Wednesday, January 30, 2013

'Journal of a First Fleet Surgeon', by George B. Worgan

I promised myself that each time I read a published account of New South Wales, I would post a review on it here. I don't have a lot of time to read - the last review was almost a year ago: Born on the Hill End Goldfields, by Albert Ellwood Howard (

I recently finished reading 'Journal of a First Fleet Surgeon', by George B. Worgan (1757-1838), surgeon on the 'Sirius'. The title reflects that fact that George Worgan did not intend to publish his writings - they are  in fact a long letter to his brother Richard, describing the journey and establishment of the settlement, and he then copied entries from his diary for the first six months and appended these to the letter. Worgan states in his letter that he is including these journal entries to sate the curiosity of family and acquaintances till Watkin Tench's work came into print in London.

I read the first published edition, released in 1978. The letter is extremely descriptive of the countryside, the nature of the convicts, and his observations on the local indigenous population. It is interesting, for example, that Worgan notes that despite all they had learnt of the lifestyle of the Aborigines, the settlers had not yet ascertained how the indigenous peoples could light a fire so rapidly. During the first six months, as surgeon of the Sirius, Worgan did not stay on land but was quartered on the boat, moored in Port Jackson. Nevertheless, Worgan captures events such as executions, the loss of the cattle herd, exploratory hikes, clashes with the indigenous peoples, and the violent weather of Sydney.

The journal is structured and clear, and well worth reading to gain insight. Two small items particularly took my interest. The first was the interaction of the First Fleet with the visit of Laperouse, who was moored in Botany Bay. The story is too long to tell here, but the two French ships and their sailors were never heard of again after they departed Sydney - before they left Sydney they handed over journals for transport back to Paris, and these records are all that remain of the expedition (read more on this amazing story here:,_comte_de_Laperouse).

Secondly, I enjoyed reading the following comment from George to his brother: "Prithee my dear good Brother, do but consider the Distance that separates Us, which, is nearly that, of Antipodes. for when we We are getting up in the Morning, You have hardly entered into your first Sleep; when it is the Depth of Winter with Us, you are enjoying Richmond Hill." This reference to 'first sleep' gives an insight into the natural sleep habit of humans prior to electricity ( There were normally two blocks of night-time sleep, as humans went to bed much earlier in the absence of artificial illumination. This sleep was broken into two, with a period of several hours wakefulness during the middle of the night. There are apparently not many literary references to it, so I enjoyed reading it.

The foreword to the journal is a little underwhelming. It simply describes what is known of Worgan's immediate family, and how the manuscript was acquired. There are several on-line descriptions of Worgan at the Australian Dictionary of Biography ( and Wikipedia (, for example. Briefly, he was born in London, the son of a prominent musician/organist, joined the Navy at 18 and trained to be surgeon, and joined the Sirius in 1786, sailing for Sydney with the First Fleet in 1787. After returning to Britain, he served in the Navy till about 1800, married and lived in Liskeard, Cornwall, and died in 1838.

The lack of genealogical insight into Worgan's family in the foreword is frustrating. This is partly because, given that the letter contains some entries from Worgan's journal, it is clear that Worgan's journal must have existed somewhere - after all he returned to England and lived there till 1838. In fact, it is mentioned that Worgan's son confirmed holding a 2-volume journal in the 1830s. Furthermore, the letter was was donated to the Mitchell Library in 1955 by Mrs. Margot Gaye of Guildford, Surrey who found it amongst the possessions of her Aunt, Miss A. Batley, after her death. Nothing is known of the earlier history of this manuscript.

It would be extremely useful to know if Miss A. Batley was descended from the recipient of the letter Richard Worgan, George's brother. It is also hard to imagine a 2-volume diary on the settlement of the colony of New South Wales being thrown away - and so knowing what descendants George Worgan has in England would also be useful. Worgan had 2 sons, both of whom emigrated to Australia, and one has to think that such a manuscript would have quickly surfaced there. As such, his daughter who remained in his village of Liskeard would presumably have retained the journals. If they weren't lost in a house-they may well be sitting unappreciated on a bookshelf somewhere in Cornwall or elsewhere in England right now! Who knows what insight they would throw onto early Sydney!

