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Memoranda by Convict Davis Servant to Mr Foster, Suprintt of Convicts, Norfolk Island - 1843 -
elating principally to Macquarie Harbour.1

Edited by Hamish Maxwell-Stewart

© all rights reserved

This narrative has been broken into 3 sections: I/II/III

Section III

Please note the main body of the text was written on the back and front of Commissariat order forms, however, some text is missing from the original copy. The section enclosed in {} is taken from the transcript of the original located on the same reel of film. Original spelling and punctuation has been adhered to throughout.

Our Friend Coporal Douglas proceeding was highly approved of By His Honour the Lieutt Governor and his commanding officer he was rewarded with £50 and promoted to sarjant dated 3 years

there had been several murders committed previous to the Death of the commadant the partys I do not correctly recollect I should think about a Dozen some of the men where executed others escaped for want of evidence.

the late Commadant was regretted by many as he had promised that he would take up to head quarters with him as many as the Schooner would carry and burn the Black Book as he said that it would be no more than fair that his successor should have a little trouble in finding out the characters of the men and that he said would give the Boys an opportunity of Brightening the Nails in their shoes but his good intentions where frustrated by his untimely Death -

Others considered it a mark of the almightys displeasure for his uncalld for oppression.

Our new Commander was looked on with an eye of suspicion as his mild manner in talking to the men was greatly at variance with the Soilders reports of him and a short time told that they were quite right as he possessed all the others Faults without his only Virtue Bravery But shortly after his arrival we where Blessed with a new Surgeon named Garratt33 and through his means the condition where much improved if a man received a hundred Lashes he would take him in the Hospital for a few days and then turn him out and exempt him until he was fit to go to work the appearance of the men improved very much although hard work and flogging was still the order of the day
[there appears to be some missing text]

for however strange it may appear for the last two weeks previous to his Death he had been a altered man in his treatment of the men for instance if it was a wet morning he would not allow them to go out and if the sea was high the Boats would not leave the Settlement things that a short time before was not thought of as the only question to the Coxwain was do you think you can get there the answer was yes as we had to go nearly before the Sea but he would say that he did not know how we should get home the reply was never mind that if you can get there.

In the month of June a party of prisoners seized a 13 oarded whale boat at Kelly's Bason after the death of the late commadant the Supt of Convicts left for Head Quarters with 5 other Volenteers and they all got their Emancipations according to the Governors promise at the formation of the settlement34 and at the end of 4 months he returned to hold his former situation with a salary of £50 per year and it was most strange the alterations freedom made in the man as he then was mild feeling and humane and for the remainder of my time at the Settlement I do not think he was the means of one man being brought to the office on the other hand when he was there before as a Prisoner for Indulgence there was scarcely a Day passd without his having some for office the men where not so strictly searched and watchd as they had been and when in Hobart Town he had pointed out to the authority the wretched state of the men for want of Bedding and Slops and he Brought down Bedding sufficient to give each man 2 Blankets and a Bed tick and a plentiful supply of Provisions as the place was 6 Months out of 12 short of Flour or Meat we where on one occasion 3 weeks on 1/2 and 5 weeks on a 1/4 of Bread through short supply and adverse winds in short the Commadant had made it known that on a Friday that he should abandon the place on the next Thursday and each man should have his chance to go by the Boats or over land as he liked But unluckily the Brig came in the Monday after a voyage of 7 weeks -

In the Month of June 14 Men seized a 13 oar Whale Boat at Kellys Basons as soon as they got there in the Morning they had 60 Fathom of 31/2 inch rope for the purpose of a tackle [illeg] to get the timber to the Water edge which they cut up into riggin for the Boat and tied up the gang to prevent their escape to give the alarm and with some Bed ticks that they had secreted round them under their clothes they made in a short time 2 lug Sails and a gib hauled the Boat up high and dry and scrubd her bottom but in the midst of their work there was a cry out that the Commadant was coming down the Bay distant 2 Miles the boat was abandoned immediately and all hands whent in the bush out of sight to make Cats as him and the Doctor was Trawling it was near an hour before they reachd the Bason where they all landed and was going up the Bush road to the gang when the coxwain saw a man in a suspicious place and the Boat turned Bottom upwards he thought it was not all as it should be and he pointed it out to the Commadant - who took fright and they all made the Best of their way to the Boat persued by the Bushrangers they succeeded in intercepting the Doctor But the commadant escaped and got in the Boat and shoved off (and left the Doctor to his fate) and never Stopd untill he was safe on the settnt a Boat was mand and filld with soilders and sent to the Bason but found the Bushrangers gone and the Doctor and the gang coming home in the Boat

