Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

Convict Ship David Malcolm - 1845

Embarked: 220 men
Voyage: 90 days
Deaths: 0
Surgeon's Journal: yes
Master: James Cable
Surgeon Harvey Morris

The David Malcolm, with surgeon Harvey Morris was engaged at the Downs to take convicts to Australia in April 1845[2].

Military Guard

Soon afterwards orders were received from the Commandant of the Chatham Garrison Colonel Sir T. Willshire, Bart, K.C.B. that officers and men of that garrison were also to hold themselves in readiness to embark at Deptford on the 8th May on board the convict ship David Malcolm for Norfolk Island.

The officers selected for the Guard were Captain Conron, 11th regiment and Paymaster Timbrell of the 58th regiment. The 11th regiment furnished 3 serjeants, 3 corporals and 43 privates; and the 58th regiment one private.[3]

Convicts Embarked

It was reported in the Morning Post on 9th May that the Naiad and Nymph steam packets of the Woolwich Company brought down the river upwards of two hundred convicts the previous morning from Millbank Penitentiary. They were to be embarked on the David Malcolm, which was lying off the Royal Arsenal.

William Burgess, who was sentenced to transportation for his connection with the bank robbery of about 8000l., the greater part of which was recovered when taken in America; Augustus Dalmas, for the murder of a female on Battersea Bridge and Tolzer, for a murder in Ratcliffe highway, were amongst the more notable convicts of the day. They were sentenced to pass the remainder of their lives on Norfolk Island, one of the most severe penal settlements in New South Wales. [4]

Surgeon Harvey Morris

Harvey Morris was officially appointed to the ship on 14th April 1845.[1] He kept a medical journal from 9th May 1845 to 21st September 1845.

Departure from England

They departed the Downs 14th May 1845. They were in the Bay of Biscay on 20th May 1845. On 20th August during a violent storm the ship was struck by lightning when several men were hit.

Treatment for Scurvy

The surgeon was advised by the Director-General to conduct experiments during the voyage to ascertain treatment for scurvy. Harvey Morris transcribed the directive and included it in his journal........

It being desirable that the effects of Citric Acid in the cure of scurvy should have a fair trial I have directed 15lbs to be placed at your disposal for that purpose and therefore should scurvy appear amongst the convicts in the David Malcolm during the voyages you are to select such a number of patients as circumstances may permit having symptoms similar to each other and divide them in to three classes taking care that their diet and exercise are the same. To one class let the citric acid be administered and it will be found that half a dram dissolved in one ounce of water will be about the strength of lemon juice - To the second class let the common lemon juice be given in the usual way and to the third class the nitrate of Potassum dissolved in water. You will carefully observe and note the progress of the cases and the result and make a full report on your return to England - W. Burnett, Director General.

Harvey Morris made a detailed and, as he thought unbiased report to present when he returned to England. He noted that the convicts had been two months and seventeen days on salt provisions when the first complaint was made and the greater part of that time they had nearly an ounce of lemon juice each daily. One of the first men brought to his attention in the case of scurvy was Joseph Hamer*, 29, head schoolmaster of the convicts, who presented himself to the surgeon on the 1st August complaining of pains in the larger joints particularly of the knee and ankle which the surgeon at first thought was arthritis but on examination found symptoms of scurvy (This man although a privileged person was kept more between decks than others in consequence of his occupation). After discovering symptoms of scurvy in the headmaster the surgeon then examined everyone else on board and found that 29 convicts and several soldiers and sailors were affected with similar symptoms.

Other Illness on Board

Other prisoners and passengers mentioned in the surgeon's journal include:

9th May 1845 - Thomas Wainwright, 34, Opthalmia - while still at the Downs, convict

16th May 1845 - Samuel Pope, 40, rheumatism - while still at the Downs, convict.

18th May 1845 - Richard Dawkins, 30, sea sick, convict

20th May 1845 - James Smith, 22, paralysis - Bay of Biscay, convict

20th May 1845 - Abraham Myers, 30, gout - at sea, convict

25th May 1845 - Richard Tompset, 40, debility, convict

29th May 1845 - Richard Hill, 23, debility, convict.

1st June 1845 - George Jackson, 26, scrofula, convict

5th June 1845 - Mary Adams, 2yrs 5 months, soldiers child, hernia

11th June 1845 - Henry Howard - vaccinated, convict

11th June 1845 - John Hargreaves - vaccination, convict

23rd June 1845 - John Ogilvie - vaccination, convict

23rd June 1845 - William Watson - vaccination, convict

30th June 1845 - Richard Gillett - vaccination, convict

30th June 1845 - Samuel Sudrass - vaccination, convict

30th June 1845 - Samuel Carroll - vaccination, convict

5th July 1845 - Simon Cox, vaccination, convict

5th July 1845 - John Humpries, vaccination, convict

5th July 1845 - William Perkins, vaccination, convict

25th July 1845 - Alexander Low, 15, boy, wound - accidentally stabbed himself with a knife,

5th August 1845 - James Aylward, 21, ulcer following injury, convict

Arrival at Norfolk Island

They arrived at Norfolk Island on 25th August 1845. Major Joseph Childs was Commandant at this time.

