Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

George Bouchier Worgan R. N.,

First Fleet Surgeon

George Bouchir Worgan was christened on 3 May 1757 at St Andrew's, Holborn, London[1]. He was the son of John Worgan (1724-1790), a doctor of music, and his wife Sarah, nee Maclean.

Christening of George Worgan

Naval Service

During the American War of Independence (1775–83), George Worgan served as a Surgeon’s Mate on board the hospital ship Tiger. [2]

He qualified as surgeon's second mate in the Navy in February 1778 and was gazetted naval surgeon in March 1780, serving for two years in the Pilote.

In November 1786, aged 30, he joined the Sirius, sailing in her next year in the First Fleet to New South Wales.[3]

George Worgan's Piano

George Worgan being musically inclined took with him to New South Wales, his piano. Before his departure for England in the Waaksamheyd in 1791, he gifted the piano to Mrs Elizabeth Macarthur.

George Bouchier Worgan's piano

The piano eventually became a part of the Stewart Symonds Collection, which was donated to Edith Cowan University in 2016. The piano, shown above, was on loan to the WA Maritime Museum until 2017.


Signature of George Bouchier WorganGeorge Worgan kept a journal, being an account of the first five months of the new settlement. It was attached to a letter written to his brother Richard Worgan. He describes in detail the natives they encountered and troubles with convicts.

Being a musician himself, he also describes official celebrations when music was played such as that of the King's Birthday when the Band played....... At Sunrise the British Flags were displayed on Board the Ships, and on the Shore. The Sirius, and Supply fired 21 Guns each; this Ceremony they repeated at 1 O'Clock, and at Sunset. At 12 O'Clock the Battalion was drawn up before the Governor's House, where, they fired three Vollies of Musketry, the First part of God Save the King being played by the Band between each Volley. [4]

Unfortunately there is no other mention of music in the journal although he does refer to singing the evening away while on a bush excursion.......

Mon. 9th. Two of Captain Hunter's Servants having gone on Shore Yesterday Noon, to take a Walk in the Woods, and not being yet returned, we were apprehensive that they had missed their Way, or that some Accident had happened to them, therefore Boats were sent up and down the Harbour close along the Shore with Directions to the Officers of them, to Fire a Musket now and then. I having a Mind for a Ramble, offered, with three other Gentlemen, as a Volunteer to go into the Woods, in search of Them, therefore arming Ourselves, and equipping our Snapsacks (?Knapsacks), we went on Shore, and directing our Course N.W. Inland We walked till 3 O'Clock in the Afternoon, hollowing, and firing our Guns every half hour, but not being able to meet with them, we determined upon staying out all Night, accordingly We laid down our Bread an Cheese Wallets, made up a Wig-wam of green Boughs, cut some dry Ferns for a Bed, lit two or three rousing Fires near our Hut, and set down to Dinner. We sung the Evening away, and about 9 O'Clock retired to Rest, taking it by turns to keep watch, and supply the Fires with Fuel. [4]

George Worgan joined several other expeditions to the Hawkesbury River and Broken Bay. Below is an extract from John Hunter's journal describing part of the expedition to the Hawkesbury -

On the 6th of June, boats were dispatched under the care of Mr. Keltie, master of the Sirius, with provisions, &c. And the party, which consisted of the governor, Captain Collins (the judge-advocate), Captain Johnston of the marines, Mr. White principal surgeon of the settlement, Mr. Worgan, Mr. Fowell, and myself (John Hunter), from the Sirius, and two men all armed with musquets, &c.

We landed on the north part of Port Jackson, and proceeded along the sea coast to the northward ; in the course of our march, we had many long sandy beaches to cross, which was a very fatiguing part of the journey : when we ascended the hills, we had frequently thick woods to pass through, but as we often fell in with paths, which the natives in travelling along the coast had trod very well down ; these paths rendered our march, not only on account of pointing to us the most easy and accessible parts of the hills and woods, but, in point of direction, the shortest which could be found, if we had even been better acquainted with this tract.

