1789 – Elizabeth Pulley’s second year

pulley image cropped 3 The following is the next in the series of my version of Elizabeth’s first years in Australia[1][2].  The story is my take on what life would have been like for Anthony and Elizabeth, and draws on events that would have affected them directly or of which they would have been aware.  The previous instalment, 1788 – Elizabeth Pulley’s first year, finished in December 1788 at the time of Ar-ab-anoo’s capture.  Ar-ab-anoo was probably from the Kayimai  of the Guringai nation who were living around North Sydney/Manly/Kay-yi-my.

1789

The second year of settlement began with New Year celebrations, which included the usual hoisting of the flag, suspension of work, and the Governor’s dinner at which Ar-ab-an-noo was in attendance.  The band played, a singer sang, but Ar-ab-an-noo was not impressed and went to sleep. Ar-ab-a-noo’s abduction had led to a few months of relative peace.  The Traditional Owners, understandably, kept their distance, as the little trust they may have had in the British would have evaporated.

Ar-ab-a-noo, Nān-bar-ee and Ab-ar-óo

Ar-ab-a-noo was quick to learn the English language and customs, and was taken back to his people a few times so they could see he was not harmed.  But his people kept well away.  Phillip’s plan had backfired.  By April Ar-ab-a-noo’s fetter was taken off and he was free to move around the settlement, causing comment wherever he went.  In the same month disaster struck.

Reports were coming in of large numbers of Aboriginal People being found dead around the cove/Warrane and along the coast.  It was small-pox, probably brought in by the British.  Whereas the settlers were immune, being previously exposed to this disease, the Indigenous population had no resistance.  Between April and June they died in their hundreds[3].

A number of Indigenous Australians who were found sick but still alive, were brought into the settlement’s hospital for treatment.  Of those, two children survived.  The boy, Nãn-bar-ee, was adopted by Mr. White, the surgeon-general, and the girl, Ab-ar-òo, was ‘received into’ the family of Mrs. Johnson, the clergyman’s wife.  [4]

Then, in May, Ar-ab-a-noo, who had been tending his people in the hospital, became ill, and died eight days later.  According to Captain Tench, ‘the governor, who particularly regarded him, caused him to be buried in his own garden, and attended the funeral in person’.  I wonder if his remains were ever found or are still under, supposedly, The Museum of Sydney?

East side vertical

East side of the Cove: Governor’s residence on corner of Bridge and Loftus Sts. [5]

The developing town

Life for Elizabeth, Anthony, and now Robert, continued with little change.  Couples married (Anthony was witness to a friend’s wedding in September), children were born, and a number of them and their mothers died during or after birth.  The building and organisation of the settlement struggled on.

Two roads, one linking the landing, hospital and stores, and another down to the magazine and Observatory, were under construction.

Sydney cove west side vertical

West side of Sydney Cove[6]

A second and more stable boat was being built to transport supplies between the Cove/Warrane and Rose Hill.  Temporary shelters were slowly being replaced by more permanent brick buildings and Anthony would have been busy at the brickworks.  

The brickworks[7]

Well, most of the time.  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.

dscn16010001

The brickworks were well out of town, so there was always a potential lack of supervision of workers there.  It seems that conflict between the brickworkers and Traditional custodians, probably the Gadigal or Kamegal bands of the Dharug nation, 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/Kamay to attack and to plunder their fishing-tackle and spears.

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 reconnoitred 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’.

Protecting food supply, the Night Watch, and mutinies

As well as ‘slacking off’, the stealing of anything and everything at both Sydney Cove/Warrane and the newly established Rose Hill gardens by all and sundry continued unabatedly.  In March six marines were executed for a well-organised and long-term exercise of systematically robbing from the stores.  By August a Night Watch was established in both places to try and quell the nighttime raids.  It turned out to be very effective.

