“A curious animal”

Friday, 22nd Feb. 1788 […] He said that on Thursday morning he was told that one of the convicts had a curious animal to sell. He interviewed Stow, who showed him the animal and asked a gallon of rum for it. Meredith took the animal on board the ship and showed it to the Master, who agreed to pay the rum. He told Meredith to send ashore one bottle, and some bread and beef. Later the Master heard that this was contrary to orders, and forbade him to send anything more ashore.

Monday, 25th Feb. 1788 […] The court reassembled to hear the case against Meredith. John Marshall, the Master of the Scarborough, was the only witness. He said that on Thursday morning, while he was in bed, an opossum was brought on board by Meredith. He got up to look at it and went back to bed. When he was dressed he was told by Meredith that the price of the animal was a gallon of rum. Not at that instant recollecting the Governor’s orders, he told Meredith to pay it but, instantly recollecting himself, told him to take the beast ashore. He said that his ship’s company knew the orders against buying anything from the convicts, and that the fault was largely his for not sending the animal ashore immediately.

Meredith was found guilty of disobedience to orders and sentenced to receive 100 lashes. The papers were marked “to receive 50” by the Governor.

—from John Cobley’s chronology Sydney Cove. Frederick Meredith was my First Fleet ancestor, and came to Botany Bay as a steward on the Scarborough.The incident with the possum occurred just after Governor Philip had ordered that no military were to engage in trade with the convicts. I’d like to know how Stow came by the possum, and I’d also like to have seen John Marshall’s expression on being woken up on Thursday morning to see it.


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