HMS BUFFALO 1836

sketched by Mr Young Bingham HUTCHINSON

(B.4263) HMS Buffalo 1836.
Image courtesy of the State Library of South Australia

Arrived at Pt Lincoln December 24th,
and Nepean Bay (Kangaroo Island), South Australia
on December 28th, 1836

A PIONEER'S JOURNAL IN 1836,
by Mr Young Bingham HUTCHINSON


Who marked the track? Who broke the soil?
Who shared their mingled hopes and fears,
'Mid nights of peril, days of toil,
But those old, dauntless Pioneers!

There is something almost pathetic, and certainly peculiarly expressive, about the somewhat arid, unromantic character of the records written by some of the early settlers of South Australia, whose hands, toughened by toil, and whose ideas, chastened by the hard task of winning a home in the wilderness, were ill-fitted to compass delicate literary achievement, however capable they might have been by education to cope with it. The men had to spend the hours of daylight 'twixt sun up and sunset in clearing the ground, building huts, and breaking the virgin soil; and their helpmates, those steadfast women pioneers, had their household duties, and even wrought side by side with their husbands, fathers, or brothers, as woman will when necessity demands.
They wearied not upon the way, But smiled amid their toil,
And with them won this noble land - Australia's virgin soil.
And now the land they helped to win, All through the rolling years,
Will bear a lasting tribute to 'Those Women Pioneers!

Therefore, with but two or three exceptions, the pioneer of the past tells a plain, un-varnished tale - forcible, fair, and none the less convincing because it is not a fine piece of word-painting, embellished with well-rounded periods and full of artistically blended lights and shades of sentiment. We have one of these unpretentious and interesting simple diaries before us now - valuable because it tells without profession or complaint the tale of a pioneer's doings during the first Governor's term of office, a time when the land was virgin and the people toilers perforce.

It is styled "The journal of H. M. S. BUFFALO, from Portsmouth to the New Colony of South Australia, with His Excellency Governor Hindmarsh, R.N , K.H., kept by the late Y. Bingham Hutchinson, Emigrant Passenger. From July 13 to December 28, 1836," and is copied from the original by his elder son, Mr. P.O. Hutchinson. Much of it is a terse record of each day's doings, but there are more ample passages containing facts which, read now, have an interest for pioneers and their descendants. The good old BUFFALO, one of the type of England's sturdy, broad-beamed, bluff-bowed warships, seems to have had a hard fight for it in starting, as though reluctant to leave the old country for the new.

The first significant entry is:-
July 13, 1836 Wednesday Fresh breezes and cloudy from the westward. H.M.S. BUFFALO loosed from the hulk Success - (Was this the famous old Success, the convict ship,which we had recently seen here, and which lumbered home with her gruesome passengers in the shape of waxed effigies of criminals of the deepest ..dye?) - Portsmouth Harbour, and anchored at Spithead. Unable to put to sea". This was only the beginning of the vessel's troubles, for owing to baffling winds, she did not enter Port Lincoln, South Australia, until the forenoon of December 24, 1836, having run about 16,200 miles in 155 days of actual sailing from final start after vexing delays.
July 22nd Mr. Hutchinson notes, "Went on board with Rev.C.H. Howard (chaplain), O. Giles (Colonial Treasurer), and others.
July 23rd Governor Hindmarsh and family, J.H. Fisher (Colonial Commissioner) and family came on board, but had to anchor in St. Helen's Road, Isle of Wight. Here there was very nearly an onimous catastrophe, as in hoisting the Governor's daughter into a boat the rope slipped from the mainyard and she fell partly in the boat and partly in the water, and the Governor, who was leaning on the rope at the time, fell from the ship's side into the boat and was a good deal bruised and shaken.
July 27th Here comes an interesting item: "BUFFALO weighed on the 27th,
July 28th and on the 28th the whole crew and passengers assembled to witness the celebration of three weddings on board, and after the ceremony the married couples and bridesmaids were regaled in the cabin by his Excellency.
A paper called The Telegraph was published.
July 29th On the 29th, the ship making no progress, they bore up again for St. Helen's Road
July 31st they set sail again on Sunday the 31st and stood out to sea. More gales. The vessel TAM-O'-SHANTER was a mile ahead of the BUFFALO,
August 1st and on August 1 they again anchored in St. Helen's Roads. The BUFFALO did not seem to be able to get away from the Isle of Wight
August 3rd the 3rd they made another start and got away on the voyage at last.
August 22nd
2174 miles
By August 22nd, they had run 2174 miles, and on that date we have an entry, that a flying fish had flown on board,
and proved an acceptable meal to Mrs. Hindmarsh, who was still a great invalid.

