Watsons Bay was physically isolated from the rest of the colony. It was a long sail or row down the harbour, and an even longer walk or ride along the South Head Road. While physically isolated, it wasn’t isolated from the politics and fluctuating fortunes of convicts and free settlers. There were also frequent visitors and people passing by when entering and leaving the harbour.
One regular and visitor was Governor Lauchlan Macquarie. He had a vision for New South Wales that wasn’t shared by many of the officers of the NSW Corps who had remained or returned to the colony after they were withdrawn after the rum rebellion. Men such as James Macarthur. Macarthur had returned to England to face a court martial, and Governor Macquarie arrived soon after his departure.
By the time Macarthur had returned in 1817, Macquarie had dramatically altered the balance of power. Balance, in the sense that he favoured rehabilitating convicts by granting them land, rather than assigning them as free labour for the free settlers such as Macarthur. He also favoured the non-military free settlers such as Thomas Moore, a ships carpenter who was the manager of the Kings Dockyard at Sydney Cove. Macquarie even trusted his son to the care of Thomas and his wife and they were appointed as his guardians.
It wasn’t as though he hadn’t aided Elizabeth Macarthur in managing the Macarthur’s business interests in John absence, however within months of his return, he was writing to his powerful contacts in England. In 1819. John Bigg arrived to conduct an enquiry into Macquarie’s administration and his fate was sealed. This in part explains why a number of land grants at Watsons Bay, including those to Robert Watson (offered by Governor King in 1804 and Patrick Humphries (1815) remained unregistered till the mid-1830s.
The Macquaries sailed down the harbour on Friday 15th February 1822 on board HMS Surrey. They anchored in Watsons Bay, where those who owned boats circled the ship to catch a last glimpse of the governor who had made such a significant difference to the colony. Great lines written in the paper were … “Launches, barges, cutters, pinnaces, and wherries, were seen crowded with those who appeared determined on catching a parting glimpse of the Object of their profound veneration and fondest regard, who for some time stood up uncovered, and kept bowing adieu as he passed. Never did Sydney Cove look so attractive and gay, as upon this occasion; and the shores were lined with spectators innumerable; but each countenance was indicative of sombre feelings too big, too sincere for utterance ;—and yet, who witnessed the scene, and could repress the inward sigh ? Australia saw her Benefactor, for the Last time, treading her once uncivilized and unsocial shores and felt it too ;—the parent and the child must endure the parting pang ! Australia cannot re-pine at the varied events Time brings about ; for Time has wrought vast and beneficial changes in her midst ; and it is to Time we have to look for-ward, with all the pleasure anticipation affords, to even much greater things than have yet been accomplished. Tho’ ” young Hope” confidently bids Australasia look forward to the patronage, and protection, and esteem of a benignant Monarch’s illustrious Representative, still she will not be censured, it is trusted, for an evincement of proper affection towards Him, whose principal aim and chief happiness was the Colonists’ Good ;—So pronounce twelve years !—” Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 – 1842), Friday 15 February 1822, page 2
There had been just 3,000 people in Sydney in 1800, and now twenty years later, still only 12,000. By 1828 the population would treble to 36,500 in the entire colony. The majority would settle or be assigned to work for settelers between Parramatta and the Hawkesbury River. The increase in population meant an increase in boats entering and leaving Port Jackson and so more pilots were assigned to Watsons Bay and its population slowly grew as well.
Robert Murray was still the only pilot until February 1822 when he drowned. In 1820 he featured in a very strange discussion about diseases in the colonies. There had been an outbreak of influenza in Bunbury (W.A.) and this generated a discussion about the decimation of indigenous people by smallpox. Officials even considered the causes of diseases in neighboring southeast Asia. It was thought by some that it was caused by eating infected whale meat. The newspaper report concluded that “some months ago a whale was fastened on by a boat, headed by Mr. Murray, of South Head, and escaped although so severely wounded as to deny the supposition of its long surviving. Its spreading throughout whole and many families would appear to denote that it was communicative from person to person, and that if contracted by anyone, the whole in the same close connexion were liable to receive the contagion. Many have witnessed the effects, but we have not heard that its causes have been as yet defined.”
