From The Evidence to the Bigge Reports – The Written Evidence (1971)

Surgeon William Redfern went further in a letter to Commissoner John Thomas Bigge after their unhappy interview:

5 February 1821

At length, Sir, when you had examined all the underlings of the Hospital, & acquired the information you deemed necessary from sources whose purity & respectability I shall shortly delineate, without once intimating either to Mr. Wentworth or Myself the course of procedure you had adopted, I was by your desire introduced at 9 O’Clock at night – on the 26th June – the depth of winter – into your presence.

The appearance of the Room, – the Piles of Books, the dress of yourself & Secretary, the gravity of your countenance, the awful Solemnity with which you made your opening speech – the threatenings you denounced, the dreadful charges you had to exhibit against me, not forgetting the stale trick in imitation of Banquo’s Ghost, forcibly impressed on my mind the introduction of some unhappy victim, Clothed
in his Santo Venito, with his own picture pourtrayed [sic] thereon, surrounded with the figures of flames & Devils, to the inquisitorial Hall at Madrid, preparatory to the Auto Da Fe.

That memorable speech, conversation, & questions, so artfully calculated to wound & insult my feelings, have made too deep an impression on My Mind ever to be forgotten. The quiver of your lip, the curl of your nose, the expression of your eye – in short, your tout-ensemble, revealed to me your very thoughts & intentions, as a Mirror exhibits the person of him who stands before it. I clearly perceived your intention was to alarm and intimidate and in the event of a failure in that object, to irritate me to a breach of good manners. How far you succeeded in either the one or the other, I must leave you, Sir, to Judge. On calmly considering, at this distant period, the scene, the language you made use of, the manner in which you uttered it, I feel amazed that I could have remained one moment in your house, or that I could ever have been induced again to enter it. Nothing, Sir, but the high respect I entertain for His Majesty’s Commission, which you have the honor of holding, could possibly have induced me to listen for a Moment to such insulting language.

You were aware, Sir, that I had expressed my opinion on the arrest of Govr. Bligh in strong terms of reprobation & condemnation of that measure. You questioned me on it, by way of conversation; Nor did your sarcastic sneer on that occasion escape my observation…

We conversed, & you questioned me, on My appointment – My Commission – my remission of Sentence – by whom granted – whether it had passed the Great Seal – the Hospital, the Contract – the Specification – its mode of finishing – My Medical education. But how you noted down my remarks on these subjects, I shall have an opportunity of noticing in the emendation of My evidence in examination before
you – and which you caused to be transmitted to me on the 3d instant.

At length, Sir, when you went so far as to tell me that I had appropriated large quantities of Medicines Tin ware, & Spices to my own use & emolument; that I had written an insulting letter to your very redoubtable & Manly Protegé, Mr. Bowman, expressing My Sentiments of his ungentlemanlike conduct in visiting the Hospital whilst in my charge, unattended by Mr. Wentworth or Myself; and in questioning My Apprentice relative to the treatment of My Patients; and desiring him not to repeat his intrusion. Writing this letter was heresy & treason not to be forgiven. When you went so far Sir, as to question me respecting my chastising my apprentice & one of my servants; and when you told me that if there were an Attorney General in the Colony, you would proceed against me in a different way; It became high time to resist – and I then determined no longer to submit to such a course of proceeding.

The only regret I now feel on the subject, a regret I shall feel to the last Moment of my existence, is, that, when you, Sir, in my estimation, descended from the dignity becoming His Majesty’s Commissioner of Enquiry, to a mode of examination by Menaces of heavy charges to be preferred against me, in order to confuse, perplex, & intimidate me, in a Manner More becoming a Spanish Inquisitor, I did submit to it for a Single Moment; – that I did not make you a low bow, and instantly retire from your presence.

