Cockatoo Island page 2

Convicts and transportation


Sydney Gazette 6 Sept 1845

Cost of maintaining gaol
Mr. Windeyer supported the view taken by Mr. Wentworth, and contended that the whole of the gaols in the colony were in their region and all convict establishments and that there was no law that he was aware of to make a distinction between colonial and British gaols; and the words of the Act of Parliament whatever they might mean, and bear no other construction than that put upon them by the honorable and learned member for Sydney.

Mr. Robinson also supported the view of Mr. Wentworth, and said it was clearly ascertained that two-thirds of the expenses of the establishment throughout the colony were caused by convicts, and he thought the house would do right by only voting one-third of the sum asked for.

Mr. Wentworth contended that if the only establishment contemplated by the act was Cockatoo Island, as had been intimated by the Colonial Secretary, then all those persons who were confined in the Woolloomooloo gaol, and undergoing sentences from the United Kingdom, or commuted sentences, had no right to be there; they had no right to be quartered on the general revenue of the colony, and it was the duty of the house to remit those persons to the establishment to which they properly belonged; and he therefore proposed that the house should now either stop, or at once inquire into the number of persons of the description he had alluded to, and the expense entailed by them, and either take measures to send those persons to Cockatoo Island, or to charge their expenses on the British treasury.

Mr. Lowe supported the views of Mr. Wentworth.
The Colonial Secretary did not allow that Cockatoo Island was a gaol; it was a place of safe custody, and so, to a certain extent, was Hyde Park Barracks, the Female Factory at Parramatta, and the various iron gangs of the colony. He thought if the measure contemplated by the hon. and learned member for Sydney was carried out, a debtor and creditor account of every place must be kept, and he had no doubt but that the balance would be found greatly against the colony; for it should be remembered that all the men employed in iron gangs were clothed and fed at the expense of the British government, whilst the colonists derived the benefit arising from their labour. After some further discussion, the Colonial Secretary moved that Captain Innes, the visiting justice of the gaol, be called in and examined. Mr. Lowe opposed the motion, on the ground that the estimate was not before the house in such a manner as would enable the house to deal with it in a proper manner; for it did not appear whether it was a part of the police establishment or not.
Mr. Windeyer supported the view taken by the hon. member for St. Vincent and Auckland as to the inconsistency of the estimate; but he thought the only proper course to pursue was to call in the visiting magistrate, and ascertain what was the expense caused by convicts, and deduct it.

The question that Captain Innes be called in was then put and carried, and Captain Innes was called in and examined, and stated that the whole expenses of convicts in Woolloomooloo gaol during the six months from the 1st January to 30th June last was £22 4s. 6d., and in the six months previous it amounted to £3 only. No convicts were under any circumstances retained in the gaol, except those under committal for trial, and during the last six months only three persons of this class had been committed; the expense he had mentioned included the maintenance of four men assigned to the gaol. The men of this class were clothed from the military chest. Captain Innes then retired. Mr. Wentworth said the smallness of the amount mentioned by Captain Innes had certainly surprised him, but whether the amount was £22 or £2200 it made no difference in the principle for which he contended, and he conceived that the government were bound to pay the expense whatever it was, and concluded by moving that the sum of £44 9s. be deducted from the estimate, as the expense for the maintenance of convicts for one year, and £60 as one-thirteenth of the amount of salaries occasioned by convicts being in the gaol.

Mr. Robinson seconded the motion.
The Colonial Secretary opposed the motion. Dr. Lang moved as a further amendment that the item for two chaplains at £200 each be struck out, as he saw no reason why that sum should be paid by this colony; he thought the salaries should be paid from another fund. Mr. Wentworth seconded the motion.

