Free Settler or Felon?

 Convicts from the Castle Hill Rebellion


Newcastle 1804


Having been abandoned by Government towards the end of 1802, the possibility of establishing valuable commercial enterprise coupled with a desire to remove the worst of the Irish insurgents from Sydney district in the aftermath of the rebellion at Castle Hill, encouraged Governor King to re-settle Coal River. A settlement was re-established under twenty one year old Marine Lieutenant Charles Menzies in March 1804.........

GENERAL ORDERS to First Lieutenant C. A. F. N. Menzies of the Royal Marines, having disembarked from His Majesty’s ship Calcutta at the Governor’s Request, That Officer is appointed to Command and Superintend the Settlement to be re established at the Coal Harbour and Hunter’s River. – March 18, 1804

Expedition to Newcastle. On Tuesday His Majesty's Armed Tender Lady Nelson, with Lieutenant Menzies, Commandant of the Settlement Mr. Mileham, Surgeon, and Mr. Bauer, Natural Historical Painter on board, got under weigh, with the Colonial vessel Resource, and the James Sloop ; but owing to a North easterly wind setting in were obliged to anchor in Look Out Bay, where they remained until the following morning, when they again weighed and in a short time cleared the Heads.

His Excellency, and Family made an excursion down the Harbour on Tuesday, to witness the departure of the little Fleet, whose destination, it may be hoped will prove immediately advantageous, and lastingly beneficial to this part of His Majesty's Territory, as well from its proximity as its useful natural productions. The part of the Establishment embarked in the Lady Nelson, were Six Privates of the New South Wales Corps, Mr John Tucker, Storekeeper, One Overseer of Convicts, And Twenty-two Prisoners, among whom were Two Carpenters, Three Sawyers, a Gardener, and Saltboiler.. Sydney Gazette 1804

Lieutenant Menzies reported his arrival to Governor King in correspondence dated 29th April 1804.  When he arrived at Newcastle, previous to entering the Harbour Lieut. Menzies first went in a small boat to examine the situation of the Mines and determine a place most suitable for Settlement. He described what he found - a most delightful valley about a quarter of a mile from the entrance and South Head and close to the Mines. He immediately ordered a disembarkment to take place and began to unload the three vessels.

The next morning he examined Chapman's Island which he found unsuitable for settling or even confinement of the worst of the convicts as they could have waded to the mainland at low tide. He thought Coal Island would be a much better choice for a place of confinement should it be necessary.

Ensign Barralier's Map of Coal Harbour and RiversEnsign Barralier's 1801 Map showing location of Chapman Island

He reported that an excellent mine had been opened although had previously been dug by individuals in a haphazard manner, having never left proper supports and leaving them to fall in any way. He thought that another fifty convicts could be worked to great advantage and they could be managed by the Military Establishment already in place. Provision for the convicts were issued only twice a week so that they would have very little sustenance should they escape to the bush. A four Pounder was promised by Governor King as well as six stand of Black Arms. Bunting for the camp was also sent.

In response to the concerns of Governor King, Lieutenant Menzies informed King of the arrangements he had made should convicts from Castle Hill attempt to liberate prisoners at the Coal River....In the first place I shall have timely notice of their approach from the numerous Natives with whom we are on the most friendly terms. The plan I should pursue would be immediately to place the whole of the convicts upon Coal Island before we beat to Arms or gave any Alarm order any vessel that may be in the harbour out; I could then muster twenty six armed men all of whom I may safely put confidence in and I think with that number I should be able to give Your Excellency a good account of the Delinquents.  Private Archibald Scrobie was on the return of Marines employed at the river

The Storekeeper, Overseer and soldiers had requested that their wives and families should join them at the River and the Governor replied that as many of the women as the Edwin could carry would be sent and the remainder were to go by the Resource

In May Lieutenant Menzies was informed that twenty Englishmen who had recently arrived would be sent to the river (The most recent convict ship to arrive from England was the Coromandel)....I am sorry to say that their conduct on board the Ship they came out in was none of the best, still they are not of a worse cast than people of that description generally are and by mixing them with the Irish you have, I promised myself less evil will arrive that if they were all Irish. Two salt pans were forwarded. Mr. William Douglass who had been an officer in the Navy was sent to the settlement and was to assist Lieutenant Menzies in anyway he thought best.

By November 1804 Menzies could report that a well built stone wharf is nearly completed, Length one hundred and eighty six feet, breadth thirteen feet depth of water at high water eight feet two inches and at low water two feet. Bricks had been sent from headquarters to aid the the construction of salt pans, however boat builder/ carpenter Thomas Crump had become ill and so the work had been delayed. Mining too would cease unless oil was sent from headquarters as the supply had nearly run out.

A Military Officer's Barrack had been finished by November and a strong guard house which was shingled and had a room for the non commissioned officers and (ominously) a black hole.

The Return for the settlement in July revealed details of all those at Coal River at that time - 

1 surgeon;

1 Superintendent;

1 Storekeeper;

1 Marine belonging to H.M.S. Buffalo;

2 Non-Commissioned Officers;

12 Privates;

3 Overseers who were prisoners;

51 male prisoners;

9 female prisoners and 10 children.

Two men were on the sick list. Curiously there is no Commanding officer listed.

