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Daniel Southwell (1764–1797)

by Allan Horton

This article was published:

Daniel Southwell (1764?-1797), naval officer and diarist, joined the navy in May 1780 as a first lieutenant's servant. He embarked as a midshipman in the Sirius in 1787 and was made a mate on the voyage to New South Wales. He kept a journal from the time of sailing until May 1789 and also corresponded with his mother, Jane Southwell, and his uncle, Rev. Weeden Butler of Chelsea. These letters are in the British Museum and transcriptions made by James Bonwick are in the Mitchell Library.

In 1788-89 Southwell was in the Sirius when she went to the Cape of Good Hope for stores. About March 1790, against his will when Sirius was sent to Norfolk Island, Southwell was placed in charge of the look-out station on South Head.

Southwell's journal and letters record details of the journey and the establishment of the settlement, provide an insight into the hopes and fears of a young naval officer in the colony, and reflect the attitudes and moods of some of the settlers. He comes to the conclusion that the colony will be a 'long-continued heavy expence to the m'r country', and his high regard for Governor Arthur Phillip changes: at first he had written of him as 'very kind and considerate' and 'one of a thousand', but by July 1790 the governor is one of those 'people whose ill-nature sometimes get the better of their understanding', and Southwell confessed to be 'rather vex'd at myself for being so very lavish in my encomiums formerly'. The letters have much to say of the Aboriginals and include a brief vocabulary of their language. On 28 March 1791 Southwell sailed from Sydney in the Waaksamheyd. On 11 February 1794 he was made a lieutenant. He was wounded off Portugal and died in Lisbon Hospital on 21 August 1797 aged about 33.

Select Bibliography

  • Historical Records of New South Wales, vol 2.

Citation details

Allan Horton, 'Southwell, Daniel (1764–1797)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 22 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (Melbourne University Press), 1967

View the front pages for Volume 2

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