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.


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.


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.


Australia Day: conflicts and alternatives (2023 update)

Australian bush Woodford


This year I will again be honouring my convict ancestors’, Elizabeth Pulley and Anthony Rope, arrival in Sydney Cove/Warrane on 26th January 1788.  Elizabeth had been sentenced to be ‘hung by the neck till she be dead’.  She escaped that fate by being shipped to Australia.  Because of this I and our family have been given the gift of life yet I am well aware of the devastation it caused the First Peoples of this continent.  As I have written many times previously, while I am happy to celebrate my ancestors safe arrival in Sydney Cove/Warrane on this date, in my view designating 26th January as ‘Australia Day’ and a national day for all Australians is insensitive, unacceptable, and must change.

The Roving Date.  Protest.  Alternative Events.  #changethedate.  Summary.

The Roving Date

Recently there has been increasing interest in and debate about the dating of ‘Australia Day’ and its designation as a national holiday.

In 2016 the Rope-Pulley Family Heritage Association newsletter[1]  discussed the different dating and versions of ‘Australia Day’ and the various celebrations held on 26th January both at a state and national level.[2]

More recently the Reconciliation Council of NSW uploaded additional information about, and history of resistance to the 26th January being designated ‘Australia Day’.[3] Some of it includes,

The 26th January as a national official public holiday called ‘Australia Day’ is recent (1994) and could well have been politically motivated as were earlier dates.  The first ever official national day that was actually named ‘Australia Day’ was July 30 in 1915, which was to raise funds for the World War I effort.  In 1916, the Australia Day committee that had formed (to organise the war effort fundraising the year before) determined that it would be held on July 28.  In 1837, the first Sydney Regatta was held. In 1838, crowds of people attended the event and to see the hoisting of the New South Wales flag. South Australia, Western Australia, and Van Diemens Land (Tasmania) were toasted as sister colonies, despite having their own celebratory day.[4]

In The many different dates we’ve celebrated Australia Day SBS has also traced the history of ‘Australia Day’ and its recent national significance concluding that “Australia Day officially became a public holiday for all states and territories only 24 years ago, in 1994.”


The Reconciliation Council of NSW has also traced the history of protest in relation to the 26th January.  In 1938 on 26th January there was a significant Aboriginal protest calling it a ‘Day of Mourning’ and, as the rally was held, 25 Indigenous men were told if they did not perform the role of ‘retreating Aborigines’ in a re-enactment of the First Fleet, their families would starve.[5]

Then, in 1972 the Aboriginal tent embassy was established in front of Parliament House, Canberra.   2022 marked the 50th anniversary of the Tent Assembly.    Begun as a protest about specific land rights its continuing presence challenges the Australian government on broader Indigenous land rights, sovereignty and self-determination.

On 26 January 1988 40,000 Aboriginal protesters and non-Aboriginal supporters marched from Redfern Park to a public rally at Hyde Park and then on to Sydney Harbour to mark the 200th anniversary of British invasion.  Simultaneously “prominent and articulate” Aboriginal advocate Burnum Burnum “planted a huge Aboriginal flag on the White Cliffs of Dover and issues a declaration claiming England for the Aboriginal people”. [6]


The history and reasons for such protests and about the dating and therefore original intention of Australia Day as “the idea of Australia’s national day being a celebration of British colonialism” are also detailed and examined in Professor Marcia Langdon’s Welcome to Country* (p. 175).   “This absence of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, their histories and cultures from the story of the Australian nation cannot be understated” (p.176)

Alternative events

There are an increasing number of events on offer around this date that highlight the conflict.

25th January

In 2023 at 7.30 pm on 25 January the Sunset Ceremony on Gadigal country will be simultaneously simulcast on NITV, SBS and streaming platforms SBS On Demand and 10 Play, then encored at 6am on Thursday 26 January on 10 and at 12pm on NITV and SBS.

Then at 8.30 pm at Barangaroo Reserve, Sydney Festival is presenting Vigil: Awakening (2023) which will also be livestreamed.  The evening vigils began in 2019 when the Festival of Sydney offered a vigil to signify ‘The Day Before Everything Changed’ and in which the public was invited to participate.  In 2020 and 2021 the event was title was shortened to Vigil, and in 2022 titled Vigil: Songs for Tomorrow.

26th January

In 2023 in Sydney the day begins at 5.20 am with a Dawn Reflection during which the Opera House will be lit by First Nations artwork.

WugulOra Morning Ceremony, at Barangaroo Reserve at 7.30 am.  Previously it has begun with a ritual walk along George St. In 2023 it will be broadcast live on ABCTV and streamed on ABC iview.

For a number of years there has been an Invasion Day protest and march.  In 2023 there will be a rally 9.30 am at Belmore Park, Eddy Avenue, Haymarket.

In 2023 at 10am Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council is holding a 1938 Day of Mourning Commemorative Event at Australia Hall, 150-152 Elizabeth St., Sydney.  Anny Druett, granddaughter of Pearl Gibbs one of the original protesters, and Warren Roberts are keynote speakers.  Musician Charlie Trindall and Actor-comedian Steven Oliver will be performing. After the event there will be a procession to Yabun Festival.

Yabun Festival at Victoria Park has been an alternative event for many years which celebrates Aboriginal heritage, culture and survival.  In 2023 it will be livestreamed.

Then there is Yumi Wansolwara, a celebration of South Sea Islander culture at Pirrama Park, Pyrmont.

Alternative events such as these are gathering momentum across the continent – to remember and heal.  ANTaR is listing major events in each state.  In addition events at Bondi, Sutherland, Griffith and Newcastle have come across my radar and in 2023 South Australia will be holding events over the two days with the theme, ‘connecting to country and nature’.

In 2021 Anita Heiss, Professor of Communications at the University of Queensland and a  Wiradjuri woman offered her list of numerous alternative activities for the day, What you can read, view and do.


It has been recognised for a long time that Australia Day and other national days in this country only celebrate post-colonial history.  There is no national celebration or holiday that celebrates anything of the previous 60,000+ years when the First Nations Peoples lived on and cared for Country, or recognises the ceremonies and celebrations they engaged in.  As can already be seen there is a lot of heartache and discomfort around the date in both Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities. [7]

In 2017 Reconciliation Australia published an issue addressing the arguments around the need for change. 

Coach, trainer, speaker and Ngemba woman Anny Druett also discusses background and issues involved suggesting the name ‘Acknowledgement Day’ as an alternative for 26th January: one which would have “the potential to connect us through cultural protocols that have been handed down for over 60,000 years, or over the last 4,000 generations”, so that “Australia will genuinely be able to commemorate and celebrate both our First Nations, and our continent: past, present and future.”

In 2021 Wiradjuri historian, author and Aboriginal engagement expert Nola Turner-Jenkins posted,

“I am getting asked more and more about what are my thoughts on Australia Day celebrations. My thoughts are this – the current public holiday and focus is for one society to celebrate a different Australian version of their English/European heritage, hard work, colonisation and exploration in search of a way to showcase a unique Australian identity.You have governance control and that is what you have decided is right for all Australians.  As a person who is of the First Nation people of this land it is not right for me to celebrate your version of an Australian identity.  It is not my identity.  I hold a different identity so why should my unique and ancient identity that already exists be forcibly diluted amongst your new one?”

Continue reading “Australia Day: conflicts and alternatives (2023 update)”

Anthony Rope and the Sydney Cove brickworks

thumbnail (1)

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

Elizabeth and Anthony Rope’s life at The Ponds, 1791- ?

Elizabeth and Anthony Rope’s life at The Ponds, 1791- ?[i]

The Ponds Dundas Valley DSCN14990001 cropped 2

The Ponds Creek was originally a series of swamps, soaks and tributaries along Dundas Valley. The name Dundas came into use in the late 1790’s but not officially until the late 1800’s.  Originally the home of the Darug speaking Wallumedda clan.  www.parracity.nsw.gov.au

Captain Watkins Tench lists the Ropes among the settlers at the Ponds during his last visit to the area on 6th December, 1791. Bonwick’s ‘Return of Land in Cultivation…as of 16th October, 1792’, dates Anthony as being settled at the Ponds on 10 January, 1792.  Perhaps January was when Anthony’s sentence expired and he ‘officially’ received the grant.  If that was the case, by mid-January Anthony could have been farming full-time,[ii] and the family would only have needed to visit Parramatta for their weekly ration, as well as for replacement tools, seeds, clothing, medical assistance, and divine services.  

Whatever the case, by the beginning of 1792 Elizabeth and Anthony would have been well settled into their new environment.  The Ponds, so named because of the large ponds of good water in the area, was located in the gently rolling hills and creeks around Dundas Valley.  Elizabeth would have noticed the quiet and the sense of isolation in contrast to the bustle of Parramatta, especially while Anthony was at work in town.

Because of their two children they had the largest allotment: seventy acres reaching over the hill between two creeks or ponds.  The other 14 or so allotments were settled by couples, or, as in the case of Anthony’s friend John Summers, were share-farmed by two men.[iii]  In the centre of the small community was a military detachment of one officer and 3 privates, who were to protect the new settlers until the clearing of the land was complete.[iv]

my sketch of The Ponds grant

Upon settlement they would have received the same provisions and equipment, and would have been under the same conditions, as the other ex-convict settlers. The family would have been given enough grain for the first year and tools.  Tools were given to both men and women;  each receiving a hatchet, a tomahawk, two hoes, a spade, and a shovel.  A number of cross-cut saws were shared among the community, and muskets were given to each family for their protection.  Also, at some settlements, a convict was given to a family as an assistant.

As well as tending to the vegetable garden and assisting Anthony with the bulk crops, Elizabeth would have been making clothes, cooking, and caring for the needs of their children: Robert, now almost three and a half years old, and Mary, just over six months.  At the time the home gardens included vegetables, such as cabbages, greens, peas, kidney-beans, turnips, carrots. leeks, parsley, all of which did well in the Australian climate.  The larger crops were wheat and other grain.

They had obviously immediately set to work clearing the land and planting.  Records show that by February 1792 the Ropes had 8 1/2 acres cleared from trees, and another 8 1/2 acres were under wheat and maize;  a major improvement since the previous December. They would have built their own hut, to which a brick chimney would have been added mid year.[v]  By February they had acquired one horse and eight hogs.  So they were doing well.  When Atkins visited the Ponds in March he was generally impressed, remarking that the settlers ‘are for the most part…very comfortably lodged…  In short they are in every particular much better situated than they could possibly be in England.’

It was a fulltime job as there were inevitable problems with scavenging hawks, crows and bugs, which meant replanting, as well as marauding absconders and local aborigines who were after anything edible or barterable.  Elizabeth and Anthony were also lucky to get the animals, for although two sow pigs were promised to each ex-convict settler, they were not always received.

In spite of their progress, however, it was too soon for the family to self support, and in February three of them are listed as still being on government stores.  Elizabeth was probably breastfeeding Mary, the fourth member of the family.  The stores were essential for the new settler’s survival, as it was becoming obvious that it would be some time before they would be self-sufficient.  The government had given them eighteen months to establish themselves, after which they would be taken off stores and would need to pay for the hire of their convict labour themselves.[vi]  After five years of continuous farming the land was theirs at one shilling per annum rent.

The previous year had seen some major changes in the settlement of New South Wales.  The focus of cultivation of crops and animal husbandry, which had moved from Sydney Cove to Parramatta and Norfolk Island, was now extending further north, east, and west of Parramatta.  Sydney Cove was now considered an administrative centre and a depot for stores, with the Governor’s main residence there.  Parramatta was the agricultural centre where the Governor had a second residence.  Commuting was the norm, and a pathway now connected the two towns.