Botanist Robert Brown came to the Coal River on the Resource in 1804. Browne was given a boat by Governor King for his own use while there and supplied with arms and ammunition which was fortunate as he was attacked by Natives while up the North Branch of the river. Menzies was instructed to give Robert Brown every assistance including victualling for Brown and servant from the government stores.  Robert Brown had been appointed at the age of twenty six years to the scientific staff on H.M.S. Investigator for exploring voyages.  After the condemnation of the Investigator in 1803, Brown devoted his attention to botanical research in the districts surrounding the various settlements in NSW and Tasmania. He sailed for England on the 23rd May 1805 on board of the refitted Investigator.

Ensign Cressy of the NSW Corps took over Command of the settlement in a brief absence of Lieutenant Menzies and there was a great deal of animosity between the two when Menzies returned, however Menzies remained in the position until March 1805 when ensign Draffen was appointed to the position »

Convicts from the Castle Hill Rebellion were among prisoners sent to Hunter River in 1804. Many of them worked in the early coal mines at the settlement.

Thomas Brady arrived on the Minerva in 1800. He became clerk to the Commandant at Newcastle and was still in the settlement in 1810. He died in 1819;

John Brearley arrived on the Earl Cornwallis in 1801. Also known as Joseph Brayley - apprehended at Kissing Point upon a violent suspicion of burglary was examined and as the evidence though strongly presumptive was not thought sufficient to continue the grounds of prosecution, he was drafted for Newcastle;

John Brown was an Irish convict who arrived on the Minerva in 1800;

John Burke arrived on the Anne in 1800;

Bryan Byrne arrived on the Rolla on 12 May 1803;

John Cavenagh arrived on the Atlas in 1802;

John Coleman arrived on the Earl Cornwallis in 1801;

Robert Cooper arrived on the Coromandel in 1802;

Thomas Desmond arrived at Port Jackson on the Atlas in 1802. He made many attempts at escape from the settlement;

Cornelius Dwyer arrived at Port Jackson on the Atlas in 1802;

Phillip Dwyer arrived on the Sugar Cane in 1793. He was not sent with the rebels in March, but early in April 1804 for violently and inhumanely beating Mary Carroll;

Thomas Graham arrived on the Glatton in 1803;

John Griffin arrived on the Anne on 21 February 1801;

John Hughes alias John McCarthy arrived on the Glatton in 1803;

Matthew Lee arrived in Port Jackson on the Boddingtons in 1793;

Cornelius Lyons arrived on the Rolla in 1803. One of the leaders of the Castle Hill rebellion. Received 200 lashes for his part;

William Maughan alias Maum arrived on the Minerva in 1800. He was an associate of Joseph Holt and employed as a school teacher before being sent to the river;

Florence McCarty arrived on the Minerva in 1800. He was an Irish patriot and very active in politics in Ireland;

Bryan McCormick arrived on the Atlas in 1802. Sentenced to be hanged for his part in the rebellion but later reprieved;

Owen McDermott arrived on the Atlas on 30 October 1802. He was an active participant in the rebellion. Sentenced to 200 lashes and sent to the Coal River;

David Morrison arrived on the Atlas in 1802.;

Edward Mundy arrived on the Glatton in 1803;

Francis Neeson arrived on the Rolla in 1803. Later severely punished for attempting to escape from the settlement;

Patrick O'Brien arrived on the Marquis Cornwallis in 1796;

William Page arrived on the Pitt in 1797;

Bryan Riley arrived on the Boddingtons in 1793. Severely punished for an escape attempt at Coal river in May 1804. Later became a constable at Parramatta;

William Russell arrived on the Minerva in 1800.;

Dennis Ryan arrived on the Atlas in 1802. An active participant in the revolt;

Joseph Samuels arrived on the Minerva;

Martin Short arrived on the Minerva in 1800 and was an active participant in the revolt;

Neil Smith or Smythe arrived on the Atlas in 1802. Severely punished for his part in the rebellion at Castle Hill and later punished again when he attempted to escape from Newcastle;

Bryan Spalding arrived on the Britannia in 1797 and was active in the rebellion at Castle Hill;

Andrew Tiernan arrived on the Atlas in 1802. Severely punished for planning to murder Lieutenant Menzies at Newcastle in 1804;

John Welsh arrived on the Minerva in 1800

More about many of these convicts and the rebellion at Castle Hill can be found in Jack Delaney's 'Newcastle, Its First Twenty Years: The Irish Rebellion and the Settlement of Newcastle 1804' (ISBN - 646    43855-  7)


Lynette Ramsay-Silver, Australia's Irish Rebellion: The Battle of Vinegar Hill, 1804, Watermark Press, Sydney, 2002 (first printed 1983); ISBN 0   94928   461 0


Search the Database



Joseph Brayley per Earl Cornwallis, a miner by trade, was apprehended at Kissing Point upon a suspicion of burglary was examined and as the evidence though strongly presumptive was not thought sufficient to continue the grounds of prosecution, he was drafted for Newcastle as was Philip Dwyer per Sugar Cane also, for violently and inhumanely beating Mary Carroll. They were both sent to Newcastle in April 1804.

Newcastle Links 

Instructions to Lieut. Menzies

Newcastle 1810

 Newcastle Through the Years
1791   1797   1801   1802   1804   1805   1807   1808   1809   1810   1811   1812   1813  1814   1815   1816   1818   1820   1821   1822   1823   1824   1825   1826   1827   1828   1829   1831   1833   1836   1837   1838   1841   1844   1855   1857




web counter