August 28th On the 28th, amidst heavy rain and squalls, the crew and emigrants were mustered, and the Governor read the articles of war.
Water was "scarcer than brandy or wine," and the people were catching the rain in various vessels.
August 30th On the 30th they buried a sailor who had died in the forenoon. The monotony of the voyage was varied by thunder, lightning, gales, breezes, quadrilles, prayers and military training for the male emigrants.
September 15th On September 15 the voyagers had an interview with Neptune in the good old fashioned style with which Marryat and other marine novelists have made us familiar. "The approach of Neptune being notified by the man looking out on the forecastle the mizzen topsail was packed, and a blue light being burnt he hailed the ship and announced his intention of coming on board to see his children the following day. At his departure he was saluted with a sky rocket, and having made sail his car (vehicle?) passed astern and remained visible for more than an hour, although at least a mile or two distant."

The diarist records loss of a sailor who fell overboard, and, although a good swimmer and sought for by means of boats and blue lights, was lost. This occurrence shed such a gloom over the ship that the intended visit of Neptune was postponed.
September 20th
4663 miles
By the 20th they had run 4663 miles, and it was written that they had been busy "drilling the laboring emigrants in the use of the musket." Could it be that our early pioneers dreaded the ferocious and warlike Matabele and Zulus, if so they must have been disappointed, ..Teet had curious notions about the perils by ferocious savage and wild beasts in the new land. Now and again throughout this most matter-of-fact diary we find entries such as "squally occasionally," but it refers to the weather not the social atmosphere on board. It must have been severe strain on some temperaments to be cooped up so long on board a small craft and slow-sailor to boot.