As well, Sydney Cove was turning into a busy port.  One month after the last of the Third Fleet had departed in January, 1792, the first ship of the Fourth Fleet pulled into the harbour.[vii]  The bi-annual arrival of Fleets had begun.  By the end of 1792 this traffic was augmented by trading and Whaling ships, which had heard about the new colony in other ports, and were hoping to trade goods, as well as to carry out repairs and replenish supplies of wood and water.

The movement of ships and people between the Cove and Norfolk Island increased in frequency as convicts, supervisors, soldiers and provisions were ferried back and forth.  Often ships from the Fleets would be commissioned in this way before returning home.  Phillip also regularly diverted the returning ships to Batavia or Calcutta to purchase extra provisions, clothing, and stores.

The colony was still much in need, and there was the constant fear that the storeships from England would be delayed or shipwrecked.  So the weeks between one ship departing and another arriving were spent in anxious anticipation.  In addition, the stores, clothing and provisions, when they were landed and checked, were often damaged, underweight, or unsuitable for the climate and harsh conditions of the country.  In the end extra provisions were purchased from the trading ships as well, to make up for any losses or omissions.

The Fleets themselves were now commissioned from private firms by the English Government.  So the ships masters would view the exercise as a trading opportunity and not just the transport of personnel and government goods.  Shops were set up in huts on shore, and people would flock to purchase the wares.  Some newly settled convicts took the short-term option of selling their stock and leaving their land so that they could purchase the alluring ‘unnecessaries’ or a return passage home.[viii]  Disputes regarding money exchange and the price of goods began to form part of the Court’s agenda.  And, of course, convicts would regularly stowaway, and sailors abscond.

At the other end of the river, Parramatta continued to expand.  Many of the convicts and soldiers were now based in the area:  the convict men in agriculture or other trades, and the women making clothes from material they collected from the stores, acting as ‘minders’ for the men’s huts while the men were at work, or themselves working in the fields and, of course, getting married and having children.[ix]  Reverend Johnson calculated that by October 1792 he had performed 220 marriages and 226 baptisms since arrival.

Increasing numbers of First Fleet ex-convicts and ex-marines, who had decided to settle were, like Elizabeth and Anthony, on their way to becoming self-supporting.  New settlers were given land around Parramatta, in areas called Prospect Hill (west), the Ponds (northeast), the Field of Mars (along the creek) the Eastern Farms, the Northern Farms, and south of the creek.  As the crops from these outlying farms were harvested the excess was brought into town for barter or sale.

The area northwest of Parramatta, initially called ‘new farms’ and later named Toongabbie, was selected as the site for the new public farm.  In January 1792 the clearing began.  By June the convicts employed there were planting seed, and in September they had harvested the first crop of wheat and Indian corn.  The produce, if not stolen, was taken to the government stores where it was augmented by imported provisions, or stored as seed for the following season’s planting.[x]

Expectations for the future were high, and in April the foundations for a town hall, to include a market place for grain, fish, poultry, livestock and clothes, and a hospital were laid at Parramatta.  A ‘clerk of the market’ was appointed to register sales and barters, in an attempt to deter the sale and exchange of stolen goods.  Goods on sale at Parramatta market during May included:  hens, cocks, chickens, eggs, fresh pork, vegetables, tea, coffee, sugar, tobacco, soap and cheese.  New arrivals commented on how well the colony seemed to be doing, and how much the convicts had compared to labouring people in England.  The reality was that the colony was still struggling to feed itself.

Everyone was still on reduced ration, a situation that had continued almost unchanged since November 1789.  Many of the convicts were starving and a number of newcomers commented on their appearance.  Atkins described them as ‘mere walking shadows’.  By March 1792 work was restricted to the hours between 5 and 9 in the morning, and 4 and 5.30 in the afternoon, as the convicts were too weak to do more.  Then in April, as in the previous year, rations were reduced further.

The rationing took its toll.  During the first half of the year at Parramatta, there were daily burials of convicts.  Small children were also vulnerable.[xi]  Quite a number of the convicts had never recovered fully from the lack of care during their journey out the previous year and were weak and malnourished.[xii]  In addition, the hand-mills, which England had sent out, were not strong enough grind the Indian corn, and the grain was being eaten raw.  In an attempt to bring relief, the Governor established a fishery on South Head, and sent gamesmen to Parramatta to procure fresh meat for the hospital.  The fresh protein, added to the large numbers of vegetables the gardens produced, and a little rum, gradually slowed the death-rate during the rest of the year.

Governor Phillip had been concerned and in June, a few weeks after the King’s Birthday, he visited the new settlement (Toongabbie) where most of the convicts were labouring.  He apologised to them for the small ration, and asked them to be patient, orderly and to do their duty.  He promised that storeships were expected, and that when the ships arrived the convicts rations would be increased if they behaved well.  He then released all those in irons, a gesture which usually coincided with the King’s Birthday.  Yet it was some months before rationing approached an adequate quantity.

By this time relations with the aboriginal inhabitants seems to have settled down once more.  Reverend Johnson mentions their daily presence in camp.  Five aboriginal people seemed to have been living permanently in the towns and are listed as being on government stores.  These were probably working for, or living with, some of the English.[xiii] There is mention of groups of aborigines stealing the ripening corn and other items from the outlying farms, but there is only one incident recorded of a ‘payback’ nature.  In May a convict was found dead, having been speared and cut as payback for firing on, and, it was assumed, killing, one of a group caught stealing goods from a hut.  Otherwise there is very little comment on relations between the two cultures.

Each new boatload of convicts, on the other hand, continued to cause as much trouble as they could.[xiv]  Whereas many of the convicts who came out in 1788 were now settling down and becoming ‘model’ citizens, the new arrivals went through the whole rebellious cycle of absconding, stealing, running scams, [xv]and mutiny, including attacking people for their provisions on the roads from Parramatta to Toongabbie or to Sydney. [xvi]

The court record for Parramatta on 9th January, 1792 is an example of the types of crimes committed by the convicts at this time.  The court heard seventeen charges of stealing chickens, corn, greens, vegetables, including from the Governor’s garden, clothing, money, of disorderly behaviour, and of going to Sydney without permission.  The severity of punishment, such as stocks, iron collars, lashes, executions, or transportation to Norfolk Island for life, did not seem to have deterred them.

As well as the community’s growth in size, a much more complex society was emerging.  The new colony was no longer just an extended ‘low security’ prison, but an agricultural and trading centre with two major towns and a number of satellite communities.  Reverend Johnson and Judge-Advocate Collins were both writing of their increased workload.

The Reverend was conducting divine services in three places: Sydney, Parramatta, and ‘a new settlement 3 miles west of Parramatta’ (Toongabbie).  Attendance, however, was still irregular and although four hundred acres of land had been given over for church use, no building to house the congregations had yet been erected.[xvii]  As well Johnson now had competition.  A number of the more recent convict arrivals were Irish and Catholic.  In November four males and one female signed a letter at Parramatta alerting the Governor to the inconvenience in not having ‘a pastor of our religion’, that is, a Catholic priest.

The need for administrators, supervisors and skilled workers was increasing, a point that Phillip continued to make in his letters to England.  He was also alerting England of the need to pay skilled workers, as the ships masters were offering passage home in return for work, and draining the colony of experienced tradesmen.[xviii]  The skill pool was further reduced by accidents, sickness and by some who had been here long term requesting retirement.[xix]

Some of Phillip’s needs were addressed during the year.  Atkins, a magistrate, arrived in February, and was posted to Parramatta to deal with criminal matters there, as well as assist Judge-Advocate Collins in Sydney.  In October a replacement surgeon, a master carpenter, a master miller and a settler experienced in cultivation arrived.  The gaps were also filled by ex-convicts who had proved themselves trustworthy and were granted remission and jobs.[xx]

Money was now a commodity, partly due to the trade instigated by the arriving ships, but also due to skilled workers needing to be paid, and the increasing numbers of ex-convicts having to support themselves.  By October shops for private trade had opened in Sydney and Parramatta.[xxi]  In response to Phillip’s requests ‘three thousand-eight hundred and seventy ounces of silver in dollars’ arrived in November on the transport Kitty.  One thousand were immediately dispatched to Norfolk Island, the rest was held in Sydney as ‘public money’.

Education appeared on the agenda.  By March 1792 three schools had been established for the children of civil and military families, and some convict children: one at Parramatta, another in Sydney, and the third at Norfolk Island.  Those in Sydney were run by schoolmistresses;  the one in Norfolk by a convict ex-teacher.[xxii]  Reverend Johnson was writing to England for financial support and resources, such as books.  He stressed the need for educating convict and aboriginal adults and children.  He also canvassed for additional teachers, ‘as I fear that a school mistress wd not do so well neither be proper to instruct the men Convicts’, and missionaries for ‘the ignorant and benighted heathens’.

The arrival of Major Grose in February, as Lieutenant Governor in charge of the NSW corps, began well.   He was agreeably surprised by the colony.  But this was not to last.  He was soon unwilling to abide by Phillip’s more democratic philosophy.  By October he was complaining to Phillip and England that he and his soldiers had been placed on the same ‘unwholesome’ ration as everyone else, and of the limits placed on the availability of liquor.[xxiii]  In spite of Phillip’s opposition, he and his Officers privately hired the Britannia to go to the Cape of Good Hope and bring back provisions they considered essential for men of their rank.  It seemed as though the battles that Phillip had fought with the First Fleet officers were about to recur.

However Phillip by this time had had enough.  His decision to resign, publicly announced at the end of October, caused a flurry of activity as long-termers, like Judge-Advocate Collins and Surgeon-General White, also submitted requests for leave in the hope of accompanying him home.  Phillip had slowly been working towards consolidating his administration throughout the year, and October and November were spent finalising all accounts, writing detailed reports to England, restating his mandate for the colony, updating records of provisions, stores and personnel, and granting absolute and provisional pardons to those he considered deserving.

On Friday 7th December Phillip conducted his last item of business and officially closed his government.  Then on Monday 10th at 6pm, he ‘quit his charge’ and embarked on the Atlantic.  He was received near the wharf on the east-side, where his boat was lying, by Major Grose at the head of the NSW corps.  There the NSW corps ‘paid him all the marks of honour’.  The officers of the civil department, and the three marine officers who were to accompany him to England, were in attendance.

On board were the last of the marines, two convicts whose period of transportations had expired, and two aboriginal men, Bennillong and Yem-mer-ra-wan-nie, who were friends of Phillip.  They had decided to travel with him, much to the distress of their wives and friends.  The following day those officers who were to remain behind sailed with Phillip down the harbour.  At 9am they disembarked, and gave three cheers as the ship prepared to move between the heads and depart the colony.

It was not without regret on both sides.  In Phillip’s view, the colony was now approaching ‘that state in which I have so long and anxiously wished to see’.  From the standpoint of those who had worked alongside him since the beginning, it was a great loss and ‘no small degree of concern in the settlement’.

Major Grose was sworn in by Judge-Advocate Collins, and immediately began to institute military, rather than civil rule.  Nothing in future was to be done, including court proceedings and punishment, without Grose’s and his officers’ approval and direction.  A few days later a distinction in rations was ordered, with all civil and military personnel placed on full ration while the convicts’ allowance remained restricted.[xxiv]  Some of the convict-settlers responded by selling off their stock in order to buy spirits.  As Atkins commented, ‘times are changed’.

It is difficult to imagine how Elizabeth and Anthony would have felt during this time.  Change is always unsettling, and they, like everyone else, were probably biding their time to see how advantageous or not, the new government was to be.  The inequalities in rationing would not have affected them greatly, as their allowance was supplemented by the produce of their farm, and their community was well enough away to function on its own.  As they do not seem to be mentioned in any records until 1794, they probably were not causing any trouble worth noting.

During the year they would have received the extra ration of spirits for the King’s birthday celebration in June.  They may also have benefited from the clothes which arrived, and were handed out to convicts, at the end of October.  They probably did receive one of the ewes, for the purpose of breeding, which Phillip gave to each married settler just before he left the colony.