The original manuscript along with a full transcript can be viewed digitally at the State Library of New South Wales site (

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Register of Arms in NSW, 1802

Below I have transcribed a list of all people in the colony of New South Wales in possession of 'arms' in the year 1802. I cannot find any correspondence or information relating to how the information was collected - for example as part of a general muster conducted that year. As the Sydney Gazette was not published until the following year, I also do not have the option of looking for information in the newspaper.

The first mention of 'firearms' in the Sydney Gazette appeared on Sunday, August 21, 1803 (Vol 1, Number 25), forbidding the discharge of firearms in the town:

General Orders.

FIRE-ARMS are on no account to be discharged by any Inhabitant of the Towns of Sydney or Parramatta between Sun-set and Sun-Rise, on pain of being punished for a Breach of Public Orders, and making False Alarms.
By Command of His EXCELLENCY W. N. CHAPMAN, Sec  
Government-House, Sydney,   August 19, 1803.   

I came across the list of those owning firearmsin the NSW Colonial Secretary's Correspondence, as my ancestor Rowland Edwards appears among that number. There are actually two lists - one for 'Officers' in the colony, and one for 'individuals'. While several soldiers appear among those on the list, it is assumed that the firearms possessed by the New South Wales Corps (and other arms such as small cannon, etc.) were not counted. This also makes sense if the information on firearms was collected as part of a general muster, as members of regiments were not included in general musters.

For individuals, the owners of firearms are listed by geographical region. Four types of arms are generally counted: guns, pistols, swords and bayonets. Guns are presumed to comprise muskets (fired from the shoulder), as opposed to pistols (held in the hand). Bayonets can be fixed to guns for military charges, but most people in possession of a gun were not in possession of a bayonet. There was also one 'blunderbus' - a short musket with a flared barrel, that operates similarly to a shogun.

The breakdown of arms in the colony is as follows.
Total: 663
Guns: 457
Pistols: 116
Swords: 75
Bayonets: 14
Blunderbuss: 1

The district with the most arms was the Hawkesbury (147, perhaps unsurprising given the nature of relationships with the local indigenous population who were in the process of being dispossessed of their land). Arms held by officers (190) were not listed by district. The individual in possession of the greatest number of firearms was John Palmer (10 guns, 6 pistols, 2 swords), the commissary for NSW and responsible for supplies - as such it is possible these were in his possession as supplies, rather than personal arms.

The population of general inhabitants in New South Wales in 1802 was 5,866 (ref: General report on the eleventh census of New South Wales, T.A. Coghlan, 1894). As such, the rate of ownership of arms in NSW in 1802 was 11.3 per 100. It is interesting to compare this to recent numbers ( - today there are approximately 15 firearms per 100. This is at first surprising given the relatively violent environment of colonial NSW in 1802. However, a significant portion of population were convicts, and as such not in a legal position to own or be in possession of firearms.

In transcribing the original document, I have retained spelling of surnames as written, even when I was aware that a spelling error had probably occurred.

Please email me if you find any errors or have further information, and I'll update this post.

Register of Arms belonging to Officers of the Establishment taken 1802
Name Guns left Pistols left Swords left Guns taken Pistols taken Swords taken Blunderbus Bayonets
Philip Gidley King 4 2 1

William Paterson 2 4 3

Richard Atkins 4 3 1

John Palmer 10 6 2

Samuel Marsden 2

? Thomson 2 2 1

Thomas Rowley 4 2 1

John Piper 2

John Harris 8 6 4

William Minchin 1 2 3

Francis Barrallier 2

Thomas Laycock 9 2 3

William Moore 4 4 2

Nicholas Divine 2

McArthur 3 2

Nicholas Bayly 1

William Cox 2 4 2

Martin Mason 1

Thomas Hobby 4 2 2

? Campbell 2 1

John Brabyn
2 1

William Neate Chapman 2 4

Thomas Davis
2 1

George Bridges Bellasis 2 2


Charles Grimes 2

Thomas Arndell 3 4 1

Baker 1 1 2

William Wentworth 2 1 1

Thomas Smyth 4 2 4

 Register of Arms taken April 1802 belonging to Individuals in His Majesty's Colony of NSW

