Assistant Surgeon Dr Russell of the 63rd Regiment (1804 – 1849)

My 1st cousin five times removed, John James Russell, born in Dublin in 1804, was a surgeon in the British Army. He had a considerable role in the early history of Tasmania, then known as Van Diemen’s Land.

When he joined up, on 28 July 1825, Russell was first assigned as a hospital assistant to Staff, not posted to a regiment. From December 1825 to September 1826 he was stationed in Jamaica. On 25 April 1826 he was appointed Assistant Surgeon of the 77th (East Middlesex) Regiment of Foot, transferring the following year to Assistant Surgeon of the 63rd (West Suffolk) Regiment of Foot. From December 1826 to April 1828 he accompanied his regiment in a deployment to Portugal.

From 1828 the 63rd had begun to provide escort and garrison services in the Australian convict colonies of New South Wales and Van Dieman’s Land. Leaving Dublin on 16 November 1828, on 26 March 1829 Assistant Surgeon Dr Russell of the 63rd Regiment arrived in Sydney on the ‘Ferguson‘ with a detachment of his regiment and 214 convicts.

By 1830 Russell had moved to Launceston. When he left after a year with new orders the local paper newspaper (Launceston Advertiser (Tas.), Monday 23 August 1830, page 2.), evidently sorry to see him go, wrote:

"Render unto Ceasar the things that are Ceasar's." 
We have lost a man whose place in Launceston will not be easily filled up, one who has been justly designated the ' Friend of JUSTICE AND HUMANITY.' While we render the tribute of praise to Dr. John RUSSELL of the 63rd Regiment, which is merely his due, we are convinced that we speak not only our own sentiments, but those of the public also. That gentleman has endeared himself to high and low in our community, and it is upon good authority we state, that the poor and the miserable have blessed him as he passed them by— we ourselves well know that many have reason so to do. 
We wish Dr. Russell every success in that part of the Island to which he has been called; or wherever else it may please Providence to place him— it will always give us great pleasure to hear of his well-doing and well-being.

Russell’s new role was as first Commandant of a penal settlement to be established on a peninsular, difficult of access, fifty miles from Hobart. Lieutenant Richard Fry of the 63rd had originally been appointed Superintendent of the new settlement, but became ill and was unable to take up the post. Russell was appointed in his place.

He landed there on 22 September 1830, commanded to construct a timber mill, a “sawing station” to replace an earlier mill at Birch’s Bay, twenty-five miles south of Hobart. Fifty prisoners were selected, with an officer and fifteen soldiers of the 63rd Regiment detached to accompanied them. Russell’s powers included those of Magistrate for the new settlement. At his suggestion it was named Port Arthur, after the Tasmanian Governor.

Under Russell’s management, huts were built and timber-getting operations established. After considerable difficulties with supplies, the settlement was judged to be both a convenient and easily secured location, a better alternative to the penal settlement on Maria Island. Russell acquired a reputation as a humane Commandant and a competent manager of convicts. In July 1831 he was replaced by Captain John Mahon.

Port Arthur Van Diemen’s Land by John Russell inscribed in pencil on verso ‘Drawn from nature Settlement commenced Septr 1830 by order of H.E. Lt. Govr Arthur’. Image in the collection of Libraries Tasmania

In 1831 the Hobart-Town Almanack described Port Arthur as one of three penal settlements (report transcribed in the Hobart Town Courier (Tas.), Saturday 15 January 1831):

3. Port Arthur. This new settlement on Tasman's Peninsula, named after his Excellency the Lieut. Governor, promises to be of considerable advantage to the colony. The formation of the establishment commenced in Sept. 1830, under the direction of Mr. Russell, Assistant Surgeon of the 63rd. regiment, and it is now in active progress.

It is intended for the reception of convicts from Macquarie Harbour who have conducted themselves well during a portion of their sentence at that Penal Settlement, or in some instances from the chain-gangs as a progressive step towards the greater indulgence of re-admitting them amongst the community at large. They are to be principally employed in felling and drawing the fine timber with which that part of the country abounds. 

But another most important object of the settlement, and probably that which is likely to prove of the greatest ultimate benefit to the colony, is the instruction of boys in the trades, chiefly that of sawyers. They are to be sent down to the settlement immediately after their arrival on Hobart-town, and placed under the charge of persons competent to teach them. Already a number of boys from amongst the late arrivals have been sent there, and are now receiving instruction.

Thus, instead as heretofore, of being spread through the country, where they only learnt vices and irregularities, and formed connexions which eventually led in many instances to their ruin, they are taught habits of industry and it is to be hoped will become capable of rendering essential service to the public, and of afterwards earning for themselves a reputable livelihood. 

Port Arthur, one of the finest harbours in Van Diemen's Land, is about 55 miles from Hobart-town. Its entrance (lat. 43 degrees 13 minutes S. long, 148 degrees E.) is just half way between Cape Pillar and Cape Raoul, on the southern coast of Tasman's Peninsula. 

These two remarkable Capes have a grand appearance on approaching the harbour. The former consists of basaltic columns, built up as it were to an enormous height, and from the regularity with which they are raised or piled, would almost seem to have been effected by human hands.

The latter, Cape Raoul, so called from the pilot of the Research, or Basalts of the same material, has the singular appearance of a stupendous Gothic ruin, projecting abruptly into the ocean, with its massy pillars, rising up in the manner of minarets or turrets, with the tremendous waves, dashing against its dark and ragged walls below. 