But over the long-term, it seems that the changes brought in by military rule had their effect on Elizabeth and Anthony as well.  Not only was government provisions now unequally rationed, the military began to monopolise both the marketplace and the giving of land grants.  Military insistence on easy access to liquor meant that spirits became the preferred currency, the illegal distillation of liquor a preferred source of income, and farming being a lot of hard work for virtually nothing.

In addition Elizabeth and Anthony lost their third child, Elizabeth, who died in 1794 soon after birth, and could possibly be buried at The Ponds.  Although they were still there during 1795 for the birth and baptism of John, by the end of the following year the family is recorded as having settled at Mulgrave Place, near Windsor.  Perhaps they had had enough and walked off their farm to squat around the Hawkesbury like so many other people at the time, or perhaps they had received a settler’s permit there.[xxv]  Whatever the case their land at The Ponds was left unresolved for a number of years while the family focussed their efforts in the area bounded by the Hawkesbury and Nepean Rivers, South Creek, and Rope’s Creek.

c. Annette Maie, 2018

[i] The information for this story springs from the research my mother, Madge Rups, undertook in the 1970’s and 1980’s which I extended from late 1990’s onwards to include the social context and indigenous presence.  It is a compilation drawn from the Journals of the First Fleet, the Historical Records, the Picman Catalogue, the Colonial Secretary’s Papers, as well as articles from the Royal Historical Society Journal and Proceedings, and other writing.

[ii] Toby Ryan places Anthony working at Toongabbie, which is a government farm, around this time.  As the Ropes already have their own farm at the Ponds, I cannot see them living at both places, unless Anthony travelled to Toongabbie to work as a labourer from time to time.  Anthony’s trade is still listed as a bricklayer, so this could be what he still did in addition to working his own farm.

[iii] There is little mention of other friends of theirs.  Betty Mason, who lived with Elizabeth and Anthony for a while, and married Richard Hawkes in 1790 gave evidence at a trial in April 1792  But it looks as if she and Richard separated around this time.  By May Richard was established on a farm by himself, and at the end of the month she gave birth to a daughter under her maiden name.  At the daughter’s christening later that year, Phillip Morris was named as the father.  Isabella Richardson (nee Rawson) whose marriage to William in 1789 had been witnesses by Anthony, became a schoolmistress.  Both these women were probably based at or around Parramatta, and Elizabeth & Anthony may have remained in contact with them, but they may just as much have gone their separate ways.

[iv] The military presence was to deter poaching and violence.  All the food and water sources for the local aborigines were being increasingly taken over by the expanding settlement and understandably they would take from the farmer’s crops and animals for their own survival.

[v] In July Phillip organised builders to come in to add the chimneys to the huts ‘at the Ponds’, and to carry out other repairs.

[vi] By December Phillip was writing that more time would be needed.

[vii] This one with Lt. Governor Francis Grose, who was in charge of the NSW corps, soldiers, more convicts, and, as usual, limited provisions of salted beef and pork.

[viii] Not all convict-settlers worked the land they were given.  Some just worked for their neighbours and forfeited their grant.  The result was they ended up back where they started:  homeless, off stores, and causing mischief.  Part of the reason was that many ex-convicts still wanted to return home and saw no purpose in making their home here.

[ix] Rather than supply convicts with ready-made clothes Phillip decided to keep everyone busy, and the women had to return the clothes to the stores once completed.  He had found that the convicts, generally, became more ‘socialised’ when they worked in some sort of trade, gradually leaving their convict language and behaviour behind.

[x] In October Phillip was writing of the 1,500 bushels stolen from the grounds, in spite of precautions taken to protect it.

[xi] The death tally for the year included 418 male convicts, 18 female convicts and 29 children.

[xii] In England the trial against the master of the Neptune, for ill treatment of convicts, was underway.  Later transports carried a naval agent to supervise convict’s treatment and a ‘medical gentleman’ to treat them if they fell ill.

[xiii] Rev. Johnston still had two aboriginal girls living with his family.

[xiv] Upon disembarkation in Sydney a number would immediately abscond into huts, and would have to be found, detained, and transferred to Parramatta by force.  By October Phillip had decided to curb this practice, sending them directly to Parramatta and Toongabbie instead.

[xv] One of the scams was that convicts were selling their supplied clothes to soldiers.  Phillip wrote of the need to distinguish them, and all other convict items, in some way, like with a special strip, so that they could not be sold or bartered.

[xvi] The path turned out to be a problem as thieves used it to move their stolen goods between Parramatta and Sydney, or abscond, without anyone noticing.  Phillip responded by stopping its use.

[xvii] The previous year the foundations of a church building had been laid at Parramatta, but the building was quickly converted into a prison, and by 1792 it had become a granary.

[xviii] Phillip, whose health was deteriorating, also continued to ask for leave: ‘the complaint seldom leaves me lately for more than a few days’.  His ailing condition was also remarked upon by a number of new arrivals.

[xix] In April Burton, a Botanist and Supervisor who had examined and reported on the soil in the settlements and cultivation areas around Parramatta, died from a shooting accident.  Phillip wrote: ‘I lost one whom I cannot replace and whom I could ill spare’.  In July, Arndell, the assistant surgeon based at Parramatta retired due to age, and settled on his farm at East Creek.  In October, Phillip commented that of the four superintendents sent out from England, only one was left who was effective.

[xx] Such as Stephenson, who began work at the provisions store in October, Kelly, who was employed as assistant surgeon at Toongabbie, Barrington, head constable of the Night Watch at Parramatta, and Robinson, who was employed at the Public Barn and Granaries at Parramatta.

[xxi] These shops had a licence to sell porter, but also traded other spirits, which led to some ex-convict-settlers setting up drinking houses on their farms and selling to others at inflated prices.  The result was ‘much intoxication.’

[xxii] One of the schoolmistresses was Isabella Richardson (nee Rawson) whose marriage to William in 1789 had been witnesses by Anthony Rope.

[xxiii] Even Phillip was eating the same rations as everyone else, although it was probably supplemented with game and wine.

[xxiv] Everyone’s rations had increased in June with the arrival of rice, dahl and soujee from Calcutta.  But as not many knew how to cook these foods it was of little help.  In July, salted beef and pork finally arrived and brought some relief.

[xxv] As later there were problems with the sale of The Ponds grant and arrears in rent, this could well have been the case.  It is really unclear what occurred.  Hawkesbury was viewed as the next promising area for farming, and ‘permits to settle’, not actual land grants, were given by Gov.s Grose and Paterson.  According to Paterson, by June 15, 1795 there were 400 people settled nearly 30 miles along the banks on both sides of the river (Mulgrave Place).  Anthony is not mentioned on this list.  (in Campbell, 1925, pp. 106, 107).  I also have in my notes, with a note to check with Colby, that mid 1797 Anthony sells the Pond grant to John Larkham for £50 with crops and  that Larkham then sues Anthony for not including the crops, and wins the crops.

Education Week: The Mudgee Ropes and the Lawson Creek Schools

It’s Education Week and an appropriate time to revisit and update an article I began in 2016.  It is especially relevant as it is also my great grandfather George Rope’s memorial day next week.

The background research for this was conducted by my mother, Madge (Rope) Rups during 1970’s, ‘80’s and ‘90’s; taken from birth, marriage, death, cemetery, land and department of education records as well as information given to her by relatives.  Madge was born in Mudgee,  After she died In 2015 I began re-checking her records and my additions with the purpose of handing them on to the next generation.  I was amazed to notice for the first time how many of the third generation of Australian Rope descendants ended up in or around Mudgee and how involved they were with the establishment of the first schools in the area.  This is their story.

First I wish to acknowledge the original inhabitants, the elders past and present, and the violence that was part of Mudgee settlement.[i]

The Mudgee area is the home of the Wiradjuri Nation’s Mowgee clan. The Mowgee women’s totem is the wedge tail eagle (Mullian), and the men’s, the crow (Waggan).

In 1821 James Blackman jnr, assisted by Aaron an Aboriginal guide, finds the Cudgegong River, and Blackman follows it to the Burrundulla Swamps.  Later that year Lawson makes it as far as the Aboriginal camp at Mudgee.  By 1822 Lawson has convinced George and Henry Cox (of Mulgoa) to settle the land with him.  Other settlers soon follow.

Gradually the battles begin between the settlers and Mowgee people over the Cudgegong River, other food sources (incl. animals which the settlers would kill), and sacred sites.  In 1824 Martial Law is imposed, and the Mowgee people are shot without question. 

By 1845, the time that Robert and his siblings probably arrive, Mudgee has been gazetted as a village, there are 30+ dwellings, including a post office, 3 hotels, a hospital, 2 stores, an Anglican church and a police station.  There is little evidence left of Aboriginal presence.

My family’s story centres on my great great grandparents Robert and Hannah Jane and their son George Rope, as well as James and Elizabeth Rope and families.  Robert was the grandson of first fleet convicts Elizabeth Pulley and Anthony Rope.  Anthony, Elizabeth and their growing family had moved west following the expanding settlement in the Sydney basin, finally working and settling around the areas east of the Nepean River/Dyarubbin.

1. Robert Rope2. Hannah Jane Thompson-Rope

Robert and Hannah Jane

At some stage in the 1840’s Robert, grandson of Anthony and Elizabeth and son of John and Maria, moves to Mudgee with, or followed by, his siblings Ann, George, Thomas, Elizabeth, Eliza and Mary Ann.

Elizabeth and her husband James are already in the area by 1847, and both die there.

Ann, who marries John Randall at Castlereagh,  is in Mudgee by 1860 when their children begin to get married.

By 1869 Thomas’ wife Letitia has given birth to their fourth child, Albert Robert, in Mudgee.  Thomas, Letitia and three of their eight children die in Mudgee.

Eliza marries William Rusten from Gulgong and has a child there, although she seems to have died in Penrith.  

Mary Ann was witness to Robert and Hannah’s marriage in Mudgee 1868 and she and her husband William George Frost seem to have died there.[ii]

James, another grandson of Elizabeth Pulley and Anthony Rope, and his mother, Elizabeth Ann, daughter of Anthony and Elizabeth also end up in Mudgee[iii].  James, who marries Elizabeth, Robert’s sister, is recorded as working as a labourer in Cooyal in 1847 and their first child is born there.  By the time of their third child it looks as if they have moved to Lawsons Creek, not far from Robert, Hannah Jane, and family.

Our records show that Robert acts as witness to Elizabeth’s and James’ marriage on 13th December 1853.  Robert’s partner (Hannah) Jane Rope[iv] acts as second witness.  This is a couple of months after the birth of James’ and Elizabeth’s third child.  James continues to work around the area and the family continue to expand to thirteen children, all of whom seem to be born around Lawsons and Pipeclay creek Mudgee.

At some stage five of James’ siblings are in Mudgee.  In 1859 Edward Player, James’ half-brother,  marries Jane Matthews and then Cora Proctor after Jane dies.  All his children are born in Mudgee.  There is an Edward ‘Rope’ who purchases land in 1874.  I am wondering if this is misnamed Edward Player as I cannot yet find an alternative.  John Player, another of James’ half brothers marries Elizabeth Ann Peak in Mudgee in 1869.  Eight of their children are born in Mudgee.

My great-great grandparents, Robert and Hannah Jane Rope, have four children, George, Matilda, William E. and Henry[v].

George Rope cropped4. Matilda5a. William and Henry

George, Matilda, William E and Henry

At the time of George’s birth in 1852 the family are living and working at Botobolar/Bottaballar near Mudgee.  By 1853 they have moved to Oakfield, which is overlooked by Mt Buckaroo near Lawson Creek.  Matilda, William E.  and Henry are born there.  By 1859 they have a small holding at Lawsons Creek.

