Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

The Memoirs of Ellen Bundock

Life in New South Wales

From the Collection of the Clarence River Historical Society, the Memoir of Mrs. Ellen Bundock was published in the Grafton Daily Examiner in 1932 :

Ellen Bundock was the daughter of William Ogilvie and sister of Edward Ogilvie. She married free settler Wellington Cochrane Bundock at Merton in 1841.

Ellen Bundock dictated her Memoirs to Alice Ogilvie, widow of Edward Ogilvie.
Merton - The residence of W. Ogilvie Esq by Conrad Martens
The Ogilvie family arrived in the colony on the Grenada in 1825. The Memoirs tell of the early days of the Ogilvie family in Sydney, Parramatta, Newcastle and Merton on the Upper Hunter. Ellen Bundock described the 60 mile voyage up the coast from Sydney to Newcastle and some of their adventures and challenges as they established the Merton Estate. Below is an extract from the Memoirs describing their first few months.

Caption reads - Merton - The residence of W. Ogilvie Esq., in the Hunter - visited by me in March 1853 - Sketch signed by Conrad Martens, State Library NSW

The Memoirs

We remained a very short time in Sydney, part of which we spent at the hospitable house of the Treasurer, Mr. Balcomb, who was an old friend and shipmate of our father.

Heat and Mosquitoes

When we left Sydney we went to Parramatta, where our father rented a cottage from the widow of Governor King. The heat and the myriads of mosquitoes, which are always worse to newcomers, made a lasting impression on my mind, but what was worse they so stung my brother Edward and the irritation was so great our mother had to call in a doctor (Dr. John Dobie) to his aid. We children and the luggage went up to Parramatta in an open boat, and I can still remember how tedious it was and how cold and hungry we were when we returned to Sydney in the same manner about three months afterwards on our way to Newcastle, where we were to live for a time so as to he nearer to our father, who was busy at Merton.

Merton was the name of the village in Surrey where I was born and our parents named Merton on the Hunter River, New South Wales, after it, as they had lived there previous to coming to Australia. This was the Merton which was hallowed by the name of Nelson, whose favorite village it was, who had lived there for some time and our grand father had his house afterwards.

Our father, in common with many naval and military men, had received from the Government an order to select a grant of land (2000 acres, I think). His grant had originally been made out for Tasmania, but at the personal request of Sir Thomas Brisbane, the Governor, he went to inspect some of the lands of this Colony, and having seen the Upper Hunter was so delighted with it he went no farther, the land being so good and the scenery so fine. He returned there, therefore, taking a tent from Newcastle in which he camped until he had built a hut.

We started from Newcastle, our father having come to fetch us in the Lord Liverpool, a small coasting vessel — the voyage occupying two days, a violent storm obliging us to put into Broken Bay. This voyage nowadays only takes three hours. None of us had felt the voyage all the way from England except slightly the first few days, but my brother Edward, and I were fearfully sick during this coastal voyage.

Newcastle - Penal Settlement

We reached Newcastle, which was then a penal settlement governed by a commandant (Capt. Francis Allman, 48th. Regiment), a Peninsular hero who had been badly wounded at Albuera - who had a large family of children - he and his wife were nice friendly people. The house we occupied was one built by the previous Commandant, Colonel Morisset, who, unlike Captain Allman, had been a very cruel ruler over the convicts.

In this house the Government allowed us compartments. The chief difficulty was being provided with sufficient food. The butcher came to our mother saying he was sorry to disappoint her, but as she was his only customer he couldn't stay - but the Government allowed us to buy salt pork from the Commissariat Stores. However, our fare was ameliorated by presents of game from the officers who were stationed there, one of whom, Captain Samuel Wright, be came our very fast friend - he afterwards settled about 10 or 12 miles from Merton, having obtained a grant of land. His pecuniary affairs caused him much anxiety he committed suicide, it is supposed, by drowning himself. He also was an old Peninsular officer in the Buffs. Shortly after his untimely end, gold being discovered in the Colony, his land became very valuable.

As to meal, all we could get for some time was from the convicts who sold the coarser part of their maize meal to our father. There was, however, a good baker in the place - the Allmans kindly supplied us with milk. Our father brought out a great quantity of valuable things, ironmongery, etc., and to guard these things we were allowed a constable, who was a convict, to live in the house - which constable was very soon detected selling them! Our mother in her walks was much struck with some smoothing irons a woman was using very skilfully and on investigating them found they were some of her own, which the constable had sold.

Wallis Plains

After about eight or nine months residence at Newcastle our father came for us and we started in an open boat for Wallace Plains (now Maitland), where we expected only to stop for the night at the Government residence, a place which only officials had a right to occupy, but it rained so heavily that night that in the morning the whole place was flooded, and in a lagoon, where the plain had been, we saw blacks paddling in canoes made of bark, the ends tied with curridgeon bark and sealed with grass tree gum. We were detained in this house for some weeks by the floods. The mounted police (a body just formed) were destined to inhabit this house and arrived to take possession whilst we were still occupying it, but the officer, a very gentlemanlike man and very kind, would not have us disturbed and set his men to weave sticks of wattle between the verandah posts to accommodate himself and them.

At the end of a few weeks, the waters having subsided, we started for Merton in a very primitive conveyance - a covered cart drawn by a horse and a bullock - the latter steed being a very quite one lent by a neighbour, but most of the party, our mother included, preferred walking the journey.

