On This Day – 10th February 1864

Convicts William Lawrence and William Turner were both charged with fighting at the Geelong Gaol. They were charged by the overseer of labour and given 24 days solitary confinement by the Governor.



On this day ………… 10th February 1788

The First Fleet of convicts to New South Wales consisted of eleven ships. One of these was the ‘Golden Grove’ which carried Reverend Richard Johnson, the first chaplain to the New South Wales colony. The Fleet departed Portsmouth, England on 13 May 1787 and arrived in Port Jackson on 26 January 1788. Within two weeks of the arrival of the First Fleet on Australia’s shores, Johnson was called upon to officiate at the weddings of five couples. The marriage ceremonies were performed on 10 February 1788. Two of the most notable couples were Henry Kable and Susannah Holmes, and William Bryant and Mary Brand. Making an impression on Governor Arthur Phillip, Henry Kable was promoted to several positions of responsibility, including eventually becoming chief constable. Later he established a successful sealing and whaling business. The Bryants, on the other hand, became notorious for their daring escape from the colony. Stealing away into one of the ships bound for the new Norfolk Island colony, the Bryants then acquired a compass and maps, stole one of the longboats and sailed for Timor, along with their young son Emmanuel and daughter Charlotte. After being handed over to an English captain and sent to Java, Indonesia. William and his son eventually died from tropical fever, and Charlotte died after she and her mother were sent on a ship back to Sydney. Mary Bryant’s story was reported back in England and, due to extensive public sympathy, Mary was pardoned.



After the official closure of the penal settlement on Sarah Island, twelve Convicts, under the supervision of several soldiers and Master Shipwright David Hoy, remained behind to complete the fitting out of the brig, Frederick. Although the specific orders concerning the fit-out had been mysteriously mislaid, the men dutifully carried out their tasks with ‘great propriety, executing Mr. Hoys’ orders with promptitude and alacrity’. The Frederick was launched in January 1834 and ten of the Convicts celebrated the occasion by seizing control. They sailed it to New Zealand and then onto South America. It was abandoned off coast of Chile and the Convicts rowed the ship’s whaleboat the remaining 80 km to shore. Passing themselves off as shipwrecked sailors, they assumed positions as shipwrights and became respected members of the community. Several married local women, while six of the men made a further escape to America and Jamaica. The four who remained in Chile were eventually caught and brought back to Hobart for trial as pirates. As the boat was seized from the harbour rather than the high seas, they escaped the charge but had to live out their days on Norfolk Island.


The tradition of noticing the 26th of January, began early in the nineteenth century with Sydney almanacs referring to First Landing Day or Foundation Day. That was the day in 1788 Captain Arthur Phillip, commander of the First Fleet of eleven convict ships from Great Britain and the first governor of New South Wales, arrived at Sydney Cove. The raising of the Union Jack there symbolised British occupation over the Aboriginal inhabitants of the eastern half of the continent claimed by Captain James Cook on the 22nd of August in 1770.



On this day …….. 25th of January 1848

The Marion disembarked convicts at Port Philip on this day in 1848. It was the last ship to do so, Victoria.



On this day …….. 19th of January 1790

The second fleet set sail from England on this day 1790. The three transporters carried 1,006 convicts, 928 men and 78 woman.



ON THIS DAY…… 13th January 1933

At the sittings of the Supreme Court Geelong before Mr. Justice McFarlan was the trial of Manus Diamond, 47 years, a labourer, on a charge of robbery. On the night of 13th of January, Diamond went into the bedroom of his 90 year old mother and demanded money. She declined and went to the kitchen, where Diamond stole a small purse Mrs Diamond had tied round her neck. The purse contained £43. Diamond was sent to the Geelong Gaol.



On this day …….. 31st of December 1790

The First Fleet, containing the officers and convicts who would first settle Australia, arrived in Botany Bay on the 18th of January 1788. The colony’s Governor, Captain Arthur Phillip, immediately determined that there was insufficient fresh water, an absence of usable timber, poor quality soil and no safe harbour at Botany Bay. Thus the fleet was moved to Port Jackson, arriving on the 26th of January 1788. The penal colony of New South Wales struggled, but managed to survive largely through the efforts of Governor Phillip. He was a practical man who had suggested that convicts with experience in farming, building and crafts be included in the First Fleet, but his proposal was rejected. Phillip faced many obstacles in his attempts to establish the new colony. The convicts were not skilled in farming, and unwilling to work hard in the intense heat and humidity of Australia. British farming methods, seeds and implements were unsuitable for use in the different climate and soil, and the colony faced near-starvation in its first two years. On this day in 1790, twenty-five bushels of barley were successfully harvested. This went a long way towards alleviating food shortages. The colony finally succeeded in developing a solid foundation, agriculturally and economically, thanks to the perseverance of Captain Arthur Phillip.


ON THIS DAY…… 26th November 1855

The colony of Van Diemen’s Land becomes known as Tasmania

Fears that the French would colonise Van Diemen’s Land caused the British to establish a small settlement on the Derwent River in 1803. 33 of the 49 people in the group were convicts, and the settlement continued to receive convicts re-shipped from New South Wales or Norfolk Island up until 1812. Regular shipments of convicts directly from Britain began in 1818. A second penal colony was established at Macquarie Harbour on the west coast of Van Diemen’s Land in 1822, and three years later, the British Government separated Van Dieman’s Land from New South Wales. Macquarie Harbour was eventually closed down, to be replaced by Port Arthur. Transportation of convicts to Van Diemen’s Land ended in 1853. On 26 November 1855, the colony officially became known as Tasmania and elections for parliament were held the following year.

ON THIS DAY…… 21st November 1789

Convict James Ruse establish first working farm in Australia

James Ruse was born on a farm in Cornwall around 1759. At age 22, he was convicted of burglary and, due to severe over-crowding in British gaols, spent over four years on the prison hulks in Plymouth Harbour. He was one of the convicts who was transported in the First Fleet to New South Wales, sailing on the ‘Scarborough’.
Governor Phillip was aware of the need to build a working, farming colony as soon as possible. Thus, on 21 November 1789, Phillip selected Ruse to go to Rose Hill (now Parramatta), west of Sydney Town, and establish “Experiment Farm”, the colony’s first working farm. Ruse was allocated one and a half acres of already cleared ground and assisted in clearing a further five acres. He was given two sows and six hens and a deal was made for him to be fed and clothed from the public store for 15 months. Within a year, Ruse had successfully farmed the site, proving that it was possible for new settlers to become self-sufficient, and to feed a family with relatively little assistance to begin with. As a result of the success of Ruse’s venture, he was granted another 30 acres in March 1791, in the colony’s first official, permanent land grant. This was in addition to the area he was already occupying.

ON THIS DAY…… 6th November 1908

 A draft of four prisoners from Pentridge was received at the Geelong Gaol on this day in 1908.  The prisoners were placed in the Hospital ward for a change of air and discipline. 


ON THIS DAY…… 1st November 1791

Escaped convicts tried to walk to China

On the 1st of November 1791, a group of 20 male convicts and one pregnant female convict escaped from the gaol at Parramatta, New South Wales in an attempt to reach China overland. They took with them rations, tools and clothes. Whilst some of the convicts were recaptured, many simply died in the unfamiliar bushland of New South Wales. Many convicts believed that China lay beyond the Blue Mountains.