Though Dr John Dulhunty has been hailed as the pioneer of the family in Australia, he was preceded, two years earlier, by his sons Robert Venour and Lawrence Vance.
They came during the period of Governor Brisbane's administration, which saw the beginning of free settlers with capital. The small settlement of 1,000, including 700 convicts and 200 soldiers, established by Governor Phillip in 1788 had grown to almost 24,000 of which about 1,300 were free immigrants. The despotism of the New South Wales Corps under governors Hunter, King, and Bligh had come to an end in l809. With the crossing of the Blue Mountains in l8l3 and the opening up of the western plains, New South Wales appeared to the English people in a new light; here was a place where they could grow wool and where there was room for sheep. The colony had now become self-supporting. Farming prospered, and the efforts of Macarthur had ensured the future of the wool industry. The defeat of Napoleon in l8l5 was having an effect on immigration: most of the settlers were young people inspired with the spirit of freedom, adventure and reform. They were given free grants of land, normally in proportion to the amount of capital they possessed and convicts were assigned to them as servants. This system had its advantages, in that the convicts were more and more distributed as assigned servants in the country, instead of being kept at government expense in the towns. At the same time there was being built up a local squirearchy of men of substance, who could reform their convict servants, act as local magistrates, and, as the Colonial gentry, set an example in conduct and morals to the rest of the community.
Sydney was 36 years old and the Dulhunty brothers in their early twenties when they arrived there. The first intimation of their arrival appeared in the Ship News of the Sydney Gazette on 11th March, 1824:
Arrived on Friday last to the joy of the whole colony, alarming apprehensions being entertained for her safety, the ship Guildford, Captain Johnson from England. She brings 159 male convicts. The original complement was 160, but one was accidentally killed. The Surgeon Superintendent is Dr Mitchell, R.N. The guard consists of a detachment of the 40th Regiment under Lieut. Thornhill. The passengers are as follows: The Hon. Judge Forbes, Mrs. Forbes and 3 children, Mr Glennie, Mr R. Dulhunty and Mr L. Dulhunty.
Lady Forbes, in her personal reminiscences, has left some account of the voyage:
...we had secured all the passenger accommodation available on the Guildford, but we afterwards allowed three friends, Mr Glennie, and the two Mr Dulhuntys, to join us...
...When the vessel was well out to sea, I was surprised to hear the sound of hammering which seemed to come from somewhere below, and on making enquiries I was rather startled at being told it was 'the prisoners having their irons knocked off'. This was the first intimation I had had of prisoners being aboard, and I could not help feeling nervous when I reflected upon the great length of the voyage before us, and the desperate characters of the men who were so cruelly confined in that stifling prison known as 'between decks'. A strong guard was always stationed over the hatchway which led to the prisoners' quarters in which were closely confined 160 unhappy men in conditions which must have been very dreadful.
In the Bay of Biscay they encountered a storm 'of such severity .. that threatened shipwreck' and sheltered for a time at Teneriffe. Even though it was found that the Guildford has sprung a leak, it was decided to try to reach Rio de Janeiro.
What made us anxious to continue our voyage was that France and Spain were then at war, and, during our stay at Teneriffe many Spanish privateers had arrived with rich French prizes, in.consequence of which.the inhabitants were in hourly expectation of an attack from the French fleet.
On the way to Rio the leakage in the Guildford increased so rapidly that'it was found necessary to keep the pumps going night and day.
In this compulsory work, as the crew were not numerous, the prisoners were obliged to take part, under a guard who stood by with loaded muskets This was the first.time I had seen these poor exiles, and as they came forth, one by one, out of the reeking hold, clad in their grey sombre garb, hollow-eyed, and with pale.and sunken.faces, they seemed to me like a steady procession of wierd spectres issuing from a tomb. I can see them now, working in silence at the pumps, carefully guarded by the soldiers lest, in their despair at their miserable plight, they should be tempted to endeavour to take the ship.
