‘The main battle was about having enough to eat’. The Story of Australia, Don Watson, Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1984.

The natives are again troublesome…the watch-men were obliged to fire on them…three were left dead on the spot…they brought in with them, as a testimonial, the head of one of those whom they had slain’. An Account of the English Colony at New South Wales, April 1794, David Collins, Brian Fletcher ed. 


1787 – 6 January, Portsmouth:  Eighty-four (84) male prisoners, first of seventy and eighty-three (783) convicted criminals bound for Botany Bay, boarded the transport Alexander for a voyage of 13,000 miles (21,000 km) to New Holland  now Australia.  

May 13th 1787:  The large squadron of eleven (11) ships sailed for Botany Bay. Commanded by Captain Arthur Phillip RN and known in Britain and Australia as the ‘First Fleet’, this armed convoy with a complement of 1500 souls, was an army on the move.

The ration issue for the fleet’s four hundred and forty (440) merchant seamen and two hundred (200) Royal Naval personnel was designed to deliver working seamen approximately 5,200 calories daily.

‘In determining the daily ration no distinction was drawn between the marines and the [male] convicts…Apart from the allowance of spirits the standard adopted was that of troops serving in the West Indies’. Britain’s Convicts to the Colonies, Wilfrid Oldham, Library of Australian History, 1993.

On the voyage of eight (8) months from Portsmouth to Botany Bay, two hundred and forty (245) marines of the Sydney garrison and all five hundred and eight-six (586) male convicts were fed as combatants.

During the long voyage operational status was deemed at ‘stand down’ and reduced to ‘2/3rds of the standard ration of troops serving in the West Indies – 4 & 1/2 lbs flour or biscuit, 4 & 1/2 lbs salted beef  or 2 & 1/2 lbs of salted pork, 2 pints of dried peas, 6 oz. butter, 1/2 rice or an additional 1 lb of flour’. ibid.

Women, thirty-one (31) marine wives and one hundred and ninety-three women convicts, were entitled to 2/3rds the male ration, children 1/4 of that ration.

1 ounce (oz) = 28.3 g and 8 oz = 1/2 pound (lb) = 227 g and 1 pound = 454g and 1 hundredweight = 50.8 kg.


1788 – 18/20 January, Botany Bay: The entire fleet anchored in Botany Bay within thirty-six hours of each other. But thre was insufficient water for such a large number and Captain Phillip set out to find a more suitable location.

1788 – 26th January, Port Jackson: The fleet quit Botany Bay and sailed 9 miles (14 km) north to Port Jackson, Sydney Cove where a stream  – the Tank Stream – proved a reliable source of fresh running water.

Once the fleet’s complement disembarked the Navy Board mandated; ‘full ration be issued [again] no distinction was drawn between marine and [male] convicts’. Oldham

1788 – February: The ration for each male person for 7 days;’7lbs flour/biscuit, 7 lbs salted beef  or 4 lbs salted pork, 3 pints dried peas, 6 oz butter, 8 oz rice or an additional 1 lb flour’ – approximately 3,200 calories. Women and children received their rations; ‘ in the proportions always observed’. Collins

However when Fishburn, Golden Grove and Borrowdale, the fleet’s three (3) stores-ships were unloaded, it was found; ‘every specie of provisions’ was deficient both in quality and quantity.

The Englishmen survived on fish, the Aborigines main protein resource; ‘our customary method was to leave Sydney Cove about four in the afternoon [4pm] and go down in the harbour and fish all night’.

1788 – March: ‘The commissary made a deduction of 12 lb per hundredweight of beef and 8 lbs in the hundred weight of pork… (i.e. 100 lb of beef must be cut into 28 pieces, and 104 lb of pork cut into 56 pieces of pork)’.

1788 – May: An inventory of livestock revealed; ‘7 horses, 2 bulls, 6 cows, 29 sheep, 19 goats, 74 pigs, 18 turkeys, 29 geese, 35 ducks, 122 fowl, 87 chickens and 5 rabbits’. Collins

1788 – 15 May: two (2) bulls and five (5) cows wandered into the bush. The remaining cow, separated from the herd, went mad and was shot. Poultry and pigs did not thrive, while many sheep died  with acidosis the most likely cause.

1788 – June: In cooler months fish leave the Sydney area to spawn; ‘the fish caught were trifling…they [Aborigines] seem very badly off for food, not having any fish’. Phillip

1788 – August: ‘Our stock of flour bore no proportion to the salt beef and pork’.  

1788 – 2 October: HMS Sirius sailed to Africa to buy food for the King’s ships and the settlement.

The Englishmen turned to gathering the; ‘many salutary herbs that made a wholesome drink and [are] of great use to our sick…. Here is spinach, parsley, a sort of broad beans, several unknown vegetable…a sort of green berries that are pronounced a most excellent antiscorbutic [ anti-scurvy] are gathered in abundance and a specie of sorrell, all of a peculiar fine acid’. Collins

1788 – November: With warmer weather fish returned in greater numbers and Supply’s trawling nets were deployed every other day. Aborigines and Europeans competed with ‘unabated animosity’ for the same resources.


1789 – January/February: Symptoms resulting from sustained semi-starvation; acute anxiety and aberrant behaviours such as food hoarding, demonstrated as typical by the Minnesota Starvation Experiment began to appear as did an increase in thieving even though this attracted severe corporal punishment.

1789 – 25 March: Thieving was not confined to prisoners; ‘7 marines [were] charged and found guilty of stealing from public stores’. Tench

1789 – 27 March:  One (1) of the accused marines turned king’s evidence; ‘at 9 o’clock [6] were executed’. 

1789 – April: Smallpox appeared among the Aboriginal population. Inexplicably the European population that included a significant number of children without acquired immunity escaped the virus.

[ Tench]; ‘the body of the [Aboriginal] woman showed that famine, superadded to disease, had occasioned her death…but how a disease to which our former observations had led us to suppose them strangers could at once have introduced itself and have spread so widely seemed inexplicable’. Tench

1789 8 May: HMS Sirius returned from Cape of Good Hope with medicines, rice and 127,000 lbs of flour. These provisions were meant for Sirius and Supply and what could be spared was for the colony.

1789 – 12 September:‘butter being expended…This was the first of the provisions  brought from England which had wholly failed’. Collins


1790 – 6 March, Norfolk Island: With winter approaching Governor Phillip ordered HMS Sirius and HMS Supply to Norfolk Island with 50% of Sydney’s European population and six (6) months of provisions for their support. Sirius was to sail to China and arrange a rescue. Supply would return to Sydney. .

1790 – 27 March, Sydney: ‘It became necessary to put the colony upon a still shorter ration of provisions….The governor directed that the provisions should in future be served daily…without distinction…the ration issue for the week to consist of 4 lb flour,  2/1/2 pound salted pork, and 1 & 1/2 lbs of rice’. Collins

Work hours were reduced; to begin at sunrise – short break and work until 1 pm; ‘the afternoons were to be allowed the people to receive their provisions and work in their gardens’. 

