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Of course, the newest information happens at the beginning – which means that the weakest chapters are right at the start – that’s why the earliest aren’t yet in the body of the text. They are still in research and probably will remain that way for a while. Remember, only six months ago the entire history stopped about two hundred years earlier…

This is a a working file. I’m going straight to press, as it were. Sometimes there’ll be oddities, repetitions, missing bits, confusion. Give the chapter a day – come back to it then – and don’t get pissed off if links don’t work. Everytime I change something [daily] it has repercussions thru the site. That’s when the links go pear-shaped. If all else fails just go down to the bottom of the site and work from there…


Every time you see this:

just click for Court Records.



PART ONE gives you chapter and verse on all we know about the life and times of JAMES TRIFFITT and MARY HIGGINS from their great-grandparents all the way through to life together on Norfolk Island.

The story, thus far, begins with James’ great-grandfather:

WILLIAM TRIFFITT 1730, a date which is completely incorrect. As it’s the date which is used everywhere, I’ve indicated it here, just to correct it. Our hero arrives before the cherry harvest: you can find him here: JAMES TRIFFITT 1769 together with some background material on WHIXLEY. Additional contemporary accounts about his incarceration here: HULKS.

I’ve ignored his voyage over to Australia because there’s nothing interesting and pick him up on arrival on Norfolk Island in August 1791:  JAMES: TRANSPORTED – just in time to snuggle down with Mary Higgins. If you’re very, very keen his first four months in the colony are covered in this research document: RALPH CLARK: Aug – Nov 1791.

MARY has a much more interesting story – not that many people care – she doesn’t have ‘the name’. Just the same – she’s 50% of the equation, so, name or not, here she is:

Mary’s family spreads out right back to the mid-17th century – you can meet her grandfather, the melancholy William Weston here: THE FOLKS 1660 – 1720 and follow his sad story through to Mary’s parents: MUM & DAD 1720 – 1757.

Things get juicy once our headstrong heroine appears; we know nothing of her childhood but, come adolescence the beast emerges with a vengeance: BAD MARY:1775 – 80. Due to some super-sleuthing now we know where her second name comes from.

The miracle of Google search and give us all the details we need from here on in, complete with great court transcripts. Don’t forget to click those keys. Her first recorded tussle with the law, courtesy her sister Nora is here: BAD MARY 1780 complete with an additional chapter on Nora’s fate: XTRA: NORA IN NEWGATE

Then it’s downhill all the way from the back alleys of London to a cell in Newgate: LIFE OF CRIME 1780 – 88. What a gal.

Her brief stint in Newgate with baby Annie and my take on her voyage is dealt with in this chapter: LADY JULIANA 1789. When I can find it, I’ll add in NICHOL’S account of the voyage.

Her brief and upsetting stay in Sydney Cove follows here: SYDNEY COVE 1790.  Every tiny detail of those months can be found in the ne plus ultra source of colonial history research:  COBLEY: SYDNEY COVE.

Her subsequent voyage to Norfolk Island and first twelve months are covered here: NORFOLK ISLAND 1790 – 91 , complete with Ralph’s increasingly hysterical reportage: RALPH CLARK: Aug 1790-Feb 91 and RALPH CLARK: Feb – June 1791. Again, only for the very enthusiastic. Everything leads inexorably to a very nasty punishment: NORFOLK ISLAND 1791-2 then James arrives and finally they are both in the same chapter – and bed: JAMES & MARY: NORFOLK ISLAND.

Of course, just to piss me off, just as the two lovebirds meet on Norfolk Island all the information runs out. I’ve included a heap of available research up till 1796 then chapter and fairly boring verse about the background to their relocation to Tasmania but, basically, we all have to time-warp to 1808 and PART TWO


History is always written by and for men, starring men. You’d think there was only one sex in the colonies. I’m bored with that. Here are the stories of seven extraordinary women who ended up neighbours in Back River… of course, one of them is Mary Higgins. The Back River Gals were lethal – they arrived as a pack. Take a very long diversion with the worst of them…

The third extra really should be in PART TWO. Another extreme diversion about the events of 1815. Some of it is covered in the TRIFFITT site but, as before, nothing exists in isolation. Here’s the holistic view of the extraordinary combination of forces in play over the first six months of 1815. Lest you think I’m being overly creative in these stories I’ve included some of the documentation. Most of these events are so well documented – and from multiple sources – that it’s possible to recreate the dialogue. The exercise here was to be as accurate as possible. It’s obvious where I’ve launched into la-la land. No apologies for that.