Over the next decade the newspaper regularly printed government lists of convicts who had escaped. It was a strange concept, escape. It’s not as though they had access to many boats to leave the colony, nor were there many opportunities distant from the settlements. Free settlers and even emancipated convicts or ticket of leave convicts could be assigned convicts to work for them. Most convicts that were reported to have escaped, did so to avoid this work. One major court case at the time was the prosecution of three men who aided and abetted a convict in joining the crew of a ship. There was always demand for ships crews, so perhaps this was the best way to escape. Whatever the attraction to “escape” there were hundreds of people listed as having absented themselves from their assigned “master” and never caught.
In 1821, Robert Murray was returning from piloting a ship out through the heads at three in the morning when he saw what he thought to be a fishing boat just outside south head. He pulled toward her, to ask if they had had any success fishing, when the boat suddenly rowed away and headed through the surf toward the shore. As to where the shore was exactly wasn’t stated and therefore the description is rather strange. Robert said that he saw the boat reach the shore and three men were last seen standing on some rocks. The boat was washed back out to sea and they took it in tow and returned to Watsons Bay. On board they found “17 loaves, about 1½ lb. of pork, and a quantity of fish-hooks, some of which had been roughly made out of nails”. There was also a book found on board with a name written inside. The name led to the conclusion that he had escaped from a road gang working on either Parramatta Road or the South Head Road.
In March 1822 following the death of Robert Murray and Henry Cole, the Macquarie Light keeper, the government appointed Thomas Watson as the lightkeeper and John B Gray to be the new pilot. Gray didn’t spend much time at Watsons Bay and was made Harbour Master in 1826.
As we have already heard, Thomas Watson had been fulsome in his praise of the new Macquarie Light and therefore it is no surprise that he applied for, and was appointed to the position of Lighthouse Keeper. Not a lot is known about Thomas Watsons and his wife Hannah. For a man who was extremely active in colonial shipping, spent many years at Watsons Bay as a lighthouse keeper and pilot, received one of the largest land grants and built the marine villa that came to be later known as “Clovelly”, his life is summed up with just a few paragraphs. Such a brief biography is at the end of this chapter,
Richard Siddins, by contrast, was a man who always seemed to be in the news. Richard first visited New South Wales as a member of the crew of the whaler Alexander in May 1804. He sailed on various whaling, sealing and cargo ships in and out of Port Jackson for the next 19 years.
James Underwood was a convict who arrived in Sydney Cove in 1791. By 1812 he was the owner of the biggest ship building business in the colony and one of the wealthiest merchants. Two of his brothers joined him in the colony. Joseph sailed from England to Sydney on one of his brothers ships in 1807 and established his own trading company, while William sailed in and out of Sydney on his brother’s ships, before establishing a hotel on a corner of his brother Josephs land at Ashfield. Two lived long and successful lives, one died drunk in the street.
Joseph Underwood like his brother was particularly active in the sealing industry. They sent ships into Antarctic waters, on long, dangerous but immensely profitable voyages.
In 1812, Richard Siddins, who had been the captain of the “Campbell Macquarie” for several years, and had just returned from India, was sent by Joseph Underwood to Macquarie Island where they had a team of sealers.
“The ship Campbell Macquarie, Captain Siddons, will sail tomorrow for the islands of Campbell and Macquarie, for the relief of the gangs employed by the House of Underwood, with the further design of endeavouring to eﬀect new discoveries in the higher southern latitudes”. Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 – 1842), Saturday 21 March 1812, page 2
The Campbell Macquarie was wrecked on the island, and while waiting to be rescued, they continued to hunt and skin seals.