September 21st An entry of the 21st is especially interesting as read side by side with what we know now of the industries our pioneer colonists came out with an idea of establishing and developing:
"Wednesday, 21st, found all the bees in the hive dead. A bed of finely powdered earth having been prepared and manured in a box was sown with peach, apricot, almond and grape seeds - some soaked, others not; some in the shell, others out of it. It was then closed up tight, light being admitted; they all failed." This reminds us of a reminiscence of the late Mr. R.G. Thomas, son the late colonist, (who was one of the fathers of the Register). He was wont to relate that when a mere lad, when the colony was only an infant, he with some others was walking up from Port Adelaide [in prospective] and picked up a bundle of assorted plants dropped on the road. These, failing the discovery of the owner, were planted in a garden not a million of miles away from the Clarendon Hotel, and some of the trees may be they now, for part of the old garden is now extant.
Following up the journal we find frequent references to devotion to his duty on the part of the Rev. Mr. Howard, the chaplain who was destined to be the guide, philosopher, and friend of so many settlers, whose descendants are proud now to say that their parents were united in the holy bonds of matrimony by the first colonial chaplain; a good christian man whose memory is revered.
October 4 After touching at Rio Janeiro, the BUFFALO continued her voyage
October 13th and the chronicler has on the 13th a significant entry: "allowance of water - five pints a day. Met with a heavy disaster, upset my water bottle and lost a quart of its contents,"
October 20th and then on the 20th is the entry - "ship rolling deep. Got the plants off the poop to ease the ship a little."
Then the voyage continues with squally, fine, breezy and variable weather,
November 18th and no particular incident to November 18th, when we came across an entry which is enough to make Coleridge's ancient mariner turn in his grave.
"Lowered a boat and a party of us went shooting; returned to the ship, well loaded with birds of which eight were albatrosses-(the italics are ours) - one of which measured between the extremities of the wings, 10ft.6in."
November 23rd
12,604 miles
By the 23rd the ship had progressed from home 12,604 miles and sighted St. Paul's Isle.
November 28th Wednesday 28th, moderate and fine.
At 7 sent a boat on shore to the settlement in Holdfast Bay. At 10, anchored in Holdfast Bay in 7 fathoms.
December 19
16,007 miles
The vessel had then covered 16,007 miles up to December 19.
December 24th
16,200 miles
On the 24th the BUFFALO was running up towards Port Lincoln and hove to off Boston Island, and thence, working into Spalding Cove, she saw the CYGNET at anchor, and was boarded by Capt. Lipson. The diary goes on to say, Capt. Hindmarsh went to the CYGNET and on shore; stood off to sea. Had run about 16,200 miles. The CYGNET joined company,
December 26th On the 26th the allowance of water was reduced to two quarts a head per day, half of which was consumed in cooking, and the other quart all allowed for washing and drinking during the day. Weather, rain, breezes, barnacles, drill, dancing, divine services, and the birth of a boy to a Mrs. Walker, with a survey of the chain cables and a measurement of the water - 44 tons, which was reduced to 35 tons ten days later, make the material of some significance.
December 27th "on the 27th is the entry "The CYGNET sent a boat to the fire on shore," (referring to a large fire observed on Kangaroo Island), but the boat could not land. In the afternoon heard three guns fired in Nepean Bay; answered with two guns."

December 28th
Wednesday 28th, moderate and fine. At 7 sent a boat on shore to the settlement in Holdfast Bay.
At 10, anchored in Holdfast Bay in 7 fathoms.
At 2pm, His Excellency Governor Hindmarsh, accompanied by the colonial and naval officers, landed.
The ship was dressed in all her colors and fired the royal salute,
and His Majesty's commissioner to the Governor having been read, a feu de joie was fired by the marine guard of honor,
when the English ensign of St. George was hoisted.The Governor's proclamation was then read,
after which His Majesty's and His Excellency's healths were drunk with great enthusiasm.
The sailors then began to get pretty drunk, so that we had great difficulty to get on board,
many staggering behind. The natives set fire to the woods which burnt grandly."

December 29th Here is an entry which may be read by those who have been discussing the question when the first mule was landed.
"Thursday, December 29. Hoisted out the launch and sent the mules on shore, the Governor intending to ride over to the intended site of the town."

The Diary continues on after the BUFFALO arrived in South Australia.

On January 1, 1837 (Sunday), divine service was conducted on board, and in the afternoon Mr. Howard repeated the service in a tent on shore, and christened a child. The diarist adds : - "Strangways and I went ashore to Mr. Gouger's (Colonial Secretary) tent and were sworn in as Justices of the Peace on January 3" (Our first J.P's). On the same day he attended at Mr. Gouger's tent to swear in the High Constable and constables and elect a clerk to the bench of magistrates.

On the January 7th we have a record of the CYGNET being sent to Kangaroo Island with Mr. T.B. Strangways and Mr. Geo. Stevenson to collect evidence in a case of violence and menace. On the 8th we are told that many of the natives visited the settlement and adopted clothing without any reluctance, and one visited the ship without evincing any astonishment at anything except music. It is not mentioned of what class the music was - the bagpipes perhaps might have broken up their well-bred indifference. Some cynic has said that the savage is the best-bred gentleman extant - he has such a control over his feelings.

