Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Story of Patrick McCarthy - Part 2

January 1803: HMS Calcutta departed England bound for Port Phillip Bay, where a new settlement was to be established.  The seven Gibraltar mutineers were aboard. Court martialled. Convicts now. Patrick McCarthy was one of them. Aged 24. Never to return to England or his Irish home.

Calcutta carried a crew of 150, 308 male convicts, civil officers, marines, and some wives and children. Sailing with her was the supply ship Ocean. They reached Rio De Janeiro on 19 July. After a short layover they sailed southward, arriving at Cape Town on 16 August. While anchored there, Calcutta received news that Britain was now at war with the Batavian Republic. The Dutch sent a representative aboard Calcutta to demand that she surrender. While the representative waited, Calcutta's Captain Woodriff spent two hours preparing her for battle. He then showed the representative Calcutta's sailors and marines at their guns, and told the Dutchman that "if he wants this ship he must come and take her if he can". The convicts were asked if any would volunteer to fight and work the ship. All volunteered (onya Patrick!). The Dutch gave Calcutta 24 hours to leave, saying that they "did not wish to capture such a large number of thieves".

On 12 October 1803, Calcutta arrived at Port Phillip Bay, anchoring offshore from the site of what is now Sorrento. The convicts were offloaded and a camp established.  Patrick McCarthy was appointed as a night guard, sufficiently trusted to police other convicts on account of his having been a soldier and there being insufficient Marines to provide guard services 24 hours a day. David Collins, the commander of the expedition, found that the poor soil and shortage of fresh water made the area unsuitable for a colony and by late January 1804 relocated the infant colony to the Derwent River on the south east coast of Tasmania (then Van Diemens Land) - the site of what is now the city of Hobart. The Calcutta and Ocean entered the Derwent estuary on 15 February 1804 - the first fleet of Britons had arrived in Van Diemen's Land. Some saw themselves as colonists. The convicts saw themselves as captives landed in a huge open prison. But there's no escaping - they were invaders. Military men, prisoners mostly, some settlers and crew.  This place was already occupied - but not in a sense that British law was accustomed to. Patrick McCarthy and all the other convicts were taken ashore and put to work establishing a camp. This land was about to change forever.
HMS Calcutta Unloading her Cargo at the Derwent River - February 1804.

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