'Roxburgh Castle' memoir

TLM-P wrote his 'Draft memoirs of a voyage from London to Sydney on the Roxburgh Castle', c.18791) for his daughter Rosa Praed to use in her planned 'sketch of colonial life'. He wrote it, he explained, while suffering from lumbago (lower back pain) which left him unable to do physical work. He was relying on his memory of events over 40 years ago, so this evidence must be treated with caution. As well, as with most memoirs, he highlights the aspect of his youthful self he most admired and wished his daughter to appreciate. The anecdotes he chooses to tell his daughter reinforce the perception of a young man full of high spirits: his toasting the Catholic reformer Daniel O'Connor in response to an Orangeman's toast; shooting bottles then albatrosses; and defying Captain Cumberland by diving off the Roxburgh Castle to swim, disbelieving warnings of sharks until one was caught by the crew.

TLM-P recalled that there were some 20 to 30 in the first class accommodation (cabin class); 'several' passengers in second class accommodation; and 'about 200 emigrants' jammed into the third class accommodation. They also picked up new passengers when stopped at Cape Town. While he deplored his father's financial recklessness and was aware his mother had scrimped to provide money for him, he takes it for granted that he sailed 'cabin' class. Class divisions were strong and he showed no interest in those who could not afford first class. Despite his disregard, the white population of NSW was so small that he would have encountered them in later life: emigrants like 21-year-old Jane McCormick who, a decade later, had married and, with her husband, ran a major store at Singleton in the Hunter Valley.2)

Among the other cabin passengers TLM-P remembered was the Rev W.B. Clarke and his family (wife Maria and his two young children). Clarke, soon after his arrival in Sydney, was appointed headmaster of The Kings School, but his main claim to fame was as an amateur geologist and for suppressing his discovery of gold deposits.3) When TLM-P first saw Clarke using his geologist's hammer to investigate a boulder at Cape Town, he assumed Clarke was drunk or insane - as he wrote, geology was then in its infancy and he had never seen anyone do anything like that. TLM-P shared his cabin with 'an old Portsmouth friend, Dr Chas [Charles] Scott'. The Australian Medical Pioneers Index shows that Dr Scott purchased land at Raymond Terrace in the Hunter Valley in 1840 but that he had returned to England by 1842.4) TLM-P and Scott made friends with Charles Hall 'a Cambridge man and a capital fellow', taking down the divider between their and his adjoining cabin.5)

On 2 February, the discomfort of the voyage again increased as the ship ran into dust from the Mt Fogo volcano: 'fine red dust increasing the heat on board, promoting lassitude, sore eyes and throats, covering sails and deck'.6) With all these mishaps, the ship was a week late reaching Cape Town, but did so on 28 March. While passengers who could afford it, took accommodation in the town, it was still dangerous as there was a measles epidemic raging. For the Clarkes at least it was worth it if only for reasonable meals again. The Rev. Clarke wrote ecstatically, 'good bread! pure water!' He was also thrilled to eat eggs again - the Roxburgh Castle did take poultry on board, but they had died during those first stormy days before reaching Plymouth.7) Another event of interest is that Clarke recalls a party from the ship visiting a Dr Drury while at Cape Town: if this was a connection to TLM-P's former teacher, he had forgotten it by the time he wrote his memoir, or not thought it relevant for Rosa's purposes.8)

The voyage took a turn for the worse after their Cape Town stop-over: with new passengers and provisions came contaminated food or water. Passengers first came down with dysentery (diarrhea) then, so TLM-P thought, around 30 contacted typhoid fever: 'within a few days', 15 died. The ship's records9) confirms this figure and provides the extra information that 10 were children. These deaths could have huge ramifications for the surviving family. Take, for example, 39 year-old Anne Dunbrell, who died leaving her husband and 5 children aged between 15 and 2 years old to manage without her in a new colony. At some point, to cheer the crew, the Captain suggested that TLM-P scramble up the rigging and let the crew try to catch him - which they did, with the escapade having 'the effect the Captain desired … a laugh'. This recollection is in keeping with Clarke writing that, when he became depressed, Captain Cumberland organised activities to lift his spirits. One couple considered that they were so lucky in their Captain that they named their baby Cumberland Roxburgh.10)