The coast between these two Capes, (10 miles asunder) falls back so as to form a bay, of a crescentic shape, termed by the French as 'Mainjon baie'. Its sides are all rugged and inaccessible. 

At the middle of this crescent, the passage of the harbour opens. It is about a mile wide, and runs up in a N. N. west direction for 4 miles and a half. At the distance of 3 and a half miles up, it expands to the westward to form a large bay, the safest part of the harbour.

The water is deep on both sides close to the shores. The western head is formed by a hill of between 4 and 5 hundred feet in height with a clear round top and perpendicular sides towards the sea. The eastern by a bold rocky point, surmounted by a conical hill 800 feet high, with another still loftier behind it. From this point the east to shore runs up in nearly a straight unbroken line to the end of the harbour. It also is formed by a perpendicular wall of Basaltic columns and ironstone rock, with a long line of hills above them sloping bushland, having the appearance of an immense battery or embankment. These hills are covered lightly with trees of a stunted growth. There are 3 or 4 rocky gullies and fresh water streams on this side, where landing may be effected when the wind is an easterly.

The left or western side of the channel presents a very different aspect. Its rocky line is broken by bays and sandy beaches. There is also an open plain with an undulating surface covered with heath and small shrubs, and backed by a lofty range of hills which run directly up from Cape Raoul towards the N. and S. and a branch range across the centre of the peninsula. This meets the line of hills on the eastern side, and thus completely surrounds the port.

On sailing up the harbour, within the clear hill at the western head, is seen a small sandy beach where the surf is generally too great to allow of boats landing. Half a mile higher up, and beyond an inner rocky head is Safety Cove, a fine large bay with a sandy beach, into which vessels often run for shelter from the stormy winds and heavy seas so frequent upon this coast. It is open to the south-east, but by lying well round into the south-west corner of the cove, a ship may be sheltered from a south-east wind. Sailing past Safety Cove, on the left, there is a range of perpendicular rocks, a mile and a half in length, which runs along a tongue of land, (all that separates the channel from the bay inside), and close to the point of this tongue is a small and picturesque island. Here the harbour expands or rather doubles round the tongue of land and forms a beautiful bay or basin in which a large fleet might ride at anchor undisturbed by any wind. And from hence, looking directly across the bay, is first seen the point upon which the settlement is now forming, lying half a mile due west from the island.

There are besides, three smaller bays from the main sheet of water, which afford excellent anchorage. 

The settlement is prettily situated on the sloping side of a point, which is the southern boundary of the inlet, and stands out into the large bay. The buildings front to the north. There are already up, a military barrack with a neat cottage for the officers, a store and substantial huts for the prisoners, and all the necessary buildings are in progress and number of sawyers at work.

The country around presents one unvaried prospect of thickly timbered hills, they are scrubby and stony. The soil, though not so bad, yet is so stony that it would never repay the trouble of clearing for the purposes of cultivation. There are a few patches of clear swampy ground. The scrub in many places renders the country impassable, and in all parts extremely difficult to travel over.

The timber, which is the matter of first consideration as relates to the new settlement is of fine quality, particularly on that range of hills already mentioned running both north and south. It principally consists of stringy bark and gum trees, growing to a very large size, both on the sides of the hills and in the valleys. But in addition to these, the banks of the streams which run along the vales are thickly planted with other trees of a most useful description. 

There is no part of the colony which can afford a greater variety or quantity of excellent fish than Port Arthur. The delicious trumpeter is in plenty, sea trout, perch, skate and sting ray, the two last may be easily speared or harpooned on the flats; rock-cod, flat-heads and cray-fish are all in abundance. Besides the numerous streams which flow into the port abound with the small but delicate mountain trout and fresh water lobster.

A sketch of Port Arthur in 1833. Image retrieved from Port Arthur Historic Site: History timeline

Port Arthur at first had a reputation for strict discipline, but with comparatively little use of chains and corporal punishment. A stricter regime, for which the penal colony became infamous, was introduced later.

Russell continued to be deployed on special projects. He helped to set up Point Puer Establishment for Boys at Port Arthur to isolate younger from older inmates and “to train them in some useful trade and to reform them so that they would be useful citizens”. In May 1833 he became apothecary to the General Hospital at Hobart. In September he was appointed to conduct inspections of hospitals in Launceston and George Town.

At the end of 1833 the 63rd regiment was deployed to India, and in 1834 was stationed at Fort St George, in Madras. In 1836 Russell transferred to the 73rd Regiment of Foot. He served in North America from 29 July 1839 to July 1841. In June 1841 he was promoted to be Surgeon of the 36th (Herefordshire) Regiment of Foot.

On 9 September 1843, in Saint Michael, Limerick, John James Russell married Mary Baldwin Drew. They had one child, Hugh Percy Russell, born on 14 June 1846 at the regimental barracks in Salford, Lancashire, now part of Manchester.

On 24 April 1849 Mary Russell died at sea on the troop ship ‘Apollo‘ off the coast of Spain. A few week’s later John James Russell died in Ireland.

The Clare Journal, and Ennis Advertiser of 6 August 1849 reported:

At Cherry Lodge, near Killarney, John J. Russell, Esq., M. D., Surgeon of H.M.'s 36th Regt. - but a few weeks surviving his beloved wife.

The three-year-old orphan Hugh Russell seems later to have become an officer in the Royal Artillery. He did not marry and left no children.

There is a connection between John James Russell and another member of my family, Daniel Michael Paul Cudmore (1811–1891), my third great-grandfather.

