The Botanist and the Judge

Allan Cunningham in Tasmania 1818-1819
by A.E. & T.A. Orchard

On Christmas Day, 1818, the tiny Naval Cutter Mermaid, under the command of Lieut. Phillip Parker King, sailed through Sydney Heads en route to Tasmania, where King intended to survey the newly discovered harbours of Port Davey and Macquarie Harbour. On board were two passengers, the botanist Allan Cunningham, employed to collect plants for the King’s Garden at Kew, near London, and Justice Barron Field, the recently appointed Supreme Court Judge of New South Wales, visiting Tasmania for the first sitting of the Supreme Court in that colony.
Although Cunningham and Field were very different in personality and social standing, their lives intertwined for the next 20 years, in a number of ways. This interaction provides an interesting vignette of life in colonial Australia in the early 1800s, and of the close links of the colony with the home country.

This book describes, from his own journals, Cunningham’s exploration of the vicinity of Hobart, including an ascent of Mount Wellington, and of Macquarie Harbour, where he was the first to collect scientific specimens of Huon Pine, among many other plants new to science. The lives of Cunningham and Field, as well as a number of others involved in the expedition, particularly the Master’s Mate of the Mermaid, John Septimus Roe, and the commander, Phillip Parker King, are described. Roe’s description of the ascent of Mount Wellington, from letters to his father, provides a counterpoint to Cunningham’s account.

Many of Cunningham’s original collections survive in museums and herbaria around the world, and the book includes a summary of these, providing a powerful illustration of the lasting value of the work of this pioneering botanist.

Soft cover, 176 pages, 73 illustrations, printed on high quality paper. ISBN 978-0-9941505-0-9 Privately Published

BUY THE BOOK direct from the authors ( AUD$34.00 plus postage)
Go to The Allan Cunningham Project contact page to send a request for purchase.

About the authors


In retirement Dr Tony Orchard and his wife Theresa are compiling and publishing a detailed biography of the botanist/explorer Allan Cunningham.  They have published several books in the series so far, with more to come.

Dr Tony Orchard has had an extensive career as a Botanist at the highest levels: Beginning at the State Herbarium of South Australia (AD) (1972);  then Curator at the Cheeseman Herbarium in Auckland, NZ, (AK) (1972-1978); foundation Curator, Tasmanian Herbarium (HO) (1978-1992); Editor/Executive Editor, Flora of Australia (1992-1998), Director (and other positions) at ABRS Flora Section (1998-2003); botanist and Herbarium Registrar, Australian National Herbarium, Canberra, (2003-2005); Compiler, Australian Plant Census (2005-2006); Assistant Manager, Plant Biosecurity, Biosecurity Australia (2006-2009), Australian Botanical Liaison Officer, ABLO, Kew (2008-2009).  Source:

Theresa Orchard is a professional botanist.  After training at Aberystwyth University and University College, London, she moved to Australia in 1969, teaching Botany as a Tutor at the University of Adelaide (1970-1972).  From 1972-1978 she was a Tutor and Research Assistant in the Botany Department, University of Auckland, NZ, and from 2001 to 2008, was employed at the Australian National Herbarium , entering botanical collection records to the ANSHIR database.  In 2008-2009 she accompanied Tony to London where he was ABLO, and together they gathered extensive documentary and specimen data in London, Edinburgh, Paris, Florence and Geneva  for the research underpinning their Cunningham publications.  Follow up private trips to London in 2011 and 2012 provided further Cunningham data.

Books by Dr A.E. Orchard and T.A. Orchard