Robert Forrester, First Fleeter –by Louise Wilson
Paperback: 442 pages
Trim size: 210 x 148 mm
Sydney’s early history abounds with tales of men and women behaving badly. Robert Forrester, who arrived in Sydney Harbour aboard the First Fleet vessel ‘Scarborough’ on 26 January 1788, at first glance was just another ne’er-do-well. He was caught up in a ‘scam’ in London. He was charged with drunkenness and insolence in Sydney. He was the first man in Australia who appeared before a court enquiry into the murder of an aborigine. His legal wife, and then his second ‘common law’ wife, disappeared from the records.
Yet determined detective work, recreating his adult life, has revealed that Robert Forrester might even have been ‘a decent bloke’.
His is the story of a life fully-lived. On the frontier of settlement beside the Hawkesbury River, his struggle was the Australian version of ‘how the west was won’. His life demonstrates the economic impact on an individual of floods, fire, famine and the NSW Corps, creating one of the first ‘Aussie battlers’.
Robert Forrester was one of the first convicts who chose to become an Australian. He did not give up his supreme effort at the Hawkesbury, when others did. He raised his family ‘to habits of industry’. He was able to attract three women as partners, at a time when men vastly outnumbered women in the fledgling colony of New South Wales. His family loved him.
A tightly-focused, very readable and engrossing biography of Robert Forrester, this book illuminates the life events and character of an individual convict who helped to found the modern nation of Australia.