A Sailor Speaks Up In 1898

From THE OBSERVER, Saturday, 10th December 1898: one of the Coromandel sailors speaks up

The item reads: "The recent death of Mrs Burgess, who came out to this colony in the Coromandel, landing here in January, 1837, forces upon one the fact that there are but few left who have seen sixty years of the growth and development of this colony.

There is, however, still living at Riverton an old man, one of the few surviving pioneers, who arrived in 1837.

Mr James Marshall, sen, was born at Hunmanby, Yorks, England in 1816, and is thus eighty-one years of age. He arrived here in the Coromandel in his twenty-first year, and excepting for a short period spent in New Zealand, he has been in South Australia ever since. Mr Marshall has a surprising memory, and enjoys a talk about the early days, when Adelaide consisted of a few huts, and Government House was built of pine logs.

Mr Marshall early took to a seafaring life, and made several voyages to other parts of the world, including two to the East Indies, and one to America. In 1836 he signed articles as an A.B. on board of the Coromandel, which was then coming out to South Australia. Captain Chesser was skipper, with M. French as chief mate, and Mr Adams as second mate. Among the passengers were Messrs C Mann, E Stephens (Mr Stephens opened the South Australian Land Company’s first Bank on what is now North-terrace), James Chambers, and Dr Cottar.

The vessel was four months on the voyage, and had a favourable passage. When nearing Kangaroo Island, a child belonging to one of the passengers died, and the father, a cooper by trade, put the body into a cask. The captain hove the ship to for the body to be buried at the place, and two sailors were sent with the father in a boat that came off from the shore.  They all decided to stay on shore and desert the ship.

The brig York was on her beams-ends at Kangaroo Island, where she had just landed Company’s men. The Cygnet was also lying to in an inlet at the island when the Coromandel was there.

The vessel then came on to Holdfast Bay, and coming through the Passage Mr Marshall says they passed the finest turtle he ever saw. The Buffalo was at anchor in the Bay, having arrived but a short time before. On arriving on January 12, 1837, Mr Marshall and five others decided to desert the ship.

They made off toward the hills behind what is now Adelaide, and hid in a cave at the foot of the hills, and not far from a large lagoon. Here they lay close for six weeks, until the Coromandel sailed again, only coming out to obtain provisions at some of the settlers’ huts.

One of the passengers, Mr Strangways, had brought out a bloodhound with them. While hidden among the tall reeds and grass the deserters could see the marines riding about, and once the dog came up to Mr Marshall and smelt about him, but as it did not give tongue he was not discovered. His feelings, however, can easily be imagined. As soon as the Coromandel left, the men came out of hiding and gave themselves up.

Governor Hindmarsh was scouring the plains for deserters, and they decided to go up to him. One of their number, the late Mr John Parsons, went forward to make the presence of the deserters known, but Sir John Hindmarsh was blind in one eye, and they happened to be on his blind side.

Mr Parsons’s companions shouted to him to “Go ahead”. Sir John heard, and wheeled his mule round, and they all ranged themselves so as to come in his view. He asked them excitedly whom they were, and being told read over to them the articles of war, and then marched them down to Messrs Mann and Stephens, who had been declared Justices of the Peace immediately on landing, calling out “I’ve caught them. I’ve caught them”.

As the Coromandel had sailed they were set at liberty, and Mr Marshall went to the old Port, now known as Tam o’ Shanter Creek, and assisted in the erection of iron stores. He was then engaged by Mr Barton Hack to go to Yankalilla to assist in erecting stock-yards there, and was next engaged in the Mount Lofty Ranges post-and-rail splitting. He also assisted to build the first Government House, and helped to bring the pines used in its construction from a pinery at the back of North Adelaide.

He was employed for eight years carting on the Port-road, and has resided in the Gilbert district for forty years. Despite his eighty-one years and his rough experiences he is still fairly active, and often walks six miles to water sheep. His wife has been dead many years. He has four daughters and three sons, and two of the sons still live at Riverton. Mrs J Robb, of Port Augusta, is a daughter of Mr Marshall."