The Journey

Preparing the journey

In 1786, a fleet of ships was being prepared to transport 750 convicts to a place called Botany Bay. Cook had landed there sixteen years earlier and explored the east coast. Now the British government planned to establish a colony there. Prisoners were being mustered from the overcrowded jails into old ships moored in ports around England. When it was discovered that there were insufficient women prisoners for the fleet, the order came from London to transfer the female convicts at Norwich Jail to the hulks at Plymouth. From there they would be loaded onto the ships bound for Botany Bay. Susannah Holmes was one of these women. Henry Kable’s distressed pleas to be allowed to marry Susannah and accompany her to New South Wales fell on deaf ears.

Model of a Hulk used in Plymouth

Model of a Hulk used in Plymouth

Embarcation at Portsmouth

Henry, Susannah and their baby embarked on the Friendship, before they set sail on the 13th May 1787 as convicts, and were transported in the Fleet of eleven ships that sailed from Portsmouth England and subsequently became known as the First Fleet and the participants as First Fleeters. At the Cape of Good Hope Susannah and her son were put on board the Charlotte to make way for livestock. Their story did not go without incident or note when after an eight-month voyage they arrived at Botany Bay and onward to Port Jackson and the Sydney Cove arriving 26th January 1788 at their final destination. After some time of disembarking they requested to marry which had occurred on many occasions before. This was finally granted and they became participants in the first marriage ceremony conducted in the colony on the 10th February 1788.

Arrival at Sydney Cove

The convict ships arrived in Sydney harbour in January 1788; the voyage took eight months. They went ashore in row boats. There was no dock. There were no buildings either so they lived in tents. But the absence of buildings was not going to delay the landing of British institutions, marriage and the Anglican Church among them. Along with several other couples, Henry and Susannah were married that February by the Anglican chaplain, in one of the first weddings in the new settlement.

Sydney-Cove-1788

Sydney Cove 1788

The big question was: Who was the first ashore”?
A version is published in the The Sydney Morning Herald (Sydney, New South Wales, Australia) · 26 Jan 1968. Click here for the article the Kable who was first ashore.

Captain Arthur Phillip RN

arthur phillipArthur Phillip was the commander of the First Fleet of 11 ships that sailed into Botany Bay, New South Wales, on the 18th of January 1788.

Three days later he chose a site at nearby Sydney Cove, in Port Jackson, and on 26 January 1788 began to establish a convict settlement.

Phillip proved himself to be an enthusiastic and thorough leader who dealt in commonsense fashion with the challenges he faced in the early years of settlement.