It had now been ten years since Lieut. Shortland first sailed up the coast from Port Jackson and discovered the entrance to the Hunter River
A penal settlement had been established and coal was being hewn from the hills by convict coal miners
many of whom had been sent to the little outpost as punishment for colonial crimes. The work was hard and living conditions harsh. The convicts were guarded by sixteen rank and file and one serjeant of the New South Wales Corps.
remained Commandant at the Coal River (Newcastle) settlement from March 1805 through until September 1808 except for a brief interval in 1806 when William Lawson
was again appointed Storekeeper in March 1807 replacing William Sutton who had been dismissed for behaving disrespectfully towards Charles Throsby.
At the Coal River Settlement there were always convicts who managed to escape leaving havoc and disaster in their wake. In September five men were captured after absconding. It was found that they had stolen provisions and other necessary items in their possession prior to their escape.
The five men John Fitzwilliam, Charles McMahon, Fitgerald, McCardle and Thompson were all severely punished. John Fitzwilliam and Charles McMahon as ringleaders, to receive 250 lashes each; Fitzwilliam to be fined 6 months to commence when a fine under which he now labours shall expire; and the others 200 lashes each; and all to be returned to Newcastle.
Government Rules Established
It was thought necessary to prevent the prisoners at the settlement having any contact with the outside world and to that end Crews of Vessels at Newcastle were forbidden to Trade Stores. New orders were issued to that effect....
ALL Masters of Colonial Craft, or any persons that belong thereto, or who take a passage therein, are hereby forbid purchasing by any means whatever from the Prisoners at the Out settlements any food, or articles that have been issued from the Government Store, whether Tools or Clothing.
And in case any person is detected in violating this Order, the offender or offenders shall, on conviction before a Bench of Magistrates, work in the gaol gang at hard labour for the space of six months; while the person who will be the means of bringing the offenders to justice, shall receive the whole of the property so illegally bartered away.
Vessels trading to Newcastle failing under this Order shall be subject to be sent away without their lading, and disqualified from returning to the said settlement.
Any person having King's stores in their possession which they cannot legally account for, will be subject to the severities of the Laws of Great Britain therein provided
The Sydney Gazette 29 March 1807
Notes and Links
William Bligh commenced duties as Governor of the colony in August 1806 and Governor King
returned to England on the Buffalo in February 1807. Throughout the year 1807 there was a rising tide of resentment against Governor Bligh culminating in the dramatic events of 26th January 1808 that came to be known as the Rum Rebellion.
There were however Bligh supporters, many of whom were treated badly by those who took power. Some were sent to Newcastle including Sir Henry Browne Hayes
, William Gore
and George Crossley