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Richard MORGAN (convict) and Family

By Leanne Burr

Richard Morgan was a First Fleeter, Norfolk Islander and early pioneer of Hobart Town. There is a novel written about him by famous author Colleen McCulloch titled 'Morgan's Run' from which a musical was even transformed.

But what sort of a man was Richard Morgan? McCulloch portrays him in her novel of a man who is educated, intelligent and resourceful with sensitive new aged qualities. Author Margorie Tipping writes about "a gentleman with land at Kangaroo Point and Cambridge, who retires to his Cambridge land". Whereas author, Peter McFie, depicts a jaded and dishonoured man who is forced to sell his land at Kangaroo Point and live with his son at Cambridge.

Richard's birthdate is a bit sketchy. He was recorded with the age of 25 years at that time he embarked aboard the convict ship Alexander in England in May 1787, thus a possible birth year of 1762. His recorded age at the time of his death in 1837 was 78 years, thus a possible birth year of 1759.

Some researchers believe he is the son of Richard Morgan and Margaret Biggs, with Richard himself also marrying a Margaret Biggs (his cousin) in Bristol in 1767; but our Richard would have been too young to be this Richard.

Crime and punishment

His crime was: Assault and theft of a watch and assault with threats of murder against a John Trevillian Ceely Trevillian to obtain a promissory note for £500. He was tried in Gloucester on 23 March, 1785 and sentenced to 7 years transportation to west Africa.

Morgan appealed this and submitted a long petition on 5 April, 1785 to Lord Sydney in which he claimed that when working in a Bristol distillery he had noticed a lot of pipes erected to defraud the Revenue, and out of a sense of duty he had reported the fraud to the Collector of Excise, who investigated and ended the practice.

He was then required as a witness to this prosecution and the petition goes on to say how he was approached with bribes to compromise so a trial was avoided. He was then told (he said) that there had been criminal connection between his wife and one Ceely of Bristol, a man of property and to test this he hid with a witness in the house and found Ceely in bed with this wife. Morgan said Ceely then offered him the promissory note for 500 pounds as compensation, which he accepted so his wife would not be shamed by public infamy. He said that in his fright Ceely had left a watch in the bedroom and that he had kept it, thinking that he had a right to do so.

Because he was now convicted of a crime the law at the time stated you could not be a witness in a trial. So, for his troubles he spent the next 2 years on a prison hulk in the Thames awaiting transportation.

Richard arrived in Port Jackson on 26 January, 1788 aboard the ship: Alexander. It is documented he married Elizabeth Lock, also a convict aboard the ship Lady Penrhyn, on 30 March 1788. She and Richard had been in goal together in Gloucester. Elizabeth's crime was two counts of break, enter and steal. She was sentenced to death which was commuted to seven years transportation. There was no church building at the time, so they were no doubt married under a large gum tree with witnesses recorded as Ann Colpitts and William Whiting.

Norfolk Island

Richard arrived on Norfolk Island aboard HM Supply in January 1790 and Elizabeth arrived in March 1790, but they did continue their relationship.

By July 1791, it was recorded that "Richard Morgan was residing on a two-acre lot of land in Sydney Town (NI), with two other people" - Catherine Clarke (convict) and their first child Catherine. There does not appear to be marriage certificate.

Catherine was born in 1769 and died at Clarence Plains in 1828, aged 57 years. Her crime was stealing ten yards of muslin from a shop and sentenced to 7 years transportation. She arrived in Port Jackson aboard the ship Lady Juliana, on 3 June, 1790.

Records show Richard leased land on Norfolk Island from 1791-1805.

Richard and Catherine had eight children all born on the island:

Catherine 1792-1877

William Henry 1794-1850

Richard 1796-1877

Mary 1799-1821

Sophia 1801-1844

Margaret 1801- 1838

George 1804-1815

James 1804-1836

First settlers Kangaroo, Point Van Diemens Land

On 15 October, 1805 Richard and family travelled to Sydney aboard the Buffalo. In August 1806 it is recorded Richard Morgan was a self-employed sawyer, living with Catherine Clarke.

