Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

Convict Ship Hydrabad - 1845

Embarked: 250 men
Voyage: 121 days
Surgeon's Journal: Yes
Master Alexander Robertson.
Surgeon James Ormiston McWilliam
Destination Norfolk Island

Hydrabad was owned and operated by 19th century shipbuilders -owners Duncan Dunbar. The large oak and teak built ship was built by the Middle Dock Company of West Holborn, South Shields on the Tyne River in 1843. [6]

The Convicts

The convicts transported on the Hydrabad came from counties in England, Wales and Scotland: Lincoln, Nottingham, Kent, Bucks, London, Sussex, Wiltshire, Durham, Surrey, Southampton, Nottingham, Chester, Suffolk, Lancaster, Devon, Norfolk, Rutland, Essex, Cambridge, Stafford, York, Jersey, Leicester, Gloucester, Huntingdon, Worcester, Salop, Hereford, Warwick, Oxford, Somerset, Cornwall, Bedford, Dorset, Perth, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Ayr, Jedburgh, Aberdeen, Monmouth and Jersey. There were also two soldiers who had been court-martialed at Plymouth and Bermuda

Surgeon James Ormiston McWilliam

J.O. McWilliam kept a Medical Journal from 4 October 1844 to 4 March 1845 -

Convicts Embarked

The Hydrabad having received on board two hundred and fifty male convicts at Woolwich from Millbank prison, proceeded to the Downs whence she sailed for Norfolk Island on the 21st October 1844'

Military Guard

The Guard consisted of Lieutenants 22nd and 29th regiments -2 (Lieutenants Blackall, Coventry and Westropp) Sergeants, Corporals and Privates 58th and 99th regiments - 51 Soldiers wivesand children 17.

Passengers and Crew

Overseer of Convicts, wife etc 3 Master Mate and seamen 44 Convicts 250 Surgeon Superintendent - 1 Total on board 368

Description of Prison on Board

The Hydrabad was very lofty between decks and in point of room admirably adapted for a convict ship, the unusually large accommodation which the Prison afforded gave a very favourable time to the working of the new mode in which the sleeping berths are fitted up and it seems to be a vast improvement to the old system in a moral as well as salutary point of view. By the present arrangement every man has a separate sleeping berth and the whole of the moveable part of the wood work can be speedily unshipped so as to admit of being frequently sent on deck and scrubbed and the deck much more effectually and easily cleaned.

The Voyage

A strict set of Regulations in which cleanliness, quiet and strict obedience were enjoyed. They were ordered to be ready for muster by divisions at ten in the morning in a clean and proper state.


On the morning of the 6th November we were off Madeira and on the 13th off the Cape de Verde.


As the ship approached the Equator we had calm and light winds, during which there were several cases of fever and diarrhoea and a case of disease of the stomach in an old prisoner who had suffered from liver complaint several years which worsened by sea sickness and proved fatal.

The early part of December was fine but on the 10th the wind changed to West causing a notable depression in the atmospheric temperature from which resulted some cases of catarrh among the prisoners.

Cape of Good Hope

As we proceeded to the Southward the convicts looked generally pale and thin. There was no positive disease among them and they seemed to relish their food all insomuch that they often complained of the scantiness of the allowance. Lime juice was daily supplied to them yet from their appearance as a whole and considered it advisable to proceed to the Cape for fresh provisions and vegetables, the course was accordingly shaped and we reached Simon's Bay on the 19th where we remained till the 27th having procured what we wanted and taken on board twenty six sheep and a proportion of ale and quantity of vegetables.

St. Paul Island

Leaving the Cape of Good Hope on the 27 December we had fine weather up to the early part of January when there fell a good deal of rain; as we advanced to the Southward of Saint Paul Island southerly winds blew cold and here was found the benefit of the additional flannel which the Government had on my representation granted to convicts during the passage for there was only a few catarrh and sore throats among them; a very different case from that of my former voyage while in the high southern latitudes.

Bass Straits

On the 8th February we were in Bass Straits and on the 19th reached Norfolk Island.