One of Cudmore’s obituary notices remarks that he emigrated to Tasmania on the recommendation of his ‘cousin’, Surgeon Russell, of the 63rd Regiment. Daniel’s mother was Sarah Jane nee Russell, daughter of Francis Russell and Sarah Russell nee Cashell. I don’t know who John James Russell’s parents were nor am I certain how he and Cudmore were related; I have assumed they were first cousins.


Further reading:


Mary Gage nee Low formerly Taylor (1768 – 1850)

My fifth great-grandmother was Mary Low (1768–1850), born in 1768 in Perthshire, Scotland. The names of her parents appear to have been David and Isabella.

In Abernethy, Perthshire on 24 March 1791 Mary Low married a man named George Taylor (1758–1828). The parish register states that they were both ‘of this parish’. They had eight children:

  • Robert Taylor (1791 – 1861)
  • Isabella (Taylor) Hutcheson (1794 – 1876)
  • David Taylor (1796 – 1860)
  • Christian (Taylor) Buist (1798 – 1895)
  • George Taylor (1800 – 1826)
  • John Taylor (1802 – 1850 )
  • Mary (Taylor) Davidson (1806 – 1868)
  • Jean (Taylor) Alston (1807 – 1863).

On Friday 10 January 1823, after a voyage of almost four months, George and Mary Taylor, accompanied by four of their eight adult children, arrived in Hobart, Van Diemen’s Land.

With forty other free emigrants, they had sailed on the Princess Charlotte from Leith, the port of Edinburgh, departing in October 1822.

For the first few months, before receiving their grants of land, George and Mary Taylor lived at the Macquarie Hotel, Hobart Town. On 30 June 1823 he was granted an 800 acre block of land about 30 miles south of Launceston, on the Macquarie River near Campbell Town . George Taylor named his property ‘Valley-Field’. George and Mary’s three sons, George, David, and Robert, each received 700 acre grants of land nearby.

George Taylor died on 19 April 1828 in Campbell Town, Tasmania, Australia aged 69, and was buried in Kirklands Presbyterian Cemetery, Campbell Town.

His death was reported in the Colonial Advocate, and Tasmanian Monthly Review and Register 1 May 1828:

On the 19th April, Mr. George Taylor, Settler, of Valley Field, Macquarie River, leaving a disconsolate widow and large family to bewail his loss. The deceased was the father of the young Gentleman, who formerly lost his life in taking a bushranger.

On 3 January 1839, eleven years later, Mary Taylor married a Campbell Town builder named Henry William Gage. She was about 70; Henry, 40, a widower, was a former convict.

On 30 July 30 1850 Mary died in Campbell Town and was buried next to her first husband.

 From The Cornwall Chronicle (Launceston, Tas.) 3 August 1850:

At her residence, Campbell Town, on Tuesday last, Mrs. Gage, mother of Robert and Daniel Taylor, Esqs., aged 85 years

Her grave inscription reads:

Sacred to the Memory of
Who Died 30th July 1850
Relict of the Late
George Taylor Senr.
Kirklands Church and Manse near Campbell Town from the Weekly Courier 13 March 1919

I know nothing about Mary’s second marriage. It seems rather surprising that a comfortably-off widow with adult children to support her would choose to marry a man 30 years younger.

Henry William Gage, was a carpenter, born in 1798 in Gloucestershire. In 1830 he had been convicted in for stealing substantial quantities of cheese, butter, bread, tobacco, candles, and a cloth. Sentenced to be transported for seven years, he arrived in Van Diemen’s Land on 26 March 1831 with 167 other convicts on the ‘Red Rover‘. After five years he gained a ticket of leave; a document which allowed convicts to work for themselves provided that they remained in a specified area, reported regularly to local authorities and attended divine worship every Sunday, if possible. They could not leave the colony. In 1837 he was given a Certificate of Freedom; this document was issued at the completion of a convict’s sentence, as proof he or she was a free person. They were free to travel anywhere, and could return to the United Kingdom (if they could afford it!).

Early in 1836, Henry Gage and other convicts were sent to Campbell Town, sixty-odd miles north of Hobart, to construct a bridge (known as Red Bridge) to span the Elizabeth River there. When he gained his freedom Gage settled in Campbell Town and built several houses known as ‘Gage’s Row’ in Pedder Street. He owned three of these and several other properties in Campbell Town. Some are still standing.

Red Bridge over the Elizabeth River at Campbell Town. It is the the oldest surviving brick arch bridge in Australia. Photographed in 1977 by Johnn T Collins (1907 – 2001) in the collection of the State Library of Victoria
No. 20 Pedder Street, Campbell Town was built by joiner and carpenter Henry Gage. Photo from the Facebook page Campbell Town, Tasmania and used with permision.
A sketch from 1859 “Pedder Street, Campbell Town” showing some of the buildings known as Gage’s Row.

After Mary’s death Henry Gage married again, to Alice Lugg, an ex-convict from Cornwall. They had seven children. Most died in infancy.

Henry Gage died in 1867. From the Launceston Examiner (Tas.) 18 July 1867:

The removal by death of Mr. William Henry Tindal Gage occurred this morning, at Campbell Town, at an advanced age. Mr. Gage's name has for many years been before the public as an aspirant for Parliamentary honors. Although somewhat eccentric, he was just and honorable in his dealings.



I am descended from the Taylors through:

Benjamin Bayly (1797 – 1850)

One of a considerable number of Army and Navy officers in my family was Benjamin Bayly (1797–1850), an infantry lieutenant. He was my 4th great-uncle, younger brother of my 4th great-grandmother Charlotte Elizabeth Dana née Bailey (1795 – 1846).

