Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

Convict Ship Indispensable - 1809

Embarked: 62 women
Voyage: 169 days
Deaths 1
Surgeon's Journal: no
Previous voyage: Boyd arrived 14 August 1809
Next voyage: Anne arrived 27 February 1810
Captain Henry Best
Surgeon William Evans
Follow the Female Convict Ship Trail
Convicts and passengers of the Indispensable identified in the Hunter Valley

The Indispensable was built in France and launched in 1791. This is the same vessel that brought convicts to Australia in 1796. [2]

The female convicts who were transported to New South Wales on the Indispensable on this voyage were convicted in the following counties in England - Surrey, York, Warwick, Middlesex, Norfolk, Becon, London, Nottingham and Berwick upon Tweed.

Many had been tried at the Old Bailey and held in Newgate prior to being transported. Some of these included Mary Miller age 28; Jane Day age 45; Sarah Edwards age 30; Mary Lewis age 27; Sarah Burgess age 20 and Hannah Gagan age 20 who were all tried at the Old Bailey on the 1st June 1808.

Newgate was a formidable and notorious prison and in 1808 Elizabeth Fry had yet to begin her work to improve conditions within the walls -

A description of Newgate's female prisoners in 1808 - Henry Mayhew

.....Extract from The Criminal Prisons of London - by Henry Mayhew

Cabin and Free Passengers

Passengers included Rev. Cowper, Mrs. (Anne) Cowper. Rev. Cowper's daughter and sons by his first marriage to Hannah Horner - Mary Stephena Cowper and Henry, Thomas and Charles Cowper. Mary Stephena Cowper later married Newcastle surgeon George Brooks.

Mr. Heartley R.N., Mrs. Heartley and family.[1] (Mrs. J. Hartley and Mrs E.A. Hartley departed the colony in 1814.)

William Tyson (sen) and William Tyson(jun) arrived as free passengers on the Indispensable. Isabella Tyson, wife and mother, was a prisoner on board convicted of theft in Yorkshire.

Surgeon William Evans

This was William Evans' only voyage as surgeon superintendent on a convict ship. He was employed as assistant surgeon in Sydney on arrival. He worked for many years as surgeon in the penal settlement at Newcastle and was also granted land at Patterson's Plains in the early days of settlement there. His wife Mary Evans was granted permission to join her husband in the colony and was given a free passage on the Indian in 1810. [4]


The Indispensable departed England on 2nd March 1809 and touched at Rio de Janeiro on the voyage.

Port Jackson

They arrived in Port Jackson on 18 August 1809. One prisoner had died on the passage out.; Sixty one female prisoners arrived, all in a healthy state.


Some of the women may have been housed in the Female Factory at Parramatta. Others were assigned to private service - The fate of some of the women and their children can be assumed from an extract from the correspondence of T. W. Plummer to Colonel Macquarie (who did not take over as Governor until January 1810).

The correspondence was written in England on the 4th May 1809 -

I beg to submit to your consideration the following remarks:

There is another cause to which the laxity and depravity of public morals is peculiarly imputable.

It will perhaps scarcely be believed that, on the arrival of a female convict ship, the custom has been to suffer the inhabitants of the colony each to select one at his pleasure, not only as servants but as avowed objects of intercourse, which is without even the plea of the slightest previous attachment as an excuse, rendering the whole colony little better than an extensive brothel, and exposing the offspring of these disgraceful connexions to the risk of an example at once infamous and contagious. So prevalent has this practice been that it is estimated there are actually at this time about one thousand illegitimate children in the colony of this description - HR NSW Volume 7., p.120.

The Indispensable sailed for the fisheries on 21st October 1809 and returned to Sydney in April 1810. She brought with her Captain Piper, late commandant at Norfolk Island and sixty barrels of sperm whale oil.

The Indispensable sailed again for the fisheries at the end of April and it was later reported that they were sighted at Norfolk Island and that most of the crew were down with scurvy. Five sailors had deserted from the Indispensable before she sailed for the fisheries. They were later apprehended in Sydney and held until the return of the ship.

In July 1811 the Indispensable returned to Sydney with 175 barrels of sperm oil and in September she was to sail to New Zealand to complete her cargo and then to proceed direct to London.

Prisoners of the Indispensable identified in the Hunter Valley region:

Dale, Mary

Tried at the Old Bailey on 14 September 1808 age 23. Sentenced to 7 years transportation for stealing a gown and pelisse, the property of John Weatherall. Possibly the wife of George Dale who arrived free on the Indispensable. George Dale was transported to Van Diemen's Land in 1836

Gee, Mary

Tried at the Old Bailey on 30 November 1808. Sentenced to 7 years transportation for stealing on 19th November, 21 yards of calico, the property of Walter Foy. On 21 May 1811 the Commandant Lieut. Purcell at Newcastle received word that Mary Gee and Elizabeth Watkins were to be sent to Newcastle on the Governor Hunter. They were to be kept at hard labour for twelve months being the period to which they were sentenced by the court. She was permitted to return to Sydney in June 1813. In the 1820 convict list she was a single woman residing in Sydney

