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A Note on Watkin Tench.

Readers may remember the first chapter of my biography of Watkin Tench about my work in tracing his family in Chester, England. There I took him back to his grandfather in Nantwich and his mother a Tarleton from Liverpool. I have since located Tench's will in which he left everything to his wife except the family crested silver and family portraits which he left to his nephew, John Tench. This was the son of Watkin's brother who was also John Tench. To have a family crest was an indication that the family was part of the 'gentry' and hence Watkin's status as a gentleman.

I have included an illustration of Tench's crest located in one of the books of British crests, a standing reindeer with his face turned facing outwards. In addition I have used a portrait of Watkin Tench as he appeared in later life on the cover of this issue of Margin. The usual portrait of Tench shows him as a young man in the uniform of an officer of the Marines. I think that the later portrait shows a man of great character and his eyes speak out to you as a compassionate and pleasant person.

As you know Tench wrote two books about the first settlement in Sydney and they are regarded as the most readable and perceptive of all the First Fleet Journals.

In addition he wrote a series of letters published as Letters from Revolutionary France (1794-1795) again a remarkable book. I recently in Margin suggested another book was written by Tench, this time in French dealing with La Perouse and published in Quimper and anonymously. There may be others works as yet unknown. An author of such works was likely to have written other books. They may yet be discovered adding to the reputation of Watkin Tench as author.

There are further details of Tench's career in the Marines after his wartime experiences. A few of his connections of his retirement in Penzance are interesting and indicate his literary interests. He certainly liked to talk about his experiences in Australia as well as adventures in the American war when he was a prisoner in Maryland in what became the United States. Equally he gave his opinions about the revolution in France. Tench's interest and friendship with Australian Aboriginals has been dealt with in a detailed and perceptive manner by Inga Glendinnen in her book Dancing with Strangers. Tim Flannery has also written on Tench in the Introduction to the recent reprint of Tench's 'Botany Bay' books in paperback format which has been given the title '1788'.
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Author:Crittenden, Victor
Publication:M A R G I N: life & letters in early Australia
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Apr 1, 2008
Words:433
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