Benjamin Bayly was born on 5 November 1797 in Nenagh, Tipperary, the son of the Reverend Henry O’Neale Bayley (1757 – 1826) and Anna Penelope (Grueber) Bayly (1764 – 1837).

From the 1821 ‘List of the Officers of the Army and of the Corps of Royal Marines it appears that Bayly had joined the 1st Garrison Battalion as an ensign on 25 June 1816. Garrison Battalions were reserve troops concerned with maintaining defence and good order in troublesome territory. They were recruited from elderly veterans or other troops considered unfit for front-line combat. Bayly’s Garrison Battalion, formed in 1805, was stationed in Ireland from 1807.

With Napoleon’s surrender in April 1814 Garrison battalions were no longer needed. On 5 December 1814 Bayly’s 1st Garrison battalion was disbanded. For over four years, from 2 December 1816, Bayly was on half pay.

In April 1821, some seven years after he was stood down, Bayly joined the 21st (Royal North British Fusilier also known as the Royal Scots Fusiliers) Regiment of Foot as a second lieutenant. (A fusilier was an infantryman armed with a light smooth-bore ‘Fusil’ flintlock musket.)

From 1819 to 1827 the 21st Foot served in the West Indies and British Guiana, most notably quelling an insurrection in Demerara.

The uniform of the regiment in 1827 from the Historical record and regimental memoir of the Royal Scots fusiliers, formerly known as the 21st Royal North British fusiliers by James Clark. Opposite page 42 retrieved from

In December 1824 Benjamin was promoted by purchase to First lieutenant. On 2 December 1826 in Kingstown, the capital of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, he married Mary Ann Cameron Wylly (1811 – 1892), daughter of William Wylly, the Chief Justice of St Vincent.

In October 1828 the 21st Foot, now returned to England from the West Indies, moved from Bath to Fermoy, Ireland. In June 1829 it was stationed at Mullingar and in 1830 in Kilkenny. In September 1831 the regiment moved from Dublin to Warrington, Lancashire.

Following this, the regiment was posted to Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania), arriving in stages from 1832 to 1833, to be put in charge of convicts.

The unit history explains its role:

During the years from 1834 to 1838, the Fusiliers were employed throughout the island of Tasmania, and at Perth, Port Phillip, Swan River, and Western Australia, on detachment duty in charge of various convict stations, and parties on public works ; only two companies, with band and staff, remaining at headquarters. The duties were incessant, hard, and very trying, but, on all occasions, performed in such a manner as to meet the approbation of the Government.

Benjamin and Mary Ann had at least six children.

  • Their oldest surviving child, Eliza Matilda, was baptised in Warrington, Lancashire in November 1831
  • Their second surviving child, Benjamin Peddie, was born in 1837 in Tasmania
  • Thirza Ellen was born in 1841 at Hobart
  • An unnamed child was born and died the same day in 1843 at Lagoon Bay, near Dunalley, 40 kilometers north of Port Arthur
  • William Chambers was born in 1845 at Hobart
  • Henry Vincent was born in 1850 at Richmond, Tasmania, (six months after his father’s death)

In 1838 Lieutenant Bayly, 21st Fusiliers, was appointed Assistant Police Magistrate at Waterloo Point. At the same time Benjamin Bayly, Esquire, was appointed coroner.

From 1839 the 21st was transferred to Calcutta, sailing from Hobart Town in February 1839. Rather than leave Tasmania, Bayly, now with the rank of Captain sold his commission and retired.

At the time of the 1842 census Benjamin Bayly was in Debsborough, near Dunalley, in the parish of Carlton, census district of Richmond. His house was of wood and brick. There were 22 people in the household.

In November 1842 B. Bayly, advertised for a tenant for a 1700 acre farm at Desborough, East Bay Neck. Bayly intended to move 17 kilometers east to Lagoon Bay.

From the Colonial Times (Hobart, Tas.), Tuesday 8 November 1842, page 1

THIS FARM contains 1700 acres of very superior land, with an unlimited back run, nearly 200 acres are in cultivation ; the garden contains two acres, and is stocked with trees selected from some of the best gardens in the colony ; several large paddocks are fenced in with substantial post and rail fences ; it is abundantly supplied with water in the driest seasons, and is an excellent stock and sheep run, and the tenant can have any number with the farm. The crops and stock to be taken at a valuation. The dwelling-house, lately finished, contains nine rooms ; there is an excellent barn, capable of containing 1000 bushels of corn ; there are also out-houses and stabling suitable for the farm. To an industrious tenant every encouragement will be given, and he may have immediate possession, the proprietor being about to remove to Lagoon Bay.
Application to be made to the undersigned, at East Bay Neck.
B. BAYLY. Nov. 8. 2159

From about 1845 Bayly was employed as a visiting magistrate to Maria Island, 50 kilometres north of Boomer Island.

Benjamin Bayly died on 3 March 1850 at the age of 52. He was buried on Maria Island at Darlington.

In 1885 Benjamin Bayly’s youngest son Henry Vincent Bayly married Harriet Louisa Bayley, daughter of Captain James Bayley, a Tasmanian seaman (no relation or at least not a close relation).

Captain James Bayley and his wife Elizabeth lived at Runnymede, a substantial cottage a mile or so north of central Hobart. After their marriage Henry and Harriet moved into Runnymede, where their six children grew up. Henry’s mother, Mary Ann Bayly nee Wylly, died there in 1892, and his sister Matilda in 1899.