An anonymous convict letter; ‘To give a just description of the hardships that the meanest of us endure, and the anxieties suffered by the rest, is more than I can pretend to. In all the Crusoe-like adventures I ever read or heard of I do not recollect anything like it’.

1790 –  5 April, Sydney: HMS Supply returned from Norfolk Island with devastating news. HMS Sirius was lost. While landing supplies she hit a submerged reef and, stuck fast, broke up over a number of days. There would be no China rescue.

1790 – 7 April: Supply’s trawling nets were deployed; ‘about four hundred- weight of fish being brought up, it was issued’ to the English.

1790 – 12 April: ‘On 12th of this month, 2 and 1/2 lbs of flour, 2 lbs of pork and 2 lbs of rice – for 7 men for 1 day, at which ration there will be pork until the 26th August, rice until 13th September and flour until the 19th of  December’. Collins

‘When the age of this provision is recollected, its inadequacy will more strickingly appear. The pork and rice were brought with us from England. The pork had been salted between three [3] and four [4] years, and every grain of rice was a moving body from the inhabitants lodged within it’. Tench

1790 – 14 April, Batavia: Governor Phillip ordered Lieutenant Ball, captain of HMS Supply (170 tons) sail to Batavia and ‘purchase for the use of this settlement…200,000 lbs flour, 80,000 lbs of beef,  60,000 lbs of pork and 70,000 lbs of rice’ and charter a Dutch vessel to bring four hundred (400) tons of urgently needed supplies to Sydney as soon as possible. Phillip

1790 – 3 June, Sydney The Lady Juliana from with ‘London on her stern’ was sighted off Sydney Heads; ‘the flags up resounded in every direction’. Tench

A convict transport with two hundred twenty-six (226) female prisoners was the first of four (4) ships that made a second fleet – ‘Britain’s Grim Armada’.

Lady Juliana brought little food for the colony, she did however carry some flour, salted provisions and a small flock of healthy sheep salvaged from Australia’s Titanic – HMS Guardian. On Christmas Eve 1789, on the last leg of her passage Cape Town to Sydney, Guardian, loaded with urgently needed supplies, hit an iceberg.

See: Titanic – HMS Guardian – Australia’s Titanic

1790 – June, Sydney: During the month of June 1790 Suprize, Neptune, Scarborough, the second division ships. reached Sydney. Also on  board were the first contingent of the New South Wales Corps together with; ‘1038 [mainly male] convicts who had embarked at Plymouth, 237 died on the voyage, 486 landed sick…124 died in hospital at Sydney’.

The large number of sick and starving prisoners placed great strain on the settlement’s resources; ‘nearly exhaust[ing] the medicine-chest.’   

1790 – 20 June 20th, Sydney: ‘We were joyfully suprised on the 20th of the month to see another sail [the Justinian] enter the harbour…and our rapture doubled on finding that she was laden entirely with provisions for our use. Full allowance, and general congratulations immediately took place’.

[Tench] ‘Full allowance (if 8 lbs of flour and either 7 pounds of pork, served alternately per week, without either peas, oatmeal, spirits, butter or cheese, can be so called) is yet kept up but if the Dutch snow does not arrive soon [from Batavia] it must be shortened, as the casks in the store house, I observed yesterday are woefully decreased’. Tench

1790 – July, Sydney: ‘fish is by no means plentiful at least, they are not in abundance’. Captain William Hill, New South Wales Corps

‘ They [Aborigines] throng the camp every day and sometimes by their clamour and importunity for bread and meat (of which they now all eat greedily) are become very troublesome. God knows we have little enough for ourselves!’. Tench

1790 – September, Manly Beach:  When a ‘monster’ whale stranded itself at Manly Governor Phillip was rowed from Sydney to examine it, Wileemarin an aboriginal, speared him in the right shoulder..

1790 – 7 September, Sydney: ‘the fishing boats had the greatest success…near 4000 of fish…being taken in 2 hauls of the seine…they were issued to this settlement [Sydney] and to that at Rose Hill’. Collins

1790 – October: Even so thieving escalated and deaths from ‘inanition’ – starvation – increased.

1790 – 19 October, Jakarta: HMS  Supply returned from Batavia after an absence of six (6) months. Lieutenant Ball reported he had chartered Waaksamheyd, a Dutch vessel to bring 400 tons of flour, rice and salted meats from Jakarta to Sydney.

1790 – December: Phillip increased numbers of official hunting parties. Armed convicts accompanied by marines were sent out to shoot game and gather local foods.

1790 – 9 December, Botany Bay: Convict John Mac Intyre,0 Governor Phillip’s game-keeper, known to be hated by local Aborigines was speared by Pemulway at Botany Bay.

1790 – 13 December, Sydney: Phillip’s response to Mac Inytyre’s spearing was to; ‘infuse a universal terror…make a severe example……convince them of our superiority…put 10 to death…cut off and bring in the heads of the slain’. 

‘ For which purpose hatchets and bags [were] provided’. Tench

1790 – 17December; Waaksamheyd arrived from Batavia with medicines, tons of rice, but short of the flour so desperately needed.


February 1791; ‘Notwithstanding the supplies which have arrived from Batavia short allowance was again proclaimed’.

March 26 1791: reduced ration;‘ 4 lbs flour, 5 lbs rice, 7 lb beef or 4 lb pork; women and children over 10 years – 2/3rds, children between 2 and 10 years – 1/2 of the men’s ration, children under 2 years – 1/4 of that ration’.

April 2nd 1791; ration reduced; ‘a long drought has nearly exhausted all the vegetables… 3lbs flour-rice-pork or 4 & 1/2 lb beef…Of this allowance the flour is the best article…rice full of weevil, pork, ill-flavoured, rusty and smoked…the beef lean and cured with spices truly unpalatable’. 

July 1791: Mary Anne, the first of 11 vessels comprising Britain’s third transportation fleet arrived with 144 women convicts  in reasonable condition.

The fleet’s other then (100  ships carried over 2000 mainly male convicts to their exile. On disembarking; ‘their appearance was truly deplorable, the generality of them being weak and emaciated’.

September 21, 1791: HMS Gorgan, the second relief ship sent from England; ‘with stores and provisions for the settlement’ brought thirty (30) male convicts.

November 30th, 1791: The number persons of all description; ‘Sydney – 1259, Rose Hill – 1628, Norfolk Island 1172 – total 4059’.

December 20th, 1791: Rations were  sparse and issued daily.

December 24th, 1791; ‘from the state of the provisions the governor…could only give 1 lb of flour to each woman in the settlement’.

December 25th, 1791; ‘one and twenty (21) gallons of spirits stolen from the stores’ . Christmas night the lock-up was full of drunks.


