Bush: the London area origins of an Australian term

In 1974, soon after taking up a research post at the ANU in Canberra, I published a Note on the origin of the distinctive Australian term "bush". [It appeared in Australian Literary Studies, vi (1974), 431-4.]  I challenged the conventional explanation that the word was imported from South Africa, pointing instead to a number of place names in the London area which suggested that it would have been familiar to many convicts as a descriptive term. I return to the Note half a century on to review and extend its arguments.

I begin with an abbreviated version of the 1974 version.

"Bush": a Possible English Dialect Origin for an Australian Term

According to Sidney J. Baker, the term "bush" arrived in Australia about 1800 "and by 1820 had more or less completely ousted the English 'woods' and 'forest'". R. Dawson in 1830 introduced his English readers to "the woods, or bush, as it is called here", while ten years earlier Charles Jeffreys had referred to "the Bush Rangers, a species of wandering brigands" in Van Diemen's Land. E. E. Morris adds an example of "bushranger" from an untraced Sydney newspaper dated as early as 1806.[1] Yet, despite the early arrival of the term "bush" in Australia, and the subsequent mystique which has surrounded bush themes in Australian literature, there has been little consideration of the origin of the term.

G. H. Wathen, in 1855, quoting from a Westernport settler's letter written in 1850, explained: "The word itself has been borrowed from the Cape, and is of Dutch origin."[2]  This explanation, that "bush" came from the Dutch "bosch" through the Cape Boers, has been put forward as the probable explanation in successive editions of the Oxford English Dictionary, and has been accepted, with varying degrees of caution, by standard authorities both in Australia and Britain.[3]  Yet there are several problems about the explanation. The major one is to account for the transfer of the term from South Africa to Australia. It is true that the Australian colonies depended heavily on the Cape in their early years, and that most ships bound for New South Wales would touch there. But maritime and commercial contact encourages the transfer of maritime and commercial vocabulary, rather than that of a word descriptive of the interior. Furthermore, it may be assumed that convicts played a large share in the formation of early Australian vocabulary, and for obvious reasons it may be doubted whether many of them were allowed ashore at Cape Town. Nor is it likely that there could have been any sizeable interchange of English[-speaking] colonists between South Africa and Australia in the early period who might have acted as intermediaries. The British occupied the Cape in 1795 and again in 1806, and acquired it formally from the Netherlands in 1815. No important British settlement took place until 1820, when "bush" was apparently well established in Australian speech. In fact, it is unlikely that any large exchange of colonists took place between South Africa and Australia until the gold rushes of the second half of the nineteenth century.

Another problem in the theory of South African origin is the divergence of compound forms. "Bushman" in South Africa has a precise reference to members of the San tribe, but in Australia was applied to anyone skilled at living off the country, particularly Europeans. Similarly the South African term "bush baby" might reasonably have been expected, in a straight loan situation, to have been applied to small Australian animals. Perhaps least explicable of all are the references in the Oxford English Dictionary, which indicate the use of the term in the United States in the 1820s and Canada at a later date.[4] It is unlikely that it had spread from South Africa or Australia, and Dutch influence in North America had never been strong.

A more plausible explanation is the one which Morris quotes from an undated extract from the Sydney Morning Herald in 1894, which argued that "Canada, the Cape and Australia have preserved the old significance of Bush" as a traditional English term meaning "a territory on which there are trees. . ."[5]  It would seem logical to seek an explanation in an origin common to all these countries. This Note attempts to establish the currency of "bush" in the place names of one English county: Essex. It argues that the term was probably understood, at the period of the foundation of Australia, to refer to woodland, or uncleared ground somewhere between open heath and dense forest. Sources are the accurate county atlas published by John Chapman and Peter André in 1777, and P. H. Reaney's The Place-Names of Essex (English Place Name Society volume xii, Cambridge 1935).[6] These sources give 33 place names including the element "bush". [The point of a research Note was of course to list these examples. For the 2023 revision, I have shifted them to an Endnote.[7] My updated argument concentrates on the importance of two examples, Harlow Bush Common and Hawkesbury Bush.]

[The 1974 text continues:] It seems reasonable to argue that "bush" in these names not only referred to stretches of woodland but was probably still understood in that sense by local people at the end of the eighteenth century. Many of the names specifically referred to woodland, and examples are commonest in the south-west and centre of Essex where forest cover is still extensive after centuries of clearance. Names like Shrubush, Oaks in Bush and – possibly – Bush Elms, would suggest that the term did not indicate a single bush – itself an unlikely basis for the formation of an identifiable place name – but rather a stretch of country. It is also likely that the evidence would be clearer but for the efforts of outside mapmakers and clerks to make sense of a term they did not understand by converting it to the plural. Although this survey is confined in detail to Essex, there are similar examples in adjoining counties: in Middlesex, Shepherds Bush is an obvious example, and can be traced in wholly singular forms in the seventeenth and eighteenth century.[8]  Hertfordshire also yields a number of examples.[9] Between 1788 and 1819 one third of the convicts transported to Australia came from London,[10] and the rapid growth of London in that period certainly involved migration from the surrounding country. It is thus likely that a number of convicts were either country-born or familiar with rural dialect terms. To these it would have been natural to refer to Australian woodland as "bush". Other early convicts and settlers, to whom it would be a strange term, might have adopted it precisely because it expressed the alien nature of the Australian countryside. Far from borrowing the Dutch "bosch" they were probably reverting to a meaning common to both words.

Afterthoughts, 2023  Half a century later, it is – I hope – possible to look again at my own work with critical detachment, having reached an age where I no longer feel the need to contest every inch of ground in the trench warfare of academic controversy. In fact, there is no need to defend each and every argument advanced in the 1974 Note, since – so far as I can trace – nobody has ever referred to my theory that the Australian term "bush" was originally an English dialect term.[11] Perhaps my offering was so absurd that it has been politely ignored. But it may be that the wave of Australian nationalism associated with the Whitlam Labor government meant that I had not chosen the ideal moment to propose an English origin for an iconic term.[12] The 1972 general election had seemed to herald a new era in the way Australians understood their country. Two years earlier still, the academic consensus had been challenged by the New Left revisionism of Humphrey McQueen's A New Britannia, which sought – as usage now dictates – to decolonise the country's radical tradition, notably by confronting its essential racism.[13] Few academics supported McQueen's wish to redefine the Australian proletariat as a step towards a Communist revolution – Paris 1968 had been a little slow to reach Australia – but it was hardly the moment to suggest that the bush, a major defining theme in the national experience, was a derivative term. Of course, it may simply be that research notes in academic journals generate very few readers and even less impact.

Reviewing the note dispassionately, as I might assess the work of another, I have to say that it still seems persuasive, although this is not deny that it can benefit from scrutiny and some modification. No doubt it demonstrates new-chum weaknesses in its failure to capture nuances of value and meaning in the bush ethos. Inadvertently, I conveyed the impression that the term "bushranger" arose around 1820, when in fact it was not only current in New South Wales by 1806 but – as further discussed below – it was also responsible, in this compound form, for intruding the new meaning of the term "bush" into official despatches and reports. While I still contend that I was right to question the alleged transmission of a South African Dutch term into what was probably convict speech, I did not submit my own hypothesis to similar questioning, to ask how a dialect term from the area around London could have been adopted and adapted as a description of Australian landscape. My argument was also open to the objection, had anyone bothered to engage with it, that I had confused, or at the very least telescoped, dialect with toponymy. Place name elements may be deeply embedded in a regional culture, but this does not prove that descriptive terms used by Anglo-Saxon settlers were still comprehended hundreds of years later.[14] It is undoubtedly a weakness in my theory that neither the English Dialect Dictionary, published between 1898 and 1905, nor E.F. Gepp's Essex Dialect Dictionary of 1923 contained entries for "bush" in any sense comparable to its Australian meaning.[15] Indeed, it was probably a tactical mistake to concentrate so heavily on examples from my native county of Essex, merely mentioning those from the adjoining East Saxon areas of Middlesex and Hertfordshire. Hence, in this reconsideration, I focus on four widely known place names in the London area that might reasonably be assumed to have left a mark on convict speech.

"Bush": dating the term  Before speculating on the origin or evolution of the term, it is necessary to trace its first appearance in New South Wales speech. Baker noted an example in 1803 and deduced that "it arrived in Australia at the beginning of the last century [i.e. c. 1800]". However, he also noted "bush native" (for an Aboriginal person) in 1801, the compound form suggesting that it was already in circulation. In proposing to push Baker's origin dating back by at least two years, I should offer a comment on the available sources for the founding decade of the colony. As might be expected, they fall into three groups:  memoirs, mostly based on the diaries of officers, documents, in the form of two impressive multi-volume series of published source materials, and the press. However, in relation to the early history of Australia, they function in an unusual combination.

The remarkable and bizarre experiment of the establishment of a colony of thieves on the far side of the globe spurred a number of First Fleet officers to compile accounts of the early years of the settlement, some of which were published in response to apparent public interest. The surgeon George Worgan described the countryside around Sydney Cove as "a great Extent of Park-like Country, and the Trees of a moderate Size & at a moderate distance from each other". (The ecological term for such a landscape is "savannah": it does not occur naturally in Britain or Ireland.) Since the tree cover was not thick enough to be termed "forest", the friendlier term "woods" seemed the closest English equivalent. Worgan noted that the first Aboriginal people "scampered into the woods" as the convict transports sailed into Botany Bay. Later, he complained that convicts preferred to "skulk about the woods" rather than work.[16] Governor Phillip similarly reported that an attempted escape by a prisoner in June 1788: "He had hoped to subsist in the woods, but found it impossible."[17] These officer-diarists formed an impenetrable wall against convict speech: one of the most intelligent of them, Watkin Tench, regarded the thieves' dialect as at least a symptom and probably even a cause of criminality: "indulgence in this infatuating cant, is more deeply associated with depravity, and continuance in vice, than is generally supposed."[18] Such narratives became fewer after 1793, when the alternative news agenda of war with France captured a British public that was perhaps tired of the novelties of Botany Bay. Hence there were few opportunities to note the emergence of a new colonial vocabulary. Such slight evidence as survives from the first years of settlement indicates that the convicts also used "woods" before the evolution of "bush".[19]

In regard to documentary sources, historians of early Australia might seem to have access to an embarrassment of riches. In 1892 – it was a by-product of the celebration of the centenary of European settlement four years earlier – the first volume of the Historical Records of New South Wales (HRNSW) was published. Ten years later, Volume 7 reached 1811, at which point the State government ran out of money. Another decade passed, and the Commonwealth Parliament not only took up the project, but started afresh from 1788 with the Historical Records of Australia (HRA). Even under the pressure of world war, HRA managed to produce eleven volumes in its first five years, taking the story to 1825. While HRA firmly concentrated on governors' despatches, HRNSW also reproduced unofficial correspondence, for instance from missionaries. However, its editors – especially the librarian F.M. Bladen who took the story forward from 1793 – were free in use of contemporary Australian speech in adding marginal headings and endnotes, with the result that index references to the term "bush" invariably refer to interpolations. Both series tended to ignore convict voices, which were generally only heard when transcripts of court proceedings were sent to London. Considered together, the two series constituted a remarkable achievement, especially in an era when Australia was generally regarded as deficient both in history and intellectual activity. Yet their downside was the sheer bulk of the volumes produced, averaging over 800 pages of close type: for a lexicographer searching for a single word, the terms "needle" and "haystack" come to mind. Indeed, internal referencing in Austral English, the first attempt at a survey of Australian usage, published in 1898, suggests that its author, E.E. Morris, had largely completed his research before he allowed HRNSW to make much impact upon him.[20] I claim no superior diligence, but I have benefited from online search facilities to identify instances of "bush".

The third source to which students of contemporary vocabulary would naturally turn, newspapers, simply did not exist in Australia before the founding of the Sydney Gazette in 1803. As its title indicates, it was intended to be a semi-official publication and it was subject to censorship. Hence the use of standard English was not simply a matter of editorial good manners, but a hegemonic device to remind convicts, ex-convicts and soldiers of their exclusion from the local power structure. The fact that the term "bush" intruded into its third issue suggests that the word was already in reasonably wide circulation. However, although this is the source of Baker's first attested example, it tells us little about the date of its coinage, and still less about the process of its evolution.

"Bush" as a term for the Australian environment seems to have been first recorded in August 1798. Three months earlier, a convict transport, the Barwell, had arrived at Sydney after an eventful voyage in which some of the guards had allegedly conspired with felons to seize the vessel and head for the French colony of Mauritius.[21] The ensuing court proceedings were complex, and doubt was cast upon the evidence of a recently arrived convict called John Broadbent. Two privates in the New South Wales Corps, John Brown and Thomas Turner, claimed that Broadbent had claimed ignorance of any shipboard plot, and that he regretted and resented being forced to give evidence in the case. The two soldiers testified that Broadbent had told them that "if he had known as much at that time as he did then he would have seen the Court damned before he would have gone near it, for that he would have gone in the bush".[22] The Barwell had dropped anchor on 18 May, and its inmates probably did not disembark at once. The conversation was said to have taken place around 10 August. If Brown and Turner had captured Broadbent's exact words, then the term "bush" must have been sufficiently entrenched in the local vocabulary to have been absorbed by a newcomer who had been in the colony for about three months.

Was the testimony of the two soldiers reliable? There were two privates in the New South Wales Corps called John Brown. Both had been in the colony for some years, but the witness here was almost certainly the marine who had arrived with the First Fleet and transferred to the Corps five years later. He had received a land grant at Prospect Hill in 1792 and, shortly after, joined with a small group of settlers around Parramatta in petitioning for a Catholic priest. He was running a bakery, where the encounter was said to have taken place and had in fact been granted his discharge from the Corps a few weeks before the court case, although it may not have become operative.[23] Thomas Turner had arrived in June 1797, and had therefore been in New South Wales for just over a year.[24] Since they used identical wording in court, it is more likely that the two soldiers had rehearsed their testimony to cast Broadbent's comment in a plausible form – evidence, therefore, that "bush" was a generally accepted term for districts beyond the settlements. However, giving evidence himself a few days earlier, Broadbent had been uncommunicative in answering questions. A fellow-accused, obviously briefed about the evidence the two soldiers would present, asked him if he remembered saying "that had you have known yesterday as much as you did to-day you would not have appeared at all, but would have run in the woods?" Broadbent's reply – " I do not recollect having said so" – was a repeated refrain, but perhaps he felt able in good conscience to deny having uttered those precise words.