In 1931, on Harriet’s death, Runnymede passed to Hally and Emma, her two spinster daughters, and the building was divided into four flats. The Bayly sisters, who continued to live there, were keen for the property to be preserved for future generations, and in 1965 it was bought by the Tasmanian Government ‘for preservation and development as a State monument’. It is presently run by the National Trust.

Benjamin Bayly’s diaries were donated by the Bayly family and are now held by the Tasmanian Archives.

Runnymede in 1888. Photograph from Libraries Tasmania

In 1840 Benjamin Bayly’s nephew, Henry Edmund Pulteney Dana (1817 – 1852), possibly at the suggestion of his uncle, arrived in Tasmania seeking a government position. Unsuccessful, he moved to Victoria, where he was appointed by Governor La Trobe to establish a native police corps.

Related posts:


Don’t trust chatbots

If you write seriously you’ve probably had occasion to look up the meaning of a word in a dictionary, and you’ve probably gone to a thesaurus for the the word that expresses precisely what you want to say.

If you write with a computer word-processing program you may have used its online dictionaries, online thesauruses, and similar aids, and you have possibly allowed your writing to be corrected by helpful extras that detect mis-spellings and grammatical errors. You may have consented to have your prose ‘improved’ by programs that detect weak verbs, excessive use of the passive voice, and so on.

Are you wondering what’s next? Will it ever be possible to instruct a computer to compose meaningful, grammatically correct, and idiomatically proper English on some subject with no further intervention from the human writer?

The answer is yes, sort of, and the development has some implications for genealogists.

Programs designed to write prose are called ‘chatbots‘. One of the more successful is ChatGPT, an Artificial Intelligence (AI) tool currently being trialled, which, given an initial text prompt, is able to produce prose that continues the prompt.

It is sometimes claimed that chatbots are able to understand human language as it is spoken and written, and on this basis have the ability to compose meaningful prose. This is not so; a chatbot constructs sentences using patterns it has detected in text it has examined, constrained by rules imposed by its developers.

Chatbots seem clever, but their output is unreliable, often misleading, and from time to time egregiously and dangerously false.

A new group on Facebook has been set up to explore the ChatGPT tool from a genealogy perspective [].

To demonstrate the dangers of using chatbots, my daughter had a ChatGPT chatbot write a biography of Christine Anne Young—me—complete with cited sources.

It produced a biography without a single correct fact. The sources were entirely made up.

[The chatbot was given my unmarried name.] My date and place of birth were wrong, and my education and achievements were given incorrectly. Publications said to be mine were falsely credited to me.

‘Champion de Crespigny’ is reasonably easy to research, for very few people have this surname, so I am confident that ChatGPT is not confusing me with someone who has the same name.

ChatGPT cannot be relied on for research. It is a prose-construction writing-aid, which exploits language-pattern recognition. It does not understand facts. It produces authoritative-looking text, but it cannot be trusted. It is certainly not a substitute for real research.

Further reading

The Beggs family on the SS Great Britain passenger list in 1868

Image of the SS Great Britain from Great Great Aunt Rose’s photograph album

A few days ago, when I was researching the Beggs family voyage to Australia—on the SS Great Britain in 1868—I couldn’t find them on the passenger list.

I believed—mistakenly, as it turned out—that first-class passengers, paying their own way, and so not registered as assisted immigrants, were listed separately or not at all.

The explanation is simpler. The clerk or clerks responsible for compiling the passenger list wrote the surname ‘Beggs’ as ‘Briggs’. They were described as ‘English’ not ‘Irish’ or ‘Australian’, and Frank Beggs, a boy of 18, became a young lady of 18.

A very helpful collections officer of the SS Great Britain Trust pointed me to the correct entries on the passenger list. Mis-spellings were quite common, she said.

The Beggs family, despite the clerical error of the surname and Frank’s gender-reassignment, is obviously the list’s Briggs family. The combination of names and ages completely matches the Beggs family and their 9 children.

As for their nationality, the passenger list has provision for English, Scotch, Irish, or other countries. Frank Beggs senior and his wife Maria were born in Ireland but had emigrated to Australia in 1849, nearly twenty years previously. Their children, except the youngest, Gertrude, were born in Australia. Even so, it would have been unusual at the time to describe them as Australian: they were British or—stretching it a little—English.

The passenger list has the port of embarkation Liverpool and date of departure 8 July 1868. There were 612 on board of whom 72 were saloon passengers including the Briggs family. The Briggs were described as English and were contracted to land at Melbourne

  • Mr F Briggs adult profession, occupation, or calling of passenger: Gentleman
  • Mrs Briggs adult Lady
  • Fras Briggs 18 female Lady
  • Elizth Briggs 16 female Lady
  • Charlotte Briggs 14 female Lady
  • Maria Briggs 11 female child
  • Clamina Briggs 10 female child
  • Theodore Briggs 8 male child
  • Robt Briggs 6 male child
  • Hugh Briggs 4 male child
  • Gertrude Briggs 2 female child

There appears to be no nurse or governess travelling with the Beggs family in the saloon.



An incentive to marry – a free ticket to Australia

On 15 January 1835, my 3rd great grandparents Daniel Cudmore (1811 – 1891) and Mary Nihill (1811 – 1893) were married, at Drehidtarsrna, County Limerick. On 11 February 1835, less than a month afterwards, the newly-wedded couple, with Mary’s mother and two of her sisters, left Ireland on the John Denniston for Hobart Town, Tasmania. (Mary’s father and her other sisters later joined them there.) Daniel Cudmore applied for a free passage to Australia in 1834 as his means were ‘very limited’. They arrived on 7 June, after a voyage of more than four months.