Name Guns Pistols Swords Bayonets
Mr Llewin 2
Jno Archer
1 1
Thos Alford 1


Name Guns Pistols Swords Bayonets
Mr Palmer 1

Mr Cox 2 1

Mr Alt
2 1
Mr Bloodsworth 1

Jno Leadbetter 1

Heny Kable 1

Major Johnstone 7 1

Thos Biggers 2 1 1 1
Joshua Palmer 1

Name Guns Pistols Swords Bayonets
Jno Davis S 1

Jno Smith 1

Saml Hockley 1

Jno Williams 1

Jno Cooper 1

Patk McDonald 1

Wm Boggis 1

Wm Jones 1

Jno King 1

Robt Fennell 1

? Kelly S 1

Thos Dikens 1

Jno Guyott 1

Edw Palmer 1

Jno Mullins 1

Rd Fry S 1

Jno Hazard S 1


Name Guns Pistols Swords Bayonets
Mr Moor 1

Mr Smith 2

Cropper 1

Palmer 1

Simn Lord 1


Name Guns Pistols Swords Bayonets
Capt Prentice 1

Rieby 2

Morris S

Connor S

Iken 1
Dukes 1

Eaton 1

Geo Legg 1

Patk Shannon 1 1

Jno Waldron
1 1

Owen Connor 1

Brookes 3

Sergt Palmer

Fielder 2

Batty 2

Ruby 2

Thos Prior 1 1

James Underwood 2

Geo Crossley 3 2

Jno Miller 2

McKoy 1

Jno Wills 2

Jno Thomson
1 1
Jno Jones 2

Ward 1

Heny Kable 1 1

Morris 1


Name Guns Pistols Swords Bayonets
James Hill 2

Charles Williams 1

Jno Burk

Shoeby 1

Mary Ellis

Robt Poplin 1

Hugh Foley

Thos Massey 1

James Gibbons 1

Geo Wilson 1

Jno Wilshire 1

Isaac Nichols 1


Name Guns Pistols Swords Bayonets
Joseph Ward 1
William Hobart 1

Richard Mortimer 1

William Sherwin 3

Robert Wells

James Larra 1 2 1
Richard Rice 1
Benjamin Cowen

Jno Hillis 1

James Flemming 1

Thomas Eccles 1

George Caley 2

Francis Duriveaux 1

James Wright 1

William Abbott 1

Daniel McCullum 1
Jno Groves

Thomas Jackson 1 2
Thomas Cozier 3

Mrs Smith 1

Richard Dowling 2

William Evans 1

Mr Sutton
Anthony Landren 1

Mr Barrington

William Telfour

William Bateman 1 1

Edward Piper 1

William Cole

William Harvey 1

Samuel Phillips 1

Jno Thorogood 1

James Becket 1


Name Guns Pistols Swords Bayonets
Jno Reeds 1

Mrs Hughes

Jno Currants 1

Joseph Francis 1


Name Guns Pistols Swords Bayonets
Michael Smith 1

Jno Leadbeater 1

Bryan Spalding

Samuel Smith 1

Thomas Williams 1

Dairy 3

Mrs Deveney 1

Thomas Needham 1

William Hill 1

William Dawson 2

Matthew Gibbons 1

Mr Kennedy 1

Richard Nichols 1 1

Mr Cummings 2

Samuel Griffiths 1

Jno Herbert 1
Joseph Morley 1

Jno Teace 1

Jno Warby 1

James Cleaver 1

Michael Donovan 1

James Dunlap 1

Jno Tarlington 1

Cornelius Teague 1

Name Guns Pistols Swords Bayonets
Samuel Allen 1

James Benson 1

Abraham Kemp 1

Jno Page 1

George Best 1

Israel Rayner 1

Mr Smith 4

Mr McDougal 2

Mr Bain 3
Mr Anson 1

Mr Beadley 1


Name Guns Pistols Swords Bayonets
Edward Pooding 1
Jno Shepherd 1
James Stewart 1
James Weavers 1
James Squires 1
Joseph Hatton 1
James Louther 1
David Brown 1 1
Ambrose Payne 1
Charles Berwick 1
Richard Hawkes 1
James Wood 1
Pheeber 1
Richard Porter 1
George Patfield 2
Michael Connor 1
Jno Tyrol 1


