Author Archives: Historia Incognita

About Historia Incognita

Douglas Wilkie is an Honorary Fellow of the School of Historical & Philosophical Studies at the University of Melbourne, and a Member of the Professional Historians Association (MPHA)(Victoria). His PhD investigated long forgotten or misunderstood origins of the Victorian gold rushes of 1851. He also has a BA, BEd, MA and MEd from Monash University with major studies in Ancient History, Renaissance History, Australian History and Victorian Educational History.

Parramatta Female Factory


Parramatta, New South Wales  by Lycett, Joseph, c. 1775-1828 Published by J. Souter, Sep.1, 1824 (National Library of Australia)

What was the Parramatta Female Factory?

The Parramatta Female Factory was a multipurpose institution that operated at Parramatta (near Sydney in New South Wales) between 1821 and 1848 as “a refuge for women, children, elderly and sick women; a marriage bureau; a place of assignment and moral reform; a penitentiary; a women’s hospital for the convicted as well as the free; and a workhouse all rolled into one” (Michaela Ann Cameron) Read More Here.

The Female Factory Online

The Female Factory Online will become a searchable database of women who were in some way connected with the Female Factory, whether free or serving sentences. Read More Here.

Historia Incognita

Historia Incognita will be contributing a number of biographies of women who spent some time at the Parramatta Female Factory. They are:

Catherine Smith of Bengal

Sarah Payne: A Portuguese Weaver


A World of My Own


This book, A World of My Own: Book One – A Short History of the First 23 Years of My Life, is an autobiography. It covers, as the title suggests the first 23 years of my life. A second book might cover the next 23 years of my life. And a third, the following 23 years. Who knows.

Given that my childhood was somewhat devoid of world-changing events, at least none that I was responsible for, the majority of the first book covers the four years I spent at Art School between 1966 and 1969.

For those who were there, and remember, or for those who were not there, but have read or heard about that era, the late 1960s was a time of profound social change. It was the time of the Beatles; the Vietnam War; the Cold War; the policy of Mutually Assured Destruction; the Hippies; the slow demise of the Liberal Party following the resignation of Robert Menzies; the  1968 student uprisings in Paris and other cities. The list goes on.

This book is a personal reflection upon my experience of and participation in the events of those times. It consists of 55 Fragments of an unpublished story about Rinaldo (representing myself), originally written in 2002, and each Fragment is connected and given further explanation by a first-person narrative.

The Fragments of Rinaldo’s story are, as explained in the book, “a bit like the paintings I did, and like the histories that people write. What we depict in paintings, or in history books, may reflect reality, but they also reflect what we imagine that reality to have been from a distance, and filtered by our imagination.”

Here is an edited sample:

Foreward to Book One

“This book is about history. It is about the human experience and its place in history. It is about all of those things that we as human beings experience during our short allocation of historical time—art, music, literature, science, politics, love, war, sex, happiness, sadness, wonderment, companionship, loneliness. It is also about the questions of where, why, how, and what. Where do we come from? Why are we here? How should we live? What is there in the future?

Some people seem to have little concept of their place in history. They just exist. Their world is dominated by the immediate experience of their five physical senses and limited by the three physical dimensions in which they live. They have no curiosity about history. No compelling questions about their place in the present. No vision for the future.

This book, this story, goes beyond an account of mere existence; beyond what can be felt through the five physical senses and the three physical dimensions. This story places human experience—my experience as a human being—into the realm of the sixth sense and the fourth dimension; into the realm of imagination and intuition; into the broader dimension of past, present and future.

Yes. This book is about history. But then, history is much more than you thought it might be.”

Extracts from Book One, Part One

Links in the Chain of Life

“How should i start this story? Perhaps with an account of things I have mainly forgotten. A memoir of people and events I mostly do not remember. Yet I must begin with these people and events because they form the foundation of what comes after that. And to understand what came later, you need to understand what came before.

—–‘I wear the chain I forged in life,’ lamented Jacob Marley’s ghost when he came to see Ebenezer Scrooge on Christmas Eve. ‘I made it link by link, and yard by yard. I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it.’

Well, Charles Dickens may have been right. We may have no immortal control over the atoms of our existence. Nor over where they came from, and where they will go. Yet, despite this certain lack of control over things, briefly they come together to create the person we are, and, having been created, we alone can then choose to do good; or evil; or nothing at all.

It is what we do, or do not do, that influences others and is passed on to future generations, just as it is what others have done that has influenced us in our lives. And sometimes, despite what we or others endeavor to do, there seems to be some element of chance—an element of fortune. Or perhaps, of misfortune.”

Extracts from Book One, Part Two

Fragments of Life as an Art Student

February 1966

Fragment 1

The Fog in the Bog

An idea is a beginning point and no more. If you contemplate it, it becomes something else. – Pablo Picasso 1935

In the beginning there was a mist that swept gently across a primordial bog. There were strange and unidentified characters that merged and emerged within these mists of time. Some were dressed in weird and unusual clothing. Some were naked.

The whole scene was muted, and muddy, and if you were watching from somewhere in the distance you might have heard the voice of Rinaldo quietly drifting with the fog. The voice spoke in rhyme, and the words that were spoken became visible. They hung suspended for a few moments before floating off through the mist.

‘At the beginning of time the earth was covered in slime and rivers and bogs were hidden by fogs…’

The sound of the voice dissipated and the fog continued to sweep across the bog. More unidentified characters merged and emerged within the haze of time.

And the murky mist continued to swirl.

—–It was the beginning of February 1966. There was a murky swirling mist in the studio of the art school in the Melbourne suburb of Prahran.

From the moment that eighteen-year-old Rinaldo first stepped into that studio, you could tell his impression was that it was a place in which both art and life were being created. In fact, his art and his life would be created in that art school.

But on the first day, with a combination of excitement and apprehension filling his heart, Rinaldo contemplated the new environment and found his attention drawn to the diverse objects within the studio. Paint brushes. Easels. Drawings pinned to walls. A bowl of fruit awaiting a still life. Paint boxes of artists. A model’s gown thrown over a chair. All of these things added to the atmosphere and seemed to have creative potential for Rinaldo.

It was a couple of days into the term when I first saw Rinaldo. He was seated before an easel and was looking at a jar of turpentine. He had just washed his brushes and the colour of the murky mixture reminded him of a fog swirling across some mysterious bog. Perhaps like the graveyard scene in Hamlet.

But then something distracted him. He could see people reflected in the jar and moving silently about the studio.  They seemed to emerge from the mists of time and were in various states of exotic dress or undress. But when he looked up they were no longer there and he saw only a room full of new and unknown art students sitting on stools or standing before their easels and concentrating upon their work.

He smiled at the illusion that he had momentarily believed in, and then took a piece of paper and pen. He wrote a few lines that the mixture had inspired, then turned back to his canvas.

Nearby, a Model sat on a rostrum. She was in the pose of William Bougeaureau’s Seated Nude. Bougeaureau did many paintings with that title, but you only have to imagine a nude model seated on a rostrum to get the picture. In fact you only had to imagine to see anything in this art school. But Rinaldo was not painting the Model and had never heard of Bougeaureau at that time. No, he was painting a still life that he had started that morning. In fact, the Model was in a life drawing class in the next studio and could only be seen through a gap where the door stood ajar.

I watched him from where I sat, and each time I looked his picture seemed to change. Of course it did, he was working on it, but that’s not what I mean. Look out the window and see how things changes. Leaves and branches move minutely in the breeze. Flower buds open and petals fall. Each time you look something has changed. History is simply a record of changes. But no history is ever finished. Rinaldo’s painting was like that. And each time I thought it was finished, there was more to be done.

Perhaps that’s because he was never satisfied. He was always thinking that things could be done better. Or perhaps he simply lacked the confidence to take that final step and proclaim the creation completed.

‘I am progressing very slowly,’ Cézanne had once written to his friend Emile Bernard, ‘for nature reveals herself to me in very complex forms; and the progress that is needed is incessant.’

But that was in 1904 and Cézanne was 65 at the time.

Sixty-two years later the painting teacher had urged, ‘Learn from Cézanne. See nature through the cylinder, the sphere and the cone.’

Of course he was quoting Cézanne completely out of context and Cézanne would have turned in his grave.

 Bouguereau, Seated Nude 1884.jpg

William Bougeaureau, Seated Nude, 1884

 What was his name? That teacher? There was Peter Booth. And Robin Wallace-Crabbe, the brother of Chris, the poet. And James Doolin, an American who had just arrived from New York. They all taught painting and drawing at Prahran that year. I modelled for all of their classes at some time. But this one’s name was King. I forget his first name. Anyway, we all just called him King. Mister King.

‘Learn from Cézanne,’ King had proclaimed as he turned everything into geometry. So, for a while Rinaldo did that but then he wondered what else Cézanne had had to say. So he went to the art school library and found out.

‘Time and reflection,’ Cézanne had also said, ‘modify little by little our vision, and at last comprehension comes to us.’

Time and reflection. Rinaldo reflected upon what he was doing. That was easy because he was naturally shy and sensitive, and spent much time in quiet reflection upon what happened around him and tried to express his reactions to the world in whatever creative ways he could find. He loved all the arts. When he wasn’t painting or drawing he was reading, or writing, or playing music.

But I didn’t know these things on that first day. I just watched. He stopped painting and began writing again and somehow I thought I heard his voice. It drifted through the maze of easels and canvases and softly said,

‘A man and woman God did create, with clear instructions to procreate. A bird was sent, a peaceful dove, to teach them that all they need is love.’

Then I thought I heard echoing voices coming back. Something like the voices of those angelic choirs that must once have echoed through the heights of Gothic cathedrals.  It puzzled me at first, hearing these voices, hearing Rinaldo’s voice, but then an idea came to mind. It was the concept of being on the same wavelength as another person. The notion of being in harmony with their thoughts.

Could this actually happen? Could I really hear his thoughts as clearly as if they were spoken words? Surely it was impossible. But even if it was impossible, it happened, and I could see or hear or feel his thoughts as they drifted around the studio collecting anything else that might be united with them, until eventually they reached me.

Rinaldo put his pen down, turned back to his painting, and worked for another forty minutes. The Model continued to sit in the next studio. The students continued to draw. And the strange people Rinaldo thought he had seen in the mist continued to wander. And somehow, among all of this, God’s presence continued to be felt. The ultimate creator in the place of creation. But then, was God the creator, or the creation, of man? That would be a question Rinaldo would contemplate one day. But not this day.

There was a break in the life drawing class and most of the students left the studio. The Model curled up on her couch to read and Rinaldo took the opportunity to look at their work. He walked around looking at the drawings. He was impressed. They were second year students and far more advanced than he was. He wondered whether he would ever develop the skills that they had. He wanted to, but he lacked confidence. He walked over to the rostrum, sat in front of the Model as if he didn’t realize she was curled up on the couch, and began writing in his note pad.

There was always something that he had to write. Always something going on in his head. The Model looked over his shoulder and read the words as they flowed from his pen. And as he wrote I saw a beautiful calligraphic script rise from the page in front of me. The words floated like butterflies through the mist of the studio. The wandering people caught them and absorbed the words into their existence. Then there was room for more on his paper. And there was always more.

You may like me to describe what Rinaldo was like. People often ask me that, but I am always lost for any words that would adequately sum him up. He seemed to defy description, just as much as he stubbornly rejected classification.

It may take longer to understand him but let his own words tell of who he was. Those words that, as he wrote, floated into the air and disappeared into another existence. A place that was as elusive as the thoughts he tried to convey.

‘Alone,’ he wrote. ‘Alone I sit here…’

At this point Rinaldo goes on to write a long poem. After a connecting narrative it is followed by…—–

Fragment 2

The New World

A charcoal mark on the wall can be greater art than ten pictures on a solid background and in costly gold frames. – Edvard Munch 1928

—–Rinaldo came into the life drawing studio a few days later. He walked across the room to the huge windows that allowed the morning sunlight to throw rays through dust particles in the air. The studio overlooked High Street, and Rinaldo leaned on the windowsill for a few minutes gazing down at the people passing by. There were always interesting people walking the streets of Prahran. There was a Mechanics Institute Library downstairs in the same building; a church opposite; an opportunity shop; a milk bar, and dry cleaners. And there were always people walking along High Street to and from Chapel Street.  He watched them for a while then went to a large set of drawers, removed some sheets of Imperial sized heavy weight art paper, clipped them onto a drawing board, and returned to his usual work space where he placed the board on his easel.

Other students did the same. Collected their paper and drawing boards and set up their easels. I was always intrigued by the way the art students seemed to mark out their territory in the studio and every lesson came back to the same place to draw or paint.

I watched Rinaldo as he rummaged through his art box for a suitable length of charcoal. Good quality willow charcoal was expensive and he kept every broken piece to use until it became too small to grasp. He took a piece about six centimetres long, stood at arms’ length from the easel, and looked across his right arm at the Model sitting on her rostrum. He wasn’t quite happy with the angle so adjusted the position of the easel a few degrees.