Departure from Norfolk Island

The David Malcolm departed Norfolk Island on 10th September, the same day as the Franklin, both bound for Hobart Town and after departing Hobart arrived in Sydney 20th September 1845.

Notes and Links

1) *Joseph Hamer was tried in Chester and sentenced to transportation for life

2). Read the amazing story of William Burgess and his accomplice Joseph Elder, and their fraudulent transfer of 8000 pounds worth of stock of the Bank of England, and the international pursuit by two officers John and Daniel Forrester - South Australian Register 29 March 1845. A little of William Burgess' circumstances on Norfolk Island can be found in an account later written by William Henry Barber who arrived on the Agincourt....William Burgess, the Bank of England clerk, robbed the Bank of several thousand pounds and absconded to America was convicted here of conspiring with some of the military for effecting the escape of himself and others from the island; for this he was sentenced to work in chains for eighteen months. Whilst under this sentence he was regularly employed as clerk in the office at Longridge station, whilst, I who have never been accused even of a single infraction of the regulations and who had been ten months longer on the island was up to my knees in mud in the field, exposed to the severities of a most changeable climate - one hour exhausted by heat almost tropical and the next deluges with torrents of rain - and associated with the veriest ruffians that ever disgraced humanity![5]

3). Augustus Dalmas was transported on the David Malcolm.....April 29: Mrs. Macfarlane, of Bridge road, Battersea, a widow subsisting by keeping a day and Sunday school, was murdered on Battersea Bridge, between 10 and 11 o'clock at night by Augustus Dalmas, who had lived in Battersea 20 years, and had been connected with some chemical works and a floor cloth manufactory at Knightsbidge.

The Annual Register....In our Vol. for 18-14, p. 52, we notice the respite of the above convict, who was found guilty of the dreadful murder of a woman on Battersea Bridge. While under sentence of death at Horsemonger Lane Gaol, Dalmas exhibited either such real or pretended symptoms of insanity, that the Government at the eleventh hour was induced to grant a reprieve for one week, in order that Drs. Monro and Sutherland should have an opportunity of visiting him, and reporting on his state of mind. These gentlemen had two or three lengthened interviews with the prisoner, they entered into the most familiar conversation with him, and noted down very carefully his answers, behaviour, conduct, etc., and in the result came to the conclusion that the prisoner was insane. Dalmas consequently was reprieved during Her Majesty's pleasure; but was afterwards removed to the Millbank prison, previous to his transportation for life. Orders were given to scrutinize the prisoner's conduct, and he was to remain for a month in the prison, under medical surveillance. The result of this investigation was, that Dalmas remained for about six weeks in the Millbank prison, as a convict for one of the penal settlements, when the medical officers confirming his insanity, he was removed from Millbank prison, to Bethlehem Hospital. Since his admission, however, the medical gentlemen of that institution have doubted his insanity; in fact, they have stated, that since his residence in that establishment, now about eight or nine months, he has exhibited no symptoms of insanity. This circumstance being duly reported to the Secretary of State, the consequence is, that Sir James Graham has issued an order for his removal from Bethlehem to his old quarters at Millbank prison, previous to his commuted sentence being carried into execution. The prisoner will now, consequently, be transported for life to one of the penal settlements. - The Annual Register Vol. 87 (see also Convict Records)

4). Major Joseph Childs was Commandant at Norfolk Island on 25 August 1846 when the David Malcolm arrived. He had written a Report dated 28 April 1846 which was sent to Lieutenant Governor Latrobe in Van Diemen's Land and which had observations of the Comptroller-General to the side. The much maligned Major Childs recommended separating the newly arrived English prisoners from the hardened colonial convicts who had been double convicted and had lengthy sentences yet to serve. Latrobe thought this impracticable and 'adopted the only measure in his power for checking and preventing existing evils by prohibiting the disembarkation at Norfolk Island of prisoners arriving direct from England'............

Norfolk Island, April 18, 1846,
I Have the honour to forward, for the information of the Right Hon. the Secretary of State for the Colonies, a Report on the state and condition of this island for the half-year ending the 31st of March last.

