Transportation and the early years in NSW

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Transportation and the early years in NSW


Convict life


An examination of the conditions faced by convicts, and many details regarding the process of transportation.


The Mary Wade History Association


Published in 'Mary Wade to Us'



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I know nothing of what Mary looked like, but that ten-year old girl was a survivor. Both physically and mentally she must have been strong to live through all the horrors she surmounted. With a death sentence on her head, and separated from her family, she was taken to Newgate Prison. Instructions to the prison officers were that she was “to be hanged by the neck till she is dead”. On arrival at Newgate the usual practice was a tepid bath, prison clothes and all the hair cut off. Mary escaped the final indignity of a public hanging. On 17.4.1789 George The Third respited her death sentence on condition she be “transported for and during the term of her natural life to the Eastern Coast of New South Wales or some island adjoining”. Ninety-three days elapsed between her death sentence and its respite, and ninety-three days in daily expectation of hanging would not be pleasant under any circumstances. Having survived so far, Mary was next put aboard the “Lady Juliana”, a ship lying in the Thames, a ship on which Mary spent almost a year. The ship was one of the vessels comprising the Second Fleet.

Whenever the Government decided to assemble a fleet of vessels to transport convicts overseas they called tenders for this service, stipulating requirements the tenderer must meet. However, once the tender was accepted it was difficult to ensure that all requirements were observed. Consequently, transportees were often at the mercy of the ship’s masters and their officers. Contracts varied considerably. In some cases payment was according to the number of convicts embarked, and this did nothing to encourage a healthy voyage, whereas when payment was based on the number landed at the end of the voyage more care was given to the human cargo. In the case of the “Lady Juliana” of 401 tons, payment was on a per capita basis for women convicts. The ship itself was chartered at nine shillings and sixpence per registered ton, per month, from the time the ship was chartered, until six weeks after discharge of her cargo in New South Wales. An allowance of forty shillings per head was given for clothing for the voyage. The basic victualling allowance was sixpence a day per convict. Before sailing this was increased to ninepence a day per convict if fresh provisions were served, and was increased to one shilling a day per convict in foreign ports if fresh provisions were used. Also seven shillings a day was paid towards a surgeon’s salary as long as convicts were on the ship. The “Lady Juliana” was considerably delayed in the Thames after chartering. The British Government only needed the transports and store ships for voyage to Sydney, and often a new charter was arranged for the return voyage. The East India Company agreed to charter the “Lady Juliana” for the return voyage, provided she could reach Canton by 15.1.1791 in a fit state to load a cargo of tea for Britain.

The Master of the “Lady Juliana” was Captain Aitken, the Surgeon was Richard Alley, who had been a naval surgeon for some years. The agent on board was Edgar, and the Steward was Nicol. By the standards of their day these were reasonable and competent men. Aitken provided himself with some rolls of linen before sailing, and during the voyage several women convicts turned this linen into shirts, which found a ready market on arrival at Port Jackson, making a handsome profit on Aitkin’s original outlay. This would be considered exploitation of prisoners today, but in 1789 was accepted practice. Provisioning the “Lady Juliana” was supervised. Water had to be carried in casks, and if the casks contained Thames water it became unusable before a ship could reach the Cape of Good Hope. Most vessels called at Teneriffe in the Canary Islands to get good water for the rest of their voyage. No-one was ever sure how long a voyage would last, because ships depended on wind power. In selecting a route, prevailing winds were always taken into account; in the absence of wind ships were often becalmed, and no wind meant no progress.

Eventually the “Lady Juliana” left the Thames and sailed round to Plymouth, where one section of the Second Fleet assembled. This group of ships sailed from Plymouth on 29.7.1789. The “Lady Juliana” carried 226 female convicts, the youngest of whom was our Mary Wade, no yet eleven years old. From the source material available we can form a fairly detailed picture of life on board this voyage, and as convict transports went, the conditions aboard were good. The voyage was long and slow. Calls were made at Teneriffe for water, and at St. Jago in the Cape Verde Islands for water and pork. After 120 days the “Lady Juliana” arrived at Rio de Janerio, where it remained for 45 days. It took another 50 days to reach Table Bay (Capetown) on 1.3.1790 where a stay of 19 days was made, and then another 75 days elapsed before arriving at Port Jackson. During this voyage rations were issued in full, and lengthy stays in port ensured fresh food. The ship was kept clean, and the women had free access to the deck. These things combined to ensure that most of the women from Newgate and sundry country jails arrived as a fairly healthy group. Five deaths occurred during the voyage, but compared with the death rate in other vessels of the Second Fleet this was almost negligible. The “Surprise” had 36 deaths from 256 embarked, and landed 121 sick men. The “Neptune” had 147 deaths in 424 convicts, and the “Scarborough” had 73 deaths from 259 embarked.