Of course, F.M. Bladen's occasional editorial interpolations of the term "bush" might lead to suspicion of mistranscription, but its currency seems to be confirmed by the more austere text of HRA, which reported the trial in February 1799 of four men accused of breaking into a tobacco warehouse in Sydney. One witness, Richard Baylis, gave evidence that he had been asked to accompany a fellow convict called Samuel Wright: "they went into the Bush; and got one Basket of Tobacco which had been left concealed there".[25] (Blaming Samuel Wright was sound strategy, since he had been "lately executed for Burglary".) Where Broadbent had spoken of the bush as a remote place of refuge, Baylis was evidently describing an area very close to the main settlement. In October 1799, there followed a serious case in which detailed and serious evidence was heard over several days. Governor John Hunter was determined to crack down on frontier violence along the Hawkesbury River. Aboriginal people had retaliated for the murder of a woman and child by killing two Europeans. It was alleged that five settlers had then "barbarously" slaughtered two "native boys" who had spent much time among them and evidently trusted the newcomers.[26] The accused submitted a written defence, which referred to their "coming from the Bush" a fortnight before the murder of the settlers had been known. A convict called John Tarlington painted a picture of friendly inter-racial relations, describing a group of Aboriginal people in the garden of a farm where melons were grown: "the native Jemmy went some little distance from the Melon ground and shouting out something in the Native Dialect which the Witness did not understand about twenty or Thirty Natives thereupon immediately came out of the Bush; and saluted the witness friendly".[27] However, another settler, Isabella Ramsay – at whose farm the two young Aboriginal boys had apparently been shot by an impromptu firing squad – referred in her evidence to a European "lately killed by the Natives in the Woods", which would indicate that bush terminology was not yet in universal use.

A further, and notable, example was recorded in September 1800, when Samuel Marsden, the notorious flogging parson, was investigating conspiracies among Irish convicts transported for their part in the 1798 rebellions. One centre of disturbance was Toongabbie, near Parramatta at the head of Sydney Harbour. Marsden took an affidavit from a man called John Riordon (probably Riordan), who swore that another prisoner, Michael Quinlin (probably Quinlan) had "told him that he was to lead Fifty men from Toongabby into the Bush last night, to get the Pikes which were concealed there. That with this Body of men so armed, he was to attack the Soldiers when in Church at Parramatta – that at the time the Deponent received this information he agreed to accompany Quinlin into the Bush; and to assist in attacking the Soldiers in the church this day". Four other Irishmen "agreed to accompany the said Quinlin into the Bush" and take part in the attack. The plot was foiled because one of the principals – it is not clear whether Riordan or Quinlan – had "got drunk and been made a prisoner of before he again became sober".[28] I have not identified Quinlan, but Riordan had been convicted at Cork, and had reached the colony eight months earlier. Since there seems no reason to assume that Marsden would have put those words into the deponent's mouth, it should be noted that a recent arrival from Ireland had so easily adopted a local form of speech.[29]

It seems fair to assume that convicts, soldiers and small-scale settlers in outlying areas were similar in social background and educational attainment. The four examples quoted above demonstrate that "bush" was in use among them as a landscape term in the years immediately before 1800, slightly before Baker's estimate. As reviewed below, it was also beginning to establish a linguistic foothold among the colony's elite, but there can be little doubt that the transmission process was bottom-to-top. A word that can be demonstrated to have been in use by 1798, when the oldest children born in the colony were ten years old, was obviously the creation of the adult population who had come from Britain or Ireland.[30] Furthermore, the apparent resistance of the elite to adopt the term indicates that it evolved among the convicts and their guards.

With these points in mind, we may now turn to the often-quoted example that has been taken to date the term's emergence to 1803, the squib from a correspondent that appeared in the Sydney Gazette in April 1803. Commenting on an unidentified report that "an Academy for Tᴜᴍʙʟᴇʀs" was planned for The Rocks, an insalubrious waterside district of Sydney, the writer declared: "you might, with an equal promise of success, recommend some parts of the ʙᴜꜱʜ for an improvement in the talent of Dᴀɴᴄɪɴɢ, as there much instruction might be expected from the assistance of the accomplished Kᴀɴɢᴀʀᴏᴏ."[31] The small capitals conveyed sarcasm, combined with an element of disdain for the locally-evolved locational term: readers of the Sydney Gazette were expected to understand what it meant, but its ironic impropriety discredited the notion of any project associated with the town's slum district. Yet the acceptability of "bush" was evidently growing. In June 1804, the paper reported a conspiracy by "restless characters" at the outlying convict settlement of Newcastle: two ringleaders had "escaped into the bush". A month later came news of a tragedy at Prospect, a farming settlement of ex-convicts thirty kilometres inland. On discovering that a two-year old boy had gone missing, his mother "rushed into the bush attended by several friends and neighbours", but found his body half-devoured by native dogs five kilometres away.  There were two further examples of the term before the end of 1804, all of them used without any implication of editorial distaste.[32]

There are signs, too, that this upstart colonial word was starting to permeate the upper ranks of colonial society. A recent biography of Samuel Marsden states that he had transformed a land grant at Parramatta into "Bush Farm" before acquiring more additional holdings in January 1798. Certainly when the missionary Rowland Hassall arrived that year, Marsden arranged for him "to live at his farm, in the North Bush".[33] By 1805, an advertisement in the Sydney Gazette could refer to "Mr Laycock’s Farm on the Parramatta Road, commonly called Home Bush".[34] Thomas Laycock had arrived in the colony as a sergeant in the New South Wales Corps in 1789, and had risen to the rank of quartermaster. His role in the issuing of rations and stores kept him close to the soldiers.  Marsden could hardly be described as a listening person, but his role both as clergyman and magistrate brought him into contact with convicts and soldiers, as his role in exposing the Toongabbie conspiracy indicated.[35] Where the officers and more senior administrators could remain aloof, neither Laycock nor Marsden could do his job without understanding the ordinary speech of the colony. Other recruits associated with the official class also slipped easily into the use of "bush" terminology. The botanist George Caley arrived in April 1800, keen to classify the species of eucalyptus trees. A young naval officer, James Grant spent less than eleven months in Australia, from December 1800 to November 1801, and was at sea for most of that time, exploring Bass Strait.[36]  Both referred to Aboriginal people as "bush natives", Caley in a letter to Sir Joseph Banks in August 1801, Grant in his published account of his explorations the following year.[37]

In 1805, another recent arrival used an emerging compound form of the term, inadvertently revealing some complexity behind its coinage. When the merchant Walter Davidson had stepped ashore in June, he was welcomed by influential friends. Governor King had promptly granted him 2,000 acres (809 hectares) of land at Parramatta, where he assumed administrative responsibilities. Davidson encountered a floating frontier population, some of whom claimed that they had found a way across the Blue Mountains, which were a barrier to the advance of settlement. About four months after his arrival, Davidson sent "[s]ome men who had been in the practice of frequenting that part of the Mountains lying west of the Settlements at Hawkesbury" on a reconnaissance mission, to see if their reports might justify regular exploration. Not surprisingly, they returned with fantastic tales which failed to win his approval. "The whole of their Story is so contradictory that I should not have inserted these particulars but to prove what little Confidence can be put in this Class of what is locally termed Bush Rangers."[38] This was not the first example of a term that would acquire a particular resonance in Australian popular culture, but it is noteworthy in describing, at that time, men living on the margins of society rather than violent criminals. No doubt, the distinction was a fine one. Convicts who had escaped from the settled area – "runaways" or "bolters" – were offenders by definition, and their inability to live off the country soon turned them to theft. At about the time of Davidson's report, the Sydney Gazette twice referred to "the Bush Rangers" (a term that it had first published in February of that year), but these were but apparently runaways illegally employed by outlying Hawkesbury settlers and not necessarily criminals.[39] The transition from wanderer to bandit did not take long. In November 1805, the Sydney Gazette described the captured runaway John Winch as "a Bush Ranger and notorious character". Four months later, it reported the surrender of John Bellar "a bush-ranger who calls himself a Russian", a conceit that was not explained but perhaps suggests some form of mental illness. He was "brought before a Bench of Magistrates, and the offence of absconding from public labour being much aggravated by several charges of depredation, he was sentenced [to]  500 lashes." Bellar, then, was a bushranger because he had absconded. The pilfering necessary for survival merely added to the offence.[40]

In retrospect, it seems strange that it took the colony so long to evolve its own descriptor for runaway thieves. "There are at this time not less than thirty-eight convict men, who live in the woods by day, and at night enter the different farms and plunder for subsistence," wrote Watkin Tench in 1791. "… All the settlers complain sadly of being frequently robbed by the runaway convicts, who plunder them incessantly."[41] "We have now … a band or two of banditti, who have armed themselves and infest the country all round, committing robberies upon defenceless people," Governor Hunter reported to London in 1796. Hunter cursed them as "depredators" and a "set of plagues". [42]  Three years later, he issued a proclamation denouncing as "worthless characters" "a number of the public labouring servants of the Crown [who] have very lately absconded from their duty … many of them said to have taken to the woods, and do of course mean to live by robbery".[43] It may be suspected from the combination of convoluted phraseology and common abuse that the colonial elite felt reluctant to dignify the marauders with a specific designation.[44] Similarly, a free settler, George Suttor, bemoaned attacks by attacks by "scoundrels" from the "woods".[45]   

In 1804, new convict colonies were established in Van Diemen's Land (later Tasmania). Lessons had evidently not been learned from the challenges that had almost overwhelmed the founding of New South Wales. Within a year, the settlements faced starvation. As a desperate resort, convicts were issued with guns and dogs, and dispatched to hunt for kangaroo meat. Many chose to remain at large. Whereas the bushrangers of New South Wales were indigent stragglers on the margins of the community, in Van Diemen's Land, they were armed, confident and violent. In January 1806, the governor issued the first of a series of proclamations, urging eight named escapees to surrender. By August 1807, there were twenty-two convicts on the loose in the hinterland of Hobart and a further ten on the north coast. In the words of one historian, Tasmania was becoming a bandit society. The colony's resident chaplain, Robert Knopwood, was referring to "bush rangers". The term was acquiring far more sinister connotations, and in 1809 it broke through into the official record for the first time. Visiting Hobart from Sydney, Governor William Bligh reported to London that "it is a momentous concern that a Set of Free Booters (Bush Rangers as they are called) should be increasing in their numbers throughout the Country."[46] By about 1814, the terms "bush" and "bush rangers" were used without much comment both in official correspondence and newspaper reports overseas.[47]

This necessarily lengthy survey of the word's Australian origins may be simply summarised. "Bush" was in use as a locational and landscape term by 1798, five years earlier than the example from the Sydney Gazette usually quoted as it first appearance. This considerably reduces the time frame for its colonial evolution, for instance posing additional challenges for a South African explanation. The term was current among soldiers and convicts, but its use was resisted by the small literate elite of New South Wales. Around 1805, a compound term, "bush ranger", became current, with "bush" originally used adjectivally, then hyphenated and finally – by about 1820 – merged into a single word, an entirely new contribution to the English language.[48] On the Australian mainland, it initially referred to indigent itinerants who had fled the prison settlements, whose criminality was incidental to their survival. This may explain why the word formed around the term "rangers", which highlighted mobility, rather than some more condemnatory alternative such "bandits" – although it will be suggested below that there was a London-area echo in the choice. The rapid development of large-scale armed frontier warfare in Van Diemen's Land not only equated the new coinage with violent robbery, but also explained its adoption in official correspondence, if at first intermittently, from 1809. Yet it remains to explain, or speculate, how it evolved.

The South Africa theory  "Recent, and probably a direct adoption of the Dutch bosch, in colonies originally Dutch," comments the Oxford English Dictionary on the etymology of "bush" as a term for landscape. By the late-nineteenth century, this was true of English-speaking South Africans, but it does not follow that the term was likely to have been borrowed by early Australian colonists from the Dutch burghers of Cape Town a century earlier. Influenced in particular by Geoffrey Blainey's illuminating Tyranny of Distance, I had acknowledged in 1974 "that the Australian colonies depended heavily on the Cape in their early years". However, precisely because New South Wales urgently needed South African supplies for its establishment and survival during its early years, there was pressure to make those visits as short as possible.[49] The First Fleet spent 31 days at anchor in Table Bay, a stopover which was unexpectedly prolonged by the reluctance of the Cape authorities to accede to Governor Phillip's demands in their entirety. "[S]uch officers as could be spared from the duty of the fleet" moved into boarding houses on shore and engaged in sight-seeing. However, their excursions were confined to the immediate area of the town, for "the country near the Cape had not charms enough to render it as pleasing as that which surrounds Rio de Janeiro", where the First Fleet had called three months earlier.[50] Even if the visitors had crossed the sandy Cape Flats, which constituted a barrier to access to the interior, they would have found nothing resembling Australian bush. The closest place-name examples, Rondebosch and Stellenbosch, were both situated in established farming country, where the land was described in 1778 as "uncommonly fertile, producing plenty of corn and wine, and all the fruits which are found at the Cape".[51]  All travel into the interior of southern Africa was onerous and ponderous, making it virtually impossible for short-term visitors to learn about the hinterland, let alone pick up any local vocabulary relating to it.[52] In any case, the evidence indicates that "bush" emerged from the lower levels of New South Wales society, not from the top. Cape Town was equipped with a hospital for sick mariners, but no First Fleet sailors or marines were sent there, "a very rare circumstance at this place".[53] Sick convicts remained on their transports, since there was no question of allowing them ashore. The point was dramatically underlined when the Second Mate of the Friendship fell overboard in Table Bay. A prisoner who was a strong swimmer volunteered to dive to the rescue: he "had behaved with the strictest propriety during the voyage, and … there was no probability (if such had been the convict’s intention) to effect an escape". Nonetheless, permission was refused by the officer in command – he was a junior lieutenant, his seniors presumably having gone ashore – and the sailor was left to drown.[54]

In October 1788, as New South Wales ran dangerously short of food, Governor Phillip commissioned Captain John Hunter of the Sirius to return to Cape Town to purchase further supplies, including medicines that had been unaccountably overlooked in the preparations for the original voyage. In an impressive feat of navigation, Hunter sailed east, across the Pacific and round Cape Horn, a much longer route than the Indian Ocean, to take advantage of the prevailing winds  in the deeper latitudes of the southern hemisphere.[55] At the Cape, "great surprise" was expressed at the ship's three-month, non-stop voyage, but it was achieved at a price: malnutrition and scurvy had left most if the crew unfit for duty. Forty sailors were sent to sick quarters on shore, probably at the town's hospital.[56] Since the Sirius was 61 days in Table Bay, this is probably the largest and longest stay in Cape Town by any group of men below officer rank. Yet it seems unlikely that they picked up much of the local language. Nor would there have been much opportunity for them to share their knowledge when they returned to Sydney. The available records naturally tell us of relations between convicts and marines, but there was much less contact with the sailors. Even when a ship was in port, there was plenty for the crew to do, and the personnel of the Sirius were based on an island in the harbour.[57] In March 1790, ten months after returning from the Cape, the Sirius was sent to Norfolk Island, where she was wrecked. The crew were saved, but remained on Norfolk Island until arrangements were made to return them to Britain in 1791.