We left Port Jackson at six o'clock in the morning, just as the day was dawning, and arrived at the south branch of Broken-Bay at three in the afternoon, after a pretty warm and fatiguing journey, loaded as we were with provisions for several days, water, and ammunition : when we arrived at the water-side, we found our boats, which had left Port Jackson at midnight, were safely arrived. As it was now too late in the day, and we were all too much fatigued to attempt any part of the main business upon which we came here, we pitched our tents, and hauled the seine for fish, and being successful, we sat down to regale ourselves on fresh fish and salt beef, and rested the remainder of the day.

In the course of the little excursions of our boats' crews this afternoon, a native woman was discovered, concealing herself from our sight in the long grass, which was at this time very wet, and I should have thought very uncomfortable to a poor naked creature. She had, before the arrival of our boats at this beach, been, with some of her friends, employed in fishing for their daily food, but were upon their approach alarmed, and they had all made their escape, except this miserable girl, who had just recovered from the small-pox, and was very weak, and unable, from a swelling in one of her knees, to get off to any distance: she therefore crept off, and concealed herself in the best manner the could among the grass, not twenty yards from the spot on which we had placed our tents. She was discovered by some person, who having fired at and shot a hawk from a tree right over her, terrified her so much that she cried out and discovered herself.

Vignette from title page, John Hunter's Journal

Information was immediately brought to the governor, and we all went to see this unhappy girl, whom we found, as I have already observed, just recovered from the small-pox, and lame: She appeared to be about 17 or 18 years of age, and had covered her, debilitated and naked body with the wet grass, having no other means of hiding herself; she was very much frightened on our approaching her, and shed many tears, with piteous lamentations: we understood none of her expressions, but felt much concern at the distress the seemed to suffer; we endeavoured all in our power to make her easy, and with the assistance of a few expressions which has been collected from poor Ara-ba-noo while he was alive, we soothed her distress a little, and the sailors were immediately ordered to bring up some fire, which we placed before her : we pulled some grass, dried it by the fire, and spread round her to keep her warm; then we shot some birds, such as hawks, crows, and gulls, skinned them, and laid them on the fire to broil, together with some fish, which she eat; we then gave her water, of which she seemed to be much in want, for when the word Baa-do was mentioned, which is their expression for water, she put her tongue out to shew how very dry her mouth was; and induced from its appearance and colour, she had a considerable degree of fever on her. Before we retired to rest for the night, we saw her again, and got some fire-wood laid within her reach, with which she might, in the course of the night, recruit her fire ; we also cut a large quantity of grass, dried it, covered her well, and left her to her repose, which, from her situation, I conjecture was not very comfortable or refreshing.

Next morning we visited her again; she had now got pretty much the better of her fears, and frequently called to her friends, who had left her, and who, we knew, could be at no great distance from her; she repeated their names in a very loud and shrill voice, and with much apparent anxiety and concern for the little notice they took of her intreaties to return : for we imagined, in all she said when calling on them, she was informing them, that the strangers were not enemies, but friends; however, all her endeavours to bring them back were ineffectual, while we remained with her ; but we were no sooner gone the beach, than we saw some of them come out of the wood; and as there were two canoes on the shore belonging to this party, they launched one into the water and went away.

We employed this day in going up the south branch, which the governor named Pitt Water, and so much of the day was spent in examining it, that when we returned down near the place where we had passed the last night, it was thought too late to proceed farther ; we therefore encamped on the same spot. Our tents were no sooner up, than we went to visit our young female friend, whom we found in a little bark hut upon the beach; this hut was the place in which she and her friends were enjoying themselves, when the arrival of our boat alarmed them. She was not alone, as before, but had with her a female child, about two years old, and as fine a little infant of that age as I ever saw; but upon our approach (the night being cold and rainy, and the child terrified exceedingly) she was lying with her elbows and knees on the ground, covering the child from our sight with her body, or probably sheltering it from the weather, but I rather think on account of its fears : on our speaking to her, she raised herself up, and sat on the ground with her knees up to her chin, and her heels under her, and was at that moment, I think, the most miserable spectacle in the human shape I ever beheld.