Tension between the officers continued.  This time Lieutenant-Governor Ross turned his ire on Governor Phillip and Judge-Advocate Collins.  Ross’ complaints related to the chain of command being abused, and he, or his officers, being slighted or sidelined.  Underlying the complaint was the old grievance of who was in charge of whom and who should be required to do what.  The newly established Night Watch, which was instructed to stop and detain marines as well as convicts, was also a sore point.

Ross had had enough, and openly, and inappropriately, complained about his situation.  He was heard publicly stating, ‘Would to God my time was expired, too’.  He was soon to get his wish.  Plans were already being made in Britain to bring the marines home and replace them with an army corps.  But Ross was not the only discontent.  Insurrection was also becoming a problem at Norfolk Island.  In March news had come from there of an unsuccessful convict mutiny.

The Kings birthday and the first play

The tension was somewhat diverted mid-year with the celebration of the King’s Birthday.  This time the officers were entertained at dinner in the newly built Government House (cnr. Bridge & Phillip Sts).  The highlight of the night was the performance of Farquhar’s comedy of the Recruiting Officer by some of the convicts.

Sixty people attended the play, held in a convict-hut especially fitted up for the occasion with

‘three or four yards of stained paper, and a dozen farthing candles stuck around the mud walls’.  A ‘prologue and an epilogue, written by one of the performers, were also spoken on the occasion;  which…contained some tolerable allusions to the situation of the parties, and the novelty of a stage-representation in New South Wales.’

Expansion beyond the Cove

In the meantime explorations continued further west of Rose Hill, and north-west along the Hawkesbury River/Dyarubbin, past Richmond Hill and the waterfall at the junction of the Grose and Nepean rivers.[8]

from the cove to the hawkesbury

The usual selection of seeds and vegetables were planted in any potentially suitable site on the way.  The parties noted yam planting, animal traps, hunting huts, and other signs of organised Aboriginal husbandry.[9]  They also noted the after-effects of torrential rain and flooding, which meant that the area would not be suitable for European agriculture.  Every attempt to go further, towards the Carmarthen and Blue Mountains/Colomatta, was still thwarted by the rugged countryside.

Diminishing stock and food reserves

Back in the settlements provisions were, as usual, limited. Rats, which had decimated everything in March, still proved to be a problem in the stores in October. There was an imbalance in new births of sheep and goats, with significantly more males than females being born.  Everyone was henceforth forbidden to kill a female.  Fish once again returned with the warmer weather in September, and by summer they were plentiful.

At Rose Hill and Norfolk Island clearing and planting crops had continued steadily throughout the year.  There was still hope that the gardens at Rose Hill and on Norfolk Island, as well as in the Cove/Warrane, would soon produce crops beyond seeding stock.

rose hill from bradley 1789Rose Hill c. 1789

 James Ruse, a farmer and one of a number of convicts whose sentences were now expired, had been sent to Rose Hill to develop an experimental farm.  Even so, in November, almost everyone’s rations were again reduced.

The Indigenous population re-emerges

The warmer weather also brought the Aboriginal Australians.  The devastation caused by small-pox, and the usual lack of food in winter, meant that very few Aboriginal people had been seen on the shore or in canoes.  Many had run away or moved to other areas.  Then in September the attacks on solo or unarmed English recommenced.

At the end of November Phillip once more captured two adult males, using the two Aboriginal children Nãn-bar-ee and Ab-ar-òo as bait,.  The men were Bà-n-eelon and Còl-beeCòl-bee was a chief or elder of the Ca-di-gal band, and was very respected by Bà-n-eelon, who remained quiet in his presence.  Bà-n-eelon was from the Eora. [10] Both had obviously survived small-pox. 