On the Commadant regaining his Boat the Bushrangers immediately turned their Boat over and launched her to persue him but a man took the steer oar that did not know the Channel and he ran her aground on a mud bank and they had to jump overboard to shove her afloat again and then to go round the Bank By which time the Comdants Boat was a mile ahead and in 2 miles more they would have been in sight of the Settt so that after pulling a mile and half they gave it up as they found they would be to near home before they would come up with him

On their return to the gang James McCabe35 in the name of all the prisoners identified the Doctor thanking him for his feeling manner that he on every occasion had tried to soften the severe treatment that they invariably received from the Comnt telling him that him or his wife had not the least cause for fear from any of the prisoners But if they had that Day caught the Comnt He would have received 200 Lashes with the cats that they showd him and as many more as the Doctor considered that he could take as they cats where of a moderate size and not like those murdering things on the Settnt after consulting a short time they told the Doctor that as it would be impossible to pass the settnt now it was alarmed that they had abandond the idea of taking the Boat and should endeavour to go through the interior for the Frenchmans Cap (But this was only a feint to humbug the commnt)

The Doctor then offered them his Gun and powder and Shot and a Gold repeating watch worth 50 Guineas and seeing some without shoes offered his Boots as he said he he should not need them as he should have a good Boat to go home in but McCabe said that he could not take anything from him as the men where enamered to going without shoes and ere long he hoped to be in the land of plenty,36

After him pledging his word that he would not untie the men for 20 minutes they bid him Good bye and gave 3 cheers (as the soilders Boat was just in sight) and struck into the Bush; on the arrival of the Doctor at the Settnt he made a report to the commadant of what the men said and likewise of what their intentions where towards him at which he was much annoyed but pretended not to believe and some high words passd between them but on the second day after at 3 o'clock in the afternoon after there was a signal made in the farm bay distant 3 miles the Guard Boat was dispatched to see what was the cause on their return we learnt that the Bushrangers had seized the Boat on the gang landing in the morning (but they had not been able to procure fire to make a signal until they had been to the gang at Kelly Bason) and had taken one of their gang with them as they had lost one of their party in the night

the Boat pulld out into the main Bay and crept down under the land and so avoided the notice of the signalmen on the Island and they where never seen again till they robbed some Houses on the Banks of the Derwent the reason of their not being intercepted at the heads was the commadant was out shooting at the time and a Boat had to be sent to fetch him home before the soilders could be sent from the Barrack (that point of strict Discipline Cost the Colonial Govnt £33,000 before they gang was all taken besides an emmense sacrifice of Private Property and Many lives lost in the warfare) signals had been made to the Pilot but he could not understand them and considering it the surest way came to the Settlement which gave the Boys a free passage out to sea on the third Day we where Alarmed by a man or rather Devil it was supposed Hailg the settlement from Coal head point distant 2 1/2 miles a Boat filled with soilders was sent to see who it was on arriving their it prove to be the Bushranger that was lost previous to their seizing the last boat calld Bully Downs* a man of Herculean size and strength he was immediately on steping out of the Boat taken to the office and the Commadant abused him very much but Downs no way daunted to him that he was a unhuman Tyrant and that if they had caught him it was their intention to flog him to Death, he said that it was far from his wish to fit the part of a Tyrant but that as commadant he was compelld to support the overseer in Authority under him and if a man was brought before him and found Guilty he must expect to be punished

Downes said that was all well if he kept Justice in view but that he had adopted many of the late Commadants Laws which had neither Law Justice or humanity to recommend them such as breaking tools loosing clothing insolence to overseers without ever enquiring into the merits or demerits of the case and the likewise beg to call his attention to the crime of Bushrangers it was an established custom to give each man 100 Lashes and 6 months in Irons as their where many men led astray with false notions of Bush Traviling and when they had been away 4 or 5 Day came Back and gave themselves up and they received the same punishment as men who where a way 14 or 20 day with a party of 7 or 8 soilders after them and he could assure him where many in a weakly state layd down and died in sight of the Settlement sooner than return and receive so heavy a punishment.37

The Commadant said that he certainly felt obliged from the way that he had explained the matter and that men should not have that cause of complaint in the future and that he should begin with him namely 50 lashes 3 months in Irons and that should be the standing sentence for all men who had taken the Bush and gave themselves up