The women convicts aboard the “Lady Juliana” were a mixed group. A few were elderly and infirm, some were educated, some were illiterate, and there was a child called Mary Wade. Discipline aboard was lax, and according to the Steward, Nicol, most, if not all men aboard selected a mistress from among the convicts for the duration of the voyage.

The long slow voyage was not without incident. At Capetown a fire was actually started on deck, but was extinguished in time to avoid tragedy, though panic did develop. On eventual arrival off the Heads of Port Jackson the weather was not good. It was wet and windy with a strong southerly blowing, and this almost blew the ship onto North Head. Only the tide saved her from disaster. The “Lady Juliana”, not really a sound ship, was unable to make her way up the harbour unaided, and was finally assisted up to Sydney Cove on 6.6.1790. The convicts were disembarked on 11.6.1790 as the ship had been declared unfit to take them on to Norfolk Island. However, convict carpenters made repairs to the ship, so that by the end of July the return voyage under charter to the East India Company began.

Before we follow Mary any further, let us take another look at the colony in New South Wales, when the “Lady Juliana” arrived in June, 1790. The First Fleet left Plymouth in May, 1787, and it was now three years since the colonists had left England. No supplies or communications had reached them. Phillip had expected store ships that had not arrived. Food was rapidly running out. Only eight weeks of rations at full strength remained. The ration issue had been cut and recut drastically, till now only one third of the ration was being issued to everyone from the Governor down. Everyone was starving. Men were so weak they could hardly work the shortened hours. The clothes that had come from England three years earlier were in rags, and even sentries at Government House were bare-footed, and over the whole colony gloom was settling. Isolation and loneliness and short rations were now coupled with the almost certain knowledge that the settlement was either forgotten or abandoned by Britain.

Weak and half starved as they were, it is easy to imagine the excitement when a ship was sighted bearing into the Harbour. Here, at last, was the long-awaited relief. News of home and something more to eat! What more would you want? News of home, letters and papers the ship did bring, but she was only a convict transport with only enough stores for her own people. But she also brought news of other vessels on their way.

Immediate relief was at hand and the ration was increased at once, but everyone was now aware that the survival of the colony was still completely dependent on the arrival of regular food supplies from outside. The small amount of stock that had come with the First Fleet had mostly been lost. The native vegetation did not offer naturally growing food plants. The two warships Sirius and Supply were used continually to help the food situation. The Sirius made voyages to Batavia for food supplies until it was wrecked at Norfolk Island 10.4.1790, and the Supply ferried people and stores from Sydney Cove to Norfolk Island.

Mary Wade arrived on 3.6.1790 (landed 6.6.1790) when things were desperate. The “Lady Juliana” was unfit to continue over to Norfolk Island, so shortly after disembarkation 150 of the younger and healthier women were put aboard the Surprise, and arrived off Norfolk Island 7.8.1790. The Surprise was one of the vessels of the Second Fleet, carrying only male convicts. The death rate during the voyage was very high, and the general conditions aboard were so bad the vessel became known as one of the Hell ships of the Second Fleet. I cannot imagine the trip across to Norfolk Island was pleasant, but the little girl, not yet thirteen years old, made the trip.

Landing people or goods on the island was hazardous. When the Surprise was disembarking her convicts, one boat-load of women and stores capsized in the heavy surf. Seven lives were lost, and the boat was smashed to pieces. Mary may have been in that boat. If she was she survived. If she wasn’t, she almost certainly witnessed the accident. So this was Mary’s introduction to Norfolk Island. No special provisions were made for female convicts. Most of them were assigned to non-convict men, ostensibly as house servants, but in most cases as mistresses would be a more accurate description.