“Her sails, which were nearly three suits, were got on shore when the weather cleared up, and housed ; but afterwards were destroyed by fire, through an accident to the hut in which they were deposited. Her crew, consisting of 12 Europeans and 30 lascars, were all saved ; but none of her stores; independent of which she had on board 2000 prime skins, 36 tons of salt and 118 tons of coals which she had take in lieu of ballast.
Captain Siddons, the Commander of the Campbell Macquarie is accommodated with a passage up in the Perseverance, with several of his men. Four of the lascars died upon the Island, as did also a European belonging to the “Mary and Sally” whose name was Thomas McGowen.“ Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 – 1842), Saturday 31 October 1812, page 1
The “Mary and Sally” was another of Joseph Underwood’s ships and it had been sent to rescue the “Campbell Macquarie’s“ crew. “Lascars” was the term used for Indian or South-East Asian sailors.
In 1816 Richard married Jane, daughter of Edward Powell and Elizabeth Fish. Powel was a retired sailor who operated the Half-Way House Hotel at Homebush on Parramatta Road until his death in 1814. Richard had already fathered a son by Catherine Keenan and a daughter by Eleanor Cooper, both of Sydney. At the time of their marriage, Richard was 39 and Jane 16.
Richard continued his trading voyages, becoming master and part owner of the Lynx in 1818, making voyages to Calcutta until 1823, when it was sold. After their marriage, Jane accompanied him on his voyages. One was to Calcutta in 1818-19 and another to Tasmania in 1820, when she and their 3-year-old daughter Ann and newborn daughter Augusta accompanied him.
On the voyage to Calcutta, where they would load a shipment of sugar and spirits, there was both Richard’s family as well as Richard Underwood and his family. This was a voyage of almost twelve months. They departed in July 1818 and returned in July 1819 and during that time, unknown to them were the events taking place just behind them, which was only reported in the Sydney newspaper the following May:
“The ship Frederick was lying at anchor, being in the night time, in Torres’ Straits in company with the ship Wellington, Captain Collins, and Lynx, Captain Siddins, having fallen in accidentally. The date we are not at present precisely acquainted with ; but it was in the month of September.- Between 6 and 7 in while getting under weigh, she went broadside on upon a reef, and canted on her side.- She fired guns of distress, which were answered from the Wellington, who hoisted her boats out, but was too late to render assistance to the ship. The Lynx was far a-head and had no knowledge of the disaster. The long-boat, with 21 persons on board, chiefly Europeans, and taking 5 casks of powder, 30 pounds of salt beef, and half-a-bushel of pease, without bread or water on board ; Captain Williams, with five others, took to the jolly-boat, and both boats made for the Wellington ; but the long-boat, unfortunately falling into a current of Endeavour Straits, which was running at the rate of 8 miles an hour, could not reach the ship, and it is much to be feared has been lost. The jolly-boat reached the Wellington ; and Captain Collins, having lost two anchors, was obliged, before he could go in pursuit of the long-boat among the reefs, to endeavour to get an anchor out of the Frederick’s’ wreck ; but after two days of excessively persevering exertion the effort failed, and the ship was of necessity compelled to make for Timor; on arrival at which place she learnt that the Lynx had been also there, and had sailed three days previous to the latter’s arrival.-— The stock taken in by the Wellington at the Derwent for the Isle of France had all died ; and Captain Collins intended to take in horses at Timor for Batavia.
Captain Williams, with his five associates, sailed in a brig for Batavia ; from whence he proceeded to the Isle of France, where he found Captain Nichols with the Portsea, which vessel sailed for Bengal the day before the Little Mary left ; and Captain Williams had taken a passage for Bengal in a brig which was to sail in a day or two after. Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 – 1842), Saturday 15 May 1819, page 2
Such a long voyage suggests they also may have sailed to Isle of France (Mauritius) as well, and perhaps that is where they loaded the sugar and spirits. The British had taken the island from the French in 1810 and invested heavily in sugar cane.