Cape of Good Hope

He joined the voyage on the Sirius to the Cape of Good Hope in 1788 - 1789. An account of their arrival after is included in John Hunter's Journal -

John Hunter's Journal
Extract from 'An Historical Journal of the Transactions at Port Jackson and Norfolk Island' describing their arrival at Table Bay...By John Hunter

Medical Duties

On return to New South Wales, George Worgan continued to attend to medical duties as required. When he recommended that Lieut. William Collins and Lieut. Maxwell be returned to England because of incapacitating illness, he signed the document G.B. Worgan, Surgeon of the Sirius, General Hospital, Sydney Cove. [6]

Return to England

He returned to England in the Waaksamheyd in 1791 - On 27th March, Captain Hunter, accompanied by his officers and crew, left Sydney Cove, in the Waaksamheyd, for Batavia; but, instead of a run of sixteen weeks, as they expected, and had provided for, they did not reach that settlement till 27th September 1791. The Waaksawheyd had taken her route northward, it being the commencement of the winter, and passed through the channel that was discovered by Captain Carteret, in the Swallow, and which divides New Britain from New Ireland; went through the Strait of Macassar, and after a passage of twenty-six weeks reach Batavia. The vessel being foul sailed very ill, and they were unfortunately troubled with tedious calms near the line, and strong eastern currents, which, with the shortness of their provisions, occasioned their suffering much; they were compelled to stop at two different islands in search of water, where they were seriously attacked by the natives.

Having purchased the necessary provisions at Batavia they sailed for the Cape of Good Hope on 20 October, reaching that settlement on 17th December 1791; departed on 19th January 1792, touched at St. Helena on 4th February and arrived at Portsmouth on 22nd April 1792
. [7]


He married Mary Lowry in Liskeard, Cornwall and retired on half pay around the year 1800.

They settled in the Liskeard district. In 1798 he occupied two parcels of land, being one of several tenant farmers of Rev. Phillip Mayon in Morvall, Cornwall. [8]

His years in Liskeard were described by John Allen in a History of the Borough of Liskeard......However being very theoretical in the management, and having some difficulty in the holding, which he attributed to entails, Worgan quitted both estates with considerable loss. In 1808 he was engaged by the British Board of Agriculture to survey the husbandry of Cornwall; his report of which, revised by three country gentlemen, and published in 1811, was considered a good authority. He was a man of extensive reading, and for several years conducted a national school at Liskeard. His sister married Sir W. Parsons, Master of the King's Band. A brother lived near Cheltenham. Two sons went to Australia.

In 1836, two years before he died, George Worgan build Wadeland House on New road. [9]


George Worgan died of apoplexy at Liskeard on 4 March 1838.

Notes and Links

1). First Fleet piano part of priceless collection of historic instruments donated to a Perth university - ABC 26 May 2016

2). Australian Colonial Dance - Australia's First Piano

3). The First Fleet Piano, A Musicians View - Geoffrey Lancaster - ANU

4). John Turnpenny Altree also returned to England on the Waaksamheyd.

5). General View of the Agriculture of the County of Cornwall - G.B. Worgan

Magnify the map above by scrolling then click on the ship icons to read accounts from First Fleet Journals. Each of the eleven ships is represented by a different colour. The Sirius with George Worgan on board is in blue.
Enlarge the map using the icon on the top right. Select here to find out more about this map


[1] England, Births and Christenings, 1538-1975. Salt Lake City, Utah: FamilySearch, 2013

[2] Lancaster, Geoffrey, The first fleet piano : a musician's view. George Bouchier Worgan: The owner of the first piano to be brought to Australia

[3] John Cobley, 'Worgan, George Bouchier (1757–1838)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University

[4] George Bouchier Worgan - letter written to his brother Richard Worgan, 12 - 18 June 1788. Includes journal fragment kept by George on a voyage to New South Wales with the First Fleet on board HMS Sirius, 20 January 1788 - 11 July 1788 - State Library NSW

[5] Hunter, John, An Historical Journal of the Transactions at Port Jackson and Norfolk Island. p. 101

[6] HRA Series 1, vol.1, p.64

[7] The Naval Chronicle: Volume 24, July-December 1810

[8] The National Archives; Kew, Richmond; Surrey, Land Tax Redemption Office: Quotas and Assessments, IR23; Piece: 9

[9] History of the Borough of Liskeard and Its Vicinity By John Allen