On..arrival at Rio the convicts, with their guard, were transferred on board a hulk, which was placed at their disposal by the Brazilian Government.
No such discomfort, however, was to be endured by the passengers.
The city of Rio, at this time of the year, is very hot and unhealthy, and most of the inhabitants who could afford the change resort to Bota-foga, a pretty watering place a few miles out of Rio, and here we took house and settled ourselves as we, at first, supposed for a week or two. But the Guildford was found to require such extensive repairs that nearly two months elapsed before we were able to continue our voyage.
During our stay at Bota-foga, we made many pleasant acquaintances, amongst them being Lord and Lady Cochrane, Lord Cochrane was in command of the Brazilian fleet, having entered the service of the Emperor. We found them to be most charming people, and we visited each other's houses without ceremony. There was also a Donna Anna and her daughters, with whom we became intimate, who sang very sweetly to the accompaniment of the guitar, and a Countess Rio Secca, who possessed a chain of pearls and some very excellent jewellery.
The houses of Bota-foga are mostly on the beach, and there we were accustomed to stroll in the evening, sometimes going into a friend's house when we saw lights, and heard music. It is the custom in this pleasant place to leave the house-doors open, to receive any friends who may like to come in. We used to enjoy our evenings very much, and were sorry when the time came to bid our friends farewell. We did not visit the city of Rio, as there were many cases of fever there at the time, but we made the acquaintance of some of the businessmen who used to join their families at Bota-foga for the weekend. Four ships arrived at Rio while Captain Johnson was in that port, all laden with Australian and Tasmanian products - the Surrey, Regalia, Skelton, and Lusitania. The first three sailed for England prior to the departure of the Guildford.
Their first glimpse of Sydney made a favourable impression on the voyagers:
...on one beautiful cloudless morning, on the 5th of March 1824, we entered Sydney Heads, and sailed for the first time upon the placid waters of Sydney Harbour. How can I describe my sensations upon that eventful morning? It took us four hours to sail up the harbour to our anchorage in Sydney Cove, and during the whole of that time fresh beauties in the scenery around us were continually arresting our attention. The numerous bays, the white sandy beaches, and the green-capped islands which arose from the limpid plain of blue water, seemed to me rather like some glimpse of a fairyland than actual reality and this was to be our future home!
We had been so long expected, and our ship was so much overdue, even in those days of long sea voyages, that we had been given up for lost. It was nearly 7 months since we had left England before we came to anchor in Sydney Cove, and there were no cablegrams in those days to tell of the adventures by the way and our detention at Rio.
Sir Thomas Brisbane, however, the then Governor of New South Wales, who spent the greater part of his time at Government House, Parramatta, where he devoted himself to the study of astronomy, had left directions that, should the Guildford arrive at any time, the Governor's barge was at once to board her and bring us off to Government House at Sydney.
...Sydney was not very extensive at that time, nor were the inhabitants of the best class, but we soon made some agreeable acquaintances.
...Of Sydney itself I must say a word or two as I found it at that time. The principal street was George Street, which extended in a long irregular line from the Circular Quay towards the Brickfield Hill. There were several good business houses, and the Bank of New South Wales, and a few other substantial buildings that I do not now recollect, for I seldom went into the town as the shops were not very tempting, and we had brought a supply of clothing from England sufficient to last us for some time.
Soon after his arrival, Robert Dulhunty made application for a grant of land. The Colonial Secretary wrote to him on 23rd March, 1824:
Mr. R. V. Dulhunty,
I am directed by the Governor to acquaint you in reply to your letter of this date that he will make you a Grant of Two thousand (2000) acres of Land in any part of the Colony already surveyed, and will order Six (6) Convict Servants to be assigned to you, who, with yourself, will be victualled from the King's store for Six months from the date of your taking possession of the said Land.I am, Sir,
Your Obedient Servant,
Robert Dulhunty chose his grant at Cullen Bullen, where for some years he imported and bred stock. In 1828 the Census gave his age as 26 and he had cleared 500 acres on his property and owned 75 cattle and 600 sheep.