In 1859 a school opens at Burrundulla on the other side of Mt Frome.  Although still in Mudgee surrounds it is a hike from Lawson’s Creek.  The search begins for an alternative location for another school.  In 1867 a school building is being erected at Lawsons Creek on land belonging to Mrs Maloney.  According to Joyce Turner (nee Tompkins) one of the schools “opened in 1868 on a flood prone site and relocated”.  By 1870 another site has been selected at Lawsons Creek and the school building is moved to its new location.  It is dedicated the following year.  In 1876 the school board is listed as James McGrath, Duncan Kerr, teacher Joseph Southwick, unmarried, and James Rope

During 1876 the board, including James Rope, requests a new building and in 1877 the plan James Rope has presented to the Board is approved, accepted and surveyed, with the value of improvements: Hut £4, Fencing £10, Clearing £12.  The following year, 1878, Mr. John Rope (I assume James’ and Elizabeth’s son) presents a bill for fencing.  By 1879 a request has been submitted to grant permission to sell the old building to pay for other buildings.

1897 Schoolhouse cropped

The class of 1897, with George’s children Violet, Clara, Alice May, Ellen Olive (Ollie), (Joseph) George and William Claude (Bill).  Photo from Ron Johnson’s collection.

This is perfect timing for George (my great-grandfather) who has married Ann (‘Hawkie’) Johnstone from Lue in 1874.  The first of their thirteen children, Maria Jane, is born the following year.  Maria Jane is followed by Florence Matilda (Flo), Charlotte Ethel (Eth), Henry Albert, Linda Dorothea, Violet, Clara, Alice May, Ellen Olive, my grandfather Joseph George, William Claude (Bill), Ivy Irene Madeline, and Daisy Pearl.[vi][vii]

6. George, Ann Hawkins Johnstone-Rope and children

George and ‘Hawkie’ build Edenville, just backing onto the railway line at Mt. Frome, to which they keep adding rooms for their expanding family.[viii]

7a. Edenville, Mt. Frome with 'Hawkie', Fla & EthEdenville

By this stage there are a lot of Rope descendent children of all ages growing up in the area.

There is a sad sidenote to this story.  A few months after the birth of George’s and Hawkie’s first child George’s mother is shot and killed by his uncle and namesake during one of his rages.  Robert, William and Henry are all there at the time, and Joseph Johnstone, ‘Hawkie’s father, is outside.  At the end of the year ‘uncle George’ is hung in spite of the rest of the family’s objections and pleas for leniency. [ix]

Five years later, in 1880, Robert marries a second time, Jane Haynes, a widow. Yet Robert seems to go into decline.  By 29th September 1887 he owes school fees, and in 1891 a letter is sent to the Minister for Public Instruction in Sydney requesting for Robert’s debts to be cancelled because of his continuing sickness (almost bedridden) and poverty:  Robert is being attended to by Dr. Nicholl ‘for the last three months’ and is without means of support.  He dies on 15th July 1892.[x]

In spite of this George and his brothers make a success of their lives.  By June 1900 George is involved as one of a number of parents signing a petition for a new school and residence.  He has six children attending the school.  By September of the same year he is named in a letter to Department of Public Instruction as willing to give or sell 2 acres of his land nearer Mt. Frome station in exchange for the present school site, half a mile away, which can only be accessed through the Rope private property.

By 1902 the new school is built on the corner of Lue and Rocky Waterhole roads and George offers to purchase the old school property at a fair price, especially as it joins his property, and as it has not been cared for since and tramps have damaged the buildings.  In October the land, near Billy’s Lookout is transferred.  In 1911 a report is submitted regarding the need for fencing to keep the rabbits out of the school garden.

8a. Mt. Frome school with George and 3 Rope childrenMt Frome School with George (my great grandfather) and three Rope children.

8b. Mt. Frome school. Joseph George 3rd row, 4th from RMt. Frome School with Joseph George (my grandfather) third row, fourth from right.

This is the school that my grandfather and siblings attended, followed in turn by my mother, Madge, and her brother, Geoffrey George (‘Geoff’) when they were young.

1929 schoolhouse with mum cropped

The class of 1929 with Madge hidden at the back.  Photo from Ron Johnson’s collection.

George’s energy and vision sees him gradually expand his holdings.  By the end of his life this has extended up the mountains on both sides of Lawsons Creek – Mt. Buckaroo and Mt. Frome.

He is obviously a very successful farmer and well respected in the community.  When he dies one obituary comments on his generosity and kindness and continues with,

‘he was a successful farmer, and for many years has added dairying as a profitable industry, and was one of the directors of the Mudgee Butter Factory (ed. which is managed by his son, Henry).  He also spent a period as alderman of the Cudgegong Council….He was an enthusiastic member of the Mudgee Agricultural Society…the Mudgee band has also lost a generous friend.  One who time after time opened his hospitable home when a band benefit was in progress.’

The other,

‘The funeral…was one of the largest witnessed for some years, thus showing the respect in which the late Mr Rope was held’

After George’s death[xi] the property passes to ‘Hawkie’, and then the two sons, my grandfather Joseph George, and William (‘Bill’).   During World War I Bill joins the army and Joseph George is constrained to stay at home and help look after the farm for his mother.   Joseph George extends the land holdings and agriculture, including an orchard and vineyards, and moves into the brick house (at the junction of Lue and Rocky Waterhole Roads) which is opposite and up the road from the old farm, adding a veranda around the outside for sleeping during summer.

The orchard contains every type of fruit, including quince, peach and fig trees.  The farm is mixed.  Although mainly dairy, there are also chooks, pigs, sheep and crops such as lucerne and oats.   The milk is separated, and the cream sold to the Mudgee Butter Factory, managed by Joseph George’s brother, ‘Harry’ (Henry Albert), while the skim milk is fed to the pigs and weaned calves.  The lucerne is pressed into bales and stored in the hayshed.[xii]

10j. Mt. Frome from BuckerooThe property from Mt. Buckaroo showing the schoolhouse, school and brick house

 10i. The orchard c. 1927 croppedThe brick house and orchard

Joseph George marries Florence Smith and the brick house becomes their home.  It is where my mother and her brother grow up and where we often stay as children.

Joseph George football cropped 2Florence May Smith cropped

Joseph George and Florence May

At some stage Joseph George also buys the two storied Hawthorn heritage cottage near what once was the causeway, and more land along Waterhole Road which was previously owned by Lawson.

When ‘Hawkie’ and my grandfather Joseph George die within four months of each other his sisters Fla, Eth and Daisy are given the brick house and surrounding land.  My grandmother ‘Flo’ inherits Joseph’s half of the farm and continues to manage it until her son, Geoff, receives a scholarship and decides to move to Sydney.  Flo goes with him.  Fla, Eth and Daisy agree to rent and run the property for her in her absence.  Madge follows her mother and brother at a later stage.

By all accounts the property has always been the centre of social life for the Lue and Rylestone Ropes when they pass through on the way to town, and the clan continues to gather regularly even after my mother moves to Sydney.   Fla also runs a post office and telephone exchange in the front room which would have been the locus for local news[xiii].  There is a wonderful story about two Rope woman saving  herd of cows at Mt. Frome c. 1935 and I am certain it is about Flat and Eth (story in notes below).

1961 map copy showing Rope land img955 close upshowing the Ropes holdings.

My uncle Geoff and family, my mother, my father and we children continue to return to the property to maintain it, staying in the main brick house with Fla, Eth and Daisy[xiv].  At some stage Fred Creaser (who marries Daisy and stays on after her death to assist Fla and Eth) is engaged to run the farm and continues to do so after the sisters die. Here the order of events is not clear but at another stage the main house becomes unavailable to us.

It is probably then that my uncle Geoff organises to rent the school back from the Department of Education.  The two families convert it into a large, single room living space.  I remember clearing out all the bird nests and droppings, as well as sheep droppings.  My cousin Judith remembers cupboards being moved from the main house to provide a division between sleeping and living areas, beds being moved over for us to sleep in, and having to bath in a tub.

As well as the tub I also remember a large log fire on which we heat the hot water in the kettle and make toast for breakfast, layered with fresh cream which we collect over the road at the farm as it is being separated from the early morning milking of the cows, and going through the mist and frost to do so.  This is still during Fred Creaser’s time as I remember helping him wash the separating machine.  And, of course, we both remember the ‘dunny’ out the back facing the railway line and Mt. Frome.  For me it was a childhood highlight; much anticipated.  For our parents, however, it was lot of hard work keeping the property maintained from such a distance and, once my grandmother dies my uncle decides to sell.[xv]

The Coopers, who are renting the school house, buy the schoolhouse and school when the Department of Education puts them on the market.  In later years when mum and I visit we notice that the school is converted into an attractive cottage – who would have believed it!  And during my last couple of visits I was delighted to discover that Moothi Estate[xvi] and winery is established on what once was the Mt. Frome section of the property.  I think both my great grandfather and grandfather would be pleased to know that grapes are still being grown on the property.


looking back from Moothi Estate

c. Annette Maie, 2018

Updated 2019.

THE STORY OF JIMMY GOVERNOR – updated 2022 (with thanks to Ron Johnson for sourcing and sharing the  newspaper article).  Other sources include Stan Grant’s Australia Day, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/governor-jimmy-6439, Katherine Biber, (2008) ‘Besieged at Home: Jimmy Governor’s Rampage’ in The Journal of Law and Social Justice, Vol. 2, Art 2, pp. 1-41, and correspondence with Mudgee Historical Society.

In 1900, during great grandfather George’s time, ex-tracker and labourer Jimmy Governor, who had been supporting his own and extended family, went on a murdering spree triggered by repetitive harassment of he and his wife Ethel for being an Aboriginal man (his father was Aboriginal and mother of mixed Aboriginal and Irish descent) married to a white woman (if the newspaper article is anything to go by, the harassment would have been severe).  According to the newspaper at the time, a few years before Ethel had lived with her parents on a Lawson’s Creek farm, near Oakfield.  Probably George and other Ropes would have known the family, and from my mother’s comments our family at the time was very aware of the story.

According to Katherine Biber “Governor’s wife, Ethel, a 17 year old white woman, the mother of his child, the Mawbey’s domestic servant, may or may not have been an accomplice to these murders”.  The Mawbey’s had been among those who had harassed her about her marriage and were Jimmy’s first target.  According to information from Mudgee Historical Society Emma was also pregnant with their second child.

Jimmy, his brother Joe, and Jack Underwood continued their ‘rampage’ until Jack was captured and Joe shot.  Jimmy was eventually captured and hung.  The story of the life of Jimmy Governor was the basis for Thomas Keneally‘s 1972 novel The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith, which was filmed by Fred Schepisi in 1978.  His life is also the subject of Australian poet Les Murray‘s poem “The Ballad of Jimmy Governor”.  And from Stan Grant, “As modern Australia celebrated its birth at Federation in 1901…Jimmy Governor sat in a Darlinghurst jail cell, alternating between singing songs in his traditional Wiradjuri language and reading the Bible – the synthesis of the old and new worlds that collided here so violently, given form in a man soon for the gallows. “

In a 2004 article in the Sydney Morning Herald one of the results of the Governor’s payback spree was that the remaining Wiradjuri peoples around Wollar were rounded up and taken to Brewarrina Mission about 500 km away.


[i] Mudgee History website as well as other sources.  2022 update: I have recently been told that Mudgee was also home to the Meroo people of the Wiradjuri nation and that numbers of Aboriginal families in the area were forcibly removed to Brewarrina, on the Queensland border.  Brewarrina Mission opened in 1886.  The only reference I have found so far is from the Sydney Morning Herald article in relation to the Governors (above).