PART TWO takes us into very different territory – the life and times of not just James, Mary and the boys – but of a whole district. I realised, somewhere along the line, that the Triffitts didn’t live in isolation, that the events of the area were their events too. Everything is connected in Back River – so best we meet the neighbours too. Their stories interweave.


We’re in Tasmania – well nearly. To learn how we got there [for the very, very keen] I’ve compiled two chapters of source material about the relocation from Norfolk Island. THE BURDEN gives you the reasons why, DEPORTATION covers the journey south.

We pick up our family in 1808, sailing up the Derwent for the first time in EXODUS , then EXODUS 2 covers the first three years till THE BIG DAY 1811 – the magnificent moment when Macquarie came to town.

This is a perfect time to stretch your legs and go meet Marianne McCarty and her scurrilous husband – there’s not a Triffitt in sight but she’s too good to miss. True afficionados would continue in this vein, reading through the many chapters of expanded GREAT RAID. You’ll end up at the Triffitt’s, just in time to watch Thomas get shot.

However, it is a very long diversion. Triffophiles may content themselves with SHEEP HEIST 1815 and then the saga of THE GREAT RAID 1815. This episode spraws into another chapter, aptly called GREAT RAID 2 which rolls through into the grand finale: THE TWO MINUTE WAR. Yup, it’s still long – but it’s the single most important event in Back River history – probably to this day.

Bushrangers weren’t the only thing on the agenda. Those Triffitt boys are grown. In HAPPY FAMILIES 1815 we get to meet the mothers of the next generation; Lizzie Barnes and Mary Scattergood.

Everything is settled, the two tribes are formed – soon babies will fall from the skies. But James the Elder has a trick up his sleeve. To Mary’s evident disgust, the old goat has ONE LAST FLING 1825. In this chapter you can meet Sophia Daniels. She has a secret.

Life goes on. The next ten years are here; SOPHIA & JAMES : a growing compilation of bush horror, including a scary spearing by the Black natives. Like all the following chapters, it keeps changing as more info comes to light.

It’s time for Mary Higgins to meet her maker. VALE MARY – which just leaves OLD JAMES. He’s invisible for the last ten years of his life – no wonder. He’s ancient. Finally, this epic saga comes to an end -‘ well, kinda – with our hero’s death in 1853. A chapter is brewing on the mysterious death of James Jr. that same year.

Here’s a list of grandchildren. Stand back, it’s a rush. There are some more to come: TRIBES

These chapters are just what the title says: Press Clips – almost all gleaned from an ongoing trawl thru

PRESS CLIPS 1811-24 * PRESS CLIPS 1825-30 * PRESS CLIPS 1830-35 * PRESS CLIPS 1835-40 *

and, in progress – PRESS CLIPS 1840-45

And what is all this stuff?

Just the final link in the chain – the remaining three generations that lead to me. I don’t expect that they will be very interesting to anyone else. The history up till this point is common to all of us – this is my indulgence. I’m allowed. Still very much in progress – that’s why the stories are locked.

When they’re ready, I’ll open them and you can snoop away.


Leave a Comment
  1. don armitage / Jul 1 2012 10:54 am

    Hi, could you get in contact with me please, as I am writing a book on the voyage of HMS Tortoise to Australia and NZ 1841-3, and George Reading’s description of the voyage is part of it. All the best

    • thedogster / Jul 2 2012 12:08 am

      Don, you can reach me at HMS Tortoise and George Reading are not my field of expertise, however. All you see on the site is uncut reference, that’s all.

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