The Nancywas a Hawkesbury boat, wrecked south of Jervis Bay. Providence, according to the author, intervened to save lives. Jack, a Aboriginal crewman, apparently absconded with various articles. However, he turned up in Sydney with the goods intact a fortnight later. It is possible that the “native Jack who went in the Nancy as servant to Mr. Demaria” was Jack Richmond who in 1817 and 1819 went on sealing trips; however, there were a number of Jacks around at this time. Corriangee, apparently involved in the Prospect and Cowpasture troubles at the same time, was another seafarer. He was also known as Cabone Jack and Cobbon Jack. Cobbon Jack was the father of Narang, or Little Jack.118 ‘LOSS of the NANCY.
In addition to the losses recently sustained to the Colony in its small craft, we have to regret that of the above fine cutter on the 18th ultimo, a few miles to the southward of Jervis Bay. On the 17th appearances strongly indicating an approaching gale, she hauled off shore, and in the evening a dreadful hurricane set in accompanied with very vivid lightning, and awful peals of thunder that rolled without intermission, together with an incessant torrent of rain. The rage of the elements increasing, split the mainsail, which was close-reefed, the vessel still driving at the rate of 4 or 5 knots, and at the same time making much lee way. At midnight the gale became furiously violent, not a sail was left, and the sea making a fair breach over her, prevented the possibility of keeping a light in the binnacle. The gale blowing dead on the shore, at about two in the morning the man at the helm gave notice of land to leeward, which was discernible by the lightning; and such was its appearance, being a chain of perpendicular cliffs against which the sea dashed with inconceivable violence, as to fill with horror and consternation the minds of those already hopeless of escaping a destiny presented in a variety of dismal shapes; all above-board was by this time washed away, and to avoid grounding in a situation where every person on board must have inevitably perished, all that remained to determined perseverance was effected, and by keeping her as much to the wind as her helpless condition would permit, she happily changed her ground, and striking on a small sand-beach between two bluff heads, unhung her rudder at the first blow. To this interposition of providence alone is to be attributed the rescue of the people from a melancholy fate, one of whom, Richard Wall, a native of Exeter, was unfortunately lost. The same morning the hull parted, and shortly after went to pieces, the continued violence and rapidity of the surf preventing any part of the cargo from being saved; and such few articles as were washed ashore were carried off by the natives, who, though they offered no personal violence, had become too numerous to be resisted. One of these people, whose conduct Mr. Demaria, the master of the vessel, noticed as being in all respects opposite to that of his brethren, cheerfully undertook to conduct his distressed party round to Jervis Bay, for which place they set out on the morning of the 20th, and reached it the same evening; and next morning perceiving that the natives, possibly with no other design than the gratification of curiosity, were clustering round them from all directions, it was considered most adviseable to commit themselves to the Providence that had thus far bountifully preserved them, and make the best of their way for Sydney by pedestrian travel. Destitute of provisions, without a musket, except one that was useless, and only borne to intimidate the natives, the proposal was readily concurred in, and after a terrible journey of eleven days, lengthened much by the inundated state of the country, they attained the much desired object on Wednesday night last, crippled by fatigue, and reduced to the last extremity by actual want. Near the Five Islands Mr. Demaria mentions his having experienced a portion of civility from the natives which would do credit to a more polished race of Men, as it even extended to the liberal partition of their scanty fare among his little party when they were much exhausted. On the other hand a Sydney native who had accompanied the trip and received every favour and indulgence, forsook his fellow travellers the day after the wreck, and went over to his kindred with every trifling necessary that might have softened in some measure the rigours of a painful travel. Among the articles stolen by this perfidious miscreant was a small axe, the loss of which added much to their calamity, as the travellers had not then any edged implement whatever, and were in consequence deprived of the means of procuring the cabbage tree, upon which they had placed much reliance.119 The cargo of the Nancy consisted of 3187 skins;120 she was the largest vessel ever built at Hawkesbury, from whence she was about two years since launched by Mr Thompson, and sold to Messrs Kable and Company in whose service she remained to the moment of her dissolution.’121
17th April, 1805
The following account of attacks upon the farms of Llewellen and Adlam probably marks the first appearance of Branch Jack in the historical record. The author used the attacks on the crops as evidence of the inherent barbarity of Aboriginal people. Because Aboriginal people did not farm crops it was cited as further evidence of their indolence and lowliness on the Great Chain of Being.
