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Historical Facts - Mornington Peninsula
Collins Settlement - The Convicts

Edward Bromley, the ships surgeon, chose which convicts would travel on the H.M.S. Calcutta from a list of over 400 names. Also taken into account was a list of trades and occupations Lieutenant David Collins considered to be important in building the new settlement at Port Phillip Bay. These included carpenters, sawyers and coopers, those skilled in woodworking, brick making and brick laying, butchers, bakers, cooks, fishermen, mariners and caulkers. Other occupations included clerks, schoolmasters, printers, brewers, gardeners and shoemakers. Bromley was paid a bonus of 10/- for every convict who arrived at Port Phillip in good health.

The oldest convict chosen was Robert Cooper who was 57 years old. The youngest were William Steel and William Appleton, both 9.

Most of the convicts were of English descent, while about 18 were Irish and 8 Scottish. Of the 303 convict whom records exist, 252 were sentenced to transport for theft. Many were convicted for stealing handkerchief’s, while 30 stole money and 18 stole pieces of linen or cloth. There were also convicts who committed ‘white collar’ crimes. Nine were convicted for embezzling money and 16 were convicted for forging and counterfeiting. Seven of the men were convicted for mutiny. This took place in Gibraltar a few months earlier.

Robert Cooper

The oldest convict, Robert Cooper, 57, was a gypsy who was convicted at Dorset on suspicion of stealing 9 donkeys and 4 blind halters. He was classed as an invalid at Hobart in 1819 and spent many years in hospital. He died at Hobart in 1837.

William Steel

The youngest convicts were only 9. William Steel was sentenced to 7 years transportation at Middlesex for stealing 25 yards of Irish cloth. Unfortunately he was drawn to trouble. A few years after moving to Hobart, he became part of Michael Howe’s gang of bushrangers and committed a number of thefts. He was hanged in Hobart on 25 May 1815.

William Appleton

William Appleton, also 9 years old was convicted of stealing an apron and a small amount of money. He was given a sentence of transportation for 7 years. In Hobart he lived with Sergeant Samuel Thorne and his family. Appleton returned to England around 1811 after his sentence expired.

Matthew Power

Matthew Power, a printer from Dublin (Ireland) was tried along with his wife Hannah at Kent for putting in circulation counterfeit banknotes. His wife Hannah was discharged but she accompanied her husband on the H.M.S. Calcutta. It is believed Hannah Power caught Lieutenant David Collins attention when she asked that a boat be sent ashore before sailing, to collect her pet poodle. According to John Fawkner, the ships were not even out of sight of land before David Collins claimed Hannah as his mistress. Matthew, her husband apparently accepted the situation and in return had his leg irons removed and was given favourable treatment. He was not confined to the prison rooms on the H.M.S. Calcutta and was allowed to spend time topside. At Collins Settlement Matthew became the Settlements printer. Later at Hobart, Collins had Matthew Powers name removed from the list of convicts and he was given a grant of land. Matthew Power became quite prosperous but decided to return to England with his wife in 1809.

Adam Carmichael

Adam Carmichael from Aberdeen in Scotland was a private in the North British Militia. He was convicted for breaking and entering into a shop and stealing 20 Scottish Cheeses, a cask of gin, 12 pounds of green tea, candles, oranges, tobacco, 2 bottles of spirits and 2 pair of stockings. On the voyage to Port Phillip Bay, Carmichael was employed as a servant. After the settlement was transferred to Hobart he was goaled attempting to steal boat owned by Reverend Robert Knapweed. He escaped from the guardhouse and was declared to be an outlaw. It was presumed he was killed in 1806.

Richard Garret

Richard Garret was sentenced to death in London for stealing a piece of printed calico, a piece of brown sheeting and a piece of linsey. Garret, whose sentence was reprieved to transport for life was the first European married at Sullivan Bay.

Christopher Forsha

Christopher Forsha, a caulker and literate stole 14 pounds of sheet copper from his employer and was sentenced at Middlesex to 7 years transportation. He was a crewmember on the cutter, which took messages to Governor King in NSW from Governor Collins in November 1803.

James Austin

James Austin a farm laborer was tried and convicted in Somerset for stealing 200 pounds of honey and eleven straw beehives. In Hobart he was pardoned and became a successful farmer. In 1823 he claimed to own the largest orchard in Van Diemans Land. He was a clever businessman owning a hotel on either side of the Derwent river plus the ferry service that ran between the hotels. James Austin never married. He was described as 'wealthy but eccentric'. Austin passed away at Roseneath, one of his hotels, on 28 December 1831, aged 56.

