William Bligh and William Parker at the Derwent

Commodore William Bligh and his adventures on the River Derwent 1809

Governor William Bligh was deposed from his position as Governor of New South Wales in 1808. With his daughter Mary he departed Sydney on the Porpoise on 13 March 1809, with instructions to sail direct to England without touching any part of the territory. Instead Bligh ordered Captain Kent to go to Hobart Town, arriving there 29 March 1809.

On arrival at Hobart Town, Bligh and his daughter and members of his party took up residence at Government House, which he described as being a miserable shell of three rooms with walls a brick thick, neither wind or water proof and without conveniences. Bligh decided to remain on board the Porpoise. Mary continued to stay at Government House until she too went on the Porpoise with her father, claiming she had been insulted by Governor Collins parading around with his mistress on his arm.

As things became worse between the two men, Bligh moved the Porpoise down river and established a blockade, stopping all shipping in and out of Hobart Town (the Porpoise carried ten - nine pound guns). He first stood off Sandy Bay but later moved down near a point off Bruny Island (now called Bligh Point). Settlers in Hobart Town were warned not to supply the Porpoise with stores, but some of the Norfolk Islanders who were loyal to Bligh disobeyed and were caught and punished.

It was about this time that Bligh had cause to have one of his midshipmen receive two dozen lashes. The problem was that he was the natural son of Governor Collins. This of cause did not help the already strained relationship between Governor Collins and Commodore Bligh.

The 300 ton ship the Union owned by Rowland Walpole Loane and under the command of F. Luttrell, arrived in the Derwent from Calcutta in late 1809 with a shipment of rice and other merchandise for Governor Collins, for relieve of the colony near starvation situation. The cargo was valued at £20,000. Bligh intercepted the vessel and bought 3 tons of rice, 8 casts of meat, 3 hundredweight of sugar and 200 gallons of sprits. (no doubt with an iou intending that the Government would repay it.)

Mr. Loane was accompanied by his mistress, a women of colour, called Madam De Hotman, who had come from Mauritius. This lady was well received into Hobart Town society as the Rev. Knopwood made her a welcome visitor at his home over the next few years. Loane built her a house in Davey Street, which still stands behind St. Ann's Home.

Unfortunately it is difficult to find the names of Bligh's party, especially servants (other than the faithful Edmund Griffin secretary to Governor Bligh between 1806-8, who stayed with Bligh after the rebellion and was on the list to go to England) but in this case one of the servants names is known. He was William Parker who was tried in Westminster on 4 July 1805 to 7 years transportation to Port Jackson on the Duke of Portland, arriving on 10 November 1807. After he arrived he was made Governor Bligh's body servant (personal valet) and when his master was deposed accompanied him on the Porpoise to Hobart Town. The Porpoise arrived in the River Derwent on the 29 March 1809.

William Parker later went to stay at Edward Lord's place until he was free. He then worked as a servant for Mr. McCarthy. This information has remained like others yet to be found in the Archives, and it was not until I was searching for another convict that I came across it. In 1828 a James White was sentenced at Westminster for stealing 5 handkerchiefs from a pawnbroker's shop. He was transported and arrived in Hobart Town in July 1828 on the William Miles.

On James White's conduct record he stated the following -

 `Stealing handkerchiefs from a pawnbroker's shop. I was tried at Westminster in 1805 to 7 years in the Duke of Portland to Sydney. I was body servant to Governor Bligh when Governor Bligh was put under arrest. I came down with him and lived with Edward Lord till I became free. I was then a servant to Mr. McCarthy. I went away. I was out in the name of William Parker`.

On checking the NSW convict list I found William Parker arriving on the Duke of Portland in 1807 as stated. He remained in Van Diemen's Land until after 1818 when his name disappears from the musters.

James White alias William Parker was recorded as being a sailor, and a farmer and ploughman on another record. He was 40 years old, height 5'6, long curly whiskers, wrinkled forehead, inflamed hazel eyes, and a long pointy indented chin. From his age on his second sentence he would have only been 17 when he was tried in 1805, and 19 when he arrived in NSW.

The complete story of James White is still being researched as there is some confusion about his conduct record. Extra sentences have been added to his indent but not to his conduct record. His indent records that he was re-sentenced in 1838 and again in 1845 when he was sentenced to death later changed to life. This may be him or it may have been one of the other 32 James White convicts. Remarks were often placed on the wrong convict's records. This has yet to be fully researched.

(c) Irene Schaffer

Further reading.
Convict's Unbound - Marjorie Tipping
Madam De Hotman - Irene Schaffer
Mary Bligh O'Connell - Shirley Seal
From the Earliest Times to the Age of Macquarie - Manning Clark
Land Musters and Stock Lists VDL 1803-1822 - Irene Schaffer