In Family History, by
Clayton Talbot, Frederick Meredith’s birth is
recorded as 5 October 1763 at Durham, Ludlow,
When he signed on to Sirius, however,
he nominated as his birthplace, Denham which is close to
Harefield. That was home to numerous bakers, probably
because there was a water wheel there on a fast flowing
river that drove a flour mill. The significance is that
later in Australia he called one of his properties
Harefield so it may be that he learnt his trade as a
baker in the village of Harefield and cherished the
Apart from that, little is known of his
first 23 years except that he was apparently educated to
a level that would permit him to accept responsibility
as a small business manager. His later roles as a
gardener and baker would suggest that he did grow up in
a farming community and learnt those skills as a young
When he signed on to
Scarborough on 2 May 1777 as steward
to Captain Marshall, it seems that he was much
more than a personal servant. There were only four
others on the ship, all navigation officers, who were on
higher pay rates.
His position it seems was similar to that
of purser, these days responsible for the business and
finances of the ship.
Only a few days after joining the ship’s
company the First Fleet left on that epic voyage from
Portsmouth to the other side of the world.
was only six years old, 11 ft long and 30 ft beam and
displaced a mere 400 tons. Into that capsule were
squeezed the 208 male convicts, 30 crew and 50 marines.
Below deck there were three sections, one forward and
another aft for cargo and the middle section for the 208
convicts in claustrophobic conditions with a mere 4’5”
was barque rigged with fore, main and mizzen masts, the
fore mast and the 25’ bowsprit carrying three
foresails. Square sails were rigged on each mast with
staysails between them and a fore and aft sail on the
mizzen below the topsail, With the other ten ships of
the First Fleet she left Portsmouth on 13 May 1787 and
sailed her well known journey to Botany Bay.
Leaving Cape Town, their destination,
Botany Bay, they would make use of the prevailing
westerlies that came to be known for their force and the
latitudes in which they prevailed as the Roaring
After the arrival at Sydney Cove there is
no record of what Frederick was doing until 23 February,
but he was probably still part of Scarborough’s
crew. But then life for him took a new and distinctly
On that day he appeared before the
magistrates charged with having given rum to a convict
in exchange for what was called a ‘squirrel, probably a
possum. Governor Phillip was determined to
maintain control and had expressly forbidden anyone to
give liquor to the convicts for fear they would cause
trouble under its influence. Frederick was found guilty
and sentenced to 100 lashes with the dreaded cat.
From the journal of the surgeon Arthur
Bowes-Smith, it is clear that young Fred was only
doing what Captain Marshall had told him to do. Marshall
apparently regretting his role in the matter, and with
some other gentlemen petitioned Governor Phillip for
leniency and the sentence was reduced to 50 lashes.
Understandably, close relation between
captain and steward seems to have come to an end because
the next we hear of him was that he was supervising work
on the colony’s gardens on the island that eventually
became the naval establishment—Garden Island.
Apparently Fred’s skill as a farmer were
recognised and he was put to work to help feed the
colony. Today he is best known for his time on the
island and for the graffiti he left for posterity
on a rock where he carved ‘FM 1788’ It is now
protected and revered as a memorial to Australia’s first
Frederick’s other skill was to be
employed as baker on Sirius. Now he is in the
Royal Navy and he would sail with Sirius until
her disastrous wreck on Norfolk Island. She made
several trips to Norfolk Island for stores to supplement
the dwindling food in the colony but eventually stores
were so low as to require severe rationing. Something
more had to be done so on 2 October Sirius was
dispatched to Cape Town for stores.
In his book The First Fleet, Rob
Mundle provides a graphic description of this hazardous
voyage in a chapter entitled The Mercy Mission.
Within 48 hours of departure, the weather had turned for
the worst, causing Captain Hunter a good deal of
concern. His journal reveals the basis of his dilemma:
‘the carpenter reported that the ship, which had been
hitherto tight, now made water’. This was bad news
indeed as the crew were not in good health having been
restricted to a poor diet for months and were not likely
to be able to cope with constantly having to pump bilge
water. The carpenter discovered that the leak was due
to what we now call electrolysis cause by galvanised
bolts being in contact with the copper sheathing of the
hull. What were they to do? Turn back for repairs or
press on ?`
Only because of the urgency of the
mission to get life saving stores back to the
settlement, Captain Hunter decided to press on east
around Cape Horn and on another 2 000 miles to Cape
Town. The leaks continued and the crew’s health
worsened so that only 12 men were available to stand
watch out of the usual 20. Two died of scurvy before
Cape Town was sighted.
When Sirius arrived the epic
voyage was the talk of the seafaring community … the
east coast of Van Diemens Land to Cape Town, through the
Roaring Forties, past threatening icebergs all without
stopping in 91 days! The sick were landed and provided
with a healing diet of fruit and vegetables while the
ship was repaired and stores and stock animals were
Eventually Sirius, loaded with as
much as could be crammed into every space, left to sail
east eventually rounding Van Diemens Land and north
along the east coast to Sydney. She arrived on 20
That too was a tumultuous voyage! As they
approached Van Diemens Land after five days without a
navigational fix because of the weather, they almost ran
on to the rocky coast with huge seas crashing in with a
fury that would have reduced the ship to matchwood.