Voyages to Calcutta were one thing, however on other voyages, she remained behind. In 1820, she didn’t accompany him on a major sealing venture. The convict ship “John Barry arrived in November 1821, and it was reported:
“While the John Barry lay at Rio, a vessel put in from Falkland’s Islands, which conveyed a letter from Capt. Siddins, of the brig Lynx, to his family at Sydney, and which has been duly delivered. This letter states, that our old respected Port Jackson Commander had been pretty successful at New Shetland, in the way of procuring a cargo, having on board 4300 skins, chiefly wigs ; and that his vessel had been providentially secured to him, no less a number than 14 vessels, out of 40 that had been out the last season, having been totally lost. The letter further says, that he had wintered at Falkland’s Islands, intending to return to New Shetland to fill up, as soon as the season permitted ; and that he calculated upon coming home about June next.” Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 – 1842), Saturday 10 November 1821, page 3
Richard’s planning was fairly accurate; he was back in Sydney Cove by the middle of the following year after two years away from home and family.
Despite the fact that he had fathered children to numerous women, he demonstrated his commitment to religion by organizing the first of his major religious project.
“Sunday afternoon last, on board the brig Lynx, for the first time in Australasia, took place the regular PREACHING OF THE WORD OF GOD, to sailors, on their own element. Service commenced at three o’clock; to which all the seamen in the harbour were invited by the novel and attracting circumstance of beholding the Bethel Star triumphantly displayed at the main-top-mast-head of the Lynx. We believe that there was not a crew but manifested a regard for their best interests, in giving prompt attendance ; and a number of about 100 seamen were supposed to be present ; exclusive of many respectable persons from the shore, who were drawn thither by the pleasing advertisement of last week. Captain Siddins had succeeded in gratifying the congregation beyond its most sanguine expectation, in the comfortable and tasteful way the main deck was fitted up. The Reverend Mr. ERSKINE, Wesleyan Missionary, preached on the occasion ; the words of his text were, “Prepare to meet thy God!” The Word seemed to be attended with that energy which alone can possibly render it successful ; and though some may have gone for the sake of novelty, and thus gratified curiosity, it was apparent, by the deep seriousness resting on every countenance, that those impressions were effected, which only require cultivation to bring forth the fruits of righteousness : – May the impressions never be obliterated! By some, who care nought for the appearance of even heathen morality, it is known that we are, and ever must be, systematically condemned ; but that cannot prevent us from bearing testimony to the intrinsic value of every noble undertaking; and it must be pronounced, that it is as equally important that the souls of sailors should be saved, as those of landsmen; ergo, it is as necessary that a PLACE OF WORSHIP should be established for the former, as well as the latter. Subscriptions for the intended Floating Chapel are still received ; and, as soon as the affair receives due consideration, proper arrangements will be entered into, which will of course be made public.” Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 – 1842), Friday 22 November 1822, page 2
Richard would later be a prime mover in the construction of the Congregational Church on the South Head Road near the Macquarie Light.
Back home, he then settled in Watsons Bay, becoming one of the Port Jackson pilots. In August 1824 he was granted 600 acres (243 ha) on the Williams River and in September 1834 3½ acres (1.4 ha) at Watson’s Bay.
He and Jane moved to Watsons Bay with their daughters Ann, Augusta and newborn son Joseph Richard Siddons. Over the next six years, they had another two daughters; Jane and Isabella, so it was quite a full household at the 1828 census, when they also had four servants.
Shortly after taking up his position as pilot he advertised that he had ..”FOUND, a Four-oared BOAT, copper-fastened, length of keel 15 feet, 4 feet 6 inches beam, has two white stripes round her, the stern sheets painted a light lead colour ; she was found between some rocks, on Lang’s-point, on Thursday, the 8th Instant ; the Boat at present is hauled up on the Long-beach, in Watson’s-bay.-The Owner can have her, by applying to Mr. SIDDINS, and paying the Expences.” Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 – 1842), Wednesday 14 June 1826, page 3
Richard had some difficulty managing the Williams River property. He was assigned three convicts to work the land; Jeremiah Burnes and Darby Burnes (Byrnes) helped him establish a farm, however John Kelso regularly escaped. He also had convicts escape from Watsons Bay and the Lighthouse when he later became the lighthouse keeper.
