In 2013 Longford will celebrate the 200th anniversary of the final arrivals of the Settlers removed by government order from Norfolk Island to the Norfolk Plains. This event took place with the arrival of The Lady Nelson on the first of March 1813.
The Lady Nelson: Tasmanian Heritage
by Len Langan
The Lady Nelson was built in 1798 for mercantile use fitted with Shank keels invented by Captain John Shank. These removable centre boards adapted the vessel to reduce its draft from 13, the usual draft for Cutters of her size, to about 7 feet. The invention gave the vessel greater stability in deep waters but increased her mobility in shallow areas. She was launched in November 1798 at Deptford and took her name to honour the wife of Admiral Horatio Nelson.
Stint in the Navy
Placed on hire to The Royal Navy she was captured by French pirates off Gibraltar (1825) but rescued and escorted back to England by HMS The Queen Charlotte. Her design being greatly admired she was then purchased by the Navy and converted as a gun-brig. On the 13th of January 1800 she sailed bound for Australia under the command of Lieutenant James Grant armed with six guns and a total crew of fifteen. In our southern seas she was to become a familiar sight sailing between Sydney, Norfolk Island and Ports Dalrymple and Macquarie.
Bass Strait: James Grant, Matthew Flinders
James Grant is generally accepted to be the first European to navigate Bass Strait from west to east discovering Port Phillip on the way and naming a host of now well known places; Cape Schanck, Mount Gambier and Cape Otway to mention but a few. Later our brave little ship accompanied “Investigator” with Matthew Flinders on part of his north east coast survey.
Norfolk Island: Removed by Government Order
In 1807 she was a leading ship instructed to remove the Convicts, Settlers and Military personnel from Norfolk Island to Hobart Town many of whom had been living on the island for twenty years. In February 1813 accompanied by the “Minstrel” she carried the last of the Settlers to Port Dalrymple leaving only a clean-up party on the island charged with killing and salting the remaining livestock and destroying the buildings to prevent resettlement.
The very last Settlers left on February 28th 1814 on the “Kangaroo”. Two of these men Thomas Ransom and William Hutchinson had once been convicts. Hutchinson was the man entrusted to destroy the last of the buildings and dispose of the animals. Later he became a Superintendent of Convicts and Public Works in Sydney with a special commendation from Governor Macquarie.
Van Diemen’s Land Aboard The Lady Nelson
The Lady Nelson actually transported 568 people from Norfolk Island to Van Diemen’s Land during her long career clocking up a total twenty five years service to the Colony here in Australia. On her final voyage she fell prey to Malay pirates who killed the entire crew and the ship was wrecked on Babar Island.
A modern replica of the Lady Nelson built in the late 1980s now commemorates a part of Tasmanian history with graceful dignity. She now operates as a sail training ship crewed by volunteer workers based at Hobart.
Len Langan lives in Longford with his wife Jill. They are both passionate about Tasmanian heritage and tourism and things that can be done in this industry. Len writes about Tasmanian history for both The Courier in Longford and the magazine Sagacity, and works with Virtuosi taking music to rural areas.
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