Mr. Robinson moved as a further amendment that the sum be reduced by £92 2s. 6d., being the salaries of two executioners, and the item for coffins, rope, and other expenses of executions. Mr. Murray seconded the amendment. Mr. Wentworth’s motion for the reduction of the estimate to £3364 8s. 6d. was then put, and on a division was carried by a majority of l8 to 3. The amendment of Dr. Lang for striking out the salaries of the chaplains was then put by the Chairman, and alter some discussion a division took place, when the amendment was lost by a majority of 4, there being 8 ayes and 12 noes.

Mr. Wentworth stated that he would withdraw his amendment for reducing £60 in the salaries, and his amendment would then be for a reduction of £44 9s. on the estimate. This amendment was carried.
The Colonial Treasurer then moved that the sum of £1102 9s. 7d. be voted for the gaol establishment at Parramatta.
Mr. Wentworth proposed that the item be reduced by £15, which was rejected.

The sum of £699 8s. 4d. was voted for Bathurst gaol.
The sum of £1165 8s. 9d. was voted for Newcastle gaol.
The sum of £972 17s. 6d. was voted for the gaol at Berrima.
The sum of £1428 11s. 3d. was voted for the gaol at Port Phillip.
The sum of £325 was voted for the health officer and medical board.
The sum of £1827 6s. 9d. was voted for the Lunatic Asylum, Tarban Creek.
The sum of £2000 was voted for the support of free paupers in the convict hospitals. The sum of £386 17s. 6d. was voted for the medical establishment at Port Phillip.
The sum of £2000 was voted for the male orphan school for Protestants near Liverpool 150 boys; and the sum of £1600 for the female orphan school for Protestants, Parramatta-140 girls.
The sum of £1200 was voted for the Roman Catholic orphan school Parramatta- 47 boys, 58 girls.

The house then resumed.
Mr. Windeyer enquired if any answers had been received from the home government to the address of that Council relative to colonial tobacco, wheat, and some others; to which the Colonial Secretary replied no answers had been received, The Council then adjourned.


Sydney Gazette 18 Nov 1845

Extension of dry dock
Mr. Robinson moved that the Governor be requested to cause surveys and plans to be made, with the view of erecting a dry dock at Cockatoo Island, fit for men-of-war.

Maitland Mercury 25 Sept 1847

Establishment of a dry dock
The Governor’s message respecting the formation of a dry dock at Cockatoo Island was then read, and the COLONIAL SECRETARY laid upon the table the report of the select committee appointed to consider the subject, and moved that the sum of £500 be appropriated for 1847 towards the construction of a dry dock at Cockatoo Island, which item was passed, and the same sum was voted for 1843


18 Oct 1855 Maitland Mercury

Question on viability of Fitzroy Wharf
Mr. COWPER said he was certainly surprised at the present proposal. He thought there was almost too much competition, and he had no faith in the completion of the Fitzroy Dock. He thought to launch out money in the construction of such a work was not expedient, and believed the union of free and convict labour on the land would be fatal to prison discipline.

Sydney Gazette 5 May 1847

Cayenne pepper grown on Cockatoo island
Cayenne Pepper.-Mr. Ormsby, superintendent of Cockatoo Island, has succeeded in growing and preparing excellent cayenne pepper, superior to any imported, in colour, strength, and fineness.-Australian.

Sydney Gazette 6 May 1848

Transportation of convicts – report
Transportation of Convicts.- Thirty five prisoners from Cockatoo Island and five from the gaol, were embarked on board the Governor Phillip yesterday. Of these, thirty-nine are destined for Norfolk Island, and the remaining one, being a runaway from Van Diemen’s Land, for the chain gangs.

Conviction information
State of Cockatoo Island, on the 31st April.- Prisoners under sentence on the island, 45-of these 41 were free prior to colonial conviction. In ironed gang 65, and 1 in general hospital-of these 14 were free prior to colonial conviction. Sentenced to house of correction, 3; sentenced for definite periods, 4; for further orders, or remainder of sentence, 50; and 2 in hospital. General total-177 on island, 3 in general hospital-180; of whom 55 were free prior to conviction.