Lawrence Dulhunty received one of the earliest "free" grants, Putta Bucca. In l824 (Surveyor General's Records) the Surveyor General intimated to Lieut. William Lawson that certain land he had occupied under ticket of occupancy had been granted to Lawrence Vance Dulhunty and that, in consequence, his occupation must cease. Lieut. Lawson later purchased "Putta Bucca" from DuIhunty.
Lawrence Dulhunty had been engaged in England as a Government land surveyor, and for some years followed his profession in New South Wales. In l826 he was employed in the Mudgee district. Surveyor Hoddle, by letter dated 9th June, 1825, refers to Mudgee thus:
Mudgee at best is but a very limited situation, and the whole is nearly located by the Cox family, Mr Lawson and Mr Dulhunty.
The brothers persuaded the rest of the family to migrate to Australia, and two years later their father, Dr John DuIhunty, arrived in Sydney accompanied by his wife Jane, his son Dr John, junior, and his daughter Jane. Their arrival was announced in the Ship News, The Australian, on 23rd March, 1826:
Arrived on Saturday last the ship Sesostris, Captain J.T. Drake, with 1147 male prisoners and stores for Government. Three prisoners died on the passage. Left Portsmouth, 30th November and came direct. The crew consists of Major Campbell, Ensign Benson and 48 rank and file of the 57th Regiment, including the Band of the same Corps. Surgeon Superintendent, Dr Dulhunty, R.N. Passengers: Mr & Mrs & Miss Dulhunty, Mr J.B. Clay, and Mr N. Eise, with 8 women and 12 children belonging to the troops.
Dr Dulhunty brought a letter from the Under-Secretary to Governor Darling:
31st August, 1825
I am directed to acquaint you that the Bearer of this letter, Mr Dulhunty, has received his Lordship's permission to proceed as a settler to New South Wales, and that he has been promised a Grant of Land for himself and his son, who accompanies him, upon their arrival in the Colony. I am certain I need only state this gentleman has served thirty years as a Surgeon in H.M. Navy, besides being highly recommended on account of his respectability by Sir Edward East, to obtain for him every assistance which it may be in your power to shew him, consistently with established Regulations.I remain, etc.,
A note appears in the records Colonial Secretary to Surveyor-General Oxley, 20th September, 1826:
Request you will furnish Mr Dulhunty late Surgeon in Navy with necessary authority to select 4 square miles of land - under regulations of 5th Sept. 1826.
Included in a Return of All Grants of Land made in N.S.W. during the year 1826 were the items:
A List of Magistrates at that time included:
Officers on Half Pay Surgeon J. Dulhunty, R.N.
Soon after reaching Sydney, Dr Dulhunty took up residence in the historic Burwood House after which the Sydney suburb is named.
While he was living at Burwood, his house was attacked by bushrangers. These outlaws were captured, tried and condemned to death. As was the practice at the time, the criminals were hanged at the scene of the crime. A gibbet was erected in sight of Burwood House and the bushrangers were carried to the spot on a dray.
The attack took place on Saturday night, 23rd September, and was reported in the next issue of the newspapers, on Wednesday, 27th September.
It appers that the same three men who attacked Dr Dulhunty's house had the previous evening, armed with guns and pistols, entered the house of Mr James Colls, a publican, on the Liverpool Road. Two servants who had not yet retired were kept under guard in the bar, while one of the outlaws entered a bedroom and presented a "fowling piece" at Mr Colls, threatening at the least resistance to blow out his brains. After removing everything they wanted from the house, the robbers demanded the keys of a locked box. While Mr Colls protested that it did not contain money, a female servant threw down the keys, begging that her master's life might be spared. They took from the box between £60 and £70 "in hard cash, sterling and currency". They then visited the storeroom and took away a leg of pork and a pig's head, and returning to the bar ordered the family servant to fill them half a gallon of brandy and the same quantity of wine and rum. Taking also 4 lbs of sugar and a pair of shoes which hung in the bar, they departed.