Satisfied, he placed the tip of the charcoal stick at a point near the top of the paper and waited as if for the starting gun at the beginning of a race.

‘Three minutes,’ announced the life drawing teacher as fifteen students waited to hear how long they had to produce their next masterpiece.

Eyes darted back and forth between the Model and the lines created by the rapidly diminishing sticks of charcoal.

‘Keep your eyes on the subject,’ urged the teacher as he noticed students trying to draw what they thought they knew, rather than what they actually saw in front of them.

Rinaldo fought the temptation to spend more time correcting his drawing than actually observing the Model. The outline took shape. The proportions seemed generally correct. Perhaps the legs and feet were too large, but that didn’t matter. It seemed to give the figure a certain monumental status.

‘Leave your mistakes,’ urged the teacher as he saw students trying to scrub erroneous charcoal from the paper with their kneaded putty erasers. ‘Leave them. Just draw over them.’

Rinaldo drew a new arm over the old one. It looked better. He quickly sketched in a horizontal line to indicate the position of the eyes. A vertical line to anchor the nose. Forget the details. There was no time for that. He drew over the hipbone to emphasize the sharpness. And the knee cap. The collar bone. Places that stood out, places that were sharp became darker. The parts that were soft, the planes that receded remained lighter.

‘Time,’ the teacher called.

The art students stepped back to consider what they had done. The intense three-minute silence was broken by a wave of conversation as students compared drawings and laughed at their own ridiculously disproportioned figures or praised the amazingly correct ones done by others. Rinaldo looked at his own drawing for a minute then lifted the sheet over the top of the easel to expose a fresh page ready for the next exercise.

An hour and six drawings later the class stopped for a quarter hour break. The teacher left. Most of the students also left. The Model sat on her rostrum reading a book, and waited for them to return.

Rinaldo walked around the room looking at the drawings that had been left on view. By comparison his work wasn’t that bad.  He took a drawing that he no longer wanted, folded the paper into quarters, and began writing.

The lines seemed to flow from his pen onto the paper much in the way the line from his charcoal had created images of the Model. And then from the paper they swirled around in the mist and mystery that filled the studio. Then the words disappeared, returning only momentarily as if to be sure they had been seen. But sometimes they left and didn’t return again until years later.

And as I watched Rinaldo wrote, ‘It’s a New World.

It’s a New World

At school where everyone is a stranger

I am alone, misunderstood

Disillusioned, unloved

By any

By all

He paused, as if that was all, and cradled his head in his hands.

The Model put her book down and wondered what he was doing. She was sure that he didn’t have to be alone. Certain that he wasn’t unloved. But for some reason he felt that way. And he kept his feelings to himself. He shared them hardly ever with others. So no wonder he felt misunderstood.

His pen continued, as if unaided, and wrote his thoughts.

When shall I find another like me

Whose thoughts are the same?

Teachers don’t care

They teach.

Students don’t care

They compete.

He read the words that had just been written. He took hold of the pen and repeated the last word. Three times.

Compete. Compete. Compete.

For what?

What is there in the end?

What end?

It is unseen


The Model saw his thoughts and was about to ask what had brought about this apparent outpouring of self-doubt.

She grasped at the words as they floated past and as she held them she wondered. Since leaving school he had changed. Was it possible that he had entered a New World where everybody did seem like a stranger? Was it possible that he really did feel so much alone?

I think I was just beginning to appreciate the meaning of his words when the writing continued.

People are like islands

Separated from each other by oceans

Only few manage to swim that ocean

To find another island

And happiness.

I caught the words once more and stored them carefully in my heart. Hoping to look at them again later. Hoping to absorb their meaning even more. Hoping to understand what he thought.

Then I watched his pen as it continued.

The rest go through life as islands

Physically close to many others

But really far apart….

I watched the intensity in his face.

Artists are remotest of all

Each in his own world

Each locking out others

But still desiring love and friendship.

I felt the concentration of the Model as she watched him.

Someday I shall find happiness.

Someday disillusionment will go

Leaving truth to be seen in this world.

And then Rinaldo’s pen hesitated before writing the penultimate line of his poem.

Until then…

I am an island.

And as these words flew from the paper and drifted around the studio before fading from my vision, the Model looked at Rinaldo.

‘Do you really feel like that?’ was her look.

But Rinaldo didn’t answer the question and I was left to ponder his thoughts and whether he really felt that way. And just as the Model had been looking over Rinaldo’s shoulder, I think God had also been watching over mine and she was inspired to say.

‘Rinaldo. Take your book of poetry from the shelf once more and read John Donne. When he once felt the same he said no man is an island, entire of itself. Every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.’

But did Rinaldo hear her advice? And if he did, did he choose to heed those words?

After a brief narrative to explain the situation in the studio, and Rinaldo’s doubts about his place in the new world of the Art School, Fragment 3 continues the story.

Fragment 3

The Flying Dutchman & The Rolling Stone

Imagine arabesques or various types of linear involutions unwinding themselves not on a flat surface but in space… imagine the play of their lines projecting upon and combining with the most diverse elements imaginable… they are the reverberations of a human expression, that, by means of the license of fantasy, have been embodied in a play of arabesques. – Odilon Redon 1909

–Throughout his childhood and adolescence, Rinaldo’s parents rarely tuned their solitary radio away from the conservative classical strains of the ABC. Nor did the family own a record player.

So Rinaldo built his own. He bought the components and learned about electrons and valves. Capacitance and resistance. Radio waves and sine waves. He could picture the electrons flowing through the wires, and jumping from filament to anode inside the vacuum tube valves. He could picture the electromagnetic radio waves being modulated by the voice of the speaker, or the sound of the orchestra, and travelling at the speed of light to the edges of the earth’s ionosphere before being deflected down again far beyond the horizon.

Soon he had constructed a short-wave radio that could pick up all the music of the world introduced in languages he didn’t understand. And he built a record player that would enable him to play his own records.

Building the radio and the record player were no problem. The problem was that Rinaldo had no records to play.

He searched the second-hand stores of Chapel Street and in the musty boxes of the Methodist Mission he found an ancient 78 recording of Maurice Ravel’s Bolero. It became the theme music of his home studio. Seventeen minutes of increasingly frenzied Spanish dance that drifted through the smoke of incense, and conjured up images of exotic oriental places.

He found an equally ancient recording of Wagner’s Flying Dutchman spread across the eight sides of four disks and sat listening to the music by candlelight as Wagnerian images became confused with those of Coleridge’s Ryme of the Ancient Mariner.

And then, as if to confound those who might have thought Rinaldo was beginning to become a devotee of classical music, on Friday the twenty-fifth of February 1966 Rinaldo and Alcina went to the Palais in Saint Kilda to see The Rolling Stones.

But like everything else, Rinaldo rejected classification. He had no answer to questions like ‘What kind of music do you like?’, because he liked whatever caught his interest at the time.

Two years earlier Rinaldo and Alcina had been to see The Beatles at Festival Hall. Despite what appeared to be an intermittent relationship, Rinaldo and Alcina actually did a lot together. They often went out to concerts and dances. He hated dancing, probably because he thought people would be watching him, but he enjoyed the music, and especially enjoyed the atmosphere.

Their seats for the Rolling Stones concert were good. They were near the front. It was in the days when the organizers of concerts still thought audiences would sit meekly in their seats and politely applaud at the end of each song.

But Rinaldo and Alcina wanted to stand right at the front. Right at the edge of the stage. So that’s where they went. They found themselves in a place where existence becomes precarious. Where the congestion of bodies threatens to crush one completely. Where the screaming of frenzied fans somehow drowns out the deafening decibels of the amplified music. And yet everybody knows exactly what music they are playing. They were in that place where fainting and hysteria, and the pushing and shoving of security guards are just part of the fun of being there. And being there is what it was all about.

So there they were, and Rinaldo brought out a photo of the group. Somehow he managed to thrust the photograph and a pen towards the stage just at the right moment. Unbelievably Mick Jagger took the photo and signed it.

Alcina was next to Rinaldo, holding on to him, so she thrust her hand out as well. And Mick Jagger took that hand and finding it empty signed it with his finger. And the moving finger, having writ, moved on.

So what would you expect a seventeen-year-old girl to do when twenty-four year-old Mick Jagger touches her hand? She screamed and screamed with joy and didn’t wash that hand for a month.

And now we move ahead to April 1966 and join Rinaldo and the art students at the renowned Station Hotel in Prahran.

Fragment 5

The Station Hotel

All of these isms are of foreign origin and have no place in American art… all are instruments and weapons of destruction… Picasso, who is also a Dadaist, an abstractionist, or a surrealist, as unstable fancy dictates, is the hero of all crackpots in so-called modern art… It makes little difference where one studies the record of surrealism, dadaism, abstractionism, cubism, expressionism, or futurism. The evidence of evil design is everywhere… Communist-inspired and Communist-connected… – U.S. Congressman George Dondero 1949

There was a newspaper seller just outside the art school in High Street and the posters for the newspapers told Rinaldo what was happening in the world. On the train in the morning he would see the headlines of newspapers held high by morning commuters and again he would learn about what was taking place. He didn’t need to purchase a newspaper of his own. The news of the world was all around him.

One week during March the news reported that Mars, the god of war, had given way momentarily to Venus, the goddess of love.

‘Don’t you think that’s exciting?’ said the Model as she pointed out the article in a newspaper that had been left on a table in the Station Hotel.

Rinaldo glanced at the headline. Vietnam had taken second place to the news that a Soviet spacecraft, Venera 3, had just reached Venus after a ten-week voyage. It was the first man‑made object to ever reach another planet. The event was matched in June when the American Surveyor 1 soft‑landed on the moon and sent photographs back to earth.

‘Yes, it is,’ agreed Rinaldo, as he repositioned his black knight in the game of chess they were absent-mindedly playing. ‘But it’s depressing.

He felt the Model’s question and explained with cynicism. ‘This isn’t just happening for the advancement of science you know. It’s happening because they want to outdo each other. It’s just a big game. And one side or the other is determined to win.’

He looked at the surface of the wine in his glass as it formed into a series of concentric ripples. An American B52 had just rumbled through the hotel on its way to North Vietnam. Or it might have simply have been a train pulling into the station next door. But either way, the plane accidentally dropped its bombs in China before somebody decided the pilot was lost.

‘A lost pilot fighting for a lost cause,’ thought Rinaldo. ‘That would be right.’

The Model moved one of her pawns into a place of instant obliteration, while Harold Holt dropped in for a beer with President Johnson. He promised that Australia would go all the way with LBJ. And, just to be sure, he added that he would triple Australia’s troop commitment to the war.

Well, if that’s what he wanted, nobody volunteered to help him out. At least, nobody at the Station Hotel. So they conscripted twenty-year olds to make up the numbers. But that was okay because the Army, they were promised, would make men of them. After all, most of them were long-haired louts who needed improvement.

‘Just what you need Rinaldo,’ somebody joked. ‘Something to make a man of you.’

‘Move your queen to there,’ somebody else advised the Model and then sang a couple of lines from the Beatles’ latest hit. ‘He’s a real nowhere man, living in a nowhere land.’

‘But how can killing make a man of anybody?’ Rinaldo asked, as he took the Model’s queen, and twenty thousand South Vietnamese marched through the streets of Hue to protest at the rule of their Premier Ky.

‘Doesn’t war take the humanity away from people, rather than giving it to them?’

‘Maybe going to war just happens to be uniquely human,’ suggested his Model as her strategy paid off and she captured the second of his knights.

‘Hm!’ he grunted. ‘But even the Buddhists are burning themselves to death in Saigon. And what does Ky do? He sends thousands of soldiers after them.’

‘I thought they were meant to be fighting the North Vietnamese,’ somebody said. ‘And the Viet Cong. Not themselves.’

‘That’s right,’ said Rinaldo. His bishop needed to make a strategic retreat. ‘But don’t forget, the VC are themselves. And the Americans can’t tell the difference. They all look the same to them. They even attacked a friendly village the other day and killed most of the people. Nearly all women and children.’

‘I think that was a mistake,’ his Model said quietly as she removed his queen from the board.

‘The whole thing a mistake,’ Rinaldo replied in disgust.

He glanced at the newspaper still lying on the table. It was Wednesday the twentieth of April. Three months until his birthday. Nearly nineteen. Twenty next year. Twenty!

Twenty-year-old conscripts were being chosen by lottery. They had been reduced to numbered marbles to be drawn from a barrel. Birthday marbles. If you turned twenty on that date you won a chance for the big prize. A trip to Vietnam.

The first group of prize-winners had left for Vietnam last night. It was in the paper. And just as the conscripts were flying out Bob Dylan had been singing ‘You’re only a pawn in their game.’

That’s right. Last night Rinaldo had been to see Bob Dylan at Festival Hall. He could hardly afford the three-dollar-fifty ticket, coming so soon after the Rolling Stones concert.

‘Come, gather round people,’ Dylan had sung. And the people gathered around. And they cheered. Some cheered the conscripts and others cheered Bob Dylan. And while some people were telling the conscripts that god would go with them, Dylan was singing a song about having god on our side. And how every side has god on its side. But then he sang about how the times were surely changing.

