Friday, August 1, 2014

Could the Worgan diary have survived?

In this post I reflect on the various written records George Worgan may have produced.

George Worgan's letter with appended copies of journal entries was written to his brother Richard, and is owned by the State Library of NSW. As discussed in previous posts, the indication is that Worgan copied these entries from a journal he was keeping. Therefore, aside from this letter, a journal (or journals) maintained by Worgan may have returned with him to England and more specifically Liskeard in Cornwall.

What other evidence exists for Worgan's journal? On the 11th of July, Worgan wrote to his brother:

I am keeping by me an Account of the Voyage &c. &c. in a Series of Letters which You shall have the Reading of when I return Home, They are something fuller & more accurate than this.

Certainly more than one letter was written by Worgan. In his letter to Richard he mentions letters. On March 25th, 1788 he states "I shall put Letters on Board the Three Ships, for You, Denton, and all my Friends...". On May 12th he states "The Charlotte and Scarborough Transports, sailed, to Day for China, and as it is a matter of Doubt, whether those Ships will not arrive in England, before any of the Transports, Can, that sail direct for England, as soon as they can be cleared of their Stores. I have put 2 or 3 Letters on Board them for You & all my Friends, indeed, it is natural for Us, in such a distant part of the World, to snatch greedily at every Opportunity to convey our Hopes & Wishes to our Friends." Shortly afterwards on May 19th he writes "They have begun to unlade the Transports, and land the Stores, and it has this Day been publickly announced that some of the Transports will sail for England in 6 Weeks, so a scribbling we will go. I shall put a Letter on Board each Ship for You. Pray don't neglect to forward those that I intend to Inclose in yours". On the 2nd July again "It has this Evening been announced that two of the Transports will sail for England on the 10th. Instant, & two more on the 12th.- I shall put Letters on Board of  each, for You, & many of my Friends, so that you will receive One among them all.... I have written a very long letter, similar to this to my Friend Mr
 Mein of Fowey, & I am thinking to put His & Yours on Board different Ships, so that if his, or Yours 
should Miscarry, You or Him can communicate some Accounts of your Infant Colony. "

Worgan signs off his letter "The Ships sail to Morrow Morning therefore, as I find I have no less than 31 Letters (& 5 of them almost as long as y') to Close, Seal, Enclose & direct, I must Conclude.


The published transcript of Worgan's letter (1978) has an unattributed introduction, which stated that "There are references to a longer manuscript by him, one, by John Lhotsky being to a manuscript in two volumes 'communicated to me by a son of the author, Mr John P Worgan'. The whereabouts of these manuscripts is not known at present."

The citation is to John Lhotsky's book, A journey from Sydney to the Australian Alps, 1835, pp12-13.

While I do not have access to Lhotsky's book here in the US, Google Books has a segment accessible, but I need the entire book. It states that Worgan's son now living in Australia informed Lhotsky of its existence:
'...Colonisation of New South Wales - also, of that part of the Country colonised, its inhabitants &c. &c., in a series of letters to a friend, by G.B. Worgan, Esq., surgeon in His Majesty's Ship SIRIUS." This manuscript communicated to me by the son of the author, (Mr. John P. Worgan) will, when published, afford much information, and complete the - as it were, primordial narratives of Captain Phillips, Hunter, Collins, &c.

Two important points should be made.
1. While John Parsons Worgan lived in Australia, Lhotsky does not explicitly state the manuscript is also in Australia. His father George was still alive and living in England, and it is possible that John was communicating that the manuscript existed, not necessarily that it was in his possession. The entire book section may reveal more.
2. It is made clear that the manuscript is comprised of 'letters to a friend' - not a journal.

There is a second reference to Worgan's diaries. In 1856, John Allen published his 'History of the Borough of Liskeard and its Vicinity'. There are several references to George Worgan, one of which is a short biography included in Chapter XVII ('Notices of Principal Individuals and Families'). While no sources are stated, the book was published 18 years after George Worgan's death, suggesting that the details were provided by those who knew him. In the biography it states in part (p525-526):

'In 1778 (sic), while young, he went out at surgeon in the first expedition with convicts under Commodore Phillips, to Botany Bay, then but little known. He wrote an interesting account of the voyage and colony : it was however never published, and has been mislaid. 

This statement, written in Liskeard in 1856, states the manuscript has been mislaid, and therefore that it has been search for. This is in contrast to the certainty of the information provided by John Parsons Worgan twenty years earlier in Sydney, that the manuscript was intended to be published.


Why would the manuscript not be composed of Worgan's original journal?

George Worgan was a member of the ship Sirius. On 19 March 1790, the Sirius was wrecked on a reef at Norfolk Island while landing stores. The crew was stranded on Norfolk Island until 21 February 1791, when they were taken back to England. The sailor Jacob Nagle was also on the Sirius that day, and his handwritten account has survived (two copies have survived) and been published by John Dann.

Nagle clearly describes the wreck, and the following points regarding the possessions of those on board is of relevance:
- "Having a pleasant breeze, we arrived at Norfolk Island about the 18 of March 1790 [sic. March 13]. Lay too and out boats and sent the Leut[enant] Govener and his troop, all the men and womin convicts on shore, the baggage remaining on board".
- "We began to secure our clothing in our chests and lash them well with cords and hove them overboard, thinking the surf would take them on shore, but being a strong currant setting to the westward, they either drove to see or into the whirlpool, so we lost all, only what we stood in".
Nagle then describes the effort to rescue provisions, mainly barrels, over the course of two weeks while the ship sat on the coral, but makes no mention of any luggage being recovered.

If Worgan's diary was lost (Nagle's was probably lost at the same time), the letters referred to by Worgan, some very long, may have been gathered together by Richard, or George on his return. These could be used to reconstitute his journal using the copies he forwarded to friends back home.


This would account for John P Worgan's description to Lhotsky of the manuscript that existed.


Whether the letter to Richard Worgan was part of that collection known to exist in 1835 is of course another point of conjecture. Perhaps the manuscript was broken up into its original letters, or perhaps this letter (addressed to Richard the brother, not a friend) is separate to this collation. Understanding George's family will help me understand possible fates of the manuscript.

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