Downes thanked him for lenity but said that he did not speak with regard to himself as he certainly should have gone if he had not missed the party in the Scrub but finding them gone he thought it would be as well to give himself up as to wander about by himself

shortly after the above 3 men where executed on the settlement for 3 seperate Murders 2 committed in the bush and 1 on the Island the Governor thought that by making an example of them there would deter others from similar crimes but he little thought the trifling notice prisoners take of a Gallows scene as in a few day after Pearce the Man eater a gain took to the Bush with a young man of the name of Cox much such a man as Brown the Coxwain only much younger on their 2 day after leaving the gang on their way to King River they by accident came on the soilders Hut and the soilders being at the time watching the crossing place at the River mouth they robbed the Hut of 12lb of Bread 8lb pork tea sugar Iron Kettle axe and panniken and returned 2 Miles [illeg] nearer to the Settlement and on that night killd Cox and cut him up in about four or five pound pieces and fired his heart and some pork for his Supper head he threw in a Creek that had no bottom since known as Murderers creek he stopd there the next day and the day after as the Waterloo Schooner was going down the Bay the crew saw a man on the Beach and pointed him out to the pilot and with the Glass he knew him he askd the Master if he thought that he could take the Schooner over the Bay himself as he should like to go and apprehend Pearce as he was doubtful that he had killd Cox the master of the vessel said that he would take her out and advised him to lose no time

his boat being along side he shoved off at once and succeeded in bringing him to the settlement where the Commadant asked where Cox was he said that he had killd him and that if they would send a boat he would show them where the Body then was 2 Boats was then dispatched the one with the Chief Constable and Pearce and the other the Guard Boat But when they arrived at the place where the Pilot saw him he took them a round about juant and seemed very reluctant to show them the Body but one of the soilders more irritable than the rest struck him in the Breech with the Bayonet and told him that there could be no doubt But that he had murdered the man and that if he did not take them to the spot immediately he would shoot him which had the desired effect and he then produced the remains of the Body - a few slices of it was in the kettle with some of the pork that they stole from the soilders when they returned a more horrid sight could scarcely be imagined as the whole was cut up in about 3 to 5lbs slices as he said to be more convenient to carry the head entrails and heart was not there when asked how he could commit such a horrid deed and having plenty of Bread and Pork he intimated it would not have lasted long and the longer that Cox lived the poorer he would have got* and independent of that any person that ever eat human flesh would prefer it to any other when they had the opportunity to get it he likewise said that he could not account for remaining there and given himself up but that he was afraid to leave the spot as the spirit of Cox appeared to haunt him a thing that never happened him before although he had killd and eat several

a signal was made for the Schooner to Lay too the witnesses where examined and Pearce Committed and sent off to Hobart Town to take his trial and he was tried and hangd [illeg] that return of the Vessel and I believe that his skeleton was sent home to the R.Cs of Surgeons London38 for what reason I cannot tell as he had Nothing peculiar about him at least not to outward appearance he was a man about 5 feet 7 inches in height dark brown hair heavy eyebrows rather stout made and stood much after appearance of a Farmers servant but if I mistake not he was a Seaman yorkshire was his Native place39 Religion I do not know what as it was an affair that was not thought about at that place till the Arivell of Capt Butler40 as persons of all persuasions whent to hear Protestant service read by the Commadnt once on a Sunday let the weather be what it may there was 2 sawpits thatched with Grass Officers and men all assembled in and round them to hear the service which was mearly the Morning Prayers

There certainly was one solitary exception James Delany41 a Catholic Nothing I believe in the world would have have induced him to go therefore the commadant said he would let him go to the Devil his own way all others as a matter of custom as to have refused would have been to get a floggin for Disobedience of Orders and as it lasted so short a time the men did not trouble about it.

there was a house built for a Clergyman 18 months before I left but it had no occupant the reason I never heard when a man was sick he prayd or not as he liked as there was no one to read to him or instruct him and if he died there was a sort of a coffin for him and away to Holidays Island put him a few inches in the Ground and no mound about it I have known the Superintendent occasionaly Read the Burial Service it was considered a mark of greatest respect.

a few weeks previous to the death of the late commdt he had caused an oven to be built to Bake the mens Bread the Doctor thought that Bread would be better than flour half baked and in the month of February at the request of the foreman of the Bakehouse I received the enviable situation of woodman to the Bakehouse which I held 2 months a vacancy taken place by one of the men going to Hobart town the Commadant said that as I was a gang man it would be well for me to learn the trade I then was appointed to fill the place which I kept till November following (and by a strict application and the kindness of the Foreman learned enough of the trade that I was enabled to take charge of the Bake house on this Island and manage the Business for 16 months)

