`This Blumminy Town!'
An utterly untrustworthy account of the European Settlement of the City of Newcastle, Australia.
The hypochondriac and somewhat 'fey' in temperament, Captain Wherold Nighland Jeffries of the Eighth Scottish, Pillsbury Huffy Brigade, pulled into what was to become Newcastle Harbour in 1797 while chasing "...absconding boaties." His much stained ships log records that he did this...
"...In an effort that calmer waters would alleviate a fatal nasal sinus pressure that I felt could rupture at any given moment causing a humiliating death to myself and an inconsiderate mess upon the deck of this ship that I am so proud and fond of."
The ship eventually given to his command by an exasperated Governor Hunter, was the 74 gun 'Mary' class ship, `HMS Temperance'. Captain Jeffries by his own initiative had renamed the ship during the voyage and over the loud protests of the ships crew to 'The Wilful Truffle'.
The city of Newcastle was originally named `Coal Harbour'. Captain Jeffries' ambitious and `callow' second mate Dawson Tritt, records the naming of it in his diary.
"Cptn Jeffries & 1st Mate Lilly with American sailor Johns Fredrick, or as the crew have cruelly named him, `Johnny Fred with the awfully big head', rowed ashore.
I waved to Cpt Jeffries and First Mate Lilly often as they departed. As they continually waved back, I continued to wave back to them in reply. Eventually I was roughly pulled from the starboard rail by Sgt Dundall of the the Royal Marines who roughly clipped me about the head and muttered obscenities toward my good self under his beastly breath. Such a grumbly man His Majesty's Navy has never before seen!"
On the expeditions return, Boston born Sailor Jonathan Fred recounted the naming of the inlet to which the HMS Truffle had moored. In his Diary he wrote;
" The Captain and First Mate Lilly wandered about the beach, tripping over lumps of coal and picking at other loose bits of coal from the beach cliff. In fact we almost ran aground on a large protusion of coal sticking from the water whilst coming ashore! All the time the Captain and Lilly were trying to think of a name for the place, if you can believe it!"
"I offered to the Captain my opinion of the preponderance of coal that there was to be found about the place However First Mate Lilly loudly shouted me down and threw a good sized lump of coal at the easy target of my head. This question, as to the naming of the place, they intermitebly kept returning to in tedious conversation between them for the next hour or two as we recorded the immediate landscape and weather there were any springs of fresh water about. The answer to which, was no."
Water was to be found some hours later by the observance of local Aborigines lounging peacefully beside a pond, splashing and laughing amongst themselves and lazily drinking of it's contents. They were of course all shot.
"...On returning to ship, I overheard the `vile' Lilly inform the Captain that perhaps, due to the amount of coal we had found about the harbour, that it should be so named. The Captain was extremely happy and squealed his approval in a voice of high pitched delight. I managed to sigh heavily through my exertion whilst rowing, to which I received a look from Lilly that was unambiguous in it's meaning. The meaning was reinforced some time later and to his own amusement by several dozen lashes upon my back."
Captain Jeffries mapped much of the harbour and upon his return to Sydney informed Governor Hunter of it's suitability as a seaside resort for self funded retiree's such as his own elderly parents back in Edinburgh.
"Cruelties visited upon men, unheard of until the 1970's"
It is a popular fallacy of modern Australians to regard many of those convicts sent to Australia as being victims of the system, poor wretches caught up in the system through no fault of their own other than where they were unfortunate enough to be born. They were the wretched and destitute who's only means of survival was to steal a loaf of maggot infested bread to eat or a pork knuckle button with which to sew onto their waistcoats so they would be eminently more presentable and hence successful at job interviews. They were the elderly who doddered about the streets of London, wilfully imposing their conversation upon overly polite listeners with tedious and meandering tales of the warm halcyon days of lost youth, income and pets.
"For the most part, those transported more than deserved it."
It is is true. Some were hard done by, but history has inflated their numbers beyond reason. For the most part, those transported more than deserved it. They were the vile, thieving, murderous, fraudulent, sexually deviant and conversationally tedious scum that had to be scooped from the surface of the ever simmering stock pot of the British Isles.
The new township of Newcastle was a place of extreme torture and deprivation. It was even used as a place for the experimentation of cruelty whereupon...
"...those with a predisposition to the infliction of atrocities were encouraged to implement fancies of sadism and punishment upon a wretched population of convicts of all classes and race for the good of their souls and the correction of their minds and tempers".
Nothing was discouraged, no matter how seemingly trivial or ambitious. Every idea was scrupulously recorded and later reviewed by Officers of the Corp in the privacy of their personal quarters or collectively in rambunctious and secret late night gatherings at barracks.
The cruelties visited upon the convicts of Newcastle were never as those might suspect as mundane as several dozen lashes or forced labour without appropriate footwear. These were deviously inventive cruelties of a sort that could only be conceived by extremely bored Eighteenth Century sociopaths.
Put in context, even by standards of a time when such punishments as violently thrashing infants for excessive crying was looked upon as a form of parental love, these were excessive and to some academic minds of the time, `exquisite in the purity of their evil.'
Punishments such as a convict being forced to collect eggs from the camps chicken coop with specially reinforced trousers that contained a starved cat. If any eggs were broken during this exercise then the eggs were replaced and the convict was forced to repeat the gathering while escorting a starved dog as well. This punishment was escalated with an ever increasing number of starved dogs until, it is recorded,
"...the dogs had tired enough of the game to the point that their tempers were stretched so that they would turn on the convict and attempt to tear the madly terrified and starving cat from within the now bloodied trousers."
This resulted in the convict being eaten alive whilst begging to be...
"...spared of this life so that I may find peace in death and the bosom of my maker'.
...or screams to that effect.
Some ideas were discarded but never for reasons of excessive cruelty, if only that they were considered too lenient or of insufficient creativity. Those concepts the officers felt were of some potential were imaginatively combined with others to much sniggering and amusement from within the ranks.
A newsletter was printed and distributed at some cost, detailing for the pleasures and histories of the colony, the inventive punishments that were to be inflicted upon the convict population. As a Journal and diary of invented cruelties it was relished with much anticipation and amusement by the non convict population. The convicts though? Not so much.
The newsletters publication was much feared by the convict population and those who were educated enough to read we're encouraged by their fellow convicts to read out loud to them it's contents each month. The effects of these readings was to pile even further terror upon the poor wretches who knew they would have to endure the many cruelties detailed within.
It soon became clear to many officers that the publication of what would one day become 'The Newcastle Morning Herald', would itself be of much value as an instrument of further tortures though of a not invaluable mental kind.