Rinaldo had thought about it a lot. About the changing times. And god. And whose side he was on. And the war. And being a pawn in the game. At times he wondered whether god was simply playing chess with himself and was moving all the pieces regardless of their colour.

He wondered what would happen when the game reached a state of check. When all the pawns had been removed from the board. And the bishops. And the castles. And knights. And queens. What would happen when the only players left were the black and white kings who boasted the symbols of power but had neither eyes to see, nor ears to hear. Bitter enemies, who having neatly divided the world up like a chessboard, and thought everything was clear-cut, now moved around it mindlessly imitating every move that the other made in a game that would never be won.

He looked at the chessboard in front of him. The Model had just taken his last pawn. Two solitary figures faced each other on a field of emptiness devoid of life. A chessboard whose black and white political divisions meant nothing to the nuclear winds that threatened to blow across them. There was nowhere left to go. Nowhere left to hide.  The game the world was playing had reached stalemate.

Rinaldo made up his mind over that game of chess.

‘I’ve had enough of this game,’ he said.

His Model looked at him and knew what he meant. His conscience would not allow him to be a pawn for any king whose only logic was to say ‘If you make a move to take me your destruction is equally guaranteed’.

The logic of mutually assured destruction was not only mad. It was insane.


As explained above, this is a mere extract from Book One, which consists of 55 Fragments and as many connecting narratives. It is currently available only for limited distribution, however comments on the published fragments are welcomed, and if a demand seems to exist, further extracts may be published, or the whole book may be made available.

Extract from Book Two

Foreward to Book Two

‘The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there’. British author, L P Hartley, opened his 1953 novel, The Go-Between, with this line. And it was a line that historian David Lowenthal used as the title of his 1985 book on the nature of history.

You might recall that a significant part of Book One of this trilogy concerned the four years during which I was a student at the Art School in Prahran, between 1966 and 1969. It was a different time and place. Indeed, going back to the 1960s seems like entering a foreign country—a country in which we must learn a different language if we are to appreciate the nuances of its culture.

With that in mind, much of the narrative of my life at Art School was told in the third-person, through the eyes of an artist’s model. She was not just any model. She was The Model. And the story she told was about Rinaldo—who was me. But her narrative of Rinaldo’s life was incomplete and fragmented. Nevertheless, the first 55 fragments formed the basis of Book One, and Book Two begins again with Fragment 55, after which the third-person telling of Rinaldo’s story by The Model, gradually gives way to a first-person narrative where I tell my own history. As George Orwell said in 1984, ‘Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past’. Perhaps that is something we might consider when writing the history of our own lives.

Douglas Wilkie, 2017


Earth, Wind, Fire, Water – Gold!

Black Thursday StruttEarth, Wind, Fire, Water — Gold: Bushfires and the Origins of the Victorian Gold Rush

Douglas Wilkie

Originally published in History Australia, vol.10, no.2, August 2013


Many historians have noticed the coincidence of the 1851 Black Thursday fires in the Port Phillip District of New South Wales (Victoria) with the beginning of the Victorian gold rush but a possible relationship between these events has not been investigated in any depth. This article will demonstrate that the gold rushes in Victoria occurred when they did in mid-1851, not simply as a reaction to gold discoveries at Bathurst, nor because of prevailing economic circumstances, but largely as the result of a sequence of events that occurred over the preceding two years. Foremost among these events was the combination of fire and flooding that occurred before the outbreak of the gold rush.


Come, see! … They are the four elements: fire, wind, water, and dust … and from them come gold and silver and copper and iron.

 Shim‛on ben Yohai – 2nd century C.E.[1]

The ‘discovery’ of gold in Victoria a few days after separation from New South Wales on 1 July 1851 has served as a convenient marker of the end of one era and the beginning of another. The habit of thinking about the Victorian colonial past in this manner, however, has unfortunately hindered our understanding of the origins of the Victorian gold rushes.[2] Many of the events of 1851 were, in fact, set in motion in 1849 and earlier. In particular, an almost forgotten gold discovery in Port Phillip in 1849 was inseparably linked to the never forgotten discoveries of 1851.

The connections between these events are complex and involve not only human, but also environmental factors. This article will briefly discuss the actions and decisions of a number of individuals between 1849 and 1851 — the Governor of New South Wales, Charles FitzRoy; the Superintendent of the Port Phillip District of New South Wales, Charles La Trobe; three ex-convict jewellers and silversmiths, Charles Brentani, Joseph Forrester and Alexandre Duchene; an exiled shepherd, Thomas Chapman; and the man who was later accredited with the first ‘official’ discovery of gold in Australia, Edward Hargraves.[3] But while these characters, and others, form the cast of the drama that played out following the 1849 gold discovery, the emphasis of this article is on the environmental setting in which that action took place — in particular that created by earth, wind, fire and water — and their influence in determining the nature and timing of the gold discoveries of 1849 and 1851.

Geoffrey Blainey has written of the ‘tyranny’ imposed by the vast distances encountered within and surrounding the Australian continent.[4] The distance from Melbourne to Sydney influenced government decision-making in Melbourne during the pre-1851 period when Port Phillip was still a reluctantly dependent outpost of New South Wales, and it was one of the reasons that Port Phillip residents so passionately wanted a separate and independent government. Blainey has also suggested physical distance and a sparse population as environmental and demographic factors influencing the discovery of minerals throughout Australia, but he indicated that ‘economic winds’ were ultimately more relevant in hastening or slowing minerals development.[5] Historians have debated Blainey’s arguments, but most investigation of the relationship between environment and gold has concentrated on the effects of gold mining rather than the origins of the rushes.[6]

There have been admirable studies of the impact of mining upon the environment; the environmental requirements of mining, such as water supply; and the impact of bush fires in general, in studies by Libby Robin, Stephen J Pyne, Donald Garden, Paul Collins and others.[7] Discussing the impact of mining on forests, Tom Griffiths notes that fires ‘opened up the forests, the rivers and outcrops of rock’ for prospectors after the initial gold rushes of 1851, and he speculates whether gold seekers might have started the devastating Black Thursday fires of February 1851.[8] Griffiths’ question possibly eludes a certain answer, but Emily O’Gorman adds that ‘[f]loods and droughts sometimes aided the quest for gold’, citing news reports of floods revealing gold deposits along the Turon River.[9] Leaving aside the observations of Griffiths and O’Gorman, the historiography has been mainly concerned with the impact of mining after the gold rushes began.[10]  This paper will by way of contrast explore in some detail the role of environmental events — in particular drought, flood and bush fires — in facilitating the initial discovery of gold in Port Phillip in 1849 and 1851.

Contemporary newspapers, letters and books not only give detail about what people were doing or saying, but also describe the environment in which they were doing it. On one hand Port Phillip became a popular destination for pastoralists and immigrants because of its climate and pastoral lands — hence the appellation Australia Felix — but on the other, it was also seen as a harsh environment by many colonists, who suffered frequent droughts, floods, and bushfires….

This is a short extract from the original paper. The full article can be downloaded from UniMelb Minerva, from Academia, or from Taylor & Francis.

[1] Raphael Patai The Jewish Alchemists: A History and Source Book, Princeton: Princeton University Press 1995, 162.

[2] See, for example, AGL Shaw, A History of the Port Phillip District, Carlton: Melbourne University Press 2003, 237; AGL Shaw ‘Separation and Federation’, Victorian Historical Journal, 68 ( 1), April 1997, 13.

[3] For a full discussion see Douglas Wilkie, The Rush That Never Started: Forgotten Origins of the Victorian Gold Rushes, PhD Thesis, The University of Melbourne 2011-2013.

[4] Geoffrey Blainey The Tyranny of Distance, Melbourne: Sun Books 1966, 139.

[5] Ibid, 139; Geoffrey Blainey ‘A Theory of Mineral Discovery: Australia in the Nineteenth Century’, Economic History Review, New Series, 23 ( 2), August 1970, 298.

[6] For example, Barry McGowan ‘Environmental Effects of Alluvial Goldmining’ in Iain McCalman, Alexander Cook and Andrew Reeves, (eds) Gold: Forgotten Histories and Lost Objects of Australia, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2001.

[7] Tom Griffiths and Libby Robin (eds) Ecology and Empire: Environmental History of Settler Societies, Edinburgh: Keel University Press 1997; Libby Robin How a Continent Created a Nation, Sydney: University of New South Wales Press 2007 121; Stephen J Pyne The Still-Burning Bush, Melbourne: Scribe 2006, 33; Stephen J Pyne World Fire: The Culture of Fire on Earth, Seattle: University of Washington Press 1997, 38; Stephen J Pyne Fire: A Brief History, Seattle: University of Washington Press 2001, 121; Don Garden Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific: An Environmental History, Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO 2005, 77; Paul Collins Burn: The Epic Story of Bushfire in Australia, Melbourne: Scribe 2009; Asa Wahlquist Thirsty Country: Options for Australia, Sydney: Allen & Unwin 2008, 105.

[8] Tom Griffiths Forests of Ash: An Environmental History, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2001, 62-73.

[9] Emily O’Gorman Flood Country: An Environmental History of the Murray-Darling Basin, Melbourne: CSIRO Publishing 2012, 66. For fire exposing gold deposits, O’Gorman cites Griffiths, Forests of Ash, 63-4.

[10] In her research notes for Nothing But Gold, Robyn Annear mentions the Black Thursday fires of 1851 at the Loddon and Pyrenees and asks, ‘Instrumental in discovery of gold?’ but the question was not discussed in her book and was left unanswered: Robyn Annear, Research Notes for Nothing But Gold. Accessed 22 April 2012. Available from:



Frankenstein, Convicts, and Wide-Awake Geniuses: The Life and Death of Charles Brentani

Frankenstein 1837

Originally published as

Douglas Wilkie, ‘Frankenstein, Convicts and Wide-Awake Geniuses: The life and death of Charles Brentani’, Victorian Historical Journal, Vol. 87, No. 1, June 2016


In 1838 Alexander Maconochie, private secretary to the Van Diemen’s Land Governor, Sir John Franklin, wrote a damning report on the state of prison discipline in the colony. Maconochie’s report led Sir William Molesworth to describe to the British parliament a community where honest settlers were continually ‘surrounded by crime, and haunted by the spectacle of cruel and degrading punishment’; where ‘gangs of wretched beings in chains, displaying all the outward tokens of misery’; where shopkeepers in the main street had ‘probably been convicted of swindling’; where women were, ‘at best, drunken prostitutes’; and the men ‘hardened ruffians’.

In Van Diemen’s Land, although there was widespread criticism of Maconochie’s report, questions arose as to whether such a community of criminals, if it existed, was in fact the monstrous creation of misguided British government policy. The stage version of Mary Shelley’s story of Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus had been performed at the Theatre Royal in Hobart in February 1837, and thus the analogy drawn between the creation of a local community of criminals and Shelley’s monster seemed appropriate and timely, and it had become common to refer to the creation of anything unpleasant or unintended as a Frankenstein monster. Indeed, as the Hobart Town Courier said:

 We do not blame Captain Maconochie that the condition of this colony should be looked upon at home with horror from the frightful iniquities, which are supposed to abound in it, and the fearful degree of vice, which it is imagined stalks abroad with impunity. Bent on the reformation of the present system of transportation, and with the best intentions for the welfare of mankind, he looked but to the worst side of the picture, until, like Frankenstein, he grew frighted at the monster of his own creation. This vision of his imagination has pursued, and will pursue him still.

But Victor Frankenstein’s monster, like many of the convicts of Van Diemen’s Land, though loathed by those who saw only the worst attributes, also had feelings.

I am content to suffer alone, while my sufferings shall endure; when I die, I am well satisfied that abhorrence and opprobrium should load my memory. Once my fancy was soothed with dreams of virtue, of fame, and of enjoyment … But now vice has degraded me beneath the meanest animal. No crime, no mischief, no malignity, no misery, can be found comparable to mine. … But it is even so; the fallen angel becomes a malignant devil. Yet even that enemy of God and man had friends and associates in his desolation: I am quite alone.

Mary Shelley’s description of how Frankenstein’s creature lamented his existence may well have reflected what some Vandemonian convicts felt about the way society vilified and punished them, even beyond the term of their sentences. But not all Vandemonian convicts suffered, or were vilified, in this way.

This is the story of one whose entrepreneurship freed him from his convict origins…

 This is an extract from the original article which can be downloaded here.


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The Convict Ship Hashemy at Port Phillip: a case study in historical error


This article was originally published as:

‘The convict ship Hashemy at Port Phillip: a case study in historical error’ Victorian Historical Journal, vol 85, no 1, June 2014

[Download the original article from UniMelb Minerva or Academia]

Citations should refer to the pagination of the original article.

Responses to this paper Tweeted when presented in summary to the 2016 Working History Conference of the Professional Historians Association.