William Redfern, English, 1774-1833

From The Evidence to the Bigge Reports – The Oral Evidence (1971)

Royal Commissioner John Thomas Bigge arrived in Australia in 1819, sent by Secretary of State for the Colonies Lord Bathurst to investigate ‘all the laws regulations and usages of the settlements.’ Surgeon William Redfern had been a surgeon’s mate on HMS Standard  when he was sentenced to death for his role in the 1797 Nore mutiny, commuted to transportation. Bigge’s interview with Redfern on the state of hospitals and health in the infant colony did not go well, according to Redfern’s notes on the minutes of his evidence:

26 June 1820

  1. When & by whom were you appointed assist. Surgeon?
    I was appointed by Lt. Col. Foveaux in May 1802, to fill the situation of surgeon at Norfolk Island.
  1. How long did you remain there?
    Until September 1804. I was then relieved by Mr. Wentworth at Norfolk Island & I continued to assist him & Mr. Conellan until 17 May 1808. I then came to this place in the Month of June of that year through the persuasion of Col. Foveaux & Mr. Wentworth I accepted of the situation of assist. Surgeon of this place where I have remained ever since I received a local commission from Lt. Govr. Foveaux dated “1st Augt. 1808”.
  1. You were I believe recommended by Col Foveaux to His Majesty’s Government; & received a commission from His Royal Highness the P. Regent? 
    I did, & my recommendation from Col Foveaux was supported by Govr. Macquarie.
    I now produce Col. Foveaux recommendation in the hand writing of his Secretary Mr. Finncane (No. 3) Certificate of qualification (No. 2), Notification of Confirmation (No. 4) & Commission (No. 5).
  1. Are you a member of any Medical Society in England Scotland or Ireland?
    I passed an examination in London before the examiners of the Company of Surgeons but I am not a member of any Medical Society.

I must beg leave here to remind you Sir; of the great astonishment which you affected at my having said I had passed the usual examination before the Court of Examiners of the Company of Surgeons in London, observing “Mr. Redfern you must mistake, I think they are called “The Royal College of Surgeons”. I then explained that “at the time I had undergone examination (Jany. 1797) the[y] were then the Company of Surgeons”.

…Now, Sir, with regard to my not belonging to any Medical Society in England, Scotland or Ireland, I beg leave to say that it can make nothing against me. Few, very Few Medical Men in those days entered into the Navy other than I did – that is without Diplomas from any Medical or Surgical Society, as you are pleased to denominate them. And indeed if the[y] had had those Diplomas, which rarely happened they were still obliged to undergo the same examination before the “Court of Examiners of the Surgeons Company”. In those days it was not quite so fashionable to ‘be dubbed an M.D. from St. Andrew, where I might for the customary fee have procured one for My Horse; nor to throw away the fees for a Surgeons Diploma, when certain length of Service in the Army or Navy entitled them to all or nearly all the priviledges external to the College or Company. How Many Medical Men are there in the Colony who have any other claims than to “Chalk & Grinding” – and some of them not even that – merely the Fee for St. Andrews Degree of M.D.

  1. Where did you perform your Medical Studies?
    In London.
John Thomas Bigge, n.d. (State Library of Queensland)

John Thomas Bigge, n.d. (State Library of Queensland)

  1. You were Assist. Surgeon in the Navy?
    I was surgeon’s first Mate of His Majesty’s Ship Standard.

…When in my reply to your question “You were Assistant Surgeon in the Navy” I answered I was Surgeons Mate of His Majesty’s Ship Standard, the smile of exultation gleamed on your countenance in a manner which, tho I cannot describe, I shall never forget – I perceived at the moment, that you mentally said, “better & better”.

  1. How long did you remain in that situation?
    I served for a few Months.
  1. Was your sentence that of Transportation for Life?
    I suppose it was, for it was never communicated to me, I was sentenced to Death, but was strongly recommended on account of my youth. I was then about nineteen years of age.
  1. From whom did you receive your remission of sentence & when, was it absolute or conditional?
    I recd. an absolute Pardon from Govr. King. By the hand of Col. Foveaux. It bears date 4th June 1802.

I do further contend, Sir, that your questions but more particularly your conversation, connected with the Queries 7, 8 & 9, on the subject of the Secretaryship to the Mutineers & to Parker; on My Sentence & Pardon, whether it had passed the Great Seal, was most artfully & cruelly calculated to harrow up, wound & insult my feelings & that the question you put, but did not note down “Whether My Pardon had passed the Great Seal”, was asked in a manner to convey this impression “Take Care, Sir, Mind what you are about, otherwise I shall [take] such steps as shall prevent its ever passing it.” You will please to recollect this was about the time the question of the validity & effect of the Governor’s pardons was agitated & called into Public notice by the Judges.

