January.] From the great numbers of labouring convicts who were employed in the town of Sydney, and at the grounds about Petersham; of others employed with officers and settlers; of those who, their terms of transportation having expired, were allowed to provide for themselves; and of others who had been permitted to leave the colony, public field-labour was entirely at a stand. The present commanding officer wishing to cultivate the grounds belonging to government, collecting as many labourers as could be got together, sent a large gang, formed of bricklayers, brickmakers, timber-carriage men, etc. etc. to Parramatta and Toongabbie, there to prepare the ground for wheat for the ensuing season. At the muster which had been lately taken fifty people were found without any employment, whose services still belonged to the public; most of these were laid hold of, and sent to hard labour; and it appeared at the same time that some few were at large in the woods, runaways, and vagabonds. These people began labouring in the grounds immediately after New Year’s day, which as usual was observed as a holiday.
On the 22nd, the convict women who had children attended at the store, when they received for each child three yards of flannel, one shirt, and two pounds of soap.
On the day following, the colonial schooner sailed for the river, having on board a mill, provisions, etc. for the settlers there. A military guard was also ordered, the commanding officer of which was to introduce some regulations among the settlers, and to prevent, by the effect of his presence and authority, the commission of those enormities which disgraced that settlement. For the reception of such quantity of the Indian corn and wheat grown there this season as might be purchased by government, a store-house was to be erected under the inspection of the commissary; and Baker, the superintendant who arrived in the Surprise, was sent out to take the charge of it when finished. The master of the schooner was ordered, after discharging his cargo, to receive on board Mr. Charles Grimes, the deputy surveyor-general, and proceed with him to Port Stephens, for the purpose of examining that harbour.
About the middle of the month a convict, on entering the door of his hut, was bit in the foot by a black snake; the effect was, an immediate swelling of the foot, leg, and thigh, and a large tumour in the groin. Mr. Thompson, the assistant-surgeon, was fortunately able to reduce all these swellings by frequently bathing the parts in oil, and saved the man’s life without having recourse to amputation. While we lived in a wood, and might naturally have expected to have been troubled with them, snakes and other reptiles were by no means so often seen, as since, by clearing and opening the country about us, the natives had not had opportunities of setting the woods so frequently on fire. But now they were often met in the different paths about the settlements, basking at mid-day in the sunshine, and particularly after a shower of rain.