Gardens for the growing of vegetables were established to help the serious food position that had developed. Women convicts hoed these gardens, and when a plague of caterpillars struck the women were engaged in picking them off the leaves.

As the food position in Sydney grew worse Phillip had sent more convicts to Norfolk Island, but after the loss of the Sirius no more supplies reached the island, and the food position grew worse.

Major Ross, who had relieved King as Commandant on 13.3.1790, realised how vulnerable the settlement was as regards food, and developed a plan which he hoped would get many convicts self-supporting and not depending on rations. Briefly his plan was as follows:-

1. Each male convict would be allowed one acre of uncultivated ground.

2. Every three convicts would get a sow.

3. Convicts with land would get two free days per week to work their land.

4. After three months their flour ration would be reduced to ¾ ration, and further reduced each three months till March, 1792, when it would cease.

5. The meat ration would cease twelve months after the sow farrowed.

Ross reasoned that if a man did not work on his own land he would not eat, as rations would eventually cease. Additional encouragement was held to allotment holders. Any spare pork would be purchased for sixpence a pound, and any poultry at one shilling a bird. From time to time the top producer was given an extra “holiday” or free day to work on his land. For the privilege of having their own allotment the convict was required to pay rent at the rate of one bushel of Indian Corn per year. Each male convict was encouraged to keep a female convict, and so keep her off rations as well. This female convict was excused public labour, and was free to work in the allotment garden. Pine trees were protected, and clearing by burning was not allowed. Small trees or shrubs cut down were to be cut up for firewood. Bringing their land into cultivation was to be done only after the convicts had fulfilled their labour obligations to the Government.

We must remember that Norfolk Island is just a small green dot in the ocean, a long way from Sydney, and in 1790 utterly dependent on ship-bourn stores from Sydney. Sydney was starving, H.M.S. Sirius had been wrecked, and the population of the island much increased. As food was short on the island, theft increased and Ross severely punished any misdemeanours. Although living conditions were better at Norfolk Island than in Sydney, both colonies faced a food crisis. Then out of the blue ‘the providential birds’ arrived on the island and were quickly added to the diet. These birds were known by a number of names, shearwaters, petrels and mutton birds. They are migratory birds breeding on the islands off N.S.W., Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania. In 1790 flocks of brown headed petrels arrived at Mount Pitt on Norfolk Island, their traditional breeding ground. The breeding season extends over three to four months, and the birds were quickly added to the food supply by half-starved humans. One official record says 4000 birds were taken in one night, and one estimate is that 200,000 birds were slaughtered for food in less than three months. Incidentally in the succeeding years fewer birds were taken annually, but these birds were exterminated on Norfolk Island within a decade. In recent years a small breeding colony of them has been found on Lord Howe Island.

This, then was the position on Norfolk Island when Mary Wade arrived there on 7.8.1790, not yet twelve years old. A supply line with Britain was again in place. Temporarily at least, things were better. Major Ross was still the Commandant.

The Norfolk Island records are not complete, and I have not located any listing to whom Mary was assigned.

We will now follow the fortunes of two men, Teague Harrigan and Jonathan Brooker, both of whom played an important part in Mary’s life.

Toward the end of 1790 the jails and hulks of Britain were again full, and the Third Fleet for Sydney Cove was organised in two divisions. The transports “Atlantic” of 442 tons, the “Salamander” of 320 tons and the “William And Ann” formed the Plymouth Division which sailed from Plymouth 27.3.1791. Jonathan Brooker was aboard the “Atlantic” and Teague Harrigan was on the “Salamander”. These ships called at Teneriffe and St Jago in the Cape Verde Islands and thence sailed direct to Sydney. The “Atlantic” arrived in the Harbour 20.8.1791 after a voyage of 146 days. The “Salamander” arrived the next day. Both Brooker and Harrigan had sentences of seven years, and both were sent to Norfolk Island. Harrigan arriving there on 4.9.1791 and Brooker a few weeks later on 11.11.1791.