William Redfern (State Library pf NSW)

William Redfern (State Library of NSW)

I beg leave to add, Sir, that in consequence of not seeing these examinations till Monday the fifth instant; of being up Country on the 3rd & 4th, & occupied in writing by letter under date the 5 inst when I returned, and attending to other pursuits, I have had no opportunity of correcting & animadverting upon more than the 9th Query, and that I beg you clearly understand that I do not sign these examinations as corrected any further than the 9 query, but that  I shall now send these examinations to you on this express condition, that I shall consider Myself at full liberty to correct, explain and animadvert on such parts of it as I may think proper. And I do further say that there are numerous & important omissions of My explanations given on examination, the insertion of which I consider essential to my reputation & character in a moral & professional point of view, & that those corrections I shall feel it My duty to send you ere Your departure if you happen to remain long enough, otherwise to deliver them to you in London on my arrival there…

William Redfern, English, 1774-1833

John Thomas Bigge, English, 1780-1843


Darlinghurst Nights (2005)

Robert Forster of Australian indie-rock group The Go-Betweens looks back on the Darlinghurst music scene of the mid-1980s. Its title is a nod to Kenneth Slessor and Virgil Reilly’s 1933 book:

I opened a notebook, it read “The Darlinghurst Years”
I snapped it shut but out jumped some tears
I didn’t have to read it, it all came back
Dragging my fingers through my hair
Hiding behind her back

Gut rot cappuccino, gut rot spaghetti
Gut rot rock’n’roll through the eyes of Frank Brunetti
And always the traffic, always the lights
Joe played the cello through those
Darlinghurst Nights

One more coffee and I must go
Back to my room more chapters to go
We’ll meet up in an alley with more places I know

I’m going to change my appearance everyday

I’m going to write a movie and then I’m going to star in a play
I’m going to go to Caracas because you know
I’m just going to have to get away

Marjorie and Kim, Andy and Clint, Debbie, Bertie, people came and went
And then there was Suzie who we never ever saw again

And always the traffic always the lights
Climbing that hill star studded nights
Joe played the cello


Robert Forster, Australian, 1957-

From A Complete Dagg (1989)

New Zealand-born comedian John Clarke’s character ‘Fred Dagg’ was a ‘Freelance Expert in matters of a general character’ on Sydney radio and television in the 1970s and 80s. Clarke wrote a series of satirical pieces on Australian politics for the Sydney Sun-Herald under the title ‘Damon’s Beat’, in the style of Guys and Dolls creator Damon Runyon. Here he meets newly-elected New South Wales Premier Nick Greiner, but interstate and Federal politics in both major parties intrudes:


I am sitting near the window of Mindy’s the other night watching a great deal of rain crashing down into the street and a number of citizens rushing about the place with their collars turned up and their shoes slapping the deck like penguins.

Many guys come through the door and shake themselves and bang their hats on their knees and complain bitterly about the depressing character of the conditions. Several very eye-catching dolls blow in too, although the weather is by no means likely to be the main problem for a doll who walks into Mindy’s.

I am shooting the breeze with a somewhat microscopic dude named Excitable Greiner, who recently replaces Personality Unsworth as the head of certain very extensive local operations. Excitable Greiner has a huge smile on his kisser and is fighting the urge to thank people for their support although the idea of supporting Excitable Greiner never occurs to anyone except perhaps as the down-side of removing Personality Unsworth.

In fact if Excitable Greiner ever finds anything out about the operations for which he is now responsible he will be very annoyed about the overwhelming support he receives from a grateful public and he will wish to be many miles away and possibly on another planet.

As Excitable Greiner and I are sitting there, speaking of one thing and another, we observe a very lean-looking greyhound standing on the back of a truck. In fact it appears the truck’s engine breaks down as Thick Mick has parts of it all over the road and is tossing a coin.

The pooch seems somewhat familiar to me and once I see it move I realise that it is none other than Bannon’s Pride, the favourite for the Big Race which is being run at this time in another part of town and of course this is a most surprising realisation in every respect. Naturally I say nothing to Excitable Greiner about these matters as he is apt to be greatly alarmed if he hears the result of the contest while looking out the window at the winner standing on the back of a truck.

