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Castaways: Pamphlett, Parsons & Finnegan


Thomas Pamphlett, Richard Parsons and John Finnegan in late September 1823 crossed over the Pumicestone Passage and arrived on Bribie Island. They were welcomed by the Ngunda people.

On 21st March 1823 three Ticket of Leave convicts, Thomas Pamphlet, Richard Parsons, John Thompson and convict John Finnegan, left Sydney in a 29 foot 6 inches open boat intending to cut cedar in the Illawarra district. They were caught in a huge storm and blown off course, but thinking they had been blown southward, they pursued a northerly course hoping to return to Sydney. Some 25 days later their boat was wrecked on Moreton Island. Sadly, John Thompson had died from thirst three days prior.

Helped by friendly natives Pamphlet, Parsons and Finnegan reached the mainland but still thinking they were south of Sydney, headed north and came across a large river, later named the Brisbane River. They followed this river upstream to what is now Oxley Creek but returned to the mouth of the river, crossed over and continued north up the coastline. Finally, in late September 1823, they crossed over the Pumicestone Passage and arrived on Bribie Island. The three castaways were welcomed by the Ngunda people.

After five days, Pamphlet and Finnegan decided to walk north because Pamphlet thought he had seen the head of Jervis Bay in the distance, but they returned the following day as they had been unable to procure food. At the end of October, they decided to try again and walked north but Pamphlet, ten days later, was beseeched by a Ngunda man to return with him to Bribie and as Pamphlet’s feet were sore, he agreed. Pamphlet told of a fight he witnessed with this man while returning to Bribie. Finnegan returned four days later having fallen out with Parsons. Parsons was last seen by Finnegan in the vicinity of Noosa.

The following day, the Bribie ‘Chief’ insisted Finnegan accompany him and several tribe members, to a fight some distance away. Pamphlet was permitted to remain behind because his feet were too painful to walk any distance. Over a week later, on 29th November 1823, Pamphlet was found at Skirmish Point by John Oxley’s expedition, with Finnegan returning to the Island the next day. Only then, they found out how far north of Sydney they were.

Written by Lynne Hooper from sources in the public domain.

Further Reading

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