Teague Haragan (Harrigan) came originally from Cork, Ireland, and apparently crossed over to England (as many Irish still do) looking for work. Maybe his search was unsuccessful for we find him appearing at the Bristol Quarter Sessions to answer a charge of stealing two coats, value twenty shillings, from the dwelling place of John Proctor Anderson, the previous June. Anderson’s charge and evidence of oath was recorded 18.7.1789 and at his trial on 5.10.1789 Harrigan was found guilty of stealing and convicted “to be transported to such place as His Majesty shall direct, for the space of seven years”. After conviction, Teague was eventually put aboard the ship “Salamander”, one of 160 male convicts bound for N.S.W. The ship also carried nine months provisions, and on arriving at Sydney Cove was ordered to Norfolk Island with her convicts and cargo. The cargo needed re-organising into casks or bales for landing on the island. Lack of suitable harbourage or wharfs meant all freight, human or otherwise, was transferred to small boats for a hazardous trip to shore through heavy surf. At this stage Major Ross was still in charge and ruling the island with severity. Mary Wade and Teague Harrigan are now on Norfolk Island. We shall leave them there now and return to Sydney, where Jonathan Brooker had arrived on the “Atlantic” 20.8.1791.

Jonathan Brooker came orignally from Kent, although his crimes were committed in London. I find the name Brooker (often spelt Broker in early records) quite interesting. The name is listed as a peculiarly local name in an area of Kent until the great social upheavals of the eighteenth century. The name itself means dwellers near a brook. In England, from very early times, many people were carers of the land as tenant farmers. The name Brooker occurs in the Hundreds Rolls in the thirteenth century. These tenant farmers swore allegiance direct to their sovereign, as well to their overlord, and came to be “yeomen of England”. The Hundred was a land division within a shire, and the rolls included the names of tenant farmers on parts of large estates.

Jonathan may well have been a victim of the Enclosure Acts, since he went to London in search of work. He was at least twice in trouble with the law. The Process Book of Surrey Quarter Sessions says that on 20.2.1788 he was accused of an assault on Isaac Solomon. He pleaded not guilty, and after trial was acquitted with no prosecution. At this stage he was living at St George (Southwark), and was called a labourer. Some year and a half later, on 5.10.1790, he was charged with the theft of 200 pounds of glue, valued at eight pounds. He was tried, found guilty of felony, and ordered to be transported for seven years. At this time he was described as a chair maker of the Parish of St Mary Magdalene, Bermondsey. As the “Atlantic” loaded convicts at Woolwich, I expect Jonathan spent the time from his conviction in October, 1790, till March, 1791, on a hulk on the Thames, working as a day labourer (in chains usually) along the river bank. I have not found documentary evidence of his birth date, but calculations made from the dates shown in official documents indicate he was over thirty when he arrived in N.S.W. He was disembarked in Sydney, where he remained for a short time, and eventually went aboard the ship “Queen” for transfer to Norfolk Island arriving there 11.11.1891..

To digress for a moment, I find it interesting that two men received sentences of seven years for theft, one to the value of twenty shillings, and the other to the value of eight pounds, while a ten-year old girl received originally a death sentence for theft to the value of three shillings and eleven pence.

On 3.11.1791 Philip Gidley King returned to Norfolk Island as Governor, immediately replacing Ross. Major Ross was a quarrelsome man. He quarrelled with his staff, and his scale of punishments for convicts was very severe. King was much more humane man and was very welcome. He found the whole population, free or convicted, were restless, and his first task was to settle them down again. He quickly abandoned the Allotment plan, devised by Ross, to get convicts off rations in a relatively short time.

Jonathan Brooker arrived on the Island a week after King’s return as governor. We now have our three principals, Mary Wade, Teague Harrigan and Jonathan Brooker, all on Norfolk Island, often referred to as a tropical paradise. King had replaced Ross and life was easier for all. King’s scale of punishments for misdemeanours was less severe than that of Ross, or of Phillip at Sydney Cove.

