- Brock, David K., Lieut. (E), RAN (Rtd)
- Ship histories and stories, History - pre-Federation
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- June 1998 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
On 30th August 1835, the original schooner Enterprize landed Melbourne’s first European settlers on the north bank of the Yarra River.
If you went to school in Victoria, you would remember from your history lessons that Melbourne was founded by John Pascoe Fawkner, in August 1835.
There is a little bit of confusion about who actually established the first settlement, and another name frequently crops up, and that is John Batman. He visited Port Phillip some months before Fawkner and it was Batman who, standing on the shores of the Yarra River, made the historic statement “This will be the place for a village”. It was Batman too, who bought the site for Melbourne from the local aborigines for a few blankets, knives and axes. However, Batman did not stay, and on his return to Launceston, boasted in the local pub about how he had acquired all this land.
The publican happened to be John Pascoe Fawkner, and he was quite impressed by what he heard from Batman. So much so, that he immediately set about organising a group to establish a settlement. He was enthusiastically joined by George Evans, a builder turned land owner, who also owned quite a large flock of sheep.
Fawkner bought the 60 ton schooner Enterprize in May 1835 and hired Captain John Lancey as leader. Another six people made up the party to establish the settlement, carpenters William Jackson and Robert Marr, Charles Wise, a farmhand, blacksmith James Gilbert and his wife Mary and Evan Evans, George Evan’s servant. The ship’s master was John Hunter with a crew of two seamen.
This small party, together with two horses, boarded Enterprize and sailed from Devonport in August, 1835. They called at Launceston where Fawkner left the ship. The explanation for this varies from sea-sickness, and having problems with creditors which he had to settle before being allowed to depart. The facts are that the ship left for Port Phillip without Fawkner, and Lancey led the party ashore on 30th August, 1835. Fawkner arrived six months later, having sorted out his financial affairs. As the ship was his, and the organisation of the landing mainly his, John Pascoe Fawkner is credited with establishing the first settlement in Melbourne.
The original Enterprize was a 60 ton topsail schooner, built in Hobart in 1830 by William Pender.
Sea transport was vital in the early days of the Australian colonies, and Enterprize was one of a large coastal trading fleet which carried just about anything which the early settlers needed. At the time of its purchase by Fawkner in 1835, Enterprize was carrying coal from Newcastle to Van Dieman’s Land. After landing the first settlement party Enterprize continued to act as a support vessel for the fledgling settlement. She carried food, hardware, and livestock. On one 12 day trip from Launceston she carried 300 sheep.
In 1845, she disappeared from the shipping register, having been wrecked on the bar at the mouth of the Richmond River in northern NSW with the loss of two lives.
We now take a leap of about 150 years to Australia’s bicentenary in 1988, which was the occasion for the first Tall Ships race from Sydney to Hobart. What a spectacular event this was. I saw it from the Hobart end, and Hobart was really transformed for the week or so that its docks were lined with these magnificent ships.
Apparently there were people in Melbourne who were a bit miffed by Sydney being so much at the centre of things, and thought that Melbourne needed a focal point or event which could be developed into something spectacular. A man named Hedley Elliott came up with the idea – why not build a ship which had a particular significance to the early days of Melbourne? Hedley Elliott was the owner of Emu Bottom homestead, which was built by George Evans, of the original 1835 settlement. His concept was to build a replica of Enterprize and on the anniversary of the landing each year, conduct a re-enactment of the voyage. The idea caught on, a committee was formed, fundraising commenced and the keel of replica Enterprize was laid on 29th August, 1991.