The only large-scale landing of convicts in South Africa was the result of the wreck of the Guardian, a store ship which hit an iceberg about 2,000 kilometres east of the Cape in December 1789. Most of the ship's complement took to the boats, and only a few were ever seen again. Among those who remained aboard were 21 convicts, a specially selected group of skilled artificers in trades that were much needed in New South Wales. These men were, in effect, "trusty" prisoners who helped save the apparently stricken vessel, which eventually – after nearly two months – anchored at the Cape. Most of the stores destined for New South Wales had been jettisoned or were too spoiled for consumption, but the remaining cargo was transferred to warehouses while attempts were made to repair the ship. From the stressed and staccato reports of its commanding officer, it seems clear that the convicts (one of whom died at Cape Town) must have spent some time ashore, shifting stores and – after seven weeks – being transferred across the peninsula to False Bay, where they were loaded on to the Second Fleet, with recommendations for pardons.[58] Again, their scope for acquiring the local language would have been restricted and, as they would have constituted less than one percent of the population of New South Wales in 1792, their linguistic impact could hardly have been extensive. A convict who escaped from the Pitt in December 1791 was recaptured by the Dutch authorities and transferred to the next available transport in August 1792.[59] Other convict ships spent little time at the Cape: the Second Fleet needed only sixteen days in 1790, while the storeship Justinian bypassed the Cape altogether to achieve a fast passage from Britain that same year.

At this point, it should be acknowledged that early New South Wales did have one influential resident who had not only spent time at Cape Town but had travelled deep into the South African interior between 1777 and 1779.   A Scot and an associate of Sir Joseph Banks, William Paterson was an officer in the New South Wales Corps with an interest in botany. He arrived in 1791, and spent seventeen months in command on Norfolk Island. Returning to the mainland, he led an expedition to the Blue Mountains in September 1793, and then served for nine months as administrator of the colony – without much distinction – before returning to Britain on sick leave in 1795.[60] Could he perhaps have imported the term "bush" and instilled its use into the men of the New South Wales Corps, thereby explaining its use by privates Brown and Turner in the August 1798 court case? However, his Narrative of four journeys into the interior of the Cape – its date of publication, 1789, suggests a promotional intention – twice mentions "bush Hottentots" (Khoikhoi), and occasionally translated the Dutch "bosch" as "wood".[61] There is little evidence that he regarded the South African interior as "bush" and none at all that he transferred the term to New South Wales. I can trace no further contact between the Cape and Australia among the official class until the transfer of Judge W.W. Burton to Sydney in 1832.[62]

The British occupied the Cape in September 1795, returned it to Dutch control in 1803, seized it again in 1806 and retained it in the peace treaties of 1815. Slow communications between the two continents hardly make it likely that the British occupation in 1795 could explain the use of "bush" in New South Wales three years later. In any case, John Barrow, the governor's intrepid private secretary, did not apply the term to his detailed descriptions of travels into the interior in 1797 and 1798.[63]  As my Note stated, there was no substantial English-speaking settlement until 1820, when colonists were planted in the eastern Cape, about one thousand kilometres from Cape Town itself. There, in an area of relatively high rainfall, they encountered dense vegetation in what the Historical Geography of South Africa called "bush-choked valleys". Later in the century, as trekking Boers penetrated beyond the Orange River, South African English embraced the term "bushveld" for plateau country consisting of grassland dotted with clumps of trees and shrubs.[64] By the late-nineteenth century, a historian of South Africa could refer to the "growth of underwood peculiar to the country, known generally by colonists as 'bush'."[65] However, it did not follow that the term was current a century earlier and, even if it had been in use, it is almost impossible to see how it might have been transferred to Australia.

In dismissing the theory of a South African origin, it may be convenient at this point briefly to look at the incidence of the term "bush" in other English-speaking countries. In New Zealand, its use seems clearly to have derived from Australia and, in any case, sustained European contact began after the word had become entrenched in Australian speech. The first application that I have traced was in 1810, when the Scottish merchant Alexander Berry attempted to apprehend the Māori chief Te Pahi, who was wrongly believed by Europeans to have been responsible for the massacre of the crew of a whaling ship. (Berry had been sailing in Australian waters for two years: he seems to have imbibed colonial terminology without spending much time on land.[66]) Berry attempted to seize his prey at Whangaroa in the far north of the North Island, but was forced to report that "Tippahee has betaken to the bush and eluded my researches".[67] In New Zealand, "bush" came to refer to thick forest. In 1898, Morris quoted a Dunedin newspaper that seemed puzzled by the use of the word in New South Wales. "It is not the bush as known in New Zealand. It is rather a park-like expanse, where the trees stand widely apart, and where there is grass on the soil between them."[68] Although in recent times, the term has acquired a certain ecological mystique in New Zealand, "bush" never developed the romantic aura that gave it so central a place in Australian culture. This was partly because New Zealand was only indirectly and very marginally affected by convict transportation, but also because the bush was, by definition, impenetrable, hence few Europeans could survive there.[69]

"Bush" seems to have more tenuous connections with North America. The Oxford English Dictionary assumed that the term was current in eighteenth-century Virginia, but its evidence was a quotation from a short story of 1828 by Sir Walter Scott. This is hardly conclusive of American usage: Webster's Dictionary made no claim for the United States, explaining rather that this "original sense of the word" was "extensively used in the British colonies, especially at the Cape of Good Hope, and also in Australia and Canada".[70] In Canada, the term is forever associated with Roughing It in the Bush, a vivid account of the hardships endured by a genteel settler couple from Britain in the backwoods of Ontario. Published in 1852, Susanna Moodie's collection of sketches is regarded as one of the foundation and defining works of English-Canadian literature. However, its locational term is oddly unpersuasive, although it frequently appears – around one hundred times – in the text. Perhaps here there is the South African connection that so many reference works have fantasised about for Australia. Susanna's husband, J.W. Dunbar Moodie, had farmed for twelve years at the Cape, where he recalled living his life in "broken Dutch" for lack of English-speaking neighbours. Although he had wished to return, his bride's terror at the thought of elephants and lions had led the couple to emigrate to Canada, and they may have been influenced by his experience in their description of landscape. Susanna Moodie's London publisher apologetically explained to readers that the book had been seen through the production process without its author's involvement, and it may be that Roughing It in the Bush was chosen as a title without consulting her. In 1852, the British public's interest in Canada, which was never intense, was massively eclipsed by the excitement surrounding gold-rush Australia, and the publisher may have hoped to tap into the market for antipodean realism.[71] "Bush" does seem to have been used occasionally as a synonym for the Canadian backwoods[72], but the term was applied at a much later date for remote regions, for instance of northern Alberta and the Yukon. In Alaska it refers to any area off the road network, a classification that covers most of the State.

In summary, the rest of the English-speaking settler world can offer no help in explaining the emergence of the Australian term "bush" in the seventeen-nineties. It is time to revert to my 1974 hypothesis that we should seek its origin in Britain itself. 

Bush: a London area origin? Fifty years on, I am happy to accept that the argument of my younger self was open to the same challenge that I deployed against the South Africa hypothesis: how was this term transmitted? Clearly, the eight convicts tried at Chelmsford – one percent of the original Botany Bay population – could hardly have imposed a local Essex landscape term upon a penal colony. Nor, indeed, did I make any such claim. Rather, my Note sought to establish that "bush" was in widespread use in Essex at a time when most common land had not yet been enclosed, indicating that the word would have been identified as descriptive of rough scrub used for communal grazing. Noting that it was also to be found in Middlesex and Hertfordshire, I suggested that it would have been a familiar term to convicts from the London area. I pointed out that, in the first third of a century of New South Wales, one-third of transported convicts came from the capital.[73] In fact, metropolitan dominance was even greater on the First Fleet. Of 778 transported felons, 279 had been convicted by courts in London or Middlesex. But London stretched south of the Thames into Surrey, notably in the crime hotspot of Southwark, and downriver to Deptford and Greenwich in Kent. I estimate that a further 36 First Fleeters were Londoners convicted in adjoining counties, bringing the total to 315 – and there may have been more.[74] Constituting around forty percent of the original unfree population of New South Wales, the London contingent was strongly placed to influence its forms of speech – all the more so because they had their own argot, a form of thieves' slang known as the "flash" language. Tench called its use "[a] leading distinction, which marked the convicts on their outset in the colony…. In some of our early courts of justice, an interpreter was frequently necessary to translate the deposition of the witness, and the defence of the prisoner."[75]

Baker resisted the notion that Australian English was a mere derivative of "flash", but he did accept that the lexicon compiled the convict James Hardy Vaux contained "sundry pointers as to the way our language was to go".[76] Vaux completed "A Vocabulary of the Flash Language" around 1812, and it was published aas an appendix to his memoirs seven years later.[77] Its racy content mostly failed to transfer to Australia and, indeed, very little of it survived in mainstream British-English either. Some of its terminology was inventive and amusing, such as "rumble-tumble" for a stage-coach, and "gully", a liar or fantasist, which drew on the literary inspiration of Gulliver's Travels. "Scottish", meaning "fiery, irritable, easily provoked", was a regrettable exercise in stereotyping, but perhaps comprehensible in eighteenth-century London. However, it is hard to understand why the Moon was known as "Oliver", or that "the country parts of England are called The Monkery". Not surprisingly, terms associated with city life permeated flash vocabulary. Thus "any scheme or project considered to be infallible, or any event which is deemed inevitably certain, is declared to be a Drummond, meaning, it is as sure as the credit of that respectable banking-house, Drummond and Co." By contrast, "anything paltry, or of a bad quality, is called a Leather-lane concern", taking its name from a cheap street market off Hatton Garden.

More remarkable were the examples that referred to places around London, some of them at some distance from the city. Vaux defined "come to the heath" as "a phrase signifying to pay or give money, and synonymous with Tipping, from which word it takes its rise, there being a place called Tiptree Heath, I believe, in the County of Essex." Few Londoners could have known Tiptree Heath, 800 hectares of common land located 90 kilometres from the city, away from highways and hence little known by travellers. The allusion here was presumably the result of word play. An unrelated phrase, "tip him the Dublin packet", referred to giving somebody the slip: probably it had been imported from some provincial port, such as Liverpool or Chester, which had passenger services to Ireland. Another mysterious word was "Tilbury", a synonym for a sixpence, for which Vaux offered no explanation.[78] Perhaps the most intriguing piece of London-area slang was "Staines", the name of a town 20 kilometres west of London: "a man who is in pecuniary distress is said to be at Staines". I return to that example below. 

My collage of Essex place names was designed to build up an overall impression of the frequency with which the landscape element "bush" could be found. It was not intended to imply that, for instance, "Weekly Boush" at South Weald (now Wigley Bush) was a name that echoed along the pavements of the fashionable Strand or resounded in the crime-ridden alleys of Seven Dials. Hence, in this reconsideration, I propose to concentrate upon four locations with "bush"-related names that could reasonably have been expected to be known to late-eighteenth century Londoners, and to indicate how they may have influenced the development of the landscape term in Australia. They are Harlow Bush and Hawkesbury Bush in Essex, and Shepherds Bush and Bushy Park in Middlesex. In addition, an honorary mention might be made of the small Hertfordshire town of Bushey, and the nearby Bushey Heath, thirty kilometres north-west of London and located on the busy highway to Watford and the Midlands.

Harlow Bush  Harlow Bush Common was a relatively narrow expanse of open land which stretched about four kilometres from west to east, in fact extending into the neighbouring parish of Latton, where it was called Latton Bush. Most of it seems to have been grass, but there was a patch of woodland to the south identified as Mark Bushes, the plural probably being an attempt by cartographers to make sense of a dialect term.  On 9 and 10 September each year, Harlow Bush Common was the location of a massive commercial fair, which grew steadily more important throughout the eighteenth century. At Bush Fair, intending purchasers could inspect and maybe purchase "horses of all kinds for the waggon, the plough, and the saddle". It was also a major cattle fair, its importance obviously enhanced by proximity to the London market. In 1782, for instance, there was "the greatest number of Welch cattle at market at Harlow fair, that has been known for forty years".[79] Assembly rooms had been constructed in 1778 – originally in the form of a "tea booth" – which made the Fair a convenient opportunity for meetings: in 1785, for instance, an association of Essex innkeepers was formed for mutual protection against thefts.[80] Above all, Harlow Bush was a pleasure fair. By the time the cartoonist Thomas Rowlandson illustrated the scene in 1816, there were both permanent and temporary structures erected to provide entertainment for the crowds. The agricultural expert Arthur Young noted that "it affords a scene of no inconsiderable amusement, and its vicinity to the capital draws thither an amazing concourse of people, as well from thence as the neighbourhood in general, to an extent of fifteen or twenty miles around."[81] (London was just within Young's radius, about thirty kilometres away.) Naturally, the event attracted criminals, such as Catherine Wilmot, who was caught stealing two coats from a stall in 1786.[82] Harlow Bush Fair may be argued to have contributed to the collage of influences on early Australia English in two ways. First, its topography accustomed Londoners to the idea that the word "bush" denoted common land, covered with grass, scrub and trees, a notion that convicts would have taken with them to New South Wales. Second, "Bush Fair" came to signify a Saturnalia, an occasion when social norms were discarded, and people of all classes mingled without distinction of rank, an element captured in the Rowlandson cartoon. This may help to explain the Australian paradox, that the bush would be seen both as a place of hardship but also as a Utopia where structures of power and prestige were inverted or discarded altogether.[83]

Harlow Bush Common, in Chapman and André's atlas of Essex, 1777. The location of a popular annual fair, it would have accustomed Londoners to the notion that rough open ground was "bush".

