The store-ship Fishburn was built in Whitby in 1780 and was owned by Leightons, who were also the owners of the Golden Grove and Borrowdale.  Fishburn was the largest store-ship at 378 tons, fully rigged, and 6’1” between decks afore, 5’9” midships and 7’1” abaft.  The commander for her voyage to Botany Bay was Master Robert Brown who in a rare log book entry says they hogg’d ships bottom in preparation for the long voyage. 

Fishburn Storeship (Marine Artist Frank Allen)

James Keltie, who had served as a master in the Navy, was acting as first mate of the Fishburn.  At Rio de Janeiro, he was appointed master in the Sirius after Micah Morton was invalided home through illness.  Second mate Archibald Armstrong was promoted to chief mate in place of Keltie.

The store-ships, Borrowdale, Fishburn and Golden Grove were men of war and transports; they had stored in every part, provisions, implements of agriculture, camp equipage, clothing for the convicts, baggage, provisions for two years and such other articles as were considered necessary to a colonial establishment.  The ships on their return to England were in charge of Lieutenant John Shortland, agent for the transport department.

The Voyage
Under the command of Captain Arthur Phillip of the Royal Navy, Fishburn, together with the other First Fleet ships, carrying over 1400 persons (among whom were 780 convicts), sailed from Portsmouth on the 13 May 1787.

The journey took 8 months to negotiate over 15,000 miles with stops at Tenerife, Rio de Janeiro and Cape Town where live stock was loaded.  Captain Brown noted in his log book on 7 November that Fishburn had received on board 10 hoggs.  

The passage from Cape Town to Botany Bay took sixty-eight days during which there were livestock fatalities.   David Collins’s journal; 16 December by computation we were abreast of the Island of St Paul passing it at the distance of about sixty leagues.  The following day, on the return of a boat from the Fishbourn storeship which had been sent to inquire into the state of the stock, we heard that several of the sheep were dead, as well as eight of the hogs belonging to the public store.

Arthur Bowes Smyth aboard Lady Penryhn on 20 December; very cold – spoke the Fishburn (Brown) who tells us he has lost three dozen fowls out of four dozen, many sheep have died and other are now very ill.  The Golden Grove (Sharp) had also lost the greatest part of his fowls and all parties agree in suspect the Dutchmen at the Cape must have given them something to occasion such a fatality amongst them and in so unusual away.

Fishburn’s boatswain Thomas Hoggot was almost at the Botany Bay destination when he unfortunately died.  An entry on 8 January 1788 from the journal of Surgeon John White; The wind and weather variable; could perceive nothing of the land.  I went on board the Fishburne, to see the boatswain, who, on the first night of the new year, having probably drank more grog than he ought, and the ship labouring much, had fallen from the top-sail yard, by which he bruised himself in a dreadful manner.  The man being highly scorbutic, the parts soon mortified, and he died about half an hour after I got on board.  The master of the ship showed evident marks of great concern for this invaluable man, as he termed him.  He declared so me that, sooner than venture again on so long a voyage without a surgeon, he would put to sea with less than half his complement of men; for he was strongly of opinion that if the poor fellow had received immediate assistance he would have recovered.

On Sunday 20 January 1788, George Worgan, Surgeon of the Sirius wrote;  between 7 and 8 o’clock this morning the Sirius accompanied by the Lady Penrhyn, Charlotte, Prince of Wales, Borrowdale, Fishbourn, and Golden Grove Transports anchored in Botany Bay.

Phillip soon discovered that Botany Bay was unsuited for initial settlement; but after prompt investigation, settled for Port Jackson, 9 miles to the north. 

Sydney Cove
Discharging of the livestock took place immediately after arrival.  On the 30 January the Governor’s store of 23 sheep and 5 lambs with other stock was landed from the Fishburn and Friendship.  During March Scarborough landed 5,000 bricks and Charlotte transferred 13 beds, 20 pairs of women’s shoes, 20 hats, 3 windsails and 51 tent poles to the Fishburn by order of Agent Shortland.  Seamen from the Prince of Wales, Fishburn and Friendship were ashore cutting wood for the women’s huts and helping to build them. 

By July two storehouses were finished which enabled the landing of stores and provisions to commence.  The building of storehouses for the cargoes off Golden Grove and Fishburn had delayed their departure for home. 

Vermin was a constant problem, as Captain Brown wrote that we destroyed upwards of 100 ratts.

David Collins and John Hunter, sitting as magistrates, had brought before them four convict women, Anne Smith, Phebe Flarty, Ann Mather and Mary Mitchcraft, who had been accused by Captain Brown of using insulting and improper language to him.  On 23 September as he passed them, they began to call after him: Who bottles pease soup?  Who puts their men in the coal hole?  Ann Smith claimed she had not opened her mouth and was discharged; the others declared never to do it again and were also discharged.

As final preparations were being made for clearing and discharging Fishburn and Golden Grove from Government service, the Golden Grove was ordered by Governor Phillip to proceed to Norfolk Island under the direction of Mr Blackburne, master of Supply, with 18 months provisions, one midshipman and two seamen from the Sirius, one sergeant, one corporal, and five private marines, and twenty-one male and eleven female convicts.