Interestingly, in ridiculing the idea that Aboriginal people were provoked into the attacks, the author reveals that at least some settlers were of the opinion that the attacks were in retaliation for ill treatment. There is some evidence within the text to support this view. Being ex NSW Corps soldiers may well explain why Llewellen and Adlam were targeted. They may well have been involved in attacks upon Aboriginal people. The remains of Adlam and his servant were scattered which strongly suggests that by so doing the warriors were determined to prevent the reincarnation of Llewellen and Adlam. As well, Llewellen’s servant was thrown face down into the river and left for dead, which was a traditional means of frustrating a spirit from finding its way home.
The Gazette was not however devoid of spiritual sensibilities, once again citing Providential intervention in the affairs of men, this time to save the life of John Knight, Llewellen’s servant.
‘With inexpressible concern we have to recount a series of barbarities lately practised by a banditti of these people, inhabiting the out-skirts of Hawkesbury. Last Wednesday se’nnight a fellow known by the name of Branch Jack went to the farm of John Llewellen,122 one of the Military settlers, who was at dinner with his labouring servant in a field; he was invited to partake of the fare; and after sharing in the repast, found means to get the settler’s musket and powder horn in his possession, with which he made off with a loud yell, which was returned by about 20 others that had before concealed themselves, but now came forward, and discharged several spears at the unfortunate men, two of which entered the master’s breast, who fell immediately, two others passing between the servant’s legs.The latter requiring to know their motive for the barbarous assault,123 was answered by a flight of spears, one of which penetrated his shoulder, and another one of his groins. After he had fallen the natives closed upon him, and thrice struck him on the head with a tomahawk, each blow occasioning a dreadful wound. They then hurried the unfortunate object of their fury toward the bank of the river, and hurled him downwards; when he had lain some time half immersed he heard the groans of his unhappy master, who was shortly after dispatched by some of the assailants who returned to all appearance purposely; and supposing the servant dead, left the site of horror. In this deplorable condition the poor man lay for the space of two whole days; and when upon the very point of expiring, was snatched by the hand of providence from immediate death, and taken to Hawkesbury in a boat accidently passing, where he gave the above detail to the magistrate there resident. On the same day another event of the same horrible kind took place at the branch, within three miles of the above. The farm house of F. Adlam124 was set on fire by a body of natives supposed to be the same; and after the alarm had been given, a search was made for the settler and his man, but they had shared a merciless fate, a part of their Relicks being found among the ashes, and the remainder scattered piecemeal, to become the prey for of prowling animals and carnivorous birds; from which circumstance it is probably conjectured that after the ill-fated people had been inhumanly murdered their limbs were severed and wantonly scattered.125 It since appears that some of these pitiless barbarians had several weeks before intimated their detested purpose to several individuals, who treated it with levity, as nothing was visible in their deportment that could justify suspicion of a hostile change. The above survivor whose name is John Knight gave the foregoing detail up on Friday evening and armed boats were sent from the Green Hills, to prevent further mischief about the Branches: and it is devoutly to be hoped that the measures adopted by order of HIS EXCELLENCY may bring the barbarities to a speedy crisis. It is sometimes contended, that these outrages are only acts of retaliation for injuries received; but such a persuasion must be allowed to yield to observation and experience to the contrary. Should it at any time appear that an individual amenable to the law abuses by maltreatment any of these people, the offence is immediately investigated, and the slightest act of injustice treated with even greater rigour than it would have been had the complaint proceeded from an European. The natives are themselves perfectly aware of the protection they owe to the Government and its Officers; and seldom suffer an occasion to escape of representing the slightest grievance. During the last twelvemonth no complaint has been set up by a native, except in one single instance of assault about for months since: and in consequence of which the aggressor, altho’ a free man was committed to the County Gaol from Hawkesbury; and still remains a labourer in the gaol gang.126 Nor did the act of this delinquent extend further than a blow, as he himself declares in his own justification, to a native who designed to plunder him, so infrangible127 are the Regulations providing for their security by inflicting exemplary punishment upon any whose want of humanity might stimulate them to acts of wanton violence against this race of men. The benefits they daily receive from the settlers and other inhabitants are on the other hand boundless, and should lay claim to every grateful return which can extend no further than a passive forbearance from rapacity; but no consideration whatever can bind them; nor even secure from assassination him that is in the very act of contributing to their relief from want. And nothing further need be said to refute a notion of their being actuated to enormity by a principle of resentment, than the bare recollection that those enormities are periodical in their commencement, at every season when they may despoil the settler of his crops, and reap by stealth and open violence the produce of a tract they themselves too indolent to cultivate; and unless a provoked opposition to their doing which be deemed a provocation to the renewal of mischiefs, certain we are that no pretence cation128(sic) what ever can exist.’129