[ii] The road across the Blue Mountains was completed earlier in the century, Robert’s mother Maria dies in 1842, his father John dies in 1845, his grandmother Elizabeth in 1837 and grandfather Anthony in 1843.  Toby Ryan, son of Mary (nee Rope) and another grandson of Elizabeth and Anthony, by his own account, has been travelling often, crossing the Blue Mountains between Penrith and Bathurst and bringing back glowing reports: ‘great grazing country’….’a great deal of land was taken up, but not at that time occupied’ (Ryan, pp. 124-126). Although it is impossible to say whether these events triggered the move, it seems to have been time for a new start.  It is likely that all of John and Maria’s living children ended up in and around Mudgee during this period.  For a list of the siblings, family members and children whom I have so far identified as ending up in Mudgee, Rope-Pulley descendants who move to Mudgee

[iii] I don’t have the detail whether James arrives in the area with Robert, or comes separately with Elizabeth, or at what stage James’ mother arrives.

[iv] Robert and Hannah Jane marry in 1868.  Their marriage is witnessed by William and Mary Ann Frost.  Mary Ann is Robert’s sister.

[v] Matilda marries James William Honeysett, and I believe there are still Honeysett’s living in Rylestone;  William and Henry Rope become brewers and hoteliers in Orange and are buried there.

[vi] Maria Jane marries Henry Castle Adams, owner of Victoria Hotel, Orange;  Florence (Fla), Charlotte Ethel (Eth) and Daisy end up managing Lawson Creek property, dying in Mudgee; Henry marries Belle Smede and manages Mudgee Butter Factory;  Linda marries Frederick Rule Webb; Violet marries Walter Hedley Ford and dies in Mudgee; Clara marries ‘Gus’ Manners and dies in Mudgee;  Alice May marries Clarence Hilton Clark of Mudgee; Ellen Olive marries Roy Keith Stoddard and moves to Sydney; Joseph George marries Florence May Smith and manages the Lawson Creek property;  William (Bill) marries Bessie Ann Kellet, works for the office of railways which requires him to move around, and dies in Mudgee; Ivy marries Tom Rowbotham and moves to Home Rule.

[vii] On our visits to the farm we catch up with those of George’s children and grandchildren who are still around.  As well as Fla, Eth and Daisy, I remember aunty Ivy clearly, and still visit her daughter Sally up at Home Rule.  I also remember calling in regularly on Graham and Tom Clark (Alice’s sons) and, of course, visiting their brother Peter’s memorial in St. John’s Anglican church, Mudgee.

[viii] According to mum, ‘He built a house of slabs, like they used to do, with lining on the inside covered with fancy wallpaper, on the block near the railway line.  Had 13 children, so kept extending it backwards.  Because of the fuel stoves and danger of fire they had a division between the dining area, kitchen and bathroom at one end, and the bedrooms at the other.  In between was a courtyard with a cement floor.  It was long, but quite a pleasant house.  The dining room was large with a huge fireplace at one end; the other end had one or two bedrooms.’  (ed. By the time my generation visit Mt. Frome Edenville is little more than a pile of bricks, and my father teaches me to drive in the surrounding paddock).

[ix]  The family obviously wanted clemency.  ‘Uncle George’ seems to have had a harrowing time prior to coming to Mudgee, losing two children in infancy and his wife;  all in a period of two years.  His wife, Margaret (nee Behan/Behean), and the two children are all buried at John Jamison Cemetery in Penrith with her grandfather.  Uncle George was obviously struggling and I like to think he is remembered by his name being carried through the following generations (although King George VI was also on the British throne during this time)

[x] Two other deaths occur around this time. On 23rd August 1889 Elizabeth Ann (Rope) Player dies in Mudgee, notified by her son James.    On 4th May 1895 James Rope also dies.

[xi] George has the foresight to buy a sizeable plot in Mudgee Cemetery.  He, Hawkie and many family members are buried or interred there or nearby, including my parents.  There is also a memorial to Robert and Hannah Jane.

[xii] At harvest time Frank Muller who lives along Eurunderee Lane (near Pipeclay creek) comes over to help prune the orchard and vines.  He and Joseph George are great friends.  Frank Muller’s sister Freda ends up marrying my grandmother Flo’s brother, Lloyd Smith.  When mum and I visit in 2008 Frank Muller’s two grandsons are still living there and growing grapes.

[xiii] All the kids run to answer the phone when it rings and I seem to remember helping to plug in the connections to answer and transfer calls.

The story of ‘the two Rope women’ who saved a herd of cattle: “Daisy Baynham remembers when two women saved a herd of cows on Mt Frome…They lived just up the hill from the old schoolhouse on the corner of Lue and Rocky Water Hole roads. Apparently two old ladies from the Rope family lived across the Lue Road from them…..‘As Ted rushed to try to get them out of the paddock, he yelled to his wife to get the Rope girls, and they came running across the road to the bulging cows with their hands full of knives,” Daisy told me.  Daisy said the women held one knife in their mouth while they threw another knife at a cow’s bulging tummy. “Pop! It would go, as the wind escaped,” she said, “and the other lady rammed her fist into the paunch and pulled out hunks of half chewed grass.” The women treated all the cows in the same fashion and most of them  survived, according to Daisy” (an interview with Joyce Turner, nee Tompkins at http://www.mudgeehistory.com.au/Mt%20Frome_p1.html)  Eth would have been c. 57yrs and Fla 59 yrs.

[xiv] ‘Hawkie’ wills the brick house and surrounding land to her three unmarried daughters, and follows through with George’s wishes that Bill inherits the Mt. Buckaroo side of the creek, which is more suitable for sheep, and Joseph George the Mt. Frome side, which is more suitable for agriculture.

[xv] The Mt Buckaroo side of the property, which Bill inherits, is passed down to his son, Ron.  My understanding (from speaking with Ron’s family when mum dies), is that they still own their property and live there periodically.

[xvi] At the time of writing, Moothi Estate sells ‘the best’ cabernet savignon among other wines, has a cellar door, and offers lunch with a wonderful view over our ancestor’s property.

1788: Elizabeth Pulley’s first year

Pulley image cropped

It is two hundred and thirty years since my ancestors Elizabeth Pulley and Anthony Rope arrived in Australia so seems an apt time to offer my version of Elizabeth’s first year in the colony.  This excerpt is part of a longer doco-story, The Story of Elizabeth Pulley: and her first five years in Australia.[i]  I uploaded a very much abbreviated version of the first part of Elizabeth’s story, Beginnings and Arrival last year as, Remembering Elizabeth Pulley on ‘Australia Day’.  More detailed stories and stages of her journey can be found at Elizabeth Pulley Sets Sail.  

As Elizabeth would not have been considered one of the better behaved women convicts, she would have stepped onto Australian soil on 6th February 1788.  It also means that she would have been placed on the west side of the tank stream.  Like other convicts she would have been carrying her bed with her.

Before engaging on this part of the journey I would first like to acknowledge the First Nations of Australia and their elders past and present, especially the Gadigal band of the Dharug (Eora) nation on whose country Elizabeth and Anthony landed. I would also like to acknowledge the devastation of Australia’s First Peoples which was the result of British arrival, and honour those who fought and died to protect their land – Australia’s first wars. [ii]

SURVIVAL:  Sydney Cove 1788-1790


Three months after stepping onto Australian soil, Elizabeth Pulley married Anthony Rope.  She was about 26 years of age, and Anthony about 32.  Frances Williams loaned Elizabeth special clothes for the occasion, and Elizabeth Mason and John Summers acted as witnesses.  Elizabeth Mason had been one of ‘Pulley’s crowd’ on the Friendship, transferring with her to the Prince of Wales where they must have met up with Frances Williams.  John Summers had travelled out on the Alexander with Anthony.

Theirs was not the first wedding in the new colony.  Not long after the convict women landed fourteen couples announced their plans to marry, to the delight of those in charge.  However Judge-Advocate Collins suspected that some had been responding to a rumour that married couples would be given special privileges for, when they realised their mistake, they very quickly applied to be unmarried again.  It was also suspected that some already has spouses in England.

By the time of Elizabeth’s and Anthony’s marriage the colony had more-or-less settled into a routine.  The sound of the drum summoned the battalion and convicts to work, dinner, official assemblies, and divine services.  By the morning ‘Revalie beating’ everyone had to be clean, dressed and out of their tents, and at the end of the day the ‘tattoo beating’ announced ‘lights out’.  The routine was in place well before the women convicts landed.

The formal commissioning ceremony

On the day after the women landed Governor Phillip gathered everyone together on a cleared area used as the parade ground and with great pomp and ceremony, conducted the official commissioning.  With Judge Advocate presiding, Phillip was formally appointed Captain General and Governor over the territory of New South Wales, which England viewed as extending the length of the Eastern coast.  The legal and court system for the colony was also formally established.

Phillip then turned to the convicts, who were seated on the ground and surrounded by soldiers, and urged them to view this as a new start. He did his utmost to encourage their good conduct and co-operation, and warned them of the dire consequences of misbehaviour.  At the conclusion of the ceremony three volleys were fired, interspersed with the band playing God Save the King.  The officials viewed the troops, and a dinner was enjoyed by the officers and gentlemen.

The trials begin

Within a few days a court martial had been convened, and soon after a court of criminal justice.  The trials began.  It was not only the convicts who were at fault.  As was the case during the journey out to Australia, the marines were as much to blame.  Part of the problem was drunk and disorderly behaviour due to the marines bringing liquor ashore, part centred on the women’s camp into which the marines would sneak at night, and the rest centred on the public stores.

Provisions and rationing

Phillip had brought enough provisions for only two years, so food was often rationed.  In addition the stores were continually under attack from the male and female convicts, marines and the guards themselves.  In fact everything – food, clothes, and tools – could be bartered so was at risk of being stolen.  At first those caught were given a warning and pardoned, or flogged, or put in chains, or given harsher rations of bread and water, or, in the case of the marines, drummed out of the camp.  When this did not seem have the desired effect, a gallows was built.  On 27th February, one month after arrival, James Barrett was made an example, and had the dubious notoriety of being the first person to be hung on Australian soil.

Food was a real concern.  Not all the provisions had lasted the journey.  Animals died in transit or on arrival, flour grew mould, and fresh mutton was full of maggots in a day.  Efforts were quickly directed into supplementing the limited stores.  Settlement gardens were dug and seeds planted near the Governors place and the hospital.  The Public Garden and a farm for stock was organised at a cove nearby (the area now marked by the Botanical Gardens at the head of Farm Cove/Woccanmagully), and another garden begun on Garden Island/Ba-ing-hoe.

Everyone, including the convicts, was encouraged to develop their own garden and keep chickens for which they were given Saturday free from normal work.  Sunday was for the compulsory divine service.  However, by the end of the first year it was realised that the soil was not very good, not much grew, ants and field mice were a problem, and the stealing of tools and provisions was still rife.  Even the officers, who were free to wander, hunt, and explore, found that survival was not as easy as it seemed.  One remarked that he did not know how the ‘natives’ did it.

Building the town

As well as working in the gardens convicts were involved in the major project of constructing the town.  The aim was to get everyone and everything out of the tents: that is, the hospital and stores built, the Governor and officers in proper housing, the marines in barracks, and the convicts in huts. Both men and women were expected to be gainfully employed, although a number of women were pregnant or had young children, so were excused.

It was a slow process.  In spite of Phillip’s motivational speech the convicts were more inclined to ‘slack off’ or escape into the woods.  Nine men and one woman were soon missing.  As one report recorded, ‘not more than 200 out of the 600 were at work’.  Part of the difficulty was that the officers and marines did not consider the convicts to be their responsibility once the convicts had landed on shore.  So, the supervision was carried out by the more trusted convicts who, naturally, had a difficult time.  Another problem was a lack of skilled labourers, especially carpenters, bricklayers and farmers.

