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Blog post from Tuesday, 6 May, 2014

First Fleet Journal of the week: Ralph Clark

The Journal of Ralph Clark, 2nd Lieutenant of Marines on the First Fleet Transport, Friendship, is a detailed and personal account spanning 5 years from 9 March 1787-17 June 1792.

Never intended for publication the journal is of interest for it’s spontaneous and intimate style with frequent references to his beloved wife Betsey Alicia (nee Trevan) and son Ralph Stewart whom he unsuccessfully requested accompany him to NSW.

Clark’s journal is also notable because of his empathy with the indigenous people and attempts to establish communication with them. Clark Island in Sydney Harbour on the site of his vegetable garden is named after him. Whilst in NSW Clark had a relationship with convict Mary Branham and the baptismal registers of St Philip’s Church, Sydney, record the birth of their daughter Alicia on 23 July 1791.

Of all the First Fleet Journals Clark provides perhaps the most detailed list of those onboard the convict ships. His journal entry for 13 May 1787 provides the following details: convict’s name, age, trade, crime, sentence, place and year of trial, place of birth and remarks regarding the transfer of women convicts to other ships. Completely digitised and transcribed the journal is freely accessed online.

Clark’s Journal and Letterbook were acquired by the Mitchell library in 1914 along with a miniature portrait believed to be his wife Betsey.

The Journal was published in 1981 by Australian Documents Library and copies of this print edition can also be viewed in the Mitchell Library.