Early Years in Tasmania

Ann Hay must have been pregnant for the voyage to Van Diemen's Land as three months after they had arrived their next child, James Hay, was born on 11 January 1834 in Launceston.1 The child was either named after his father, or there was a lingering sentiment for the child they had lost.

In early 1835 a number of convicts were caught plotting to take over the settlement and commandeer the sailing ship Edward. James Hay, an indentured servant of the Van Diemen's Land Company, was called as a witness:

James Hay an Indentured Servant of the Van Diemens Land Company being duly Sworn States. John Hart the Shoemaker told me on Friday that Mr Schayers Servant Taprell had told him to take care of his blue clothes that such things would be wanted. That some of the men had it in view to take a Whale boat. Jas Hay

Sworn Before us at Circular Head 2nd February 1835.2

The plot was foiled before it could be enacted. Another son followed a year later, Robert Massey Hay, born on 16 August 1836, also in Launceston.3 The use of the middle name may have been in honour of one of their fellow passengers on the voyage out (Robert Massie, an engineer), or perhaps it signifies an earlier ancestor's surname. Both Robert and his older brother James were christened on the same day, 6 August 1838 in Launceston.4

Baptism of James and Robert Hay

Baptism of James and Robert Hay
Tasmanian Archives and Heritage Office

The following year however the family endured the death of their sister and daughter Christian Hay, the circumstances of which were documented in an inquest. The statements of the witnesses were as follows:

The information on oath of John Hay who saith, I am [the] son of James Hay, and brother of Christian Hay, whose body has been viewed by the inquest. She was between eight and nine years of age. About seven o’clock on last Saturday evening, the twenty first instant, I was in the room where her body now lies and I heard a scream, and ran down to the kitchen, and saw Christian Hay with her clothes on fire, running towards the door. There was no-one in the kitchen besides Christian, and her little sister Margaret. I laid hold of Christian, and called out for a sheet or blanket. My mother brought down a blanket, and we wrapped Christian in it, and extinguished the fire. Doctor Secombe came in about six minutes after, Christian was attended by him that evening, and yesterday, and she died about five minutes before five o’clock yesterday afternoon.

John Hay

Sworn and acknowledged before me the 23rd day of October 1837.
XXX Coroner.

The attending physician also submitted a statement:

The information on oath of William Secombe Esquire, assistant Colonial Surgeon, who saith: I was called to attend Christian Hay on last Saturday evening. She was severely burnt on her belly, breast, arm and throat. The burns formed a continuous wound, her mouth and tongue also burnt, evidently from her clothes having caught fire. She languished of those burns and wound until yesterday evening, when they caused her death, she never recovered [from] the first shock they occasioned.

William Secombe
Colonial Surgeon
Oct 23 1837

Sworn and acknowledged before me the 23rd day of October 1837.
XXX Coroner.

Margaret Hay, although only a child, also testified:

The statement of Margaret Hay, an infant, six years of age, who saith, on last Saturday Evening, about seven o’clock, my sister Christian Hay was in the kitchen with me, and whilst endevouring to put an Iron into the fire, her pinafore caught fire and she cried out, and my brother came down stairs.

Taken before me the 23rd day of October 1837.
XXX Coroner.

The official inquest reported:

Christian Hay, on the twenty first day of October instant, being in the act of putting an iron to heat upon a fire in the kitchen of her father's house in Launceston, in the county aforesaid, it so happened, that a Pinafore and the clothes she had upon her person then and there accidently, casually and by misfortune, took fire, by reason whereof, and from the flames arising from the said fire, she the said Christian Hay was burnt on her belly, arms, throat, mouth and tongue, of which burns she languished, and languishing did live, until the evening of the twenty second day of October instant, she, the said Christian Hay, of the burns aforesaid, did die.