Waves of sickness did not help.  By the end of February ‘the flux’ (dysentery) became a mini-epidemic, with reports of over two hundred being hospitalised.  Scurvy too began to take its toll.  There were attempts to augment the diet with wild celery, spinach and parsley to fight the effects of malnutrition.  Native sarsaparilla was found to be effective in treating scurvy, but soon became scarce around the settlement.

The tank stream, being the only real source of fresh water, was strictly monitored.  It was forbidden to cut the trees along its banks in an effort to protect it from the heat of the sun.  Smaller streams around the settlement quickly dried up in hot weather.


Phillip was only too aware of the limits of confining survival hopes to one small area.  From the first day he had encouraged his officers to explore and map every bay and stream along the river, as well as the land to the north and north-west, in the hope of finding other suitable sites for settlement.  In mid-February the Supply set out, with supplies and a small number of convicts, to settle Norfolk Island with the aim of cultivating flax, corn, cotton and other grains, as well as sending back pine for building and trading purposes.  Norfolk Island had originally been settled by Polynesians but they had long gone before the British arrived.

The following month Phillip led a party north to explore Broken Bay, the traditional land of members of the Guringai nation.  He returned to the area in April, moving further inland beyond the end of the river hoping to find the mountains, another river, and other sources of fresh water and fertile land. During April and May excursions were made west to carefully assess the land at the head of the harbour.

Clash of cultures

It was not long before the Traditional custodians, probably members of the Dharug nation south of the river and Guringai nation north of the river, began to react to the effect the newcomers presence had on their previous way of life.  They were not pleased that the English had monopolized their fishing grounds, nor about the large numbers of fish the seine could haul in.  At first they assisted, and were rewarded with part of the catch.  At some stage the reciprocal arrangement fell apart. The Traditional owners began to avoid contact and steal equipment, probably in retaliation for their own spears and tools being ‘souvenired’, in spite of official orders not to do so.

By May some sheep had been killed by dingoes belonging to an Aboriginal band [iii], and convicts gathering native plants and reeds from the outskirts of the settlement had been attacked, wounded and killed.  There was a suspicion among the officers that some convicts had also killed Aboriginal people, and that the attacks were payback.  Winter was fast approaching, fish were scarce, and the Indigenous Australians were no longer so willing to accommodate the encroachment on their food sources and their land. Yet there are reports of continuing friendly encounters and sharing of food, with a number of officers noting how hungry the Indigenous population looked.

Settling in

In spite of the difficulties the tent city was slowly being transformed into a town.  By the time of Elizabeth’s and Anthony’s wedding, saw-pits had been dug, a stonemason found, the stone quarry begun, a bricklayer found, and a site for the brickworks chosen, although chalk or lime was still not available.  Some of the women were employed making shingles for the roofs, the pegs to attach them, and in crushing shells for lime.

Sydney cove with ships

The foundation stone for the Governor’s house had been laid and at least one of the storehouses had been completed and was being used for divine services.  The hospital was having shingles put on its roof and the building of huts for the officers and women had commenced.  The general construction of the huts was of pine for the posts and plates, and cabbage trees split in half for the sides.  The huts were then plastered with clay and thatched with rushes or shingles.

Elizabeth and Anthony

During this time, Elizabeth and Anthony had met, set up a relationship and Elizabeth was pregnant.  Records suggest that both of them were employed. Anthony served as a labourer at the brick pits, which were situated near the marshes at the source of the tank stream.  Elizabeth may have been doing jobs, or acted as a home help, for the overseer of women convicts, though this is not as certain.  In November the overseer wrote a letter home, which included the comment that, ‘The girl that was with us, Elizabeth Pully is married, and has a fine little boy.’

Their marriage is recorded as being on 19th May at St Phillips Church of England, Sydney.  It probably took place where divine services were being held, that is, under a tree, or in the storehouse.  A week after their wedding they held a ‘marriage supper’, supposedly for a friend, which resulted in some entertainment for the rest of the town and has become part of the Rope-Pulley legend.

The ‘marriage supper’, at which the infamous ‘Sea Pye’ was eaten, took place on ‘Sunday Sennight’ 25th May.  It was held in Anthony’s hut where both Elizabeth (now Rope) and Elizabeth Mason lived.  Also present were ‘Price, Day…a Marine and a woman named Williams’.  Both James Price and Samuel Day had travelled out on the Alexander with Anthony.  Both probably worked with him at the brickworks and Price had helped Anthony build his hut.  Elizabeth’s friend, Frances Williams, has already been mentioned.  The marine was Robert Ryan, with whom Frances later had a daughter.

The location of Anthony’s hut could have been near the brickworks, or in the married quarters along the west side of the Tank stream closer to the Cove.  On Tuesday 13th May, George B. Worgan, one of the Surgeons, had

‘walked out to Day, as far as the Brick Grounds, it is a pleasant Road through the Wood about a Mile or Two from the Village, for from the Number of Little Huts & Cots that appear now, just above Ground, it has a villatick appearance.

I see they have made between 20 & 30,000 Bricks, and they were employed in digging out a Kiln for the Burning of them.’

Near the brickworks was ‘two acres of ground…marked out for such officers as were willing to cultivate them and raise a little grain for their stock’.

The animal, which it was alleged comprised the ‘Sea Pye’, had also been in the area during that month.  It seems that George Johnston, Lieutenant of Marines, had sent out a ‘She Goat’ to some land ‘a little beyond the Brick Kilns, at the head of Long Sea Cove’ to graze.  William Roberts, ‘a person who looks after the stock’ had tethered it ‘by a rope…round her horns to a stake’, and at some stage on Saturday 24th May she went missing.  The same day its skin was found ‘near a Point where the Brick makers were collecting Sand’.

Anthony Rope and James Price were charged with stealing its flesh ‘with force of arms…on or about 24th May’, and Samuel Day and Elizabeth Rope were charged with a similar offence ‘on Sunday 25th May last’.  A number of friends and co-workers came to their defence, swearing they had seen the goat already dead and ‘crows at it’. William Earl swore that he had told Anthony about seeing ‘the Animal lying there’.  Others corroborated that Earl had told them as well.  Another admitted that Price had passed some meat on to their hut and they had made a meal of it.  Although there was disagreement about the cause of death, that is, whether it was mangled by an animal, or killed cleanly by a person, the evidence from friends held and the four were acquitted on 2nd June.

Winter scarcity

By now winter was taking its toll.  Over the next two months the settlement relied on salted meat.  The Aboriginal population was starving.  Some were found dead.  Others began to appear closer to the settlement and took ‘with force of arms’ the odd animal, fish from the fishing boats, and other food and clothing.  They weren’t the only ones.  Although a number of Officers had remarked how ‘better behaved than expected’ the convicts were, some of them, as well as the marines, continued to make trouble, in spite of the executions which followed.

Internal conflicts

For their own part the Officers maintained their refusal to be involved in anything else but ‘their duty of soldiers’ and setting up home and garden for themselves and their help.  The marines felt insulted that they were expected to live on the same rations and under the same conditions as everyone else (that is, the convicts).  There had also been dissent between some of the Officers about who had the right to pass judgement in a particular court-martial, which unfortunately mushroomed into a series of official complaints and arrests.  The friction between Major Ross, Commandant of the Marines, Captain-Lieutenant Tench and some of the other officers, continued the rest of the year.

Disappointment tests resolve

The sheep were dying, the crops disappointing, and, to add to the strain, the cattle on the Governors farm went missing.  The expected fresh turtle from Lord Howe Island did not eventuate.  There was a desperate need for new clothing, especially for the women.  Some of the thatched huts burned down when fires were lit inside.  Chimneys were outlawed.  There were no beds or cots, so convicts still slept on the ground.

The transports had begun to return to England, leaving everyone, including the Officers, feeling isolated.  Then, in August the rains turned everything into mud.  The brick kiln fell in, bricks were destroyed, the roads were impassable and the Lieutenant Governor’s house had fallen down.

Phillip was getting quietly desperate.  His letters back to England stress the lack of involvement of the Officers, ‘the great want of proper persons to superintend the convicts’, and the need for ‘support from the mother country, on which for a few years we must entirely depend’.  Provisions such as, clothing, blankets, tools, medicines and food, were needed.  He was also concerned that England was planning to send out more convicts.

‘I hope few convicts will be sent out for one year at least, except carpenters, masons, and bricklayers, or farmers, who can support themselves and assist in supporting others.  Numbers of those now here are a burthen and incapable of any kind of hard labour, and, unfortunately, we have not proper people to keep those to their labour who are capable of being made useful.’

Progress and hope

Even though by November everyone had fallen out, and the Officers and marines just wanted to go home, there was progress in some areas.  Lieutenant Dawes’ Observatory had been built, the Governor’s brick house was finished, the Lieutenant Governor’ hewn-stone house was completed.  Most Officers huts had plastered roofs, and the Officers were being ordered to focus on building public barracks for their men.  Fresh fish, rather than salted, was back on the menu as fish began to return with the warmer weather.

The news from Norfolk Island was also good, as the agricultural efforts there were beginning to look promising.  So Phillip turned his attention west.  Since the excursions there in April and May Phillip had been seriously planning a satellite town near the head of the harbour and on 3rd November a settlement was established there.  This area was the land of the Burramatta (barra = place, matta = eels) band of the Dharug nation.  It was at first named Rose Hill by the British but later renamed Parramatta (the place where eels lie down).

There were other highlights to the year.  One was the Kings Birthday celebrations on the 4th June, for which everyone received a three-day holiday and a ration of spirits.  The earthquake later in the same month gave everyone a fright.  On 12th August the Prince of Wales’ birthday offered another excuse to celebrate and make merry, and for a few months speculation about the discovery of a ‘gold mine’ set tongues wagging.  It was found to be a fabrication and the perpetrator was ‘rewarded for his ingenuity with a hundred lashes’.

And, of course, on the 30th October Elizabeth’s and Anthony’s first child, Robert, was born.  He was christened three days later, on 2nd November.  Ryan’s memoirs (Toby Ryan was Elizabeth’s & Anthony’s grandson from their second child) state that Robert was the ‘first white male child born in Australia’.  This may be wishful thinking.  Ryan also recounts the family tradition that Robert was born ‘in the Soldiers’ Barracks, Wynyard Square’[iv].

Conflict between the British and the First Peoples resumes

By the end of the year relations between the First Peoples and the settlers were causing great concern.  In November, Phillip was writing home, ‘I now doubt whether it will be possible to get any of those people to remain with us, in order to get their language, without using force’.  Then, on 18th December there were rumours of an assembled Aboriginal force near the brick-kilns. It turned out there were only fifty men and they were soon dispersed, but Phillip had made up his mind. [v]

On 31st December Phillip sent two boats to Manly Cove/Kay-ye-my where two Aboriginal men were seized.  They were possibly from the Kayimai band of the Guringal nation based around north Sydney and Manly cove/Kay-ye-my. One escaped, but the other was dragged to the boat, ‘fastened by ropes’, and taken back to the settlement where he was imprisoned.  His name was Ar-ab-a-noo.

c. Annette Maie, 2020

[i] This story springs 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 British-Indigenous relations and conflict.  It is a compilation drawn from the Journals of the First Fleet, the Historical Records, the Picman Catalogue, the Colonial Secretary’s Papers, as well as articles from the Royal Historical Society Journal and Proceedings, and other writing.

[ii] Some of the wars were first researched and published by Al Grassby and Marji Hill in 1988 as Six Australian Battlefields. A more recent article is, What are the Frontier Wars?  A map of known massacre sites is also available online.  I believe it is updated as information becomes available.

[iii] Refer note regarding vocabulary and correct naming of clans and nations in the Elizabeth Pulley Sets Sail series.  The Indigenous groups around Sydney cove on the south side of the harbour included the Gadigal and Birrabirragal of the Dharug (Eora) nation.