About this time there was a great Fracas about a soilder wife of easy Virtue at least so rep[illeg] said at all events the Commadant was very attentive to her but he found a rival in the Doctors mate (a young man highly connected at home and I believe of no mean ability he arrived an Emmigrant with a large capital 2 years previous and commenced Farmer on a large scale he was greatly robbed by his Govt men and some stolen cattle being found with his herd one of them turned approver and transported his Master and 2 of his men for Life to Macquarie) all Prisoners were forbid going into the Barrack but one morning about 7 o'clock the Commadant saw Elderidg the Doctors mate go in he followed him and just as he was going in he met a Seaman of the Schooner coming out he was given in charge immediately and he ordered a search to be made for Elderidge but without success for some time at last he was found in a large chest in the Ladys bed room by the Captain himself42 him and the Seaman was ordered down to the point immediately

Elderidge was stript and then tied up and sentenced 50 Lashes for being in the Barracks the seaman refused to strip alledged that he was a freeman and not ameniable to the settnt Regulations the Commadant disputed his word as he had not brought from home any Certificate of his freedom the clothes were tore of him and he was tyed up him still protesting against the proceedings a boat was despatchd to the Schooner and the Master came on shore with the Ships Books the man had shippd as a freeman and the master said that he allways understood that he had never been convicted (which was the truth) the man was then cast loose and he gathered up his clothes torn and Bloody as they where in a bundle first throwing them to the Doctor and the Master and whent on Board - naked telling the commadant that he would show him the Difference between a free seaman and a prisoner if there was any Lawyers in Hobart Town previous to the Vessel sailing he tryed to compromise the affair it was of to recent a date in Jacks mind and he would listen to Naught of the kind

At this point the narrative abruptly stops

Hamish Maxwell-Stewart, University of Tasmania, Australia. This narrative has been broken into 3 sections. You have just completed Section III. Return to sections I or II. See also the introduction to this narrative and a discussion about the identity of Convict Davis by Hamish Maxwell-Stewart.


33 On the 1 May 1823 John Goff and five others were sentenced to receive 100 lashes and 12 months in irons for Absconding into the woods & assisting in depriving 2 soldiers of their flintlocks AOT, Con31. The five others were Thomas Knox a whitesmith tried in the Isle of Man but born in Belfast; James Robert a goldsmith and Thomas Yates, a butcher, both from London Peter Keefe a shoemaker from Queens County and John Sharp a weaver from Co Tyrone. The Pieman River lies about 45 miles north of the heads at Macquarie Harbour.

34 Copied to this line by W Foster {inserted in different hand}.

35 Bucephalus was the name of Alexander the Greats horse.

36 (46) John Anderson per Hibernia was a seaman from Swansea who had been sentenced to 7 years transportation at Lancaster in July 1817. On 15 December 1821 he was sentenced to be retransported and to work in irons for the remainder of his original term of transportation for forging an order upon Mrs Mary Cox for 50 bushels of lime with intent to defraud her.

37 (74) James Revel per Lord Melville sentenced to life transportation in Kent in March 1818. Revel was retransported to Macquarie Harbour for the remainder of his sentence in August 1822 for Stealing pigs from the premises of Francis Barnes in Macquarie Street [Con 31] See also Hobart Town Gazette 7/9/22.

38 X X X X {written over dotted underlined}

39 Top Hammock For Mr Foster {written above the word meet - this looks like an old note which has been partially erased and written over}.

40 X X X {written over dotted underlined}.

41 Copied to this line {inserted in different hand}.

42 (346) Garrett Cottar or Cotter per Medway. Cottar was an Irish seaman who had been sentenced to seven years transportation in Devon in March 1817. The other convicts who drowned on the 22 December 1823 in this accident were (72) Joseph Gutteridge per Lady Castlereagh; (75) William Nugent per Malabar; (23) George Nicholls per Lady Castlereagh; (97) William Norman per Baring; (77) and William Walters per Lady Castlereagh. According to the Hobart Town Gazette only one member of the crew, presumably Anderson, survived. While this contradicts Davis version of the accident it makes sense since a standard boatcrew was six oarsmen plus a coxswain. Hobart Town Gazette 2 January 1824.

This narrative has been broken into 3 sections. You have just completed Section III. Return to sections I or II. See also the introduction to this narrative and a discussion about the identity of Convict Davis by Hamish Maxwell-Stewart.




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