“Douglas Wilkie’s audit of the portrayal of convict ship Hashemy in 1849 by historians should be on History School reading lists!” – Yvonne Perkins (PHA NSW)

“A cautionary tale!” – Alicia Cerreto (President PHA Vic)

“A genealogy of sources, the archaeology of historic errors using the Hashemy – insightful, funny even – valuable cautionary tale!” – Rebecca Carland (Curator, History of Collections, Museum Victoria)

“Douglas Wilkie tracks back through the Chinese whispers of interpretations of sources.” – Katrina Hodgson (PHA Vic)

“Big lesson from Douglas’s work: go back to sources, don’t rely on word of X number of historians copying each other!” – Dr David Stephens (Honest History)

“Douglas Wilkie’s tale of erroneous history a valuable warning to us all. Check, re-check, re-re-check your sources!” – PHAVic Tweet

“Dr Douglas Wilkie shares a cautionary tale of the importance of checking sources – myth of the Hashemy.” – Jen Rose (Public Historian and Social Policy Consultant.)


The story of the convict ship Hashemy arriving at Sydney in June 1849 after being turned away from Melbourne has been repeated by many professional, amateur and popular historians. The arrival of the Hashemy, and subsequent anti-convict protest meetings in Sydney, not only became a turning point in the anti-transportation movement in Australia, but also added to an already existing antagonism on the part of Sydney towards its colonial rival, Port Phillip, or Melbourne.

This article will demonstrate that the story of the Hashemy being turned away from Port Phillip is based upon a fallacy; investigates how that fallacy developed and was perpetuated over a period of 160 years; and demonstrates that politicians and historians encouraged this false interpretation of history, effectively extending the Intercolonial discontent that began in the 1840s, into the 20th century and beyond.

The Convict Ship Hashemy at Port Phillip: a case study in historical error.

This article will show that the story of the convict ship Hashemy being turned away from Melbourne and sent to Sydney in 1849—an account repeated by many historians—is based upon a fallacy. The article investigates how that fallacy developed and was perpetuated by historians over a period of 160 years; and demonstrates that politicians and historians used this false interpretation of history to feed an enduring antagonism felt by Sydney towards its colonial rival, Port Phillip or Melbourne. The wider implications of this case study touch upon the credibility given to historians in their interpretations of historical events.

The stories written by historians are interpretations of the past, and most historians write credible, well-written historical interpretations. But the stories written by historians can sometimes inadvertently misrepresent the past—even though the historian undoubtedly believes they have presented a credible interpretation. Indeed, if the historian writes well enough, their ‘well-written history can lull us into thinking that it is the only possible story’.[1]

What follows is a case study in how an error in Australian Colonial history has been perpetuated by historians, whether deliberately, for political motives, or through careless methodology—and how the stories they wrote in turn became quoted as secondary sources, causing the error to be repeated—eventually entering the realm of popular historical myth.

In 1849 the British government was still transporting large numbers of serving convicts to Van Diemen’s Land, but the transportation of convicts to New South Wales had been discontinued for several years. On the other hand, since 1846, smaller numbers of ‘exiles’ were being sent to the Port Phillip District of New South Wales. Exiles were generally young convicts who had served two years of their sentences, supposedly learning useful trades at prisons such as Millbank, Parkhurst or Pentonville, and were then given the option of serving the rest of their sentences in prison, or being sent to Port Phillip where they would immediately be given an conditional pardon and allowed to live an essentially free life — the condition of their pardon being that they were not to return to Great Britain until the term of their original sentence had expired. Many of these so-called ‘exiles’ went on to live good and productive lives, but there were sufficient numbers who caused trouble that they soon became known as ‘Pentonvillains’ and by 1849 the program of sending exiles was not only opposed by most residents of Port Phillip, but also by Superintendent Charles La Trobe who had originally, if hesitantly, supported the scheme to help address a shortage of labour. Growing opposition to exiles was compounded by many thousands of ex-convicts moving to Port Phillip from Van Diemen’s Land during the late 1840s. Again, many of these ‘expirees’ went on to live honest and productive lives, but there were sufficient numbers of dishonest expirees for public opinion to become polarized against convicts of any description.

While opposition to transportation was growing in Australia, W. E. Gladstone, the Colonial Secretary in London, had other ideas and in 1846 suggested that a ‘modified and carefully regulated introduction of Convict Labourers into New South Wales or some part of it’ would be desirable.[2] This proposal stimulated the formation of an Anti-Transportation Committee in Sydney, but in 1847 the New South Wales Legislative Council tentatively agreed to the idea as long as the men were sufficiently of good character to be deserving of tickets of leave; that the wives and children of the convicts should also be sent out; as well as an equal number of free immigrants. Governor Charles Fitz Roy misleadingly told London that the scheme would be supported by the majority of the population, with the result that in September 1848 Earl Grey announced that ships would be chartered to transport serving convicts to New South Wales.[3] These ships were the Hashemy and the Randolph.

In her 2011 study From Convicts to Colonists: the Health of Prisoners and the Voyage to Australia, 1823 – 1853, Katherine Foxhall made the statement—‘In 1848, Lord Grey re-introduced transportation to New South Wales. Rejected by colonists at Port Phillip, the Hashemy would be the first convict ship in a decade to sail to Sydney. Historians have vividly described the mass opposition that the Hashemy received as it arrived in Melbourne and Sydney, but the circumstances of its departure from Britain were equally traumatic’.[4] Foxhall’s article is an excellent account of the role of surgeons on convict ships; however it was the relationship between the Hashemy and Port Phillip that raised questions.

Foxhall gave her sources for the Hashemy statement as Kirsten McKenzie, Scandal in the Colonies; Robert Hughes, The Fatal Shore; and A. G. L. Shaw, Convicts and the Colonies. A check of these sources reveals that in 2004 McKenzie told how the Hashemy arrived at Sydney in June 1849 ‘having nearly provoked riots in Melbourne en route’.[5] This appears to have its origins in Shaw’s 1966 work‘in May the Hashemy and in August the Randolph almost provoked riots [at Port Phillip] and had to be sent to Sydney’.[6] However, Hughes’ 1987 Fatal Shore states that Earl Grey dispatched the Hashemy ‘direct to Sydney’.[7] So which historians did so ‘vividly described the mass opposition that the Hashemy received as it arrived in Melbourne’—or did the Hashemy actually sail direct to Sydney?

In his 2003 History of the Port Phillip District A. G. L. Shaw stated—‘When the Hashemy arrived three months after the Eden, [that is, in May 1849] La Trobe, fearing trouble sent her on to Sydney with her passengers still on board—to arouse protests there. In August, when the Randolph reached Port Phillip, the Argus prepared for action again’.[8] Shaw said ‘my “original” sources have been the correspondence between officials in Melbourne, Sydney and London’.[9] Indeed, he referred to his own Convicts and the Colonies—which does cite the correspondence; and to Alan Gross’s 1956 Charles Joseph La Trobe, and Ernest Scott’s 1911 article ‘Resistance to Convict Transportation’—neither of which referred directly to primary documentary sources regarding the Hashemy.[10]

Scott’s 1911 article stated, ‘when in May, 1850, the Hashemy arrived in the bay, she was at once directed to proceed to Port Jackson’ by Charles La Trobe, Superintendent of the Port Phillip District.[11] Scott repeated this in his 1918 Short History of Australia.[12] How Scott concluded the Hashemy arrived at Port Phillip in May 1850 is unclear, as it arrived in Sydney on 10 June 1849, left again on 10 August, and was back in England by May 1850, preparing to sail to Western Australia.[13] If it was simply a mistake in writing 1850 instead of 1849 then the Hashemy would have been the ‘first vessel’ rather than the ‘second vessel’. Nevertheless, Scott’s error was subsequently repeated by numerous historians over the next sixty years.[14] In 2003 A. G. L. Shaw moved the 1850 date back to May 1849 but still had La Trobe sending the Hashemy ‘on to Sydney with her passengers still aboard’.[15]

Some, such as T. A. Coghlan, weren’t so sure, and avoided giving a specific date—‘the ship Hashemy arrived in Sydney … a landing having been refused them at Melbourne in accordance with Governor Fitzroy’s promise’.[16] Others, like Margaret Kiddle, enhanced the description—‘The crowd which collected to prevent the landing of the men looked so ugly that La Trobe, watching anxiously, ordered the captain [of the Randolph] to proceed to Sydney with his unwanted cargo. When a second ship the Hashemy arrived a few months later he followed the same procedure’.[17] Kiddle cited the Argus of 9 August 1849, which referred only to the Randolph and said it was ‘the first of the polluting ships’; and the Argus of 22 August, which referred to an anti-transportation meeting but said nothing about the Hashemy.[18] Her source for the ‘ugly men’ was not given.

Because of Ernest Scott’s influence, it must be asked where did he, despite having the wrong date, get the idea that the Hashemy came to Port Phillip anyway? Historians of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century were divided in their opinion. In 1917, Robert Thomson said the Randolph was bound for Melbourne and the Hashemy for Sydney.[19] In 1904, Henry Gyles Turner also clearly stated the ‘Hashemy was ordered to Sydney and the Randolph to Port Phillip’.[20] Similarly, in 1905 Arthur Jose made no mention of the Hashemy calling at Port Phillip.[21] In the 1883 edition of his History of Australia, G. W. Rusden, after observing that ‘Melbourne as usual was demonstrative’ about transportation, simply said the Hashemy arrived at Port Jackson in June, with no mention of a stop at Port Phillip, and went on to describe the arrival of the Randolph in August.[22] However, by 1897 Rusden had changed his mind and also claimed the Hashemy came to Port Phillip before being turned away.[23]  Likewise, in 1906 Philip Gibbs claimed the Hashemy ‘entered Port Phillip’.[24]

To understand the development of this confusion about the Hashemy we must go back to the primary sources of 1849 and look at contemporary reports and correspondence.

In Convicts and the Colonies A. G. L. Shaw said he had referred to original correspondence. Most of the letters relevant to the 1849 convict ships are contained in Further Correspondence on the subject of Convict and Transportation (In continuation of Papers presented February and July 1849) presented to both houses of the British Parliament on 31 January 1850.[25] However, nowhere in this correspondence is there a reference to the Hashemy calling at Port Phillip. Fitz Roy’s letter to Earl Grey dated 27 June 1849 reported on the arrival of the Hashemy at Sydney and the distribution of the convicts, but made no reference to it being diverted from Port Phillip.[26] Letters from La Trobe to Deas Thompson dated 4 and 17 December 1849 refer to the diversion of the Adelaide to Sydney in a similar manner to the Randolph—but ignores the Hashemy.[27] When Grey replied to Fitz Roy on 18 April 1850 he approved of the diversion of both the Adelaide and Randolph and made no mention of the Hashemy.[28] In 1850 Joshua Jebb presented his Report on the Discipline and Management of Convict Prisons and referred only to the departure of the Hashemy from England and its arrival in Sydney.[29] In presenting the case for a Bill for the better government of Convict Prisons to parliament in March and April 1850, Grey referred to the arrival of the Hashemy in Sydney but made no reference to Port Phillip.[30] In his original despatch to Fitz Roy on 4 December 1848, Earl Grey said that the Hashemy convicts ‘will be sent to New South Wales’ which by normal usage meant Sydney rather than Port Phillip. Indeed, the despatch arrived in Sydney with the Hashemy.[31]

If the official correspondence regarding the arrival and diversion of convict ships made no reference to the Hashemy coming to Port Phillip in 1849, what did contemporary newspapers say?