Thomas Rowlandson's 1816 cartoon shows Harlow's Bush Fair in holiday mood – a place of escape.  

Hawkesbury Bush  A "bush" place name in the Essex marshland parish of Fobbing might seem to refer to a backwater of purely local renown, a landscape feature that was unlikely to resonate on the other wide of the world. Six kilometres north of the Thames estuary, a sharp escarpment climbs to a knoll 70 metres above sea level – a prominent feature in an otherwise level landscape. This was crowned by a patch of mixed woodland and scrub which was marked on an Essex county map as Hawkesbury bush in 1678.[84] Its importance was explained by the Essex historian Philip Morant in 1768, with the bald statement in his entry on Fobbing: "Some trees here have been a Sea-mark, called Hawksbury-bush".[85] Below Tilbury, the Thames flows north through a seven-kilometre reach called the Lower Hope, before turning east into the estuary proper and the Nore. The narrow deep-water channel of the Lower Hope is aligned at a slight angle to an exact south-north line, meaning that a vessel sailing downstream would have needed to keep the horizon bump of Hawkesbury Bush on its left bow.[86] There can be little doubt that every sailor familiar with the Thames would have known the feature.

A sea-mark that guided Thames mariners, Hawkesbury bush was sufficiently important to feature on the single-sheet map of Essex published by Ogilby and Morgan in 1678. 

In 1789, Phillip located a river which flowed into Broken Bay, about thirty kilometres north of Sydney. As Tench noted, "the river received the name of Hawkesbury, in honour of the noble lord who bears that title".[87]  In an era when career advancement was lubricated by patronage, it made sense to flatter Charles Jenkinson, the influential trade minister in Pitt's cabinet. Three years earlier he had been elevated to the House of Lords with the title of Baron Hawkesbury, taken from a Cotswold village where he owned property.[88]  Early in 1794, Phillip's successor, Major Francis Grose, began to settle ex-convicts on fertile land along the banks of the Hawkesbury. This initiative depended almost entirely on water transport from Sydney.[89] Fortunately, in a rare burst of initiative, the authorities in Britain had come up with a flat-pack solution to the colony's communications problem. In 1793, a convict transport had brought a kit of ship's timbers, which were assembled into the 41-ton schooner Francis.[90] Robust enough to cope with the open sea but small enough to sail a considerable distance up the Hawkesbury, the schooner was used to deliver supplies, including a small mill and arms and ammunition to the settler militia.[91] In April 1795, David Collins, one of the most observant of the officers, noted that "the colonial schooner returned from the Hawkesbury, bringing upwards of eleven hundred bushels of remarkably fine Indian corn from the store there".[92] This was a small but welcome step towards making the colony self-sufficient, and it depended upon an equally small but skilled complement of sailors.

The colony was fortunate in having an experienced mariner to act as master of its schooner. William House had been a bosun on HMS Discovery, part of Captain George Vancouver's expedition exploring the Pacific. Invalided and transferred to Sydney in April 1793, House was appointed as a Superintendent of Convicts and put in command of the Francis.[93] Discovery had been built at Rotherhithe and the Vancouver expedition sailed from the Thames. It is overwhelmingly likely that William House knew London's river, its hazards and its sea marks. I have found no information about the crew of the Francis, but they were probably ex-convicts, some with maritime experience and, as already noted, London-area felons formed the largest regional category on the early convict fleets. In the late eighteenth century, about three-fifths of Britain's overseas trade passed through the capital, and anyone with seagoing experience would have experienced the congestion and the dangers of the Thames.[94] It is possible to imagine the crew grimly joking about Hawkesbury Bush as the Francis picked its way cautiously along the narrow and tortuous course of the unknown river, selecting their own navigation marks to cope with hazards. William House might well have encouraged such banter as a way of building an esprit de corps among his men, or they might have used the term to express a sense of superiority over the ragtag of settlers who were attempting to carve out farms along the river. In fact, House was concerned at their over-enthusiasm in clearing the land, and by 1795 was making clear "his apprehensions that the navigation of the river would be obstructed by the settlers, who continued the practice of felling the trees and rolling them into the stream".[95]  If the original Hawkesbury Bush had been buried among the glutinous byways of some inaccessible corner of Essex, known only to the handfuls of peasants, parsons and poachers who resided in that vicinity, we might dismiss its name as a pleasant coincidence, but one that was in no way connected to its antipodean namesake. But Hawkesbury Bush was identifiable with, and identifiable from, England's greatest commercial highway, a feature that would have been familiar to any Thames mariner. The chronology is suggestive too: the Francis probing the river in 1794-5, the term "bush" emerging into the records in 1798. There can be no doubt that the Hawkesbury settlements formed an important part of the original concept of the New South Wales bush, and the term was in use there by 1799. Of course, it may be impossible to prove that the Essex sea-mark provided the linguistic smoking gun that triggered the Australian usage of the term "bush", but it is highly likely that it contributed to its emergence.

Shepherds Bush The well-known inner London district takes its name from the V-shaped Shepherds Bush Green which remains an open space in 2023.[96] Popular etymology regards it as a spot where shepherds pastured their flocks on the way to market in London. This is charming but unlikely. Barely three hectares in size, Shepherds Bush would hardly have provided much feed for sheep and, flanked by two major roads, it would have been a difficult location to control such notoriously excitable animals. Recorded as Sheppards Bush Green in 1635, it is more likely to preserve a personal name, perhaps of a landowner or a nearby publican.[97] Located on the highway to Uxbridge and beyond, a few kilometres beyond London's expanding urban frontier, the area was still thinly inhabited in the late-eighteenth century and dangerous for travellers. A man was hanged at Newgate for robbery there in 1785; two weeks after the thief had dropped to his death in a spectacularly botched mass execution, a gentleman was relieved of his cash and his watch on the same stretch of highway. There were four more attacks between 1786 and 1790, the last of them a violent affray in which three footpads battered their victims with bludgeons. In addition, and in unexplained circumstances, Middlesex magistrates dispersed a "fighting mob" at Shepherds Bush in 1787.[98] At this point, the crime wave seems to have ebbed. Improved policing may partly explain the improvement: in 1792, the capital's embryonic detective force, the Bow Street Runners, was extended across the whole of Middlesex. But announcements of property auctions around Shepherds Bush in The Times suggest that the outer fringe of the urban frontier was on the march, reducing opportunities for surprise attacks: "The place termed Shepherd's Bush", a guidebook observed in 1815 "… has lately experienced a great accumulation of buildings."[99] Both through its location and its association with highway robbery, Shepherds Bush would certainly have been well known to the capital's criminal classes. Like the extensive common land at Harlow, although on a very much smaller scale, it would have conveyed the idea that a rough open space was "bush".

Given that "bush" emerged in demotic New South Wales speech at the same time as the foundations were laid for the pastoral industry, is it possible that there is a specific link here? Could it be that sheep runs were nicknamed Shepherds Bush, the term being quickly abbreviated to provide a generic term for the interior districts and landscape? This would certainly offer both an attractive etymology and a very neat and satisfying explanation. Unfortunately, the chronology seems to be against it. Sheep were still relatively unimportant in late seventeen-nineties New South Wales, while shepherds were few and operating mostly beyond the organised and populated settlements. At most, memories of Shepherds Bush may have reinforced the new meaning, but they could hardly have caused it.

"Sheep do not thrive in this country at present", Phillip reported to London in July 1788, when it hardly seemed likely that Australia was destined to rise to prosperity through the production of wool.[100] Most of the flock imported from the Cape was dead by the end of the year: some were killed by native dogs (or were perhaps clandestinely slaughtered by convicts) and, in a freak act of nature, some were struck by lightning.[101] New South Wales, it seemed, was simply not sheep country. Eight months after the arrival of the First Fleet, Phillip reported that just one of the seventy sheep he had purchased at Cape Town was still alive. He blamed "the rank grass under the trees" for killing them, adding that officers "who have only had one or two sheep which have fed about their tents have preserved them".[102] The lessons were obvious: if sheep were to be farmed in New South Wales, they would require not only the right pasture but also careful supervision to ensure that they grazed in safety. Neither was possible during the opening years of the colony.

The role of John Macarthur in the establishment of Australia's pastoral industry is well attested, not least because Macarthur was a ruthless self-publicist. He established a farm at Camden, sixty kilometres from Sydney, and well inland from the toxic coastal grass. In 1794, he purchased sixty sheep from Bengal, whose wool he described as "coarse hair". However, cross-bred with two ewes and a ram from Ireland, the quality of the fleece improved. In 1796 ("I believe", he wrote many years later), he persuaded two naval officers to "to enquire if there were any wool-bearing sheep at the Cape". They brought back about twenty Spanish merino sheep, noted for their fine wool, which were distributed among favoured individuals, most of whom "did not take the necessary precautions to preserve the breed pure …. Mine were carefully guarded against an impure mixture, and increased in number and improved in the quality of their wool."[103]

Evidently, the preservation of quality sheep and the production of saleable wool required the employment of shepherds. Four years after his return to England in 1800, Henry Waterhouse, a naval officer who had also experimented with sheep farming, gave Macarthur a statement about his methods. "I trusted implicitly to the Shepherd (whom you remember) and Your occasional advice. They were driven into the Woods, after the Dew was off the Grass, driven back for the Man to get his dinner, and then taken out again until the close of the Evening; when they remained in the Yard for the Night."[104] It is clear from Waterhouse's statement that the colony's earliest shepherds did not need to be highly skilled, and Macarthur certainly did not feel that they needed to be generously paid.  On a visit to England in 1803, he assured the government that Australia's "unlimited extent of luxuriant pastures" could support "millions" of sheep, "with but little expense than the hire of a few shepherds". He graciously offered to accept a grant of 20,000 acres (about 8,000 hectares) of land to give the industry the boost that it needed, seeking also "the indulgence of selecting from amongst the convicts such men for shepherds; as may, from their previous occupations, know something of the business".[105] Yet Macarthur would find it hard to recruit suitable custodians, as he himself admitted to the Bigge Commission that enquired into the state of the colony in 1820.[106] Between 1803 and 1805, the Sydney Gazette carried three advertisements seeking experienced shepherds, who "must understand the diseases incident to sheep". The first specified "a middle-aged or elderly Man of good character". The second called for "a steady, careful Man, that has been accustomed to the charge of sheep". The third required a man "of good character" and with "a good recommendation", with one adding that "[l]iberal wages will be given to any one answering the above description".[107] Skilled shepherds may have been scarce because there were still not many employment opportunities for them. At Camden, where by 1801 John Macarthur was running around one thousand sheep, they were divided into flocks numbering between 350 and 500, each supervised by a single convict shepherd. A stock survey for the colony in August 1799 returned a total of 5,103 sheep.[108] This would suggest that there could hardly have been twenty men looking after flocks in the whole of New South Wales, many of them in remote locations. Demand for shepherds increased as sheep numbers multiplied, after about 1805, and there were complaints about their "ignorance or inattention", as well as suspicions of criminal activity.[109] Numbers alone make it unlikely that the landscape term "bush", current by 1798-9, could have emerged as a by-product to jocular allusions to Shepherds Bush, although the Middlesex example could have exercised an unconscious reinforcing effect in the decades that followed.

Bushy Park Beyond the formal gardens of Hampton Court Palace lay the wider demesne of Bushy Park, all of it the property of the Crown.[110]  Its part in the story comes from the versatility of convict slang, as recorded by James Hardy Vaux. As noted above, he defined "at Staines" as meaning "in pecuniary distress". But there was an alternative expression for financial problems, "at the Bush, alluding to the Bush inn at that town".[111]  The Bush Inn, the principal hostelry in Staines, was the meeting place for the magistrates in the western division of Middlesex, and the justices would have dealt with cases of enforced debt repayment. The Bush almost certainly owed its name to an inn-sign that displayed a shrub.  Vintners used the bush as their trade symbol (hence the proverb that "good wine needs no bush"), and the town's premier inn had no doubt adopted the name to advertise itself as an upmarket establishment.[112] In the word-play of London thieves' slang, it was a short step to transferring the term to Bushy Park, which was about eight kilometres to the east of Staines: "a man who is poor is said to be at Bushy park, or in the park". In combination, these phrases gave rise to the adjective "bush'd", which meant "poor; without money".[113] It was in keeping with his grudging attitude to "flash" that Sidney J. Baker played down the derivation of "bush'd" given by Vaux – "this could quite well be a term he picked up in Australia" – but the references to Staines and Bushy Park anchor it firmly in the London area.[114] But how might it have transferred its meaning to a description of landscape?

