In 1792 the military power was significantly strengthened when Phillip, due to ill health, returned to England [from Sydney Cove]. Not a Rum Rebellion But a Military Insurrection. Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society, Vol. 92, John McMahon, 2006

1792 – Sydney, December: On the 12th of December 1792 Governor Arthur Phillip RN, after a five (5) year tenure as Britain’s first commissioned governor of New South Wales (1788-1792, departed Sydney for home and war with France.

Whitehall failed to appoint an immediate successor. By default the immense power invested in the naval Governor Arthur Phillip, said to be unique in Britain’s long history of colonisation, fell to the military.

In June 1790 the first contingent of infantry troops, the New South Wales Corps, arrived to relieve the four (4) companies marines of the ‘First Fleet’ overdue now for repatriation.

‘The other great change came in the arrival with the second fleet of the first contingent of the New South Wales Corps in June 1790’. Nigel Rigby, Pieter Van er Merwa, Glyn Williams,Pacific Explorations, Voyages of Discovery from Captain Cook’s Endeavour to the Beagle,  Adlard Coles, Bloomsbury 2018

London Gazette October 1789

Unfortunately for Australia’s First Nation’s Peoples Major Grose their Commandant remained in London and continued recruiting to satisfy establishment requirements.

Lieutenant John Macarthur, then a scheming parasitic junior officer, seized the opportunity to fill the ensuing power vacuum.

‘Lieutenant John Macarthur a leading figure in the military ‘mafia’…quickly established itself as Australia’s first governing and property owning elite’. Pacific Explorations.ibid.

1792 – Sydney, February:  Grose, a wounded veteran of the American War (1775-1783), arrived aboard Pitt a vessel of the 3rd fleet on the 14th of February 1792.

1792 – 13 December: The day following Phillip’s departure in the Atlantic, Major Grose ‘contrary to the Royal Instructions’ sacked all civil magistrates appointed by his predecessor.

‘Grose, commander of the New South Wales Corp must have realized that in superseding the magistrates he was making an alteration in judicial government which was expressed both in Phillip’s Commission and the Letters Patent establishing the Court of Law…The settlement [as a consequence] was ruled as a military oligarchy’. William Foster, Journal Royal Australia Historical Society, Vol. 1, part 3, 1968

1793: Grose proved a lackadaisical leader.However it must be acknowledged Grose inherited a nightmare.

bbbbbbGrose appointed Lieutenant Macarthur to the role of paymaster thereby handing the day to day running of the colony to him.

This [oligarchy] shift was commercially launched in 1793 when Macarthur organised a cartel [of officers] that using credit accessed against pay bought 7,500 gallons of rum and other cargo of an American trader and sold it in the colony at a huge profit’. Pacific Explorations op.cit.



Portsmouth – 1 May 1787: On the 13th or May 1787 a large amphibious force of eleven (11) ships commanded by Captain Arthur Phillip RN known in Britain and Australia as the ‘First Fleet’, sailed from England to invade the island continent of New Holland. See: Fly Me to the Moon – Voyage of the First Fleet

The ships with a complement of 1300 men and 200 women reached Botany Bay 18-20 January 1788. Wide open Phillip considered the bay difficult to defend.

Earlier – April 1770 – Captain Cook had sighted towering headlands a few nautical miles to the north. Sure these indicated a large inner harbour he named it Port Jackson.

1794 – England, 6 February:  Captain John Hunter RN the hero whose courageous lone perilous voyage to Africa in 1788-9 had  saved the Sydney settlement from starvation was not commissioned Governor Phillip’s successor to until the beginning of 1794.

‘For the length of the interregnum [December 1792 -September 1795] the British government was greatly at fault’. J.J. Auchmuty, Australian Dictionary of Biography.

1795 – England, 25 February: Britain and France were at war once more perhaps he hoped for another ‘hot’ war posting.Then again his book detailing Sirius’ voyage to the Cape of Good Hope voyage was being made ready for publishing.

‘His commission as captain-general and governor-in-chief was dated 6 February 1794…[but] Hunter did not sail until 25 February [1795] arrived in [Sydney] 7 September 1795 and assumed office four days later.