February 14th, 1792: Pitt the last of the eleven (11) third fleet transports arrived with 319 male and 58 female convicts and 200 officers and men and with Major Francis Grose to take command of the New South Wales Corps.

The Corps had been raised to replace the Sydney marine garrison. The first contingent of the Corps had arrived in June 1790 with the second convict fleet – Britain’s Grim Armada.

March 31st, 1792: Upwards of 200 persons died during the passage of the 3rd fleet, many landing in a desperate state. March saw the death of eighty-seven (87)  convicts; ‘most so thoroughly exhausted that they expired without a groan’.

We have received upwards of 2,000 people by the [3rd] fleet including [200] soldiers of the New South Wales Corps who took passage on the convict transports and the supply of provisions which they brought with them was calculated to serve them for nine [9] months but as we have the same number of people in the colony before they were added and not an ounce [oz] of provisions for them being sent out, it gave us only four [4] months’ supply for the whole. David Collins, cited Jack Egan, Buried Alive, Allen and Unwin, 1999.

April 14th, 1792: Ration reduced; ‘3 lbs flour, 2 pound [locally grown] maize and 4 lb of pork’

May 1792: ‘Flour ration halved’ and replaced with locally grown maize.

June 20th, 1792: Atlantic arrived with food from Calcutta with ‘soujee [Bengal flour], rice and dohll’, unfortunately most was unfit for human consumption and sold at public auction for stock feed.

‘The universal and earnest wish that no cause might ever again induce us to try it [buy food] from that source’. Collins.

July 2nd, 1792: Weekly ration;‘2lbs pork, 4lbs Indian corn, 1 pint bad rice, 1 lb dohll or pea flour, 1 & 1/2 lb of a specie of flour called in Bengal – soujee’.

July 10th, 1792: ‘ several convicts died from feeding on it [maize] in its crude state when carrying the grain to the public granary’.  

July 26th, 1792: Britannia from England with; ‘clothing for the convicts, 4 months of flour, 8 months beef and pork for every description of persons in the settlement [however]  some provisions were short of the manifest…every oz lost here was of importance …1/3 of the meat was found to be lean, coarse and bony’

July 27th, 1792: Increased ration; ‘4 lbs local maize, 3 lbs of soujee, 7 lbs of beef or 4 lbs of pork, 3 pints of peas… usual proportion for women and children’.

Work hours increased; 5 am to 11 am, break until 2pm, then resume until sunset; ‘they are allowed no breakfast now because they have seldom anything to eat’.

October 7th, 1792: Royal Admiral from England with provisions and stores, 289 male and 47 female convicts and 3 free settlers; ‘a miller, a carpenter and a farmer’, 10 male, 2 female prisoners died on the passage.

October 16th, 1792: When Major Grose took command of the New South Wales Corps he found his troops existing on a short ration of ‘unwholesome foods…scarcely shoes to their feet’ their uniforms in tatters.

Despite Governor Phillip’s objection; ‘I am sorry that I cannot, with propriety, take any official step in this business’  Grose, supported some Corps officers and ‘gentlemen of the settlementat their own expense‘, to enter into contract with Mr. Raven, master of Britannia, to ‘fetch a cargo of provisions and [live] stock’ from Cape Town to Sydney where they would be sold by the ‘gentlemen’ for profit.

October 24, 1792: Britannia, sailed for Rio and the Cape of Good Hope on behalf of the officers.

November 1st, 1792: Philadelphia from America,  she was the first of many American ships bringing goods for sale.

Her cargo included; ‘569 barrells of cured beef – 103 lbs in each – as well as wine, rum, gin, tobacco, pitch and tar’. The government bought the beef; ‘what the government did not buy was bought by the gentlemen and officers of the settlement’ and retailed at inflated prices; ‘to convicts and other ready buyers for the wine, rum, gin and tobacco’. 

November 18th, 1792: Kitty from England with 27 male convicts and ‘silver coin’ – the first money to arrive in the colony.

December 3rd, 1792: 1 lb of flour added to weekly ration now; ‘3lb flour, 5 lb rice, 4 lbs pork or 7 lb beef, 3 lb of dahl, 6 oz oil’.

December 11th 1792:  Governor Arthur Phillip ‘after 4 years, 10 months, and 8 days’  in the settlement, together with 2 Aboriginal men – Bennelong  aged about 26 years and Yemmerrawannie aged about 16 years – departed with Phillip for England in the Atlantic; ‘at 3 am Atlantic began to weigh anchor [and] with a light south west following breeze was under way’.   

London failed to appoint a successor to Governor Phillip. [Collins]; ‘ the government of the colony now devolved to [Francis Grose] the major-commandant of the New South Wales Corps’.

December 12th. 1792:  There were 3101 new settlers in the colony, 1256 at Sydney Cove, 1845 at Parramatta and 1121 on Norfolk Island’.

December 28th, 1792: Hope from America-; ‘ speculation…’with a vast quantity [7597 gallons] of spirits as well as provisions which [Major Grose] purchased for the colony’.

December 31st, 1792: Motality: 1 January 1792 – 31 st December 1792; ‘482 deaths of these 418 were male convicts’.

From 1792 the year of [Phillip’s] departure, until 1795 [arrival of Governor Hunter] racketeering officers conducted the government of the settlement, and the New South Corps, a regiment of army derelicts and deliquents raised for this special service relieved the [Sydney garrison] marines. The Australian People 1788-1945, Brian Fitzpatrick, 1951. 


January 1793: Under Governor Phillip, prior to Major Grose assuming control of the settlement‘the free use of spirits had been hitherto most rigidly prohibited in the colony’. Under Grose’s absolute military rule a tsunami grog inundated the colony. In addition, for first time since the foundation of the colony, Major Grose introduced a differential in the ration issue that favoured the military.

January 15th, 1793: Bellona from England with 17 female convicts, 5 settlers, their families, a master black-smith and provisions for the colony. Unfortunately much of Bellona’s cargo was damaged; ‘the ship had been overloaded and had met with very boisterous weather on passage…..Of the articles thus found to be unservicable to the colony, there was not one which in its proper state would not have been valuable’.    

January 26, 1793;rice expended…convicts issued 7 lbs flour in lieu’.  

March 1793: Dholl [ pea-flour] brought on Atlantic expended; In lieu of dholl an additional lb of flour – ‘7lbs per week for convicts, 8 lbs for the military’.

April 1793: work hours reduced;‘ oil expended…6 ozs of suger added…[convicts] groaning under the oppression of a very reduced ration’.  

May 4th,  1793:  for convicts; ‘ flour reduced from 7 lbs to 4 lbs , 4 lbs of Bengal wheat (unground) and 4 lbs local maize (unground)- civil and military previously 8 lbs flour, 2 lbs wheat and 4 lbs of maize reduced to 6 lbs flour per man’.

