We had a break from our usual meeting venue and were lucky enough to visit the Collins Settlement in Sorrento for our April meeting. It was a beautiful day and we were able to gather outside in the sunshine at the Collins Settlement Monument before proceeding into the information centre.
Our speaker and host for the afternoon was Judy Walsh, a long time member of the Friends of the Collins Settlement. Judy passed on her amazing knowledge of the history of the Collins Settlement and how it came into being. It was a fascinating insight into various aspects of shipboard life for the convicts and officers on the way from England, as well as life in the settlement. Commander, Lieut. Col. Collins had been empowered to start a new settlement on Port Phillip Bay and on October 9th, 1803, His Majesty’s Ship Calcutta entered Port Phillip Bay. Lieut. Col. Collins had been entrusted with the transportation and setting up of a new settlement consisting of 299 male convicts, 16 convicts’ wives, a few children of the convicts, a detachment of 50 Royal Marines and the Civil Staff. It appears that Lieut. Col. Collins had good intentions of making the settlement a success but it appears it was doomed to failure from the start, due to the land not being conducive to cultivation and lack of fresh water. One of the many fascinating things that Judy told us was how they attempted to supply drinkable water to the community when there was no fresh water available. There was, of course, plenty of water in the Bay but they had to come up with a way of desalinating it. By way of a solution, they used the barrels they had brought with them on the ship. The remnants of one of these desalinating barrels, were found still buried in the beach at Sorrento in the 1930s. It is one of the earliest artefacts of white settlement in the State.
It was a good opportunity for us to get together afterwards over afternoon tea and talk about all that we’d learned about the Collins Settlement. Judy was presented with the Rye Historical Society book “Rye – A Book of Memories” as a thank you for her terrific presentation.