The link was distressingly obvious. Small settlers in New South Wales struggled with debt. This was especially the case among ex-convicts, many of whom had little previous experience of farming: of 54 former prisoners granted land before 1795, only eight were still on their farms eight years later. In 1798, Governor Hunter recognised from "the frequent bankruptcy of some of our oldest settlers that they have labored under heavy grievances and distresses". Invited to submit details of their grievances, Parramatta farmers pleaded that they were driven to "beggary" by the need to pay inflated prices for basic goods, which they blamed upon profiteers: "as the colony is now infested with dealers, pedlars, and extortioners it is absolutely necessary to extirpate them". Two years later, Parramatta settlers complained that they had "long laboured under grievances and intolerable burdens, which have not only cut off all hope of their independence, but reduced them and their families to a state of beggary and want". By then, two-thirds of all small farmers in New South Wales had abandoned their holdings.[115] As late as 1820, Commissioner J.T. Bigge thought the prospects for small settlers who lacked capital were "forbidding".[116] The Scots surgeon Peter Cunningham reckoned that three-quarters of ex-convict settlers lost their farms because they were "forced to borrow money to improve the land at such an exorbitant interest as to swallow up the whole of the proceeds". Cunningham regarded the casualties of the advancing frontier as "serving in some measure, like the American backwoodsmen, the office of pioneers to prepare the way for a more healthy population", and perhaps the rate of attrition among them was a necessary price to pay to identify those fit to survive.[117] It is understandable that textbook narratives generally take a more upbeat approach, stressing the successful establishment of agricultural settlements in the hinterland of Sydney. But it is worth stressing the extent to which the majority of small farmers had to struggle against financial hardship. If Sydneysiders described their rural counterparts and customers as at the bush, bush'd, or in Bushy Park, it would not be surprising that the core term became fused with its other overtones, to be forged as a new and specifically local word for the landscape.

There was also a Bushy Park in Ireland, eight kilometres south-west of Dublin, in what is now the suburb of Terenure. According to Wikipedia, it was originally the mansion of one Arthur Bushe, but in a neat exercise that combined rebranding with continuity, a later owner altered the name to Bushy Park in 1772. Of the 155 convicts embarked on the Queen in 1791—the first consignment from Ireland – 82 had been tried in either the City or County of Dublin.[118] The existence of a place-name element known to metropolitan felons from both England and Ireland may have made it easier to adapt its meaning to the circumstances of the new country. [See Addendum, November 2023, below, for another Irish example which would have been known to Dublin convicts, Beggars Bush.] 

Bushy Park may have encouraged one further echo in Australian English. The royal parks around London provided sinecure appointments for royal (or government) favourites, who were called Rangers. For the Ranger of Bushy Park, the chief benefit was the right to live in a handsome mansion called Bushy House. At the time of the First Fleet, the Ranger was a relative of Lord North, Prime Minister from 1770 to 1782, at the time of the loss of America. In January 1797, the position passed to a more prominent figure, the Duke of Clarence (later King William IV), for whom Bushy House quickly became a favoured residence.[119] A former naval officer, he was marginally more popular than his elder brothers, the Prince of Wales and the Duke of York, although this was not saying much.[120] It is argued above that the compound term "bush-ranger", appeared in 1805, and that it originally referred to fugitives whose crimes were incidental to their survival beyond the limits of settlement. It might have expected that it would have been supplemented or superseded by a harsher designation, such as "bush bandit", for more violent outlaws. It is just possible that "bush ranger" carried some subconscious echo of the royal Ranger of Bushy Park. Too much should not be made of the suggestion, but it would be an intriguing thought that there was a line of connection between William IV and Ned Kelly.

Bushy Park, by H.B. Ziegler, 1827. In London thieves' slang, it was synonymous with financial problems. 

Concluding reflections In the early twenty-first century, around 400 million people around the world speak English as their mother tongue, with unknown but at least equal numbers working in it as an acquired language, especially across much of Africa and south Asia, where it functions as an adopted lingua franca. English is a remarkably adaptable medium, constantly absorbing new words. These are often of seemingly imaginative coinage, such as "spam", for unwanted messages received by email (another recently  invented term, now deeply entrenched), and "selfie", for a narcissistic photograph taken with a mobile phone, an appropriate example for this discussion, since it is believed to have originated in Australia. In an age of mass electronic media, it is often possible to trace an assumed first usage of such terms, and occasionally origin myths have arisen to account for them, comparable to the assertion that the Australian term "bush" came from South Africa. Yet the etymology of neologisms is rarely conclusive and, in many cases, derivations remain utterly obscure. Even more puzzling is the process by which some words get into circulation, as if by some process of overnight global alchemy, while presumably many others fail to gain general acceptance.

These reflections may put the quest to explain the origins of "bush" into some perspective. A census in June 1799 counted a European population of 4,746 in New South Wales, of whom 812 were children. We are thus studying a seedbed for new vocabulary not of 400 million native English speakers, but of around four thousand. The linguistic crucible was probably much smaller than the total number of adults. Sydney accounted for half the population, and new words almost certainly would have forced their way into circulation in the bustle of the colony's only town much faster than in the isolated and lonely homesteads of Parramatta and Hawkesbury farmers. Across the colony, around 2,200 inhabitants were either convicts or soldiers, the two categories being brought into close contact by the guard duties performed by the New South Wales Corps. Ex-convicts of course made up most of the remainder, for the colony's official administrative class was very small. When the soldiers John Brown and Thomas Turner attributed the term "bush" to a recently arrived convict, they had probably coordinated their evidence, but they evidently felt confident that their choice of vocabulary was credible. It does not seem that the court required a translation, but it is important to appreciate that the term "bush", used to describe landscape, was created from below and its adoption resisted by those who wielded authority – and created most of the records – in the colony.

It was never plausible to assume a South African Dutch origin for a term that emerged from precisely the section of New South Wales society who were forbidden to land at Cape Town. Revisiting the subject half a century on confirms that only the exceptional circumstances of sickness or shipwreck may have allowed small numbers of sailors and convicts to spend brief periods ashore. Officers were keen to spend as short a time in port as possible, and showed little interest in the locality or its culture. In addition, it may be added that English-speaking South Africans only encountered bush, in the form of thick vegetation in the eastern Cape or in the plateau country of the Transvaal, decades later, long after the term had acquired its own connotations in Australia. This is not to deny that the English and Dutch words probably share a common west Germanic origin many centuries ago, but there is no reason to suspect any more recent convergence.[121]

The list of examples of "bush" in Essex place-names published in 1974 was intended to demonstrate that the element was widely used, and certainly not to imply that every one of them was widely known. In fact, surrendering most of them to the deep linguistic background strengthens the argument for a London-area origin by concentrating on just four locations in Essex and Middlesex. Harlow Bush Common and Shepherds Bush were both well known to Londoners, the former through its annual Fair, the latter because it was very close to the capital and the haunt of highwaymen. As common land, they seem to have been covered with grass, scrub and trees – it is instructive that that they were so humdrum that artists were not minded to sketch them – enabling revellers and wayfarers to deduce that "bush" was a toponymic term for rough ground. Thus Harlow Bush and Shepherds Bush dismiss the objection that the 1974 Note confused place-name elements, which may be fossilised inheritances from the distant past, with dialect, the living speech of a community. Harlow's Bush Fair, with its brief interruption of daily drudgery and temporary suspension of social norms, may also have contained the seed of the aura of freedom that would come to be part of Australia's bush mystique, however much it conflicted with the harshness of bush reality.  Hawkesbury Bush provided a specific link with the London area, and it is certainly easy to imagine the crew of the Francis reinforcing their shared identity as Thames mariners by applying it to the new settlements along the river that flowed into Broken Bay. Bushy Park conveyed, through thieves' slang, some sense of the financial pressures that threatened and all-too-often overwhelmed small farmers on the fringes of the colony. As with so many modern-day buzz-words, we shall never know who struck the etymological spark, or how and precisely when its new meanings captured the ignored and the powerless of New South Wales. Perhaps "bush", in its meaning, was born on the quay at Sydney Cove. The crew of the Francis probably did not exceed a dozen men, hardly enough to force terminology upon a community of four thousand, but the arrival of the schooner bearing much-needed produce would have been a noteworthy event in a globally isolated town that welcomed very few ships sailing through its Harbour Heads. Banter between the crew, knowingly using their private nickname for the new settlements, and the townspeople, pitying the poverty of the exiled pioneers, may have created the moment at which "bush" acquired its dual significance, descriptive both of park-like landscape and remote districts. The determined resistance of the colonial elite to its adoption is in itself testimony to the vigour and linguistic creativity of the convict population, and the soldiers who guarded them. They drew upon aspects of the cultural inheritance that they had brought with them, however unwittingly, from Britain, and especially from around London where so many of them had committed the offences for which they had been exiled. The overtones and associations of a handful of place names fused and forged together to create a term that would become redolent of the Australia they were in the process of building.[122]

[Addendum, November 2023: Beggar's Bush
Research by Neil Howlett into the place name "Beggar's Bush" (the apostrophe is often omitted) adds useful information. Howlett identified 49 examples recorded before 1799, 46 of them in England, with some concentrations in Sussex, along the border between Somerset and Wiltshire and in the south Midlands. There is also evidence that the term was in colloquial use as a synonym for poverty (similar to the London thieves' slang, "at Bushy park"). With the exception of a handful of doubtful examples, Howlett rejected associating the term with a single bush, and also the explanation (apparently first advanced in Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, published in 1870) that it identified a place haunted by beggars. Location evidence suggests that it was one of the many ironic terms used to describe land of poor quality.
Howlett dealt specifically with a well-known Irish example of the name. Although still beyond the urban area of Dublin in the late-eighteenth century, Beggars Bush was a locality barely a mile to the east of St Stephen's Green. Recorded in 1573 as "the wood called Beggars boush", the name was later primarily applied to a road junction. The land was probably poor because it was alongside tidal marshland at the estuary of the Dodder, a tributary of the Liffey, and would have been liable to flooding. Reclamation work began in 1792 to enclose and drain the slob "between Beggarsbush and Ringsend". There was a public house at the road junction by 1803 but, forty years later, the district was still sparsely populated: in 1811, a stagecoach from Bray was robbed nearby by a seven-man gang, who scattered and escaped. (The district later became associated with Beggars Bush Barracks, erected in 1827.)
Howlett's evidence, as interpreted here, bears upon the question of the origins of the Australian term "bush" in two respects. First, it confirms that "bush" was widely known as a place name element across southern England (and also in Yorkshire), although his examples are not particularly close to London. Second, it draws attention to the proximity of Beggars Bush in County Dublin to Ireland's capital, and hence to the likelihood that many Irish convicts would have been familiar with the name. However, there is no suggestion that it was understood to refer to an open landscape of scrubs and trees, and it is likely the reclamation project began too late to influence the evolution of New South Wales local terminology in the mid-seventeen-nineties. Thus the overall evidence still points to a London-area origin for the term "bush", but the additional information may help to explain why the colonial usage was acceptably familiar to recent arrivals from Ireland.
Sources: N. Howlett, "The Place Name Beggars Bush", Nomina, xxxiii (2013), 133-43 and https://www.beggarsbush.org.uk/dublin-donnybrook-beggars-boush-1573/; Belfast Newsletter, 5 November 1811.]


[1]  S. J. Baker, The Australian Language (Sydney, 1945), 74 [and cf. rev. ed., 1965 / 1970, 75]; R. Dawson, The Present State of Australia (London, 1830), p. 48; C. Jeffreys, Van Diemen's Land (London, 1820), 15; E. E. Morris, Austral English (London, 1898), 71.

[2] G. H. Wathen, The Golden Colony: or Victoria in 1854 (London, 1854), 117.

[3] OED, i, p. 1202; Baker, The Australian Language, 74; Morris, Austral English, 68; The Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology, ed. C. T. Onions (Oxford, 1966), 129; Australian Encyclopaedia (10 vols, Sydney, 1958), ii, 194.

[4] OED, i, 1202.

[5] Morris, Austral English, 70.

[6] The Chapman and André atlas of 1777 may be consulted via https://map-of-essex.uk/map_of_essex_v2/.

[7] Roman numerals refer to plates in the atlas, arabic numerals to page references in Reaney.  Eight of the 33 examples may be set aside since they appear at early stages in the plural. Two of these (Bushes Farm, North Benfleet, xviii, and Bushes, Great Maplestead, iii) occur only in the Chapman and André atlas. A third, Scatterbushes Wood, Waltham Holy Cross, appears only on modern maps, and the plural might be a recent gloss (as in the cases of Oaks and Bushes, Little Hallingbury and Thrushesbushes, High Laver). The modern Gernon Bushes (Theydon Garnon) may also be put aside since surviving forms from the thirteenth to the seventeenth century suggest that it was called Gernon Wood. Four others are rejected because plural forms occur at early stages: Mark Bushes, Latton, 44 (plural from 1688); Bushes, Magdalen Laver, 64 (1554); Bushy Wood, Stondon Massey, 82 (1550) and Bush Farm, Writtle, 281 (1549). Doubts must be thrown on five other examples, which Reaney suggests may be derived from the medieval surname "Bush" – itself possibly a circular argument. Three of these (Bush Farm, Upminster, 133; Bushbarns, High Easter, 482-483; and Bush End, Hatfield Broad Oak, 40) have early forms which may be either plural or genitive: fourteenth century forms of Bush End include both Busshesend and Busshend. Two other examples (Bush Elms, Hornchurch, 115, and Bushgrove Farm, Barking, 90), although associated by Reaney with family names, do not appear to have plural or genitive forms, the latter appearing as Bushstrete and Busshecrouch in 1452. Of the remaining twenty examples, two may be set aside as compounds: Bushet Farm, Great Bardfield, 505, and Bushey Leys, Halstead, 437. Of the remaining forms, twelve cannot be traced before the Chapman and André atlas of 1777: "Boush";, Margaret Roding, xii; "Weekly Boush", South Weald, xvii; Harlow Bush Common and The Bush, Harlow, xi; Thrashers Bush, High Laver, xi, 63 (modern Thrushesbushes, an obvious attempt to make sense of a dialect term); Oaks in Bush, Little Hallingbury, xi, 36 (now Oaks and Bushes); Round-bush, Birch, xiv, 362; Great and Little Shrubush, near Woodford, xvi; Hawbush, near Cressing, viii; Bush Farm, Great Bromley, ix, 333; Purley Round Bush, Purley, 224. For six others there are early forms with no trace of a plural: Bush Croft, Wimbish, 547, was le Bussmade, 1387, and Busshehowses, 1468. Bush Farm, Little Sampford, 515, ii, was Busshecroft in an undated Elizabethan rental and The Bush in 1777. Stubber's Bush, Hatfield Broad Oak, 44, occurs in various spellings, all singular, between 1605 and 1611. Bushfair House, Latton, 44, stems from Bushfaire Comon, c.1640. Hawkesbury Bush, Fobbing, 156, was Hawkesburybush in 1678. Gibbon's Bush Farm, Epping, 25 was Gibbon's Bush in 1688. [Additional note, November 2023: There is of course no need to downgrade examples found in the Chapman and André atlas. Since it was the first attempt to survey Essex at local level, it was likely to note names not previously recorded. Surveying was carried out between 1772 and 1774, which indicates that "bush" names were current during the lifetimes of the earliest convicts. Some further examples can be found in calendared documents in Essex Archives Online, e.g. Tristers Bush (1581 / 1588), on the highway from Harlow church, a name still in use in the 19th century and apparently identical with Thrashers Bush, High Laver; and Beggars Bush Farm, Eastwood (1772), known locally by the late 19th century as Biggles Bush.]