Emboldened by the success of this adventure, say the newspaper reports, the same trio descended upon Mr Dulhunty's of Burwood the evening of the following day. They entered the hut of the Government servants some distance from the house with bottles containing brandy, and invited the servants to drink and eat. The noise of the dogs barking disturbed the family, and Mr Dulhunty junior went to the hut, which he found to be filled with strange men, An excuse was made that they belonged to a neighbouring party, and Mr Dulhunty returned to the house. A gentleman named Clay, who happened to be at Burwood, on enquiring about this feasting and jollity, was fired at, "but the fellow's pistol flashed in the pan". Mr Dulhunty, attracted by the alarm, came back armed with a pistol, but when he pulled the trigger this also missed fire. Mr Dulhunty was knocked down and beaten by one of the ruffians with the butt end of a pistol. Mr Clay was overpowered. Mr DuIhunty, however, came to his aid, and made such good use of a waddie and a bludgeon that he succeeded in beating the fellows completely off. He wounded one severely across the face. Before the victory Mr Dulhunty had a narrow escape: one of the men fired at him, he stooped his head suddenly, and several slugs passed down his back and through his shirt, The robbers escaped.
News of this daring outrage reached Sydney next morning. Mr Dulhunty, before going to town to give information to the police, discovered part of a steel watch-chain with a gold seal and keys lying close to the fence, near a pool of blood. The chain and seals, together with a watch found on the prisoners, were identified by Mr Colls as those taken from his premises the night before.
Two of the bushrangers, Mustin and Watkins, were captured near Burwood the following Monday, between four and five o'clock in the morning, by Major Lockyer, J.P., and a party of military and police constables. They were concealed under two fallen trees, with a tarpaulin and a brush-wood over them. The money taken from Mr Colls was found in their possession.
An account of the events in the Sydney Gazette on 27th September concluded:
Major Lockyer said to Mustin, "You are the man Mr Dulhunty beat last night". He replied "I am", and after finding the money, when Major Lockyer directed a further search to be made about the place, Mustin said "Oh, there is no occasion, you have enough to hang 50 men." The boots taken from the house of Mr Colls were identified by the Police Office on the prisoner Watkins, and upon the Superintendent ordering them to be taken off, some of the by- standers overheard Mustin say "You will make a liar of your mother now - she always said you would be hanged in your shoes, but you won't." They were yesterday fully committed.
Several of Mr Dulhunty's servants were taken into custody on suspicion of having harboured the men and supplied them with provisions. One of the servants gave evidence against them.
The Dulhunty family were highly commended for their courage in resisting the outlaws. A Government notice dated 29th September appeared in the Sydney Gazette on Wednesday, 4th October.
His Excellency the Governor cannot permit the events of last Saturday night at Burwood, the residence of Dr Dulhunty, to pass without expressing his admiration on the spirited conduct of that Gentleman and his family, which has led to the apprehension of the Ruffians who made a sanguinary attack upon their persons. The result would be highly important, if only in proving how much may be effected by a cool and determined resistance against men, even of the most desperate characters; while at the same time it holds out an example which under similar circumstances may be useful in exciting others.
His Excellency the Governor has been pleased to appoint John Dulhunty Esqre. to be a Magistrate of the Territory of New South Wales.
It was evidently the exception rather than the rule in those days for the bushrangers to meet with resistance. In the same issue of the newspaper the leader also referred to this subject, not letting the occasion pass without saying a word in deprecation of duelling. An opportunity is found here to study the standard of journalism, which, history records, at that time was high.