First rumours of the despatch of the Hashemy appeared in the Hobart Courier on Saturday 24 February 1849 when it was reported the Hashemy was to sail from Woolwich to Hobart.[32] Nothing more was heard until 4 April 1849 when the Courier reported its destination was Sydney.[33] In the meantime, Governor Charles Fitz Roy arrived in Melbourne in March 1849 and promised the people of Port Phillip, and Superintendent Charles La Trobe, that, should any convict ships arrive at Port Phillip, they could be diverted to Sydney. At the time, all that was known was that London intended sending convicts—the actual names and destinations of the ships were unknown, apart from the rumours that the Hashemy had already left England.[34] News was slow in arriving—the Sydney Morning Herald of 12 April reported—‘The Hashemy and other ships with convicts; being expected to arrive at this port from Great Britain, it has been directed by the Port Officer that the distinguishing flag for the same to be hoisted at Fort Phillip Signal Station, shall be the pendant No. 0, (being blue with white ball in centre), placed between the ship flag and the pilot’s report’.[35] Fort Phillip—not Port Phillip—was the signal station on Windmill Hill, above the Rocks in Sydney. On 17 April Henry Parkes and the Anti-Transportation Committee in Sydney met to prepare for the arrival of the convict ship at Sydney.[36] On 20 April the Sydney Morning Herald listed the Hashemy as being ‘expected in Sydney from London’, and on the same page ran a sustained criticism of Fitz Roy’s promise to divert other convict ships from Port Phillip.[37] A few days later the Anti-Transportation Committee was demanding an explanation from Fitz Roy.[38] Criticism of both Fitz Roy’s promise, and Port Phillip’s wishes, was also expressed in the Legislative Council in May.[39] Nevertheless, the Herald continued reporting the Hashemy being bound for Sydney throughout May and June, and its arrival on 8 June.[40] It reported the ship made only one stop during the voyage—at the Cape of Good Hope on 26 Apriland had been ‘looked for from day to day’ in anticipation.[41]

Despite the claims by A. G. L. Shaw and others that the Hashemy had stopped at Melbourne a careful reading of the Argus for all of May 1849 shows the only mention of the ship was on 21 May when it reported that the Hashemy had left Portsmouth on 7 February. [42] Melbourne knew nothing about the Hashemy’s voyage or arrival until 15 June when the Argus carried the news from Sydney.[43] It is clear that there was no public expectation that the Hashemy would be calling at Port Phillip, and when the Argus of 15 and 18 December 1849 reported the Adelaide had been diverted to Sydney, in a similar manner to the Randolph in August, it made no mention of the same happening to the Hashemy.[44] Indeed, in anticipation of the Hashemy passing by on its way to Sydney, settlers near Twofold Bay had applied in advance for an assignment of one hundred of the convicts.[45]

When the Randolph arrived at Port Phillip on 9 August 1849 the Argus proclaimed, ‘Colonists of Port Phillip! The hour has come and the men! … the convicts are in the bay, and it behoves us to see that they obtain no footing here’. Henry Gyles Turner recalled that, although the newspapers expressed some degree of animation, ‘the public did not evince any excitement’ and two days later the ship was on its way to Sydney.[46] The diversion of the Randolph in August was without precedent. If the story that the Hashemy had already been rejected by Port Phillip in May came from neither the official correspondence, nor the contemporary press—where did it originate?

The story originated in Sydney when the separate issues of Fitz Roy’s promise to Port Phillip in March, and the arrival of the Hashemy in June, gradually became merged. After the Hashemy arrived at Sydney a protest meeting, planned several weeks earlier, saw Robert Lowe, Henry Parkes and Archibald Michie among the leading speakers—but none referred to the Hashemy having been diverted from Port Phillip, and when Mackinnon, MLC representing Port Phillip, addressed the crowd, he was greeted with cheers.[47] On 30 June Fitz Roy wrote to Earl Grey, submitting the petitions drawn up at the meeting, and describing many of the protesters as the ‘idlers’ and ‘mob of Sydney’.[48] The repercussions would be felt over twelve months later when the despatch was eventually published in the Australian press in August 1850. Indignation erupted in Sydney at the Governor’s apparently dismissive attitude. Gideon Lang wrote to the Sydney Morning Herald on 14 August 1850 and engaged in a long discussion of the issues surrounding the arrival of the Hashemy, and Fitz Roy’s promise to Port Phillip. Although Lang did not connect the two, the juxtaposition of the issues set the pattern for linking the Hashemy with Fitz Roy’s promise. The Bathurst Free Press took the connection a step further on 17 August 1850 when it criticized Fitz Roy’s ‘notorious despatch’ and complained of ‘his unaccountable blundering in the partiality he showed for the Port Phillipians in his disposal of the Hashemites’.[49] By late 1850 many in Sydney imagined a direct connection between Fitz Roy’s March 1849 promise to divert ships from Port Phillip, and the arrival of the Hashemy in June.

When Isaac Aaron wrote to the Herald on 19 August 1850 in response to Lang’s letter, he correctly made the point that while the Hashemy was unwelcomed, it was actually the Randolph that was sent to Sydney ‘in pursuance of Sir Charles’ promise to the Port Phillip people.[50] But hostility towards both Fitz Roy and Port Phillip had become entrenched, and on 30 September 1850 the idea that the Hashemy had originally been intended for Port Phillip was presented to the New South Wales Legislative Council during a debate on transportation. W.C. Wentworth, who supported a limited resumption of transportation, and was opposed to Port Phillip separation, observed that during the late 1840s Port Phillip employers had been happy to receive ‘exile’ labour. However, Wentworth complained, after free emigration satisfied Port Phillip’s labour needs the exiles became ‘bounceable’ and the residents delivered a petition to ‘prevent their community from being contaminated by the convicts expected to arrive in the Hashemy’. On this point Wentworth was wrong—as shown above, Port Phillip was not expecting the Hashemy, and did not know it had arrived until news came from Sydney—nevertheless, always looking for an excuse to criticize Port Phillip, Wentworth concluded that ‘It would have been far better had they received the people by the Hashemy … than have been receiving … thousands of much worse fellows from Van Diemen’s Land’.[51] Wentworth, like many in Sydney, wanted to blame the arrival of the Hashemy on Port Phillip.

Thus began the myth that Sydney only received the Hashemy convicts because Port Phillip had rejected them. But the myth could have soon died out—most subsequent contemporary historians of Victoria and Van Diemen’s Land either ignored the Hashemy or reported it going directly to Sydney—and despite his error in having it come to Port Phillip, Ernest Scott said in his 1911 article ‘the Hashemy incident belongs rather to the history of New South Wales than Victoria’.[52] In 1852 John West wrote The History of Tasmania and made passing reference to the Hashemy in Sydney and the Randolph in Melbourne but did not suggest the Hashemy went to Melbourne first.[53] In 1858 Thomas McCombie’s History of the Colony of Victoria described how the Randolph sailed into Hobson’s Bay in August 1849, and La Trobe ‘wisely averted bloodshed’ by diverting the ship to Sydney.[54] Despite not previously giving any account of the Hashemy arriving at Port Phillip, McCombie curiously noted that, ‘On the 11th June, a violent meeting was held at Circular Wharf, Sydney, in consequence of the arrival of the Hashmey [sic] from Port Phillip.’[55] Nevertheless, when William Fairfax published his Handbook to Australasia in 1859 he mentioned Fitz Roy’s promise and the Hashemy arriving at Sydney separately, but drew no connection between the two.[56]

While the early historians from Victoria and Van Diemen’s Land generally kept the Randolph diversion from Port Phillip separate to the Hashemy incident in Sydney, it is clear that some in Sydney preferred to connect the two, and they might have taken heart from press reports of William Kerr’s address to an anti-transportation meeting in Melbourne on Monday 23 October 1854. The South Australian Register reported Kerr as saying London ‘had tried direct transportation in the shape of the Randolph and the Hashemy’ and the people had proclaimed—‘The convicts by the Randolph and the Hashemy shall not land on our shores’.[57] The Argus reported the same speech with the words—‘the ships Randolph and Hashemy had arrived with convicts. But these ships had also been obliged to leave our shores’[58] On the morning of the October meeting the Argus had presented a case for no transportation—‘In 1849 our tone was decided enough to secure the sending away of the convict ships Hashemy and Randolph. It would be a poor spectacle indeed for Victoria of 1854 to take lower ground than that achieved by the Port Phillip of 1849’[59] But the Argus was presenting a case against transportation to the whole of Australia, not just Victoria, and Kerr’s inclusion of the Hashemy and Randolph in the one slogan was rhetoric rather than fact, and his address came after one by Archibald Michie in which the opposition of ‘all the colonies of the Southern Hemisphere’ to transportation was being expressed.[60] Michie had moved to Melbourne in 1852 after being involved in the Hashemy protests in Sydney in 1849.

On 16 May 1856, the Argus observed that the current edition of Melbourne Punch had published a satirical cartoon depicting ‘the resistance offered by Mr La Trobe and our fellow colonists to the landing of convicts brought by the Randolph and the Hashemy’.[61] In fact the illustration in Punch, depicting La Trobe as Boadicea fending off the Romans, was simply titled La Trobe and the Chieftains resist the landing of the convicts, and made no mention of the Hashemy or Randolph.[62] Further reinforcement of the myth occurred in July 1863 when former editor of the Argus, Edward Wilson wrote from London on the subject of transportation and mistakenly recalled ‘In 1849 when Lord Grey sent to Port Phillip the Randolph and the Hashemy … we adopted as our motto “The Convicts shall not Land” … and Mr. La Trobe sent the ships away again’.[63] Wilson wrote again in August and repeated the same statement.[64] Despite Wilson’s version, on 20 August 1864 the Argus published a history of transportation and clearly stated that in 1849 ‘it became known that the British Government had chartered two ships, the Randolph and the Hashemy, to proceed to Melbourne and Sydney respectively with convicts. With the former vessel the people of Melbourne were chiefly concerned’—and when the Randolph arrived in Melbourne ‘“The convicts shall not land”’ was the watchword’.[65]

Nevertheless, the myth persisted and the 1866 Handbook to Sydney and Suburbs informed newcomers, ‘In 1849, the Home Government, of their own motion and without reference to the wishes of the colonists, despatched from England the “Hashemy” convict ship, with orders to disembark the convicts at Melbourne’, and La Trobe sent them on to Sydney.[66] And again, on 15 October 1881, the Clarence and Richmond River Examiner claimed, in an unsourced story – ‘In the reign of governor Fitzroy an attempt was made to arrest transportation from England to Australia, and in the height of excitement the ship Hasemy [sic], with convicts, arrived in Hobson’s Bay, when the residents of Victoria refused to allow them to be landed, and Governor Fitzroy ordered the vessel on to Port Jackson’.[67] This was clearly from a writer more closely aligned with Sydney. A few years later, in his Chronicles of Early Melbourne, Edmund Finn, who was in Melbourne in 1849, described the Randolph being diverted to Sydney in August 1849 and the Adelaide in December, but made no mention of the Hashemy.[68]

By the 1890s memories were fading—in 1890 James Sheen Dowling, a Sydney barrister in 1849, remembered the Hashemy ‘with upwards of 200 convicts not allowed to land at Melbourne, coming to Sydney to discharge her objectionable cargo … It was on this occasion that Robert Lowe made a brilliant oration which stamped him as an orator’.[69]  Robert Lowe, another barrister and a leader the anti-transportation protests in Sydney in 1849, was the subject of two biographies published in 1893—one by James Francis Hogan, the other by Arthur Patchett Martin. An extract from Hogan’s work was widely published in the Australian and New Zealand press during 1893 and described the day the Hashemy arrived at Sydney after supposedly being driven from Melbourne—‘so intense and demonstrative was the popular fury that the captain did not dare even to attempt to discharge his repulsive living cargo’.[70]

The second biography, by Arthur Patchett Martin, claimed the Hashemy, ‘being unable to land her cargo at Melbourne, sailed for Port Jackson with a view to depositing them in Sydney’, where Lowe protested that Fitz Roy had ‘rescued Port Phillip from the infamy of receiving a criminal cargo, which he now wished to inflict upon Port Jackson’.[71] In 1883 Patchett Martin left Melbourne ‘under a cloud … embittered by friends shunning him’.[72] In return he complained that the ‘best informed writers in Victoria … entirely overlook, or rather, have quite forgotten, the magnificent stand which Robert Lowe made in Sydney’ on their behalf.[73] Martin was especially critical of George Rusden’s 1883 mild account of anti-transportation sentiment in Melbourne—‘Melbourne, as usual was demonstrative’—and claimed that ‘There were men … among the “demonstrative” early colonists, who marched down to Hobson’s Bay with the view, if necessary, of preventing by force the landing of this first batch of Earl Grey’s criminal hordes’.[74] Dismissing Rusden’s account, Martin said he preferred the version given in an 1868 lecture by Archibald Michie in which Michie recalled how ‘a large body of spirited colonists … marched down to Sandridge, resolved that a newly arrived cargo of convicts, per ship Hashemy, should not land here’.[75]

Martin ignored the fact that Michie’s 1868 lecture had been criticized by the Argus as betraying ‘the lecturer’s political bias’;[76] of indulging in ‘abstract arguments and theoretical doctrines which might or might not apply to existing circumstances’;[77] and of making statements that were ‘altogether untrue, and nothing more than the every-day experience of a Victorian resident is required to show their complete fallacy’.[78] In addition to this criticism, Michie’s account of marching down to Sandridge to send off the Hashemy in May 1849 simply could not have happened—as a Sydney barrister he was involved in an important court case in Sydney during May 1849; he was giving lectures in Sydney; and he was a prominent speaker, along with Robert Lowe, at the protests against the Hashemy in Sydney on Monday 11 June 1849.[79] He may have marched down to Circular Quay, but he certainly did not march down to Hobson’s Bay.

With two biographies of Robert Lowe now circulating, and both Lowe’s and Michie’s flawed versions of the Hashemy affair being given prominence, those who wrote new histories or those who tried to remember old histories had a new source upon which to draw. In 1895 Edward Jenks told how ‘the unfortunate Hashemy was driven with her convict cargo from Melbourne to Sydney’.[80] In 1897 GW Rusden, undoubtedly conscious of the criticism of his earlier work by Patchett Martin and others, revised his 1883 History of Australia to reflect a similar version of events. But not all were so influenced—in 1904 Henry Gyles Turner and Alexander Sutherland clearly stated that, ‘Of the two ships which had been chartered, the Hashemy was ordered to Sydney and the Randolph to Port Phillip’.[81] Nevertheless, by the first two decades of the twentieth century the story of the Hashemy was evenly divided between those who claimed it had sailed to Port Phillip first—Scott, Coghlan and Gibbs —and those who claimed it sailed directly to Sydney—Turner, Sutherland, Thomson and Jose. The opinions of later historians seem to have varied depending upon which of these secondary sources they preferred.

