Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Review - The Life and Adventures of John Nicol, Mariner

I read The Life and Adventures of John Nicol, Mariner, in the mistaken belief that it related to the First Fleet. I was delighted to learn it was in fact the memoir of a sailor in the Second Fleet. Nicol, a Scot, was a career sailor - his occupation was that of cooper. He delivered his memoirs verbally to John Howell (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Howell_(polyartist)) as an old and impoverished man. Howell acted as 'editor' and signed the income from sales to John Nicol.

Nicol's autobiography was published in 1822, around the time the (American) First Fleet sailor Jacob Nagle was writing up his memoirs (though his didn't surface in print for another 150 years), and there are remarkable parallels in the stories they highlight of their years at sea. Both were involved in naval engagements, both appear (admittedly by their own account) very competent. Nicol though admits to more weaknesses, straying from his religion at sea. Nicol even admits to his relationship with a female convict during the journey to New South Wales on the Lady Julian.

Nagle's New South Wales experience is told in more detail than Nicol. As sailors, both largely confined themselves to their boats in Port Jackson, but Nicol did not have the opportunities (and perhaps curiosity?) to explore the surroundings. Instead, Nicol falls in love - a love that is clearly life-defining for John. On the journey he fell in love with Sarah Whitlam, a convict from Lincolnshire. They had a child, a son that stayed with Sarah when John sailed out of Port Jackson after six weeks. John and Sarah promised to be faithful to one another, and that he would return.

John was true to his word, and spent the next several years trying to devise a scheme to join a ship sailing for a port, through which he could connect with a ship back to New South Wales. Destiny was not on his side, and the timing was never right. John returns to Sarah again and again in his subsequent narrative. A year or so after leaving Sydney, he intersected with another ship that had left Sydney and had an escaped convict aboard. This convict (not named) eventually spoke with John and told him Sarah had sailed for Bombay. 

John was devastated and states that he then set his sights on a ship for Bombay to find her.  The records do not bear this out, and in fact while John pined, Sarah had married another man the DAY AFTER he left Sydney. Michael Flynn's excellent 'The Second Fleet' biography of Sarah Whitlam states that she then spent time on Norfolk Island, and after gaining her freedom did sail for England via India. Nothing more is known of Sarah or their son John. Amazingly, John Nicol visited Sarah's home town when in England again, and her parents indicated they had not heard any more of her. It must have been remarkable to have a sailor arrive on their village doorstep with tales of their convict daughter from the other side of the globe, and the grandchild born out of wedlock that they did not know existed.

That romantic thread, that John relayed through his autobiography, is truly touching. The voyage to New South Wales does not receive remarkably more attention than other aspects of his sailing life. But the love he found reverberates through the decisions he made for many subsequent years. John eventually settled back in Edinburgh when he felt too old to continue his trade at sea, and married a cousin, Margaret. I did find an index entry for this marriage:


Much like Nagle, Nicol struggled to London to try and achieve a pension for himself based on his military service, but to no avail.

John did not have children in his marriage, and Margaret was dead by the time he published his autobiography. John Nicol died in 1824, apparently found dead in his bed.

Apart from the 1824 edition (available in digital form on-line), the story was republished in 1936 (the version I read), and was again reprinted with a new introduction in 1999. The latter is very affordable.


Thursday, April 30, 2015

searching for Robert 'Bertie' BEATTIE of Scotland

Occasionally this blog has the opportunity to help people solve a genealogy mystery. This is the case again with an old friend Olivia trying to solve a Scottish mystery. A 20th century mystery at that, making it all the more difficult. Olivia has provided some text outlining the challenge, which I have edited.

As with similar posts, my hope is that someone Googling names mentioned here will find this article, and make contact.  Contact details are at the end of this post:

Since 2006, I have been looking for information about my Scottish grandmother's father, Robert 'Bertie' BEATTIE, and I am hoping that people may have known him or his family may have information. The place and town of primary interest are:
1. Newfield, Chapeltown, Ballindalloch
2. Glasgow

According to the birth record, he was born Robert Daniel CAMERON ('illegitimate') on June 20 1910, the son of Jane Ann CAMERON, at Newfield, Glenlivet, Banff. His father is not listed as he was born out of wedlock. In the 1911 census, 'Robert Daniel' was living with his grandmother Helen BEATTIE and aunts/uncles who were not much older than himself at a home named Newfield, Inverarton. When Robert later married (in 1932), his name was entered as Robert BEATTIE and he gave his maternal grandparents Helen (nee CAMERON; Jane Ann Cameron's mother) and James BEATTIE from Newfield, Chapeltown as his parents. This suggests that he may have been raised by his grandparents.

