Maum letter to Nash 1808

A Norfolk Islander Deported to Van Diemen’s Land

Hobart Town January 18th 1808


{Letter written by William Maum [1] in VDL, who had arrived in the River Derwent on the Porpoise in March 1808, to Robert Nash [2] who was still on Norfolk Island, but intended to sail on the City of Edinburgh in October 1808. }

 Copied from my book - Private George Smith of His Majesty's Royal Marines 1804. published 1991.

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 pappy 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 distress 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 [3] lost 5 sows and 6 sheep, Mitchell [4] 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 simular 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 quanity 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 casts 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 [5] the stock-keeper, a very decent man (in figure very much resembles Jellet [6]) asked me in and informed me he was your particular friend and offered me his services on your account on your account – after some conversion 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 advise 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 arrivalhere the settlers and others were billeted on the inhabidents of this town which is far largen then you could suppose. The houses in general are of latch and plaster and immoderayely dear as a hose 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 then those of Norfolk Wheat, and amazingly full.

The Governor here has it not in his power to fulfill the intentions of Government, as he has neither tradsmen or labourers and nothing in the stores but provisions, some of which are very bad, particulary the Cape beef - he intends going ip 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 undermined about settling there, as he wishes  to go with the Norfolk body, and it is said there is acapital 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 youself - as provisions will be the staple commonity 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 advise 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 consdered them arising from the prejudice until Hibbins himself absolutely imformed him of her baseness and his own infamy - the Governor has ordered him to keep a distance from him.                     


[1] William Maum was an Irish political prisoner who arrived in NSW on the Minerva in 1800 and was regarded as a troublemaker by Governor King.

[2] Robert Nash arrived on the City of Edinburgh 2/5 October 1808.

[3] Thomas Restell Crowder arrived in NSW on the Alexander in 1788,  came to VDL on the Porpoise 17 Jan 1808.  Exiled Three Times Over pp55-57.

[4] William Mitchell arrived in NSW as a seaman on the Sirius. Arrived in VDL on the Porpoise. Exiled Three Times Over pp146-149.

[5] John Mamby had arrived in River Derwent with Lt. Gov. Collins as a prisoner in 1804, on the Ocean.

[6] Robert Jillett was another Norfolk Islander who later came to Hobart Town on the Lady Nelson in June 1808