Charles Bateson’s 1959 The Convict Ships 1787-1868 has been described by Foxhall as ‘the only substantial study of convict voyages’ despite being ‘over half a century old’, and by popular historians as ‘the definitive guide to Australia’s period of transportation’—thereby giving credence to anything listed by Bateson—and he listed the Hashemy as arriving at Port Phillip in May 1849.[82]  How he came to this conclusion is uncertain, although he claimed to have referred to Captain’s and Surgeon’s journals—but he clearly could find no conclusive evidence, and simply listed the Hashemy being at Port Phillip sometime during the month of May, whereas he gave every other ship a specific date of arrival.[83]

An exact date of arrival is given in a curious document compiled a few years after the Martin and Hogan biographies of Lowe; the Rusden second edition; and the Jenks history had all reinforced the story of the Hashemy stopping at Port Phillip. Nineteen year-old James Cripps was part of the military contingent on board the Hashemy in 1849 and was on his way to join the 99th Regiment in Van Diemen’s Land. In 1906, fifty seven years after the Hashemy arrived at Sydney he wrote his Reminiscences and claimed to have arrived at Hobson’s Bay, Port Phillip, on 1 June 1849.[84] Cripps related how, after stopping at the Cape of Good Hope, the Hashemy set sail ‘bound for Melbourne; where we intended to land our prisoners’.

There was nothing particular occurred during the voyage from the Cape to Melbourne worth recording. We arrived in Hobson’s Bay on the evening of 1st June 1849. When it became known that the convict ship Hashemy was in the harbour, it aroused the inhabitants of Melbourne to the highest pitch of indignation, and so intense and demonstrative was the popular fury, that the Captain did not dare even attempt to discharge his living cargo. … Physical force was threatened but it was probably the kind heart rather than the fears of Mr Latrobe which induced him to insist that the Hashemy should proceed to Sydney. The Captain was therefore ordered to clear out with all possible speed, which was immediately complied with.[85]

There are major problems with Cripps’ narrative. If this really happened we would expect the official correspondence and the press of the time to have mentioned it—but there is silence. When James Cripps died in Melbourne on 24 March 1917 an obituary appeared in the Argus.

Sergeant-Major James Cripps, who died on March 24, aged nearly 88 years, formed an interesting link in Australian history. He was born in Ireland May, 1829. In 1848 he enlisted in the 99th Foot, and sailing as one of the guard on the Hashemy, the last convict ship to come here. He saw the angry, threatening crowds on Circular Quay, Sydney, whose deputies drew up the historical “Protest” in June, 1849. Sergeant Cripps served at Hobart, Norfolk Island, Melbourne, first at the time of the gold discoveries, and two years later, and at Ballarat twice, the first time just missing the Eureka affair. The term of his enlistment ending, in January, 1860, he was appointed drill instructor of volunteers, a position he held until 1884.[86]

We might assume that some mention of the Hashemy being turned away from Port Phillip—if it happened—would have been of greater interest to Melbourne readers than the Sydney protest meeting—but again, there is silence.

The question must be asked whether Cripps included the stop at Hobson’s Bay in his Reminiscences of 1906 simply because that is what a number of historians at the time were saying had happened. Indeed his choice of words betrays his inspiration—‘so intense and demonstrative was the popular fury that the Captain did not dare even attempt to discharge his living cargo’. Compare this to the phrase used by James Francis Hogan in his biography of Robert Lowe—‘so intense and demonstrative was the popular fury that the captain did not dare even to attempt to discharge his repulsive living cargo’. Hogan’s account had been widely circulated in the Australian press, and, apart from one word, Cripps’ phrase is identical.[87] Nevertheless, Audrey Oldfield, in The great republic of the southern seas, accepts Cripps’ story and adds, without further reference, that ‘La Trobe, on Fitzroy’s orders, ordered the Hashemy to Port Jackson’.[88]

Finally, if many of the secondary sources are unreliable, and the supposed first-hand witness account of James Cripps is suspect, we might ask whether the Master of the Hashemy, Captain John Ross, the Surgeon, Colin Arrott Browning, or the Religious Instructor, John Henderson, had anything to say about Port Phillip. The journal kept by Captain John Ross mentions passing Cape Otway and Wilson’s Promontory early in June, but makes no mention of a detour into Port Phillip Bay.[89] Nicholson’s Log of Logs combined the Cape Otway and Wilson’s Promontory entries in Ross’s journal into ‘Port Phillip’—which is technically correct as they were both in the Port Phillip District—but the Hashemy was passing Port Phillip on 1 June 1849, not stopping there as Cripps claimed.

Surgeon Colin Browning, not only compiled the required Surgeon’s Report for the voyage, but also wrote The Convict Ship, in which he described the Hashemy’s departure from England and its arrival at Sydney—neither document made any mention of stopping at Port Phillip.[90] Indeed, the Health Officer’s Report clearly responds to the question, ‘At what Ports have you touched on your passage?’ with a single port—‘Cape of Good Hope 26th April 49’.[91] Katherine Foxhall quoted extensively from Browning’s report as Surgeon to the Hashemy, but did not detect the discrepancy between his account of the voyage and those of the historians she cited.

John Henderson, the Religious Instructor, kept a diary during the voyage. He described the arrival at Cape Town on 19 April, and being ‘sorry at leaving the land’ on 26 April. By 1 June Henderson registered the ship’s location as 39.26° south and 131.44° east, which is south of South Australia; by 4 June they were at 39.12° south and 142.22° east—‘Entered Bass Straits between Cape Otway & Kings Island in the afternoon … sailed on under easy sail but going pretty fast’; the next day, 5 June, they were close to Wilson’s Promontory, at 39.31° south and 146.11° east—‘beating about in the eastern part of Bass Straits the wind being unfavourable for passing out’; by 6 June—‘beat out of Bass Strait’; 7 June—‘Sailing along the coast of Australia all day’; and on 8 June—‘Coasting along, arrived between the heads at dusk … find that the people are averse to the reception of the prisoners’.[92] Not a word about a visit to Port Phillip—indeed, from 1 May until 7 June the Hashemy maintained an almost unwavering course along 39° south latitude.

In 1966—the year Shaw wrote Convicts and the Colonies—Joan Ritchie submitted her Master of Arts thesis on Charles Joseph La Trobe to the University of Melbourne. After discussing Fitz Roy’s visit to Port Phillip in March 1849, Ritchie referred to the Hashemy arriving “a few weeks later”, citing Turner—who actually said the Hashemy went directly to Sydney— and Gilchrist—who vaguely said the people of Sydney and Melbourne protested ‘so the vessels were ordered to Sydney and Moreton Bay’.[93] However, in a footnote Ritchie expressed reservations about the accuracy of the secondary accounts.[94] Ritchie’s thesis was not published and her concern about the secondary sources was not made known—but Shaw’s article was published, and his statement about how ‘in May the Hashemy and in August the Randolph almost provoked riots and had to be sent to Sydney without unloading their ‘passengers’’, was subsequently cited by many historians, both amateur and professional.[95] For example, Gregory Woods said, ‘The Hashemy arrived, first at Melbourne, where Governor Latrobe refused it permission to land: it proceeded to Sydney and arrived in Port Jackson on 8 or 9 June’.[96] Francis Crowley claimed the arrival of the Hashemy ‘roused great public alarm in Sydney and Melbourne’.[97] Anthony Baker—‘When the Hashemy arrived in Melbourne in 1849 with a band of “exiles”, a tumult prevented their disembarkation’.[98] Russell Ward—‘When the convict ship, Hashemy, arrived in Melbourne in 1849, the Superintendent of the Colony, Charles Joseph Latrobe, prudently ordered her to Sydney’.[99] And so the list goes on.

Perhaps most significant in disseminating the error to genealogists was Keith Clarke in his 1999 Convicts of the Port Phillip District, where he cited Shaw’s statement as his only source for claiming the Hashemy ‘arrived in Port Phillip Bay and La Trobe defied the Imperial Government by refusing permission for the convicts to land. After a delay the Hashemy was sent on to Sydney’.[100] Clarke was wrong on two counts—not only did the Hashemy not stop at Port Phillip, but La Trobe had the Governor’s approval to divert them had they done so. Such errors are easily perpetuated and multiplied in popular literature, and even more easily on the internet. A popular ‘convict website’, Convicts to Australia, claims the Hashemy ‘arrived in Sydney on June 9, 1849, but not before discharging her surviving Parkhurst boys in Victoria in May 1949’.[101] The website gives its source as Ian Nicholson’s Log of Logs, and Paul Buddee’s Fate of the Artful Dodger.[102] Perhaps in an attempt to correct such errors the official Guide to convict records in the Archives Office of New South Wales states the ‘Prisoners did not disembark at Port Phillip but were sent on to Sydney’.[103] Only partly correct—the prisoners did not disembark at Port Phillip because the ship was never there. Fortunately, there are some, such as Peter Cochrane, who do not included Port Phillip in the voyage of the Hashemy.[104]

The secondary sources on the Hashemy incident are often unreliable and contradictory, and many cite equally other unreliable secondary sources as their sole evidence. The primary sources—not only the correspondence between La Trobe, Fitz Roy and London, but also the journals left by the Master, Surgeon and Religious Instructor on the Hashemy, and contemporary press reports and shipping lists—provide clear and conclusive evidence that the Hashemy did not stop at Port Phillip in May 1849 before arriving at Sydney on 8 June.

Of course, we could ask does it matter whether the Hashemy went to Port Phillip or not? It matters partly because historians should correct mistaken perceptions when new evidence is found; when the old evidence itself is valid but belongs to a different puzzle; or when what was thought to have been valid evidence is found to have been fabricated or imagined. It is also important because many people in Sydney came to believe the arrival of the Hashemy was a direct consequence of Fitz Roy’s promise that La Trobe could divert convict ships from Port Phillip. That belief, together with Fitz Roy’s failure to fully explain the reasons for his promise, led to a dramatic escalation in the already bitter antagonism towards Port Phillip. In the atmosphere of such hostility it was easy for politicians, journalists, and ultimately historians, to write about and perpetuate myths that suited their own parochial prejudices—for example, Arthur Patchett Martin’s account of the Hashemy voyage combines not only Robert Lowe’s prejudice against convicts and Port Phillip, but also Michie’s mistaken recollections of a protest against the Hashemy in Melbourne, as well as Martin’s own bitterness against former friends in Melbourne.

During the 1840s, the Middle District of New South Wales, based on Sydney, was heavily reliant on wealth from the Port Phillip District, yet, since the late 1830s the independently-minded people of Port Phillip had blamed Sydney for appropriating revenue that should have been spent in Port Phillip—and they were justified in that complaint.[105] But Governor Gipps complained that if Port Phillip’s money was spent solely on Port Phillip, Sydney would not be able to pay its bills.[106] By 1849 Port Phillip’s imminent independence, cutting off Sydney’s major revenue source, was bad enough—but the idea that Port Phillip had persuaded the Governor to transfer the Hashemy convicts to Sydney was just too much. The people of Sydney blamed Port Phillip not only for their loss of revenue, but also for an influx of new convicts. They were wrong on both counts. Charles Joseph La Trobe was entitled to wish that Port Phillip revenue should be expended in Port Phillip alone—and he did not send the Hashemy to Sydney—that idea originated from and was perpetuated mainly by people such as W.C. Wentworth in Sydney itself, and repeated by historians ever since.

[1] Barbara Thayer-Bacon and Diana Moyer, ‘Philosophical and Historical Research’, in Kenneth George Tobin and Joe L. Kincheloe (eds), Doing Educational Research: A Handbook, Rotterdam, 2006, p. 150.

[2] A. G. L. Shaw, Convicts and the Colonies– A Study of Penal Transportation from Great Britain and Ireland to Australia and other parts of the British Empire, London, 1966, p. 318.

[3] These despatches are reproduced in NSW Parliament, Votes and Proceedings of the Legislative Council during the session of the year 1849, vol. 1, Sydney, 1849; A. G. L. Shaw, Convicts and the Colonies, p. 324.

[4] Katherine Foxhall, ‘From Convicts to Colonists: the Health of Prisoners and the Voyage to Australia. 1823 – 1853,’ Journal of Imperial Commonwealth History, vol. 39, no.1, 2011, pp. 1–19.

[5] Kirsten McKenzie, Scandal in the Colonies, Melbourne, 2004, pp. 173-4.

[6] A. G. L. Shaw, Convicts and the Colonies, pp. 317, 318, 324.

[7] Robert Hughes, The fatal shore: a history of the transportation of convicts to Australia, 1787–1868, London, 1987, p. 555.