Robert BEATTIE moved to Glasgow at some point, where he met my great-grandmother, Jessie NICOL. He was working at Southern General Hospital as a Mental Hospital Attendant and was living there at the time of their marriage in April 1932.



They subsequently had two children. The first (my grandmother) was born on 5 May 1932. She was named Helen (I later learned she was named after he grandmother). Her younger sister was born in 1933. A few days later following the birth of their second child in 1933, Jessie BEATTIE nee NICOL died aged only 22. In her death certificate, her husband Robert BEATTIE was listed as an asylum attendant, and while Jessie died in the County Hospital at Motherwell, the family residence was listed as Govan Road, Glasgow (where the hospital complex still stands).

The family narrative from this point is unclear, but the following is known:

The two daughters were raised by their maternal uncle, Angus NICOL (Jessie’s brother). The girls were told that her father intended to separate the girls, but the family refused to let him separate the girls. For reasons unknown, Robert BEATTIE left his job by 14 Nov 1933 and returned to Newfield, Chapeltown (a distance of ~150 miles from Glasgow). Two short letters remain in the family from Robert BEATTIE (known as Bert and Bertie) sent to Angus a few months after Jessie's death, where he indicates he is signing over the girls to him. Forms are referred to, but we do not know what these are. He said he would come for Helen when she was 13 but was never heard from again. It can be concluded that Robert knew where his daughters were, but they are not aware of ever having met him again.

Later, the daughters were moved to Australia and the possibility of finding Bertie BEATTIE was removed.

A great deal of research into the fate of Robert BEATTIE has only lead to dead ends. The only clue from a distant relative in Canada is that a 'Bertie' was a policeman in Glasgow. Given how young he was (about 23) when his wife died and his children were adopted by family, it is entirely possible Robert re-married and had children, and there may be descendants out there to connect with their unknown Australian cousins.

The family would like to learn more information about Robert (his daughter his still alive) and she would also treasure any stories about the BEATTIE and CAMERON families she is descended from as the official records only provide limited insight into who they were.

If you have any information, or any photos of Newfield House or headstones in the chapel’s graveyard please email oliviajmason at gmail dot com, or comment to the host of this blog (Matt - cispt2 at gmail dot com).

Saturday, March 28, 2015

1802 Map of Sydney - translated

In my last post I included a reference to this map of 1802, which was actually published in German.


I sourced the image here: http://mapco.net/sydney1802/sydney.htm and that page also includes translations to the KEY shown at the bottom of the map. I was not smart enough to notice this, so I asked my good German friend Daniel Pursche to translate - and here are his translations to the map. Very useful guide for circa 1802 reading (such as when the Sydney Gazette started in 1803).

1. River
2. Battery / Depot with signal flag
3./4. Hospital buildings
5. Mr Campbell's storage depot
6. Ship's carpenter's place
7. Chalupe (boat) of Mr Bass
8. Hospital street
9. Prison
10. Brandy and salted meet storage depot (my favourite :-) )
11. Weapon's place ( I assume a central storage for all kinds of weapons...???)
12/13. General Governor's House and Garden
14. Public Education building (I assume: a school...)
15. Crop storage depot
16./17. Barracks and yard
18. Officers' buildings/housing
19. Gun powder depot
20. Church
21. Windmill
22. Bridge
23. Battery
24. Saline
25. Governor's street
26. General furniture and tool depot
27. Clothing and rope depot
28. Public work house (whatever that may have been....???)
29. Governor's House and Garden
30. Governor's millhouse and bakery
31. Governor's print and newspaper shop
32. / 33. / 34. Housing, brick manufacture, and shipyard of Mr Palmer (that guy must have been Sydney's entrepreneur of the year 1808...)
35. The old / former gallows
36. The new gallows
37. Graveyard
38. Village 'Brick-Field', where many brick shops, potter's workshops and Faience shops are located (Faience: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faience)


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The first bridge in Sydney

I was recently reading through the Sydney Gazette when I read a brief article published on 5 Jun 1803 stating that a new stone bridge was being built at the head of Sydney Cove. In other words, over the Tank Stream that fed into Sydney Harbour:


This map (with a German legend) from 1802 shows the layout of Sydney.


When we magnify in on Sydney Cover (now Circular Quay) item 22 ('Bridge' in German) is visible, the bridge at the head of Sydney Cove:


This painting from 1803 by John William Lancashire (dictionaryofsydney.org/image/40423) shows at the extreme right a STONE bridge, allowing water to pass under it, just as described in the newspaper article. Based on the article above, the painting with the stone bridge was surely rendered in the second half of the year!


Here is another painting from 'circa 1803', by George William Evans (http://acms.sl.nsw.gov.au/item/itemLarge.aspx?itemID=457903). In this case the wooden bridge can be seen, suggested it was rendered in the first half of 1803 (or earlier):


So you can see we can do a lot with just one small article in the Sydney Gazette.

