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Watkin Tench Describes the arrival of the Second Fleet at Port Jackson


Dear Grandpa Pencil looks at early Australian development through journals, official reports and newspaper excerpts of the day. Readers should remember that these accounts are based on personal observations at the time and some have, since, been shown to be flawed.

An eyewitness account of the arrival of the Second Fleet at Port Jackson on the 3rd of June, 1790: by marines Captain Watkin Tench from his book 'A complete Account of the Settlement at Port Jackson in New South Wales'.

Port Jackson, 3rd of June, 1790:

At length the clouds of misfortune began to separate, and on the evening of the 3rd of June,the joyful cry of 'the flag's up', resounded in every direction.I was sitting in my hut, musing on our fate, when a confused clamour in the street drew my attention.

I opened my door, and saw several women with children in their arms running to and fro with distracted looks, congratulating each other, and kissing their infants with the most passionate and extravagant marks of fondness.

I needed no more; but instantly started out and ran to a hill, where, by the assistance of a pocket glass, my hopes were realised.

My next door neighbour, a brother officer, was with me; but we could not speak; we wrung each other by the hand, with eyes and hearts overflowing.

Finding that the Governor intended to go immediately in his boat down the harbour, I begged to be of his party.

As we proceeded, the object of our hopes soon appeared:- a large ship, with English colours flying, working in, between the heads which form the entrance of the harbour.

The tumultuous state of our minds represented her in danger; and we were in agony.

Soon after, the Governor, having ascertained what she was, left us, and stept into a fishing boat to return to Sydney.

The weather was wet and tempestuous; but the body is delicate only when the soul is at ease.

We pushed through wind and rain, the anxiety of our sensations every moment redoubling.At last we read the Word London on her stern.

'Pull away, my lads! she is from Old England! a few strokes more and we shall be aboard! hurrah for a belly full, and news from our friends' - such were our exhortations to the boat's crew.

A few minutes completed our wishes and we found ourselves on board the Lady Juliana transport, with two hundred and twenty five of our countrywomen, whom crime or misfortune had condemned to exile.

We learned that they had been almost eleven months on their passage, having left Plymouth, into which port they had put in July, 1789.

We continued to ask a thousand questions on a breath.

Stimulated by curiosity, they enquired in turn; but the right of being first answered, we thought, lay on our side.

'Letters! letters!' was the cry.

They were produced and torn open in trembling agitation.

News burst upon us like meridian splendour on a blind man.

We were overwhelmed with it; Public, private, general and particular.

Nor was it until some days had elapsed that we were able to methodise it, or reduce it into form.

We now heard for the first time of our Sovereign's illness, and his happy restoration to health.

The French Revolution of 1789, with all the attendant circumstances of that wonderful and unexpected event, succeeded to amaze us.

Now too, the disaster which had befallen the Guardian, and the liberal and enlarged plan on which she had been stored and fitted out by government for our use, was promulgated.

It served also, in some measure, to account why we had no sooner heard from England.

For had not the Guardian struck on an island of ice, she would probably have reached us three months before, and in this case have prevented the loss of the Sirius, although she had sailed from England three months after the Lady Juliana..


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