- Doyle, J.J., A.M, Captain, RAN (Rtd)
- Biographies and personal histories, History - pre-Federation
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Moresby I
- September 2006 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
The only colonial connection with Denham and the Moresby name occurred after the establishment of the Third Settlement on Norfolk Island. Captain Fairfax Moresby, the eldest son of the Admiral, was commanding HMS Sappho when that vessel was lost with all hands in Bass Strait in December 1858. The Sappho was carrying a draft of eighteen sailors for the Herald. As Denham’s survey of Australia and the South West Pacific in HMS Herald extended from 1852 to 1861, a period of nine years, there were a number of drafts of replacement crews required.
Philip Parker King died of a stroke after dining onboard HMS Juno (Captain S. Fremantle) in Sydney Harbour in February 1856. Captain H.M. Denham was also a guest at that dinner. The naval funeral was a significant event for Sydney.
Captain John Moresby, the younger son of Sir Fairfax Moresby, arrived on the Australia Station in 1871 in command of HMS Basilisk. Not a surveyor, he had been provided with an outfit of instruments to conduct surveys and shoal investigations. Moresby’s main task was in fact to put down ‘blackbirding’. The Pacific Islanders’ Protection Act was drafted by the Government in London in March 1872 and became law in June. However, a Queensland Supreme Court judgement in late 1871 strengthened the ability of the authorities to deal with blackbirding, and Basilisk sailed from Sydney, arriving at Cascade Landing, Norfolk Island on 26 May 1872. Moresby indicates that he was warmly welcomed by a gathering of all the Islanders, and that his father’s name, Fairfax Moresby, was revered. The Reverend G.H. Nobbs was still alive and Moresby apparently spent one night in Nobbs’ household. He then moved to the Reverend Coddringham’s abode at the Melanesian Mission to gain the latest news and intelligence about blackbirding and kidnapping. The murder and martyrdom of the Bishop of Melanesia, J.C. Patterson, had occurred in the Solomon Islands only during the previous September, 1871, when the vessel in which the Bishop was travelling was mistaken for a blackbirder. Moresby was accommodated in the late Bishop’s bedroom.
The weather during Moresby’s stay was inclement, and Basilisk had to put to sea. The only notable act that John Moresby undertook was the erection of a new flagstaff to replace one destroyed in a gale. Basilisk sailed from the island on 1 June 1872.
Captain John Moresby went on to achieve the rank of Admiral and it was after him that the RAN’s Moresbys were named. In fact, John Moresby did little for Norfolk Island. His father, however, could be seen as the Senior Officer who was possibly the first to raise official interest in the fate of the Pitcairn Islanders. The payment out of his own pocket for Nobbs’ passage to England for ordination, the involvement of the Archbishop of Canterbury and subsequent interest shown by Queen Victoria herself, could well be seen as the catalysts of the subsequent move of the Pitcairn Islanders to Norfolk Island, all of which was achieved in the space of about five years. It seems doubtful that Fairfax Moresby’s earlier involvement with the Norfolk Islander P. P. King would have carried any weight in choosing that island as a refuge for the Pitcairners.
- Moresby, John, Captain. RN, Discoveries in New Guinea, John Murray, London, 1876
- Moresby, John, Admiral, Two Admirals, John Murray, London, 1909
- Hordern, Marsden, King of the Australian Coast, Miegunyah Press, Melbourne, 1997
- Docker, E.W., The Blackbirders, Angus and Robertson, Sydney, 1970
- David, Andrew, The Voyage of HMS Herald, Miegunyah Press, Melbourne, 1995