FRENCHMAN’S LAST CAMP (1200 wide X 900 high Oil)......Back to gallery

They say that during a storm in the earliest days of the penal settlement of Port Macquarie wrecked a schooner trying to enter the river; the tempest at sea being more fearsome than the turmoil on the bar. The survivors were two officers and a cabin boy who spoke not a word of English, but by gesture and the few French words known to the Military Commander’s wife they made known that they were Canadian whalers making for Sydney.

Their subsequent treatment by their rescuers is excusable but explained by the remoteness of this furthest outpost and the commanding regiments many years of fighting Napoleon. A suspicion that they were French spies was never dismissed.

The cabin boy was taken under the wing of the wife and pressed into domestic service, but the two officers were detained and experienced first hand the cruelest and most brutal treatment so far meted out to convicts in any of the King’s places of punishment.

Standing orders should have seen them sent to Sydney on the next supply vessel. Whether it was due to the Frenchmen’s haughty refusal to accept their confinement or their vocal condemnation of the hell hole, instead the two were frog marched to Tacking Point at the settlements untamed boundary. Here, where the first of the 250 miles of unexplored storm beaches stretch away to the South they were given the stark alternative; walk or be shot.

We cannot be sure how far they got, but the story and the awesome panorama remain as the only trace of their ordeal.