June 1793: Six months’ supply of provisions sent to Norfolk Island.

June 12th, 1793: General Order;‘Unless supplies arrived before 22nd June [Grose] would be under the disagreeable necessity of ordering the ration to be reduced’. Grose held his hand  for 1 more week; ‘ the putting off…met with general applause’

June 25th, 1793:  ‘the signal was made for a sail, and about 9 o’clock at night the Britannia [from Cape Town] was safe within the Heads, having to a day completed 8 months since she sailed [24 October 1792] hence’. Britannia’s cargo, purchased by the colony’s ‘ officers and gentlemen added little to the benefit of the colony as a whole’ but filled the officers’ deep pockets.

[Collins] From the length of the time which the Britannia had been absent, our observation was forcibly drawn on the distance whereas we were placed from any quarter which could furnish us with supplies.

From all this it was to be inferred, that there should not only be always provisions in the stores for twelve [12] months beforehand; but that, to guard against accidents, whenever the provisions in the colony were reduced to that quantity and no more, then would be the time to dispatch a ship for supplies’.

July 6th, 1793: ‘The commissary has received instructions to reduce the weekly allowance, either 1 lb of pork or 2 lbs of beef, making a proportionate deduction from the women and children’.

A snap-shot of the colony mid-1793- winter: Fish was scarce, Englishmen suffered the effects of prolonged semi-starvation turned to alcohol their; ‘ passion for liquor was so predominant among the [European] people, that it operated like a mania’.

Starving and desperate Aboriginal people were prevented by settler-farmers from hunting and gathering yam other winter foods on their traditional lands centred on the Parramatta and Hawkesbury Rivers.

‘The natives had lately become troublesome, particularly in lurking between the different settlements and forcibly taking provisions and clothing from the convicts who were passing from one to another. One or two convicts having been wounded by them, some small armed parties were sent to drive them away, and to throw a few shot among them but with positive orders to be careful not to take a life’ .

July 15th 1793: Convicts subjected to brutal, unprediticable forms of punishments both physical ( up to 1000 lashes) and psychological such as the mock execution of a young convict Samuel Wright.

* Wright,  aged 14 years when he arrived with the 3rd fleet in 1791, now aged 16 and found guilty of stealing food was sentenced to hang; ‘the change in his fate [reprieve] was not imparted to him until the very moment, when he was about to ascend the ladder’.  

August 7th 1793: Boddington from Cork with 124 male and 20 female convicts who landed in reasonable condition. Boddington’s provisions; ‘228 barrels of flour, 108 tierces pork, 54 tierces beef, 28 bales [clothing] and 13 cases of stores [necessaries]… unlike those of Bellona in good condition’ this amount however thought ‘inconsiderable’. 

August 28th 1793: ‘number victualled from stores 2,849’. 

September 12th 1793: ‘sugar expended…molasses served in lieu’. 

September 17th 1793: Sugar Cane from Cork; 110 male and 50 female convicts in ‘a healthy condition’, a sergeant’s party for the New South Wales Corps. Provisions: ‘192 barrels ( 64,512 lbs) flour, 31,496 lbs beef, 45,440 lbs pork, 17 bales clothing, 5 cases of necessaries and 44 tons of lime-stone’.

October 1793: ‘An alteration took place in the weekly ration the 4 lbs of wheat served to the convicts were discontinued and a substitution of 1 pint of rice, and 2 pints of gram ( an East India grain resembling dholl) took place. The serving of wheat was discontinued for the purpose of issuing it as flour’.

November 23rd 1793: [Collins] ‘This was universally, felt as the worst ration that had even been served from his Majesty’s stores; and by the labouring convict particularly so, as no one article of grain was so prepared for him as to be immediately made use of’.

‘The flour and rice in store being nearly expended, the ration was altered to the following: officers, civil and military, soldiers, overseers, and the settlers from free people, were served of biscuit or flour 2 lbs, wheat 2 lbs, Indian corn 5 lbs, peas 3 pints .

To the male convicts served, women and children receiving in the proportions always observed, of biscuits and flour none, and for the first time since the establishment of the colony wheat [unground] 3 pounds, Indian corn [unground] 5 pounds paddy 2 pints; gram 2 pints.’ 

December 6th – 1793:  ‘frequent storms of this kind …gusts of wind sudden and violent rain’ damaged the Indian corn crop.

December 7th – 1793: ‘flour now entirely exhausted…and a small quantity of Indian corn remaining in the store, the male convicts allowed 8 lbs of new wheat, whole, and only 3 lbs of Indian corn or paddy, were served’.

December 10th – 1793:‘Charles Williams…a boy of 14 years of age tried for stealing …found guilty but unlike Samuel Wright [15 July 1793] he was hanged…the poor wretch to his last moment cherished the idea that he should not suffer….he was executed’.

December 25th  – 1793:‘ the salt meat being the next article which threatened a speedy expenditure…. The British authorities  failed to send supplies of rice, peas, butter and sugar’.

December 28th – 1793: ‘1 lb taken off weekly allowance of beef’.  

December 30th – 1793: [Collins]; ‘ a large party of the natives attacked some settlers who were returning from Parramatta to Toongabbie and took from them all the provisions which they had received from the store’.


As in 1788 Britain had again abandoned her country-men. [Bateson] ‘owing to Great Britain’s preoccupation with the war against France the flow of convicts to Port Jackson dwindled to a mere trickle…eighty-four (84) in 1794. Owing to ‘Britain’s preoccupation’ with her European warsupplies from England to New South Wales also; ‘dwindled to a mere trickle’.

January 1794:  ‘There were no supplies at Sydney to send to Norfolk Island…but at least there maize grew well. Population on Norfolk Island 1009 persons of all descriptions (148 children) 690 on victualling list’.

‘Most of the officers in the colony were allowed people to shoot for them…The game-killer, with the assistance of 6 or 7 greyhounds had killed 3 kangaroos’.

‘Salt provisions at Sydney and Parramatta only 10 weeks supply…viz. 3 lbs per man per week’.

January 1794: ‘About the middle of the month one small cow and a Bengal steer, both private property, were killed, and issued to the NCOs and privates of 2 companies of the New South Wales Corps.

This was but the 3rd time that fresh beef had been tasted by the colonists of this country; once…in the year 1788, and a second time when the lieutenant-governor and the officers of the settlement were entertained by the [visiting] Spanish captains’.

January 18th – 1794: ‘Through the want of flour the consumption of [locally grown wheat] was however very great….this afforded but a gloomy prospect; for it was much feared, that unless supplies arrived in time, the Indian corn would not be ripe soon enough to save the seed-wheat’. 

January 25th – 1794: ‘the grain from Bengal being expended…the public were informed, that from that time no other grain than wheat could be issued….convicts received for their week’s subsistence 3 lbs of pork and 8 lbs of [unground] wheat…issued daily, civil and military 1 lb more of wheat’. 