[iv] If Elizabeth and Anthony were living near the brick pits this could be so, as the hospital was on the other side of town, near the cove, and the barracks were in between.  She may have been caught unawares.   The debate about whether Robert was the first white male child is addressed in the Rope-Pulley Family Newsletter, December 2014, No. 77

[v] They could have been from the Gadigal or Kamegal bands of the Dharug nation.

Anzac Day: remembering family, their stories and reality’s challenge to idealism

Geoff's hat

The views expressed in this article are my own and do not represent views held by any other family member or organisation.

I guess I am an idealist yet this idealism is always tempered by the realities of the world in which we live and our history, which includes the ghastly side of human behaviour and conflict.

My father also was an idealist.  His family had moved to Indonesia when he was two.  At eighteen he was conscripted for twelve months into the Dutch army (Royal Indonesian-Netherland army) as were all men his age.  He returned to the army for retraining for active service in 1940 and was called up the following year to fight the Japanese when they invaded Indonesia.  He was soon captured and spent three years in Japanese prisoner-of-war camps, as were all his family in different camps.  Part of that time he spent as an assistant in the camp hospital treating other prisoners. [1]

Upon release he was again called up by the Dutch army; this time to fight the Indonesians who were claiming independence from their colonisers.  My father was aghast.  His childhood and adolescence was spent playing with Indonesian children on and around the estates where he lived.  He viewed them as brothers and sisters.  Fortunately for him he received an honourable discharge for health reasons and was not forced to fight again.

Peck in Singapore on release from POWphoto taken after liberation from POW

My mother’s family were drawn into the patriotism which spread through Australia during World Wars I and II.  I think it was viewed as part of our duty to Britain, the ‘mother’ country, and the proper thing to do.  As far as I am aware she and her family had no problem enlisting.

Hats cropped

Her father and uncle were first off the rank to enlist for World War I.  The next generation enlisted for War War II.

13e. The Army years - Geoff, Joyce and Madge - Madge cropped 2Mum applied to the Australian Women’s Army Service (AWAS) in 1941 and was accepted in 1942, ending up being based at Victoria Barracks.  She was proud of her army years and responded well to the regularity and discipline which was part of it.  She felt she was doing an important job for her country.  Some of her closest long-term friends were made during that time and every now and again they would meet up, attend reunions, or special events at the Barracks.

The ‘war years’ was a focal event, or series of events, in the lives of both my parents.  My father requested that the Last Post be played at his funeral and interment because of the significance of hearing it in the camps when one of the prisoners had died.  My mother, when television arrived in our household, would turn it on immediately on waking up on Anzac Day and it would remain on until the public events of the day were complete.  Their need signifies the importance of ritual acts which mark, honour and remember.

I’m not sure how many of my family saw active duty.  As far as I am aware only mum’s cousin was killed, and that was an accident.   He had become a pilot and a Canadian pilot flew into his plane during a training exercise in England in 1943.  Both pilots crashed and were killed. He is buried in Annan, Scotland.  His parents donated a stained glass window to St. John the Baptist, Mudgee.  Two months before his accident he had written a letter to mum and the family commenting on letters he had received, thoughts of family and friends at home, his experience of R ‘n R in Cambridge, and, ‘Next time I write I hope to be flying spitfires.  Should be only a couple of weeks in fact now….So long for present….till next time.  luv….’  I am sure many families have similar poignant stories.

13c. Memorial to Peter Clark in St. John the Baptist Church Mudgeememorial at St John the Baptist, Mudgee

The dating of Anzac Day links it to Easter, thematically as well: death, being killed for a cause, and the promise of remembrance and possible resurrection and salvation, but not resurrection in the literal sense as far as ‘our sons and daughters’ are concerned.  Both stand as memorials to young, and not so young, men and women who died for ‘us’.  The interesting thing about Australia’s wars is that they have been fought, on the whole, for someone else, although the Japanese did begin to invade Australia and surrounding islands.  My uncle was based at Darwin, where my mother had initially wanted to be posted as well, so he was part of the contingent which was defending our shores.

Of course the first defenders of Australia were the First Nations peoples here.  They fought us;  the British colonisers.  War leaders like Pemulwuy, with the Eora and Darug clans around the Sydney basin, and Windradyne with the Wiradjuri clans around Bathurst, led guerrilla armies in attempts to reclaim their territory and food sources and in retaliation for atrocities committed by the invaders and their accompanying armed forces.  These were Australia’s first wars, enacted on our own shores.[2]

Yet I don’t think that descendants of these First Nations peoples have been invited to march on Anzac Day, let alone lead the march.  The reality of this omission challenges the idealism of who we include under ‘Australian armies’, ‘fallen soldiers’ and the limits of this designated memorial day.  I imagine there must be a constant reinvention of meaning and purpose by the organisers to justify this omission or accommodate change.  It took a long time to recognise and include the Vietnam War and its veterans.   I hope that one day we are mature enough to include this earlier truth.

2022 Update.  The opening up of the Anzac Day march to Vietnam veterans has paved the way for Afghanistan veterans to lead the march this year.  There is still no mention of an invitation to First Nations peoples to represent their ancestors killed during the Frontier wars.


[1] After  release my father’s (known as ‘Peck’) parents sent him a letter, dated 13th September, 1945, letting him know that they were all safe.  Translated from Dutch, this is part of the letter

Dear Peck,

Maybe we are lucky in a mysterious way so the letter will reach you. ………

You did some good work as well, I heard from a nurse of Geel Gildemeesters (?).

Bye my dear son!….for sure no lost time and I have learned a lot.

I am good my little son and hope that all turned out well for you. It would be a miracle if the five of us would really pull through.

Be brave.


[2]  For an introduction to Australia’s first frontier wars – Grassby, A. & Hill, M.  Six Australian Battlefields.  St. Leonards, Allen & Unwin, 1998.  There is also a regularly updated Map of known massacres of tribes in Australia available online.  For Wikepedia’s summary of the wars involving British forces up to Dyarubbin (1794-1816) – Hawkesbury and Nepean Wars.

Wingaru Education offers a number of teaching resources for Anzac Day, including ANZACs – Indigenous Veterans, to open discussion on Indigenous veterans in all Australian wars, beginning with the first internal wars against the British as well as Indigenous support as part of Australian defence forces overseas.

Remembering Elizabeth Pulley on ‘Australia Day’


I’ve had difficulty selecting a title for this blog as I remain conflicted with the title of ‘Australia Day’ continuing to be used for 26th January, when that day also signifies the beginning of the colonisation, slavery and murder of the First Nations in this country.  Promotional images of Aboriginal people in traditional costume dancing, singing and playing didgeridoos, does not ‘whitewash’ the historical reality for me. The enactments of the past of British arrival and Aboriginal opposition were at least more honest.   Public emphasis on it being a day for ALL Australians to celebrate also grates as it continues to ignore First Peoples’ stories. These days we are aware of, and can no longer ignore, the anomaly.[i]

The arrival of the British First Fleet into Sydney Cove on 26th January, 1788 is historical reality.  The union jack was raised, the cove (re)named and the land claimed for Britain.  My ancestors Anthony Rope and Elizabeth Pulley were convicts on that fleet, and it is their story that I wish to honour here.  The following are adapted excerpts from a longer study, Elizabeth Pulley: The First Five Years which I researched as part of background for thesis from 1998-2008 and later serialised in Elizabeth Pulley Sets Sail.  I am presenting it as a story based on facts on hand at the time, but a story none-the-less, and I apologise if some of the ‘facts’ prove to be inaccurate.

 BEGINNINGS (note that this is an earlier version to the ones I have serialised on Elizabeth Pulley Sets Sail)

At midnight on Christmas Eve in 1782 Elizabeth Pulley broke in and stole 10 lbs cheese, 3 lbs bacon, 24 oz butter, 3 lbs raisins, 7 lbs flour and 2 rolls of worsted material from the shop of Elizabeth Mimms at Hethersett in the South-East of England.

As far as I know Elizabeth was a single woman, an orphan, poor and had no known trade.  Little else is known about her background at this time, except that she was orphaned at the age of six, so it can only be imagined how she lived and survived.  According to Portia Robinson[ii] “it was the very poor, especially the single women, the washerwomen, the charwomen, the street-sellers, the silk-winders, streetwalkers and those of “no trade” who lived in…cellars and garrets…” in “…all the major cities and towns of Britain”.  Their lives “were characterised by squalor, poverty, dirt and disease…”.  The poverty had grown with the spread of the industrial towns and cities which were unable to deal with the increased population.

When Elizabeth stole from Mrs Mimms it was the middle of Winter and, after all, Christmas, the time of celebration and the giving of gifts.  Some of the more privileged made a habit of giving gifts to the poor as well.  Perhaps Elizabeth had nothing and wanted what everyone else had – a good meal, a Christmas pudding and a new dress for herself and family or friends.

Whatever the case Elizabeth was arrested, tried, confessed and sentenced to death.  She had done this before.  During the previous four years at least she had been arrested annually and convicted of stealing.  She had been gaoled, publicly whipped and sentenced to twelve months hard labour in the house of correction at Aylsham.  It had made no difference.  She still stole.  Perhaps there was no alternative for someone like her.

The courts had tried everything.  There was no improvement.  The gaols and prison hulks were overflowing already.  Transportation to America was no longer possible after 1781 when America won its independence from Britain.  So in 1783 the judgement was made that Elizabeth “should be hanged by the neck till she be dead”. She was about 22 years old.

Meanwhile in 1770 Captain James Cook had found “New Holland”.  Since then the British government had been examining the possibility of reviving transportation and New Holland was suggested as a potential site.  By 1786, three years after Elizabeth’s conviction, the plan to send convicts to NSW was put into operation by the government and preparations began.

At some stage during this period Elizabeth’s death sentence was reprieved and instead she was to be transported for seven years.  She spent the time waiting, imprisoned in Norwich Castle.

It was 1787.  The seed was planted.  The seed of hope and new beginnings for the 778[iii] convicts who were to travel from England on the First Fleet, and the seed of despair and death for the indigenous people of this ‘new’ land.

Two years later in another Winter, the Winter of 1789, thousands of the original inhabitants of the Sydney basin (country of the Gadigal, Eora and Darug) died from the effects of smallpox considered to be brought in by the new arrivals.  That was another beginning.  Over the next ten to fifteen years the original population of Australia was decimated by 50% – 90% as the smallpox epidemic was quickly followed by measles and influenza.

For Elizabeth, this was her only chance.


Winter had ended and spring festivities, including Lent, were in full swing when on 11th March 1787 Elizabeth Pulley, and Susannah Holmes, with whom she had spent the last 3 years in custody, were received on board the transport ship, Friendship, at Plymouth, England.  Elizabeth’s future husband Anthony Rope was on the Alexander.

The Friendship was captained by Lt. Ralph Clark and during the eight months and one week[iv]  journey Elizabeth was mentioned a number of times in Clark’s journal[v].  She was one of a group of women who continued to cause trouble throughout the passage, and was eventually moved to another ship, the Prince of Wales.   I need to add that when the women were moved it did not stop Lt. Clark’s complaints.


On Saturday 19th January, 1788 the Prince of Wales and the rest of the Fleet arrived at the entrance to Botany Bay (Kamay).  There was great excitement and relief at having arrived safely.

In spite of their explorations Captain Phillip and the officers were unable to find a suitable settlement site so Phillip ‘judged it advisable to examine Port Jackson’.  While he was away the officers continued their explorations around Botany Bay as well as clearing the land in preparation for settlement in case Port Jackson did not prove to be suitable.  The indigenous Australians were not happy, ‘The Natives were well pleas’d with our People until they began clearing the ground at which they were displeased & wanted them to be gone’.