More danger presented when the ship neared Bass Strait, with the Captain confiding he wasn't sure of their position and asking TLM-P and his two friends to 'not take off your clothes tonight, and be ready in case of accident but say nothing to any of the other passengers'. Despite a near miss with a 'great rock', the ship successfully made it into the Strait. The Captain was so relieved that, TLM-P recalled, he 'called on hands to splice the mainbrace. This was the first time I had tasted raw spirits'. The Rev Clarke was particularly anxious as he believed it was the first time the Captain had navigated the Strait, and the ship had only three lifeboats - not nearly enough for all people on board.11)

Sailing up the coast to Sydney, TLM-P saw the 'blacks' fires burning in several directions'.12) Once in Sydney, TLM-P did not record such evidence of the Aboriginal survivors - they were to remain 'hidden in plain view'.13) As the Roxburgh Castle entered Sydney harbour, TLM-P recalled he was 'in a state of fierce excitement … the time [on board] had passed … on the whole pleasantly. But now an unknown future lay before me … [the only thing] that seemed clear was that I should have to labour for my own living in any way [he could] … in a new country and among total strangers. These thoughts troubled me a little; but youth, energy, the love of adventure and the determination to succeed carried the day.' He thought the ship would have gone into quarantine except that two of the passengers were the mother and sister of the Harbour master's wife.14) TLM-P was among those who stayed on the ship overnight, and remembered looking over what we now know as the eastern suburbs. The water was 'smooth, beautiful'; the harbour had trees growing 'down among the rocks to the water's edge'. He could see no houses, writing that 'Vaucluse, Mr Wentworth's place,15) was one of the few houses in the neighbourhood'. His recollection is a reminder that he was not an objective observer, but one who saw with English eyes. He looked for the mansions of the colonial gentry as evidence of civilisation. There were few to see in 1839, as shown in this Conrad Martins painting of Elizabeth Bay and Elizabeth Bay House.16)

The Rev Clarke described how it was decided that the Roxburgh Castle did not harbour any contagious disease, so the next day it sailed to Darling Harbour, anchoring adjacent to Goat Island. TLM-P's memoir unfortunately ends with him disembarking, so we have no information about his first impressions of Sydney people or how he found employment. If he was like the Rev Clarke, it was a kaleidoscope of competing impressions including of gangs of convicts working with their chains clanking and bushrangers in the outlying areas of white settlement. Soon after they landed, here were drought-breaking violent thunderstorms which rendered many of the roads hazardous mudslides.17) By then, TLM-P had likely found his first employment in the colony, to the north of Sydney in the Hunter Valley.

MLMSS6576, copied from Praed papers, QJO
Catherine Bishop, Minding her own Business. Colonial Businesswomen in Sydney, Sydney: NewSouth, 2015, p.146.
3); Bob Young & Robert William Young, This Wonderfully Strange Country: Rev. W. B. Clarke, Colonial Scientist, Thirroul, NSW: Robert Young, 2015; Elena Grainger, The remarkable Reverend Clarke: the life and times of the father of Australian geology, Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1982.
searchaction.php list “T.L.M. Prior”, along with “308 bounty immigrants [and] Surgeon Superintendent F. McKellar. Passengers Rev. W.B. Clarke, Mrs. Clark and two children, Dr. C.H. Scott, Mr and Mrs Loman and family, Miss McInesherry, Miss Prior, Mrs and Miss Pinwell, Messrs C.B. Hale [mistake for Hall? or TLM-P's mistake?], J. Goodwin, S. Wilkinson, and R.S. Parker.” The source is given as The Colonist.
Elena Grainger, The remarkable Reverend Clarke: the life and times of the father of Australian geology, Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1982, p.71.
Elena Grainger, The remarkable Reverend Clarke: the life and times of the father of Australian geology, Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1982, p.73.
8) , 11)
Elena Grainger, The remarkable Reverend Clarke: the life and times of the father of Australian geology, Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1982, p.74.
Elena Grainger, The remarkable Reverend Clarke: the life and times of the father of Australian geology, Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1982, pp.71-72,77.
possibly camp fires or the widespread controlled burning Aboriginal people routinely undertook to manage the landscape
Paul Irish, Hidden in Plain View: The Aboriginal people of coastal Sydney, New South Press, 2017.
We don't know if he was correct, but for travellers being quarantined in Sydney, see Peter Hobbins, Ursula K. Frederick and Annie Clarke, Stories from the Sandstone, Arbon Press, 2017
Elena Grainger, The remarkable Reverend Clarke: the life and times of the father of Australian geology, Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1982, p.75-85.
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