And so the Jurors upon their Oath aforesaid do say that the said Christian Hay in manner and by the means aforesaid accidently, casually, and by misfortune came to her Death and not otherwise.5

Detail of John Hay's Submission to the Inquest of Christian Hay

Detail of John Hay's Submission to the Inquest of Christian Hay
Tasmanian Archives and Heritage Office

Christian was buried on 22 October 1837 in Launceston, Tasmania.6 Christian was recorded as Christine when she arrived aboard the Forth aged four, and as Christiana in her burial notice, age 8.

Just 9 days later on 1 November 1837 James and Ann's eldest daughter Barbara married John Jacobs in Launceston.7 Of course the event would have been arranged before Christian's accident but it was probably not the celebratory affair they expected. John was working for the VDL Co. as a Master Mariner, regularly sailing between Launceston and Stanley with passengers and stores, so the couple would have had ample opportunity to meet. They had eleven children between 1838 and 1862, all in the district of Horton, prior to moving to Victoria in their later years.

By late 1838 the Hay family comprised James (50), Ann (42), and their children John (17), Sarah (15), Ann (13), Margaret (7), James (4), and Robert (2). One more would be added to complete the family, with the birth of George Hay on 5 June 1839 in Launceston, Van Diemen's Land.8

For the census of 1843 James Hay is recorded as living in the Parish of Circular Head, with the place of residence recorded as Highfield. The Van Diemen's Land Company was the proprietor, with the dwelling made of wood, complete and inhabited. There were ten persons living in the residence on 31 Dec 1841 comprised of one married male aged between 45 and 60 (James), and two married females aged between 21 and 45 (Ann and an unknown female). All arrived free to the colony.

The children recorded on the submission numbered 3 boys between 2 and 7 (James, Robert and George), 1 boy between 7 and 14 (unknown male), and 3 girls aged under 1, between 2 and 7, and between 7 and 14 respectively. All the boys were born in the colony, while two girls were born in the colony and 1 arrived free. All were members of the Church of Scotland, and only James was ascribed a trade, that of mechanic or artificer (in his case Carpenter). 9

A debit and credit ledger record survives for James Hay which details his transactions with the Van Diemen's Land Company for 1843 and 1844. The following table shows his debit transactions.10

