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For months after a gang of bushrangers raided his farm at Prospect Hill, Charles Bishop was anxious to find a companion to live there with him.
The outlaws had woken him at 3 o’clock one morning in March 1804, demanding that Bishop give up his weapons. When he shouted back that he would shoot anyone who entered, the front and back doors were immediately broken open and two gun barrels pointed in from each direction.
Bishop stood at his fireplace, a pistol in each hand, ‘watching right and left’. The bushrangers rushed in, overpowered him, and left with his substantial arsenal and his convict servant, whom they pressed into service. ‘If I had had a 2nd person to have stood by me,’ Bishop wrote to the governor, ‘they would have been easily dispersed.’
Little more than a year earlier, Bishop had a business partner: naval surgeon and sailor George Bass. A merchant seaman working the new markets at the edges of the East India Company’s monopoly, Bishop had crisscrossed the oceans from India and Cape Colony to China and Chile. Reaching the southern shores of Australia, he entered into the brutal sealing industry, making use of unskilled ex-convicts to beat, skin and boil down seals.
In 1798, Bass helped the navigator Matthew Flinders survey those shores, and the following year he began a commercial partnership with Bishop. Their sealing ventures were truncated in 1803 when Governor Philip King introduced controls to limit the devastation of the seal populations, and the partners turned their attention north, to Tahiti, looking to capitalise on the flourishing pork trade.