Whatever the reason during the period December 1792 to September 1795 New South Wales functioned as a military dictatorship.


‘The first European settlements, from Port Jackson in 1788, Tasmania [1803], Moreton Bay, Swan River and Adelaide during the next fifty years were intensive…This meant a complete undermining of the Aborigines’ way of life’. Professor A.P. Elkin, The Australian Aborigines, Epilogue, 5th edition, 1973

Lieutenant Macarthur and ‘certain fellow officers’ of the infamous New South Wales ‘Rum’ Corps pooled their profits and began to ship in cheap ‘fiery Indian rum’ from Bengal.

The colony fell into lawlessness and the military ‘mafia’ grew rich on the ‘exorbitant’ profits from their thriving ‘commercial enterprise’.

None grew richer than Macarthur the teetotaller who controlled the distribution of grog that fuelled widespread military, street and domestic violence amongst the overwhelmingly male colonists.

Rum, the Royal Navy’s essential ingredient, fed the brutal inter-racial  sexual violence on which modern Australia was founded. See: Gender Genocide and Colonial Breeders.


1794: Major Grose, wounded in the Battle of Bunker Hill and subsequent retreat to Boston (1775), in which the British sustained heavy  causalities including eight (8) of its officers was not in for the long haul. He wrote; ‘I cannot in safety hazard the event of another summer’ and left Sydney at the end of 1794.

Grose was succeeded by his 2-I-C Captain William Paterson another veteran of America’s Revolutionary War. His‘patron was Lady Strathmore, an ancestress of [recently deceased] Queen Elizabeth II.

He also was a Fellow of the Royal Society…He had been an African explorer [and] noted naturalist…he was reputed to have brought the first giraffe skin to England’. M.E. Ellis John Macarthur

1795 – September:  Captain John Hunter RN, the second commissioned Governor of New South Wales, a returning ‘First Fleeter’ sailed back through the Heads of Sydney Harbour in September 1795.

‘Hunter proved quite unable to cope with the psychological consequences of his encounters with that particularly virulent form of commercial enterprise [rum] which characterized so many of his officers both trusted and otherwise’. Introduction, John Hunter, First Fleet  Journal, reprint.

Hunter was by then in his mid 60s and no match for an entrenched rogue military outfit, the Rum’ Corps.

He was however an accomplished navigator with an extensive knowledge of prevailing winds and ocean currents. Hunter had sailed HMS Sirius in an epic voyage, Sydney to Africa (October 1788 – May 1789) to buy food to save the starving settlement from complete disaster.

1795: By 1795 France and England were at war again. London was anxious to know if Tasmania, an ideal strategic base for the French Navy, was separated from the Australian mainland.

With this in view Governor Hunter, in October 1798, sent Matthew Flinders and George Bass, two (2) young Royal Naval Lieutenants, south from Sydney Cove in the sloop Norfolk on a voyage estimated to take three (3) months.

1798: The French Revolutionary war had, by 1798, morphed into the wider Napoleonic Wars and  for England the ‘need to know’ about Tasmania was urgent.

1798 – November: By early November ‘Norfolk’ reached the north-eastern tip of Tasmania. They found the entrance to a river – the Tamar.

The party spent about three (3) weeks exploring the river’s inner reaches before setting off to the west. Rounding Cape Grim, Bass and Flinders sailed south working a difficult passage down Tasmania’s treacherous western coastline, surveying and mapping as they went.

‘Norfolk‘ rounded South Cape and sheltered in Adventure Bay before sailing north to enter and name southern Tasmania’s primary river the Derwent.

1799 – January: After eleven (11) weeks Bass and Flinders were back in Sydney with proof that indeed a strait – Bass Strait – separated mainland Australia from Tasmania.

London was informed. By when and by whom is not yet known. But we do know the response was rapid.

1800 – April: In April 1800 Lieutenant Phillip Gidley King RN, another ‘First Fleeter’ arrived from England aboard HMS Speedy as governor- in-waiting.