Norfolk Island records are far from complete. Many were lost in a fire which destroyed the Crystal Palace in 1936, and many more may have just been lost, so our story over the next few years is brief, but some recorded events of importance did occur. A record exists which gives the birth of Sarah Wade, a “convict child” on 27.9.1793. There is no mention of the father’s name. At this stage Mary was not yet sixteen. A second “Wade convict child” appears in 1795, also without a recorded father. There is some evidence to suggest that Jonathan Brooker was the father of both these children, but I do not find it conclusive. Later in the story we will find that Jonathan was either father or step-father of all of Mary’s children. The death certificate of the first child, Sarah Wade, gives Jonathan as the father, but I do not find the evidence of death certificates always accurate. The person concerned never supplied the details, and quite often it is not a member of the immediate family who does, and with out corroborative documentation I do not always accept it. We need also to remember that as time passed most convicts and ex-convicts strove to achieve respectability, and I can well imagine Mary herself making this claim. The second child, William, always appears as William Brooker in later musters, but so does Edward Harrigan appear as Edward Brooker even as late as the 1828 Census. At a later stage, after Jonathan’s death, William inherited Jonathan’s land on the Illawarra. I found Mary’s declaration at the time interesting. She stated that Jonathan  was her husband, and that William was her eldest son. She did not say he was Jonathan’s son. William claimed Jonathan as his father. Some time before his twelfth birthday, William became part of Jonathan’s household. Were the terms father and step-father synonymous for him? Another suggestion has been that the appearance of very tall men in succeeding generations points to Jonathan, but this is easily discounted. Harrigan was a very big man, as may have been others on Norfolk Island. We simply do not know for certain.

Both Brooker and Harrigan had sentences of seven years, and if the whole sentence was served they would have been free by servitude in 1797. Both men were on rations till the end of 1795, but not afterwards. They must, therefore, have been self-supporting, or working for someone who fed them. While still on Norfolk Island Harrigan received his Certificate of Emancipation from Governor King. He lost this document somewhere along the line, and we  find him receiving a replacement certificate from Governor Macquarie 12.9.1812.

Kins letters at the Mitchell Library contain a reference to Jonathan Brooker in 1798 he received £4-15-6 from the Government in payment for pork purchased from him, and on the entry Brooker is marked “freed by servitude”.

I do not know exactly when any of our three principals returned to the mainland. Official papers make statements that so many persons were returned to the mainland, but no lists of names are appended. We do not know, however, they were all back by 1800. The 1800 census shows Mary Wade living with Teague Harrigan in Sydney, and Jonathan Brooker working for Doctor Balmain at Parramatta. A baptismal record at St. Phillips, Sydney, shows Edward Harrigan son of Teague Harrigan and Mary Wade, born 1803 and baptised 1804. A story comes down the Harrigan family that this child was born in a tent on the Tank Stream.

Just when Mary joined Jonathan I’m not sure, but we do know they were on the Hawkesbury for a time before going to the Airds district. I have not been able to trace the exact whereabouts on the Hawkesbury. As far as I can ascertain Jonathan had no land in the area. Balmain did have land there, so he may still have been in his employ. Also Jonathan’s skill as a carpenter may have provided work in a developing area. William Ray, who became Jonathan’s son-in-law (step) had land rented at Mulgrave Place in 1808. As children we heard a lot of talk among our elders of Pitt Town, Wilberforce and Windsor, so I expect the Brookers were thereabouts. In fact, the Mutch Index places them in the Windsor district as late as 12.6.1811 when Jonathan received a land order for 60 acres in the newly opened district of Airds. This is an interesting statement, because on 28.11.1809 Surveyor Meeham surveyed land for Jonathan Brooker, William Ray and John Mitton, in a new area, 35 miles south-west of Sydney, an area later named Airds by Governor Macquarie. I think this might be a case where the official paper work was well behind the action.

The Hawkesbury had fertile flats but was prone to big floods. In my family group (through Mary and Jonathan’s son John) the legend persists that John’s mother (Mary) was taken across the river for his birth, 24.6.1809 before a big flood. The Hawkesbury floods are well documented and on 1.8.1809 the river had risen to 48 feet, and eight lives were lost. In consequence of this, Windsor and other areas were laid out on higher ground in 1810. John’s death certificate gives his birth place as Windsor.

The early Hawkesbury settlers met considerable difficulties before mastering their land (to some extant). Preparing their land for planting with primitive tools was exhausting. Crops could be lost entirely with one flood, and any stock they had was at risk at flood time. Along the river banks today you can still see some of the old two-storey barns where people and stock found shelter on the top floor during floods. Maybe a carpenter called Jonathan Brooker helped to build some of them.

