During August 1788 convict James Daley reported the discovery of a piece of ground where he had found a quantity of yellow coloured ore which did appear to contain gold. The Governor was absent from Port Jackson at the time and Daley refused to name the location until he returned when he, Daley, would give a full account of the discovery if the Governor would grant him compensation for the find.
A boat was ordered from Sirius to carry Daley and Captain Campbell, a corporal and two or three private soldiers were sent down the harbour to the place where he declared the mine was situated. He landed where he said it was a short walk to the mine. When they were amongst the bushes Daley asked for permission to step aside into the bushes for a minute on a necessary occasion.
Once out of sight Daley returned to camp by foot and informed the Lieutenant Governor and the Judge Advocate that he had left Captain Campbell in charge of the mine, who had dispatched him over land to request another officer and a guard proceed to the mine. His story was believed and he then got a few things out of his own tent and disappeared.
Captain Campbell, after waiting for some hours spent searching the woods in the area of the supposed mine, returned to the camp where they arrived at dusk, tired and angry at the trick the villain had played on them. The lack of food soon bought Daley from his hiding place back to camp and he was punished with 50 lashes. He still claimed he had found gold and acted as did in order to be able to speak to the Governor on his return to camp to ensure he was rewarded in the way he requested.
Daley was then sent with another officer to locate the gold mine. This officer informed him that if he tried to escape he was instructed to shoot him and proceeded to load his gun with ball. Soon after Daley declared to the officer that the ore produced was the work of his own hands from a brass buckle, copper and a guinea mixed with it, in a composition that he had hopes of selling a considerable quantity of it to the transports just before they sailed, and that he had not made any discovery, but was persuaded by the woman who lived with him to do it.
For fabricating the bogus sample he was ordered 100 lashes and was made to wear a canvas shirt with R for rogue sewn on it. Later in the year he was found robbing the huts belonging to Augustus Alt and marine Lieutenant Robert Kellow. For this he was handed on 3 December 1788.
James Daley was indicted for feloniously stealing on the 18 May 1784, one wooden trunk, containing clothing. He was tried in the Old Bailey and sentenced to 7 years transportation. He was ordered to the Censor Hulk, aged 22, where he stayed until 27 February 1787. Daley arrived into Sydney Cove aboard the transport Scarborough.
On the day he was executed, being Wednesday 3 December 1788, he confessed at the gallows the robbery of Lieutenant Kellow and Mr Alt, surveyor.
Collins noted that before he was turned off, he confessed that he had committed several thefts, to which he had been induced by bad connections, and pointed out two women who had received part of the property for the acquisition of which he was then about to pay so dear a price. These women were immediately apprehended and one of them, made a public example of, to deter others from offending in the like manner. The convicts being all assembled for muster, she was directed to stand forward, and, her head having been previously deprived of its natural covering, she was clothed with a canvas frock, on which was painted, in large characters, R.S.G. (receiver of stolen goods), and threatened with punishment if ever she was without it.
Cobley, John Sydney Cove 1788
Cobley, John The Crimes of the First Fleet Convicts 1788
Collins, David An Account of the English Colony in New South Wales
Gillen, Mollie the Founders of Australia
First Fleet Fellowship Vic Inc Folio, 211, December 2020
Gold was first found in Australia on 15 February 1823, by James McBrien, a surveyor, while surveying the Fish River, between Bathurst and Rydal, N.S.W.