When he was 60 years old, Richard was fortunate to survive when; “On Friday afternoon, while Mr Siddons the Pilot was endeavoring to board the Elizabeth at the heads, the boat capsized, and one of the crew was ‘unfortunately drowned, Mr. S. was swimming for near half an hour before he was picked up; the body of the drowned man has not yet been found” Sydney Monitor (NSW : 1828 – 1838), Saturday 24 April 1830, page 2
This was at a time when the pilots had small boats rowed by a crew of two, usually assigned convicts, and no mention is made of the other crew member. One or the other was most likely Nicholas Bullock who was recorded as being his “waterman” in the 1828 census.
Coincidentally, however not so fortunate several years later, was a crew member of the Elizabeth, Thomas Morgan. His body was found in a well. It appeared that he had been intoxicated on the previous evening, and had fallen in. The Coronial Verdict—Accidentally drowned.
When his health began to fail in 1832, he sold the farm and moved from the position of Pilot to the Lighthouse keeper, and in December 1838 reported that “Ryan Martin,19, Tipperary, farm boy, 5 feet 3¼ inches, brown comp., brown hair, hazel eyes, scar back of left side of head, cross inside lower right arm” had been missing for three days and assumed escaped.
Sailing out of Port Jackson wasn’t always easy. Often the wind was blowing from a direction that favoured either going in or out of the harbour, but not both. Ships might have to tack deep into Rose Bay on the northern side of Shark Island and then tack to just pass Clarke Island on the port side to make it up to Sydney Cove. On a fairly regular basis, ships struggled to maneuver out of the heads, with the Sow and Pigs making tacking difficult, being right at the heads.
Throughout the age of sail, shipping reports mention ships having to anchor off Camp Cove or Watsons Bay waiting for the wind to change and allow them to progress up the harbour or out through the heads. It was also where boats washed up after storms in Part Jackson.
There were also many reports of ships “losing their stays” and either coming close to the cliffs and rocks or being wrecked. “Losing stays” meant that the ship had missed going about and tacking in a new direction. When that happened, the ship had to resume its course, refill its sails and gain momentum before trying to go about again. If too close to the cliffs, they didn’t have room to do this. In the following decades, many ships lost their stays and the Watsons Bay pilots and rescue boat was kept busy.
Captain Raine was another very successful sailor who turned his attention to trade. He was on the board of the Bank of New South Wales and established Raine and Ramsay, general merchants, ship owners and agents. He was the captain of the ship “Surry”, which took Governor Macquarie back to England. Just as he was facing bankruptcy, he announced that he would establish two boats crews at Watson’s Bay, with a view to building a fishing industry. While he managed to rebuild his business in New Zealand, in 1831 he and his wife Fanny relocated to Bathurst and built a considerable grazing business.
In 1825 Thomas Watson was acting Pilot when John M Gray, made a voyage to Moreton Bay and then on 1st Feb 1826 the newspaper wrote that they were “”glad to see that Mr. Thomas Watson is re-appointed to the Pilot Service, as the mercantile business so increases that such an efficient and diligent public servant is much required.” Gray had been promoted to Harbour Master and head of the Pilot service. Replacing Thomas at the lighthouse was Thomas Weeland.
At the 1828 muster, the population of Watsons Bay was 32.
Patrick and Catherine Humphries and their 16-year-old daughter Anne were there, however all their sons were living elsewhere. Richard and Jane Siddins had their five children Ann, Augusta, Joseph, Mary and Jane and four servants. One was Nicholas Bullock “waterman” and another Mary Moorehead “servant”. It wasn’t recorded if they were house servants or members of his boat crew. The other pilot, Thomas Watson, had been appointed in 1826 and he and his wife were in the process of building a marine villa that came to be known as “Clovelly”. Thomas and Hannah Watson had six servants: again, either domestic or more likely crew of his boat, as they had no children. Thomas and Mary Weelands and their children Thomas and Grace who were both less than two years old. They had four servants.