The Government Notice of the 29th ult. is just what might have been anticipated as the result of the current affair that lately occurred at Burwood, the residence of Dr Dulhunty. The enconiums so properly bestowed by His Excellency towards the respectable family that so bravely defended itself against the premeditated and furious attack of a sanguinary party, are not to be looked at merely in the relation in which they apply to the Dulhuntys, but they are more particularly to be viewed in reference to the colonists universally. Bushranging has been a system in vogue coeval with the establishment of the colony, and every government has resorted to the adoption of those measures which were considered most likely not only to ensure the detection and punishment of the aggressor, but also effectually to eradicate an offence which strikes at the roots of personal security, and public and private property. Each Government hitherto, however, has failed in the accomplishment of objects so desirable which may be accounted for in a great measure from the circumstance of these marauders meeting with little or no opposition in any of their plundering or murdering exploits; and up to the commencement of the present administration, we cannot call to mind (with the exception of Mr D'Arrietta, who nobly beat off a bushranger with his pistol, on the Liverpool Road) an instance wherein these detestable hordes met with anything in the semblance of resistance.' The family at Burwood, however, though taken quite off its guard, has undoubtedly afforded a precedent well entitled to universal imitation in every part of the country. If the bushrangers, even the most determined of them, only expect resistance, they will never attack the dwelling of any settler. The idea of attaching courage to such men is indeed the very last we should have supposed anyone capable of entertaining; because, from the mere circumstance of admitting the destruction of those they strive to plunder may be gathered the most decided proof of their rank cowardice; and what could afford a more satisfactory demonstration of the absence of real courage in that man, who will first slay, in order to rob? We think it nothing short of criminality in the extreme to attribute that which is the boast and pride of our naval and military heroes, namely, real courage, to tribes of base marauders who, like unto their Satanic Master, are invariably seeking whom they may devour. That man alone can be said to be truly courageous who fearlessly stands forth in the hottest of the battle, in the defence of his King and Country; or who will, as the DuIhuntys have done, risk life in defence of parents, country, and property; here also, we would exclude from all participation in a claim to true courage the man who can go forth in cool blood and deliberately aim at the life of a fellow creature, purely for the sake of seeking reparation for some real or imaginary insult - we allude to duelling - which, in the present enlightened times, is becoming considered more consonant with the disposition of savages, rather than that of the cultivated and reflecting professor of Christianity. In calling, however, the attention of the settlers to the magnanimity which has attracted the prompt regard of the Colonial Government, it will be the most effectual blow to the system so long in adoption, by the almost simultaneous suppression of every bushranging tribe throughout the country, and we therefore fervently trust that the "example" thus publicly held up, will indeed "be useful in exciting others likewise".
The Government Order for the execution of the criminals, important with an abundance of capital letters, was published in The Australian on Saturday, l4th October:
The Execution of Thomas Mustin, Daniel Watkins, and John Brown, is to take place, at Burwood, on Monday Morning next; and the Execution of Matthew Craven and Thomas Cavenagh, on the Western Road, in the neighbourhood of Parramatta, on the same Morning.
The Prisoners will move from the gaol in Sydney at Six O'Clock, under a Military Escort, to the Place of Execution. The Road Parties in the neighbourhood will attend at the Place pointed out, according to the Orders communicated to the Inspector of Roads.
The Garrison of Parramatta will be under arms; and the Persons in the employment of Government at that Place, will be taken to the Western Road to witness the Execution.
James Moran, and Patrick O'Sullivan, are to suffer at Irish Town, on Wednesday.
The bodies of the whole of the Criminals, above alluded to, will remain suspended during the Day.
Johnston, Jennings, and Carter, who form Part of the Gang of Bushrangers at Bathurst, are under Orders for Transportation to Norfolk Island, where they are to be worked in Chains during their Lives.
John Sullivan, the only Individual of this Banditti who had not been apprehended, finding it impossible to elude the Vigilance of the Mounted Police, has lately surrendered himself into the Hands of Justice.
