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Ennever & Enever family history & ancestry. Click here to return to the home page WJ Ennever (1869-1947). From the portrait by J Seymour R.A., exhibited in the Royal Academy.

Australia's 'First Fleeters'

Between 1787 and 1850 the English sent more than 160,000 convicts to Australia. The first eleven of these ships are known today as the 'First Fleet' and contained the convicts and marines who are now acknowledged as the founders of Australia.

The Charlotte at Portsmouth before departure in May 1787  

The First Fleet is the name given to the 11 ships which sailed from Great Britain on 13 May 1787 with about 1,487 people, including 778 convicts (192 women and 586 men), to establish the first European colony in Australia, in New South Wales. The fleet was led by Captain (later Admiral) Arthur Phillip. The ships arrived at Botany Bay between 18 and 20 January 1788. HMS Supply arrived on 18 January, The Alexander, Scarborough and Friendship arrived on 19 January and the remaining ships on 20 January 1788. See the table at the end of the page for details of family members who are either 'First Fleeters' or have links by marriage to 'First Fleeters'.

The eleven First Fleet ships were:

Naval escorts

Ship
Type
Captain
Dep. England
Arr. Sydney
Duration
HMS Sirius
Converted merchant ship/armed naval vessel
Flagship of the fleet
Captain John Hunter
13 May 1787 at Portsmouth
20 January 1788 at Botany Bay
252
HMS Supply
Armed tender
Captain Henry Lidgbird Ball
13 May 1787 at Portsmouth
18 January 1788 at Botany Bay
250

Convict transports

Ship
Type
Master
Crew
Dep. England
Arr. Sydney
Duration (days)
Male convicts arrived (boarded)
Female convicts arrived (boarded)
Alexander
Barque
Duncan Sinclair
N/A
13 May 1787
19 January 1788
251
195
none
Charlotte
Heavy sailer
Thomas Gilbert
N/A
13 May 1787
20 January 1788
252
88
20
Friendship
Brig
Francis Walton
N/A
13 May 1787
19 January 1788
251
76
21
to Cape of Good
Hope only
Lady Penrhyn
Transport
William Cropton Server
N/A
13 May 1787
20 January 1788
252
none
101
Prince of Wales
Transport
John Manson
N/A
13 May 1787
20 January 1788
252
1
49
Scarborough
Transport
Captain John Marshall
N/A
13 May 1787
19 January 1788
251
208
none

Food and supply transports

Ship
Type
Master
Crew
Dep. England
Arr. Sydney
(Port Jackson)
Duration (days)
Male convicts arrived (boarded)
Female convicts arrived (boarded)
Golden Grove
Storeship
William Sharp
N/A
13 May 1787
26 January 1788
258
21
from Port Jackson
to Norfolk Island
11
from Port Jackson
to Norfolk Island
Fishburn
Storeship
Robert Brown
N/A
13 May 1787
26 January 1788
258
none
none
Borrowdale
Storeship
Houston Reed
N/A
13 May 1787
26 January 1788
258
none
none

During the voyage there were seven births, while 69 people either died, were discharged, or deserted (61 males and 8 females). As no complete crew musters have survived for the six transports and three storeships, there may have been as many as 110 more seamen.

Ropes, crockery, glass panes for the governor's windows, ready-cut wood, cooking equipment (including some complete cast-iron stoves), and a miscellany of weapons were needed. Other items included tools, agricultural implements, seeds, spirits, medical supplies, bandages, surgical instruments, handcuffs, leg irons and chains. A prefabricated house for the governor was constructed and packed flat. 5,000 bricks for construction and thousands of nails were loaded. The party had to rely on only its provisions to survive until it could make use of local materials, assuming suitable supplies existed, and could grow its own food and raise livestock.

With fine weather the convicts were allowed on deck, and on 3 June 1787 the fleet anchored at Santa Cruz at Tenerife. Here fresh water, vegetables and meat were taken on board. Phillip and the chief officers were entertained by the local governor, while one convict tried unsuccessfully to escape. On 10 June they set sail to cross the Atlantic to Rio de Janeiro, taking advantage of favourable trade winds and ocean currents.

The weather became increasingly hot and humid as the fleet sailed through the tropics. Vermin, such as rats, and parasites such as bedbugs, lice, cockroaches and fleas, tormented the convicts, officers and marines. Bilges became foul and the smell, especially below the closed hatches, was over-powering. On Alexander a number of convicts fell sick and died. Tropical rainstorms meant that the convicts could not exercise on deck, and were kept below in the foul, cramped holds. On the female transports, promiscuity between the convicts and the crew and marines was rampant. In the , Phillip was forced to ration the water to three pints a day.

The fleet reached Rio de Janeiro on 5 August and stayed a month. The ships were cleaned and water taken on board, repairs were made, and Phillip ordered large quantities of food for the fleet. The women convicts' clothing, which had become infested with lice, was burned, and the women were issued with new clothes made from rice sacks. While the convicts remained below deck, the officers explored the city and were entertained by its inhabitants. A convict and kohi marine were punished for passing forged quarter-dollars made from old buckles and pewter spoons.