John Sheady was one of two men manning the flagstaff, which they recorded as being the “Telegraph”, and Robert and Hannah Taylor (Brickmaker) are recorded, but not assigned to either Siddins, Wealands or Watson.(1)
Thomas Street was a semi regular visitor over this decade. He was both a ships officer and owner who regularly sailed out of Watsons Bay. Being experienced, he would have been allowed to enter and leave without taking a pilot on board, however while awaiting the right wind conditions, he would anchor off the bay or Camp Cove.
We need to remember that the colony was still very much a convict one, and men such as Street had no second thoughts about charging his assigned convict James McQuinland with neglect of duties. James was a lime burner and for his “disobedience” was sentenced to 50 lashes and then returned to Street to continue to burn shells to produce lime for cementing new buildings around the harbour. He should have known better than to have left his open boat in Watsons Bay unattended. He wouldn’t have then had a deal box (Pine Box) and bag, containing “Wearing Apparel, Letters and Papers, Books, and sundry other articles together- with a Musket, and Fowling-piece”, stolen in 1826.
On one occasion, brig Dragon lost her anchor when the chain worked loose and she nearly drifted onto rocks before another anchor was dropped.
On another occasion, a sailor was badly injured when beaching a boat at Watsons Bay. There are sections of the waterfront where the bottom of the harbour goes from deep to shallow very quickly. On this occasion it was a small boat that could be either rowed or sailed and on this occasion was under sail. As it approached the beach, one of the crew jumped off the bow to turn it into the wind. His leg slipped under the boat and it was crushed between the hull and the rocks. While he survived, his leg had to be amputated.
And still convicts attempted to escape>
A small craft, called the Mary, belonging to a person named Williams, a baker, in Sydney, was seized by four men, prisoners of the Crown, on Tuesday night, or early on Wednesday morning, in Darling Harbour. The avowed intent of the party was to make their escape from the Colony, and they were accordingly furnished with a variety of articles necessary for their voyage, as they stated, to New Zealand. Information, however, was given to the Police, by a man who happened to be near the spot when the pirates made the seizure, and who, after compelling him to assist them they wished to prevail on to go off in company, but without effect. … Mr Raymond, Searcher of Customs, accordingly pursued the fugitives, and came up with them at Watson’s Bay. On the approach of Mr. Raymond’s boat, the runaways threw several articles overboard, amongst the rest, it is supposed some fire arms, and upon being closely pressed jumped overboard themselves. One of the party was drowned, and the others having made a shift to get on shore, were pursued and apprehended. In the boat was found a quantity of ammunition, sea-store, a false, port clearance etc.
A Coroner’s Inquest was held, on Wednesday, on the body of John Robinson, one of the party engaged in the seizure of the Mary, who jumped overboard, and, was drowned at Watson’s Bay. The circumstances of the case were detailed on the inquest, and the Jury found a verdict accordingly. Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 – 1842), Friday 21 March 1828, page 2
Port Jackson and Watsons Bay in this decade is well described in this letter:
IN A SERIES OF LETTERS TO A GENTLE-MAN IN LONDON. LETTER II.