Gidley King presented Hunter with an official dispatch censuring him and ordering he return to London ‘by the first safe conveyance’. See: Alice – Down the Rabbit Hole with Governor Hunter

Hunter, who at the time was fighting a rear-guard action against Lieutenant Macarthur ‘the man made enemies’ knew this ‘unwarranted and unjust‘ recall was due in large part to Macarthur’s pernicious undermining of his authority to halt the importation of rum.

1800 – September: Governor Hunter departed Sydney in HMS Buffalo. Governor Phillip Gidley King RN assumed his role as Britain’s third ‘autocratic’ naval governor.

1801: Buffalo docked at the Royal Navy establishment of Spithead in May 1801;immediately he [Hunter] asked for an inquiry into the charges which had been made against his administration’.

The Admiralty with bigger fish to fry – Napoleonic France – ignored Hunter’s request.


Déjà vu: Twelve (12) years earlier, on 23rd January 1788, an astounded Lieutenant Gidley King RN watched from the deck of HMS Sirius as two (2) French ships La Boussole and L’Astrolabe commanded by Comte de La Perouse appeared in the entrance of Botany Bay.

‘There would seem to some justification for the saying that England won Australia by six days’. Edward Jenks, History of Australian Colonies, cited in A Short History of British Colonial Policy, Hugh E Egerton, Metheun, 1928 

In 1800, the now Governor King, like Governor Hunter before him, was spooked by an increasing numbers of French ships appearing ‘in and about Australian waters’.


‘The management of New South Wales had been transferred from the Home Office to the War Office’. Historical Records of Australia, Hobart to King 6 August 1801

King now knew France, England’s arch-enemy, was again intent on establishing a physical presence in Australia. He determined it must not happen on his watch.

King sent urgent requests to England for additional front-line support. Lord Hobart, Secretary of War, allocated two (2) ships HMS Calcutta and, a supply vessel Ocean,to occupy Port Phillip Bay (now Melbourne).

War – treaty – peace – world war – wholly occupied Europe during this period.

1803 – England: Not until the 27th April of 1803 did Calcutta and Ocean under command of Marine Lieutenant-Colonel David Collins, yet another returning First Fleeter, set sail from England.

Meantime at Sydney the French threat had become more complex presenting Governor King an immediate dilemma.

Should he consolidate Britain’s sovereignty by extending occupation on the mainland?  Or take on treacherous Bass Strait and secure Tasmania for ‘King and Country’?


‘The original motive for the white settlement of Van Diemens Land was political rather than economic. The British wanted to prevent the French from establishing a colony. Bruce Elder, Blood on the Wattle, 1998

Governor King knew Tasmania ‘showed promise of being a valuable colony to Great Britain’. With limited resources, he addressed both the mainland and Tasmania.See: Proximity not Distance Drove the invasion of New Holland.

1801 – Port Phillip: In 1801 King sent Lieutenant James Murray RN to survey Port Phillip (now Victoria) on the mainland.

1802:  In mid January Lieutenant Murray sighted the entrance to Port Phillip. But he ‘turned away’ in extreme weather. Murray went onto chart the east coast of King Island before returning to enter Port Phillip Bay on the 31st of January.

1802 – Tasmania: Meantime King had ordered Lieutenant James Grant RN sail due south to further assess Tasmania. Grant reported that a crossing of Bass Strait, although problematic in foul weather, was viable.

So Governor King provided two (2) ships Albion and Lady Nelson and ordered Lieutenant John Bowen RN to establish a settlement. However bad weather and a rolling series of east coast lows, delayed their departure.

‘The British wanted to prevent the French from establishing a colony [on ] Van Diemens Land]…They achieved this in September 1803 when a colony of forty-nine (49) people was established at Risdon Cove’. Bruce Elder. op.cit. 

1803 – September, Risdon: Not until early September 1803 did Lieutenant John Bowen RN, together with twenty-five (25) convicts – 21 men and 3 women – with Lieutenant William Moore and twenty-five (25) rank and file of the New South Corps set-up camp at Risdon Cove.


What of Port Phillip?

1803 – September: When HMS Calcutta and Ocean arrived off Port Phillip at the end of September 1803 they encountered many a sailing ship’s nemesis, cyclonic winds and churning seas.