Sydney Gazette 14 March 1849

Public objection to continued transportation of convicts
Public Meeting against the renewal of transportation Moved that

That his Excellency the Governor be requested, in the event of a ship arriving in the harbour with convicts, to send them back to England, if necessary, at the expense of the colony; or, if his Excellency should not feel justified in preventing their landing,, that he will cause them to be employed exclusively on Cockatoo Island. And later…..
The object of the Colonial Minister was to get rid of his prisoners, and what did it signify to him whether they were kept at Cockatoo Island or anywhere else. What did the Secretary of State know about Cockatoo Island, or how many prisoners might be contained there. The best way would be to send them back. He would move, as an amendment, that the latter part of the resolution he expunged.


Maitland Mercury Sept 3, 1851

Dry dock work details

THE DRY DOCK. We are glad to be able to report that the works at the Dry Dock on Cockatoo Island are proceeding favourably, and that there is every reason to hope that before the end of next year it will be completed and ready for use. Upwards of sixty thousand tons of superincumbent rock had to be removed before arriving at the level from which the excavation of a dock was to commence. This has been done, and a large portion of the dock has been cut out. The caisson for the entrance, and two twenty-horse power steam engines, have been sent for to England, and may be expected to arrive early next year, by which time the work will be sufficiently forward to require them. The dock is to be two hundred and fifty feet long, fifty feet wide, and twenty-four feet deep, which will take in any vessel likely to visit these seas. The position is an admirable one. It is sufficiently far from Sydney not to be in the way of the ordinary trade of the port, and it is yet close enough to be easily communicated with. The distance from Dawes’ Battery to the south-east portion of the island, where the dock is, is under three miles. Between the island and the bank of the river there is water for a hundred gun ship; and being above Sydney, the river itself is as smooth as a pond. The work is being performed under the superintendence of Mr. G. Mann, by convicts who are under sentence of hard labour from colonial courts. Many of them probably never did so much work in their lives as they are doing now. As an inducement to them, they work by task, and are allowed to perform extra work, which goes in mitigation of the sentence. A really industrious man can do a day and a half’s work in a day, and if he does so he shortens his sentence one day out of three, which he has to serve. We believe that both Mr. Mann and Mr. M’Lerie, the visiting magistrate, approve of this system, and consider that it answers admirably, both as regards the conduct of the men and the execution of the work. -Herald, Aug. 30.

Maitland Mercury 9 Oct 1852

Six convicts die in grain silos

The following are the particulars of a sad catastrophe, which happened yesterday at this penal establishment. In one of the wheat silos, 4000 bushels of wheat had been deposited for some time, and from which, it having been purchased by a contractor, quantities amounting to about 1000 bushels had been withdrawn, from time to time, upon his order.  The silo was opened on Saturday, the 25th ult, and a quantity taken out and placed in bags which were kept on the ground for some time   awaiting the contractors boat to remove them. It came on to rain heavily, and the overseer, fearing that the wheat, not being under cover, would be damaged if allowed to remain any longer in the wet, ordered it to be shot out of the bags into the silo again. This order, given with the best intentions, led it is to be feared, to the shocking occurrence we are about to relate. Yesterday, it was requisite to open the silo again, and a gang of the prisoners who have been accustomed to the duty were directed to perform it. Upon opening the silo, three men descended, but were immediately struck senseless by the foul air, which it is supposed had been generated by the unfortunate process of throwing back the wet wheat on the former day. Their situation being perceived, two of the overseers, and a gangs man, without hesitation, descended to attempt their rescue, but they also immediately fell. The alarm was given, and every endeavor made to save the six men.  In a short time, the bodies were got out of the silo, when it was found that the three generous fellows who had attempted to save the first three, were dead, and every effort to restore life was unavailing. Bleeding and other usual remedies were applied to the others, who may now be considered out of danger: although for some time very little hope of their recovery was     entertained, their blood being nearly jet black when the lancet was used. An inquest will be held upon their bodies to day. We may add, that one of the three men who thus lost his life was within a few weeks of obtaining his liberty.