Daniel Michael Paul Cudmore and his wife Mary probably taken in the 1850s

This sequence—marriage followed immediately by emigration—occurs several times in our family tree.

John Way (1835 – 1911) and Sarah Daw (1837 – 1895), the great great grandparents of my husband Greg, were married at Wendron, Cornwall, on 2 March 1854 and left Plymouth, England as Government or assisted emigrants on the Trafalgar four days later. They arrived in Adelaide on 28 June 1854.

On 10 June 1854, some two years after the death of her husband Kenneth Budge, my 3rd great grandmother Margaret Budge née Gunn (1819 – 1863) married for a second time, to Ewan Rankin (1825- ?), a carpenter in Wick in the far north of Scotland. Soon afterwards she and her new husband, with the four surviving children of her first marriage, made the five-hundred mile journey from Wick to Liverpool, planning to emigrate from there to South Australia.

The family sailed as assisted immigrants, whose fare was paid by a Government body. The ship Dirigo was to have been ready for the reception of passengers at noon on Friday 23 June, and though this was very soon— within a fortnight—of their marriage I am sure that the Rankins were at Liverpool ready to embark. The voyage did not start as planned (but that is another story: M is for Merseyside – 1854 departure of the “Dirigo”).

Preferred candidates for assisted emigration were “respectable young women trained for domestic or farm service, and young married couples without children.” A shortage of single women in the colonies meant that single men would not be accepted as assisted emigrants “without a corresponding number of young single women of good character to equalize the sexes”. Widowers and widows with young children were also forbidden to apply. In order to become a preferred candidate and gain the benefits, including free passage, of assisted emigration it was definitely an advantage to be married.

In these three cases the marriages lasted the usual term, certainly beyond the journey of emigration, until the death either of the husband or the wife. Although the marriage and emigration may have seemed hasty, the decisions and plans had clearly been carefully made.

Related posts:

Further reading:

  • Russell, Roslyn & National Library of Australia, (issuing body.) (2016). High seas & high teas : voyaging to Australia. NLA Publishing, Canberra, ACT. page 37.


200 years since the arrival of the Taylor family on the Princess Charlotte

Two hundred years ago, on Friday 10 January 1823, after a voyage of almost four months, my fifth great grandparents George Taylor (1758 – 1828) and Mary Taylor née Low (1768 – 1850), accompanied by four of their eight adult children, arrived in Hobart, Van Diemen’s Land.

With forty other free emigrants they had sailed on the Princess Charlotte from Leith, the port of Edinburgh, departing in October 1822.  The Princess Charlotte, 401 tons, built in Sunderland in 1813, was named after Princess Charlotte of Wales (1796 – 1817), only child of George Prince of Wales (later George IV). Several ships of the period had this name.

George Taylor’s son Robert kept a diary of the voyage, writing mostly about the weather. A fortnight out they ran into a gale in the Bay of and the ship narrowly escaped going ashore at Cape Finisterre. A fortnight later the ship was becalmed for days near Madeira. A gale soon afterwards broke the main topgallant mast.

The diary also mentions troubles among the second class passengers; a cabin-boy being given a dozen lashes for cutting the first mate’s overcoat; a child’s death and the sea-burial, the sighting of two ships and speculation about their nationality; trouble over the distribution of spirits; shooting bottles for amusement; and betting as to when the ship would arrive in Hobart (Robert lost).

The Princess Charlotte dropped anchor in the Derwent River on 1 January.

The Taylor family landed on 10 January. 

George and Mary Taylor lived at the Macquarie Hotel, Hobart Town, for two or three months before receiving their grants of land. (The building stood at 151 Macquarie Street but has been replaced.)

View from the top of Mount Nelson with Hobart Town, and circumjacent country Van Diemen’s Land painted by Joseph Lycett about 1823. Image retrieved from Parliament of Tasmania.
North East View of Hobart-Town, Van Dieman’s Land. by J. Lycett about 1823. Retrieved through Dixson Galleries, State Library of New South Wales.

The 100th and 150th anniversaries of the arrival were celebrated by descendants of these emigrants. The 200th anniversary  will be celebrated on 28 January, at the end of this month, at Campbell Town.

It is difficult for us now to see Van Diemen’s Land—later officially known as ‘Tasmania’—through the eyes of the recently arrived immigrants. What stood out?

There were sheep, more and more of the woolly chaps, and wheat: 

In 1820 the fine-wool industry in Van Diemen’s Land had been founded with the introduction of 300 of Merino sheep bred by the Camden wool pioneer John Macarthur. In the same year Van Diemen’s Land became Australia’s major wheat producer; it remained so until 1850.

There were more and more farmer settlers: 

By 1823 pastoralists were beginning to farm the Midlands, and many had settled in the country between Launceston and Hobart. On 30 June 1823 George Taylor received an 800 acre grant of land about 30 miles south of Launceston on the Macquarie River near Campbell Town. He named his property Valley-Field. His three sons, George, David, and Robert, each received 700 acre grants of land nearby.

In a letter of about 1825 George Taylor describes his early farming results:

This has been an early harvest. I began to cut barley on the 16th, and I have threshed and delivered 53 bolts and a half to the Thomsons Newbragh, for which I have received 30 / p bolt. It weighed 19 stones 4lb clutch. I think I shall have 10 … p acre. I should have it all in today but it rained in the morning. The first shower since the 17th. It has been a very dry season. In the spring we had not a shower to lay the dust for 43 days. The Barley is excellent, the wheat nearly an average of fine quality, Oats short in straw, much under an average. Peas and Beans in some places good, Turnips good, Potatoes supposed to be a short crop. I sold old wheat @36/-, 34/9d, 33/ last week.
George Taylor Esq.
Van Diemen’s Land.

