Obituary: Mr. John Allen [“Death of a Tasmanian pioneer”, 31 December 1879]

[Editor: An article about an Australian pioneer, John Allen (1806-1879). An extract from the “Obituary” column. Published in The Mercury, 31 December 1879.]


Mr. John Allen. — A few days ago Mr. John Allen, one of the oldest settlers in Glamorgan, passed away at the age of 73. He was born in county Somerset, England, on the 16th November, 1806, and left London for this colony in the early part of 1826 in the ship Hugh Crawford, commanded by the late Captain Wm. Langdon, R.N.

He arrived in Hobart Town on the 26th October of the same year, and on the recommendation of Governor Arthur, he resolved to go to Oyster Bay with the late Mr. W. Lyne and family. They started in a small vessel a few days before Christmas, and spent Christmas Day in Stewart’s Harbor, now called Port Arthur. Shortly after they arrived in Oyster Bay, and, landing at a place now called Moulting Bay, the first things they saw were flocks of kangaroos, which were very numerous then.

Mr. Allen took up his first grant of land at Milton, in Glamorgan, near Swansea. In March, 1828, when he had finished reaping and secured all his crops, and when all hands were away except one boy, the blacks came and burnt all the buildings, the stacks of wheat, and nearly everything Mr. Allen possessed; the loss being about £300, besides books, papers, etc., which could not be replaced.

Undaunted, however, by this disaster, he set to work again, and so determined was he to succeed that for nine months after the fire he never took off his clothes except on Sunday, and used to sleep on a sheet of bark, with his musket beside him, and his ammunition pouch strapped around him, until he received another bed from England.

On December 28, in the same year, he fought single handed a tribe of native blacks, numbering from thirteen to eighteen, besides “gins” to bring them spears, waddies, etc. For eight hours on one of the hottest days recorded, Mr. Allen kept the natives back with a musket and pistol, neither of which, singular to say, he fired; the presentation of the fire-arms in the direction of the blacks was sufficient to scare them. Nor was he in any way hurt, though he had to dodge the spears and waddies the whole time. After this the Police Magistrate at Swansea allowed two soldiers to be stationed on the farm for protection, upon his taking the oath as a special constable, and they remained there about two years.

Mr. Allen prospered, as he well deserved to do. In May, 1832, he walked to Hobart Town — he always did his business on foot — and there found his sister, who had just arrived from England with money for him to return there, his relatives being anxious to see him. Accordingly he sailed in the barque Science, which was loaded with wool and specie.

For the first six weeks they had bad weather, and then, on the 21st June, the ship was caught in a storm in lat. 56 S., and long. 125 W. Getting among the icebergs she was struck and capsized, but very soon righted. Mr. Allen, who was the first on deck, found the mizenmast broken short, the mainmast split up, the foremost tottering, the rigging being across the deck, and the bulwarks smashed; besides which nearly all the best hands were gone. The captain gave up all hope of being saved; but Mr. Allen determined to make an attempt to save their lives, so he cut away the loose rigging, stopped up the holes in the deck with wool, and with the aid of one or two others, showed that the hull of the ship was still good.

Six days after they fell in with a South Sea whaler, the barque Worrence, which took them all on board to the number of fifteen. Mr. Allen left in the last boat, after looking round for any valuables; but unfortunately he had not been told about the specie, which was therefore lost. It is related that one old man would not leave the ship because he could not find his treasury bills; but when all his friends had got aboard the Worrence, he was seen beckoning to be taken off, so a boat was sent for him. The hull was set fire to, and she was seen to founder.

The Worrence landed the distressed people at Rio Janeiro, whence Mr. Allen went to England in H.M.S. King William IV., a sloop of war, in command of Lord Colchester. The first night he was in England he caught a severe cold, and never had good health while there. He accordingly soon returned to Tasmania, in the barque Ann, and remained here till his death.

Mr. Allen was a man of indomitable perseverance, and was an excellent farmer, as many persons who have visited Picnic Place, Bicheno, could testify. He was a great walker. About fifteen months ago, he was at the Campbell Town Show, and through some mistake horses were not sent to meet him; so he and his daughter walked home, a distance of forty miles, and were not much fatigued thereby.

Mr. Allen passed away peacefully, after only eleven days’ illness, and without the slightest pain, on Friday, the 19th inst. His remains were interred at Bicheno on the 23rd, there being a very large and respectable funeral, many friends coming long distances to be present. The chief mourners were six sons of the deceased, and the pall-bearers were Messrs. Henry Lyne, Clarence Lyne, Fred. Hume, and Alex. Robertson.

The Mercury (Hobart Town, Tas.), 31 December 1879, p. 2

Also published (as “Death of a Tasmanian pioneer”) in:
The Geelong Advertiser (Geelong, Vic.), 6 January 1880, p. 4

Editor’s notes:
barque = (also spelt “bark”) a small sailing ship in general, or specifically a sailing ship with three (or more) masts, in which the aftmost mast is fore-and-aft rigged, whilst the other masts are square-rigged

inst. = instant; in this month; a shortened form of the Latin phrase “instante mense”, meaning “this month”; pertaining to, or occurring in, the current month

specie = coin money, distinct from paper money or bullion (from the Latin “in specie”, meaning “in kind”)

waddy = (plural “waddies”; also known as a “nulla nulla”) a wooden club used by Australian Aborigines

[Editor: The original text has been separated into paragraphs.]

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