It is not surprising that many of the early Hawkesbury settlers sought land elsewhere, as this primitive flood-prone area had many disadvantages. Jonathan Brooker was interested in the Liverpool district, which included the present Campbelltown and Appin areas. The land he was granted at Airds was surveyed in 1809, but when the family moved there I do not know for certain. Neither do I know just when Mary Wade joined Jonathan Brooker, but it was before 1809 as their son John was born 24.6.1809 at Windsor, John was followed by two sisters, Elizabeth born 7.12.1810, Mary born 28.11.1812, and a brother James born 30.5.1814. Before the family could take up residence at Airds there was much to do. The land needed clearing and some sort of shelter was required. The area was originally timbered, and uncleared parts provided shelter for aborigines who were not always friendly. Escaped convicts were another problem, as they would plunder and steal.

At the beginning of 1810 Lachlan Macquarie arrived to take over administration of the colony as Governor. He followed Bligh, a naval man, during whose term very considerable difficulties had arisen between the Governor and a militant military faction. Macquarie was the first military man to become Governor, and was accompanied by his own regiment. He was a very able administrator, a man of personal prestige, and one who did not engage in corrupt practices. He was very anxious to rehabilitate those convicts who had served out their terms, and been pardoned, and his policy aimed at achieving this. The policy was not acceptable to everyone in the colony, and so two sharp social divisions developed among the settlers. The names “exclusives” and “emancipists” explain themselves.

Earlier in 1804, Governor King (formerly of Norfolk Island) set out the terms governing the assignment of convicts to settlers. The settler had to sign for his assigned convict, and had to feed, clothe and house him for twelve months. The hours of work for each convict were set down at ten hours on weekdays, and six hours on Saturday. Convicts could work for payment in their spare time but the settler had first call on any extra time worked by his assigned servant.

Regaining liberty for a convict was achieved in one of four ways.

Firstly a ticket-of-exemption allowed a convict to live with a particular person while of good behaviour. Such a convict was excused from Government service. Secondly, a ticket-of-leave exempted from both government and assignment service to work for himself. The government no longer fed, clothed or housed such a person. This was only given to industrious and honest convicts after satisfactorily serving three years of their sentence. Thirdly, conditional and absolute pardons were sometimes given for exceptional service. Fourthly, by expiration of the original sentence, freedom was gained.

Jonathan Brooker had really gained his freedom by 1797 on Norfolk Island, where we find “free by servitude” against his name, but it was not til February, 1811, he received his Certificate of Emancipation, and although Lot 129 at Airds was surveyed in 1809 he did not receive official ownership till 1816, after he had already worked the land for several years. Mary Wade received her Certificate in September, 1812. Just when Jonathan and family were established in Airds I’m not sure, but Jonathan Brooker of Airds subscribed to a fund for building a Court House in Sydney, on the Liverpool subscription list 1.7.1813. While on the Hawkesbury or during the early years at Airds four children were born. Some evidence suggest the first three were born on the Hawkesbury, and the last one at Airds. These four children, John, Elizabeth, Mary and James all have baptismal records at Saint Luke’s Anglican Church, Liverpool, dated 13.4.1819, and the parents are given as Jonathan and Mary Brooker. The baptisms were performed by Rev. John Youl. I find the date interesting. Macquarie founded Liverpool in 1810. Six years later, in 1816, tenders were called for the building of a church designed by Greenway. Various difficulties were encounted during the building, and the church was not finished and opened till 3.12.1819 almost eight months after the recorded baptisms. Clergy in the colony were few, and Rev. Youl moved round the parish visiting settlers. It is possible the Brooker family were visited by Youl, the children were baptised, and the church entry made when Youl was next in Liverpool.

No record of marriage between Mary and Jonathan has been found, but in an early community where conditions were hard, and clergy few, a long-standing stable relationship was accepted as such. Jonathan was over thirty when he arrived in the colony, and may well have left a legal wife in England. By the time Jonathan and Mary were on the Hawkesbury, Mary and her first three children had been accepted as Jonathan’s household. One child at least was not Jonathan’s, but Teague Harrigan’s. This child was called Brooker until he applied for land on the Illawarra in his correct name.

With the receipt of their Certificates of Emancipation in 1811 and 1812, Jonathan and Mary were officially free people. By the time they were settled in Airds not only were they free, but their sizeable family spoke of stability in their relationship. Jonathan was either father or step-father of all the children, and Mary was their mother, and so it was with Jonathan who brought stability to Mary Wade’s life.