The pinnace on the January 16th, 1837 had been sent to beat up the harbour, and on the 9th ran down the cutter whereby the crew had to return to Glenelg and leave her on the beach. The settlers suffered inconvenience for want of water, but got some near the creek by digging about ten feet.
The diary goes on in a matter-of-fact way, and mentions the arrival of the COROMANDEL, 650 tons, with C. Mann (Attorney-General) and 70 or 80 young married couples on the 17th; that the narrator drove his tent "in a wheelbarrow seven miles from the creek to Adelaide." Then occurs another lively item. "Sunday 22 - AFRICAINE just landing her cargo of 800 sheep, 150 of which perished, having had nothing for eighteen days but wet hay. She also brought horned cattle, pigs, and an ass."

The two first proclamations issued by Governor Hindmarsh were - one placing the natives under the protection of the law as British subjects, and the outer that all criminals in the colony convicted of transportable offences should be sent on the earliest opportunity, either to New South Wales or to Van Diemen's Land.

Then comes the significant entry - "Drove a wheelbarrow six miles to the harbor and back again, heavily laden (hard worn); I beat my man in the sun, he beat me in the shade." Notes of weary walks, hand-worn hut building, reed cutting, warm weather, meetings re the selection of a site for the town, varied by cockatoo shooting and kindred employments, fill up several pages. Saturday, March 25, 1837 - Good Friday was the 24th - is spoken of as "real Easter weather," rainy and boisterous. Scorpions made themselves too familiar, by getting under the settlers' pillows.

On April 1st, 1837 mention is made of a toilsome walk to Mount Lofty, and the discovery of "a clear, cold stream issuing from between two hills," and, on the 9th, Mr. Hutchinson says, "Walked up the side of the stream towards Mount Lofty - very hard work; was on the point of turniug back, when I discovered a cascade about 50 or 6o feet high." This was, no doubt, the Waterfall Gully stream. Mr. Burt was with him. On the 15th is the entry - "Dined on Mount Lofty !!! Walking 9 hours without sitting down."

On the 21st the arrival of Sir John Jeffcott (Judge) is recorded and on the 23rd is the entry - "Saw the first mail." This simple item relieves a certain Adelaide citizen of a serious responsibility, for he has been bearing the anathemas of gardeners on the charge of having some few years ago introduced that "noxious beast" to West Terrace, whence it is said to have spread through all the region round about.

The settlers were beginning to make the natives useful, getting them to cut boughs, receiving rice as payment. On May 23, 1837 the ceremony of naming the streets took place. The Governor "gave a ball on May 29." This was the first function of the kind, and the dance programme would be an interesting memento. Friday, June 2 is made memorable by the printing of the "first copy of the South Australian Gazette." On the l2th was a sale - "bullocks sold at 51 per pair, bullock carts at 36 and 39 10 sh." On June 14th is the following - "The natives all decamped, having killed one of their women. One story was that they had gone in pursuit of the two men who had killed her; the other was that they went to avoid our indignation, the woman having been sacrificed because her husband had declined fighting another native to whom he had given offence. The tribe told him that he must either fight or forfeit one of his wives. Having chosen the latter alternative, because if he got killed he would lose both, two men were appointed executioners ; one of them held her, whilst the other forced a sharp bone into the neck. However, they all returned in four or five days, crying out for biscuits."

On July 23, 1837 an earthquake disturbed the little Settlement. Horses from the Cape of Good Hope were fetching from 30 to 53 each.

On November 27, 1837 Mr. Hutchinson, with Messrs. Strangways and Lindsay, set out for Encounter Bay and Hindmarsh Island, and on December 7th a flagstaff was erected at Point Sturt by the little party, and there is a note of the drowning of Sir John Jeffcott, Captain Blenkinsop, Geo. Wright, and Henry Brooks, "by the filling of their boat on the bar" at the Murray Mouth.

On Friday, January 25 1838, the foundation-stone of Trinity Church was laid at noon. Hindmarsh Valley, it seems, was called by the natives Mootiparinga ; pity it was not retained.