In October 1806 the Morgan family travelled to Hobart aboard the King George and settled at Kangaroo Point, Clarence Plains, Hobart Town. Before leaving Norfolk Island Richard surrendered 48 acres of land in exchange for 190 acres near Hobart. The Morgan's were first settlers at Kangaroo Point. They were to be victualled at the expense of the Crown for two years and allowed convict servants for several years.

Richard supplied meat to the government and had his own slaughtering house at Kangaroo Point, for which he was licenced. It was a lucrative and demanding business as all the convicts and soldiers were dependent on the government. He also had an additional lease at Prosser's Plain (now Buckland) and had sheep at Scantling Plains (York Plains) where it was recorded in 1815 "the natives had killed and destroyed 930 of his sheep, (and) had piled them up together and burnt them".

It has been suggested that because of the desperation for food in the early days and particularly with the imminent arrive of people removed from Norfolk Island, that the first landowners of Kangaroo Point may have been well set up to do some illegal activity…..Bushrangers supplied the meat, received credit or payment with which they purchased gunpowder and supplies. There is nothing to say the Morgan's were a part of this however they were implicated in stock theft later on.

In the 1809 muster it was recorded Richard Morgan as having:

In 1815, Richard was constable at Kangaroo Point, a post that he was dismissed from on 26 July, 1817 possibly because of his involvement in stock theft. In that year he was commissioner for wheat.

In 1822 Richard had 22 acres of wheat, 2 acres of barley, half an acre of beans, 2 acres of potatoes, 174 acres of pasture out of a total of 200 acres. He owned 2 horses and 81 cattle plus 230 sheep.

In 1828 Richard was forced to sell because of a severe financial depression which hit the colony. The Hobart Town Courier (22 March, 1828) recorded: "A farm of 130 acres one mile from Kangaroo Point on the Pittwater Road, bordered on one side by the Rivulet, 60 acres of which are in a high state of cultivation and clear of stumps with a good house and most excellent Barn."

The apple doesn't fall far from the tree …..

Richard Morgan


It was rumoured that William was associating with well-known sheep stealers and that his and brother Richard's farms at Hollow Tree were a base for stolen livestock. William with his brother-in-law, Derwent Hibbens, ran some type of crime partnership and Derwent was even sent to prison for his efforts. It must have been an interesting situation as his sister, Catherine, married John Wade (1808) - the local sheriff.

A warrant was eventually issued for William and on 14 August,1819 he was committed for trial in Sydney. Despite a petition to the effect that he was "honest", William was sentenced to death, but fortunately for him and his family, Governor Brisbane pardoned him.

William Morgan married Emmeline Hibbins (1792-1833) on 23 April 1814 at Hobart Town with a second marriage to Harriett Tillman (1795-1863) in 1834. William died in 1850 in Hobart.

Despite his early exploits with his brother, Richard Jnr became a prominent member of the local community. He was granted 80 acres of land, also at Clarence Plains. He married Elizabeth Thomas on 22 May, 1823 at St David's Church, Hobart and built the Bellerive Hotel, originally called The Villa, in 1858. He married a second time to Elizabeth Dart on 23 May, 1838 at Trinity Church, Hobart

In 1828 both Richard Morgan and his son Richard tendered for more land, which was rejected with it being written on Richard Snr, "This man has always borne a suspicious character and to whom no encouragement should be given as an occupier of land". On Richard Jnr's it states, "This is the son of the elder Morgan to whom I believe the same suspicions are attached as to the father" (CSO papers, Archives of Hobart).

Richard Jnr, pictured left,  died on 14 June, 1877. There is a tombstone at St Matthew's Church, Rokeby in memory of him and his family.



Related family names:

Morgan Clarke

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