‘ The certain effect of a reduced ration’; increased thieving from store-houses and gardens, reports of food hoarding  and prisoners dying after eating ‘unground wheat’.

February 1794:  convicts will not work; ‘serving of salt meat alone received and that was to be the food of only half a week ….At this period, it was true, the labouring convict was menaced with the probability of suffering, greater want than had ever been before experienced in these settlements’.

February 1794: ‘The natives were again troublesome this month’. 

February 22nd 1794: ‘the last provision day of this month there remained in the store a quantity of salt meat only sufficient for the inhabitants until the middle of the second week in the next month at which time there would not be an ounce [oz] of provisions left if supplies do not arrive before that period’

March 1794: ‘To save seed-wheat a deduction of 2 lbs was made in that allowance which was served to convictsanxiety strained to the utmost’

[Collins]; ‘The provision-store was never is so reduced a state as at this time; one serving of salt-meat alone remained, and that was to be the food of only half a week. After that period, the prospect, unless we were speedily relieved, was miserable; mere bread and water appeared to be the portion of by far the greater part of the inhabitants of these settlement’.

March 8th – 1794:‘Saturday, the doors of provision-store had closed and the convicts had received their last allowance of salt provisions’….never before had the colony verged so near to the point of being without a [one] lb of salt provisions’.

March 10th – 1794: Sails up! – 2 ships – Arthur from Bengal with; ‘4 months of salted pork at full ration’.

William from England with; ‘a single privileged female prisoner’ and salted beef and pork;‘the full ration of salt meats issued …but not an ounce [oz] of flour on either vessel’. 

April 1794: ”A walking mill constructed at Parramatta….Still no wind or water mills whereby the allowance of locally ground wheat and Indian corn could be issued ground’.

April 1794: ‘ At Toongabbie, where the Indian corn was growing, their [native] visits and their depredations were so frequent and extensive,…that the watch-men were obliged to fire on them…3 were left dead on the spot…they [Englishmen] brought in with them, as a testimonial, the head of one of those whom they had slain’.

 May 24th – 1794: Indispensable a storeship from England with; ’12 months – flour, 4 weeks – beef, 4 weeks – pork, 14 weeks – peas…full ration of flour issued – 8lbs flour, 7 lbs beef or pork, 3 lbs of peas in lieu of Indian corn…the whole of the [locally grown] Indian corn purchased by the Commisary for the government’.

June 1st – 1794: Britannia [Mr. Raven] from Africa’; with sugar, a large and comfortable supply of grog… 200,000 pounds of beef and pork, for…officers and gentlemen’.   

June 8th – 1794: Speedy from England with; ‘stores, provisions and clothing’.

June 30th- 1794: [Collins]; ‘the colony never more so favourable an appearance as at this period; our public stores filled with wholesome provisions, and wheat enough in the ground to promise the realizing of many  a golden dream’.

July 1794: Halcyon from America;‘with cargo of provisions and liquor on speculation….The whole of the spirits was purchased by the officers of the settlement and the garrison at the rate of 6 shillings a gallon’ and sold by them at exorbitant prices.

July 1794: Hope returned to the settlement; ‘laden with spirits’ for sale.

December 1794: Ration –  Military, civil, free people and settlers; ‘8 lbs flour, 7 lbs, beef or 4 lbs pork, 3 pints peas, 6 oz sugar’.

Convicts;  ‘4lbs flour, 7lbs beef  or 4lbs pork, 3 pints peas, 6 ozs sugar 3 pints rice… women and children in usual proportion’.  


One (1) convict arrived during 1795.

January 22nd  – 1795: ‘Heavy  rains…convict women who had children received for each child 3 yards of flannel, 1 shirt and 2 onz. of soap’.

March 15th – 1795: ‘anxiously expecting an arrival from England’.

May 1795: ‘From the reduced state of salted provisions, it became necessary to diminish the ration of that article to each person 1/2 the beef and 1/2 the pork was stopped at once….In some measure to make this great deduction lighter, 3 pints of peas were added’.

This circumstance induced the commanding officer[ Captain William Paterson] hire Britannia to proceed to India for a cargo of salted provisions’.

May 1795: ‘At that settlement [Hawkesbury] an open war seemed about this time to have commenced between the natives and the settlers….two settlers killed by them…Captain Paterson directed a party of the troops to be sent from Parramatta, with instructions to destroy as many as they could meet with of the wood tribe.

And, in the hope of striking terror, to erect gibbets in different places, whereon the bodies of all they might kill were to hung. …Some prisoners were taken, and sent to Sydney man, (apparently a cripple) 5 women, and some children.

 One of the women, with a child at her breast, had been shot through the shoulder and the same shot had wounded the babe. They were immediately placed in a hut near our hospital [Sydney] and every care taken of them that humanity suggested….The man …said to be a cripple…escaped.   

June 15 – 1795: On departure of Major Grose ( December 1794) Captain William Paterson his second-in-command, had taken control of the colony. Paterson’s signature appeared on a ‘contract for hire of Britannia by the government dated 15 June 1795 …[to] purchase as much salt meat as possible’.

June 18th – 1795: ‘ As the state of the settlement at the time of Britannia’s departure required every exertion to be made in procuring an immediate supply of provisions…Mr. Raven [Britannia’s master] directed to go to [not to India but to]Batavia to procure a cargo of European beef’.   

July 1795:‘Salted provisions all expended…except for a few casks reserved for NCOs and private soldiers….We now have locally grown grain sufficient for our consumption from crop to crop’.

July 11th – 1795: ‘For the first time, since the establishment of this colony that they [convicts] had gone from the store without receiving either salted or fresh provisions… unground Indian corn – 12 lbs, rice – 5lbs, dohll – 3 pints, sugar – 1 &1/2 lbs – sugar.

 Military: ‘2 lbs salt pork, 12 lbs – Indian corn,  3 pints – peas , 6 ozs -sugar’.   

August 1795:‘salt provisions… scant… 2 Cape cows slaughtered to eke out the salt meat that was reserved for the military. Storms, rains… much damage to crops…livestock perished in flood’.

August 1795:  Hungry Aborigines ‘turbulent’.

September 7th – 1795: HMS Reliance from England with Bennalong and Governor John Hunter – Phillip’s successor. Yemmerrawannie had died in England and was buried there. 

Soon after Governor Hunter arrived he wrote to his superiors in London reporting he; ‘ was alarmed by the fact that during the interregnum [December 1792-Sepetember 1795] the whole concerns of the colony [had been] taken into the hands of the military’.   

October 1795: Young William  from England with provisions resulted in a small increase for the convicts; ‘5 lbs 10 oz of beef, 10 &2/3 ozs pork, 4 lbs flour, sugar decreased to 6 ozs of sugar… military – a 2lb increase in flour’.

