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The original settlement on Norfolk Island was established and named Sydney before the Port Jackson settlement. In the early years this caused much confusion in England when botanical and other natural history specimens were being assigned origins. This first attempt at settlement was abandoned in 1814 and it was not until 1824 that it was resettled, this time as a Secondary Punishment Prison for recalcitrant convicts. Sydney was re-named Kingston. The artist was Thomas Watling (b.1762), a transported convict. In Dumfries, Scotland he was charged with having forged guinea notes on the Bank of Scotland. He denied his guilt, but rather than risk conviction and execution he asked to be transported and was sentenced to fourteen years. In July 1791 Watling was one of 410 convicts who sailed in the Pitt for New South Wales and reached Sydney on 7 October 1792. He appears to have been assigned almost immediately to the surgeon-general, John White, an ardent naturalist, who made extensive use of his artistic skill. White left the colony in December 1794 and it is thought that Watling may then have been assigned to the Judge-Advocate, David Collins. There is positive evidence that at least some of the plates in Collins's "An Account of the English Colony in New South Wales" (London, 1798-1802) were taken from original sketches by Watling. Watling's prospects improved with the arrival of Governor John Hunter, himself an enthusiastic and able artist. Within a year, in September 1796 Watling was given a conditional pardon and on 5 April 1797 it was made absolute. He returned to Scotland but on 10 January 1806 was tried at Edinburgh for a series of forgeries allegedly committed at Dumfries between November 1804 and March 1805. He was discharged on a verdict of 'not proven'. Watling wrote and regarded himself as a romantic, but most of his landscapes reveal training in the classical style. The Mitchell and Dixson Libraries, Sydney, have a few examples of his work, but most of that known to have survived is in the so-called Watling Collection in the zoological library of the British Museum (Natural History). This collection, apparently made about Port Jackson between 1788 and 1794, comprises 512 drawings by various artists, of which 123 are signed by Watling and at least another 20 are clearly his work. His contributions include landscapes, studies of Aboriginals and a great number of natural history drawings. Many of these are extensively annotated in John White's hand and there seems little doubt that it was White who gathered the collection and took it to England.

[NORFOLK ISLAND] View of Sydney, on the South side of Norfolk Island.

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