In fact it is a long time since anyone can recall such a short-priced favourite as Bannon’s Pride and for some time I personally suspect the result is somewhat fixed as Little Bob places a G with Burke the Bookie and it is a well known fact that Little Bob does not place Gs with people unless he hears something very convincing.

Of course Burke the Bookie has no trouble laying this bet as he is on the Hospitals Committee and the Schools Committee and is able to free up some of their potatoes if his buddies experience short-term difficulties such as being cleaned out in the crash or getting the result wrong at the races.

Cartoon by Jenny Coopes in 'A Complete Dagg', 1989 (Allen and Unwin)

Cartoon by Jenny Coopes in ‘A Complete Dagg’, 1989 (Allen and Unwin)

The situation is becoming very complex and I consider taking a little night air of a type found some distance from here, but events commence to worsen with the arrival of John the Nose, who is somewhat prominent in the brewing line and who has a worried look on his pan. ‘Good evening, Excitable,’ he says. ‘I wonder if you can assist me. I have Landslide Howard in the car and he requires urgent medical attention.’

‘Thank you for your support,’ says Excitable Greiner. ‘I am distressed to hear of this occurrence as I have nothing but admiration for Landslide Howard.’

‘Landslide and I attend a conference together and I am afraid Landslide sustains a number of cuts and abrasions,’ says John the Nose.

‘I trust no-one else is hurt,’ says Excitable Greiner.

‘There is some limited structural damage to the venue,’ says John the Nose, ‘although happily no one else gets a number of slugs in the thigh while addressing the meeting on law and order.’

‘Goodness me!’ says Excitable Greiner. ‘How can I help poor Landslide?’

‘I do not recall asking you to help Landslide,’ says John the Nose. ‘I want you to help me. We must tie some rocks to Landslide’s very attractive suit and you must hide this Roscoe,’ and he pulls out his persuader and slides it across to Excitable Greiner as he speaks. ‘I also require another vehicle and a good alibi in case the authorities fail to see the merit of my involvement.’

It is at this point that Excitable Greiner reveals that he is by no means the sap he looks. ‘Thank you for your support,’ he says. Two hours later Thick Mick is apprehended carrying the body of Landslide Howard towards the docks and John the Nose is nabbed trying to drive through a police cordon with the winner of Race 5 on the back of a truck.

John Clarke, New Zealander-Australian, 1948-

From An Historical and Statistical Account of New South Wales (1834)

Controversy over public buildings in Sydney – and especially how they are financed – has a long history. The turbulent Scottish-born Presbyterian minister John Dunmore Lang wrote An Historical and Statistical Account of New South Wales, both as a Penal Settlement and as a British Colony while on a voyage to Britain. The Westminster Review suggested that its title should read ‘The History of Doctor Lang, to which is added the History of New South Wales’. Here he charts the building of the ‘Rum Hospital‘:

The demoralizing influence indirectly resulting from the gratification of Governor Macquarie’s taste for public buildings, cannot be more fitly illustrated than in the plan he pursued for the erection of a general hospital in Sydney. Had the convicts been dispersed over the territory in the way I have suggested, an hospital of comparatively small dimensions would have been sufficient at head-quarters : at all events, a plain, substantial edifice was all that was wanted for such a purpose, till the expense of erecting ornamental buildings could be borne by the revenue of the colony. The colonial architect, however, having submitted to Governor Macquarie a plan of a spacious and costly edifice, consisting of a centre building and two detached wings, to be erected of cut stone, with a double verandah or covered portico completely surrounding each of the three piles of building, he determined that it should by all means be carried into effect. With this view, as there were comparatively few artificers among the convicts at the time when this measure was resolved on, he made an agreement, on the part of the colonial government, with Messrs. D’Arcy Wentworth, Blaxcell, and Riley, by which these gentlemen stipulated to erect a building agreeably to the plan proposed, on condition of receiving a certain quantity of rum from the King’s store, and of having the sole right to purchase, or to land free of duty, all the ardent spirits that should be imported into the colony for a term of years. The Rum Hospital, as it was called at the time, was accordingly erected on these conditions; and, standing, as it does, on the summit of one of the two ridges on which the town of Sydney is built, with a valley terminating in the beautiful inlet called Sydney Cove between, it is doubtless a highly interesting and striking feature in the general aspect of one of the most thriving and best situated commercial towns in the world.