November 1795: Harvest good

November 5th – 1795: Sovereign from England with provisions; ‘ full ration [8 lbs] of salt meats issued to the military…to recompense them for the hard duty lately fallen on the regiment’.

The hard duty’ ; war with Aborigines at the Hawkesbury.

For convicts; ‘longer working hours restored’.

December 1795:  sudden fierce storms, crops cut to pieces by hail.


During 1796 three hundred and fifty three ( 353) convicts landed alive.

January 1796: [Hunter] ‘ Many robberies …daily and nightly committed…some steps should be taken to put a stop to an evil [drunkeness and gaming] so destructive of the happiness and comfort of the industrious inhabitants.’

Governor Hunter’s attempts to assert his authority met with vitriolic resistance from the military.  

January 23rd – 1796: Ceres from England with; ‘stores and provisions for the settlement’.

February 1796: ‘Harvest good’ –  war with Aborigines continued at the Hawkesbury River.

February 1796: Marquis of Cornwallis, a convict transport from Ireland with 233 prisoners embarked, 163 males and 70 females landed alive, 11 male prisoners died on passage. The ship also carried a detachment of the New South Wales Corps.

[Bateson] ‘and as with so many of this corps [they] proved unreliable and mutinous’. The ship ‘ had the most eventful passage in these years [1788-1800]’Marquis of Cornwallis also carried provisions for the crews of the king’s ships Reliance and Supply.

March 1796: Trouble on Hawkesbury not confined to Aborigines; ‘spirituous liquor stolen from stores… settlers immersed in intoxication… consuming their subsistence in drunkenness…riots and madness marked their conduct…attributed to spirits’.

March 31st – 1796: Indispensable, a convict transport with 131 women prisoners 2 died on passage. The ship also brought considerable amounts of spirits; ‘so much of it made its way to the [Hawkesbury] River’.

May 11th – 1796: Britannia from Calcutta; ‘for the government a valuable cargo of salted meats and a small quantity of rice…some cows and a horse for private officers’.

June 1796: Governor Hunter again tried to exert his authority, implementing a census of sorts; ‘to ameliorate the many evils that were daily seen flowing from the state of dissipation which has found its way into the different settlements…all persons off the store, who…did not labour for the government were ordered to Sydney for a muster’.  

August 1796: Salted meats being scant; ‘2 lbs fresh pork issued in proportion to 1 lbs salt pork’.

August 31st – 1796‘flour expended’.

Total number victualled 3645; at Sydney 2219, Parramatta 965, Hawkesbury 454. Beef enough for 31 weeks, pork – 44 weeks, peas – 22 weeks, wheat – 29 weeks, maize – 41 weeks, sugar – 4 weeks’.

August 1796: Captain David Collins Judge-Advocate of the colony since its foundation on 26th January 1788 departed for England on Britannia.

September 29th – 1796:  An Account Of  The English Colony At New South Wales, Vol. 1, David Collins [Brian Fletcher ed.]…’must here be closed for a time, the writer being embarked in the Britannia on his return to England’.

‘The former Account [Vol. 1] of the English Colony of New South Wales…was brought up to the 29th September 1796’; Brian Fletcher ed. 

October 1796: Those off government stores, left to fend for themselves,  mainly ex-convicts some armed with guns, described as ‘turbulent and dissatisfied [commit] atrocious crimes’.

October 1796: Governor Hunter in a General Order aimed at keeping track of ex-convicts introduced; ‘the numbering of houses, dividing them into sections… appointing to each division a principal inhabitant to keep good order’.

November 1796: Vermin [weevil, rats and mice] attack field crops and stored grain, arsenic used to kill these pests.

December 1796: ‘An extraordinary meteorological phenomenon…large flakes of ice cut off 4 farms at Ruse’s Creek’.


[Bateson]; ‘During 1797 three hundred and sixty-seven (367) prisoners landed alive’.

January 1797: Wild storms – thunder, lightning and vast fires destroyed crops and livestock.

[Collins] ‘Cultivation was confined to maize, wheat, potatoes, and other garden vegetables. The heat of the climate, occasional droughts, and blighting winds, rendered wheat an uncertain crop’.  

January 1797: Governor Hunter;  ‘to the great regret of their owners’ ordered all private brewing stills be destroyed. Hunter ordered another muster in an effort to ascertain; ‘the number of fire-arms in private hands…all persons (the military excepted) who were in possession of arms to bring them to the commisary’s office where they would be issued with certificates’. 

Except for farmers on the Hawkesbury who; ‘valued their arms as necessary to their defence against the natives and against thieves…not 50 of the 200 -300 [missing] fire-arms were accounted for’. 

January 11th – 1797: Mercury from America with; ‘goods for speculation’. 

February 1797‘Some heavy rain fell during the first and latter parts of the month, which it was hoped would extinguish the glowing embers of the vast fires which had surrounded the place, and which, being scattered over the country every dry and windy day; occasioned new and dreadful conflagrations’.

March 1797: ‘An extraordinary theft …about the middle of the month, which very forcibly marked the inherent depravity of some of these miscreants [ex-convicts]….While the miller was absent for short time, part of the sails belonging to the [wind]mill were stolen’.  

March 1797: [Collins] ‘The people at the northern farms had been repeatedly plundered of their provisions and clothing by a large body of savages…Pe-mul-wy….Many spears were then thrown, and one (1) man was hit in the arm; upon which the superior effect of our fire-arms was immediately shown them, and five (5) were instantly killed’.

April 1797: ‘The natives at the Hawkesbury were at this time very troublesome’.

May 1797: At Lane Cove;‘ the settlers were so much and so perpetually alarmed by these people [Aborigines]….the governor [Hunter] also signified his determination, if any of the natives could be detected in the act of robbing the settlers, to hang one of them in chains upon a tree near the spot as a terror to the others’.

May 1797: Britannia the Hell-Ship, from Ireland embarked 189 prisoners, 10 men and 1 women died on passage, 144 men and 44 women landed alive but; ‘in the most wretched and emaciated state’. They suffered much at the hands of  Thomas Denmott Britannia’s ‘sadistic…callous  and brutal master’. One (1) officer and 25 recruits for the NSW Corps also travelled to Sydney in Britannnia.

June 1797: Ganges from Ireland: with a detachment of soldiers for the NSW Corps together with 203 male prisoners, 13 deaths on passage, 190 convicts landed alive; ‘ many suffering scurvy’.

July 1797: ‘Salt meat decreasing fast it became necessary to issue only 1/2 the usual ration of pork…crops…in some years were barely sufficient to last until the following harvest’.

September 1797: Deptford from Madras with ‘a cargo of goods upon speculation for the Sydney market’ – main cargo rum.

[Collins]: ‘The voyage from India was short and direct… trade between India and Sydney; ‘was found pregnant with great evil to the colony; for, preferring spirits to any other article’.