Then they found themselves embayed, causing them to tack
again and again, just to stay away from the rocks.
Captain Hunter saw an act of God when the wind changed
enough for them to get out to sea, around South Cape and
on up the east coast to Port Jackson.
Sirius now, in just under 5 months,
circumnavigated the Southern Ocean using the prevailing
westerly winds as sailing ships always did, loaded
stores and live stock and undergone essential repairs.
Captain Hunter’s decision to take the longer but safer
route was right. Punching into those westerlies would
have been nigh impossible and in the ship’s weakened
state, almost certainly disastrous.
arrived back in Sydney town just in time
to avoid starvation in the colony and we can count on
Fred the baker as the one who helped feed the crew on
that crucial voyage.
made other trips to Norfolk Island for supplies until
her last fatal voyage when she was wrecked on 19 March
1790. That left Fred alone stranded with the rest of
the crew without a ship.
and Supply had been dispatched to
the island with nearly 200 convicts and 70 other
passengers and stores on 3 March 1890. Leaving Sydney
Harbour in heavy weather and narrowly missing being
wrecked on North Head they arrived eight days later.
They discharged the passengers and convicts on the north
side of the island in Cascade Bay but then sailed round
to the southern side to unload the stores in Sydney
Bay. On 19 March she started unloading stores on a
pleasant day but had to move away from the surf. She
made sail with a light off shore breeze that fell away.
Then the surf took hold and drove her on to the beach
where she holed. The wreck was hopeless but the crew
and others worked to salvage as many of the stores as
possible before she broke up. Without their ship and
most of their personal possessions, the crew were
stranded. They were offered accommodation in the
marines barracks but elected to build shacks on the
beach until they could be repatriated.
brought them back to Sydney where they
waited for a ship to repatriate them back to England.
On the orders of Governor Phillip, Supply, under
the command of Lieutenant Ball went to Batavia
for supplies and to charter a ship for the Sirius
crew. Eventually, a year later, they embarked on
Waaksanhyed which had been chartered by Lieutenant
Ball of Supply. Both ships had left from Batavia
27 March 1791 ; Supply for Norfolk Island and
Waaksanheyd for Sydney with much needed supplies.
With 85 officers and crew of Sirius
as well as Frederick, Waaksanheyd left Sydney
intending to sail west around van Diemens Land, but ran
into foul weather. Instead, she turned north to sail
via Papua and New Guinea and Batavia where she arrived
27 September 1791, six months after leaving Sydney.
After two months in Batavia she sailed
via Cape of Good Hope arriving in England in April 1792,
a year from Sydney and over two years since the wreck!
Fred would have been paid off by the
navy, probably a substantial sum. There was no record
of what they thought of those two years, but as Naval
personnel, they would have been accumulating their pay!
With the northern winter approaching and
memories of warm sunny Australian weather, it is not
surprising that our man booked a passage on a ship bound
for Sydney and left 8 August 1792, arriving in Sydney
five months later on 16 January 1793. Thus, in 1973,
the Meredith Descendant Group met at South Head to
commemorate the two hundredth anniversary of his arrival
on Bellona as a settler, free to establish
himself in a new country. The passenger list included
seventeen convict women and five free settlers, some
with their families. Fred was one and another was
Thomas Rose of Rose Farm, a professional farmer.
Among the women were Ann Case and Sarah Mason
of whom we will hear more later.
It would appear that early in the voyage,
perhaps on a balmy moon light night in the calm tropical
waters, Fred and Ann enjoyed some intimacy for on 10 May
1793 they became the proud parents of Amelia.
Sadly, as so often happened, she did not thrive and died
a year later.
Did Fred pay attention to Sarah Mason on
the voyage? We will never know but she eventually had
five children to him, including one after they married.
Some time before the wreck of the
Sirius while in Sydney, our Mr Meredith, according
to Court documents relating to the wreck, was living
with a convict girl, Mary Allein on Brickfield
Hill. That resulted in a second daughter, Charlotte,
9 May 1790. Again she did not do well, dying just two
Back in Australia, along with the other
free settlers on Bellona, Fred was allotted land
at Liberty Plains. There he met up with another convict
girl, Mary Kirk. We know nothing of the romance,
if such it was, but on 24 April 1794 he became the
father of a third daughter, another Charlotte.
Was it third time lucky? Well this Charlotte lived to 5
May 1852, almost 58 years.
No further records are found of these
three single mothers. We can only hope they found good
partnerships and lived full lives.
Liberty Plains was apparently in the near
west because Meredith’s land grant was 50 acres at
Homebush. It is dated 7 February 1793 The other
immigrant passengers on Bellona were given grants
in the same general area. As well as Fred, two related
Webbs, Thomas Rose and family and Edward
Powell were the first free white settlers in
With a new sense of freedom, Liberty
Plains must have seemed like an appropriate name for the
area. Meredith received another grant in the vicinity
of Rhodes where the current railway station is.