Thomas Rushton

Thomas Rushton, a brewer by trade, was sentenced to transportation for 14 years for the forgery of 20 £1 notes and 10 £2 notes. In March 1804 David Collins sent Rushton to Sydney to give advice to the operators of a brewery at Parramatta. Rushton stayed in NSW, was pardoned and became a leading merchant and philanthropist.

The Seven Gibraltar Mutineers

Seven of the convict chosen had been involved in a mutiny at Gibraltar. Christopher Cronbury, John Crute, John Haynes, Patrick McCarthy, John Sculler, James Taylor and Sander Van Straten were soldiers of the 25th foot regiment. They had seen service in Egypt and Malta fighting the French. After the Peace of Amiens, the regiment became part of the garrison at Gibraltar. In may 1802 George III’s 4th son; the Duke of Kent was appointed Governor of Gibraltar. The mutiny began on 24th December 1802. More than 50 men, some discharging muskets into the air were mistakenly fire upon by the Dukes regiment. After 2 hours of Musket and cannon fire, a total of 80 men lay dead and 200 wounded. A court martial resulted in the execution of 3 members of the 25th foot regiment. Ten others were sentenced to death but were pardoned by the Duke. Seven of these men were transported for life aboard the H.M.S. Calcutta. After arriving at Port Phillip Bay and then later being transferred to Van Diemans Land, John Crute was executed in Hobart for stealing sheep in 1826. James Taylor was condemned to death but later reprieved for stealing the vessel Maria from Hobart wharves in 1807. Christopher Cronbury died aged 25 at Hobart as a result of a cough. John Haynes went on to become a successful sheep farmer in Van Diemans Land. Patrick McCarthy was given a land grant and established a mixed farm. He was, unfortunately killed by aborigines.

James Lord

James Lord from Halifax, Yorkshire was sentenced to 7 years transportation for stealing 3 bushels of oats. After he was freed in 1808 he was given a small land grant and was soon growing wheat and producing meat for the government at Hobart. He was a shrewd businessman and a skilful farmer. He accumulated a large fortune when he was involved in the illegal trade of spirits. James Lord passed away on the 4th August 1824. His son David inherited his father’s wealth and in 1827 David was the wealthiest man in Van Diemans Land.

Sylvester Lush

Sylvester Lush was transported for stealing. He had difficulty staying out of trouble and in 1806 was again charged with stealing. In 1822 he was charged with assaulting his wife and in 1824 he was given 14 months goal for receiving stolen sheep.

James Grove

James Grove was sentenced to death for engraving a set of plates and counterfeiting bank notes. He was, when discovered, shrewd enough to assist Bank of England officials with information on how to detect forgeries. In return his sentence was reduced to transportation. From the outset of the voyage on H.M.S. Calcutta, Grove was treated as a trusted and privileged prisoner. He paid £20 his own cabin, so his wife Susannah and son Daniel, who had been permitted to accompany him, would have a more comfortable journey. Grove and his wife became very close friends with Lieutenant David Collins. On arrival at Port Phillip he was appointed to the night watch, and on the transfer to Van Diemans Land in 1804 his name appeared as a stockholder, while his designation on official lists was altered from prisoner to settler. Grove is credited with having made the earliest existing example of Australian silver, a small castor with the arms and crest of Collins and an inscription bearing the date 1804. When Governor David Collins died in March 1810, Grove made the coffin in which Collins was buried and engraved its silver memorial plate. Groves passed away just 37 days after Governor Collins and was buried next to his friend. His wife Susannah returned to England in 1811.

David Gibson

David Gibson was born at Aberuthven, Perthshire, Scotland, and baptized on 26 April 1778. In March 1802 at the York Gaol he was sentenced to transportation for life on H.M.S Calcutta. Gibson was one of the few convicts who escaped and later returned to the Collins Settlement. After the settlement moved to Van Diemans Land, he was employed as an inspector of stock. In 1813 he was pardoned and by 1815 was living at Port Dalrymple on his farm after he was given a land grant. In 1819 he married Elizabeth Nichols and together they had 10 children. When Governor Lachlan Macquarie travelled to Van Diemands Land in 1821 he was an overnight guest at Gidsons house. By 1828 Gibson held 7300 acres of land, of which he had purchased 6500, with 1500 head of cattle and 4000 sheep. He became well known in Van Diemands Land for his success as a pastoralist, a livestock breeder and a horticulturist. He died at Pleasant Banks on 15 April 1858.

Sources of information include 'No Place for a Colony' by Richard Cotter, 'Mornington iin the wake of Flinders' by Leslie Moorhead, The logs of the Lady Nelson, 'A Voyage to Establish a Colony at Port Philip in Bass's Strait On the South Coast of New South Wales, in His Majesty's Ship Calcutta, in the Years 1802-3-4' by James Hingston Tuckey, ADB and other sources



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