long and by accounts a happy life in Sydney. She died in Stanmore in 1923 and she is buried in the Church of England cemetery at Waverley Cemetery.
Laura Theresa Morisset was another daughter born on Norfolk Island. Laura travelled to London with her mother in 1855 and returned to New South Wales in 1862. As Laura’s brothers Edric and Rudolf were employed in Queensland it is believed they met her future husband, Philip Frederic Sellheim. Philip Sellheim was born in Austria and he became a naturalised Australian at Bowen, Queensland in 1862. Laura and Philip were married in Balmain in 1865. Philip Sellheim had been exploring around North Queensland with William Dalrymple and Ernst Henry before settling on a sheep station called Stanmore. The sheep were not suitable to the Queensland climate so Philip moved onto managing the “Valley of Lagoons” station. He and Laura lived here with the assistance of Laura’s brother Ronan Morisset.
In 1874 Philip Sellheim was appointed to the Queensland Public Service and he was made Warden of the newly opened Palmer River goldfields. This area was truly pioneer country with all types including thousands of Chinese all vying for their search for gold.
In 1878 tragedy struck with Laura contracting gulf fever or malaria which lasted several days before taking her life leaving behind a devastated husband and a very young family. Laura was buried in Maytown on the Palmer River and thankfully her grave is kept in good repair by the Cooktown Historical Society.
Laura and Philip’s children were sent to live in Sydney with their grandmother Emily Morisset and Aunt Ada, sister of Laura. The eldest son was Victor Conradsdorf Morisset Sellheim born in Balmain and educated at Brisbane Grammar. Victor was a renowned figure in the Military and he had a very distinguished career in the South African War and World War I. He served on the Military Board with rank of Major General. He married Susan Henrietta Howell Griffith in Townsville and due to the numerous appointments held by Victor they had a very busy social life especially in Melbourne.
Again the paranoia of a German sounding name was raised and this time in Parliament questioning the integrity of a much decorated and brave soldier but this did not deter the affable Victor and he proudly retained his surname.
In 1827 Major General Sellheim resigned from the Army and he was appointed as the new administrator of Norfolk Island. Victor was extremely pleased to be following in the footsteps of his much revered grandfather James Morisset.
Sadly this appointment was not long as Victor Sellheim died suddenly of a heart attack in January 1928 and he was buried with full military honours in Kingston Cemetery on Norfolk Island.
Victor had inherited his grandfather’s medals which along with Victor’s own medals and awards are now held in safe custody at the Mitchell Library in Sydney being donated by Victor’s wife Mrs Susan Sellheim.
Casimir Vaux Sellheim the second son of Laura and Philip was born at the Valley of Lagoons Station in Queensland and he also served with distinction in the South African or Boer War.
He also completed special service during WW1 by leading Italian Reservists in Australia back to service for the Italian Army. Casimir did change his name to Morisset.
Leonore Isabel Sellheim youngest child and only daughter of Laura and Philip who was only 4 years of age when her mother died. Leonore was raised by her grandmother and aunt in Sydney and she remained living with Ada. Leonore married the Reverend Frederick Wilkinson in 1914.
Otho Bathurst Palmer Morisset was born in 1835 in Bathurst. Very little is known of Otho but he was a Superintendant of Stock and he never married. His grave is at St Thomas’s cemetery, North Sydney.
Rudolf Roxburgh Morisset was the dashing and daring son nicknamed ‘Dosh’. He loved horse racing mainly as a jockey and his exploits at the racing track were well published. Like his brother Edric he was educated at King’s School in Parramatta leaving in 1852 after the death of his father. Also like Edric he was with the Mounted Native Police Force in Queensland. Rudolf held appointments as a Police Magistrate in many areas in New South Wales, namely Sydney, Wilcannia, Menindie, Hill End and finally at Deniliquin where he died and is buried in 1887. Rudolf married Margaret Clarke in Port Curtis and they had one son, Charles Seymour Morisset.
Ronan Kelso Morisset was born in 1840 in Bathurst. Ronan was possibly the loner of the family but we do know that he adored his sister Laura and he spent a lot of time living with the family in Queensland. He was a drover moving many large herds of cattle from North Queensland stations to Cooktown and Cairns. He also took beef cattle to the goldfields of the Palmer River. Ronan also attended the King’s School but only for a short time and also left following the death of his father. We believe he travelled to London with his mother in 1855. Ronan was a storyteller and he was a very fastidious dresser and was always immaculately attired. Ronan lived in Kuranda in Queensland until senility saw him transferred to the Goodna mental institution in Ipswich. He died there in 1929 aged 89 years and is buried in the Ipswich General Cemetery.
Aulaire Liddiard Morisset was born in Bathurst in 1841and he definitely travelled to London with his mother in 1855 before returning to New South Wales in 1859 on board the ship “Camperdown”. Whilst overseas Aulaire became aware of his ancestry and connections to the Craven family as this is reflected in the names of his children. Aulaire was also an officer with the Native Mounted Police in Queensland and he spent many years travelling his vast area of surveillance mostly on horseback. Towards the end of his career with the police he was charged with various accusations and had to face a Commission of Inquiry. The charges of anger and verbal abuse to his staff was no doubt caused by too many years in the harsh climate and arduous duties required in isolated areas of North Queensland. Perhaps he was suffering from the disorder known as “gone troppo”. Aulaire also spent time in Roma and Ipswich. He had married Elizabeth Macarthur in Bowen Queensland in 1877.
Aulaire’s lifestyle took its toll on his health and his marriage with his wife Elizabeth moving to live in Brisbane with their children whilst Aulaire remained in North Queensland with his policing duties. They had 7 children and Aulaire died in Townsville in 1919 and he is buried in the Townsville General Cemetery.
Ada Gulnare Morisset born in Kelso in 1843. Ada lived with her mother in North Sydney and travelled with her to London in 1855. Ada also cared for her sister Laura’s daughter Leonore. Ada died at her home in North Sydney in 1912 and she is buried with her brother Otho at the cemetery of St Thomas in North Sydney.
Pauline Caroline Morisset the last child of James and Emily Morisset was born in Kelso in 1846 and as mentioned she died in 1849 aged 2 years and 8 months. Pauline and her father James are the only members buried in the family vault in the Pioneer Cemetery in the burial ground of the Holy Trinity Church in Kelso, New South Wales.
This is our story of James Thomas Morisset and his family. All our research has been obtained from historical records, newspaper reports and letters. If there is any dispute with our presentation of this history please do not hesitate to contact us for further information.
Many years of research has been accumulated and we greatly appreciate all the kind assistance from many persons and organisations who have provided us with information.
Ronald and Margaret Thompson
4 Castleroy Court
Albany Creek Queensland 4035
PH: (07) 32613151