[8] A. G. L. Shaw, A History of the Port Phillip District: Victoria Before Separation. Melbourne, 2003, pp. 208-9, 294 n. 36; A. G. L. Shaw, ‘Victoria’s First Governor’, La Trobe Journal, no. 71, August 2003, p. 89.

[9] Shaw. History of the Port Phillip District, p. xvi.

[10] Alan Gross, Charles Joseph La Trobe, Melbourne, 1980, p. 84; Ernest Scott, ‘Resistance to Convict Transportation, 133.

[11] Ernest Scott, ‘Resistance to Convict Transportation in Victoria, 1844-1853,’ Victorian Historical Magazine, vol. 1, no. 4, 1911, p. 133.

[12] Ernest Scott, A Short History of Australia, 2nd edn. London, 1918, p. 161.

[13] Sydney Morning Herald, 11 August 1849, p. 2; Perth Inquirer, 30 October 1850, p. 3.

[14] For example Victoria: the first century: an historical survey, Melbourne, 1934, p. 160; Brian Charles Fitzpatrick, The British Empire in Australia: an economic history 1834-1939, Melbourne , 1949, p. 91; Ken Inglis, The Australian Colonists: an exploration of social history. Melbourne, 1974, p. 11; Edward Sweetman, The Constitutional development of Victoria 1851-6, Melbourne, 1920, p. 148; James Alexander Allan, Men and manners in Australia: being a social and economic sketch history, 1945, p. 48.

[15] A.G.L. Shaw, ‘Victoria’s First Governor’, ’La Trobe Journal, no. 71, August 2003, p. 89.

[16] T.A., Coghlan, Labour and Industry in Australia : From the First Settlement in 1788 to the establishment of the Commonwealth in 1901. Melbourne, 1918, pp. 348, 444.

[17] Margaret Kiddle, Men of Yesterday, Melbourne, 1962, p. 161.

[18] Argus, 9 August 1849, p. 2; 22 August 1849, pp. 2, 4.

[19] Robert Thomson A National History of Australia, New Zealand and the adjacent islands. 1917, p. 244.

[20] Henry Gyles Turner, A History of The Colony of Victoria From Its Discovery To Its Absorption Into The Commonwealth of Australia in Two Volumes, Vol. II. A.D. 1854-1900, London, 1904, p. 274

[21] Arthur W. Jose, History of Australasia, Sydney, 1913, p. 105

[22] George William Rusden, History of Australia, 2 vols. Melbourne, 1883, vol 2, pp. 563-65.

[23] George William Rusden, History of Australia, 1883, vol. 2, p. 474.

[24] Philip Gibbs, Romance of Empire, 1906, p. 314.

[25] ‘Further Correspondence on the subject of Convict and Transportation (In continuation of Papers presented February and July 1849)’,  House of Commons Parliamentary Papers (HCPP), 1850 [1153] [1285].

[26] Fitz Roy to Earl Grey, 27 June 1849, HCPP, 1850 [1153] [1285].

[27] La Trobe to Deas Thompson, 4 December 1849; 17 December 1849, 49/735, HCPP, 1850 [1153] [1285].

[28] Earl Grey to Fitz Roy, 18 April 1850, HCPP, 1850 [1153] [1285].

[29] Joshua Jebb, Report on the Discipline and Management of Convict Prisons 1850, London, 1851, p. 13.

[30] Empire, 6 February 1851, pp. 3-4.

[31] Earl Grey to Fitz Roy, 4 December 1848, HCPP, 1850 [1153] [1285]; Argus, 15 June 1849, p. 2; 19 June 1849, p. 1 supplement; Shaw, Convicts and the Colonies, p. 324.

[32] Hobart Courier, 24 February 1849, p. 2;

[33] Hobart Courier, 4 April 1849, p. 2.

[34] Hobart Courier, 24 February 1849, p. 2; 4 April 1849.

[35] Sydney Morning Herald, 12 April, 3, p. 2.

[36] Sydney Morning Herald, 18 April 1849, p. 2; Allan William Martin, Henry Parkes: a biography, Melbourne, 1980, p. 56.

[37] Sydney Morning Herald, 20 April 1849, p. 2.

[38] Sydney Morning Herald, 25 April 1849, p. 2.

[39] Sydney Morning Herald, 23 May 1849, p. 2.

[40] Sydney Morning Herald, 21 May 1849, p. 2; 2 June 1849, p. 2; 21 May 1849, p. 2.

[41] Sydney Morning Herald, 9 June 1849, p. 2; 12 June 1849, p. 2.

[42] Shaw, History of the Port Phillip District, pp. 208-9, 294 n. 36; Argus, 21 May 1849, p. 1 supplement; Maitland Mercury, 6 June 1849, p. 2; Colonial Times, 12 June 1849, p. 4.

[43] Argus, 15 June 1849, p. 2.

[44] Argus, 15 December 1849; 18 December 1849

[45] ‘Report of the Principal Superintendent of Convicts of the Arrival, Inspection and Disposal of the Convicts by the Ship “Adelaide” 14 January 1850’, enclosure with Fitz Roy to Grey, 17 January 1850, HCPP [1253] [1285].

[46] Turner, History of the Colony of Victoria, vol. 1, p. 74-75.

[47] Sydney Morning Herald, 12 June 1849, p. 2.

[48] Fitz Roy to Earl Grey, 30 June 1849.

[49] Bathurst Free Press, 17 August 1850, p. 4.

[50] Sydney Morning Herald, 20 August 1850, p. 2.

[51] Sydney Morning Herald, 1 October 1850, 2; p. 7 October 1850, p. 3.

[52] Scott, ‘Resistance to Convict Transportation’, p. 133.

[53] John West, The History of Tasmania, 2 vols, Launceston, 1852, vol. 1, p. 283.

[54] Thomas McCombie, The History of the Colony of Victoria. Melbourne, 1858, p. 174.

[55] McCombie, History of the Colony of Victoria, p. 176.

[56] William Fairfax, Handbook to Australasia; being a brief historical and descriptive account of Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia, New South Wales, Western Australia and New Zealand, Melbourne, 1859, p. 165.

[57] South Australian Register, 1 November 1854, p. 2.

[58] Colonial Times, 1 November 1854, p. 2; Argus, 24 October 1854, p. 5.

[59] Argus, 23 October 1854, p. 5.

[60] Argus, 24 October 1854, p. 5.

[61] Argus, 16 May 1856, p. 8.

[62] Melbourne Punch, 15 May 1856, p. 116.

[63] Argus, 14 September 1863, p. 5.

[64] Argus, 13 October 1863, p. 6.

[65] Argus, 20 August 1864, p. 4.

[66] S. T. Leigh, The Handbook to Sydney and Suburbs. Sydney, 1866, p. 12.

[67] Clarence and Richmond River Examiner, 15 October 1881, p. 2

[68] Garryowen (Edmund Finn), The Chronicles of Early Melbourne 1835-1852, Melbourne, 1888, p. 523

[69] James Sheen Dowling, Reminiscences of a Colonial Judge, Anthony Dowling (ed.), Sydney, 1995, pp. 73-74.

[70] Hobart Mercury, 6 March 1893, p. 3; For example, Sydney Morning Herald, 1 April 1893, p. 10; Colac Herald, 14 March 1893, p. 4.

[71] Arthur Patchett Martin, Life and Letters of the Right Honourable, Robert Lowe, Viscount Sherbrooke, London, 1893, vol 1, pp. 381-85.

[72] Suzanne G. Mellor, ‘Martin, Arthur Patchett (1851-1902), Australian Dictionary of Biography.

[73] Martin, Life and Letters, p. 327.

[74] Martin, Life and Letters, pp. 381-82; Rusden, History of Australia, 1883, vol 2, pp. 563-64.

[75] Martin, Life and Letters, p. 382, citing Archibald Michie, A Lecture on the Westminster Reviewer’s Version of Victorian History, Melbourne, 1868.

[76] Argus, 19 September 1868, p. 4.

[77] South Australian Advertiser, 3 October 1868, p. 2.

[78] Hobart Mercury, 9 October 1868, p. 2.

[79] Sydney Morning Herald, 15 May 1849, p. 2; 19 May 1849, p. 2; 6 June 1849, p. 3; 12 June 1849, p. 2.

[80] Edward Jenks, A History of the Australasian Colonies from their foundation to the year 1893. Cambridge, 1895, p. 110.

[81] Turner, History of the Colony of Victoria, vol. 1, pp. 274-75.

[82] Foxhall, ‘Convicts to Colonists’, p. 2; ‘Convicts to Australia’, at

[83] Charles Bateson, The Convict Ships 1787-1868,  1959, 2nd edn., pp. 297, 372.

[84] Charles Cripps, ‘Reminiscences’, handwritten manuscript, 1906, Mitchell Library MSS 1524.

[85] Cripps, ‘Reminiscences’.

[86] Argus, 27 March 1917, p. 8.

[87] Hobart Mercury, 6 March 1893, p. 3 citing James Francis Hogan, Robert Lowe: Viscount Sherbrooke. London, 1893.

[88] Audrey Oldfield, The great republic of the southern seas: republicans in nineteenth-century Australia, Sydney, 1999, p. 106.

[89] Captain John Ross, ‘A journal of a voyage from England to New South Wales in the ship Hashemy John Ross commander. Commencing on Tuesday November 7th 1848-25 June 1849, by Captain John Ross’. Mitchell Library. DLMSQ 19.

[90] Colin Arrott Browning, The Convict Ship. London, 1856, pp. 264-269; Medical Journal of the Hashemy, Medical Journals,  ADM 101/32/5, The National Archives, online at UK Royal Navy Medical Journals, 1817-1857.

[91] Health Officer’s Report, Hashemy, State Records Authority of New South Wales: Shipping Master’s Office; Passengers Arriving 1855 – 1922.

[92] John Henderson, ‘Diary kept by an unidentified person, believed to be Mr Henderson, during the voyage of the convict ship Hashemy from England to Australia, 20 Nov. 1848 – 8 June 1849’, National Library of Australia, manuscript MS 7902

[93] Turner, History of The Colony of Victoria , p. 275; A. Gilchrist, ed., John Dunmore Lang: Chiefly Autobiographical 1799-1878, 2 vols, Melbourne, 1951, vol. 2, p. 456.

[94] Joan Ritchie, ‘A Study of Charles Joseph La Trobe Superintendent of the Port Phillip District of New South Wales from 1839 to 1851, unpublished MA Thesis. University of Melbourne, 1966, p. 276 n.113; Convicts on Hashemy – Register of assignment and history, 4/4526, NSW State Records.

[95] Shaw, Convicts and the Colonies, pp. 317, 318, 324.

[96] Gregory Woods, A history of criminal law in New South Wales: the colonial period, 1788-1900. Sydney, 2002, p. 166, citing Shaw, Convicts and the Colonies, pp. 317, 318, 324.

[97] Francis Crowley, A Documentary History of Australia: Colonial Australia, 1841-1874. Sydney, 1980, p. 154.

[98] Anthony William Baker, Death is a good solution: the convict experience in early Australia. Brisbane, 1984, p. 88.

[99] Russel Braddock Ward, Australia since the coming of man, Sydney, 1987, p. 98.

[100] Keith M. Clarke, Convicts of the Port Phillip District. Canberra, 1999, p. 98.

[101] ‘Convicts to Australia’, at

[102] Ian Hawkins Nicholson, Log of logs: a catalogue of logs, journals, shipboard diaries, letters, and all forms of voyage narratives, 1788 to 1988, for Australia and New Zealand and surrounding oceans. Brisbane, 1990; Paul Buddee, Fate of the Artful Dodger: Parkhurst boys transported to Australia and New Zealand 1842-1852, Perth, 1984.

[103] Guide to convict records in the Archives Office of New South Wales, Archives Authority of New South Wales, 1981, p. 303; Bateson, Convict Ships, pp. 332, 328.

[104] Peter Cochrane, Colonial Ambition: foundations of Australian democracy. Melbourne, 2006, p. 204.

[105] Shaw, History of Port Phillip District, pp. 238, 195; Hobart Courier, 15 January 1841, p. 2; Argus, 1 August 1848, p. 2; Petition to Earl Grey – Argus, 8 August 1848, p. 2.

[106] Gipps to Stanley, 31 January 1841, cited in Argus 17 July 1846, p. 2.


From The Edges of Empire


From the Edges of Empire: Convict Women from Beyond the British Isles. Edited by Lucy Frost and Colette McAlpine.

This book tells the remarkable stories of women transported to Australia from the British Isles.  These stirring accounts remind us that the colonies were, from their beginning, populated by people from many cultures, and encourage us to envision the  long reach of the British justice system during the heyday of Empire.

Douglas Wilkie has contributed two chapters to this book:

  1. Where, oh where, is Eugenie Lemaire? pp.172-187

  2. How Louisa La Grange became the narrator in Alexandre Dumas’s Impressions de voyage: Journal de madame Giovanni. pp.206-219.

Format: paperback
Edition: 1st Edition
Published: 2015
ISBN: 9780987144386


Purchase this book

From The Edges of Empire is available from the Convict Women’s Press.