They managed to ride out the storm. On landing they found the area inhospitable. Fresh water was scarce and the local Aborigines  extremely hostile.

Collins assessed, with the sea at their back, standing on unfamiliar ground, his marine detachment of approximately one hundred (100) men plus three hundred (300) male convicts – none of whom could be trusted – plus a handful of frightened free settlers, could be easily over-run by local Aboriginals who knew their country well.

1804 – February, Risdon: After a difficult few weeks Collins aborted his efforts at Port Phillip. He too directed his attention on Tasmania. Collins and his party of about four hundred and fifty (450), mostly men, joined Lieutenant Moore at Risdon Cove on the 15th of February 1804.


1804: Déjà vu: at Risdon Cove David Collins found a striking echo of Sydney 1788. A dysfunctional chain of command. Lieutenant Bowen of the Royal Navy and Lieutenant Moore of the New South Wales Infantry Corps were at loggerheads.

‘From 1788 there had been continuous disputation between the civil power represented by the autocratic uniformed naval governors and the military. In 1792 the military power was significantly strengthened when Phillip, due to ill health, returned to England’. Not a Rum Rebellion But a Military Insurrection. Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society, Vol. 92, John McMahon, 2006

Captain Collins left Risdon and set up head-quarters at Sullivan’s Cove on the west bank of the Derwent. He cited its superior harbour and adequate fresh water as more suitable for over four hundred (400) permanent settlers.

1804 – Hobart, March: Governor Collins; ‘hoisted His Majesty’s Colours with the usual Ceremony’ claiming southern Tasmania to be part of the British Empire. The new settlement he named Hobart Town for Secretary of War Lord Hobart.

But there was more. Collins knew only too well a massive imbalance in the sexes was not a peaceable equation. While at Sydney between 1788 and 1796 he himself had fathered two (2) children by convict Ann Yeates.

It was a performance he would repeat as Governor of Tasmania 1804-1810. With convict Margaret Eddington he fathered another two (2) children.


‘The English settled on the Aborigines’ land and took their food; in return, the natives interfered with the Englishmen’s livestock. The natives were then attacked in retaliation, and so relations went from bad to worse, as had happened in New South Wales’. A.G.L. Shaw, A New History of Australia, ed. Professor F. Crowley, 1990

In a pattern established at Sydney in 1788, where ‘the main battle was about having enough to eat’  foods were taken without having any regard for the needs of local Aboriginal families, so it was in Tasmania.

‘We have lately and are now about in a state of starvation…but we have such an abundance of Kangaroo’. George Harris to his mother Dorothy in England, 12 October 1805. The Oxford Book of Australian Letters, ed. Brenda Niall and John Thompson, Oxford University Press Melbourne,1998.

1804 – Risdon, May: Within three (3) months of Governor Collins taking ‘possession’ of southern Tasmania, the first killing of Tasmanian Aborigines took place at Risdon Cove.

1804 – 3 May: There is little documentation on the Risdon action. But two (2) hungry populations; Aboriginals;‘inhabitants from the earliest times’ and ‘uninvited – unwelcome’ intruders, clashed as they competed for the same foods.

‘We have lately & are now almost in a state of starvation having been on the allowance of 4 lb bread, 2 lb Pork per man pr. week, owing to not having had any supplies from Sydney, but as we have such abundance of Kangaroo here we can never want’. George Harris to his mother in England’.Letters. op.cit.

The Aborigines had spears and hunting clubs but it seems no Englishmen were killed or injured in the first weeks. Yet Lieutenant Moore resorted to cannonade’  and reported three (3) kills and many injured.

1804 – 3 May: The beginnings of the near annihilation of Tasmania’s Aborigines can be pinpointed to Lieutenant Moore’s use of ‘cannonade’ at Risdon Cove in May 1804.


‘Military and police raids against dissenting Aboriginal groups lasted from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries….These raids had commenced [ @ Sydney]  by December 1790’. Professor Bruce Kercher, An Unruly Child, A History of law in Australia, Allen and Unwin, Sydney,1995

Déjà vu: The near annihilation of Australia’s First Nations’ Peoples on the mainland of Australia can, with laser accuracy, be traced to Governor Arthur Phillip’s orders issued to Marine Captain Watkin Tench on 13th of December 1790.

