Elizabeth Robinson née Robley

Elizabeth Robley was born at Port Jackson on the 27/11/1792, the first born to John and Jemima Robley. John Robley had been transported to Botany Bay on the Scarborough in the 2nd Fleet, and his wife, Jemima Wilson, had been transported on the Mary Ann in the 3rd Fleet.

Elizabeth was baptized at Parramatta on 23rd of December 1792 and her younger brother, George, was baptized at Parramatta on August 1795. There is no record of his birth.

In 1798,after Jemima had given evidence against a co-offender for which she was granted immunity from prosecution, the family was sent to Norfolk Island where by 1805 John was the overseer of all blacksmiths on the island.

In May 1806, at the age of 14 years, Elizabeth Robley married Michael Massey Robinson.

In 1807 John and Jemima Robley, with their son George and two servants, left the island for Hobart Town on the Porpoise.

Michael Massey Robinson, according to records, had been a public servant, a poet, a lawyer and an extortionist. He had studied law at the Oxford University.

He was the son of James and Rachel (Massey) Robinson, and he had been christened on the 23/2/1757 at Chepping Barnett, Hertford, England. There is no record of his birth, but other records show that he may have been born between 1744 and 1751. Robinson had been convicted of a crime in the Old Bailey on 17/2/1795 on a crime of extortion which related to threats in letters dated between 7th of January 1792 and the 17th of January 1792.

In essence, the case revolved around the death of an ironmonger, by the name of Daniel Dolly, some 22 years earlier. Upon the death of Mr. Dolly his property passed to James Oldham who initially had been an apprentice to Dolly, who later became Dolly's partner and following the death of Dolly ended up marrying Dolly's widow. When Daniel Dolly died a solicitor named Peake accused James Oldham of murdering Dolly. An enquiry cleared Oldham and awarded him damages of 500 pound for the defamation by Peake.

Between the 7th of January and the 12th of January 1792, James Oldham received some 5 letters stating that unless certain monies were paid to the author of the letters a poem alleging that Oldham had murdered his previous employer would be published, in the form of verse, in the Daily Advertiser.

Robinson was arrested when he delivered the 5th letter. In court his defense was that he was only acting as the legal agent for the author of the letters, but evidence was produced from several witnesses to the effect that the writing in the body of the letters was clearly Robinson's.

He was convicted "of sending a letter to the prosecutor, threatening to publish a libel imputing to him the murder of his master, for the purpose of extorting money."

Robinson's age at conviction was given as 45years.

He was sentenced to death, but was reprieved at the request of James Oldham the prosecutor. He was then sentenced to be transported to Botany Bay.

He was transported in the Barwell, with 295 other convicts, which sailed from Portsmouth on the 7th of November 1797 and arrived in Sydney on the 18th of May 1798, after a voyage of 192 days.

On the voyage out the Master, James Cameron, became aware of a plan being hatched between some of the convicts and soldiers on board where they intended to seize control of the ship. Several of the soldiers and convicts were severely flogged and placed in irons for the duration of the voyage.

Robinson was fortunate not to be involved, and because of his impressive manners and apparent education, the captain permitted his to take his meals with the petty officers and sent him his dinner and a bottle of wine daily from his own table.

Robinson apparently impressed another passenger, one Richard Dore who was traveling on the Barwell to take up his position of Judge Advocate following the resignation of Collins. Upon the arrival of Dore in New South Wales, and after he was sworn in to his appointment, Dore appointed Robinson as his secretary without pay.

Dore suffered from poor health and left Robinson with many opportunities to help himself financially. Dore was also careless with public money passing through his hands, so he paid little attention to Robinson who was gaining some financial rewards for his skills.

In 1800, Robinson was appointed as the officer for the registration of legal documents. In December 1800 Richard Dore died and his successor, Richard Atkins, had little knowledge of the law so Robinson was appointed as his secretary. Robinson continued to gain financial benefits from his various schemes, and found that he could easily forge Atkin's signature to documents, that brought him further financial benefits.

Robinson was caught out in September 1802 and was sentenced to serve his sentence on Norfolk Island. It was then discovered that there was no other person with the skills to carry out the duties being performed by Robinson, so the sentence was suspended and Robinson was reinstated to the previous positions.

He was a slow learner, and over the next three years he was warned several times about interfering with legal transactions, but by 1805 he had run out of chances and was sent to Norfolk Island to complete his prison term.

There in May 1806 at the possible age of 60-65 years he married 14 year old Elizabeth Robley. In December 1806 Captain Piper, the commandant of Norfolk Island, returned Robinson and his wife Elizabeth to Sydney much to the displeasure of Governor Bligh.

Robinson's marriage to Elizabeth Robley apparently turned him around and he settled down in Sydney and they had the following family:-

In 1810 Robinson was appointed as chief clerk to the office of the secretary to Governor Macquarie. Over the next 11 years of the Monarch's birthday, he would publish and recite a poem he had composed for that purpose. In 1819 he was given two cows from the government herd for his duties as Poet Laureate. He is credited with being the first published poet in the Colony.

In 1818 he was appointed Provost Marshall. In 1821 he was appointed senior clerk in the police office, and he was one of the original shareholders of the Bank of New South Wales.

He died on the 22nd of December 1826 leaving a wealthy widow. There is mention that Robinson was survived by his wife, one son and one daughter. I cannot find any further record of their son Henry.

Records do not disclose whether Elizabeth Robinson née Robley remarried, but they do indicate that her son George married Martha Hilton in Sydney in 1858, and they had the following family:-

There is a record of Emily marrying Richard Allen in Sydney, in 1828, but no record of a family.

For family research only. T. Hoodless 2006.