The Gamekillers of Governor Phillip 1788-91

The Gamekillers of Governor Phillip's era in New South Wales (1788-91).

A drawing of an Emu from 1788

In the infant colony in New South Wales it was common practice to allocate manufacturing, construction, farming, fishing and food gathering duties to convicts. Hunting, with firearms however, was severely restricted. During Phillip's governorship only three convicts were employed as huntsmen. They were, John Macintyre, Patrick Burn, and John Randall.

John Macintyre was established as Governor Phillip's "gamekeeper" as early as March 3, 1788. The records show that on that day he shot ".a remarkably large Bird, as big as an Ostrich". This was regarded as a remarkable feat, since it was performed with one single shot from a considerable distance in an era when such accurate marksmanship was extremely unusual.

Patrick Burn seems to be have firmly established as a huntsman by June 1788. He was probably one of Major Ross's servants. By 1791 he was employed to shoot game for the commanding officer of the marine establishment at Sydney Cove.

John Randall does not enter the records as a gamekeeper until 1790. By this time he was established in the colony's newest outpost at Rose Hill (Parramatta), so it is reasonable to assume that he was providing game for the Commanding Officer's kitchen there.

Why these three men were selected is not known. Collins suggests by inference that the three were regarded as being particularly trustworthy. He also suggests that they were considered to be good marksmen. Perhaps physique and endurance were also considerations, because they would be required to range over considerable distances in all seasons and return with their game. During the food crisis in 1790 Collins records that "the three game-killers should shoot for the public benefit". They were to be allowed a ration of flour instead of pork "the better to enable them to sustain the labour and fatigue over traversing the woods of this country". Little success seems to have attended their efforts in this emergency. "At the end of the month, only three small kangaroos had been brought in". John Macintyre was killed when he was speared by an aboriginal in 179x. There may have been some conflict over a woman. Patrick Burn's death was recorded in the register at St Phillip's (Sydney) on July 13, 1791. No cause of death has been recorded.

John Randall was still recorded as being a gamesman for the Lieutenant Governor (Grose) at Parramatta in 1800. His land grant was within easy walking distance of Government House at Parramatta. This would also explain the opportunity he had to steal plates and glasses "the property of the Governor", in early 1800.

The view from the township of Parramatta in the early 1790's.
The large house in the centre distance is Government House. The Randall land grant was within easy walking distance.
The structure to the right of the woman standing in the foreground is a set of stocks. That in the extreme right hand corner is probably the "Stockade" of the NSW Corps.