‘Proceed to the peninsula at the head of Botany Bay…put to death ten [10]…bring in the heads of the slain…if practicable bring away two [2] natives as prisoners…I am resolved to execute the prisoners who may be brought in, in the most public and exemplary manner, in the presence of as many of their countrymen as can be collected’. Cited in Captain Tench, Sydney’s First Four Years, ed. F.L. Fitzhardinge, Angus and Robertson, 1961

Governor Phillip’s general orders put no limit on brutality. They went on to serve as a template for; ‘twenty-five regiments of British infantry who served in the colonies from 1790 to 1870…they fought in one of the most prolonged frontier wars in the history of the British empire’. Dr Peter Stanley, the Remote Garrison, Kangaroo Press, 1964 


With southern Tasmania secured by 1804, London ordered Governor King direct his attention to the island’s unoccupied north, ‘near the eastern entrance to Bass’s Strait’ centred on the Tamar River.

From ‘a political point of view peculiarly necessary’ King sent a detachment of soldiers and convicts from Sydney to Port Dalrymple aboard HMS Buffalo.

Colonel William Paterson as commander of the New South Wales Corps was given command of this action. Three (3) years earlier, July 1801, Paterson had been involved in a duel with a junior officer.

What officer ? No surprises there it was ‘the man who made enemies’. Macarthur’s ball shattered Paterson’s right shoulder. A veteran of the American War Paterson never fully recovered from the duelling injury.

High winds and pounding seas of a cyclonic weather system raging along the south-east coast of New South Wales held up departure from Sydney.

1804 – November: Buffalo did not reach Port Dalrymple until 11 of November 1804. ‘With the usual Ceremony [Paterson] hoisted His Majesty’s Colours thereby securing the whole of Tasmania for the British Empire.

Governor King had effectively stymied the French. But that did not quench their ambition. It flared again and again during the long Napoleonic Wars 1803-1815.


Déjà vu ‘In 1802 [@ Sydney] King had  strictly forbidden any act of injustice, let alone cruelty, to the natives, but by 1805 he had been converted to the belief that the Aborigines were all treacherous and ungrateful and felt compelled to resort to military measures’. A.G.L Shaw, History of Australia. ed. F. Crowley, 1990

Governor King had hoped to support both Hobart and Port Dalrymple from Sydney. However flooding rains on the Hawkesbury and Nepean river systems, followed years of severe drought.

Farms were inundated, crops  -wheat and maize – were flattened, the stock losses heavy. George Harris wrote again to his mother; ‘we are in daily expectation of a Ship from Sydney…with Supplies which will be a delightful occurrence for us’.

But nature and haphazard planning meant, aside from irregular supplies of food and rum coming directly from India, survival at Hobart in the south and, the settlements of Yorktown and George Town on the Tamar, relied heavily on poaching the Aborigines’ resources.

‘The English settled on the Aborigines’ land and took their food; in return, the natives interfered with the Englishmen’s livestock. The natives were then attacked in retaliation, and so relations went from bad to worse, as had happened in New South Wales’. A.G.L. Shaw. ibid.

As happened in New South Wales; ‘official hunting parties’ of soldiers, dogs and armed convicts were sent out to hunt kangaroos and kill Aborigines who got in their way.

The convicts being servants of the Crown till the time from which they are sentenced expires…their labour is for the public’. Governor King, Instructions to Lieutenant John Bowen, Historical Records of Australia, 9 May 1803, Series 1, Vol. 4

Under the Hulks Act of 1776, convicts sentenced ‘for transportation out of the realm’ were deemed; ‘servants of the Crown’. In Tasmania, as on the mainland, thatlabour’ included killing Australia’s First Peoples with impunity.


1805 -Sydney, June: Macarthur returned to Sydney in early June 1805 aboard Argo his own vessel.