View no.13. Looking east shewing: the Royal Mint, part of the Domain, Wolloomooloo Bay, Garden Island, Pott's Point, Darling Point, Clark's Island, Shark Island, Bradley's Head. In the distance Watson's Bay, the Gap, the Pacific Ocean and the North Head, 1873 (Alexander Brodie, Historic Houses Trust of NSW)

View no.13. Looking east shewing: the Royal Mint, part of the Domain, Wolloomooloo Bay, Garden Island, Pott’s Point, Darling Point, Clark’s Island, Shark Island, Bradley’s Head. In the distance Watson’s Bay, the Gap, the Pacific Ocean and the North Head, 1873 (Alexander Brodie, Historic Houses Trust of NSW)

I leave to the mere financier the task of reprobating the arrangement I have just mentioned, (which, it was universally believed at the time, was a highly gainful one to the parties concerned,) on the ground of its gross injustice to the community at large, as well as to those persons in particular who imported ardent spirits into the colony, and who were consequently obliged either to sell their commodity at whatever price the monopolists chose to offer them, or to keep it in bond for three or four years. My sole concern with the transaction is to calculate its true bearings on the professed object of General Macquarie’s administration— the reformation of the convict population of New South Wales : and this is by no means a work of difficulty. The wages of the artificers and labourers, and the prices of the materials employed in the erection of the hospital, were, agreeably to the usual practice of the colony at the time, paid half in money and half in property, i. e., in tea, sugar, ardent spirits, wine, clothing, or any other article, either of necessity or of luxury, which the employer happened to have in his store, and which was uniformly charged to the labourer at an enormous per-centage above its real value, or even above its market-price in the colony. Determined, however, that not a single shilling of the money-half of the wages should, if it could possibly be prevented, ultimately find its way into any other pockets than their own, the worthy contractors erected one or more public-houses in the immediate vicinity of the place, where their numerous convict and emancipated convict mechanics and labourers received that moiety of their wages; doubtless, to induce the miserable wretches, whose inability to withstand such temptation may well be conceived, to expend the last farthing of their earnings in the purchase of their exorbitantly priced and accursed liquor. In providing, therefore, for the physical health of the colony, Governor Macquarie was actually overspreading the whole surface of its body politic, in a moral and spiritual sense, with wounds, and bruises, and putrefying sores, which have hitherto surpassed the skill of the ablest chirurgeon to bind up, or the efficacy of the most powerful ointment to mollify.

–John Dunmore Lang, Scottish-Australian, 1799-1878

From Australian Accent (1958)

John Douglas Pringle came to Australia in 1952 to edit The Sydney Morning Herald. He left in 1957 and returned as editor in 1965, staying until 1970:

Sydney is ruled by three winds, which command the city in turn like the chiefs of an invading army. The first is the north-easter, the prevailing wind of summer. It is a fair-weather wind, a lazy, languorous wind, which comes in from the long reaches of the South Pacific heavy with moisture and sticky with salt. This is the wind which drives the great Pacific rollers onto the open beaches before leaping over the narrow barrier of land, making the pines at Manly sing as it passes and ruffling the calmer waters of the Harbour on the other side. On Sundays the crews of the eighteen-foot yachts catch it as they round the buoy for the long run home, and push out their bellying spinnakers which lift the small hulls out of the water until they seem to be flying

The north-easter is a sea-breeze and out of its element on dry land…To the western suburbs it brings no relief from the heat, but to the more favoured eastern suburbs it is a source of pride and joy; and the wealthy citizens of Bellevue Hill and Point Piper set their houses to catch it like the yachts on the harbour set their sails…

18 footer vessel on Sydney Harbour (William Hall collection, Australian National Maritime Museum)

18 footer vessel on Sydney Harbour (William Hall collection, Australian National Maritime Museum)

The southerly comes with a rush of cold air and a splatter of rain. The Sydneysiders call it the ‘southerly buster’, because it arrives with a banging of doors and windows like a train coming into the station. It can be fierce for a few hours, bowling over the yachts in the harbour like ninepins and dexterously removing loose tiles from the house-roofs; but it is a much-loved wind in summer, bringing down the temperature with a bump, cooling the sultry streets and sending fretful babies to sleep. Generally it blows itself out in the night, and Sydney wakes up in the morning to blue skies and brilliant sun as the north-easter resumes its sway over the city. In winter, however, it may blow for days, bringing cold Melbourne weather and a hint of snow to pampered Sydney.