The romantic liaisons continued in this
new phase of his life, now eight years after the
Bellona. Sarah Mason gave him his first son,
Frederick, on 17 March 1801. Born 1776, she was now
25. One wonders whether Sarah and Fred had met on
Bellona. Did Sarah see what was going on between
Fred and the teenage Ann Case and decide that Fred was
her kind of man?
Sarah had been transported for fourteen
years for receiving stolen goods. The thief received
just seven. Eighteenth century justice? After seven
years, Sarah had been awarded a ticket of leave making
her in effect, a free woman by the time Frederick was
born. Together they went on to have five more children,
Sophia 1803, Elizabeth 1805, William
1807, Ann 1811 and Eleanor 1813.
Eleanor, from whom my family descends, was the only one
born after Frederick and Sarah were married at St.
Philips Church on 26 February 1811. Eleanor was 79 when
she died 20 February
John Burrows four months short of her 15th birthday
and by the age of 28 had borne him seven children; or
was it six? She may well have had number 7 by her de
facto Frederick Robert Ferrier.
Burrows had lied about his age when he
married her and had abused Eleanor until she had had
enough. She went into hiding with Ferrier with whom she
had another eight children, the last being Victoria,
born 16 November 1860 when
Her progeny includes some notable
families including the Packers, Myers, judges,
politicians, numerous professional people and my family.
Frederick Meredith, now the settled land
holder in 1809 acquired more property, a parcel of 120
acres in Punchbowl area on the Georges River where an
incident occurred that
Eleanor was 47. Her progeny includes some
notable families, the Packers, the Myers, judges,
politicians, numerous professional people and of course
Frederick Meredith, now the settled land
holder, acquired in 1809 more property, a parcel of 120
acres in the Punchbowl area on the Georges River. An
incident occurred there that opened new opportunities
The Sydney Gazette
of 1 October 1809 recorded: ‘On Tuesday
last a number of natives assembled about the farm of
Mr Bond at Georges River and behaved in an
outrageous manner. They manifested an inclination to
plunder but were prevented by the determination that was
shown them by resistance. They threw several spears,
one of which grazed the ear of Mr Frederick Meredith who
assisted in the defence of the place which it was at
length found necessary to abandon. Tedbury is
said to have been one of the assailants …’
Frederick’s courageous role in the
defence of Mr Bond’s farm might have been a factor in
his appointment as constable as shown in the Sydney
Gazette of 29 December 1810. He is assigned official
clothing and victuals to be drawn from His Majesty’s
Nine years earlier he had been subscribed
to the rules and orders of the Sydney Loyal Association,
set up by Governor Hunter. It was an armed guard set up
to deal with a perceived threat by seditious Irish
convicts. Frederick volunteered as an armed policeman
and was in fact involved a few years later in the
Vinegar Hill rising.
On 4 March 1804, 233 convicts led by
Philip Cunningham, escaped from a farm intent on
capturing ships to sail to Ireland. Martial law was set
up in New South Wales and colonial forces hunted them
until they were rounded up on a hillock that was
nicknamed Vinegar Hill. Under a flag of truce,
Cunningham was arrested and the armed forces quickly
crushed the revolt.
Of the nearly 300 rebels, 15 were killed,
9 executed, 7 received 200 to 500 lashes while others
were sent to the Coal River Gang and the dreaded
Newcastle coal mines. Cunningham was court-marshalled
There was no repetition of Vinegar Hill.
That was the only convict uprising, perhaps due to the
severe retribution of the leaders. Who would ever
attempt another such attack on the colonial forces?
Together with his additional land grants
following his role in the defence of Mr Bond’s farm and
now his enhanced reputation as a member of the Sydney
Loyal Association Frederick apparently had the
confidence to marry Sarah Mason and this he did on 26
February 1811. In 1813 he sold his Punchbowl farm and
from then on his life is dominated by his police work.
Thirteen years later in 1826 he is twice
mentioned in the Sydney Gazette. First in
connection with his offering a 20 pound reward for a
Sarah Webb and then 27 December 1826, as follows:
‘Whereas two bushrangers were apprehended on Monday last
near Liverpool and the following articles suspected of
being stolen found with them, are still unclaimed. Any
persons having lost such property have the opportunity
of identifying the same : 1 pistol; 1 drab beaver hat; 2
knives; 1 razor; 1 tomahawk; 1 sunglass. 1 small iron
pot; quantity of English soap. - Frederick Meredith,
Earlier that year, on16 March 1826 the
Governor had been pleased to approve in the District of
Liverpool Mr Frederick Meredith to be Chief Constable —
a position he held until retirement.
Sarah died 1 August 1832 and was buried
in St Luke’s Church Cemetery, Liverpool.
Frederick married Mary Ann Day 19
February 1833 at St Luke’s Liverpool. Just over three
years later he died, 26 June 1836 aged 73 and was buried
with Sarah at St Luke’s where the headstone commemorates
It is with pride our family looks back on
the significant life of our First Fleet ancestor. We
value the contribution he made to the fledgling colony.