Life was very hard for the early settlers at Airds who did not have money and influence on their side. Bush fires, droughts and failed crops were especially hard on them. These early emancipist settlers were allowed thirty acres each, with more added if the settler was supporting women and children. Under the conditions of these free land grants the land could not be sold or alienated for at least five years, and a minimum of fifteen acres of the grant should be under cultivation within five years. The Government reserved the right to run a road through the land at a latter date, if such a road became necessary, and any timber the navy needed was reserved.

The virgin land was covered with thick bush, and here and there were heavily timbered country. The initial clearing of the grant was done by a convict clearing party, but the settler and his one assigned convict did the rest. The first area completely cleared became the site of the first shelter, usually a simple rough slab hut and round this dwelling a vegetable garden and later an orchard developed. The success of this garden was important as food supply. When animals were acquired, pens and fences were needed. Roughly split wooden rails slipping into openings in wooden fence post were the usual fences. Jonathan Brooker was a carpenter would probably have found cutting the openings in the posts easier than did many others. When a cow was added to the farm we find pigs soon followed. In the Australian summer heat perishable goods like milk, cream and butter quickly deteriorated. Sour milk fed pigs and eventually pork reached the table. If an animal was slaughtered for food, a little was eaten fresh, but the bulk was salted, pickled or smoked.

Drought came and the need to provide water for man, beast and garden was a new difficulty for the settlers. By 1815, a severe drought year, the need for well watered pastures was urgent. Dr. Charles Throsby with a small party of men left Glenfield, in the Liverpool district, and hacked a track to the escarpment of the Illawarra Range, and then cut a track to the coastal land at the foot of the range. Good pasture and water were found. They also found areas of dense rain forest containing cedar, and the cedar getters soon followed.

The Airds settlers were kept busy with their crops and their animals. The women looked after the food supply. The garden and orchard were theirs. They hoed and planted and watered. They cared for whatever clothes they had. Theirs too was the business of milking and making butter and cheese. Men and women had little time to spare. They worked from dawn to dusk in order to survive. They had no laid on water, no gas or electricity, and none of the appliances we consider essential today. If they had any light after dark it was either fire light or candles the women of the house had usually made them.

I have so far only generally written about the emancipist settlers at Airds. Individually they often had greater difficulties. Jonathan Brooker was over fifty and supporting Mary and six children when they were at Airds. Mary’s first child, Sarah, had married William Rae in 1808. She was fifteen at the time. In 1817 Jonathan’s original grant, Portion 129, was passed over to Warby and Jonathan rented a few acres nearby. Twice in the next few years we find Jonathan appealing to the Governor for help. These petitions or memorials were signed by Jonathan, indicating some formal education. Most convicts and emancipist signed with a cross. The first petition was to Governor Macquarie, in which he stated he was renting twelve acres and requested another grant. In the records of the Liverpool Muster of 1822 Jonathan is shown as a land holder with nineteen acres cleared, ten acres of wheat, and half an acre of garden and orchard, five hogs and twelve bushels of maize in hand, together with four bushels of wheat. The following year on 12.11.1823 a serious bush fire caused great damage. The dwelling, crops, garden and all tools were lost. Jonathan was a carpenter by trade, and the loss of his tools was serious. The family was destitute and memorial of 20.12.1823 tells the story:

20th December, 1823

His Excellency Sir Thomas Brisbane K.C.B.,

Major General, Governor in Chief of New South Wales.

The memorial of Jonathan Brooker, free by servitude who arrived in this colony per ship Atlantic in the year 1791 most respectfully setteth forth:

That your memorialist (a joiner by trade) has a wife and seven children, five of whom are now residing with the memorialist and one only capable of labour and that he resides on a 20 acre farm in the district of Airds.

That on the 12th November, his working tools, 18 acres of wheat and his home were destroyed by fire which has communicated the memorialist’s premises from the flames of the surrounding bush in absence of himself and family, by which accident memorialist and family are actually destitute of a habitation and deprived of every means of support.

That the memorialist is 60 years of age and most humbly implores the charitable aid of Your Excellency in his afflicting case.