Duchene / Hargraves


ALEXANDRE JULIEN DUCHENE was not even four years into a fourteen year sentence in Van Diemen’s Land in 1840 when Major D’Arcy Wentworth, the Police Magistrate at Launceston, described him as ‘a man of most exemplary conduct’.

Edward Hammond Hargraves, was less than two years into enjoying his claim to have started the Australian gold rushes, when, in 1852 D’Arcy Wentworth’s brother, W C Wentworth, a member of the New South Wales Parliament, described Hargaves as an ‘imposter’ in support of George McLeay’s opinion that Hargraves was ’a shallow and impudent pretender’.

After conducting a highly successful business in Launceston, Duchene moved to Melbourne in 1848 and became involved in the discovery of a rich goldfield in the Pyrenees Ranges, about three days west of Melbourne, but he decided not to dig for the gold. Instead, he publicized the discovery in the press, gave detailed directions to gold seekers, and applied to the government for a reward and appointment as Goldfields Commissioner. Port Phillip Superintendent Charles La Trobe quickly acted to disperse the gold rush and later consulted with Governor Charles Fitz Roy, who refused Duchene his reward and commission, but secretly asked London to send a qualified minerals surveyor to ascertain the truth of such reports, not only at the Pyrenees, but also closer to Sydney.

Rejected by the government, Duchene sailed for California in April 1849 and was soon followed by Edward Hargraves, who was desperately looking for an easy way of making money—something that had eluded him for years. Coincidentally Hargraves visited the Californian Goldfields at the same time as Duchene, and met people who willingly shared their knowledge, and secrets. On the goldfields Duchene willingly shared how he found gold ‘three or four days journey from Sydney’ (most Americans had never heard of Melbourne) and had unsuccessfully sought a reward and government appointment. By remarkable coincidence, or perhaps not, Edward Hargraves now decided he would return to Australia where he would not only look for gold west of Sydney, but also ask for a reward and government appointment.

In January 1851 Hargraves travelled three or four days from Sydney, and with the help of others, found widespread indications of gold. Like Duchene, he decided not to dig for the gold himself, but publicized the discovery in the press, and gave detailed directions to gold seekers. Like Duchene, he also applied to the government a reward and appointment as Goldfields Commissioner.

Instead of immediately acting to protect the gold field, as La Trobe had done in 1849, Fitz Roy consulted with his newly-arrived surveyor, but by then was too late to disperse the rush instigated by Hargraves. Nothing could be done but allow the goldfield to be exploited. Within months the value of the goldfield originally reported at the Pyrenees by Duchene was also confirmed. In the end, Hargraves’s wish was granted; Duchene’s was not.

This book looks at the lives of Duchene and Hargraves, lived entirely separately, until they both arrived in San Francisco towards the end of 1849. It also looks at the reasons that Duchene was considered ‘a man of most exemplary conduct’, while Hargraves was dismissed by many as an impostor and impudent pretender. Importantly, this book also raises the question of whether Hargraves developed his plan to look for gold west of Sydney only after hearing about Duchene’s earlier quest.

Reviews of Duchene/Hargraves

Reviewed by Babette Smith, OAM, Adjunct Lecturer in History, University of New England; author of Australia’s Birthstain; A Cargo of Women: Susannah Watson & the Convicts of the Princess Royal; and The Luck of the Irish.

“Was Edward Hammond Hargraves, known to Australians as ‘the discoverer of gold’ in fact pre-empted by an ex-convict Frenchman named Alexandre Duchene? Douglas Wilkie’s research demonstrates he was. In a fascinating untangling of fact from fiction he deconstructs Hargraves claims and character by tracking him from his first decade as a free settler during the forties in New South Wales, through his time on the Californian goldfields and the familiar story of his return and the subsequent gold rush

“Far from noting geological features in California that were similar to Bathurst, as he later wrote, Hargraves almost certainly heard Alexandre Duchene’s story of his 1849 discovery and his rejection by the authorities in Victoria when both men were on the same goldfield in California. … Duchene’s find in Victoria started a ‘rush’ which was quickly squashed by Lieutenant Governor La Trobe. The Frenchman received no reward and his application for appointment as Gold Commissioner was rejected. A year later, Hargraves by comparison triggered an unstoppable ‘rush’ and gained credit as well as reward for his ‘discovery’. No small factor in his success was how he ensured that the rush started on a grand scale before he negotiated with the authorities.

“This is no simple story however.  The detail Wilkie has uncovered reveals a complex situation in which politics, economics, greed and self-aggrandisment all played their part. Politically the separation of Port Phillip from New South Wales (1850) was a factor of local significance. London on the other hand was concerned that nothing should disrupt the profitable wool trade. At a personal level, achieving stability, let alone making a fortune, was a precarious business for free settlers in New South Wales who had arrived since the penal colony ended. Wilkie vividly portrays their interrelated land speculation, business opportunism, profits and bankruptcies, particularly on the Central Coast where Edward Hargraves was active.

“Duchene, Hargraves and their claims about gold form a picaresque narrative of people surviving on their wits. Infused with Wilkie’s humour and founded on deep scholarly research, it is a treasure trove of detail. For the specialist like this reviewer, every morsel of information is relished and potentially valuable. For instance, Wilkie’s examination of European settlement on the Central Coast not only casts light on the tenor of Australian society in the forties, it also provides useful context for understanding early land speculation in New Zealand.

“Mark Twain described Australian history as ‘full of lies’. Unfortunately we didn’t deconstruct the lies early enough.  For too long we accepted a conformist pioneer story that emphasised exploration, ‘tame’ Aborigines, valiant European battles against an unfriendly wilderness and a parade of hollow heroes. Historians detected the lack of authenticity but could not explain it. Douglas Wilkie has researched deeply enough to expose a version around the discovery of gold that is both factual and more colourful than the superficial respectability previously offered.”

Duchene/Hargraves has also been reviewed by Babette Smith in The Journal of Australian Colonial History, Vol. 18, Jul 2016, pp. 229-230

Reviewed by  Dr Julie Kimber, Senior lecturer in History and Politics, Swinburne University; Co-editor, Journal of Australian Studies

“Douglas Wilkie’s book is an intricate portrait of the parallel lives of two men who would play a significant role in the gold rushes on the east coast of Australia: Alexandre Julien Duchene, unheralded and largely unknown; and Edward Hammond Hargraves, a controversial figure, whose name remains etched in the school books of the nation. In tracing their lives, Wilkie delivers to us a vast portrait of the European personalities who populated the early colonies of eastern Australia, among them prostitutes and politicians, petty villains and political prisoners.

Wilkie begins by unpicking long accepted elements of Hargraves’ biography—laying bare, in minute detail, contradictions in his story and offering up alternatives to its distortions. In doing so we see Hargraves as both fabulist and opportunist, a man on the make intent on leaving his mark. The story moves to Duchene, a Frenchman transported to the colonies, and documents his attempts first to be reunited with his wife, and second, to make his fortune.

Through dogged archival research, Wilkie broadens his focus and by examining the connections between these two otherwise unconnected men we can discern the complicated lives of early settlers, the vagaries and misfortunes, and the opportunities of dubious integrity offered up by the colonial project.

This is a story of how ordinary lives shape a society and how differing political realities shape the fortunes of ordinary lives. It is a fascinating story for a number of reasons, not least because of where this takes the reader: its geographical scope extends from the streets and court rooms of Britain, to the colonies of Australia and New Zealand, and to the gold rushes in North America.

Duchene/Hargraves is a story rich in intrigue and innuendo, the inevitable consequence of the ‘narrow habitations’ of the European colonies of Australia. It is brought to life by Wilkie’s historical imagination and his prodigious research. And, because of its intimate lens and expansive nature, it will be of great interest to those curious about the east coast’s transition from convict to “free” society.”

Reviewed by Beth D Kicinski, Content and Design Manager, Ballarat and District Industrial Heritage Project (Federation University Australia)

Duchene/Hargraves is a true readers’ book. And not just any old readers, but those who seek to lose themselves in the dark corners of intrigue. This is not the typical dry history of the genesis of Australia’s industrial heritage, but an absorbing “Who Dunnit?” styled unfolding of the past. What is revealed is an ensemble cast whose lives intersect in the most remarkable of ways to create a complex narrative of hope and disillusionment. Like all truly memorable crime thrillers Duchene/Hargraves resolves the central storyline through carefully constructed reveals, but happily leaves several incidental moments of the story unresolved. The reader is left with possibilities of more.

“This book is a firm move away from histories of the first and the greatest to stories of people who were just doing what people do. In Alexandre Duchene we see the way in which “the other” has become an integral part of us; and the sensitive re-presentation of the recognisable figure of Edward Hargraves subtly interrogates the role of such diabolical heroes in the Australian identity.

“Douglas Wilkie’s dedication to researching with carefully balanced heart and mind these two important figures in Australia’s nineteenth century history is obvious throughout Duchene/Hargraves. He cross-examines the evidence with the thoughtfulness of a well-tried barrister. He self-consciously pushes at, but never breaks, the boundaries of believability. And his rich use of carefully-referenced factual information makes this a proper go-to resource that will sit proudly in any library.”

Reviewed by Derek Abbott: ‘Discovering the discovery of gold’ (review of Wilkie), Honest History, 3 April 2017 .

“Douglas Wilkie sets out to do a number of things in this book. Foremost, he wishes to set the record straight on the type of man that Hargraves was and, by implication, to chastise earlier writers who had merely repeated the work of their predecessors without attempting to verify the sources on which they relied. The author also tells the story of Alexandre Duchene, a transported convict made good who, by Wilkie’s telling, has a better claim than Hargraves to be the first ‘discoverer’ of gold. In pursuing these objectives Wilkie seeks ‘to give substance to the names of people whose paths crossed those of Duchene and Hargraves’. Underpinning all of this is an immense amount of archival research in government papers, court documents, shipping manifests, newspapers and journals, as the author tries to nail down his characters and the events of their lives. The voluminous footnotes attest to the effort. …

… Wilkie provides plenty of contemporary comment to demonstrate that Hargraves was widely disliked; he was greedy, rude, presumptuous and lacking in the practical knowledge to actually discover gold for himself. Wilkie’s detailed research certainly achieves his principal objective of providing as detailed a description of Hargraves’ life and character as we are likely to get. …

Wilkie has ensured, … that future writers on this period will have no excuse for regurgitating the familiar Hargraves story.”


Prologue  4

The Story   4

Maps & Illustrations  13

Part One

Edward Hammond Hargraves  26

The Arrival 29

The Wave & The Enchantress  32

William Northwood   36

The Clémentine  37

The Red Rover  45

Captain Thomas Hector  49

The Arrival of the Canton   56

Part Two

Four Fashionable Foreigners  62

59 Yards of Lavender Silk   63

Qui moi?  65

The Chère Amie of a Noble Lord   69

Ernest de Mircourt  72

The Trial 73

The Appeal 76

The Journey of the Henry Porcher  77

Justice In England   78

The Concerns of Brutus  80

The Mysterious Madame Victoire  84

Part Three

Connections  88

Parramatta  97

Dapto Creek   100

Alfred Holden   103

Launceston   104

Speculators & Private Towns  105

Toongabbie  108

Brisbane Water  110

Eliza’s Dowry?  113

The Hay Smith Family   114

New Zealand   120

The Treaty of Waitangi 129

Part Four

A Man of Most Exemplary Conduct  137

The Abercrombie  148

East Gosford   151

Financing the store  156

Dissatisfaction sets in   161

Desperate Measures  167

The Elusive Fox   168

Moveable Hotels  175

Part Five

A Foreigner of Great Respect  182

Court Appearances  188

John Lewis Crabb   190

Hanged, drawn and quartered   202

Charles Brentani 206

Part Six

Hard Times  211

Simpson Davison   215

Selling the Store  215

Robin Hood & Little John   218

New Zealand Again?  218

John Mackie Departs  220

Real Estate  220

Dr Ludwig Leichardt  222

Part Seven

Thomas Chapman   229

Cattle, Land & Timber  232

Selling the Store – Again! 235

My Cattle Station on the Manning  238

J F B Marshall 240

Robert Searle  243

Douglass vs. Horsburgh   247

William Bucknell 250

Edward Gostwyck Cory   251

Susannah Freshney   256

Fat Cattle  259

Getting Rich Without Working  261

Port Phillip   264

Part Eight

California  274

The Death Ship   276

The Elizabeth Archer  278

San Francisco  282

Three or Four Days Journey   283

Marysville  290

Let no man leave his wife. 292

Grass Valley   294

Hargraves Announces His Plan   296

The Boy in the Dog Star  302

Surveyor Stutchbury Arrives  306

Part Nine

Three or Four Days from Sydney   309

James Norton’s letter  313

William Northwood   316

Enoch Rudder  317

Bathurst  319

William Northwood’s Fortune  344

The Coarse & Tasteless Mr Hargraves  348

Part Ten

The End of an Earthly Career  358

Gentlemanly Characters  361

Sources & Annotations  369

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