Monday, 9 May 2016

Q150 2009 Castaways

Q150 Heritage Plaque - 15 of 16 - Castaway Convicts
The Bribie Island Heritage Plaques Waterfront Walk Bongaree consists of 16 bronze plaques located on the "Heritage Walk" along the walking path beside the Bongaree beach from the southern point of South Esplanade and finishes just north of Kangaroo Avenue.
These 16 bronze plaques set on a white concrete square record various aspects of the history of Bribie Island: Record Rainfall, South Esplanade, Campbell's Store, Camping Grounds, Bribie Island heritage quote from A. Meston, Ian Fairweather, First Shop, Bribie Island Heritage quote from Stan Tutt, First Avenue, Fishing Records, Welsby Parade, Bribie Island Wartime, First Car, Shirley Creek, Castaway Convicts and Fish Cannery.
The following excerpt is from the 2009 booklet produced prior to the plaques placement. The Heritage Plaques Waterfront Walk Bongaree project was a Q150 Community Funded Program, initiated by the Rotary Club of Bribie Island and supported by Moreton Bay Regional Council in conjunction with Bribie Island U3A and Bribie Island Historical Society.
A copy of the map for the Bongaree Waterfront Walk can be found at 


In 1823 three Sydney convicts in a small boat were caught in a hugh storm which dumped them close to death on Moreton Island. They walked around Moreton Bay, thinking Sydney was nearby, and were the first white men to live on Bribie Island, being there for many months before recapture.

From "Through the Eyes of Thomas Pamphlett"
Chris Pearce, 1993.

The Three Castaways
The 3 castaways of Bribie Island were convict James Finnegan and two ticket-of-leave convicts, Thomas Pamphlett and Richard Parsons.

These three convicts, and another ticket-of-leave man, John Thompson, sailed south from Sydney on 21st March 1823 in an open boat to cut cedar from the Illawarra District.

A most severe storm blew them far out to sea on a northerly course. After 21 days at sea, Thompson died and was pushed overboard.

After three and a half weeks as sea, on 15th April 1823, Pamphlett, Finnegan and Parsons landed on the northern end of Moreton Island naked, starving and almost dead from thirst. Their boat was dashed to pieces and only Finnegan’s jacket, some flour, a keg, a tin pot, an axe and scissors were rescued.

Castaways on Bribie Island 
Helped and fed by the Aborigines, the weak castaways struggled down Moreton Island to Stradbroke Island, crossed Moreton Bay and landed near Cleveland. Still thinking they were south of Sydney, the three castaways headed north and reached the mouth of a large river, later called the Brisbane River. They followed this river upstream to what is now Oxley Creek, crossed over and continued north up the coastline.

Finally, in late September 1823, they crossed Pumicestone Passage and arrived at (now)
From "Through the Eyes of Thomas Pamphlett"
Chris Pearce, 1993.
Bribie Island. Here the three castaways lived with the Joondoobarrie Aboriginal people .

They continued to search for Sydney on trips with the tribe and Aboriginal fights between clans were witnessed by Finnegan in the north and south. Parsons traveled to a Bunya Feast held every three years, in the Blackall Range.

Pamphlett and Finnegan were lucky to be rescued after a few months and Parsons more than a year later. 

Rescue of Pamphlett and Finnegan 
In 1823 Governor Brisbane sent John Oxley in the “Mermaid” to find a new outpost for convict re-offenders.

On 29th November 1823, on looking through his telescope at Pumicestone Passage towards Bribie Island, he saw what appeared to be a white man among the Aborigines, calling out in haulting English. This was Pamphlett.

The next day Finnegan, who was returning from Kippa Ring, was rescued at Toorbul Point (now Sandstone Point).

Now the castaways found out how far north of Sydney they were.

Other information
The Brisbane River: Oxley was told of a large river and he was accompanied by Finnegan in a boat to “discover” this river. John Uniacke wrote Pamphlet’s account of the castaways’ story. Later, on the voyage back to Sydney, Finnegan would add to the story and much information about Aboriginal culture was included. Indeed, the castaways would never have survived without Aboriginal help. On 3rd December 1824, Oxley named the river he had “discovered” the Brisbane River, after Governor Brisbane, Governor of NSW. Little mention was made of the contribution by the three castaways.

Message in a Bottle: As Parsons’ whereabouts was unknown, (he was still at the Bunya Feast), a bottle was left with an explanatory note when the ”Mermaid” sailed on 6th December 1823 with Pamphlett and Finnegan back to Sydney. On his return Parsons found the message in a bottle. However, Parsons was illiterate!

Rescue of Parsons: Parsons was rescued by John Oxley the next year in the “Amity” on 11 September 1824, when he returned again to Moreton Bay to establish the Convict Settlement at what is now Redcliffe. Later the convict settlement was moved to the present site of Brisbane, on the Brisbane River. In late September 1824 Parsons sailed with Oxley back to Sydney.

Pamphlett Returns as a Convict: Pamphlett re-offended and was sent to serve time at Moreton Bay (Brisbane) 1826-1833.

Sources: “White Specks on a Dark Shore” James Lergessner, 1993. 
“Through the Eyes of Thomas Phamplett” Chris Pearce, 1993.
“The Explorers of the Moreton Bay District 12770-1830” JG Steele, 1972.

Remembering the Castaways 
Streets named after the castaways: are at Deception Bay, Rothwell, Dunwich and Yawalpah.

Pamphlett: Pamphlett Bridge over Oxley Creek, Pamphlett Sea Scouts Hall nearby, Pamphlett House and Place in Brisbane.

Finnegan: Finnegan Bridge, railway bridge at Indooroopilly. “Finnegans”, a restaurant at Brookside Shopping Centre, Mitchelton.

The Castaways After Rescue 
RICHARD PARSONS: In Australia’s first census November 1828 Richard Parsons was living at Illawarra as a bullock team driver 40 years old. He was granted an absolute pardon.

JAMES FINNEGAN: He became a trusted government guide exploring the Brisbane River area and was a Moreton Bay pilot. 

Sources: “White Specks on a Dark Shore” James Lergessner, 1993. 
“Through the Eyes of Thomas Phamplett” Chris Pearce, 1993.
“The Explorers of the Moreton Bay District 12770-1830” JG Steele, 1972. 

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