Name Guns Pistols Swords Bayonets
William Kentwell 1 1
Jno Jones 1 3
Jno Davis 1
The Watch 5 1 4
Thomas Moxham 1
William Yarley 1
William Joyce 1
Mr Pierce 2 1 2
George Griffiths 1 1
William Goodhall 1
Bartholomew Riely 1
Thomas Jones 2
Owen Martin 1
Jno OHarra 1
Jas Lowry 1
Wm Browning 1
Captn McArthur farm at Seven Hills 5 1


Name Guns Pistols Swords Bayonets
Mr Arndell 1
Eckford 1
Elliot 1
Holt 1 1
Martin 1
Whiting 1
Larra 1
Allister 1
Mr Sutton 1
Captn McArthur 3
Mr Oakes 1
Mr Hassal 1
Summers 1
Higgins 1 1
Freed 1
Leverett 1
Bishop 1
Mr Cox 2
Everingham 1 1
Butterly 1
Ramsay 1 1
Shaffy 1
Bennet 1
Torr 1
Alexander McDonald 1
Eggleton 1 1
Isaac Archer 1 1
The Limeburners 1
Ward 1
Mr Balmain 1
Day 1
Captain Kent 1 1

Name Guns Pistols Swords Bayonets
Jno Benn 1

James Wilbro 1

Henry Kable 1

Thomas Lewis 1

Samuel May 1

Thomas Gilberthorp 1

Jno Brennan 1

Thomas Abbot 1

Chapman Morris 1

Thomas Saunders 1

Daniel Smallwood 1

Joseph Smith 1

Thomas Buck 1

Benjamin Jones 1

Cavanagh 3

Jno Wilkinson 1

James Fletcher 1

Wheeler & Pulpit 2

Samuel Pickett 1

David Horton 1

James Mollee 1

William McDonald 1

William Masson 1

Matthew Lock 1 1

John Rose 1

Jno Cobcroft 1

Jno Howarth 1

Job More 1

William Burgess 1

Anthony Richardson 3

Henry Hale 1

William Skinner 1

Samuel Patehouse 1

James McGlade 1

Jno Anderson 1

Grono 1

Thomas Bates 1

Thomas Phillips 1

GW Moore 1

Alexander Seaton 1

David Brown 1

Widow Whitter

Edward Robinson 2

James Sherrard 2

Thomas Leason 1

Edward Reynolds 1

Henry Baldwin 1

Patrick Hynes 1

William Gregory 1

Jno Ruslen 1

Jno McIntosh 1

James Cunningham 1

Richard Burman 1

Richard Ridge 1

Joseph Jenks 1

Jno Lewis 1

Jno Austin 1

Richard Tuckwell 1

Andrew Thompson 3

James McCarty 1

William Bladay 1
Jane Pool 1

Roger Twifield 1

William Easey 1

Thomas Heather 1

Robert Forrester 1

Captain McKellar 2

C W Place 3 2 1
William Baker 3

William Roberts 1

Jno Prosser

Jonas Archer 1

Rowland Edwards

Charles Thomas 1

Henry Lamb 2

William Beadle 1

Henry Rochester 1

Thomas Rickaby 2 3

Edward Field 1

Jno Emby 1

Wm Chapman 1

Jno Butcher 1

David Phillips 1

Thomas Pitt 2

Elias Bishop 1

Thomas Spencer 1

James Thomas 1

Jno Wood

Robert Weathers 1

Robert Smith 2

William Noel 1

William Bowman 2
James Nugen

Thomas Neal 2

Jno Stephenson 1

Benjamin South 1

Thomas Coolen 1

William Giles 2

Jno Griffiths 1

Edward Powell 1 1 1
Jno Bowman 2 3

George Crossley 2

Thomas Wood 1

James Merchant 1

William Alsop 1

Edward Merrick 2

Patrick Murphy 1

Jno Dight 2

Henry York 1