Date Detail Column 1 Column 2
14 Jan 1843 Pay order on Henty & Co. No 492       2    
14 Jan 1843 Pay order on Henty & Co. No 493       2 - -
31 Jan 1843 Dairy Account       - 12 -
05 Feb 1843 Postage Account       - - 5
28 Feb 1843 Dairy Account       - 4 -
16 Mar 1843 Pay Order on Henty & Co. No. 672       7 - -
31 Mar 1843 Dairy Account       - 2 -
31 Mar 1843 Freight per Cutter       - 1 9
28 Feb 1843 Provisions Return No. 2 Circ. Head 1 14 -      
28 Feb 1843 Stores Return No. 2 Circ. Head - 1 6 1 15 6
31 Mar 1843 Provisions Return No. 3 Circ. Head       - 19 5
30 Apr 1843 Dairy Account       - 2 -
02 May 1843 Pay Order on Henty & Co. No. 801       1 17 -
30 Apr 1843 Provisions Return No. 4 Circ. Head       1 1 2
03 May 1843 Office Cash       - 13 -
28 Apr 1843 Freight per Cutter       - 1 6
31 May 1843 Mai??? of an Assigned ??? 2 days       - 2 8
31 May 1843 Passage of his Son (Sow) from Launceston per Eagle.       1 - -
31 May 1843 Provisions Return No. 5 Circ. Head       1 15 6
24 Jun 1843 Pay Order on Henty & Co. No. 952       3 10 -
30 Jun 1843 Dairy Account       - 1 -
30 Jun 1843 Provisions Return No. 6 Circ. Head       - 9 -
09 Jul 1843 Postage Account       - - 5
09 Jul 1843 Freight per Cutter 15 head?       - 1 -
31 Jul 1843 Provisions Return No. 7 Circ. Head       - 7 6
31 Aug 1843 Dairy Account       - 2 -
31 Aug 1843 Provisions Return No. 8 Circ. Head - 13 10      
31 Aug 1843 Stores Return No. 8 Circ. Head - 2 - - 15 10
30 Jul 1843 Freight per Cutter       - 1 -
24 Aug 1843 Freight per Cutter       - 1 -
25 Sep 1843 Pay Order on Henty & Co. No. 1155       11 - -
30 Sep 1843 Dairy Account       - 12 -
30 Sep 1843 Provisions Return No. 9 Circ. Head       - 3 4
31 Oct 1843 Dairy Account       - 15 9
31 Oct 1843 Provisions Return No. 10 Circ. Head       - 17 6
13 Nov 1843 Freight per Eagle       - 1 -
30 Nov 1843 Dairy Account       - 15 9
30 Nov 1843 Provision Return No. 11 Circ. Head       - 1 11
31 Dec 1843 Provision Return No. 12 Circ. Head       1 7 3
31 Dec 1843 Dairy Account       - 17 10
31 Jan 1844 Dairy Account       - 19 10
31 Jan 1844 Provision Return No. 1 Circ. Head 1 17 3      
31 Jan 1844 Stores Return No. 1 Circ. Head - 1 - 1 18 3
04 Feb 1844 Pay Order on Henty & Co. No. 1527       1 - -
29 Feb 1844 Dairy Account       - 15 7
29 Feb 1844 Freight per Eagle       - 3 9
29 Feb 1844 Provision Return No. 2 Circ. Head       1 3 -
31 Mar 1844 Dairy Account       - 11 10
31 Mar 1844 Provision Return No. 3 Circ. Head       1 1 10
30 Apr 1844 Provision Return No. 4 Circ. Head       - 17 ?
30 Apr 1844 Dairy Account       - 3 9
10 May 1844 Pay Order on Henty & Co. No. 1734       2 10 ?
31 May 1844 Store Return No. 5 C. H.       1 9 9
30 Jun 1844 Store Return No. 6 C. H. & Dairy       - 16 8
31 Jul 1844 Store Return No. 7 C. H. & Dairy       2 7 9
10 Aug 1844 Pay Order on Henty & Co. No. 1898       10 - -
10 Aug 1844 Office Cash       1 - -
31 Aug 1844 Store Return No. 8 C. H.       - 17 2
30 Sep 1844 Store Return No. 9 C. H.       - 19 1
11 Sep 1844 Pay Order No. 1965       2 10 -
31 Oct 1844 Store Return No. 10 C. H.       1 5 7
30 Nov 1844 Store Return No. 11 C. H.       1 9 9
31 Dec 1844 Store Return No. 12 C. H.       1 19 2
31 Dec 1844 Pay Order No. 2095       1 10 -

James' credit ledger shows regular monthly payments of 3, 6, 8, which it is assumed amounts to 3 pounds, 5 shillings and 8 pence. This was his monthly pay allowance, occasionally augmented by exceptions. On 10 August 1844, 5 pounds was transferred from John Hay's account. James' son John Hay would have been aged about 23 at this time and was probably employed by the company.

  • 1. TAHO Birth Registration RGD 1838/8900
  • 2. Manuscript 3251: http://manuscript3251.wordpress.com/2009/10/26/ms-3251-1834-1837-box-2-v...
  • 3. TAHO Birth Registration RGD 1838/8901
  • 4. TAHO Birth Registration RGD 1838/8900 and 1838/8901
  • 5. TAHO Inquest Proceedings SC195/1/3 Inquest 162
  • 6. TAHO Death Registration RGD 1837/5154
  • 7. TAHO Marriage Registration RGD 1837/3940
  • 8. TAHO Birth Registration RGD 1839/486
  • 9. TAHO Census Records Circular Head CEN1/1/49 page. 9
  • 10. TAHO VDL Company Records VDLXXXX