The Government would willingly hope, that the Examples thus held up, may have the effect of deterring the evil-disposed from entering on a Course of Crime, which must invariably end in their Ruin. The unfortunate Men, now about to suffer, have indulged, for a time, in Rapine and Outrage, and let it be remembered, they have, in no one Instance, enjoyed or derived any Benefit from their Plunder. It has all been recovered, and after leading lives, burthensome to themselves, as is proved by the voluntary Surrender of one of the Party, they have become Victims to the injured Laws of their Country.By His Excellency's Command
The execution duly took place on Monday, 16th October, and was enjoyed by a large number of spectators. An account of the proceedings was given in The Australian on Wednesday, l8th October:
The execution of three of the depredators apprehended at Burwood, namely Mustin, Watkins and Brown, and also Cavenagh and Craven, two of the Bathurst horde, took place on Monday, pursuant to the instructions conveyed to the proper authorities by the Government and General Order published on Saturday last. So early as five O'clock in the morning, a considerable concourse of spectators assembled round the country gaol, anxious to enjoy the view, of those desperate men, of whom so much has been said and published, and whose fearful crimes had brought down retributive justice, and exacted the penalty of their justly forfeited lives. At six olclock the Civil and Military escort, appointed to conduct the prisoners to the several.places of execution, having arrived, they were taken from their cells, and with halters round their necks, placed in two carts. Mustin, Watkins and Brown, with the Executioner, in one, and Cavenagh and Craven with the executioner's assistant in another, whilst a third cart followed containing the coffins which were to receive their mortal remains. The military then divided themselves into two divisions enclosing the carts, when the procession moved from the gaol in the following order:
The Chief Constable of Sydney, and Mr. Amsden,
- 5 Soldiers
- 4 Police Constables armed
- 4 Javelin men
Assistant Superintendent of Police, on horseback
The Under Sheriff and the Officer commanding the
Military, on horseback.
The carts, containing the prisoners, followed with four armed constables on each side, and four in the rear, and the Rev. J.J.Therry attended the prisoners. A considerable number.of persons accompanied the procession as far as the turnpike, after which the crowd gradually lessened until the ranks were turned out to witness the execution, A temporary scaffold was erected on the opposite side of the road, nearly in front of Dr. Dulhunty's estate, the place of some of their former depredations, upon which, within a few minutes to 10 o'clock, this mortal scene closed forever upon the prisoners Mustin, Watkins and Brown. The behaviour of Mustin was marked throughout by a degree of reckless unconcern, which excited considerable surprise in the beholders; on the scaffold, however, he addressed the gangs who were assembled to witness the execution, warning them to take example by his end, and to attribute whatever of boldness they might have observed in his demeanour, to an anxiety to meet his fate, not to an unconcern about it. The other two prisoners said nothing; Mustin and Watkins appeared upon the scaffold hand in hand, and were turned off in that manner, but neither of them interchanged a word with Brown, who, it is said, had, at some former period, given evidence against them. The bodies remained suspended until nearly four O'clock, when they were cut down, after which the body of Mustin was conveyed to Longbottom, where a cast of his head was taken by Mr Leak, the potter of the Brickfields, under the direction of Dr Ivory.
On 21st October, l826, five assigned servants of Dr Dulhunty were charged with harbouring bushrangers, and were committed for trial.
Whether the "example thus publicly held up" was in fact "useful in exciting others likewise" appears doubtful, from a report which appeared in The Australian on l8th July, l827:
Information has been furnished to the Police Authorities of Sydney that seven bushrangers are in the bush between Sydney and Liverpool...
Dr. Dulhunty has some reason to suspect that the main body of the bushranging army is bivouacking in the vicinity of Burwood. The bushrangers seem to entertain an affection for that spot ... it is a favourite resort with them. They do not seem to think much of the example that was lately made of some of their tribe at the gates of Burwood, nor yet of the warm reception they met from the Burwood family.
Governor's Despatches to and from England, under-secretary Horton to Governor Darling, 31.8.1825.
Whose name appears in Ship News, 23rd March, 1826.
Greenwood, Gordon. Austrzlia. A Social and Political History p.9