England, engaged in the frenzy of the Napoleonic Wars, was in desperate need of wool. Macarthur carried in his bulging satchel paper-work granting him 5000 acres (2000 ha) of Aboriginal land with a promise from Lord ‘plantations’ Camden for 5000 more, if he succeeded in establishing a local wool industry.

With his malicious trolling – Shakespeare’s ‘pipes’circulating under various pseudonyms, Macarthur was soon to experience sweet revenge.See: Down the Rabbit Hole With Governor King

1805 – London, May: Government commissioned Captain William Bligh RN of’ ‘Mutiny on the Bounty’ fame or infamy, to replace Governor Gidley King on 14 May 1805.

Gidley King could  not however leave Sydney until Captain William Bligh RN had taken up his commission as Britain’s 4th commissioned ‘autocratic’ naval Governor of New South Wales.

1806 – Sydney, 8 August: The depth of winter, in the teeth of icy southern gales, Bligh with his daughter Mary Putland, wife of Lieutenant John Putland Bligh’s aide- de- camp, sailed into Sydney Harbour aboard the Lady Sinclair.

The Admiralty felt a ‘tyrannical [naval] martinet’ was needed to re-establish law and order in a colony stinking of corruption, riddled with vice and drowning in alcohol.

Whitehall naively believed Captain William Bligh could succeed where Hunter and King had failed.

For John Macarthur Governor Bligh became just another blue-bag in a cocked hat strutting the quarter-deck to knock down and send packing.


Bligh’s instructions were a replica of those given Governors Hunter and King; ‘put an end to the barter of spirits which appears to have been abused to the great injury and morals of the colony [and] ensure that no spirits land in the colony without his consent’.

When Bligh arrived he found a white population numbering about 7,500.The lawless colony was awash with rum. Its economy held in a stranglehold by cartels of military officers who dictated the price of everything and especially what was paid to farmers for their produce.

Bligh’s efforts to break the ‘colonels’ was welcomed particularly by ex-convicts and ticket-of-leave men farming along the Hawkesbury, Nepean and Grose Rivers.

But Bligh’s shape up or ship out quarter-deck language, offended delicate military ears and earned Bligh lasting enmity.Macarthur’s personal tussles with Bligh permeated all ranks of the corrupt New South Wales ‘Rum’ Corps and masterminded a rebellion – the ‘Rum Rebellion’.


1808 – January: Tuberculosis, the death of Mary’s husband Lieutenant John Putland from T.B on 4th January 1808, presented the plotters a perfect opportunity to increase their wealth.

In mid January 1808 a ship carrying 22,000 gallons (100,000) litres of rum  and 7000 gallons (30,000 litres) of wine arrived in port. The plotters reckoned Bligh, supporting his grieving daughter, would be completely distracted. But they reckoned wrongly.

Bligh ordered the rum remain on board the ship. The wine was to land but placed in government storage. It proved the last straw for certain officers who saw immense profits disappear.The die was cast.

1808 – 24 January: Major George Johnston, the Corps’ commander, hosted a commemorative dinner on the 24th January to honour Governor Phillip and celebrate the twenty (20) year anniversary of the founding of the Sydney settlement – January 1788.

John Macarthur, due in court the following day to answer ‘contempt’ charges, did not attend the dinner. He did however donate ‘a large quantity of wine’ to the mess.

Edward his son did attend. He reported to his father the table-talk was of rebellion.

1808 – 25 January: The following morning Macarthur appeared in the dock before a jury of six (6) army officers accused of publishing; ‘false, scandalous, libelous, wicked seditious, unlawful words’ designed to bring Governor Bligh into ‘disrespect, hatred and contempt’.

The military challenged the capacity of Richard Atkins, a civilian prosecutor who had replaced David Collins as judge-advocate, to preside over the case.The day ended in stalemate and Macarthur was taken to the local lock-up.

1808 – 26 January: That was too much for the New South Wales Corps. In an armed coup its soldiers, led by Major George Johnston their commanding officer, marched up Bridge Street and onto Government House and seized Governor William Bligh RN.

1808: Throughout 1808 Bligh and Mary were held prisoner in Government House. In an effort to intimidate father and daughter they were then moved to the military barracks.

