Whilst the weather is not supportive of my travels around Australia at the moment, some desk research into my family tree has enabled me to travel not only around Australia but also through time as I discover some Australian ancestry.
I first came to Australia in 2001. It was a big deal. It was a journey to the other side of the world taking about 22 hours to complete. I was going to be away from home and all I was familiar with for a record 6 weeks.
But lets put this in perspective and compare this journey to that of an early Australian and one of my relatives – my Great Great Great Great Great Uncle James (yes – that’s five greats!).
James Brumby was born in Scotton in Lincolnshire, England and with thanks to a family bible it is even known that he arrived at 7pm on Thursday the 18th of July, 1771. At six foot tall with brown hair, grey eyes, sallow complexion and round face, James set sail for Australia with the Third Fleet, from Portsmouth Harbour on the 27th of March 1791 – aged 19.
Unlike my flight of 22 hours, it took James 201 days until 14th of September 1791 to arrive at Port Jackson, New South Wales aboard the “Britannia”. The Britannia was one of 11 boats containing over 2,000 convicts making up the third fleet to the new country. However, unlike many of his travel companions James was a free man and was being paid to make the journey as a soldier. There were 150 convicts aboard James’ boat. 21 would not complete the journey.
I think it is fair to say James prospered in the new country. After being given 25 acres of land in Lane Cove (and then having it taken off him because the Lietenant did not have the authority to give land grants) he ended up with some 100 acres in the District of Mulgrave Place, lying on the banks of the Hawkesbury.
However, on 1 August 1801, James was transferred to Van Diemen’s Land – or Tasmania as it is now known as a sergeant in the New South Wales Corps. This caused something of a problem as James had put his land to good use and had bread a number of horses. So, on his departure, as he was unable to take the horses with him, he released many into the surrounding bush. These horses were seen on occasion by other settlers and became known as “Brumby’s horses” later to become “Brumbies” and thus, an Australian icon was born.
It is also reported that James was always ready to help others. In 1813 he successfully prosecuted a man for cruelty to cattle, and there are reported instances of his kindness to Aboriginals.
James went on to become a ferry owner, racehorse breeder and police officer before departing this world on 14 September 1838 leaving a widow Elizabeth (whom he had married on 18 March 1811) and two sons who went on to become prosperous landowners in Tasmania’s Longford district.
My venture to the other side of the planet may have occurred some 210 years after my ancestor but I get a sense of reassurance given my ancestors success in a harsh world compared to today. I only hope now that I may meet a descendant of one of the wild horses James is perhaps responsible for – and a distant relative when I next venture to Tasmania.
The Australian Dictionary of Biography contains the following entry regarding James – http://adbonline.anu.edu.au/biogs/A010154b.htm