It was not long before Còl-bee managed to escape, even with an iron ring on one leg.  Bà-n-eelon, however, seemed right at home.  He quickly imitated the language and manners of the English, eating and drinking everything he was offered.  He laughed, danced, sang, and skited about carrying off women and fighting competitively, especially against the Cam-ee-ra-gal (based on the North shore, and one of the largest and most powerful tribes in the area).  He was quite a character; dressing in the military red coat and trousers, flirting with the women, and generally keeping the town entertained.[11]

Fear of starvation

In spite of these diversions, everyone in the settlement was becoming pre-occupied by a growing fear.  As the year drew to a close and 1790 began, Capt. Hunter wrote,

‘in every company, the converfation turned upon the long expected arrivals from England…with a fupply of provifions’.

c. Annette Maie, 2020

[1] These stories sprang from the research my mother, Madge Rups (nee Rope), undertook in the 1970’s and 1980’s which I extended from late 1990’s onwards to include the social context and Indigenous-British relations.  It is a compilation drawn from the Journals of the First Fleet, the Historical Records, the Picman Catalogue, the Colonial Secretary’s Papers, articles from the Royal Historical Society Journal and Proceedings, and other writing.

[2] As I explained in the previous instalment, it was two hundred and thirty years since my ancestor Elizabeth Pulley arrived in Australia and it seemed an apt time to offer my version of her first year in the colony.  I had also uploaded a very much abbreviated version of the first part of Elizabeth’s story, Beginnings and Arrival, in 2017 as Remembering Elizabeth Pulley on ‘Australia Day’  , which I then extended as a series in 2019-2020, Elizabeth Pulley Sets SailAll the stories are excerpts from a longer doco-story, The Story of Elizabeth Pulley: and her first five years in Australia which I wrote for my family in 2010.

[3] Estimates vary from hundreds to thousands.  Gov. Phillip commented that, from the information he was able to gather, ‘one-half of those who inhabit this part of the country died’.  The Indigenous Australians called it ‘devil devil’. The question ‘where did it come from?’ remains unanswered. Smallpox has a 10-14 day incubation period so it is unlikely to have come directly from the fleet’s human cargo.  Test tubes of scabs were apparently brought in for inoculation purposes and probably stored in the hospital laboratory, although there are questions about whether it would have remained active for the length of, and weather changes during, the journey. So either someone accidentally or purposefully let it loose or it came from somewhere unknown.  I doubt if it would have been on Phillip’s orders although he had enemies and some officers, let alone the rest of the rabble, did target the First Peoples.

[4] I have not yet found a reliable genealogy for Nãn-bar-eeAb-ar-òo, also known as Boorong, was from the Burrumattagal band of the Dharug nation (around Parramatta) and became Bennelong’s third wife (Ref. Why we should remember Boorong).

[5] Soas not to infringe copyright all sketches are my copies of original records with additions.

[6] My understanding is that George Street follows this early road, and that at this stage the landing of goods, etc was carried out via the beach.

[7] I have previously uploaded this section about the brickworks onto the Rope-Pulley facebook page.

[8] During the course of my research I have been constantly amazed how quickly and extensively the newcomers travelled in their efforts to find suitable settlement and agricultural sites.

[9] In his article, Australian Temper and Bias,  Bruce Pascoe summarises the evidence, recorded in explorer’s journals, of early Aboriginal settlement and agriculture around Australia by the time of European arrival – vast fields of agriculture, bread making, the damning of rivers and streams, and building.  Pascoe has published a detailed account of this in his adult’s and children’s versions of Dark Emu.

[10] This is one example that the devastation caused by the smallpox epidemic meant that old tribal groupings and territory divisions had broken down.

[11] Detailed information about Woollarawarre Bennelong, as he preferred to be called, and his story can be found at, Bennelong among his people.  In November 2018 the NSW State Government bought the site where Bennelong is believed to have been buried to establishing a public memorial.  Although Bennelong was born on Wangal land on the south side of the harbour, he was buried in Wallumedegal territory on the north side at Ryde.  Both Abaroo and Nãn-bar-ee are believed to be buried beside him.  It interests me to note that I was born on Wangal land and in the later years of my life have moved back there.

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