George Bouchier Worgan

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George Bouchier Worgan (May 1757 – 4 March 1838) was an English naval surgeon who accompanied the First Fleet to Australia. He made several expeditions to the Hawkesbury River and Broken Bay areas north of Sydney and spent a year on Norfolk Island after the Sirius was wrecked there.[1] Worgan recorded many of the events of the first year of the colony of New South Wales. Unlike his contemporary Watkin Tench, he did not publish his account.

Worgan's surviving papers, in the form of a letter to his brother in England, are now held at the Mitchell Library in Sydney. The letter includes a journal kept for the first six months after the First Fleet's arrival in Sydney Cove.[2] The journal was published in 1978[3] and in 2009.[4]

He married Mary Lawry, probably after his return from Australia, and they had two sons and a daughter. Both sons eventually migrated to Australia. His death certificate says he died of apoplexy at Liskeard on 4 March 1838, but there are other accounts which suggest suicide by hanging.[5]

Early life and family[edit]

George Worgan was christened at St Andrew's Holborn (London) on 3 May 1757. He was the third child of John Worgan (1724–1790) and Sarah Worgan (née Maclean) and their second boy. He joined the navy at 18, qualified as surgeon's second mate in February 1778 and naval surgeon in March 1780. He served for two years in the Pilote before joining the Sirius in November 1786. [6]

Naval career[edit]

Event Date commenced Date ceased
Entered the navy February 1778 ca. 1800
Qualified as surgeon's second mate February 1778 -
Gazetted naval surgeon March 1780 -
Served on the Pilote ca. 1784 November 1786
Joined the Sirius November 1786 -
Sailed to New South wales on Sirius 1787 -
Visited the Cape of Good Hope in the Sirius 1788 1789
Year on Norfolk Island after the wreck of the Sirius 19 March 1790 1791
Returned to England in the Waaksamheyd 1791 -
Retired on half-pay ca. 1800 -

First Fleet Voyages[edit]

George Worgan joined the HMS Sirius (1786) as a surgeon in November 1786 and sailed on her to New South Wales in 1787. He took part in several expeditions to the Hawkesbury River and Broken Bay (1789), where the upper Nepean River was named Worgan River for him. On the Sirius he travelled to the Cape of Good Hope (1788–1789) but was not on board when it was wrecked in March 1790. He travelled with Watkin Tench to the Nepean during 1790 and took part in a punitive expedition against the natives on 13 December 1790.[7] He stayed at Norfolk Island for a year (1790–1791) when the Sirius was wrecked there. He travelled back to England in 1791 on the Waaksamheyd.[6]

First Fleet Journal[edit]

His journal[8] is an account of the first five months of settlement in New South Wales, attached to a letter written to George Worgan's brother Richard (written from 20 January to 11 July 1788).[9] The first section was written on the Sirius (12 June 1788) and describes arriving at Sydney Cove, Port Jackson and his party's first encounter with Aboriginal Australians. He makes references to a "rough journal" and a fuller journal but these have not been found.

Throughout the manuscript Worgan describes the expeditions that the men of the First Fleet make. He describes the coastline of New South Wales, its flora and fauna and the activities engaged in to build the new colony. Explorations in land had been made and he tells of "Park-like Country" and a mountainous region where smoke was seen and thought to be inhabited to the west. He is concerned with water supply and the native vegetation, what might be edible and what might be used for building, he also describes stone.

In the journal Worgan is very interested in the various tribes that the First Fleet met and describes their physical attributes, behaviour, way of life and interaction with the Europeans in detail. He describes the female natives' behaviour, their appearance and the many attempts of the Europeans to give them gifts.

He describes the convicts, their behaviour, their ailments and injuries, the laws as presented to them and the punishment for their crimes. Marriage between the convicts is an issue he mentions. The female convicts particularly, are the target of his censure for their flouting of the law and spreading disease.

The journals were presented to the State Library of New South Wales in 1955 by Mrs Margot Gaye for her deceased aunt, Miss A. Batley. They are digitised and available online via the Library's catalogue.[5]

Musical background and relationship to Mrs Elizabeth MacArthur[edit]

George Worgan came from a well known musical family and was the son of a Cambridge Doctor of music who was a respected organist and composer. When George Worgan sailed on the Sirius with the First Fleet he took with him a piano. He was amongst the musicians who played God Save the King at Sydney Cove on 7 February 1788 making him one of the first non-Aboriginal musicians in the country.[10] While in New South Wales he taught music to Elizabeth Macarthur, leaving his piano with her when he returned to England in 1791.[6]



  1. ^ Jose, Nicholas (general editor) Macquarie Pen Anthology of Australian Literature Allen & Unwin, Crows Nest, NSW, 2009 p.51
  2. ^ Jose, Nicholas, 2009 p.51
  3. ^ Worgan, George Journal of First Fleet Surgeon Sydney:Library Council of New South Wales in association with the Library of Australian History, 1978
  4. ^ Worgan, George Sydney Cove Journal: 20 Jan – 11 July 1788 edited, with an introduction and notes by John Curry. Malvern, Vic.:Banks Society, 2009
  5. ^ a b "George Bouchier Worgan – letter written to his brother Richard Worgan, 12 – 18 June 1788". Catalogue. State Library of NSW. Retrieved 14 November 2013. 
  6. ^ a b c "George Bouchier Worgan". website. Australian Dictionary of Biography. Retrieved 31 October 2013. 
  7. ^ Gillen, Mollie (1989). The Founders of Australia. Sydney: Library of Australian History. ISBN 0-90812-069-9. 
  8. ^ "George Bouchier Worgan (1757–1838)". website. State Library of NSW. Retrieved 14 November 2013. 
  9. ^ "Worgan, George Bouchier (1757–1838)". website. Encyclopedia of Australian Science. Retrieved 14 November 2013. 
  10. ^ "Worgan, George". website. Dictionary of Sydney. Retrieved 14 November 2013.