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John Rousseau enlisted in the NSW Corps on 15 July 1792, at the Savoy military barracks London.(1) He had previous military service, and may have elected for service with the NSW Corps in preference to a prison sentence. Johns dislike of military life was shown later in 1792 when he deserted, he was recovered into service on 12 Nov 1792.
(1) John embarked on the ‘Sugar Cane’ on 02 Jan 1793 with other members of the Corps. The ‘Sugar Cane’ sailed on 16 Feb 1793, the trip taking 213 days to reach Sydney Cove on 17 Sep 1793.(1)(2) The ‘Sugar Cane’ carried 110 male and 50 female convicts from Cork. There were at least two convicts named Mary Burn on Board, one aged 19 and the other 22. On the 6th July 1794 a baby was baptised at St. Phillips Sydney, as Mary Rousseau/Burn dau. of John Rousseau and Mary Burn.
(2) John Rousseau was detached to Norfolk Is., arriving on the ‘Deadalus’ on the 14 Oct 1794 and departing on the brig ‘Supply on 06 Nov 1795, this being a stay of 341 days.
(3) On 15 Sep 1796, John along with 15 other members of the Corps was granted 425 acres in the district of the Field of Mars (Marsfield Sydney?)
(4) It appears that Johns association with Mary Burn was an informal one, as on 27 July 1798, John was married to Lucy Lane(CF), by the Rev. Samuel Marsden had arrived on the ‘Brittania’ on 27 May 1797 along with another member of the NSW Corps, Thomas Sherland/Shirland. As Rev. Marsden had passion for ensuring couples were legally married, Mary Burn must have been out of the picture.
(5) At this time as with the majority of his time with the Corps John was a member of Capt. Abbots company.
(6) There are five children recorded as resulting from the union of John and Lucy, although one of these may not have been fathered by John , they were John b. 19 Feb 1799, William b. 30 May 1801, Antinio b. 23 Jun 1803, and Thomas b. 1806 died 4 Apr 1806.(2) John Rousseau was again detached to Norfolk Is., in 1802, arriving around the 6th March. Sons John and William accompanied him although they do not show up on the victuelling list until around 12 March. Lucy is not shown as accompaning them. However there is listed ‘Mary Burn free woman – sentence expired from 01 Jan 1802, time on list 365 days’. Could this be John first ‘Wife’? Sons John and William departed Norfolk Is. on 01 May 1802, while their father remained until 26 Nov 1802, returning by the Govt. Scooner ‘Francis’ to Sydney Cove. From 1803 to 1806 John Rousseau is shown on the monthly pay sheets for Capt. Abbots company as ‘detached’. The pay for a private at that time was one pound eleven shillings a month. In April 1806 John is recorded as being ‘on furlough to India’. It is believed that he took sons John, William and perhaps Antonio with him, possibly after a falling out with Lucy. Unusual as it seems for a private soldier at that time, John is shown as ‘on furlough’ in India until his return on 16 April 1809. On 01 Sep 1806 John Rousseau was recorded as having 16 years 49 days service.
(7) Because of the Corps involvement in the overthro of Gov. Bligh in 1809, the authorities in England decided to redesignate it as the 102nd Regiment of Foot, before it was sent back to England. In June 1809 the NSW Corps officially became the 102nd Regiment of the line and began to move back to Sydney from various outstations.
(8) John Rousseau was discharged from the 102nd on 24 April 19180, and as far as it is known at this time, returned to England. Thomas Sherland/Shirland elected to join the newly formed Veteran company and transfered on 24 April 1810.(1) On the 25th April 1810 the officers and men who had elected to stay in the army left Australia in the ‘Hindostan’, ‘Dromedary’ and ‘Porpise’.(8) Around 1807 Lucy Lane entered into a defacto relationship with James Knell/Neal(GS) they had three children, James b. 1810, Jane b. 1812 and Agnes b. 1815. James Knell/Neal was killed in a fight in 1820, and Lucy married in 1821 William Waldron, a witness at the inquest into James death. Norfolk Is. 1806 shows D0695 Burn Mary child above 2 D0481 Burn Mary sentence expired. Mary Burn departed Norfolk Is. On the “City of Edinburgh” as part of the 5th embarkation on 03 Sep 1808 with two children.
(9) General Muster 1811 shows Mary Burn at Hobart ‘Sugar Cane’ trial date 1791 Dublin. Like many of the early pioneers it is not what we know about John Rousseau that makes him interesting, but all the questions that arise from his life and stormy times in Australias early days. References:
1. A Colonial Regiment, new sources relating to the NSW Corps 1789 - 1810 Ed. Pamela
Statham 1992.
2. Mutch Index
3. Norfolk Is. Victualling List
4. Ryan Land Grants
5. NSW pre 1856 B.D.Ms
6. Mc Arthurs Pay Lists
7. WO/25/642
8. Rum Rebellion, 1808 Evatt H.V.
9. The Forgotten Generations of Norfolk Is. And Van D. Land Reg. Wright 1986.
Contributed by Peter Greer
15 President Poincare Pde
Tanilba Bay NSW 2319