Wednesday, January 08, 2003

Key Events in Australian History: the Sailing of the First Fleet

May 13, 1787: First Fleet sets sail from Portsmouth.

July 1, 1787: Convict George Michael [no relation] on The Prince of Wales, former pickpocket and amateur accordionist, begins composition of a new ballad to commemorate the voyage, under the working title Tooralie, Ooralie, Addity.

July 3, 1787: After complaints from fellow convicts and members of the ship's crew, Michael's accordion is confiscated and thrown overboard.

July 7, 1787: Midshipman David Beckham [no relation], of The Prince of Wales, reports the possible theft of his comb which he alleges was in the pocket of his pea-jacket when he went below to inspect the convict quarters.

July 8, 1787: After a search of The Prince of Wales' convict quarters, Midshipman Beckham's comb is found in the possession of George Michael, along with several sheets of tissue paper which were not itemised in the ship's manifest.

July 9, 1787: Convict Michael sentenced to 20 lashes at the ship's mashead, sentence to be carried out on the following day.

July 10, 1787: After receiving 20 lashes at the ship's masthead, Convict Michael sentenced to 10 more after calling the officers of The Prince of Wales "a bunch of bleeding philistines". The sentence is carried out immediately.

26 January, 1788: Fleet arrives at Port Jackson. Convict Michael is among the first convicts put ashore, to rousing cheers from his fellow convicts and the ship's crew of The Prince of Wales.

27 January, 1788: At the direction of Captain Arthur Phillip, Master-at-Arms William Hague [no relation] of the Royal Marines makes the following speech to the assembled convicts of the First Fleet:

Right you lazy buggers, there's supposed to be a nation here in 200 years and it's your job to build it. So get off your lazy arses and get cracking.

The great task of building the Australian nation was officially begun.

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