[8] J. E. B. Glover, A. Mawer and F. M. Stenton, The Place-Names of Middlesex (English Place-Names Society, xviii, Cambridge, 1942), 109, and see also 15, 63, 70.

[9] Glover, Mawer and Stenton, The Place-Names of Hertfordshire (English Place-Names Society, xv, Cambridge, 1938), 33, 63, 64, 67, 96, 101, 129, 143, 144, 147, 182, 218, 227, 234.

[10] A. G. L. Shaw, Convicts and the Colonies (London, 1966), 152.

[11] E.g. G.A. Wilkes, A Dictionary of Australian Colloquialisms (2nd ed., Sydney, 1985), an excellent reference work, which (75) gives "f[rom] Dutch bosch" as the source. G. Johnstone, ed., The Australian Pocket Oxford Dictionary (Melbourne, 1976), 105 gives the source as "Aust." The Wikipedia article on "Bush" (as of September 2023) is discussed below. I have been unable to consult R. Langker, Flash in New South Wales, 1788-1850 (Sydney, 1980) or the same author's The Vocabulary of Convictism in New South Wales, 1788-1850 (Sydney, 1981).

[12] Both Gough Whitlam and the distinguished Governor-General Sir Paul Hasluck encouraged Wilkes in his research: A Dictionary of Australian Colloquialisms, ix.

[13]McQueen was an enfant terrible on the fringes of academic life (I liked him). His title was a tongue-in-cheek borrowing from William Charles Wentworth's 1823 prediction that Australia would become "a new Britannia in another world". Probably the first Australian-born student at Cambridge (Peterhouse), Wentworth had coined the phrase while competing for the Chancellor's Medal for Poetry, when the set topic was "Australasia". He came second.

[14] The place-name element also formed surnames. It has been claimed that the first American ancestor of Presidents George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush came from Messing in Essex. This detail was not known in 1974: https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1988-11-20-mn-489-story.html.  

[15] Nor did Dr Johnson's Dictionary of 1755, although he included (on the authority of Sir Walter Ralegh) the curious term "bushment", which seems to have had a similar meaning, although it had presumably faded from use. I am grateful to Professor Helen Cooper for information about the meanings of "bush" in Middle English. Apart from association with the place names discussed below, it does not seem to have referred to shrub-covered landscape after the time of Chaucer, although the mainly poetic term "bosky" was a derivation. 

[16] G.B. Worgan, Journal of a First Fleet Surgeon (Sydney, 1978), 10, 2, 24.

[17] The Voyage of Governor Phillip to Botany Bay… (London, 1789), 118. Cf. Watkin Tench's memoirs in L.F. Fitzhardinge, ed., Sydney's First Four Years (Sydney, 1789), 244, and many other examples. The transcript of the diary of Lt. William Bradley (https://www.sl.nsw.gov.au/collection-items/william-bradley-journal-titled-voyage-new-south-wales-december-1786-may-1792) contains the term 36 times between January 1788 and May 1791.

[18] Fitzhardinge, ed., Sydney's First Four Years, 297. 

[19] A letter from a convict to his mother in London, dated November 1790 and published July 1791, commented that Aboriginal people were "peaceable ... but if they catch any of our people in the woods, they will kill them". In a letter to his family in Scotland in December 1791, the convict artist Thomas Watling described the landscape as "extensive woods, spread over a little-varied plain". F. Crowley, ed., A Documentary History of Australia: i: Colonial Australia 1788-1840 (West Melbourne, 1980), 44-5; T. Watling , Letters from an Exile at Botany Bay (Penrith, 1794), unpaginated: https://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks04/0400011h.html. The gentleman pickpocket George Barrington also used "woods" and not "bush" in his 1802 History of New South Wales, but of course he may have wished to avoid puzzling his British readers.

[20] Baker, the next scholar to tackle the subject, was a sharp controversialist who took pleasure in quoting contemporary negative reviews of Morris: Baker The Australian Language (1970 ed.), 10-11n.

[21] C. Bateson, The Convict Ships (Glasgow, 1959), 165-71.

[22] HRNSW, iii, 466-7.  The New South Wales Corps was not regarded as the flower of the British Army, although enlistment avoided direct conflict with the French: https://www.bda-online.org.au/files/MR2_Military.pdf. I am unable to identify the convict John Broadbent. 

[23] The Parramatta petitioners pleaded that "nothing else could induce us ever to depart from his Majesty's colony here unless the idea of going into eternity without the assistance of a Catholick priest".  This seems consistent with the solemnity of Brown's testimony in 1798, which emphasised the importance of evidence given on oath. HRNSW, ii, 484-5, 30 November 1792.  There was another Private John Brown, who had also joined the New South Wales Corps in 1793. He was an ex-convict, a shingler by trade, and was possibly the First Fleeter of that name. Since he deserted in 1799, he seems unlikely to have been the witness in the Barwell case.

[24] I owe this information to Professor Peter Stanley, who consulted P. Statham, ed., A Colonial Regiment: New Sources Relating to the New South Wales Corps, 1789-1810 (Canberra, [1992]).

[25] HRA, ii, 314, 21 February 1799. Convicted at Kent Assizes, Baylis was a relatively recent arrival, having reached New South Wales on the Barwell in May 1798: https://convictrecords.com.au/convicts/baylis/richard/74787.

[26] HRA, ii, 401 ff., esp. 405, 414, 419. W.S. Ramson, Australian English: an Historical Study of the Vocabulary 1788-1898 (Canberra, 1966), 141 cites this report as evidence that Hunter used the term "without commenting upon it as a specifically Australian usage". In fact, the examples of "bush" come from court reports enclosed in a despatch to London, and provide no evidence of endorsement by Hunter.

[27] Tarlington had been convicted at York, and was transported in 1791. His occupation, cutler, and his offence, breaking into a warehouse, suggests that he was from Sheffield: https://convictrecords.com.au/convicts/tarlington/john/98808.

[28] HRA, ii, 649, 28 September 1800.

[29] https://convictrecords.com.au/convicts/riordan/john/129005.  It is generally assumed (if rarely made explicit) that the Irish convicts in New South Wales could all speak English although, in 1800, Irish (Gaelic) was still the dominant language across two-thirds of the island [see the reconstructed map in R. Hindley, (London, 1990), 8-10]. Most people in urban areas could probably speak or understand English, and the uprisings of 1798 were concentrated in the south-east and north-east, where Gaelic was in retreat. Patrick O'Farrell thought it no surprise that the Irish language "promptly vanished in Australia": P. O'Farrell, The Irish in Australia … (Cork, 2001, cf. 1st ed., Sydney, 1986), 25-7. I am grateful to Ann Barry for a review of landscape terms in Irish to explore whether any might have become anglicised as "bush": no such word was identified.

[30] In a parallel case, the term "creek" was gradually back-projected so that its original meaning, a muddy coastal inlet, became extended to any small feeder stream, even in the mountains. Morris, Austral English, 107, is exceptionally unhelpful. In 1813, South Creek at Windsor was described as "one of the widest, deepest, and most rapid in the Colony, and subject besides to the immense floods which occasionally do so much injury on the banks of the Hawkesbury, with which it is connected" (emphasis added). Sydney Gazette, 20 November 1813.

[31] Sydney Gazette, 13 April 1803. The Rocks became the southern approach to the Harbour Bridge.

[32] Sydney Gazette, 10 June, 22 July, 12 August, 11 November 1804. Examples of "bush" remained relatively sparse for several years, e.g. HRNSW, vi, 589 (1808).                                                                                       

[33] A. Sharp, The World, the Flesh & the Devil… (Auckland [2016]), 154; HRNSW, iv, 74, Rowland Hassall to London Missionary Society, 22 April 1800.

[34] Sydney Gazette, 24 November 1805. Homebush remains one of the city's inner districts.

[35] [No author cited], "Laycock, Thomas (1756–1809)"; A. T.  Yarwood, "Marsden, Samuel (1765–1838)", Australian Dictionary of Biography. Yarwood was the author of a 1977 biography.

[36] R. Else-Mitchell, "Caley, George (1770–1829)"; A. McMartin, "Grant, James (1772–1833)", Australian Dictionary of Biography.

[37] HRNSW, iv, 514, Caley to Banks, 25 August 1801 (and also HRNSW, vi, 66, in a report to Sir Joseph Banks, 9 April 1806); J. Grant, The Narrative of a Voyage of Discovery, Performed in His Majesty's Vessel the Lady Nelson... (London, 1802), 113, 157-8. The Sydney Gazette also called Aboriginal people "bush natives" on 3 February 1805.  Grant's use of the term is hardly surprising, since Caley was his scientific adviser, but he also specifically referred to the difficulty of pushing inland at Westernport  because of the "thickness of the bush". However, this might have been a transcription error, since elsewhere Grant referred to the vegetation as brush, e.g. "a thick brush with large trees mostly of the gum kind". HRNSW, iv, 485, report of Lt James Grant on Bass Strait (18 August 1801).

[38] [No author cited], "Davidson, Walter Stevenson (1785–1869)", Australian Dictionary of Biography; HRA, v, 592-3, W.J. [sic] Davidson to King, 2 November 1805.

[39] Sydney Gazette, 17 February, 29 December 1805; 12 January 1806. On 22 December 1805, the Sydney Gazette had also coined (or quoted) the phrase "bush sportsmen", its italicisation suggesting sarcasm – probably because their prowess as hunters relied upon Aboriginal guides.

[40] Sydney Gazette, 10 November 1805; 2 March 1806.

[41] Fitzhardinge, ed., Sydney's First Four Years, 247, 252.

[42] HRNSW, iii, 31, Hunter to Portland, 3 March 1796.  Bladen added the marginal clarification "Bush-rangers".

[43] HRNSW, iii, 725, 9 October 1799.

[44] Accounts submitted by John Harris, Collector and Naval Officer, 12 August 1806, include costs of "apprehending bush Rangers", but the typesetting here may indicate an editorial summary. HRA, v, 764.

[45] HRNSW, v, 351-2, Suttor to Sir J Banks, 10 March 1804. While avoiding "bush" terminology, Suttor conveyed the sense of frontier warfare between two forms of claimed authority: "the very name of settler is a term of derision".

[46] L.L. Robson, A History of Tasmania, i... to 1855 (Melbourne, 1983), 78-9; D.S. Spero (ed.), "The Diary of the Rev. Robert Knopwood, 1805-1808", Papers and Proceedings of the Royal Society of Tasmania, 1946, 121-2; HRA, vii, 161-2, Bligh to Castlereagh, 8 July 1809. Bligh himself, a master of the vocabulary of abuse, called them "ruffians".

[47] E.g. by Governor Macquarie, in HRA, viii, 148 ("Runaway Convicts, or as they are termed 'Bush Rangers'", April 1814), 307, ("Banditti, Commonly Called 'Bush Rangers'", October 1814).  Macquarie used capital letters freely. It may be noted that the first reference was to New South Wales, the second to Van Diemen's Land, where the crime problem was more serious. For British reporting, see e.g. North Wales Gazette (via National Library of Wales online newspaper archive), 30 November 1815, report from New South Wales: "The back settlements were, however, much infested with deserters, called in the colony Bush-rangers, who, sheltered by the difficult nature of the country, daily committed atrocious murders on the unwary traveller. Several of these desperadoes had, however, been apprehended, and brought to condign punishment." The Times, 30 June 1818, referred to "armed banditti, appropriately called Bush Rangers", also with reference to New South Wales.  Early newspaper evidence indicates that the term "bush" was used from the time of first settlement in Western Australia (founded 1829) and South Australia (founded 1836), even though both colonies were established direct from Britain. The South Australian Bush Club was formed in 1838, "for the purpose of promoting the interests of and giving facility to those gentlemen who may be desirous of embarking in pastoral or agricultural pursuits, as well as to form a friendly compact between those individuals, for the mutual protection, preservation and restoration of each others['] property." Southern Australian, 1 December 1838.

[48] The first unhyphenated compound form appeared in Van Diemen's Land Gazette, 4 January 1814, but the same official notice was repeated with a hyphen, e.g. 4 June 1814. The Sydney Gazette omitted the hyphen on 23 July 1814.

[49] Visits to the Cape are described among voyages from 1787 to 1798 in C. Bateson, The Convict Ships, 1787-1868 (Sydney, 1983), 110-67.

[50] J. White, Journal of a voyage to New South Wales (London, 1790), 79; The Voyage of Governor Phillip to Botany Bay … (London, 1789), 40. M. Barnard Eldershaw, an authority on First Fleet narratives, was surprised at how little interest the officers showed in the country around Cape Town. "No one seems to have remarked on the stunted, arid vegetation, grey-green on the sea-bitten uplands, the strange flowers like shells or spikes among the stiff leaves." M.B. Eldershaw, Phillip of Australia... (Sydney, 1977 ed., cf. 1st ed. 1938), 78.

