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William Maum: letter to Robert Nash

Privacy Level: Open (White)
Date: 18 Jan 1808 [unknown]
Location: From Hobart Town to Norfolk Islandmap
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William Maum: letter to Robert Nash, Hobart Town 18 January 1808

My ever dear friend,

We arrived here in safety after a most favourable passage of nineteen days, we encountered no storms and the sea was so smooth that an open boat might safely come the same journey, which was a happy circumstance, considering the great numbers packed and stowed aboard, whose situation would be deplorable had we encountered bad weather.

As you must go through the ceremony, I shall briefly relate to you what you are expected, and consequently you must prepare for the worst, - immediately after you put to sea each person will be put to an allowance of water, the cattle likewise, this you will consider a great hardship, particularly as in respect to the stock, the pigs, sheep and goats being allowed only one half pint each, the cattle one gallon- the settlers will be classed into watches, which will be distressing to you particularly in the winter season, but it will have the room of those immediately on watch-

You can’t conceive the great carnage that had been on board the Porpoise in regard to stock, Crowder lost 5 sows and 6 sheep, Mitchell 7 sheep and 3 goats and all others in proportion, but what must you be your astonishment when you are informed that I brought my 8 ewes and 3 sows safe, without any loss or detriment, the sheep 74 in number were placed in the long boat, - and every person exerted himself to providing for his own. Now I messed with the Officers in the gunroom, was enabled to obtain a sufficiency of water, which they learned to drink from a bottle as expertly as any old dame would imbibe from a similar vessel of much stronger Liquor, in short every person that had stock on board lost upwards of one half: Maum excepted, lost none.

You can’t conceive the great trouble that has attended the receipt of our corn and wheat that Captain Piper’s account was entirely incorrect, as many persons came forward and declared that they had not one half the quantity of grain on board that was specified, for instance in the Norfolk Return Crowder was set down as having put on board 20 bushels of wheat, and he himself has voluntarily declared that he put on board but six – and many other instances of this kind, which occasion much confusion.

Now attending to my instructions, put your wheat in casks and your flour likewise, and on no account allow it to be stated as if you do, by such errors as I have mentioned, persons who put but a small quantity on board might claim as large a portion as you.

As nothing worth your attention happened on this passage, I shall mention to you something of interest. On my placing my sheep in the Government Stock, Mamby the stock-keeper, a very decent man (in figure very much resembles Jellet) asked me in and informed me he was your particular friend and offered me his services on your account – after some conversation relating to you, he showed me the shell of a very good house, which he is building, and intends for you, the tiles to cover it are it are in ready, and the flooring boards ready for laying. Two rooms in front, and two skillings behind.

I asked him if he built it purposely for you, he said not immediately so, but as you wrote to him to that effect, you might have the house- it will cost upward of 150 pounds.

The following is his advice which he desires me to communicate, bring with you as much flour and wheat as possible, and a sufficiency of corn for whatever stock you may bring down about 12 good young ewes, a greater number on board would be useless, as you could possibly bring them down, four or five sows in pig (if possible) as there are no boars here – as much poultry as you can get off etc.

He desires that you particularly bring down your Mill Stones and your Mill works, as he will engage to find you a sufficiency of water etc. – bring with you hoes etc. and all other tools as they are remarkably scarce, and you may expect a good house to receive you, on your arrival, which is here a matter of great consequence.

Now I shall give you my sentiments - on our arrival here the settlers and others were billeted on the inhabitants of this town which is far larger than you could suppose. The houses in general are of latch and plaster and immoderately dear as a house equal in size to your workshop of such bad materials would bring here 50 pounds.

We found some of the Lady Nelson passengers settled, they had taken their farms about two and three miles from the town, and many of those that came with us have settled in this vicinity likewise - but the greater portion and those that had arrived next are settled are to be settled at a place the fertility of which is highly spoken of named Herdsmans Cove, about 15 miles hence where there are most extensive plains, on the road direct to Port Dalrymple.

Your plough if you settle there will perform much execution - the last crop here has been most favourable and I declare to you, I never in my life saw such charming wheat as that was produced here - the ear is a least one half longer than those of Norfolk Wheat, and amazingly full.

The Governor here has it not in his power to fulfil the intentions of Government, as he has neither tradesmen nor labourers and nothing in the stores but provisions, some of which are very bad, particularly the Cape beef - he intends going up in a few days to the New Settlement. I shall attend him, and be present at the Ceremony.

There is a stream of fresh water running almost through this town, but I have seen no sufficient fall in any part of the neighbourhood. Billy Mitchell tells me he has seen a fall about three miles from this, but is undetermined about settling there, as he wishes to go with the Norfolk body, and it is said there is a capital fall at the plains at Herdsman's Cove.

I can't give you any positive directions as I suppose you will be on your arrival be the best able to determine for yourself - as provisions will be the staple commodity here - Pork now selling here at 2/6 and 3/, Soap 4/-, flour 1/-, and potatoes 3d per pound...and everything else in proportion.