Captain Phillip wrote on 2 October, I now only have two ships remaining in the harbour – Supply, the tiny tender and Fyschburn the store ship full of spirits.  Everyone will now be counting the days till Sirius returns with the badly needed supplies.

Whilst at Norfolk Island Golden Grove had a lower yard and top-gallant mast for herself and Fishburn stored aboard.  Captain Phillip ordered them to be delivered to Deptford Yard, England to determine how far the timber of that island may be useful.

On 10 November Surgeon White noted: The settlement was excited when the Golden Grove hauled into Sydney Cove on her return from Norfolk Island … its safe return augers well for the future.    

The cellar for receiving the spirits off Fishburn was finished and she was cleared and ready to sail when the Golden Grove returned from Norfolk Island.  Both ships were immediately ordered to England.

19 November, Captain Brown in Fishburn: at 2 a.m., weighed with a light breeze in company the Golden Grove: att 4, abreast the north and south forelands at the entrance of the harbour … from which I take my departure.  Two ships remained in Sydney Cove, the Supply and Sirius.

Outward Voyage
Fishburn and Golden Grove largely had an uneventful passage, replenishing their stores in the then Spanish possession, the Falkland Islands, to give sick crew members time to recuperate from scurvy; after which they sailed directly to England.  They made the fastest outward passage of the returning ships, Fishburn on 12 May and Golden Grove on 16 May 1789. 

Fate of the Fishburn
The vessel disappeared from the records after being discharged from HM’s service at Deptford, nine days after her arrival.

Captain Robert Brown
had previous been a Chief Mate on the merchant vessel Lord Shelburne  on the London, Liverpool, Quebec  run, before being given the position of Master on Fishburn.   He was a god fearing sailor who prefaced his log Journal to Botany Bay By the Permission of Providence on Board the Fishburn Kept by me Robert Brown 1786.

Fishburn monument First Fleet Gardens Wallabadah NSW (C Timbury)


Swallow & Ariell, leaders in the Biscuit Industry since 1854, placed this advertisement in the Argus (Melbourne, Vic 1848-1956), on Saturday 31 May 1947, page 20, using the story of the First Fleet Storeship Fishburn.


Fowls from the Fishburn (Melbourne Argus 31 May 1947)


Its’ the story behind the Swallow

Fowls from the Fishburn
In the year 1787, the commanders of ships of the first English fleet to lie at anchor in Australian waters compared melancholy notes.  Said Captain Brown of the Fishburn, on the heavy losses suffered during the voyage by a complement of fowls – Verily, I have lost three dozen fowls out of four dozen.  I believe that the rogues at the Cape gave something to the stock we purchased there to occasion such a fatality.

However, despite reports from the Prince of Wales and the Golden Grove, the census of livestock in the settlement in 1788 showed 122 fowls and 87 chickens.  By 1796 poultry was plentiful in Sydney, and full grown fowls were selling from sixpence to one shilling each.

Today, the poultry industry flourishes in Australia.  In Victoria alone is the largest single poultry farm in the world, stocking some 100,000 birds, while in 1940 Australian poultry interests produced for export alone some 18 million eggs.

The finest and best of Australia’s fresh, golden-yoked eggs go into the marking of Swallow & Ariell biscuits, cakes and plum puddings – ensuring that finer quality – that added goodness – inherent in every Swallow & Ariell products.  When you buy Swallow & Ariell you buy the highest quality foodstuffs that Australia can produce.


Leaders in the Biscuit Industry since 1854
Makers also of the famous Swallow & Ariell plum puddings, cakes and ice cream

 The company Swallow & Ariell was delisted on 5 August 1964 following acquisition of more than 95% of its capital by the Australian Biscuit Company


Bateson, Charles The Convict Ships 1787-1868, Brown, Son & Ferguson, Glasgow, 1959
Cavanaugh, AK, The Return of the First Fleet Ships Geelong Historical Society Magazine Investigator 1993
Bradley, William, A Voyage to New South Wales, The Journal of Lieutenant William Bradley of HMS Sirius 1786-1792 Ure Smith Pty Ltd, 1969

Cobley, Dr John Sydney Cove 1788 The first year of the Settlement in Australia Holder & Stoughton, 1963
Collins, David An Account of The English Colony in New South Wales (originally published in 1798) Vol.1 Edited by Brian H Fletcher: Published in association with the Royal Australian Historical Society
Gillen, Mollie , The Founders of Australia – A Biographical Dictionary of the First Fleet Library of Australian History, Sydney, 1989
King, Jonathan, The First Fleet The Convict Voyage that founded Australia 1787-88 The Macmillan Co of Aust Pty Ltd, 1982
White, John Journal of a Voyage to New South Wales with Biographical Introduction by Rev Rienits, Angus and Robertson, published in association with the Royal Historical Society, 1962
National Library of Australia (TROVE)