The Colonial population had increased, with a large number of transported convicts, and the Aboriginal population had declined: 

In September 1823 the Colonial population of Tasmania was enumerated as 10,009, excluding Aboriginal people, military and their families; there were 6850 men, 1379 women, 1780 children. The majority of the population were convicts. Convict immigration to Australia exceeded free immigration until the 1840s. In the 1820s there were 10, 570 convicts arriving in Van Diemen’s Land and 2,900 free immigrants. From 1801 to 1820 2,430 convicts had arrived and 700 free settlers.

In the 1820s about 3000 Scots migrated to Australia, most settled at first in Van Diemen’s Land. By the end of the decade a third of all landowners in Van Diemans’ Land and in New South Wales were Scots born.

My Taylor 5th great grandparents were the first of my ancestors to come to Australia. In the history of European colonisation this was early: Australia had been colonised by white settlers for only 35 years. It was still a wild place. The Taylors were attacked by bushrangers, and one of their sons was killed by Aborigines. They prospered, however, despite the hardships and their descendants continued on the land, breeding sheep at Valleyfield until 2005, when the property, in the Taylor family  for 182 years, was sold out of the family.

Related posts

Further reading

  • Hudson, Helen Lesley Cherry stones : adventures in genealogy of Taylor, Hutcheson, Hawkins of Scotland, Plaisted, Green, Hughes of England and Wales … who immigrated to Australia between 1822 and 1850. H.L. Hudson, [Berwick] Vic, 1985.
  • A. W. Taylor, ‘Taylor, George (1758–1828)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 12 January 2023.
  • Clark, Andrew. “Person Page 225.” BACK WE GO – My Family Research Accessed 12 January 2023
  • Vamplew, Wray, 1943- (1987). Australians, historical statistics. Fairfax, Syme & Weldon Associates, Broadway, N.S.W., Australia
  • Fraser, Bryce & Atkinson, Ann (1997). The Macquarie encyclopedia of Australian events (Rev. ed). Macquarie Library, Macquarie University, N.S.W


I am descended from the Taylors through:

Trove Tuesday: fire at Barrington

Robert Henry (Bob) Whiteman (1883 – 1957), one of Greg’s great uncles, was a labourer from Parkes in New South Wales, the son of a miner. On 29 March 1911 at the Registrar’s Office, Devonport, Tasmania, he married Esther Irene Milton (1894 – 1976), a farmer’s daughter. He was 28 years old; she was 16.

Their children were:

  • Cyril Ernest 1911–1987
  • Irene May 1912–1985
  • Robert Edward 1914–1914
  • Kenneth James (Ken) 1915–1991
  • Percival Robert (Bob) 1917–2000
  • Iris Emily 1919–1924
  • Ivy Jean 1920–1921
  • Myrtle Charlotte 1923–1986

The first two children were born in Launceston. About 1913 the Whiteman family moved to Barrington, a small farming settlement fifty miles west. In 1922 Bob Whiteman and Esther Irene were recorded as living there, with his occupation on the electoral roll as ‘labourer’.

Mt. Roland from Barrington photographed 1906 by Stephen Spurling. Image retrieved through the National Library of Australia.
Lake Barrington with Mt. Roland in background in 2019. Image by Guido Rudolph retrieved through Wikimedia Commons
Lake Barrington was created in 1969 for hydro-electric power production.

Bob had lived in Moriarty, a small village 15 miles northwest of Barrington before his marriage to Esther, and she had family there, including a sister, Bertha Emily Walker nee Milton (1892 – 1922), who was very sick with pleurisy.

On Sunday 23 July 1922, while the Whitemans, with five children aged between 2 and 11, were away visiting Esther’s ill sister Bertha their cottage in Barrington (rented) burnt down and the contents were destroyed.

From the Burnie Advocate of Tuesday 25 July 1922:

A fire occurred at Barrington on Sunday night, which completely destroyed a "cottage and contents. The building was owned by Mr. D. Mason, of Barrington, and occupied by Mr. B. Whiteman. The latter was away at Moriarty, together with his family, and the house was unoccupied when the fire occurred. The furniture, which was owned by the tenant, was partly covered by insurance. Much sympathy will be extended to Mr. Whiteman over his severe loss. He is a married man with five small children.

After the fire, the family moved to Northcote in Melbourne. On the 1924 electoral roll Robert Henry Whiteman, labourer, is recorded as living there, at 8 Robbs Parade.



A boshter and other postcards from Bob Whiteman to Jack Young

When more than thirty years ago I began researching the family history of my husband Greg I was given some postcards belonging to his grandfather, Cecil Young (1898-1975) which had been handed down to father, Peter Young (1920-1988).

At that time I didn’t know much at all about the people and places mentioned on the cards. They were from Bob. Who was he? They referred to Homebush. Was this the Sydney suburb of that name?

I now know much more. Bob was Cecil’s older half-brother. Homebush was a gold-mining town in central Victoria.

Bob, born Robert Henry Whiteman on 10 March 1883 at Parkes, New South Wales, was the oldest child of Sarah Jane (1863 – 1898) and Robert Henry Whiteman (1839 – 1884), a miner. In February 1884 Robert Henry Whiteman senior died of pneumonia. Bob was eleven months old. His sister Mary was born six months later.

