On December 16th, 1839, Jane Mortimer, aged 8, arrived at Port Phillip from Hobart Town with her family. The occasion was marked by a terrible explosion.

We had cousins living in Market Street, Melbourne, Mr. and Mrs. John Blanch and their three children John, William and Ann Eleanor. He was a gunmaker. Mother and we girls were to stay with them until our house was finished.

But the very day we were leaving the vessel their house was blown up and quite destroyed, the roof being thrown into the street. Mrs. Blanch was in the sitting room sewing when one wall fell on her, killing her instantly. Mr. Blanch lingered until one o'clock in the morning. Father being in town was able to be with him and sent a message by boat to us in the bay telling us not to come up.

Fortunately their children were out with the nurse. The two assistants were injured, one very severely - it was many months before he was well, but the man who did the mischief was not hurt.

He was getting some caps to fit his gun, and fired it off in the shop, thinking it was not loaded. It went into a barrel of gunpowder, hence the explosion. So we remained on board as long as possible.

We came up in boats, I do not remember what time we left the vessel, but it was twilight when we reached the landing place. It was such a pretty river, the water clear and clean with ti-tree to the water's edge on the south side and on the north lovely little wattle trees and bushes, but the mosquitoes were something to remember.

Contributed by Tom Davison (PPPG Member No. 1168)

( Further information about the above incident can be found on Mark Virtue's website. )

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