The Voyage of Governor Phillip to Botany Bay
with an Account of the Establishment of the
Colonies of Port Jackson and Norfolk Island;
The Voyage of Governor Phillip to Botany Bay<br />with an Account of the Establishment of the <br />Colonies of Port Jackson and Norfolk Island;

The fleet left Rio on 4 September to run before the westerlies to the Cape of Good Hope in southern Africa, which it reached on 13 October. This was the last port of call, so the main task was to stock up on plants, seeds and livestock for their arrival in Australia. The livestock taken on board from the Cape of Good Hope destined for the Colony of NSW included: two bulls, seven cows, one stallion, three mares, 44 sheep, 32 pigs, four goats and "a very large quantity of poultry of every kind". Women convicts on the Friendship were moved to other transports to make room for livestock purchased there. The convicts were provided with fresh beef and mutton, bread and vegetables, to build up their strength for the journey. The Dutch colony of was the last outpost of European settlement which the fleet members would see for years, perhaps for the rest of their lives. “Before them stretched the awesome, lonely void of the Indian and Southern Oceans, and beyond that lay nothing they could imagine.” (Hughes, p. 82)

Assisted by the gales of the latitudes below the 40th parallel, the heavily-laden transports surged through the violent seas. A freak storm struck as they began to head north around, damaging the sails and masts of some of the ships.

In November, Phillip transferred to Supply. With Alexander, Friendship and Scarborough, the fastest ships in the Fleet and carrying most of the male convicts, Supply hastened ahead to prepare for the arrival of the rest. Phillip intended to select a suitable location, find good water, clear the ground, and perhaps even have some huts and other structures built before the others arrived. However, this "flying squadron" reached only hours before the rest of the Fleet, so no preparatory work was possible. The Supply reached Botany Bay on 18 January 1788; the three fastest transports in the advance group arrived on 19 January; slower ships, including the Sirius arrived on 20 January.

This was one of the world's greatest sea voyages — eleven vessels carrying about 1,487 people and stores had travelled for 252 days for more than 15,000 miles (24,000 km) without losing a ship. Forty-eight people had died on the journey, a death rate of just over three per cent. Given the rigours of the voyage, the navigational problems, the poor condition and sea-faring inexperience of the convicts, the primitive medical knowledge, the lack of precautions against scurvy, the crammed and foul conditions of the ships, poor planning and inadequate equipment, this was a remarkable achievement.

It was soon realised that Botany Bay did not live up to the glowing account that James Cook had given it. The bay was open and unprotected, fresh water was scarce, and the soil was poor. First contacts were made with the local indigenous people, the Eora, who seemed curious but suspicious of the newcomers. The area was studded with enormously strong trees. When the convicts tried to cut them down, their tools broke and the tree trunks had to be blasted out of the ground with gunpowder. The primitive huts built for the officers and officials quickly collapsed in rainstorms. The marines had a habit of getting drunk and not guarding the convicts properly, whilst their commander, Major Robert Ross, drove Phillip to despair with his arrogant and lazy attitude. Crucially, Phillip worried that his fledgling colony was exposed to attack from the Aborigines or foreign powers.

On 21 January, Phillip and a party which included John Hunter, departed the Bay in three small boats to explore other bays to the north. Phillip discovered that Port Jackson, about 12 kilometres to the north, was an excellent site for a colony with sheltered anchorages, fresh water and fertile soil. Cook had seen and named the harbour, but had not entered. Phillip's impressions of the harbour were recorded in a letter he sent to England later; "the finest harbour in the world, in which a thousand sail of the line may ride in the most perfect security ...". The party returned on 23 January.

The First Fleet convicts are named on stone tablets in the Memorial Garden, Wallabadah, New South Wales.
The First Fleet convicts are named on stone tablets in the Memorial Garden, Wallabadah, New South Wales.

On the morning of 24 January the party was startled when two French ships were seen just outside Botany Bay. This turned out to be a scientific expedition led by Jean-François de La Pérouse. The French had expected to find a thriving colony where they could repair ships and restock supplies, not a newly arrived fleet of convicts considerably more poorly provisioned than themselves. There was some cordial contact between the French and British officers, but Phillip and La Pérouse never met. The French ships remained until 10 March, but never returned to France, being wrecked with the loss of nearly all lives near Vanikoro Island in the New Hebrides (Vanuatu).

On 26 January 1788, the fleet weighed anchor and sailed to Port Jackson. The site selected for the anchorage had deep water close to the shore, was sheltered, and had a small stream flowing into it. Phillip named it Sydney Cove, after Lord Sydney the British Home Secretary. This date is still celebrated as Australia Day, marking the beginnings of the first British settlement. The British flag was planted and formal possession was taken. This was done by Phillip and some officers and marines from the Supply, with the remainder of the Supply's crew and the convicts observing from on board ship. The remaining ships of the Fleet did not arrive at Sydney Cove until later that day.1.

 

Family members descended from 'First Fleeters'
Descended from:
Ship
Notes
Scarborough (Lucas) & Lady Penrhyn (Gascoigne)
You can read Nathaniel's story on wikipedia. There is also research by James Donohoe (see below) here. Nathaniel arrived as a convict.
Annette Gaye Smith (daughter of Glenda above)
Annette and her husband, Michael Bickham, were married by Annette's cousin, James Donohue also a 'First Fleeter'. James is descended from Nathaniel & Olivia.
Andrew Warren Smith (son of Glenda above)
Similarly, Andrew and his wife, Bronwyn Stevens, were also married by James Donohue.
Joseph Tuso aka Joseph Tuzo
Scarborough
Sirius or Scarborough. Historians record him as arriving on board both ships but it appears he arrived on board Sirius as a baker, having been transferred from the Scarborough
Frederick first arrived as a seaman, not a convict, on 26th Jan 1788.
Scarborough
James Bradley was indicted for stealing, on the 11th of May 1784, one linen handkerchief, value 1s. the property of John Hughes.

 

Sources

1 Wikipedia First Fleet
2 Wikipedia Nathaniel Lucas
3 Kevin Lewis Smith's research, which identified the names of 'First Fleeters'
4 Project Gutenberg, Australia A treasure trove of literature

If anyone has any further information about family links to 'First Fleeters' I would be delighted to hear from you.

Author:  Barry Ennever

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