The Good Ship Glenswilly

The following book was researched from the Mitchell Library, Sydney

"Narrative of Voyages to N.S.W and East India"

The book was written in 1848 by an unknown person who travelled on the very same passage as our ancestors (Hugh and Ann Rogers), on the sailing ship "Glenswilly" in 1841. The following is an extract from that book. I am not sure whether the spelling errors were in the original book, or occurred when it was being re-typed.

This will give a good indication as to how the Rogers first came to Sydney, and the conditions that they experienced.

On the 9th November, 1840, I embarked at Gravesend on board the emigrant ship Glenswilly, Captain MacNeil, bound for Sydney. We left Gravesend on the same day, and proceeded as far as Sheerness, where we anchored. The following morning we weighed anchor, and were carried with a fair wind as far as the Downs. In making our way down channel, we encountered contrary winds; and on the night of the 15th, when off Brighton, it blew a gale from the N. W. which continued for three successive days, so that we were obliged to run back as far as Dungeness, and come to anchor. After the gale had somewhat abated, we proceeded for Plymouth, where we arrived on the morning of the 23rd. Next day, all hands were busily employed taking in stock, vegetables, and other necessaries for the voyage. The passengers, consisting of 310 persons, mostly Irish emigrants, embarked in the evening; and the next morning (the 25th) we weighed anchor, and went down the channel with a fair wind at the rate of about eight knots an hour, and soon we were clear of the shores of England.

I cannot attempt to describe with minuteness the scene that shortly occurred. Those that have never witnessed the departure of a number of emigrants, and those too, for the most part, Irish, can have no conception of it. Very few had thought to take the precaution of securing their boxes, pans, small water casks, and other things for common use; the ship running with the wind abaft her, and rolling heavily; most of the passengers being by this time very sea-sick, unable to help themselves - some praying, some calling for help, and others become wholly unconscious of what was passing, and to complete the confusion, the utensils wandering about the deck in all directions - altogether presented such a scene as I never before any idea of.

The wind continuing fair, crowding all sail, in about nine days after leaving Plymouth, we came in sight Madeira, without any thing of particular interest having occurred. By this time the weather was become very fine, and most of the passengers having recovered from their sea-sickness , everything went on pleasantly, though time hung heavily on their hands, and the voyage seemed a very long and tedious one.

I can not avoid noticing in this place, that the regulations for promoting the health, cleanliness, cheerfulness, and comfort of the migrants, were excellent. On Sundays, prayers were read, either by the captain or doctor of the ship. On the evenings of the other days, the song and country dance served to while away many a tedious hour, and beguile their thoughts from the land they had left behind them.

It is not my purpose to give a minute account of all the little details of our voyage, which might only serve to weary the reader, without presenting anything new, or differing materially from many descriptions which have already been given to the world. Suffice to say, that, the weather being very favourable, we made a most excellent run, and rounded the Cape of Good Hope about the latter end of December, and until near King's Island, situated at the entrance of Bass's Straits, had a very prosperous voyage. We here encountered a most terrific gale from the N. W., which lasted about twenty-four hours; and scudding under close-reefed top-sails, when the weather moderated, we entered the straits, where we met with new difficulties. Bass's Strait are full of small islands, rocks, and shoals, and the navigation is very dangerous to the unskilful mariner, especially with a headwind, such as we had to contend with; which, commencing to blow very strongly, compelled us to go about, or wear ship, very often. At day-break, on the morning of the 5th March, we found ourselves in the midst of small islands and breakers, which surrounded us in all directions. To add to our perplexity, the weather continued so thick and hazy for some time, that the captain could not get a sight of the sun to ascertain the exact position we were then in. However, after several hair-breadth escapes, we were at length, by the skill and caution of the captain, extricated from our perilous situation.

We had now been out four months, and after so tedious a voyage, the passengers were all anxious to arrive at the destined port. We could now see Van Dieman's Land on our right, and the wind shifting in our favour, we soon had the pleasure of seeing the shores of New South Wales. On the following day, we passed Botany Bay, I believe to all parties, the lighthouse erected on the South Head, the entrance to Port Jackson. We hove to until day-break, when we were piloted up to the town of Sydney, which is so rapidly rising to importance.

The harbour of Sydney is very commodious, and has many advantages. It is distant from the South Head about six miles, and is considered as a good anchorage as any port in the world, and capable of anchoring a thousand vessels. By some it is esteemed (with the exception of the bay of Naples) the most beautiful bay in the world; the scenery is exceedingly picturesque; the cliffs around rugged, here and there interspersed with neat villas, some inhabited by fisherman, and others by pilots. To the right, as you proceed up the harbour, is the quarantine ground, where all vessels undergo a strict examination as to the health of the passengers. Further up is a very dangerous reef, or sunken rocks, called the Sow and Pigs, which have proved fatal to several vessels. A little further up are Cockatoo and Kangaroo Islands; penal settlements for insubordinate convicts. As soon as you pass these islands, the town of Sydney presents itself to your view. It is covered by a fortress called Miller's Point. To the left is Sydney Cove, and the right is called Darling Harbour, in which are the two principle piers for landing passengers. There are several steamers plying to the port of Sydney from different parts of the colony. On the opposite side from Sydney, across Darling Harbour, is the beautiful township of Balmain, which promises fair to be a flourishing place, and where building is the best speculation for capitalists, as rents are high. There is a steam ferry-boat constantly plying from Balmain to the Sydney shore. Sydney is very well laid out, and its streets may vie with those of many of the provincial towns of England. It has very excellent churches, chapels, and public institutions; a museum, theatre, and a good market, equal to some of our London markets; and the shops so tastefully set out, that you might almost imagine you were in England. The scenery of the suburbs is beautiful, and there is a excellent race-course, as well as pleasant walks and gardens, called the Government Domain, very tastefully laid out, and kept in good order by convicts, or as they are termed in the colony, "Government men", and which are the resort of all the fashionables of the town.

