Thursday, December 15, 2016

A tale of the First, Second and Third convict fleets to Australia

This is a story of three people transported to Australia for reasons that (as many convicts do) relate to being poor.  Contrary to the myth that Australia was settled by murders and criminals, most of the convicts I have come across have been people of their time in England and Ireland where poverty was common, even if you had a job, and life was hard.  They are people who resorted to petty crime, usually theft of something quite small, and in some cases their employer was the victim or perhaps the perpetrator.

Given chances for a productive and good life in Australia most convicts had extensive families and built houses and farms, and this is what happened in this case.

So let's begin with the first fleet,

An engraving of the First Fleet in Botany Bay at voyage's end in 1788, from The Voyage of Governor Phillip to Botany Bay. Sirius is in the foreground; convict transports such as Prince of Wales are depicted to the left.


His place of birth is not certain, however I know from convict records it was in 1768, England.  There is a baptism record for a DOB of 25July, 1768 which may be our Mathew.
We know that Mathew was educated and literate, and by 1784, aged 15,  was a clerk working for a law firm near Temple Bar.   He was brought up to the Old Bailey for Fraud on 7th July 1784 and sentenced to 7 years transportation.  Desperate for money to pay the rent, he had gone to a bookseller falsely claiming his employer wanted to borrow a copy of a law books, which he was duly given. He then proceeded to sell the books for 10 shillings.  Unfortunately for Mathew his employer, Mr Clermont and the bookseller Mr Shepherd were well known to each other, the game was up.  Mathew's defense was "I was in great distress"  meaning he was short of money and desperate, but that was no defense in the 1700's at the dock in London.  

This type of story is told over and over again in convict records, people in England, particularly in cities,  had low wages and barely enough to live on so in desperation turned to petty crime.  In the countryside they were losing jobs and homes and again became desperate to feed their families and survive the conditions in England at the time.

Temple Bar in the Strand, London, Thomas I. Malton. The Courtauld Institute of Art, D.1952.RW.4316. © The Samuel Courtauld Trust, The Courtauld Gallery, London.


The first prisoners ever taken to the hulks were admitted on 15 July 1776, so it seems likely that Mathew spent time on Hulks, and Newgate prison.  No records have been found yet to confirm which ship.  Life on the Hulks was hard, but during the day the prisoners were put to work, mostly as labourers.


Mathew James Everingham was transported aboard the Vessel Scarborogh, captained by John Marshal, as part of the first fleet of convicts to Australia.  

Once arrived in Sydney, and being literate and well-educated, he was employed as a clerk to Assistant Commissary Zachariah Clark. Although punished with 25 lashes for "drunkenness and falsehoods," he gave evidence at the trial of Sarah Bellamy, and was moved to Rose Hill to assist Henry Dodd, supervising the "pitt sawyers and the women employed at needlework."  He also did work with a boat builder on the first boat to be built in Australia, called “The Rose Hill Packet”, otherwise known as‘The Lump’, and he worked on the Government farm at Rose Hill (Parramatta).   From this information, we get a picture of Mathew as a hard working and trusted convict.


Three months before he became “free by servitude” in 1791, Mathew married Elizabeth Rimes (Rymes) at St Johns Church, Parramatta by Rev. Samuel Marsden.    My family has a strong link to this church in the early days of the colony.  Elizabeth was transported on the 2nd fleet.

St Johns Marriage Banns for Mathew and Elizabeth

Matthew and Elizabeth’s first child, Mary Everingham, was born in December 1791 and tragically died a month later, being one of 33 children who died in the Parramatta area in that same month, from a sudden unknown illness that killed them within 24 hours.  They went on to have 11 children in all.

By mid 1802 Mathew and Elizabeth are recorded on 50 acres at The Ponds cleared, 7 sown in wheat, 6 in maize) owning 14 pigs and holding 20 bushels in maize in store. He was still receiving a public ration, while his wife and 4 children were not.

In the months following the 1802 muster, the family moved to the frontiers of settlement in the Hawkesbury River where a 50 acre grant at Sackville Reach was registered in Matthew's name in April 1803.

Just a year later, in May 1804, the family was attacked by an aboriginal raiding party. Matthew, his wife and their Irish assigned convict worker were said to have suffered spear wounds and their house and barn were robbed and burned. Caves on the farm bore the hand marks and other artwork of the aboriginal people who had lived there for millennia. 

1804 report in Sydney Gazette

Recovering from their injuries, the couple worked hard to clear and cultivate the land, and by 1806 they had at least 19 acres cleared in wheat, 6 in maize, 1 in barley, 1 in potatoes, orchard and garden) They held 13 bushels of maize in store and owned 18 pigs, supporting themselves, 6 children, a convict and a free man. (In the 1980s the site of the farm was occupied by the Sackville Ski Gardens on the Tizzana road near the Sackville ferry.)

Matthew's property suffered floods in 1806 and 1909, in which he was brought close to ruin. He let the Sackville farm and moved his family to Green Hills where he was employed by the wealthy emancipate brewer and settler, Andrew Thompson. In Feb 1810 he was granted a wine and spirit license.

1810 Sydney Gazette

After Thompson's death in October 1810 (the same year) the family lived at his West Hill Red House Farm (modern McGraths Hill).   

It appears that Mathew went back to farming.  He was in financial difficulty in 1812 when his property was offered for sale by execution. He failed to sell  the Sackville farm, which was again ravaged by flood in 1811. The property was leased to his son Matthew and finally sold in 1820.

The Final Chapter

Mathew James Everingham died on 25th December, 1817 at Windsor.  The circumstances of his death were revealed at the inquest  By this time Mathew had become a district Constable at Portland Head as well as a farmer.  He appears to have fallen off the ship and  into the river and drowned accidentally.

Mathew James Everingham is buried at Wilberforce Cemetery.

Elizabeth Rimes died in December 1841and was buried on Knights Farm, 24 years later at Cumberland Reach.


The Australian Police History site has some very interesting family stories about Mathew Everingham and Elizabeth Rimes.  Elizabeth was said to have been married 5 times, Mathew was supposedly murdered, and an heir to the Everingham millions back in England.  Like most family stories they are probably an embellishment of the truth.

More Information? If you are researching
Mathew james Everingham and Elizabeth Rimes
 and would like the sources for this story, 
please contact me or comment below.  I would be happy to collaborate with you.

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