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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Mrs. R. bids farewell to New South Wales

There is a mystery lurking in this entry from Eleanor Reid's sea-letter. When Philip Gidley King arrived with his commission to take over as Governor of New South Wales, his predecessor, John Hunter, was supposed to take the first available ship, and report to the government in London.

The Friendship, according to King's angry dispatch to London, was available. However, Hunter flatly refused to sail with Captain Reid, declining to hand over the reins of government until the new colonial ship Buffalo was ready to take him back to England -- which did not happen until September 1800. Naturally, this was very frustrating for King, which is the reason Mrs. Reid makes veiled comments about people falling out with each other in the settlement -- and also why there were two different farewell parties.

So, which governor was it that the Friendship fired nine guns to welcome on board?  Was it the rightful man, Philip Gidley King?  If so, perhaps that is why ex-Governor Hunter refused to sail with the Reids...  Eleanor, who was certainly not a gossip, neglects to tell us the details.  Instead, we learn that deportation to the penal settlement didn't mean that the cheats and thieves stopped cheating, as Captain Reid found out to his cost.

At the end of April [1800] a ship arrived from England, having on board Captain K[ing]., late governor of Norfolk Island, and his lady. Upon the resignation of the present governor, Capt. K. had been appointed his successor. We frequently met them at different parties. Mrs. K. appeared an amiable accomplished woman. Captain Kent also arrived in his Majesty’s ship Buffalo, from the Cape of Good Hope; which additions to our confined circle of society made it more agreeable.

On the eve of our departure, my husband sent cards of invitation to the officers, civil and military, to partake of a farewell dinner on board the Friendship. Some individuals, either from party spirit or to avoid its collisions, politely declined the invitation; however, about thirty-eight ladies and gentlemen sat down to dinner. The Governor was saluted with nine guns when he came on board. A meeting of cordial friends brought with them the principles of harmony; and at the end of a pleasant evening, we parted with regret. Capt. K[ent]. afterwards gave a dinner to a smaller party, who could not conveniently join us on the former occasion.

During our stay, I was not idle in making a little collection of birds, quadrupeds, and other animals, and of the weapons and implements of the natives. The king bird and queen bird are of the parrot species, with a plumage of the most beautiful scarlet and green. The rose-bill parrots have their feathers still more variegated, combining a delicate yellow, purple, red, and green. Of the number collected, some were presents from friends, and some we purchased. I had also a young docile kangaroo, received in barter for a bottle of spirits, which was preferred to one pound in money.  It was rather larger than a hare, and grew fond of us; now sitting at our feet, and now with its nimble and active pranks, amused us by playing about the cabin; it ate fruit, vegetables, and bread from the hand, and answered to its name.

Early in May we prepared to leave this settlement, where we had been nearly three months; during which I have to acknowledge a constant display of friendship and kind attention. Although I never slept a single night out of the ship, still my intercourse with the ladies of the colony was as frequent as if I had resided on shore.

On the 4th of May the ship hauled out of Sydney Cove, and dropped down the harbour to a place called Bridley’s Point, in readiness to proceed on our voyage to India. The captain was apprehensive that some of the convicts might be admitted clandestinely on board, and gave strict orders not to take any person from the settlement, as much trouble had been experienced on former voyages, by carrying on to Bengal some men who had been emancipated, the captain of the Cornwallis being obliged to give his bond to the government that they should not be left in Calcutta.

It was remarked, that no commander ever came here without being injured in some way or other; and so it proved with us. My husband had taken bills to the amount of two thousand pounds, from a person bearing the name of George Crosley, who by false vouchers made it appear that he was possessed of considerable property in England.  This was a fiction; the bills were dishonoured, and none of the property ever recovered. Our chief mate, Mr. Muirhead, lost about £400 by the same individual.

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