The Aboriginal people were also astonished by the amount of fish the new arrivals could catch in their sein – ‘when they saw the quantity of Fish brought on shore at once were much astonished which they expressed by a loud & long shout, They took some of the Fish (which the Officer permitted) & ran away directly’.   The encroachment of the British on indigenous land and food sources had begun.

Underneath the surface friendliness of the British, who attempted to engage peacefully, there was quite a different attitude,  ‘The Governor’s plan with respect to the Natives, was, if possible to cultivate an acquaintance with them without their having an idea of our great superiority over them’…hmmm!

Phillip and his party returned to Botany Bay on 23rd January with good news about Port Jackson.  The fleet raised anchor and headed north.


On 26th January 1988, after an almost disastrous exit from Botany Bay, the fleet ‘Came to an Ankor at. 1/2 p, 6 OClock in Port Jackson Close to the New town Which Was Crisned this Day’.  The ships scattered through the bay, anchored, and were secured by ropes tied to the trees on shore.

The next day some of the convicts and troops began to clear ground and set up tents.  Collins, the Judge Advocate for the colony, was poignantly aware of the impact their arrival would have,

The spot chosen for this purpose was at the head of the cove, near the run of fresh water, which stole silently along through a very thick wood, the stillness of which had then, for the first time since the creation, been interrupted by the rude sound of the labourer’s axe, and the downfall of its ancient inhabitants;  a stillness and tranquillity which from that day were to give place to the voice of labour, the confusion of camps and towns, and ‘the busy hum of its new possessors’

Then on 28th the rest of the marines, their wives and children and the male convicts disembarked, and some stock was landed[vi].  At this stage Anthony Rope would have been put to work on shore, assisting in the preparation.  As the women convicts were not yet allowed to disembark, Elizabeth Pulley probably would have watched the activity from the deck of the Prince of Wales.

Immediately, some of the convicts began to run away as there were no longer any constraints.  A number ended up back at Botany Bay, and tried to obtain a passage on French ships which had arrived there, but they were dismissed with threats and were given ‘a days provisions to carry them back to ye settlement.’

Then on 5th February ‘slops of every kind’ were issued ‘to all the women & Childn. on board previous to their landing tomorrow…5 of the women, who supported the best Characters on board were this day landed on the Governor’s side of the Encampment, & had Tents pitch’d for them not far from the Governor’s house’.  The other women, who would have included Elizabeth Pulley, were directed to the west side of the Encampment.  The sailors were to remain on board the ships.

Finally at 5 a.m. on 6th February 1788 Elizabeth and the rest of the convict women prepared to disembark. ‘They were dress’d in general very clean & some few amongst them might be sd. to be well dress’d’[vii].  The peace did not last long as the women faced the waiting men on shore. It was a riot. ‘The Men Convicts got to them very soon after they landed, & it is beyond my abilities to give a just discription of the Scene of Debauchery & Riot that ensued during the night’.  One hour later there was also a ‘violent storm of thunder, lighteng. & rain’.

Elizabeth Pulley had arrived, carrying her bed with her.  The messy scene that was enacted on that first day was an apt introduction to the ensuing uneasy early years of settlement.

Three months after stepping onto Australian soil, Elizabeth Pulley married Anthony Rope.  She was about 25 years of age, and Anthony about 29.  Frances Williams loaned Elizabeth special clothes for the occasion, and Elizabeth Mason and John Summers acted as witnesses.  Elizabeth Mason had been one of ‘Pulley’s crowd’ on the Friendship, transferring with her to the Prince of Wales where they must have met up with Frances Williams.  John Summers had travelled out on the Alexander with Anthony.

It took a while but eventually Elizabeth and Anthony did make a life.  As the colony expanded they and their growing family moved to the newly opened areas west of Sydney until they were able, more or less, to support themselves off the land.  Elizabeth had eight known children.  One died young, some had children, some made a success of their lives, others had difficulty as in most families, but they survived.

The indigenous population, however, did not survive as well. Their land and food sources were increasingly overtaken, foreign diseases caused multiple deaths, and their fightbacks[viii] against British encroachment were squashed.[ix]

Whereas for me the 26th January will remain a symbol of my own British ancestors’ arrival and survival in Australia, part of our family tradition to be honoured and celebrated, stories such as these are complex and conflicted.  The other side of Elizabeth’s story challenges the current dating of our national day and has still to be accommodated.  It is important that we find a way to honour the whole, not just part.  That is yet to come. [x]

c. Annette Maie, 2017


[i] As the concept of ‘Australia Day for All’ is tied up with our understanding of ‘nationhood’ the date probably will not undergo a change until we cut our ties with Britain and become a truly independent nation.

[ii] Robinson, P.  The Women of Botany Bay.

[iii] Numbers seem to differ as some sources say only 759 actually sailed, some convict names did not appear on the Registers, and others had aliases.

[iv] according to Judge-Advocate David Collins, Fletcher, B. H. (ed.) An Account of the English Colony in New South Wales, Volume 1, by David Collins.

[v] Fidlon, P. G. & Ryan, R. J.  The Journal and Letters of Lt. Ralph Clark 1787-1792.

[vi] including mares, stallions, cows, a bull and a calf, ewes, poultry, goats and hogs.

[vii] Fidlon, P. G. & Ryan, R. J. The Journal of Arthur Bowes Smyth:  Surgeon, Lady Penrhyn, 1787-1789

[viii] The first Australian armies to fight for their homeland;  also not yet officially recognised.

[ix] Grassby, A. & Hill, M.  Six Australian Battlefields.

[x] Addendum.  This year Freemantle, Western Australia has taken the lead and rescheduled their celebration and fireworks to 28th January, calling it ‘Unity Day’.  Let’s hope this is the trigger for further changes across Australia.

‘Rusty’ Rups’ Xmas in the camps, 1942-1944

While clearing the last of my fathers’ papers recently I came across an email he wrote on 1 January 2000 which I thought I’d share.  Dad was a POW (in Selarang, Changi and Kranji) during the Japanese occupation of Indonesia, where he had grown up, and was conscripted into the Dutch army during the war.  At one stage in the camps he functioned as an orderly-come-nurse in the hospital.  This is more-or-less verbatim.  I have added comments in the brackets and some punctuation.

‘I am trying to remember what it was like in the Camps.  I don’t think it (New Year) was a big deal, perhaps an extra Dover (a rice ball mixed with a whiff of dried fish fried in oil).  But Xmas was an occasion to do something special.  I cooked a special meal for the Xmas 1942 and Xmas 1944.  I don’t remember what happened in 1943…perhaps that was the time that the poor guys that survived the (Burmese) railway trauma came back.  That was a business, everyone had Scabious.  As they arrived at the hospital we undressed them and plopped them in a warm bath.  After a good scrub we dried them and rubbed them…with a sulphur ointment, dressed them and sat them in bed with a cup of hot tea.  Of course some of them were too sick to get that treatment….some were so far gone with Berri Berri that they lasted only a few days.  The profile of diseases was first dysentery, weakened by that some were unfortunate to get malaria, and that was sometimes enough for the Berri Berri to take hold and the hope of survival diminished.  Anyway I cannot remember 1943 Xmas.

Also at that time we were moved out of what was called The Southern area, to make room for the Japanese airforce…We were made to clear a whole area of land occupied by bush, Coconut palms and Mangroves.  The growth centre of a coconut palm is very, very nice to eat and with my Indonesian country background I was into them straight away.  The English and Australians were soon aware of the nice taste, so after a while it was only the palm you helped to fell that you got a bit of.  …Well this field became an airstrip and is now part of Singapore airport.  (We were) moved to Changi jail.  There was not enough room there, huts were built to house the surplus and the hospital was moved to Kranji.  In Changi (there) was a hospital also and periodically patients that were chronically ill were moved to Kranji and the improved patients were returned to Changi….There were more camps.

For the 1942 ‘dinner’ it was still possible to get nice food.  The canteen sold spices and palm oil and one could also order meat.  I had a deal with the kitchen that…gave me fillet steak in exchange for the same weight of the meat…which was as tough as leather.  It did not make much difference to them because the camp’s meat ration was two carcasses and all they could do with that was cut it up in dice and make a stew with the vegetables.  This was still in the hospital in Tjimai, with a lot of ground around.  I was lucky enough to find two huge mushrooms.  So with all that we had fried eggs on our ration bread for breakfast and fillet steak with mushroom sauce for dinner.  You know these two occasions still give me a warm feeling because I could do nothing wrong.  There were about ten people in on it.

The 1944 ‘dinner’ was another matter.  I had rice, sweet potato, palm oil, blatchang, that smelly shrimp paste, and shallot tails.  These I managed to acquire from the waste tip of the Japanese kitchen.  They used a lot of shallot and cut the root part so generously that by carefully cutting off the root bits there was plenty of shallot left to fry with the fish paste in the oil…and when about right the vegetables went in.  We boiled the sweet potato we pinched from the garden and as a special we had a sweet;  one you would never in your life had tasted.  For breakfast the supply was two ladles of porridge made from boiled rice mixed with crushed corn and one level spoon of brown sugar.  I forget now, but I think that for a few days one spoon of sugar and one breakfast was saved, and two spoonfulls of sugar and two breakfasts were shared by three of us.  I really think now that we had saved sugar for longer.  On the day of the feast I asked the cook for some rice flour and I found some mint leaves.  I mixed the sugar, porridge, mint leaves crushed together, and thickened it with the flour mixed with rasped sweet potato…placed it in a baking dish and asked the cook to please bake it for us.  I forgot to tell you that for all this cooking I had an army steel helmet with a handle on it.  A staff sergeant of the Airforce made a menu all in French.  This is the memory that came back yesterday.  Again I wish you all a good, fortunate and happy new year.  It is a long hall to come.  Frank (‘Rusty’) Rups.’  24/9/1918 – 29/11/2008


c. Annette Maie, 2016

Frank’s story of liberation can be found at, Rusty Rup’s Liberation from Kranji and for a more detailed account of the more than three years of internment, Remembering Rusty’s time as WWII prisoner-of-war


And So it goes

This is the post excerpt.

DSCN10420003 cropped & autocorrected

The three principal endeavours of a Bard:

One is to learn and collect sciences;

The second is to teach;

And the third is to make peace

And to put an end to all injury;

For to do contrary to these things

Is not usual or becoming to a Bard.[i]

The series of writing in And So it Goes interrogates Australian culture in the context of family and truthtelling.


‘Rusty’ Rups’ Xmas in the Camps

Remembering Elizabeth Pulley on ‘Australia Day’ 

Anzac Day: Remembering family, their stories and reality’s challenge to idealism

Anthony Rope and the Sydney Cove Brickworks

Australia Day: conflicts and alternatives

Response to ‘Dark Emu’

Education Week: the Mudgee Ropes and the Lawson Creek Schools

Rusty Rups’ Liberation from Kranji

Embedded Racism: we’ve been here before

Remembering Rusty’s time as WWII prisoner-of-war

Australia Day, Welcome to Country, Loving Country and sand talk.

The Ides of May

If we could just dance together we would be friends: Remembering Margaret Walker OAM (1920-1996) for International Womens Day

Revisiting Australian History.

I began blogging in 2013 at ‘For Love of Gaia’ (Homepage)ForLoveofGaia explores the intersections of life experience, culture, religious and spiritual beliefs (spiritual ground), the emerging theories and philosophy of new science, and practice/spiritual matrix (performance, ritual, performance-ritual).  Since the I have extended to writing about ancestral journeys such as,  Elizabeth Pulley Sets Sail and other stories and From Miller to Rope, the Matriarchs as well as uploading a visual summary and the text for the performed elements of my thesis, Centre of the Storm.

[i] The Triads of Britain as quoted in Pennick, N. Celtic Sacred Landscapes, UK, Thames & Hudson, 1996