Lady Convicts

Of our party was one of the 'lady convicts' I have mentioned, who had become our cook - on the ship coming out she was cook to the women and from her appearance and manner our mother thought she would suit us, and she proved herself to be an honest and capable woman.

Her name was Mrs. (Mary) Partridge and she stood six feet in her stockings, but did not appear so tail as she was well proportioned. When we were alarmed by the blacks subsequently we were much amused by her requesting her fellow servant, William, to conceal her in a small case. I must also mention a valuable acquisition to our party in the shape of a bull terrier, presented to our mother' by one of the officers stationed at Newcastle as a protection against the blacks. We found him useful on the load on one occasion when the dray carrying our luggage got bogged where the long bridge at Maitland now stands, the bullocks, in what was then 'scrub,' resisting all efforts at being dug out, the bull terrier, 'Turpin,' got loose, flew at their noses and so terrified them that they made wild efforts and struggled out. On another occasion shortly afterwards, however, I cannot describe him as useful. It was on our arrival at Merton when a valuable sick calf being attended to Turpin' made a dash and caught it by the nose and with difficulty, in fact only by having one of his hind feet bitten by a man on the place, was made to release it. This dog was dreaded by the blacks, though very gentle with all of us - his end was mysterious. We missed him and on making inquiries through the blacks heard he had been seen walking towards a large water hole very deep. He was tracked to the edge of it, but there was no return track.

The House at Merton

The house which our father had prepared for us at Merton was a small four-roomed cottage whitewashed nicely, as pipe clay was found close by - white and buff. Our mother was greatly pleased and very happy at joining our father in this little home, which was charming. At first we had only earthen floors, made by Irishmen who broke up the earth till it was powdered and then when white-washed it made good firm flooring, but very troublesome to keep clean. Subsequently the floors were laid down in wood and by degrees the house was added to. - See Conrad Martens' Sketch above.

Our energetic and clever mother was always busy and she educated us all, our father assisting in some of the branches, but her great recreation was in attending to her garden - we soon had a beautiful garden, orchard and vineyard - a great deal of which she planted with her own hands. From the vineyard our father made wine, which is still remembered for its excellence. A German named Luther, a highly educated man, a descendant of Martin Luther, on tasting the wine could not believe it was not hock, and as he appeared skilled in the art of wine making our father kept him to assist him. 'The grapes from which this wine was made were the 'Gonais' and the 'Sweet Water' mixed. The soil was considered very peculiar and turned out various wines, all excellent. It was also most favorable for all agricultural purposes and grew splendid wheat, tobacco, etc.

King Jerry of the Merton Tribe

Amongst my recollections of my childhood was playing with my brother, Fred, outside the house when, on looking up, we suddenly saw the whole hill covered with blacks, all armed to the teeth except the King or Chief Jerry, who was most amiable to us—a fine dignified looking man. 'He was clothed in an opossum skin rug and strips of fur found the loins and kept shaking hands with each of us in turn to convince his subjects that he was on friendly terms with us. Our father was absent in Sydney just then, so our mother was alone with us children and only a few men convicts about the place. The only weapon the chief had was a waddy stuck in his belt, which was worn on all occasions by the natives. '

He kept going about amongst the other blacks trying to quieten them and at last they filed away over the hills to our inexpressible relief, having only taken a little corn from a shed at hand and having shaken all the constable's rations on the ground.

The cause of all this trouble and of the blacks anger was an act of treachery, committed in the constable and soldiers who were left for our protection and who wore placed under our mother's orders. The soldiers had persuaded some of the blacks come to Merton under pretence of seeking guides to go a for the bushrangers, but when the blacks came, they seized two of them (our chief Jerry and another man), believing that this Jerry was a murderer of the same name for whom a reward was offered.

Our mother, when going down to a small temporary garden she had made by the river, the evening before this appearance by the blacks, had seen the constable and soldiers struggling with two blacks, one of whom escaped and. the other they forced into the hut. She immediately went to them and insisted on seeing the black they had shut up, who proved to be Jerry, our chief and on our mother declaring who he was and that he was not the murderer the soldiers released him, but fearing the indignation of the .blacks at their treacherous dealing with them they deserted us, clearing away in the night and leaving us to reap the consequences of their bad conduct which might have resulted in the loss of all our lives. For this disgraceful cowardice and disobedience to orders of the constable and soldiers the officer in command, Captain Lowe wished to bring them to court martial, but at our mother's intercession they were spared. The blacks said to the last that if they had found the constable and soldiers they would have murdered them for their treachery. This may be the same King Jerry mentioned in Rev. Boodle's Recollections.

Our 'Protective Force' was composed of the constable, the scourger, whose business was to chastise the convicts, and five soldiers.

Visitors to Merton

Small as our home was there was room to receive constant visitors - the Governor, Sir George Gipps, being amongst the number. Our mother had the knack of making all around her charmingly pretty and picturesque as well as fresh and. clean. She also was most successful with her convict servants, treating them kindly as if she considered them highly moral. In many other places they were treated very harshly and with great suspicion, being locked up for the night - but the more confidence they were treated with the better they behaved naturally. - Daily Examiner 2 April 1932

Notes and Links

1). Original Yulgilbar homestead, ca. 1850-1852 / painting by Mrs Ellen Bundock - State Library NSW

2). First In Their Field - Women and Australian Anthropology. By Julie Marcus

3). William Ogilvie at Merton

4). Voyage of the Grenada in 1825

5). The Story of the Bundocks by Charles Wyndham Bundock - The Kyogle Examiner 25 June 1926