My dear: -——Although the depth of winter, the sky was without a cloud, and exhibited that beautiful purple tinge so common in these fine climates but which is rarely seen in England. The sun was warm and powerful, and shone down upon our deck with a force that made one exclaim, “if this be your winter, what must your summer be? ‘
A long stretch out to Middle Harbour, opened to our view a pretty little sandy bay called Camp Cove, just inside the reef under the flagstaff. It was here that the first boat or vessel of any kind, that, ever entered Port Jackson, was hauled up in 1788. She had been despatched by Captain Phillip, R. N., who was in charge of the fleet then at anchor ten miles off, in Botany Bay, in search of a more suitable situation, to commence a settlement; and, having setup their tents on this silvery strand, it obtained the name of Camp Cove. What must have been the sensations of wonderland delight to the officer and crew of this first boat, to find such a magnificent harbour, when they so little expected it? And what was almost equally surprising, when this boat in a day or two after, joined her ship with the news of the important discovery they had made there were two French men-of-war at anchor close to the fleet, although nobody had seen anything in the shape of a sail, for months. Who should it be but the unfortunate Perouse on a voyage of discovery; and from that day to this (40 years ago) nothing has been heard of the Astrolabe or Boussole; nor a single individual forming the expedition.
We were now abreast of a low sunken rock called the Sow-and-Pigs, pointed out very faintly by an empty water button the top of a staff, having a very mean appearance. Governor Darling, who is indefatigable in his exertions for the solid improvements of the Colony, has suggested, it is said, some sort of superstructure on this dangerous spot, that may serve the purpose of a permanent beacon’, and at some future time, perhaps, of a fortification, for which the situation is admirably adapted; it stands in mid-channel, and in a part of the harbour sufficiently narrow to command both the northern and southern passage. The shores now began rapidly to improve, and several handsome boats were manoeuvring about under sail. A large ship (an Indiaman) was coming down before the wind, going, as the pilot told us, for a cargo of wheat. Watson’s Bay, and two or three good stone buildings there, belonging to the pilots, had a comfortable appearance and we just got a peep of Vaucluse and its dark woods, the elegant villa of Mr. Wentworth, the author of a history of New South Wales, in two vols. ‘Tis seldom that authors have such pretty places. But the most striking object in sailing up this romantic harbour is Point Piper, the residence of our late respected Naval Officer. It was built, I understand, principally by Chinese workmen; and, including its baths and gardens, has not cost less than £25,000 — an expense almost incredible in the present day, but by no means impossible, when you consider the excessive rate of wages, that existed at the time if was built, and the well-known Sydney profits, of £500 and £1000 per cent., on every article retailed in the shops, from a door-lock to a pane of glass’. The house is built a good deal in the Eastern style; and combines, with its oriental elegance, everything that comes under head of English comforts. But yesterday, it was the scene of the most splendid hospitality, where strangers of distinction were invariably entertained, and where they saw a flattering specimen, whether in the ballroom or the festive board, a too flattering specimen, I am afraid, of how things were done in New South Wales. But now the late worthy owner has retired; from public employment, and this beautiful place is left in charge of servants, and merely exhibits “Banquet halls deserted.” The furniture has been sold – the ormolu and glittering candelabra are no longer reflected in its massive mirrors.” The music, and the banquet, and the wine -” The garlands, the rose odours, and the flowers -” The sparkling eyes and flashing ornaments -” The white arms and the raven hair – are gone. “The gardens, however, at Point Piper are as fine as ever, and produce fruits of the most opposite climates,” with very little culture, in the ‘open air. Just as Lord Chancellor Bacon has somewhere said, the parallel of 33 degrees from the Equator, should seem to be the meeting place of heat and cold, and exactly that situation on the globe bearing the greatest number, of the most useful as well as the most agreeable productions of the earth. So it is in New South Wales ; here you have the orange and the strawberry in the highest state of perfection, in the same gardens, all over the Colony; but Point Piper exhibits the still stronger contrast of bananas and guavas, offering their abundant fruit and tropical shade to the humble currant of the higher latitudes.