Hardy, Mary

Mary Hardy (wife of Robert Hardy) Mary was convicted at Middlesex Gaol Delivery 6 April 1808. Sentenced to 7 years transportation. Married Thomas Storer (ship Albemarle) in April 1810 in Sydney. Married John Kelly (ship Three Bees) at Newcastle in June 1822. In October 1826 she was before the Court at Newcastle charged with being a public nuisance..... by keeping her house open at irregular hours; of being riotous and disorderly; and obstructing the military in the performance of their duty; and of being frequently in a state of intoxication. Corporal Otway of the 3rd or Buffs states - On Saturday night last I was going round with the relief and on passing the residence of Mrs. Kelly, she came across the street and laid hold of one of the Guard. She was intoxicated at the time; two or three times during the same night she interrupted the relief as I went round with them. I have seen her in the streets upon various occasions in a state of intoxication. About midnight of Saturday last, soon after her husband was sent to the watch house for striking the sentry, I saw her at the Kings Store. She was then addressing herself to the sentry there in very improper terms. When I relieved him at two o'clock he reported to me that he had been much annoyed all the time he had been on his post by Mrs. Kelly. Patrick Keggan, soldier in the Buffs states - I was on guard on Saturday last, and was Sentry at the Stores between the hours of midnight and two o'clock, during which time Mrs. Kelly repeatedly came to me to get some men away from her house. She was drunk at the time. I cleared her house of the men she complained of after which she went out at the back door and brought them in again and I sent them away a second time. She then went into her house and shortly after a stone was thrown in the direction in which I was - it struck against the paling. I did not see any one about when the stone was thrown. I think it must have been thrown by some person in the house. The accused makes no defence; throws herself on the mercy of the court. The charged against the accused being fully proved, she is ordered to find sureties to be of good behaviour for twelve months in default of which to be committed to the gaol at the House of Correction for three months. N.B. Security given on the 26 October 1826

Robinson, Hannah

Convicted at Warwick Quarter Sessions 10 January 1809. Sentenced to 7 years transportation. Sent to Newcastle penal settlement 25 June 1812. It may have been the same Hannah Robinson who was to depart in the Brothers in January 1816. She was recorded at Port Dalrymple in 1817 and 1818 and in 1820 was married and residing in Sydney. She was sent to the Female Factory in April 1820

Thompson, Elizabeth

Convicted Middlesex Gaol Delivery 26 October 1808 of stealing a set of bed furniture, sheets and a counterpane the property of Thomas Carpenter from a lodging room. Sentenced to 7 years transportation. Her daughter Albenia Walker accompanied her on the ship. Albenia married Richard Hobden in Sydney 1816. Convict Indents state that Elizabeth Thompson was the wife of James Thompson. She married William Noble (ship Admiral Gambier 1808) in September 1809. In the 1816 and 1825 musters she is listed as the wife of William Noble of Sydney. After the death of William Noble Elizabeth married Hugh Corrigan in August 1830. In August 1831 the Sydney Herald reported that she had charged her husband Hugh Corrigan with assault.....He charged by his wife, under the following circumstances : - An old woman bending beneath the weight of years, stated that about twelve months ago she was induced to marry the prisoner, who held a ticket of leave for Windsor, at which time she was possessed of about 500 pounds in cash, together with considerable landed property. The prisoner had found means to obtain possession of the cash which he had squandered away, and had sold every article of value out of her house, even to her gold watch, which he had taken off the mantelpiece; and on Friday night he tied her up in the passage of the house, and beat her unmercifully with the handle of a whip, till her body was perfectly black; this treatment was evidently resorted to for the purpose of obtaining possession of the title deeds of her landed property, which she refused to surrender, as she had six motherless grandchildren to provide for. The Bench after expressing their detestation of such conduct, ordered him ten days exercise on the tread mill, and informed him they should recommend his Excellency to cancel his ticket of leave. His ticket of leave was cancelled for the violent assault of his wife. Elizabeth Thompson/Noble/Corrigan died in Sydney in December 1831 age 60. Hugh Corrigan died at Black Creek in 1834

Ward, Sarah

Alias Ison. Born c. 1780. Convicted at Middlesex Gaol Delivery in October 1808 of stealing a silk purse value 6d and twenty two guineas. Sentenced to 7 years transportation. Married Joseph Tuzo (ship Scarborough 1788) in 1810 at Sydney. Convicted of stealing clothing belonging to Mary Starkey and sentenced to 3 years transportation in 1822. Married George Ison (came free per Eliza) in 1824 at Newcastle. In 1825 they resided at Newcastle. Sarah was fined 5 shillings for drunkenness at Newcastle in July 1826. She died at Patrick Plains in 1860

Notes and Links

1). Convicts and passengers of the Indispensable identified in the Hunter Valley

2). Heirs are wanted in the latest English papers for the following person: The heir of Elizabeth Spencer, who went to Sydney in 1809 in the Indispensable, as Elizabeth, wife of James Thomson and had relatives at Hadley in Middlesex. - Sydney Herald 13 November 1834

3). Convict Ships arriving in New South Wales in 1809 - Aeolus, Experiment, Boyd and Indispensable.


[1] Sydney Gazette 20 August 1809

[2] Wikipedia

[3] HRA, Series 1, Vol. VII, p. 332