By Norman Rivett
Peter Hibbs has a unique association with Garden Island that is not generally known. He was born at Ramsgate in Kent in 1757 and is buried at Laughtondale Cemetery near Saint Albans in New South Wales. Hibbs is alleged to have sailed with Lieutenant James Cook in HMB Endeavour and was credited in the Windsor and Richmond Gazetteof 1890 with being the second Englishman to step ashore at Botany Bay after Sir Joseph Banks in 1770. His tombstone bears the inscription:
SACRED TO THE MEMORY OF
PETER HIBBS WHO
DEPARTED THIS LIFE
12 SEPT 1847 AGED 90 YRS
PASS A FEW SWIFTLY FLEETING YEARS
AND ALL THAT NOW IN BODIES LIVE
SHALL QUIT LIKE ME THE VALE OF
TEARS THEIR RIGHTEOUS
SENTENCE TO RECEIVE
Two brass plaques have been attached to the tombstone below the inscription, the uppermost of which is inscribed:
ARRIVED FIRST FLEET
FELLOWSHIP OF FIRST FLEETERS
The lower plaque is inscribed:
PETER HIBBS WAS A SEAMAN ON SIRIUS WRECKED ON NORFOLK ISLAND IN 1790
HE WAS FLINDERS SAILING MASTER ON THE SLOOP NORFOLK DURING HIS
CIRCUMNAVIGATION OF TASMANIA IN 1798-1799
ALSO TO HERVEY BAY IN 1799
On 5 February 1788 Governor Arthur Phillip allocated an island to the east of Farm Cove to HMS Sirius to be used by the ship’s company as a garden. An entry in the ship’s log dated 11 February 1788 states: Sent an officer and party of men to the Garden Island to clear a garden for the ship’s company.This was the first instance of the use of the name Garden Island; unfortunately the name of the officer or those of the men is not recorded.
The subsequent history of Garden Island is an evolving story, sufficient to state that by the early 1990s a major long term modernisation of the island commenced which led to the following minor event involving Peter Hibbs.
Transport on Garden Island had long been restricted and the modernisation of the dockyard during the period 1980 to the mid 1990s included the construction of a road on reclaimed land along the eastern side of the island. When completed it became the practice, in the absence of an official name, to refer to this road as the East Road, a logical choice of name maybe but hardly worthy of an historic site such as Garden Island. The name also broke with the tradition whereby all north-south roads on the island are named for HMB Endeavour and members of the ship’s company. By happy coincidence Captain Cook Graving Dock also lies north-south.
Knowing that in relation to Garden Island ‘temporary’ has a habit of being translated into permanent I resolved to make an effort to have the road ‘officially’ renamed in an appropriate manner. A friend and Garden Island colleague, ex-Warrant Officer H.J. (John) Duley had recently died. John was a descendant of Peter Hibbs, a seaman aboard Sirius of the First Fleet, more significantly Peter Hibbs had allegedly sailed with Lieutenant James Cook in Endeavour which would make him an eligible candidate for commemoration by naming a road in his honour. By good fortune the Naval Support Commander (NSC) at that time was Rear Admiral David Holthouse who, as a very young lieutenant, had served on the staff of the General Manager, Garden Island Dockyard which is where I first met him in October 1958. We came into contact on numerous occasions over the intervening years and he was always an approachable officer. I therefore requested an interview with the NSC via his Chief of Staff Captain M. Sulman, RAN, and this was granted.
During the interview I presented my case for the new road to be officially named, preferably given a name of historical significance and suggested ‘Hibbs Road’. It should be mentioned that ex-Warrant Officer Duley, Peter Hibbs’s descendant, was also known to Rear Admiral Holthouse, they having served together on several occasions during their long careers. An instruction was subsequently issued to the Chief General Manager Australian Defence Industries Garden Island for the road to be named ‘Hibbs Road’ and requesting a signpost be erected to that effect.
The road was duly named and is shown on maps and plans of the island but the erection of a sign post is still awaited. Peter Hibbs would have been very familiar with Garden Island from his time in Sirius and it is appropriate that he should be remembered in this way.
By Editor: There is some mystery to the early life of Peter Hibbs. He was part of the First Fleet and contributed to our maritime heritage but he is not listed in the muster record of Endeavour. His date and place of birth appear in dispute and it has been postulated that he was a stowaway found after Endeavour had sailed but again, no record exists.