[51] W. Paterson, A Narrative of Four Journeys into the Country of the Hottentots, and Caffraria... (London, 1789), 39, and see below for Paterson. By a curious paradox, some "bush" place-names in the London area would have retained the scrub cover that explained their original name. Paterson used "woods" in a despatch to London in 1796, but might have thought it the appropriate term in an official report. HRA, i, 499.

[52] Communications in the interior of Cape Town in the late 18th century were "execrable": a loaded ox wagon took two to three days to cross the Cape Flats. N.G. Pollock and S. Agnew, An Historical Geography of South Africa (London, 1963), 51-2.

[53] P.G. Fidlon and R.J. Ryan, eds, The Journal of Philip Gidley King.... (Sydney, 1980), 21.

[54] A First Fleet letter, apparently previously unknown, in The Times, 30 May 1788, supplements the reference to the incident in P.G. Fidlon and R.J. Ryan, eds, The Journal of Arthur Bowes Smyth ... (Sydney, 1979), 40 (29 October 1787). After leaving Rio, a plot had been discovered aboard the Alexander for a mass escape at Cape Town: Bateson, The Convict Ships, 1787-1868, 109. This presumably made officers all the more cautious.

[55] The importance of the voyage was highlighted by G. Blainey, The Tyranny of Distance (Melbourne, 1966), 42-4.

[56] J. Hunter (ed. J. Bach), An Historical Journal of Events at Sydney … (Sydney, 1978), 76-80. On arriving, Hunter sent an officer to Robben Island, which guarded the approach to Table Bay, to seek permission to land. The commander was "exceedingly civil … but it was unfortunate that the one could not speak a word of English, nor the other understand a word of Dutch". Such mutual incomprehension would not necessarily impede the mastery of basic vocabulary through pointing and gesture, but it was hardly conducive to learning a term descriptive of the interior.

[57] The surgeon George Worgan noted in April 1788 that Phillip had "appropriated an Island, in the Harbour, for the Use of the Sirius". This was Garden Island. Worgan, Journal of a First Fleet Surgeon, 43; J. Cobley, ed., Sydney Cove 1788... (London, 1962), 137.

[58] Bateson, The Convict Ships, 1787-1868, 124-6; HRNSW, i (ii), 310-11, 317-18, 336-9.

[59] Bateson, The Convict Ships, 1787-1868, 142-3. In 1803, a convict drowned attempting to reach the shore at Cape Town, Robson, A History of Tasmania, i... to 1855, 39.

[60] D.S. Macmillan, "Paterson, William (1755–1810)",  Australian Dictionary of Biography.

[61] Paterson, A Narrative of Four Journeys into the Country of the Hottentots, and Caffraria, 59, 128. Paterson translated "Groot Faders Bosch" as "Grand Fathers Wood" (22). Antique typesetting complicates searching within his book. J. Branford, A Dictionary of South African English (Cape Town, 1978) gives "Bush (Noun) Afrikaans 'bos' from Dutch 'bosch'. Used of both bushy and wooded country: cf. Australian bush'." I am grateful to Dr Graham Dominy for this reference, and for his comments on the location of bush and bushveld districts in South Africa.

[62] As of 15 September 2023, the Wikipedia entry for "The Bush" (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_bush) states: "The Australian and New Zealand usage of the word 'bush' for 'forest' or scrubland, probably comes from the Dutch word 'bos/bosch' ('forest'), used by early Dutch settlers in South Africa, where it came to signify uncultivated country among Afrikaners. Many English-speaking early European settlers to South Africa later migrated to Australia or New Zealand and brought the term with them. [Emphasis added]. An editorial intervention notes that this statement is "not verified", and no doubt it will be removed. However, it indicates how an explanatory expansion of an unsound derivation can complicate the discussion. There is no evidence whatsoever to support the italicised statement, which conflicts with the chronology both of the emergence of the term in Australia and the growth of English-speaking migration to South Africa. Ramson, Australian English: an Historical Study of the Vocabulary 1788-1898, 140-1 also concluded that there was "no evidence" for a South African link. However, Ramson's speculation (135) that the term was borrowed from the American colonies by Whitehall officials and imposed upon the colony through offical correspondence has no documentary support.

[63] There were several editions of An Account of Travels into the Interior of Southern Africa in the Years 1797 and 1798. I have used the 2-volume version published in London in 1801. The only partial exception was Barrow's translation of the Dutch "bosbok" as "Bush deer" (ii, 83). His topographic descriptions were often detailed and evocative, e.g. "wide sandy plains ... thinly strewed over with heaths [heathers] and other shrubby plants, exhibiting to the eye an uniform and dreary appearance". It seems unlikely that Barrow refused to use local terms in order to avoid puzzling British readers. Slightly later travel accounts (e.g. by the missionary John Campbell, 1815 and 1822, and by W.J. Burchell, 1822 and 1824) confirm the absence of "bush" from South African English usage at this time, except in reference to shrubs and, occasionally to Bushmen. (This term has been generally replaced in anthropological studies by "San", but this too is contested.)

[64] Pollock and Agnew, An Historical Geography of South Africa, 80-1, 112, 127. "Bushveld" was an elastic term, both in its location and the nature of its vegetation.

[65] C. T. Campbell, British South Africa: a History of the Colony of the Cape of Good Hope... (London, 1897), 41. [Additional note, November 2023: The Dictionary of South African English quotes Thomas Philipps, a settler in the Albany district of the eastern Cape, who defined "bush" in 1827 as "[a] term used by the inhabitants and very appropriate, for it is neither timber nor brushwood but a growth peculiar to this country." This suggests a slightly different meaning from that used in Australia. An extensive edition of his correspondence does not indicate frequent use of the word: A Keppel-Jones, Philipps, 1820 Settler (Pietermaritzburg, 1960). Robert Godlonton, a Grahamstown newspaper editor, similarly noted in 1843, that the Fish River valley was "in some places greatly encumbered with bush". However, J.C. Chase, who quoted him, also commented: "The frontier of Albany is girt with woods or copse; and the whole eastern district resembles a series of noble parks, with their clumps of trees and bush, set by nature on the noblest scale." Similar imagery was used in New South Wales. J.C. Chase, The Cape of Good Hope and the Eastern Province of Algoa Bay (Cape Town, 1967, cf. 1st ed., London, 1843), 46 (Godlonton), 158 (Chase). It is clear that, in South African English usage, the term originated in the eastern Cape as a result of the 1820 settlement. From its order of entries, the Dictionary of South African English implies that the term was adopted via the Dutch bosjesman "or (as we say) Bushman": R. Renshaw, Voyage to the Cape of Good Hope... (2nd. ed., Manchester [1813], cf. 1st ed., 1804), 47; https://dsae.co.za/entry/bushman/e01389. (Context suggests that Renshaw was an officer in the Royal Navy.) This underlines a point that I made in 1974. The San were semi-nomadic, hunter-gatherer peoples (there were many groups and languages) whom contemporary Europeans would have regarded by as virtually identical to Australia's Aboriginal population in culture and even appearance. If 'bush' terminology had come to New South Wales from the Cape, then it would surely have followed that "bushman" would have been applied to the indigenous people. Instead, I have merely noted three examples of "bush native", apparently a formation from the local meaning of "bush". In the event, "bushman" emerged several decades later to describe a white frontiersman. The word was used occasionally as an alias by correspondents of newspapers (e.g. Sydney Herald, 13 February 1832), and "superior bushman" was used as a term of praise for survival skills in 1834 (Sydney Gazette, 27 November 1834). When Joseph Gellibrand, Attorney-General of Van Diemen's Land, disappeared while exploring in 1837, a settler described him as "the worst bushman I know": Colonial Times (Hobart), 11 April 1837. I am obliged to Cathy Jenkins for drawing the Dictionary of South African English to my attention.

[66] T.M. Perry, "Berry, Alexander (1781—1873)", Australian Dictionary of Biography.

[67] Berry to Macquarie, 6 January 1810, HRNSW, vii, 263.

[68] Morris,  Austral English, 69.

[69] There is a useful Note by Jock Phillips ("Story: The New Zealand Bush") in https://teara.govt.nz/en/the-new-zealand-bush, and see the description of a forest fire at Kaiapoi in Lyttelton Times, 19 October 1859, via the National Library of New Zealand's PapersPast online newspaper archive.

[70] Webster's Complete Dictionary of the English Language (1886 ed.), 177. Walter Scott's ghost story, "The Tapestried Chamber", featured a retired British general who had fought in 18th-century America. [Additional Note, November 2023: The sweeping nature of my dismissal of American origins must be modified by a small number of examples cited in M.M. Mathews, A Dictionary of Americanisms on Historical Principles (2 vols, Chicago, 1951). My references are taken from the one-volume edition of 1956, 225-7. Mathews listed two examples of "bush" meaning "wilderness or uncleared forest" from 1657 and 1778, plus one describing sugar maples from 1782. Particularly intriguing is a single example of "Bush-Ranger" from 1758, apparently referring to an itinerant and with no suggestion of criminality. This was probably a direct translation of the Dutch, "bush-loper", of which Mathews gave instances (in English) from 1694 and 1752. It may have been an isolated instance, since the next example is from 1830. The quotations in Mathews certainly suggest the borrowing from New York Dutch of a word which was in occasional local use. It is difficult to see how it could have been transferred to New South Wales in the 1790s, and noteworthy that Webster made no claim to the term.]

[71] One of the earliest examples of "bush" (or "that infernal bush"), in the chapter "Tom Wilson's Emigration", is attributed to a former settler in Australia. Dunbar Moodie described his South African experience in a guest chapter, "The Village Hotel", which does not appear in all editions. His Ten Years in South Africa... (2 vols, London, 1835) uses the term as a descriptor of landscape, especially in volume ii. Susanna Moodie apparently intended her book to be called Canadian Lives: Carol Gerson implies a change of title in London. The term "bush" appears frequently in the book, but "roughing" is absent from the text: it was not a Susanna Moodie word. C. Ballstadt et al., Susanna Moodie: Letters of a Lifetime (Toronto, 1985), 104; C. Gerson in C.A. Howells and E.-M. Kröller, eds, The Cambridge History of Canadian Literature (Cambridge, 2009), 100.

[72] E.g. C. Geikie, Life in the Woods: a True Story of the Canadian Bush (London, 1873). "Bush" was used as a transitive verb on Prince Edward Island to describe the process of setting saplings as markers across ice to indicate a safe passage. Young trees, often spruce, were slotted into holes cut in the ice, which quickly froze the marker into place. Prince Edward Island was unusual in British North America in being closely settled, so that there was no specific local need to describe scrubland. T.K. Pratt, ed., Dictionary of Prince Edward Island English (Toronto, 1988), 27.

[73] Shaw, Convicts and the Colonies, 152.  The proportion of London convicts transported fell after 1819. L.L. Robson calculated sample statistics of origin for the whole period of transportation (to 1852), showing London at 17%, although this might be rounded up to one-fifth by including those tried in Surrey and other adjoining counties. L.L. Robson, The Convict Settlers of Australia (Melbourne, 1965), 178.

[74] I used the list of convicts and places of trial in The Voyage of Governor Phillip to Botany Bay, lv-lxxiv, supplemented by J. Cobley, The Crimes of the First Fleet Convicts (London, 1970). From Cobley, I estimated that 22 convicts from Surrey, 12 tried in Kent and 2 from Essex were, in effect, Londoners. For instance, Frances Davis was described as a resident of Little Ilford (about 15 kilometres from London) when she was tried at Chelmsford in 1786, but she had in fact spent one night there at an inn where she committed her crime, and was arrested in Southwark. "From Little Ilford to Botany Bay: Frances Davis, cross-dressing First Fleeter": https://www.gedmartin.net/martinalia-mainmenu-3/332-cross-dressing-first-fleeter. No fewer than 77 First Fleeters had been recaptured after two mutinies on convict transports heading for America, and most were convicted at Exeter. Many of these must also have been from London.

[75] Fitzhardinge, ed., Sydney's First Four Years, 297.

[76] Baker, The Australian Language, 14.

[77] Memoirs of James Hardy Vaux (2 vols, London, 1819), ii, 153-227: "A Vocabulary of the Flash Language". Its exotic assemblage of words and definitions should not be used to romanticise London low life, e.g. "Bash, to beat any person by way of correction, as the woman you live with, &c."

[78] Internet sites state that sixpence was the price charged on the ferry between Tilbury and Gravesend. This seems to be another example of a trite but repeated explanation. In fact, the fare for foot passengers c. 1770 was threepence, with a minimum charge of three shillings for horses and their riders. In 1886 (i.e. almost a century later), the one-way fare was still threepence. W. Palin, Stifford and its Neighbourhood (privately printed, Stifford, Essex, 1871), 100; Kelly's Directory of Essex (1886), 319. Tokens were often issued by inns and other businesses to make up for shortage in coins. Perhaps some were associated with Tilbury Fort.

[79] A. Young, General View of the Agriculture of the County of Essex (2 vols, London, 1807), ii, 386-7; Norfolk Chronicle, 14 September 1782. "Welch" was the contemporary spelling of "Welsh". There were two other annual fairs on Harlow Bush Common. One, held in July, specialised in the sale of wool, and became steadily more important under the encouragement of an improving local landlord: Cambrian, 4 August 1804, 27 July 1805 (via National Library of Wales online newspaper archive).

[80] Victoria County History of Essex, viii, 186-95; Chelmsford Chronicle, 2 September 1785.

[81] Young, General View of the Agriculture of the County of Essex, ii, 386-7.

[82] Chelmsford Chronicle, 2 December 1786.