October 1797: ‘The wheat everywhere wore the most promising appearance….Decreasing daily the number of working men in the employ of government….Vast reduction of labour…not less than 600 off store [are] a threat against safety of private and public property’.

October 24th – 1797: ‘Three (3) witnesses…committed the crime of perjury…being found guilty, were sentenced to stand in the pillory; to which, as an additional punishment, their ears were to be nailed. … Their sentence was put into execution before the public provision store’.  

November 1797: ‘Hail…each as big as a lark’s egg’. 

December 1797: ‘The heat of the sun was so intense that every substance became a combustible, and a single spark, if exposed to the air, in a moment became a flame, much evil was to be dreaded from fire’.


January 10th – 1798: Some desperate convicts attempt an escape….’so little humanised as these were, compared with whom the naked savages of the mountains were an enlightened people’.  

January 20th 1798: ‘Francis with; ‘7000 gallons of spirits [Hunter allowed] 3500 gallons to land’.

February 1798‘An infamous and seditious anonymous paper [known as a pipe] was dropped in the streets, in which the governor and every officer in the colony were most scurrilously abused and libelled…’ 

March 1798: In the trading of grain 3 or 4 un-named individuals; ‘so completely monopolised the trade the settlers had but few opportunities of getting the full value of their crops’.

As in 1788 Britain once more abandoned her country-men to starvation.

April  1798 ’16 months had elapsed since the last [provisions – stores] were received…now rather anxiously expected….  Arrivals from England were now hourly expected [with] provisions as well as stores’.  

May 14th – 1798: Nautilus a small brig from Colombo; ‘in very great distress… with 4 missionaries and their families… rescued from the island of Otaheite [Tahiti]’.

May 18th – 1798: Barwell, convict transport from England, embarked 296 male convicts – attempted mutiny on voyage,  9 deaths on passage,  287 male prisoners landed alive. Also aboard ‘ a full company’ of  Corps recruits transferred from the mutinous Lady Shore.

[Collins]; ‘Among the men were deserters and prisoners from the Savoy Military Prison. Although they had caused trouble even before sailing, the War Office did nothing to prevent further outbreaks even after General [Francis] Grose, who had conducted an enquiry, forecast a mutiny’.

A proportion of Barwell’s provisions – 1200 bushells of wheat and 100 casks of salted provisions – sent to Norfolk Island where ‘the soil and temperature of the island was not favourable’ for wheat growing.

May 1798: Winter: Fish scarce yet again. Aborigines were unable to access their yam fields: [Collins]; ‘Towards the latter end of the month, the settlers at the northern farms were much annoyed by the natives, who came down in a body, and burnt several of their houses….the land was of a superior quality, and the surrounding country exceedingly picturesque and well-adapted for cultivation’.

June 9th – 1798: Governor Hunter in an attempt; ‘to crush as much as possible the spirit of monoply [ of the officers] which had so long subsisted [ordered] no boat or person whatsoever, should attempt to board any ship entering the harbour’. 

June 10th – 1798: Hunter, a snow from India, with some live-stock and goods for sale.  A General Order however required that; ‘no part of the cargo should be disposed of until the settlers from different districts could avail themselves’.  

June 1798: ‘The maize harvest on part of the government all in’.

July 1798:‘Argo [ John Macarthur part-owner] a small American schooner from Isle of France [Mauritius] with a cargo of brandy and other articles upon speculation’.

The ruinous traffic carried on by means of monoples that existed in opposition to every order and endeavour…would… without the establishment of a public store on the part of government…keep the settlers and others in a continual state of beggary…’ 

July 18th – 1798: Britannia a whaler from England with 94 female convicts from Ireland; ‘the number of women in the settlements bearing no proportion to the men’.

[Collins];‘The cattle…brought in the Hunter…were not greater objects of contest than were these females’.  

 August 1798: Weather cold, fish very scarce.

October 27th – 1798: Marquis of Cornwallis from Bengal with; ‘158 cows and 20 bulls for the government’.

November 1798: [Collins]; ‘The wretched state of the settlement appeared all too plainly….Many convicts having been sent out, who had not more than 2 years to serve after their arrival, proved, by claiming their discharge a considerable draw-back nor field labour.

But this was not the only evil. In this way they were let loose upon the public a number of idle and worthless characters who, not having any means of getting out of the country, became a dangerous and troublesome pest…..they also consumed a vast proportion of the provisions raised in the colony… still there was no denying them the restoration of their right as free people’.


February 1799: ‘Harvest insufficient…

March 1799: ‘great drought… excessive heat followed by a ‘serious calamity…sudden rising of the Hawkesbury River…hogs, live-stock, poultry and other produce destroyed… one (1) life lost’.

March 1799: [Collins] ‘the convicts whose services belonged to the crown were for the most part a wretched, worthless, dissipated set, who never thought beyond the present moment…Of the settlers…. The greater part had originally been convicts…most…continued a dead weight upon the government’.  

April 1799: among the grain crops; ‘appearance of a destructive grub-worm’.

The convicts had little clothing and many had to labour ‘free of clothes’….’ Necessity has been long known as the parent of resources, and the poverty of the public stores in the article of clothing had prompted…experiements of the wool, the flax, and the bark’.

May 1799: HMS Buffalo [Mr. Raven] from England; ‘with 68 head of Cape cattle… in good condition’ .

May 1799: ‘Salt provisions low….fresh pork substituted’.

June 1799: Ration reduction; ‘per man per week – 5lbs beef or 3 lbs pork, wheat 12 lbs , 6 ozs sugar’

June 1799: Commissary issued cloth  – a type of coarse muslin: ‘blue gurrah…not much better than bunting…found useful in covering the  nakedness of the people…as much as would make a frock and a pair of trousers, and a proportion to the women and children’.

June 29th – 1799: Albion …3 months and 15 days …from England with 900 tierces of salted pork…some dispatches and a few letters by which the governor was taught to expect the arrival of 2 transports with convicts’.

July 26th – 1799: Hillsborough ‘the fever ship’ from England was the first of the expected transports 300 male prisoners  embarked, 95 deaths on the passage, 205 men landed alive; The hospital was immediately filled with the survivors’.

[Bateson] ‘Governor Hunter…described the survivors as ‘the most wretched and miserable convicts I have ever beheld, in the most sickly and wretched state….The frightful mortality was due primarily to the embarkation of the Langstone [hulk] prisoners, but also partly to the harsh treatment of the convicts on the voyage’.

September 14h 1799: Resource from Rhode Island, after a week at Port Jackson sailed with several stow-aways who succeeded in their escape.

October 1799: Hillsborough prepared to return to England; ‘was strictly searched, and several convicts…not less than 30 convicts were found to have been received on board they were brought on shore, and each received severe corporal punishment’.  

