Anthony Rope and the Sydney Cove brickworks

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I’ve been motivated by Julie Austen’s link on Rope-Pulley Family Heritage association facebook page to upload information I have.  This is an excerpt from a 2010 family compilation, The Story of Elizabeth Pulley and her first five years in Australia, which I began to serialised in 2020 as Elizabeth Pulley Sets Sail and Other Stories.

‘On 11th February Anthony, along with John Summers, was charged with ‘neglecting to work where ordered’, and ordered 25 lashes.  Then, on 9th March, Anthony was charged again, and ordered 25 lashes.  Perhaps there was a reason for his reticence.

The brickworks were well out of town (The Dictionary of Sydney places them two kilometers out of the settlement in what is now Chinatown), so there was always a potential lack of supervision of workers there.  It seems that conflict between the brickworkers and the Traditional Owners, which had come to public attention in December, was not isolated, and on 6th March it came to a head.  Members of the Brickmaker’s gang, and some others, armed with working tools and large clubs, went towards Botany Bay to attack the Aboriginal groups there and plunder their fishing-tackle and spears (possibly from the Kameygal or Gweagal clans of the Dharwal nation).

They were met, or ambushed (depending on source), by a group of Indigenous Australians, who killed one of the convicts and injured seven others.  The convicts who escaped gave the alarm and an officer, with a detachment of marines, was sent to rescue the wounded and bring them back.  Later two more armed parties of marines reconnoitered the area to signal the Governor’s disapproval.

Over the next couple of months the convicts involved were rounded up, charged, and ordered 150 lashes and to wear a leg iron for a year.  Samuel Day, who had been Elizabeth’s accomplice in the sea-pye incident the previous May, was one of them.  Anthony, however, was not on the list.  I would like to think that his reason for shirking work during this period was because he would have known of the plans for the impending attack, and he did not want to be part of it.  So, he stayed away.  But I could be quite wrong.  He may have just been ‘slacking off’.’


c. Annette Maie, 2018