As to Mamby's house that you will be able to determine on here, without any advice from me - Mamby in my opinion is a very good natured man, and willingly serve you - his place will be very useful to you on your arrival.

Our friend Hibbins was placed in a Sergeant McCauley's house and wishing that his wife should be employed, made a large fire to boil pots etc., for her to wash with, and absolutely burned down the house valued at near 200 pounds.

Lieutenant Governor Collins very much dislikes him, his cup of misery is full, and draughts of it are plentiful.

The Governor could not believe the reports of his conduct in respect to Mrs Hibbins, and considered them arising from the prejudice until Hibbins himself absolutely informed him of her baseness and his own infamy - the Governor has ordered him to keep a distance from him.


Poor Herbert was as busy on board with his head bare, his sleeves tucked up, and a frying pan continually in one hand and a bundle of dirty clothes in the other, always on the bustle, jealous of any person that came near Betsy. But unhappily for him a quartermaster named Summers has supplanted him in her esteem, and she has given the sailors hard biscuit, the preference to all his sweet cakes and womanlike attentions. He is now nearly distracted and as such is likely to continue. Crowder appears John's friend, but he comes on board and is the advocate for Summers. So much for poor Jack who would be glad to be back at Norfolk in the co-partnership of Sparkes. I never thought it worth my while to speak to Davis about his ingratitude. You will do well to keep a distance from him. He endeavoured to get a passage to Sydney, but the Governor will allow no person from Norfolk to go up there. He has friends out here the price of his pigs and will, I think his wheat and what little pork he has got.

Now I shall give you some instructions which I hope you will attend to. Mr. Ellison intends to be very civil to you and he has promised me that he will do everything in his power to render you comfortable on board, and Mr. Hayes is to mess with Mr. Jackson. I would strongly advise you to […] with Mr. Bert, the carpenter, for his cabin is directly opposite Mr. Jacksons, and likewise arrange with him your mess. You can't conceive the advantage, as I assure you if you are in the general crowd your […], anxiety and vexation will be great.

I have spoken to Mr. Bert who will pay you any attention and I now tell you what you will give him, as a remuneration, a tolerably good sow. By this means you will have your provisions ready dressed by his servant and a good berth for Mrs. Nash and the girls, which in such a ship is a matter of great moment. If you are not attentive to this you will repent it. Go on board to Mr. Bert, and Mr. Ellison will settle the business immediately. As fowls here are of the utmost consequence, their value being beyond money, Mr. Ellison will take on board for you as many as James can take off. He must take them in his name and let Jem and him settle about the manner they are to be divide and dispose of them afterwards. If Issac comes down tell him I shall thank him if he looks after some pigs that will be on board for me and will reward him: he will be here a free man and Governor Collins will give him a settlement.

If young Hobbs or Collins go on shore pay them attention, they are good young fellows on board. It was impossible for any person to be better treated on board than I have been as every gentleman in the mess behaved to me in a handsome manner, and we were treated with more respect than all the first rate settlers with all their claims and privileges.

I shall now briefly inform you of every circumstance relative to myself. The day before I left Norfolk Island I was with Captain Piper, and was informed by him that he had received instructions from Governor Bligh to place Hayes, Robinson, Suttor, and me in the list of delinquents. Now this was peculiarly hard as Governor King never in his life attached any time or charge to me. The captain told me that he would do away the effects of this bad character in his report, but in this instance broke his word. I am sure I never offended him, and I am now, happily, out of his power. In the list he set down Dwyer a prisoner, which is here reversed, and he has received the privileges of freedom. Isaacs, the Jew, was likewise on the list, and he has got his freedom, and so has even Berry, his time being out, and Davis the tailor, as there is no conviction against him. I waited on the Governor who told me that he was extremely sorry that a young man of my figure and my abilities should labour under so bad a character. I immediately appealed to several gentlemen on board the “Porpoise” and soon convinced him that that character of delinquent was very unmeritedly applied. He thus being convinced informed me that he had at present no situation worth my acceptance, but that I should have the first that offered, and promised me a settlement at Herdsman's Cove, where I intend to remove shortly. You saw how I have been treated at Norfolk and how advisable it was for me to leave it, before I could possibly be involved in any difficulty.

You can't conceive the extent to which robberies are carried here. A great many persons from Norfolk have been robbed, and amongst the rest Robby has lost a cask of pork, being stolen from Mr. Guest's door. Mr. Blinkford intends to be very civil to Parsons and family, I request you may kindly remember me to your family and all friends and be assured of my esteem. [1]


  1. Notes by the Way (1921, July 1). Critic (Hobart, Tas. : 1907 - 1924), p. 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article169034323 ; also at Irene Schaffer’s website. Maum letter to Nash 1808. http://www.tasfamily.net.au/~schafferi/index.php?file=kop84.php ; Notes by the Way (1921, July 8). Critic (Hobart, Tas. : 1907 - 1924), p. 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article169034359)

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