 October 1799: Alteration in ration – wheat was scarce due to drought; ‘2 lbs deducted from grain, now 10lb unground wheat, beef increased from 5lb to 8 lbs and pork from 3 lbs to 5 lbs’.

[ Collins] ‘the scarcity of wheat in the public store was occasioned by the unbounded extravagance of the labouring people…’. 

See 25 December 1793: [Fletcher ed.] ‘It is not clear what Collins meant when he blamed the ‘labouring people….since 1797 Hunter had been forced to issue additional wheat to those supported by the Crown in lieu of rice, peas, butter and sugar’.  

The last mentioned articles were supposed to form part of the ration, but the British authorities neglected to send supplies. This resulted in so great an increase in the demand for wheat that Hunter considered ‘the whole crop…scarsly [sic] sufficient for our purposes’.   .

November 1799:  loaves of bread or as ‘the convicts feelingly, and not unaptly, termed ‘scrubbing brushes ‘ [were]  much more chaff and bran than flour… and such directions given as were necessary to remove the evil complained of’.

November 2nd – 1799: Walker from England, with ‘copper coinage…no bedding…some clothing [for] naked and distressed convicts and their families”.

November 1799; ‘Destructive weather …destroyed gardens and wheat…caterpillars destroyed maize’.

December 2nd – 1799: ‘Plumier a Spanish ship anchored in the [Sydney] cove….Her cargo consisted chiefly of bad spirits and wine….an order was given out, strictly forbidding the landing of any spirits, wine, or even malt liquor, until a regular permit had been first obtained’.

December 1799: ‘The whole settlement…beset with murderers, robbers and incendaries [arsonists]’.


January 3rd – 1800: Swallow; ‘an East India packet,…a great variety of articles for sale…many elegant articles of dress from Bond Stret, and other fashionable repositories of the metropolis’.

January 11th – 1800: Minerva from Ireland; ‘with a cargo, not of elegancies from Bond Street, but with 162 male and 26 female convicts …in perfect health…. Minerva had …many articles for sale but the high prices were such as to drain  the colony of every shilling that could be got together’.

January 1800: ‘It became necessary to issue only two-thirds of the weekly ration…for the military 1 & 1/2 lb flour/bread per day, beef 1lb per day or 1/2 lb pork, 1/4 pint peas, 1 oz rice… 1oz butter or cheese’.

February 13th – 1800: Hunter from Calcutta; cargo [including some rugs] on speculation. Governor Hunter purchased 1,000 bad rugs ‘.

February 16th – 1800Friendship from Ireland with; ‘136 male convicts 19 deaths on passage, 114 landed alive…some had been bred up to a genteel life…unaccustomed to hard labour…as such they must become a dead weight upon the provision store’ .

March 1800: ‘Many of the Irish prisoners lately arrived were afflicted with dysenteric complaints…several died’.

March 1800: Floods – ‘torrents of rain…very soon swelled the river Hawkesbury, and the creeks in George’s river beyond their banks….Much damage [as] this ill-timed flood spread over the cultivated grounds; and, although fewer than could have been expected, some lives were lost’.

April 1800: ‘The quantity of spirits at this time in the colony occasioned much intoxication and consequent irregularity. The settlers at the river were so lost to their own interest as to neglect the sowing of their ground’.

April 1800: Floggings and mock executions; ‘robberies had of late been very frequent both of household property and live-stock….’the ropes being put about their necks, the provost marshal produced the pardon and read it’.

April 16th – 1800: Speedy  with 53 female prisoners embarked, 3 deaths on passage, 50 landed alive. Speedy’s cargo; ‘832 casks of salt provisions…most welcome…which enabled the governor once more to issue a full ration’.

Lieutenant Phillip Gidley King RN arrived aboard Speedy bringing Governor Hunter a most unwelcome  dispatch from the Home Office ordering his recall to  London and announcing Lieutenant King’s own commission as 3rd Governor of New South Wales. King’s dormant and ambiguous commission proved destabilising.

April 16th – 1800: Buffalo [Captain Raven] from Cape Town with; ’85 cows and 20 breeding mares for the settlement’.

April 1800: Governor Hunter; ‘forbade the sending of any more spirits to that profligate corner of the colony [Hawkesbury] under pain of the offenders being prosecuted for such disobedience of his orders’.

May 1800: Ration reduced;‘beef 5lbs, 3 lbs pork, wheat 13 lbs, sugar, 6 ozs – per man per week’.

June 2nd – 1800: ‘executions  for sheep-stealing’ .

June 1800: ‘the number of robbers and sheep-stealers still increasing notwithstanding the late executions’.

July 1800:  Governor Hunter ordered another; ‘general muster undertaken’.

September 1800: Governor Hunter established a commission of enquiry to investigate rumours of rebellion among those prisoners; ‘ sent from Ireland for sedition’.

October 21 – 1800: ‘Buffalo sailed for England [with Governor Hunter ] via Norfolk Island….This settlement [ Norfolk Island] wore a most unpromising appearance. All the building were in a state of rapid decay, and but few symptoms of industry were visible. Of stock, only a few hogs and a small quantity of vegetable were to be procured. 

On Phillip Island, which had formerly fed a great number of hogs, not one was to be found alive, they having for want of better food, destroyed each other. A few fields of wheat, which were ready for reaping, looked tolerably well; but on the whole Norfolk Island by no means promised to repay the expense which it annually cost the government’.

 [Fletcher ed.] ‘The documents upon which the foregoing pages have been formed going no farther than the departure of the Buffalo for England, we must here quit the regular detail of the transactions of the colony’. 

November 20th – 1800: [Bateson] Royal Admiral from England; ‘300 male prisoners embarked, 43 deaths on passage, 257 landed alive…. ‘Almost all the survivors required medical treatment….Governor King reported that the prisoners were very weak…many remained in a state of debility and would never recover the strength of men’.

Governor Arthur Phillip in October 1792,  a month prior leaving Sydney to return to England, wrote two (2) letters regarding the long-standing state of near-starvation existing at Sydney and Norfolk Island.

Firstly to Home Secretary Henry Dundas;  ‘It has sir been my fate to point out wants from year to year it has been a duty the severest I have ever experienced.’ 

The second letter was to Major Grose commander of the New South Wales Corps who, due to Whitehall’s indifference and inertia would,  following Phillip’s departure, establish absolute  military rule and bring the colony to ‘a pitiful state of poverty, degradation, idleness and corruption’. 

‘I see it [the ration] daily at my own table…I am sorry to see that it is neither so good nor in that quantity as I would wish it; and every means in my power has, and will be taken to remedy the evil’. 

‘The evil that men do lives after them’. Mark Antony, Act 3, Julius Caesar, William Shakespeare.

See: A War Grave – Tasmania





  1. BDRip X264 ROVERS Says:

    Good subject: The Botany Bay Medallion » ANATOMY OF AN ENGLISH FAMINE 1788 &. Would you be keen on exchanging links?