Southerly Buster at Turrimeta Beach, 26 December 1996. (John Grainger, Bureau of Meteorology)

Southerly Buster at Turrimeta Beach, 26 December 1996. (John Grainger, Bureau of Meteorology)

The third wind is the westerly, a gusty, dusty wind blowing from the heart of the continent. It is an unpredictable wind, following no rhythm and obeying no laws, but it is always unpleasant. In winter dry and bitterly cold, in summer dry and hot as the blast from an oven door, it pounces on the city and worries it. It is an uncomfortable, penetrating wind, which gets through clothes and windows, forcing dust into the eyes and nose. Like the sirocco of the Mediterranean, its extreme dryness seems to irritate people, making the easy-going Sydneysiders nervous and bad-tempered. In winter it may blow for weeks on end, but in summer, fortunately, it rarely lasts more than a day or two – fortunately because it is only when the westerly is blowing that Sydney gets truly hot. The temperature climbs into the hundreds, the tar melts on the roads, and those who go down to the beaches for relief find that they cannot run bare-foot across the burning sand to the water. Worse still, it is the bush-fire wind…

Smoke from bushfires fills the sky over the city in Sydney, October 17, 2013. (AAP: James Morgan)

Smoke from bushfires fills the sky over the city in Sydney, October 17, 2013. (AAP: James Morgan)

I have described these three winds which rule over Sydney not only because they set the rhythm of the city’s life but because each one seems to represent the conflicting elements which shape Sydney’s character…The north-easter is the Pacific wind, and while it blows it tries to make Sydney a South Pacific city. Under its warm and humid breath men slow down in their daily tasks and dream of the islands to the east…

The southerly, on the other hand, is the voice of conscience, the voice of home and England, even though it comes from the Antarctic. When it blows life resumes the brisker tempo of the northern hemisphere. A man can work hard without getting too tired or can sit indoors and read without longing to be out in the sun. It is a Puritan wind, which scourges the city for its laziness.

But the westerly is the voice of Australia. This is the true Aboriginal wind, hard and lean and dry as the bones of dead sheep. Like the continent itself, it seems hostile to the white man who has swarmed on the sea-board. It hurls itself down from the mountains of the Dividing Range as if it would blow the city into the sea or burn it down with its fierce bush-fires. It mocks the efforts of suburban gardeners, withering their dahlias and roses in a single morning and turning their trim lawns brown no matter how they try to assuage its thirst with hoses. It is a nagging reminder of the great dry continent which stretches away beyond the Blue Mountains so clearly outlined on the horizon.

John Douglas Pringle, Scottish 1912-1999

If We Can’t Get It Together (1996)

You Am I’s 1996 album Hourly, Daily debuted at No. 1 on the ARIA Albums Charts. Tim Rogers looks at what’s involved in ‘settling down’:  

To get up the bond for an Inner West flat
He’d work for anybody if he wasn’t working for her dad
She’s practising saying ‘I do’ and ‘I will’
Cause she don’t know how to tell him that she’s going off the pill

Her curtains are for certain that he’ll talk about her ass
But she clings to his photo like a piece of broken glass
If we can’t get it together today
She’s looking for his heart while he stares the other way

His dad is a nut, his ex-girl is a slut
But he’ll be yours forever
If you just get it together
If we can’t get it together if we can’t get it together
Is it ever gonna be just you and me?

So they met on Tuesday at the Town Hall steps
To get an 8 by 10 photo and a wedding date set
‘we might as well do it next week,
cause we’ve met everybody that we’re ever gonna meet’

His dad is a nut, his ex-girl is a slut
But he’ll be yours forever
If you just get it together
If we can’t get it together if we can’t get it together
Is it ever gonna be just you and me?

470 to Circular Quay
With a present in your pocket from the TAB

If we can’t get it together if we can’t get it together
Is it ever gonna be just you and me?

Would you settle for a mobile home
Near a good record store and a public phone?

If we can’t get it together if we can’t get it together

Tim Rogers, Australian, 1969-

Live Tim Rogers 2015 (starts at 4:00):