The wives of Batman & Fawkner

John Batman's wife, Eliza Callaghan, was an attractive young lady with a lively spirit. In 1820, the police caught her trying to use counterfeit notes in London, and she was sentenced to transportation to the colony of Van Diemen's Land for 14 years. Her jail report read, simply: ‘Bad'.

Eliza began a relationship with John Batman in early 1823. Around this time, Eliza's name was published in a list of runaway convicts, and Batman was accused of hiding her. A convict constable searched Batman's house and found evidence of a woman living there, but despite the investigation, no charges were pressed.

Batman applied for Eliza's pardon in March 1828, and they were soon married. However, the relationship was relatively short-lived – in Batman's final years, Eliza left John for another man, and he died shortly after.

John Pascoe Fawkner, on the other hand, was married to his wife, Eliza Cobb, for 51 years, and often told the story of how they met. Fawkner had a friend in the shipping master's office, who had given him advance warning of the arrival of a ship transporting women. Fawkner was the first to arrive and greet the ship, and so was able to reserve for himself the best looking lady on board.

However, as he was bringing her home, one of his friends saw them and decided he wanted the girl for himself. He knocked Fawkner over and walked off with her. Undeterred, Fawkner went back to speak to the ship's captain:

‘Hullo,' says the captain, ‘what do you want now'
‘Another wife,' I says.
‘Why, confound you, how many wives do you want? You took the best looking girl on the ship a few minutes ago.'
‘Yes,' I said, ‘but my mate took her away from me, and now I want the homeliest-looking girl you have got, and I will marry her.'
And I did, ladies and gentlemen, and there she sits, smiling at you now, and she has been a good wife to me for 35 years now.

John Pascoe Fawkner, reprinted in The Argus, 22 Sept 1906

The Argus, 22 Sept 1906.

This quote comes from a story written and published 37 years after Fawkner's death, so – sadly – there's a good chance it's a great story and not much more. However, it illustrates the importance of looking at the date something was written when evaluating a source.

Portrait of Eliza Cobb, wife of John Pascoe Fawkner.
Magazine story about Eliza Callaghan, John Batman's wife.
Continuation of magazine story about Eliza Callaghan, John Batman's wife.
Front cover of pulp novel Eliza Callaghan, based  on the life of John Batman and his wife.