And your Excellency memorialist as in duty and gratitation bound will ever pray.

Signed by Jonathan Brooker

A further note was appended by Rev. Thomas Reddell which reads;

I do certify to the correctness of Petitioner’s Statement, and he having arrived at that period of life when physical powers of man are rapidly on the decline I must respectfully and indeed earnestly recommend him to Your Excellency consideration.

Thomas Reddell K.P.

Meanwhile the Illawarra forest with their cedar trees were being plundered by cedar getters. Being a carpenter, cedar would have had a special appeal for Jonathan. If cedar was taken from Government land a tax was charged, but from privately owned land there was no tax. It was not long before Jonathan Brooker had a grant of land in the Corrimal area of the Illawarra, as also did his sons and sons-in-law. In the 1825 Muster Jonathan was still a landholder at Airds, and living with him were Mary, his wife, and their four children, John, Mary and James and Edward Harrigan, aged 25 and recorded as Edward Brooker.

Jonathan died on 14th March, 1833, and was buried in the grave yard behind St. Peter’s Church, Campbelltown, I found this burial at Campbelltown, although appropriate for a pioneer of the district, hard to understand, considering the difficulty that would be encounted transporting a body so far, until I read a report by Surveyor Jacques to the Surveyor General, written in December, 1831. He commented on the need for consecrated ground in the Illawarra, as the expenses involved in taking the dead to Campbelltown, the nearest consecrated place of burial, was beyond the means of most settlers. The distance was over thirty miles, and the journey involved the climbing of a mountain. As the register at St. Peter’s gives the date of death as 14.3.1833, and the burial date is 16.3.1833, it may be that Jonathan was in the area of Campbelltown when he died. As a carpenter he may have worked in the area from time to time. The 1828 Census gives his age as 68, so in 1833 he would have been 73 years old, quite a good age for a man of that era, and one who had suffered much hardship in his life, but one who had established a family in a new land against such odds.

Mary Wade, now always known as Mary Brooker, continued to live on the Illawarra for a further quarter of a century, till het death 17.12.1859. Mary’s son Edward Harrigan had received a grant on the Illawarra at Fairy Meadow, and in 1857 he was instrumental in getting a church there. He made land available for the building, and later guaranteed the debt incurred in its construction. Parish records show that the first funeral service held in St. Paul’s Church of England at Fairy Meadow was Edward Harrigan’s mother, Mary Ann Brooker. Mary was buried in the old C. of E. cemetery at Wollongong. As Wollongong grew, this old cemetery became an eyesore. A special Parliamentary Act, 1940 (assented November 7th) cited Wollongong City Council as Trustees, and authorised the council to do such things as were necessary to convert the Cemetery to a Rest Park. Careful records were made of names and relevant information. Tombstones were then laid flat on their respective graves, and covered with several inches of soil. Lawn was laid over the area and some roses were planted. Surrounded by a low stone wall, the area has an Entrance Porch with a plaque reading:

City of Wollongong

Erected to the Memory of Pioneers of this District

Who Here Lie at Rest.

You cannot see Mary’s tombstone or her grave, but you can visit the Pioneer’s Rest Park and pay your tribute to a great survivor.

After her death, 17.12.1859, the Illawarra Mercury, in an obituary, saluted her as the founding mother of the largest family in Australia. At the time of her death she had over 300 living descendants. Today she has thousands.

Her death certificate is useless as a document for family history purposes. She was in the eighties when she died, with seven of her children still living. She was reputed to have had twenty-one children according to the certificate. The information regarding her death was supplied by the Coroner, and is scant. The certificate also states that she was married twice on Norfolk Island, first to Harrigan and then to Brooker. This is extremely unlikely to be true, and if it is true, both men were still alive in 1819, and no mention of divorce is made. No record of a marriage to either of these men has been located.

Mary lived in difficult times, but such was her character, she survived the horror of a death sentence, separation from her family at the age of eleven, transportation across the seas for life, a baby on Norfolk Island before she was sixteen, life in a tent back in Sydney, the horrors of major floods on the Hawkesbury, and pioneering hardships at Airds until finally coming to rest on the Illawarra.

I think all her descendants can be proud of her. How many of us, in our so called developed society, would survive her troubles and live on into our eighties?