In Melbourne in September 1894 Sarah Jane married John Young, a gold miner. Bob was then aged eleven and Mary was ten. In 1894 Sarah Jane had given birth out of wedlock to another child (who came to be known as Leslie Leister). She left this child in Parkes, where he was brought up by her mother and sister. It appears that Bob and Mary came to Victoria to live with John Young and Sarah Jane.

John Young and Sarah Jane had three children together:

  • Caroline 1895-1895, born and died at Timor aged one month
  • John Percy (Jack), 1896-1918 born at Bowenvale near Timor
  • Cecil Ernest 1898-1975, born at Rokewood

Sarah Jane died of postpartum haemorrhage the day after Cecil was born, leaving John Young a widower with two step-children: Bob now aged 14 and Mary 13, and two infants: Jack, almost two, and the newborn Cecil. John’s sisters appeared to have taken care of these children. Jack and Cecil grew up in Homebush with their aunt Charlotte.

John Young in 1899, his two sons Cecil and Jack, and his two step-children Bob and Mary Ann Whiteman. Photo colourised using the MyHeritage photo tool.

The postcard collection has five written by Bob Whiteman to his half-brother Jack. Jack’s birthday was 24 August; three are birthday cards. All five were written between 1906 and 1911. Most are from Moriarty in northern Tasmania, a small settlement fourteen kilometres east of Devonport.

The post card album
Dear Brother Jack
I think you have been a long time answering that postcard that I sent you. So I think when you get this boshter you ought to write.
Give my best respects to all.
Good Bye for the present.
Your loving brother B. W.

(Boshter’ was Australasian slang for someone or something first-class or impressive. See: Green’s Dictionary of Slang

Road near Cora Lynn, Tas. painted by L H Davey. The State Library of Victoria has a copy of this postcard.
Moriarty 21st 9th 1908
Dear Brother Jack
I hope you don’t think that I have forgotten you I have been very busy lately one way and another. I have got my potatoes in I will have to chance what they turn out like now. Hoping you are well as I am myself at present I will say Good Bye.
Moriarty 8th 12th 1909
Dear Jack I suppose you thought I had forgotten you. We are having dreadful cold weather over here for this time of the year. Wish Aunt and Uncle and Lora a Happy xmas and a prosperous new year for me and accept the same for yourself and Cecil. All this time Good Bye Bob.

(Aunty and Uncle were Charlotte Wilkins née Young and her husband George Wilkins the Lower Homebush schoolmaster. ‘Lora’ was almost certainly Laura Squires, the school sewing mistress. In 1925 she married George Wilkins after the death of Charlotte.)

Moriarty 12.9.1910
Dear Jack
No doubt you will think it funny me sending you a birthday card after letting it pass so long but better late than never I suppose you are both growing fine big boys by this time. I will write you a letter when you answer this so don’t be too long. Have you seen Father lately.
Moriarty 8th 1st 1911
Dear Jack, I suppose you were beginning to think I was never going to write but I hope you had a Merry Xmas & New Year. Things were quite enough over this way. How is Aunty & Uncle & Lora getting on wish them all the compliments of the season for me it is rather late but better that than never. I hope you enjoy your holidays. All this time so Good Bye Bob.

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Beggs family visit to Ireland

On the reverse of the picture, which is the size of a carte de visite or visiting card, is a plan; the cabins occupied by the Beggs family appear to be indicated with red ticks.

My great-great Aunt Rose’s photograph album consists mostly of portraits of members of her family, but it does include one picture of a ship, Brunel’s SS Great Britain. This has the caption:

S.S. Great Britain 1868
September 1868. We all returned from Ireland in the Great Britain.

The ‘we’ is the Beggs family; the caption was probably inserted by Rose’s husband Frank Beggs, a boy of seventeen at the time of their long journey back to Australia.

From the Geelong Advertiser, Tuesday 8 September 1868, page 2:

The following old colonists, late residents in Geelong and the "Western District, returned to the colony by the steamer Great Britain;—Hon. Niel Black, of Glenormiston, Mrs Black, Masters Archibald, Stewart and Niel Black, and servant; Mr and Mrs F. Beggs, of Beaufort, Misses Elizabeth, Charlotte, Maria, Clamma, Gertrude, Masters F., H., R. and J. Beggs; Mr. and Mrs D. Stead, of Ballan; Mr Robert Richardson, formerly Inspector of Police, Geelong; Mr Fairfax Fenwick, of Chevy; Mr Alex. Hunter, and Mr George Staveley of Geelong, also Master E. G. Staveley.

The SS Great Britain was a steamship designed by the famous Victorian-era engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Launched in 1845, until 1854 she was the largest passenger ship in the world. The Great Britain made her first voyage to Australia in 1852 and operated on the England–Australia route for almost 30 years. Still afloat, she is now part of a Bristol maritime museum. (The Great Britain was not Brunel’s famous SS Great Eastern, a different vessel.)

The Beggs family left Australia for Southampton on 26 January 1865 on the ‘Bombay, a steamship of 608 tons. The passenger list includes Mr and Mrs Beggs, a daughter and son aged over twelve years old, three daughters aged between one and twelve, two sons aged between one and twelve, one infant daughter: eight children altogether.

In 1866 the Beggs’s youngest child, Gertude, was born in Ireland during their stay there.

The photograph album contains many portraits of the Beggs’s relatives and friends from Ireland, presumably people Frank Beggs and his family met at the time of their 1860s visit.

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