In my Report of the 1st of October, 1845, I was unable to adduce anything of a favourable or flattering character as respected the state of the convicts on the settlement, and the experience of the past six months tends only to confirm me in the opinions then expressed, of the injury that would be sustained by permitting a continuance of the doubly convicted colonial prisoners (1) in a locality so ill adapted for carrying out two systems of convict discipline at the same time.

It has been a matter of necessity, from want of sufficient accommodation(2) at the out-stations at Longridge and Cascade, to retain a portion of English, or home prisoners, on the settlement; and the wretched example of the penal prisoners (3), which is constantly before their eyes, has produced in them an effect altogether opposed to that which it is desirable should have been produced, and in place of an improvement in morals having been attained, they have acquired new vices, and a more sturdy perseverance in pursuing evil.

I have given my best consideration to the subject, and am of opinion (4) that there should be only one class of convicts at this island, leaving it for the consideration of those better experienced in the practice of convict discipline to decide whether Norfolk Island should be the receptacle of the worst description of convicts, or whether it should receive those only who, having imbibed evil habits at home, have at last subjected themselves to transportation as a penalty for their crimes (5). With due attention to the reform, and ultimate restoration to society, of these latter, their being detained here for a given period, separated from the rest of the world, and liable to a wholesome, yet coercive state of discipline, such an effect may be produced as will induce them to relinquish their evil ways, and lead them to a more healthful state of morals, and raise them to a position which it is most desirable they should attain.

The two systems (6) in my opinion cannot operate together, and one must give way.

In arriving at a conclusion upon this point, it will be necessary to investigate how far this island is capable of carrying out either the one or the other.

Examine in the first place its resources as a grand gaol for doubly convicted felons, fluctuating from 2000 to 3000 in number (7), men who should for their crimes be subject to the most severe and most coercive labour, presuming they are not immured within the walls of a gaol. I contend that Norfolk Island does not present a sufficient means of thus employing such a class of prisoners. The principal occupation for men here is agricultural (8), cheerful to the mind and healthful to the body, and the labour being exercised upon a soil for the most part light, does not comprehend what I consider should be apportioned to men who should perform the most irksome drudgery. The tending of herds and flocks requires the employment of a large number of men, (9) who will be required, under any circumstances. The climate though warm is tempered by refreshing sea breezes, and is congenial to health, and it is only during the extreme summer months that the heat is oppressive.

The only real hard labour is quarrying stone, and this can afford employment but for a few out of the many, and will as a matter of course gradually decrease, as the public works necessary to be carried on arrive at completion (10).
(1) It is admirably adapted for doubly convicted men, as, with ordinary vigilance, they can have no chance of escape; whereas, in any part of Van Diemen's Land, or the adjacent islands, it will be almost impossible to keep them quite securely.
(2) It does not appear that any attempt has been made to provide more accommodation; there is plenty of stone, lime, and timber, on the island, and a third station might easily have been, and ought to have been formed.
(3) No attempt whatever has been made to separate the two classes of convicts. I admit the difficulty of doing this entirely, but much more might have been done than has been done.
(4) I quite concur, but the English prisoners should be removed, not the others; the English prisoners can be managed as well in any other locality, but the second convicts cannot; they are all, or nearly all, desperate men, and have long periods of detention to go through. They cannot be in a better place than Norfolk Island; if they were nearer the settled countries they would be continually getting away, and would be a source of constant annoyance and alarm.
(5) All this can be done just as well at Maria Island, or in some other locality adjacent to Van Diemen's Land.
(6) I do not know what is meant by the two systems, the only difference that I am aware of in the regulations respecting the first and second convicts, is that the latter are not allowed to hold billets, this, however, has never been attended to, and in fact, there has been at Norfolk Island, no system at all.
(7) There have never been more than 572 since Major Childs has been there, now there are only 478.
(8) The labour would, I conceive, in such a climate as that of Norfolk Island, be sufficiently hard, if the men were made to perform an adequate daily task.
(9) With fences and proper management, I should think a dozen men would be amply sufficient.
(10) I can only regret that, looking at what has been accomplished within the last two years, I cannot see any but the most distant prospect of the completion of the necessary buildings; the gaol, to contain 90 cells, was commenced seven years ago, and only 18 cells have been completed.-
Convict Discipline and Transportation


[1] The Standard (London, England), Monday, April 14, 1845; Issue 6462.

[2] Hampshire Advertiser and Salisbury Guardian (Southampton, England), Saturday, April 19, 1845; pg. 5; Issue 1132. 19th Century British Library Newspapers: Part II.

[3] The Standard (London, England), Friday, May 02, 1845; Issue 6478

[4] The Morning Post (London, England), Saturday, May 10, 1845; pg. 7; Issue 23189. 19th Century British Library Newspapers: Part II.

[5] Colonial Times 24 September 1847