Norfolk Island

When the Hydrabad arrived at Norfolk Island there was a heavy sea running over the Bar, so we were obliged to stand off for the night; the morning was fortunately fine and we landed upwards of a hundred of the prisoners but the rollers having set in on the following day our operations were again for some time suspended. One man with fever and one with ulcerated leg were sent to the hospital and the whole of the others were mustered in the Barracks yard in so healthy and robust a condition that I would certainly advise all ships to call at the Cape for fresh supplies so wonderfully did they improve the constitution of those of the Hydrabad.

Port Jackson

A quantity of stores and some medicines having been landed on the island we sailed on the 24th and anchored at Port Jackson on the evening of the 4th March 1845.[1]

Departure from Sydney

The Hydrabad was re-fitted and engaged by the East India Company to take about 120 horses to Calcutta. They were put on board at Circular Wharf with great expedition; there were forty shipped on the first day. The fittings were considered superior and were constructed to as to promote the safety and comfort of the horses. In addition to the ordinary ventilation, a machine was constructed to force the air into the lower hold. She cleared at the Custom House on Saturday and presents a favourable opportunity for sending letters to England via Calcutta. She was cleared out of Sydney on 26 April.

Passengers included Mrs. Betts, three daughters and son Mr. J.C. Lyall, Mr. A. Ford, Miss and Master Sandys, Dr. Child, Mrs. Murphy, Messrs J. Knowles, John Stewart, James Broderick, G.P. Lynch, James Mason, Christopher Laurel, Colin Munro David Peacock, Edward Brown, John Stacey, W. Phillip and E. Hall.

Wrecked in Torres Straits

The Hydrabad was lost in Torres Straits on 25th May 1845 after missing the beacon on Raine's Island and being thrown leeward and obliged to run through the first opening that offered; in doing so she struck on a rock and sank almost instantly in deep water.[4]

The Cornwall Chronicle published details of the wreck......

On 19th May the Hydrabad reached the Raine's Islands passage Torres' Straits, and then stood for the Cumberland passage working against a head wind for four days when, on the 25th May at 5pm she struck on the Barrier Reef. An anchor was let go and at 10 the same evening the vessel worked her way over the reef into deep water, and was then making ten inches water per hour. Both pumps were immediately set to work, to keep the vessel free; but one of them choked at midnight and the water rapidly gaining upon the vessel, Captain Robertson deemed it advisable to abandon her - there being then eight feet water in the hold - it was found impossible to keep her afloat. The boats (three) were ordered to be launched. Twenty eight persons placed themselves in the long boat, twenty one in the cutter, and eleven in the gig - in all sixty - with as much fresh water and provisions as could be conveniently taken from the ship.

Prior to the vessel striking ten horses had died on the passage.

Determined to see the last of the Hydrabad, they made fast to her stern by a deep sea lead line, and saw her go down at 4am on the 26th May. At daylight they set sail for Mount Adolphus, where they obtained a fresh supply of water and the following morning set sail again and made for Booby Island, expecting to find a supply of fresh provisions there - but were disappointed, as one of the Fly's boat's crews had previously touched there, on their way to Port Essington, having been blown to sea while surveying the coast of New Guinea.

Twenty eight persons including Captain Robertson, Mr. Lyall, Mr. Ford, Dr. Child, Mrs. Knowles, Mr. Mason and twenty one of the crew, left Booby Island for Port Essington in the ship's boats where they arrived safely in four days after. The rest of the passengers and crew remained on the Island, where, on Monday 1st June, the schooner Shamrock from Sydney, bound to Mauritius hove in sight of the island and took on board Mrs. Betts and family' the first and second officers and the remainder of the Hydrabad's crew; together with Captain Chilcott, of the Coringa Packet, Lieut. Blackall, Ensign Bloomfield and the Coringa Packet's crew who were on the island. [2]

Captain Robertson of the Hydrabad proceeded to Ceylon in the Shamrock. [5]

Notes and Links

1). John McGillicuddy b. Ireland arrived free on the Hydrabad

2). Bolter on board the Hydrabad.......

Bolter from the Hydrabad


[1] UK Royal Navy Medical Journals, 1817-1857 . National Archives, Kew.

[2] Cornwall Chronicle 30 August 1845

[3] Geelong Advertiser (Vic. : 1840 - 1845), Wednesday 16 April 1845, page 3

[4] Shipping Gazette and Sydney Trade List, 20 December 1845

[5] Shipping Gazette and Sydney Trade List 27 September 1845