Long-lost letters and journals written by the remarkable gentleman convict of Port Jackson, England's convict settlement in New South Wales, at the beginning of the nineteenth century were formally handed over to the Australian High Commissioner, Sir Eric Harrison, at Australia House today.
L.V. Mr.Hill-Reid walking to Australia House.
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B.V. " " " into Australia House.
S.V.Int. Mr.Hill-Reid shakes hands with the Australian Commissioner Sir Eric Harrison.
S.V. Mr.Hill Reid hands over letters of John Grants Journal to the Commissioner.
C.U. Of letters.
S.V. Mr.Hill-Reid & the Commissioner looking at picture-Landing in Botany Bay.
C.U. Commissioner pan down to picture.
C.U. Letters being turned over "The Journal"
C.U. Commissioner talking...
C.U. Document "Pardon of Ticket of Leave"
C.U. Pan down Document Petition for John Grant.
Travel shot towards..Book by Hill-Reid
C.U. Of Book.
S.V. Books being put down.
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Background: Long-lost letters and journals written by the remarkable gentleman convict of Port Jackson, England's convict settlement in New South Wales, at the beginning of the nineteenth century were formally handed over to the Australian High Commissioner, Sir Eric Harrison, at Australia House today.
Their author, John Grant, a London man-about-town before his transportation, served seven years, between 1804-11 as a convict at Port Jackson and Norfolk Island. His first-hand accounts throw new light on conditions and prominent personalities of the early convict settlement and are of great historical importance to Australia.
The documents were discovered in the vaults of a London bank where they had lain undisturbed for 150 years. They were among untidy heaps of cheques, bank notes and bills of exchanges destined for the incinerator.
Their discoverer, Mr. W.S.Hill-Reid, London banker-author, was searching for material for a bank history. One of the journals disintegrated as soon as he touched it. Another was written in a form of shorthand and is hard to decipher. The main journal, however, which is written in classic French, is reasonably intact, with only a few pages damaged. It has been restored and strengthened by the Public Records Office.
Mr Hill-Reid realised the significance of his find and used the documents as the basis of a fascinating biography of John Grant called John Grant's Journey. It will be published shortly in Australia.
One of Grant's letters discloses that six of his diaries and other papers were brought back to England by Admiral Bligh, ex-Governor of the Colony, who, like so many other leading figures of the Colony, had been attracted to Grant.
John Grant, aged 27, was sentenced to death for firing a harmless charge of swanshot into the breeches of a solicitor who frustrated his ambition to marry the daughter of Lord Dudley and Ward. The sentence was commuted to transportation for life. Grant sailed in the convict ship Coromandel on December 4th 1803. From the outset his charm, talents, and social position marked him out for Very Important Prisoner treatment.. He denied with the ship's captain and lived with the captain's staff.
With letters of introduction he was received by Judge Advocate Atkins and his wife, Captain Johnston, commander of the notorious NS.W.Corps, the equally notorious Rev. Samuel Marsden and even the Governor King himself. He moved about the Colony with the utmost freedom. He mixed the best people and with influence kept up a steady stream of badgering correspondence to the authorities. He become increasingly provocative about his grievances and exposed the iniquities of the system in letters to London. Before he finally received his pardon he suffered starvation and floggings on hellish Norfolk island, until finally pardoned by humanitarian Governor Lachlan Macquarie.