8 Nov 2011

Matthew Flinders

A narration by 9 year old Jemimah as part of her Final AO4 examinations. I think she's done really well, despite a few factual errors.

Matthew Flinders

Matthew Flinders’ father was a doctor, and like most fathers he wanted his son to take on the family job of medical work. But Matthew and his brother had different ideas. They both wanted to be seafarers. But their home was so far away that it would be impossible for them to get a proper seafaring education. But Matthew Flinders and his brother didn’t care. They were going to be sailors no matter what their father wanted.

One day his father took him down to a beach. Matthew was entranced. Now he was sure that he wanted to be a sailor. His Uncle John was a seafarer, but he started late, and certainly didn’t have enough time in his life to become a Captain and make him his Cabin Boy, but he could recommend a man who did have enough power to make him Cabin Boy, and he pointed him in the direction of Captain Pasley.

Captain Pasley invited Flinders to come on a short trip on the Bellerophon. Matthew Flinders had always wanted to sail around the world. He had heard about Captain Bligh and how with incredible fortune he had been able to go right around the world. He had also heard about how he had amazingly managed to survive a mutiny when his sailors wanted to go back to Tahiti because they liked the weather so they captured him and put him in a little boat that was about the size of a row boat, gave him five days worth of bread and water and cast him out. Now you would have though that was the end of Captain Bligh. Not true. Captain Bligh managed to reach Timor safely in 45 days. Captain Bligh was renowned for his crazy personality. He was known for whipping a man for not eating or not eating the lime that stopped him getting scurvy, and yet a couple of minutes later he would be talking to his orange trees. Yes, talking. At one point he put the sailors on rations so that the breadfruit trees got enough water.

Matthew Flinders therefore was fascinated by this man and was amazed when he was offered the chance to sail with him. Of course he said,” Yes,” and he was a brilliant help to Captain Bligh. He sailed for Tahiti and was amused to see that Captain Bligh was delighted with the fact that the orange trees he had planted a small while before on his previous voyage were growing brilliantly. Especially one, which he pronounced delightedly, was thriving! Captain Bligh had been elected to pick up some breadfruit trees and take them to the slaves in the sugarcane plantations because the slaves didn’t have enough food. Matthew Flinders survived the rations in order to keep alive the breadfruit trees and came home to Captain Pasley.

He had not known that while he was away, a war had begun with France. So he and Captain Pasley went out on the dangerous seas to fight. In that journey, Captain Pasley got shot in the leg and was in a serious condition for a while, but he survived. Matthew Flinders went home, amazingly with no injuries, and met a pretty girl called Anne. He fell in love with her, but he was offered the chance to go to Australia with Captain Hunter, and since this was his dream, he could not refuse.

While he was on the ship, he made friends with the ship doctor, George Bass. Mr Bass brought on board with him a tiny boat, only seven feet long called the Tom Thumb. He was planning to use it for exploring, but had been denied the privilege by the Captain, who from kindness more than anything said, “You will surely be dashed to pieces in such a small boat.” But he, with the help of Matthew Flinders convinced him to let them both go in the boat and sail around Tasmania. In doing so they proved that Tasmania was not joined to the mainland. Another thing happened on this voyage – a sad thing. Bass got shot in the arm by a bullet and his arm got infected. It got infected to badly that he was dying. He was on the operating table about to have his arm amputated in a wild effort to save him when he died.

Matthew Flinders was very sad about his friend and he missed him greatly. When he returned home he married Anne, and was dismayed to find out he was leaving again for Australia two days after his marriage. He was very sad, but they comforted themselves by saying that they would meet each other soon – in one year. He wrote many letters to her, and made up a pet name – Beloved Friend.

One of the things that nobody knew at that time was whether Australia were one country or two, and Flinders wanted to prove that it was one. So he went to Joseph Banks and asked him if he would be interested, but he convinced him by using his weakness…more plants. Everyone knew that he loved to discover more plants. Matthew Flinders too advantage of this and explained that if Australia were two continents, there might be different plants on each. He immediately agreed, giving him the permission to have his own ship and he arranged a passe-port to be made so that he might be able to go through the different ports and the war ports without being arrested. Matthew Flinders set off and sailed back to Australia. He proved that it was one country, but he got ship wrecked on his way and with his strong will and some men, in a tiny boat, he managed to sail all the way to Sydney. They gave him a boat and he sailed back to rescue them, but while he was gone they had been making a boat because they said to themselves that if he doesn’t make it we will have wasted all this time. So as a backup they made their own boat. They still used his boat though. Then they went around the other bit of Australia and proved that it was one island.

Matthew Flinders was eager to get home to Anne, so he started the long voyage back home. He knew fine well that the bottom of the boat was rotting and the steel cap on the bottom would not help the leaks, so he stopped off in Mauritius, which belonged to France. Despite his passe-port, the Frenchmen put him in gaol because they thought he was a spy coming to steal their plans for war. He was left in gaol for many years. Finally Joseph Banks convinced them to let him go, although for a long time they had been ignoring him. While he was in prison Matthew Flinders got sick. He was an extremely unhealthy man waiting for someone to care. He had gall stones and sometimes it was so bad he sweated with pain.

He finally arrived home and was glad to be home. His wife was sent a letter saying he was home and she came immediately. While she was travelling, she met a man that had worked with her husband. He warned her that he was not the same as he used to be, and it was a good thing that he did. He was frail and sickly. He was only 36, but he looked 50 and he felt 70!

He started to have his life story written since he knew he was dying. The doctors could do nothing to help him but give him medicine to ease his pain. His wife had a baby. She too was called Anne after her mother. But Matthew was so sick he could not enjoy her much.

Anne did not cry when she heard he was going to die – she had cried enough earlier when he had left her many years in ships and fought battles. He was unconscious and dying when the finished book was placed underneath his hand. He would never know that his book had been finished. He died aged only 40.

Matthew Flinders is also well known for discovering a problem with the compass. He discovered that when metal things were close to a compass they made it change directions. He therefore invented a sort of box with a bar across the back and a round lid on the side. It would block off the magnet and in a way become a magnet itself, therefore stopping the compass giving the wrong directions, therefore making it possible to adjust the compass to correctly point north.


  1. WOW! Fantastic! Well done Jemimah!! I loved reading this. :)

  2. Hi Jeanne,

    Did your daughter do this completely unaided or did you have to prompt where she might have forgotten?

    I find that I would need to prompt or let my chidren narrate a passage this long in sections.

    Any tips?



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