The Second Fleet Ternen Family

Copyright Carol Baxter 2012
Prepared for Ternen descendant Jeanette Bradley

William and Elizabeth Ternen* of the Second Fleet

Nothing is known about William Ternen’s family background other than that at some stage prior to 1782 he apparently married a woman named Elizabeth. They were residing in East Stonehouse parish in Plymouth, Devonshire, England in 1782 when a son William was born. No references to other children have been located.[1]

On 19 October 1789, William senior enlisted in the New South Wales Corps.[2] Five months earlier the Secretary of War had reported that the marine corps serving in New South Wales was to be succeeded by an infantry unit from the British Army specifically raised for service in the colony. Major Francis Grose of the 29th Foot Regiment was appointed as commanding officer. The company commanders were to receive a bounty of £3.3.0 per recruit and the recruits were to be between 16 and 30 years of age and to be over 5 foot 4½ inches tall.[3]

Unlike the Marines, the NSW Corps was struggling to achieve full strength by the end of the three-month enlistment period. Major Francis Grose was forced to complete his enlistments from deserters imprisoned London’s Savoy Military Prison (he rationalized that desertion was impossible from Botany Bay) and from defaulters facing an army court martial who opted to avoid the lash by agreeing to serve with the New South Wales Corps for life.[4]William Ternan was one of the last to be recruited, although the circumstances behind his enlistment are not known.

William was among the first contingent of New South Wales Corps’ soldiers to travel to the colony. On 22 October 1789 he embarked on the Second Fleet transport Scarborough which sailed on 19 January 1790 and arrived in Sydney on 28 June 1790.[5] William was fortunate enough to be granted permission for his wife Elizabeth and son William to travel with him.[6]

The three Second Fleet transports embarked 1017 prisoners in November/December 1789 before sailing from England on 19 January 1790 under the charge of the Agent of Transports, Lieutenant John Shapcote. Although the Fleet managed a relatively fast passage, the mortality rate was the highest in the history of transportation with 267 prisoners dying between embarkation and arrival, and at least 486 landing sick. Of the 259 convicts embarked on the Scarborough, 73 (28%) died during the voyage, a record only surpassed by that of its companion, the Neptune.[7] Charles Bateson in The Convict Ships 1787-1868 writes of the voyage:

Aboard all three ships, but particularly in the Neptune, the prisoners were treated with savage brutality. Lieutenant Shapcote, while perhaps not a party to the rapacity of theNeptune's master, the avaricious and unscrupulous Donald Trail, was inexcusably lax and incompetent, and after his death the prisoners were treated with incredibly severity. They were shamefully starved, kept heavily ironed, and except in inadequate numbers and at long intervals, refused access to the deck. There was no excuse for Trail's callousness, as at no stage of the voyage was there any suspicion of attempted mutiny....

The rations of the prisoners in the Scarborough were not deliberately withheld [unlike those in the Neptune and Surprize], but owing to a reported attempt at mutiny the convicts were very closely confined. On February 12, when the Surprize was out of sight and the Neptune a long way ahead, a plot to seize the ship and the murder the officers was formed by some of the prisoners. Their intentions were disclosed by a forger, Samuel Burt, and the plotters were secured without difficulty. The ringleaders were flogged, and the more dangerous of them stapled to the deck. Although Judge-Advocate David Collins declared that the master's humanity "considerably lessened the severity which the insurgents might naturally have expected", the prisoners were kept closely confined and given insufficient access to the deck. It was to this fact that the high death rate was directly due.[8]

When the Second Fleet transports reached Port Jackson the residents of Sydney were shocked at the condition of the transportees. The settlement’s chaplain Rev. Richard Johnson wrote after his visit to the Surprize:

I beheld a sight truly shocking to the feelings of humanity … a great number of them laying, some half and others nearly quite naked, without either bed or bedding, unable to turn or help themselves. Spoke to them as I passed along, but the smell was so offensive that I could scarcely bear it. The landing of these people was truly affecting and shocking … great numbers were not able to walk, nor to move hand or foot; such were slung over the ship's side in the same manner as they would sling a cask, a box or anything of that nature. Upon being brought up to the open air some fainted, some died upon the deck, and others in the boat before they reached the shore. When come on shore many were not able to walk, to stand, or to stir themselves in the least, hence some were led by others. Some creeped upon their hands and knees, and some were carried upon the backs of others.[9]

He added that all were filthy and covered with "their own nastiness, their heads, bodies, cloths, blankets, all full of filth and fleas".[10]

William was mustered as a corporal sometime after his arrival, and remained in the New South Wales Corps until his discharge in March 1803. During those years he acquired three land grants. The first, 25 acres at Liberty Plains on the west side of Iron Cove Creek, was granted to William in December 1794 and later possibly sold. A second grant in the Field of Mars area, which became known as Porteous Mount, was sold to Rev Richard Johnson in 1795. A 25-acre block in the Hawkesbury River district was granted to William in June 1797 and adjoined the farm of Mrs Ann Blady (First Fleeter Ann Green). William apparently established a business arrangement with his neighbour as the two were described as joint owners in 1800. They had 22 acres sown in wheat and maize and also owned 26 hogs.[11]

William served on the Supply hulk in Sydney Harbour from November 1801 until his discharge early in 1803. He and his wife apparently returned to England soon afterwards, leaving their son William in the colony.[12]