[83] Given the hardships of bush life in the early years of the colony, too much should not be made of this argument. Russel Ward dated the belief that "the 'Australian spirit' is somehow intimately connected with the bush" to the 1880s, and regarded it as a compensatory by-product of urbanisation. Vance Palmer, a considerable intellectual influence upon the definition of Australian culture, pronounced in 1905 that "the bush for the present must be the mainspring of our national literature". But idealisation can be traced in earlier times: "I love the bush, the lonely bush, / Where fancy wanders free; / The prospect's bright, pure's the delight / The wild bush gives to me." "The Bush is the heart of the country, the real Australian Australia", wrote C.E.W. Bean, the author of the  official history of the First World War, (himself New South Wales-born but a product of a British public school and Oxford). Adrian Caesar has argued that the "nationalism that would seek to define a distinctive Australian-ness in the bush" was reinforced during the interwar years by the Anzac legend, which enhanced its idealisation of masculinity. As Richard White put it: "The bush simply provided a frame on which to hang a set of preconceptions."  This was possible partly because the concept was essentially an urban projection on to the hinterland, but also because the original meaning of "bush" elided descriptions of savannah landscape with locality. R.B. Ward, The Australian Legend (Melbourne, 1958), 1; "Introduction", L. Kramer, ed., The Oxford History of Australian Literature (Melbourne 1991), 11-12; Hawkesbury Gazette, 8 March 1845; A. Caesar, "National Myths of Manhood" in  B. Bennett and J. Strauss, eds, The Oxford Literary History of Australia (Melbourne, 1998), 156-65; Bean quoted W.K. Hancock, Australia (London, 1930), 277; R. White, Inventing Australia... (Sydney, 1981), 99. In a wide-ranging and entertaining comparative essay [Bush and Backwoods... (Sydney, 1979)] that sought to apply F.J. Turner's frontier theory to Australia (the relationship was at best approximate), H.C. Allen noted another paradox in the national mythology, that the bush was believed simultaneously to have fostered Australian individualism as well as the co-operative spirit of mateship and the collectivist impulses of the shearers' union and, later, of the Country Party, with its demands for government support to farmers.

[84] Reaney, Place Names of Essex, 156. It is possible to zoom in on the Ogilby and Morgan map of Essex in 1678, see https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ogilby_Morgan_Essex_1678.png.  Hawkesbury bush is marked just below the block-capitals "HUNDRED" of Barstable Hundred. The nearby manor house, "Hawksbery" in 1450, can be traced back to 1166. Monastic property in the Middle Ages, it was granted to the Dean and Chapter of St Paul's Cathedral in 1544 and, as the Essex historian Philip Morant commented in 1768: "They have enjoyed it ever since." Hawksbury Bush (generally now spelt without the –e) is part of a nature reserve. It is marked on Google Satellite, just north of the A13 highway between Vange and Fobbing.

[85] P. Morant, The History and Antiquities of the County of Essex (2 vols, London, 1763-8), ii, 244. Hawkesbury Bush was also included in the Chapman and André atlas of 1777: https://map-of-essex.uk/map_of_essex_v2/ (Plate xxii, between Vange and Langdon Hill). Trinity House, the navigation authority, was given power as early as 1566 to protect clumps of trees used as aids to navigation. Philip Morant was born in Jersey in 1700, but settled in England after attending school at Abingdon and university at Oxford. From 1732 to 1734, he was chaplain to the English church at Amsterdam. We may therefore assume that he had considerable experience of the Channel and the North Sea. In later life, he lived in or near Colchester, a town with coastal  passenger services to and from London. It is likely that Morant travelled this route, and that he took an informed interest in navigation techniques.

[86] See https://thames.me.uk/s00015.htm. A navigation light erected here in 1849 appears to have superseded natural sea marks.

[87] Fitzhardinge, ed., Sydney's First Four Years, 153. David Collins noted that the Aboriginal name for the river was Dee-rub-bun. Collins, An Account of the English Colony in New South Wales ... (2 vols, London, 1801), i, 304.

[88] He later became Earl of Liverpool. His son served as Prime Minister from 1812 to 1827 and was commemorated in the Liverpool Plains, settlement in New South Wales having by this time crossed the Blue Mountains.

[89] Grose constructed a road from Sydney, and a fast pedestrian could walk the course in 8 hours. In 1803 a settler rode the distance in under three hours. HRNSW, ii, 284; Sydney Gazette, 2 April 1803. However, the route chosen was not suitable for moving bulk cargoes: Sydney Gazette, 3 July 1803.

[90] Collins, An Account of the English Colony in New South Wales, i, 219-20, 246. In official reports, it was usually referred to as "the colonial vessel" or "colonial schooner" to disguise the fact that it had been named to honour Grose's son, who happened to be named after his father.

[91] Collins, An Account of the English Colony in New South Wales, i, 126, 282, 401-2; HRNSW, ii, 286-7.

[92] Collins, An Account of the English Colony in New South Wales, i, 288. By the time of the establishment of the Sydney Gazette in 1803, several vessels were plying regular runs between the main settlement and the Hawkesbury. In 1810, Governor Macquarie planned a new wharf at Sydney for "Vessels or Boats from the Hawkesbury" bringing corn and grain. The importance of the movement of goods by water in early New South Wales has perhaps not been fully recognised. Crowley, A Documentary History of Australia: i..., 177. The Francis was also vital in securing communications with Norfolk Island.

[93] McNab, Murihaka ... (Invercargill, 1907), 42; HRNSW, ii, 209;

[94] F. Sheppard, London: a History (Oxford, 1998), 234. A search of Cobley's Crimes of the First Fleet Convicts reveals that 14 of the men had maritime experience, of whom 13 had London-area associations. There were 7 seamen, one mariner (from Plymouth), one fisherman and one ex-midshipman from the Royal Navy, plus 4 watermen. The watermen may have been primarily dockworkers and providers of a taxi service: one came from Southwark, one from Deptford, while a third was tried at Winchester but was described as having been born in Middlesex. These men may not all have been alive or willing to go back to sea in 1794, but the sample underlines the probability that the crew of the Francis knew the Thames. (No information for occupation is recorded for the majority of First Fleet convicts, which makes it possible that total was larger.) The Francis was lost in the estuary of the Hunter River in 1806: her crew were saved, and consequently their number was not reported. In 1807, the 75-ton schooner Betsy sailed from Sydney to Macao with a Master, Mate and crew of 11. It seems unlikely that the Francis, although smaller, could have functioned without a similar complement. Sydney Gazette, 1 March 1807, 31 March 1806.

[95] Collins, An Account of the English Colony in New South Wales, i, 288.

[96] Nowadays, Shepherd's Bush Green has a smart municipal-park appearance.

[97] Gover et al., Place-Names of Middlesex, 109.

[98] Hereford Journal, 10 February 1785; The Times, 28 February 1785, 17 November 1786, 31 March 1787, 28 June 1788, 26 March 1789, 24 September 1790. The Shepherds Bush area had a grim reputation.  In 1827, two skeletons were discovered buried beside the highway nearby. They were " about a foot deep under the ground, their heads pointing to the north; by enquiries among the old inhabitants, they were supposed to have been the bodies of two post boys, who were hung for a highway robbery, about seventy years previous". This would have been about 30 years before the First Fleet. T. Faulkner, The History and Antiquities of the Parish of Hammersmith... (London, 1839), 385.

[99] S. Inwood, A History of London (London, 1998), 378; J.N. Brewer, London and Middlesex ... iv (London, 1815), 127 (vols i and ii by E.W. Brayley and often so catalogued).

[100] HRNSW, i (ii), 143.

[101] The Voyage of Governor Phillip to Botany Bay, 104; HRNSW, i (ii), 150. Phillip reported in July 1788 that "several of the sheep have been killed, and it is doubtful whether by the natives' dogs or by some of our own people". HRNSW, i (ii), 167.

[102] HRNSW, i (ii), 192 (28 September 1788).

[103] Macarthur's statement in 1820 has often been reprinted: J. Ritchie, ed., The Evidence to the Bigge Reports ... (2 vols, Melbourne, 1971), ii, 59-60 and M. Clark, ed., Select Documents in Australian History (2 vols, Sydney, 1977 ed., cf. 1st ed. 1950), i, 267.

[104] H. Waterhouse to J. Macarthur, 12 March 1804, E. Macarthur-Onslow, Some Early Records of the Macarthurs of Camden (Sydney, 1914), 85-8.

[105] John Macarthur,  "Statement of the Improvement and Progress of the Breed of Fine Woolled [sic] Sheep in New South Wales", Philosophical Magazine, xvi (1803), 363-5.

[106] Macarthur was to tell the Bigge Commission in 1820 that it was "[n]ever" easy to recruit convict shepherds through the usual channels, but that he had secured the direct intervention of Governor Macquarie, with whom he was otherwise on poor terms, to identify suitable men. Ritchie, ed., The Evidence to the Bigge Reports, ii, 82.

[107] Sydney Gazette, 4 December 1803, 14 November 1804, 27 January 1805. Macarthur assured the Bigge Commission that scab, the most dangerous sheep disease, could be "subdued without great difficulty by a careful shepherd". Ritchie, ed., The Evidence to the Bigge Reports, ii, 86. It seems to have been assumed that shepherds could manage without sleep. Reporting the theft of a stolen sheep which had been "devoured in the woods by night", the Sydney Gazette (20 January 1804) pronounced: "The shepherd’s vigilance should therefore be indefatigable as the charge assigned to him is consequential."  However, some attempted to go beyond the normal call of duty: one shepherd attempted to protect a lamb from attack by a black snake. To general surprise,  he survived its bite but  "the punctures occasioned by the indention of the prominent teeth or fangs are still evident".  Sydney Gazette, 20 January 1804, 17 November 1805.

[108] A. Atkinson, Camden: Farm and Village Life in Early New South Wales (Melbourne, 1988), 16; Crowley, A Documentary History of Australia: i, 93, 116; HRNSW, iii, 716.

[109] Sydney Gazette, 2  September 1804, 2 June, 8 September 1805, 25 May 1806, 31 August 1811.

[110] The name, sometimes spelt as "Bushey Park", can be traced back to 1650. Gover, Place Names of Middlesex, 15.  It may have been a nickname. Since the Ziegler painting of 1827 focuses on the mansion, Bushy House, it is difficult to know how far the 18th-century park resembled rural New South Wales. The 21st-century tree cover is obviously the product of more recent ornamental planting, but 278 mature oak trees were marked for felling in 1798: Reading Mercury, 2 April 1798.

[111] "A Vocabulary of the Flash Language" in Memoirs of James Hardy Vaux, ii, 211.  

[112] Victoria County History of Middlesex, iii, 13-18: https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/middx/vol3/pp13-18. The Bush Inn can be traced back to 1601. It no longer exists.

[113] "A Vocabulary of the Flash Language" in Memoirs of James Hardy Vaux, ii, 160.

[114] Baker, The Australian Language, 14.

[115] A.G.L. Shaw, "1788-1810" in F. Crowley, ed., A New History of Australia (Melbourne, 1974), 15; HRA, ii, 135-40 (February-March 1798); 440-6 (January-February 1800). In 1803, Hawkesbury settlers voiced the classic complaint of squeezed consumers: "altho’ they generally have to lament a rise in the Sydney markets, yet they never experience much change from their fall". Sydney Gazette, 17 April 1803.

[116] Clark, ed., Select Documents in Australian History, i, 397.

[117] P.M. Cunningham, Two Years in New South Wales ... (2 vols, 1827-8), ii, 180.

[118] B. Reece, The Origins of Irish Convict Transportation to New South Wales (Houndmills, Basingstoke, 2001), 242. There were over 600 Irish convicts in New South Wales by 1796. HRNSW, iii, 94.

[119] In 1797, it was widely rumoured that a boy had been shot in Bushy Park while stealing chestnuts. The story was denied with the claim that the youth had stumbled after a warning shot had been fired. In 1801, a man was found guilty of stealing beans from Bushy Park, property of the Duke of Clarence, and the Duke as described as Ranger in a case of horse theft that year. The Times, 18 November 1797; Morning Post, 19, 21 September 1801.

[120] In 1830, he came to the throne as William IV. His wife, Queen Adelaide, succeeded him as Ranger of Bushy Park, where she lived as a widow until her death in 1849, when the sinecure lapsed.

[121] Until the early twentieth century, the plural form of "house" in Essex was "housen", probably identical in pronunciation with the Dutch "huizen", but this was a survival and not an import. "'Housen' -- evidence for the survival and decline of an Essex dialect plural": https://www.gedmartin.net/martinalia-mainmenu-3/222-housen-evidence-for-the-survival-and-decline-of-an-essex-dialect-plural. There are several examples across the east and north of England of "Outgang Road". The term, which also occurs in Scots, is obviously related to the Dutch "uitgang", but there is no reason to assume that it was a borrowing.

[122] This emphasis upon the versatility and creativity of convict vocabulary does not agree with the structure advanced by the literary critic Delys Bird, who has argued that the "sole point of reference" for early emigrants was a cultural heritage of "remembered Britishness". "Emigration … entails a loss of the sense of self and of history. That loss is represented in a shift, both for individuals and for social groups, from a condition of being subject (which we must occupy in order to speak and write, and to act) to the condition of being object (in which we lack agency, of speaking or any other kind). It is signified by an analogous shift in the referential property of language, so that meaning itself becomes provisional. The space that was the new world was unnamed in English, without history, lacking the necessary cultural markers to enable the colonisers to re-inscribe themselves as colonial subjects." Dr Bird's analysis primarily applies to a character in David Malouf's 1993 novel Remembering Babylon, but it is presented in the context of early New South Wales. The subject / object theme offers a fruitful approach for discussion, but it is not clear how useful it is in the present context. It may be argued that, on finding themselves in such an alien environment, convicts were in fact thrown back upon their shared cultural heritage of Britishness, which they were compelled to adapt and apply. While the opportunities to exercise control over their lives were certainly severely curtailed, this did not deprive them of all forms of agency. Like all criminal sub-classes, they evolved aspects of their own culture, notably through vocabulary, distinctive speech allowing them to assert an alternative form of subjecthood. Later in the discussion, Dr Bird quotes the convict artist Thomas Watling's 1791 statement that "[n]ever did I find language so imperfect as at present" as evidence that he recognised "the incapacity of English to express his situation". However, it was not his environment that Watling found difficult to capture, but his emotions: "Never did I find language so imperfect as at present, nor letters to give so little satisfaction; for the former cannot shadow my feelings, nor the latter yield me more than pensive melancholy reflection." D. Bird, "The 'Settling' of English", in Bennett and Strauss, eds, The Oxford Literary History of Australia, 21, 24; Letters from an Exile at Botany Bay (unpaginated): https://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks04/0400011h.html.