Monday, March 16, 2015

A first fleet letter home - John and Elizabeth RUSSELL, 1788

I was reading the diaries of James SCOTT (http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/scott-james-2640). With the diary when it came to Dixson in the 1890s was a letter written by John and Elizabeth RUSSELL to Elizabeth's mother. The wonderful State Library of New South Wales has digitized it and included a transcript (http://acms.sl.nsw.gov.au/album/albumView.aspx?acmsID=944049&itemID=966961). While I have been reading accounts of the First Fleet voyages (and subsequent records) this is an interesting letter home from Sydney ('Sidney') to a family in Devon.

As with Worgan, the RUSSELL/FOGNELL(sp) families were connected to Devon. It is frustrating to think of all the letters home from the First Fleet that wound up being discarded. 

As with my ponderings on the WORGAN family, I hope that there are a few more First Fleet lettesr sitting somewhere in a book or box in England.

The letter below is remarkable and in three written pages on two sheets (it could not be longer because of paper shortages). Mrs Fogewell is informed by her daughter and son-in-law that her family has arrived in Botany Bay/Port Jackson safely, of the events on their journey, that a new grandson has arrived and that her granddaughter is recovering after illness. Norfolk Island is mentioned and the indigenous peoples of NSW are described. Some leaves are included used by the settlers to sweeten tea (which reminds me of the "Leaves from Botany Bay used as tea" in the possession of James Boswell, given him by Mary BRYANT: http://randomfh.blogspot.com/2014/07/review-boswell-and-girl-from-botany-bay.html and http://acms.sl.nsw.gov.au/item/itemDetailPaged.aspx?itemID=455934).

I find it interesting that in the post script, it is noted that an Ann, Agnes or Elizabeth (difficult to read) LAMB 'came out on the same ship with me'. I have not found a convict that matches the name, perhaps she was the spouse of a Marine.




Addressed:- To Mrs Mary Fogewell Totneess Devon

Letter from Sydney
Head Quarters Sidney Town New South Wales July 10th 1788
Hon’d Mother This with our duty to you and Love to our Sister and all Friends hoping you are in good health as it leaves us thanks to God for it, Since we left England we have a son Born and blessed be God he remains in Good health and is About A Year Old he handles his feet bravely and can walk Alone a little. Our daughter have had A very trying fit of Sickness but thank God she also is recovered; I now Intend to give you A hint of our Passage to Botany Bay under the Command of Capn Arthur Phillips new Governor of New South Wales and its Dependancys. 1787 We Set sail from Spihead on the 13th May and on the 3rd of June made the Isle of Tenereif and Anchored the Fleet in St De Cruze Roads the Same day here we Stayd for 7 days and Compleated our water

Page 2
and wine and then put to Sea for the Isle of St Jagos but the wind but the wind being Against us Made Sail for South America and made the Brazilian Colonies on August 1st and on the 5th Anchored the Fleet in Rio Janerio roads, The portugees recieved us with Great Salutations and and feasted us for A Month on the best of the Land. All things here is very Plentiful and Cheap. After Compleating our duties with. About the Begining of Sepr (we) made sail for the Cape of Good hope and reached it on the 13th of October here also we was Supplyd as at Rio and Recruited Ourselves for 5 weeks. We the made sail for Botnay Bay. On this Passage I must remark the Different Climats also of the Prodigeous Large Whales seen here but for our Parts the Passage was very Good and we reached botoney Bay on the 26th Jany 1788. but the Comodore not Aproving of the Place removed us to Port Jackson where we still remain since our Arival the Supply Tender have found an Island About 3 days Sail from Head Letter from Sydney p.2.

Page 3
Quarters that Abounds with Plenty of Turtle and Tame Fowl this Country Abounds in all kinds of Birds & Fish but no tame Cattle The natives of this Country are A Straight neet Limmd People Entirely naked and almost Black They live on fish Roots & fruit & what the Country Produces of its own Accord Since our Arival we have found several Shrubs that serve as Teas Sweetining the rest which I have heare sent some Leaves as a sample As to the Pigs(?) Cattle and Poultry we brought with us they come on very well we have at Preasent Potatoes (Turn)ips, Lettice (gre)en Pease, Greens and the Corn coming in Ears I have many more things want relating conserning this new Settlement but the Limets of the Paper will not Admit I hope you will send me an Answer by the return of the fleet So with my Kind Love to all Enquiring Friends We Remain Your Dutiful Children Jno & Elizh Russell Please to remember me to Mrs folks and Mrs Basto Age Lamb came out in the same ship with me but she may have sent to her frends before now