This spot commands an excellent view of the harbour; and on the right are two excellent baths. Boat sailing, and the old English game of cricket, are favourite amusements of the Australians. The climate of New South Wales is considered very healthy and salubrious, particularly at Sydney, in which is situate in lat. 34 degrees S. and long. 151 degrees E. The winter months of Australia are the summer months of England. Frost and snow are almost unknown.

I remained in the colony about nine months, during which time I had frequent opportunities of visiting the neighbouring places. One of my first excursions was to Parramatta, pleasantly situated on the river on the same name, and distance from Sydney about sixteen miles. There are several small steamers plying to and fro, as it is the resort of parties going out for pleasure. At Parramatta are the receiving barracks for female convicts, and also a chain gang for refractory convicts, who have been returned to government, after having been assigned out as servants. To prevent misconception as to the way in which convicts are disposed of on arriving in the colony, I must inform the reader that they are sent to Hyde Park Barracks, whence they are assigned over as servants to any persons making application through the proper authorities; and government does not interfere with their management, or receive any remuneration for their services; the employer having to provide clothes and other necessaries. If the convicts conduct themselves well, their term of years is shortened; perhaps if sent for seven, they will then get freedom in five years; and if for fourteen years, in ten years; and if for life, possibly in fifteen years; but if drunken, or insolent to their masters, they are severely punished, as the laws respecting them are very strict, and rigorously administered. For a report of drunkenness they get fifty lashes; and for a theft they are imprisoned, and worked in chain gangs; and then their toil is very hard, such as cutting roads through the bush, making bridges, clearing the land of timber etc.

After remaining in Sydney for about six weeks, I determined before I left the colony to visit the river Hunter, and some of the towns in the interior of the country. I engaged in a passage in the steamer Victoria, built on the Hunter river, and a very fine sea-boat, far exceeding my expectations of ship-building in so young a colony.

We left the Commercial Dock in Darling Harbour, and cleared the South Heads by 10 o'clock, reaching Newcastle, at the entrance of the river Hunter, shortly after daybreak. It is a penal settlement, and is noted for its collieries, whence the town derives its name. There are two chain gangs at Newcastle, one stationed at the colliery, and the other at Nobby's, where they are forming a breakwater, which has already been the work of seven years, and was not completed when I left the colony.

The rugged cliffs of the Hunter, after leaving Newcastle, on the one side, and the swampy, thick bush, on the other, do not present a very promising appearance to the settler on his first arrival; but at about twelve or fifteen miles up the river, the scene changes; the townships are busily engaged in their various avocations, building is rapidly progressing on both sides of the river, the agriculturists are actively employed, and all seems cheerfulness and prosperity. On the river are several ferry-boats for the conveyance of goods and passengers, and piers at some of the principal places. The river is not navigable for large vessels farther than the Green Hills, adjacent to the town of Morpeth, and which are four miles from East Maitland, and six from West Maitland, both very flourishing towns, to which there are plenty of conveyances by coaches and omnibuses.

At East Maitland, is a garrison of a few soldiers, to look after the convict gang. The Quarter Sessions and Assizes are held here, and there a good hotels and inns for travellers. Though by no means a large place, all seems bustle and activity, as it is the principal thoroughfare to all upper districts, where there are towns of a much larger population.

I resided in Maitland about four months, during which time I had frequent opportunities of seeing the aborigine tribes, and observing their customs, sports, etc. They subsist chiefly by the chase and fishing - are very lazy and indolent, and the women, as is the case in most savage tribes, do the laborious work. They have feasts which they call "Corrabira", when most of the tribe assemble, and on which occasions, the feats of throwing Boomerang, the Waddie, and the Tomahawk, are the principle amusements, accompanied with the war-whoop and a most indescribable yelling. They are extremely fond of ardent spirits, and will steal anything to sell, to procure spirits. It is a very rare occurrence to get a native to work at any laborious employment, which he will not do unless driven by hunger; but as soon as he can get one good meal, he will tell you, "Black man no like work". They are very good guides to the upper country, and are mostly harmless and inoffensive. Their clothing is a mere apron made of skins, suspended by a girdle from the waist. Government supplies them annually with some blankets, which serve as a cloak for the women in the day-time. They always sleep in the open air. They are very dexterous in securing the Kangaroo and the Opossum.

During the time of my stay in Maitland, an opportunity presented itself of going to the township of Patterson river, which falls into the Hunter about four miles below Morpeth. I crossed at the ferry, and walked about four miles through the country, which I found all in a good state of cultivation, with neat farm-houses, and good fences round the farms. I entered the bush by a road in course of formation, to lead from Patterson to Morpeth, and still in a very rough state, the timber cut down, and thrown on each side. The chattering of parrots and cockatoos in their wild state, was the only sound I heard, from the time I entered the bush till I arrived at Patterson, where, finding nothing of particular note, I remained one night only, and then set out on my return to Sydney by the same route by which I left it, having been absent for months and a half.

The country had now been for some time in continual dread of a notorious gang of bush-rangers, mostly runaway convicts, who committed many acts of outrage and murder, but were at length taken by a force of mounted police, under the command of Capt. Day, conveyed to Sydney, and hung in the old goal yard. The gang consisted of six men, and since their capture the upper district has enjoyed quite and security...

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