There are several pretty islands as you sail up to Sydney, which here open to the view, with its numerous large ships and busy windmills ; but it is very unfortunate for the usually correct pen of the amiable author of the Pleasure of Hope, that there is no island at all, either long or short, in Sydney Cove, and therefore his stanza.” Doomed the long isles of Sydney Cove to see” must submit to the criticism of Australian readers. Garden Island is the longest and prettiest of them all, and used at present as a private place of sepulture ; this is to be regretted ; its exposed and public situation, in the midst of shipping, though pretty, besides other inconveniences, is not suitable to the privacy of retired grief ; and while great room for improvement in the taste of the English in their burial grounds must be admitted to exist, this is not the spot; exactly, for a “pere lachaise.” On the south shore several pretty spots seemed to be getting ready for suburban villas; among the most conspicuous for its improvements, was the property of our excellent Colonial Secretary, Mr. M’Leay. Adjoining this. is the seat of Archdeacon Scott, called Woolloomoolloo, which has nothing remarkable in it beyond being the spacious residence of an English gentleman, and the strange construction of its native name. While we were getting the anchor ready, and passing astern of the Rainbow frigate, the Hon.Captain Rous, the town of Sydney seemed to resemble Malta, more than any other place I had seen, particularly the Valetta side of the harbour. The houses all built of white stone, rose in terraces one above the other, and Fort Phillip crowned the top.
Captain Thomas Watson, a very old colonist of New South Wales, died on Sunday, at Randwick, where he had resided. His age was 84 years; and, during a greater part of his life, was a resident of Sydney, having arrived here over half a century ago.
He was an enthusiastic admirer of Captain Cook, and his efforts to obtain the erection of a statue to the memory of the great circumnavigator will be long remembered. He lived to see the work accomplished, and the occasion of the unveiling was, as he acknowledged at the time, one of the proudest and happiest of his life. On October 27, 1874, he had himself erected a statue to Cook on his estate at Randwick. This statue he gave to the colony. It was unveiled by Commodore Goodenough. Watson’s Bay takes its name after him.
One of the first appointments Captain Watson held in Sydney was that of light-keeper at Macquarie lighthouse shortly after its establishment. He afterwards obtained the appointment of pilot of Port Jackson, and subsequently rose to the position, of harbour-master. He was also a member of the Marine Board for several years.
The most eventful period of his life was when he was master of the schooner Essington, and rescued, in 1837, a white man named Forbes from the cruel and murderous savages of the island of Timor after a captivity of 16 years.
The remains of the deceased gentleman were interred at half-past 12 o’clock on Tuesday, at the Newtown Cemetery, in the presence of a large number of old colonists and leading citizens. The funeral cortege left the deceased gentleman’s residence, on the Randwick Road, near Coogee Bay, at 10 o’clock, and proceeded to St. Jude’s Church, where the Bishop of Sydney conducted the service for the dead. The coffin, which was placed near the communion rails, was covered with wreaths of beautiful flowers and the shroud was a Union Jack.
After the service the funeral party was again formed, and proceeded along the Randwick Road, down Oxford and Liverpool streets into, George Street, and thence along the Newtown Road to the cemetery, which was reached shortly after noon. The first carriage that followed the hearse contained the deceased’s brother, Mr. R. Watson, and deceased’s nephews.
The next mourning coach contained the chief mourners and executors, Mr. John Williams, jun., and Mr. W. S. Williams. The next three carriages contained the members of the Marine Board – Captains Hixson, J. B. Watt, Fox, Jenkins, Broomfield, M’Lean, and Mr. Lindeman, the secretary. In the other carriages (about 30 in number) were Captain Charles, M.L.A., Messrs. G. M. Pitt, Dutruc,P. Allpress, Hon. J. Marks, Dr. M ‘ Kay, D. O’Connor, D. O’Connell, J. J. Riley, Broderick, R. W. Robberds, Edward Lord, E. B. Smith, M.P., Cruickshank, J. Cox, and others. When the coffin had been carried to the grave, the Rev. Thomas Wilson conducted the burial service and delivered an extempore address suitable to the solemn occasion. Australian Town and Country Journal (Sydney, NSW : 1870 – 1919), Saturday 11 October 1879, page 32
Martin, Megan “A Thematic History of Watsons Bay” 1997