Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

Historical Records of New Zealand



When the Coal River was first settled it was with the view of turning the coal to advantage by sending it round here in the small vessels, for which purpose miners, &c., were sent, as it was expected the vessels going to China would ballast with it. This was done by one or two vessels, but the success of the speculation not encouraging them to take a greater quantity, and as the person I had put in command at that place had not conducted it so well as might have been done, and having no other person to place there, I was obliged to withdraw that settlement altogether.

Having received the Secretary of State’s direction in——* pointing out that place as an eligible situation for the most turbulent and refractory characters to be kept at the coal works, after the insurrection in March, 1804, was supressed, I turned my attention towards re-settling that place for the reception of desperate characters, but found some difficulty in fixing on a person to conduct it. Previous to the Calcutta’s departure Lieutenant Menzies, of the Marines on board that ship, hade an offer of his services, with his commander’s leave, when, after consulting, the business was closed and a Colonial appointment was given to Mr. Menzies to command and superintend that settlement, which was soon after named by that gentleman King’s Town. The district I had previously named Newcastle, and

* Blank in the manuscript. The letter referred to was doubtless that of 24th February, 1803, in which Lord Hobart directed King that incorrigible convicts who scorned reward and braved displeasure should, instead of being sent to Norfolk Island, be sent to labour at the coal-mines.

page 270 the county, Northumberland, these names having some analogy to those places in England. Lieutenant Menzies was appointed to act as a magistrate in that district. As much inconvenience would attend the convicts being allowed to work in what is called their own time for the individuals who went there for cedar and coals, that settlement was made in some measure immediately productive by the convicts collecting those articles which were disposed of to those who went for them, whereby they only required men to navigate the vessels, and the communication between the convicts at Newcastle and Sydney [was] greatly cut off thereby.

The prices charged were——per foot of cedar, and——per ton for coals, which was carried against the proprietors as a store debt.

Of the Irish convicts sent to this place there were some equal to any act of depravity. The greater part were sent from Ireland for murders during the rebellion and were the most active persons in the insurrection here in March, 1804.

To guard those desperate characters, Lieutenant Menzies took only——* soldiers of the New South Wales Corps and one Royal Marine belonging to the Buffalo.

From every account I have received there is much cause to be satisfied with Mr. Menzies, who is certainly obliged to have recourse to severe measures with such a description of people as he is surrounded by. One desparado has thrice left the settlement and has as often been returned and punished. Several others have found means to find their way by land, arriving at Broken Bay naked and starving.

I have no doubt Mr. Menzies would have done well but from his desire to have his party encreased, and an officer to command in his absence. That officer, according to the tour of duty, certainly is and was a madman, having given the greatest proofs of his eccentricities—not to give them a worse name. His conduct to the commanding officer of the Corps was so improper that he was obliged to name another to relieve him; but before it could take place [he committed] such violent acts as obliged Mr. Menzies to send him under an arrest under several charges, the principal of which was for mutiny.

Soon after Mr. Cressey went to Newcastle an altercation took place between Mr. Menzies and the commanding officer of

* The guard consisted of one sergeant and nine privates of the New South Wales Corps, and one private marine.

Although King here speaks of Menzies as if he was commandant at Newcastle at the time of writing, it will be seen from the paragraph which follows that it was written after Menzies had retired (March, 1805).

page 271 the Corps,* consequent on the latter’s [? former’s] refusing to send a return to that officer, conceiving that such a return from him, as an officer not belonging to the Corps and having one marine under him, could only be made to the Governor. The commanding officer sent me these letters, but as it appeared to involve a question of military opinion I did not consider it incumbent on me to give any decision thereon.

* The commanding officer at the time was Brevet-Major George Johnston. According to King, the dispute arose because Menzies claimed to command the subaltern and detachment of soldiers stationed at Newcastle.