Go to the State Library of New South Wales
Search Our Collections
How to Access
You are here : :
Using the Library
Search our Collections
Manuscripts, Oral History and Pictures Search
Collection Record Details
Back to Search Results
Clark, Ralph, 1755-1794
Collection 03: Ralph Clark - Journal kept on the Friendship during a voyage to Botany Bay and Norfolk Island; and on the Gorgon returning to England, 9 March 1787 - 31 December 1787, 1 January 1788 - 10 March 1788, 15 February 1790 - 2 January 1791, 25 January 1791 - 17 June 1792.
Level of Description
Date of Work
Type of Material
Safe 1 / 27a
4 volumes (in 2 boxes)
Textual Records - (manuscript)
Administrative / Biographical Note
Ralph Clark, 2nd Lieutenant of Marines (promoted First Lieutenant in February 1789 in New South Wales), had undertaken the voyage to New South Wales in the hope of gaining promotion. The facts of Clark's life are few and elusive. We know his birthday - 30 March - because he mentions it in his diary, but we do not know the precise year of his birth though it was around 1755. He married Betsey Alicia Trevan in 1784 and they had a son, Ralph Stewart. Clark made several unsuccessful attempts to gain permission to be accompanied to NSW by his wife and child. Clark was attached to the Friendship, one of the convict transports for female prisoners. His journal covers the voyage out and first weeks in Australia, from 13 May 1787 till 10 March 1788. Then there is a gap until 15 February 1790, just before he leaves for Norfolk Island on board the Sirius, until 19 November 1791, then 6 January until 17 June 1792, the homeward voyage on the Gorgon. Clark had a relationship with a convict woman, Mary Branham, with whom he had an illegitimate daughter born on 23 July 1791. Neither Clark, Betsey Alicia nor young Ralph lived long after Clark's return to England in 1792. The family died in 1794. Betsey Alicia died in childbirth early in the year. Clark died of yellow fever on 18 June, his son followed on 29 June, both while serving on the same ship. It is possible that Clark did not even know of his wife's death. (see Mollie Gillen, The founders of Australia; ADB)
Volume 1: 9 March 1787 - 31 December 1787 Volume 2: 1 January 1788 - 10 March 1788 Volume 3: 15 February 1790 - 27 December 1790 Volume 4: 28 December 1790 - 17 June 1792 Includes newscutting from the Sydney Morning Herald, 26 September, 1891.;
Acquired, by descent from the Trevan family, at Sotheby, Wilkinson & Hodge auction, 1914. This item has been preserved and digitised as part of the Nelson Meers Foundation Benefaction, 2002.
This journal was purchased as three separate volumes. They were disbound in the Mitchell Library during the 1920s, the pages window mounted and rebound as a single volume. In 2002, as part of the Nelson Meers Foundation Benefaction, its pages were removed from the mounts and rebound into soft vellum covers in four volumes. This is believed to be the original format as indicated by the stitching holes and other physical evidence. The journal has been transferred from ML C 220. It has been published in transcription: Paul Fidlon and R.J. Ryan (eds), The journal and letters of Lt Ralph Clark, 1787-1792 (Sydney: Australian Documents Library, 1981) An unpublished transcription, prepared by F.A. Trevan, great nephew of Clark, is located at ML C 219 (Microfilm copy available at CY 584). Photocopy available on open access in the Mitchell Library Reading Room at CY Safe 1/27 (xerox copy made from microfilm). Photocopy available on open access in the Mitchell Library Reading Room at CYC 220 (photostat copy of Safe 1/27a). Microfilm copy available at CY 136, frames 129-447
Botany -- Norfolk Island.
Norfolk Island -- Discovery and exploration.
Norfolk Island -- History -- 1788-1851.
Shipwrecks -- Norfolk Island.
Transportation of convicts.
Dare to know : the art and science of Pacific voyages
Nelson Meers Foundation Heritage Collection - Jan 2003 - Mar 2004
Artist colony: drawing Sydney’s nature - a262177
Digital order no.
Album ID : 823869
First Fleet Collection of journals, correspondence and drawings, ca 1786-1802, held in the Mitchell and Dixson Libraries.
© State Library of New South Wales 2007
A New South Wales Government Site