1809 – 20 February: Using a mix of guile on Bligh’s part and, a frisson of sexual intrigue between Mary and the young Irish Lieutenant Finucaine, Bligh and his daughter were released to board HMS Porpoise.

To gain their freedom Bligh gave his word as ‘an officer and gentleman’ to Major Joseph Foveaux, who had bumped George Johnston from leadership of the rebels that, if given command of Porpoise, Bligh would immediately set sail for England.

1809: That was never going to happen. Once aboard HMS Porpoise Bligh set up a blockade at the entrance to Sydney Harbour.

March: February morphed into March and Bligh continued to intercept vessels attempting to enter Port Jackson. Ships’ masters were handed a declaration stating the colony was in ‘a state of rebellious anarchy’.

Bligh ordered more sail and at dawn on 17 March 1809 HMS Porpoise weighed anchor and disappeared. The rebels breathed a deep sigh of relief.

March: But on Sunday the 19th Porpoise reappeared. This time she was dressed for action her gun-ports open with the crew at battle-stations.

Bligh appeared on the point of victory when he backed off.

The rebels had turned on each other as he knew they would. Perhaps even Bligh baulked at the next logical move, opening fire on Sydney Town. Whatever the reason, later that same day HMS Porpoise, now fully-rigged, sailed away – to Tasmania.


1809 – 30 March: HMS Porpoise anchored in Sullivans Cove on the Derwent at Hobart. Governor David Collins boarded Porpoise to welcome Governor Bligh.

Mary, who suffered severe sea-sickness left the ship for more comfortable quarters in Government House. Bligh elected to stay with his ship.

1809 – 10 April: News of Bligh’s arrival in Tasmania reached Sydney on 10 April 1809 . The news sent Major Foveaux into a frenzy.The European war was forgotten.

Hobart at the time was reliant on supplies shipped from Sydney. Foveaux withheld provisions and livestock bringing the spectre of starvation to Tasmania.

Governor Collins changed his attitude from welcome to hostile. Although the reason may not have been pressure from Foveaux alone. It might have been Mary’s prudish disdain for Margaret Eddington, the ex-convict who had recently given birth to the couple’s second child.

Or it may have been down to Bligh’s response. He wrote of his shock on seeing Collins; ‘walking with his kept woman (a poor low creature) arm in arm about the town’. 

Or it may have had to do with Collin’s first son by convict Ann Yeates.

At Hobart Collins asked Bligh to take his son on as a midshipman. One morning young Collins was late on parade. Bligh charged him with ‘neglect of duty’ and had him flogged.

A furious Collins removed a sentry he had posted for Mary’s protection. Bligh warned her of impending danger and rounded-up of his shore- party. Once more Bligh and his daughter were prisoners this time aboard HMS Porpoise.

Bligh set up a blockade of the Derwent. All vessels entering and exiting the river were stopped and interrogated. Bligh threatened to fire on any ship refusing to supply Porpoise with food and water.

Month after month, during the dark, freezing winter of 1809, the impasse went on. Buffeted by winds sweeping in from the Antarctic Porpoise rolled like a bottle. Her strained timbers became increasingly less water-tight.

1809 – 22 December: ‘Porpoise’ stopped ‘Albion’ a large whaler. Her master told Bligh troops who spoke a strange lingo had landed in Sydney.


1810 – 1 January, Hobart: HMS Porpoise, now barely sea-worthy, slipped quietly from the Derwent and set course  for Sydney.

1810 –  1 January, Sydney: On the same day Colonel Lachlan Macquarie took up his commission as Britain’s fifth Governor of New South Wales.

Macquarie, the first governor drawn from the ranks of the military, had brought insurance. Troops he had previously commanded – the 73rd ‘Black Watch’ Regiment. These men were only too willing to take on the rebellious New South Wales Corps.

1810 – mid January: Porpoise, with Bligh and Mary aboard, sailed into Sydney Cove in mid- January 1810.

Bligh had hoped to resume his Governorship but London ordered he return to England. Principally to give evidence against Major George Johnston and John Macarthur at an official inquiry set up to examine the ‘Rum Rebellion’. See: The Last Farewell



Tags: , ,

Comments are closed.