The Isabella was built in London in 1818. She was owned by
William Wiseman, Patrick Chalmers and James Wallace. The Isabella
transported convicts to Australia in
1822 (NSW), 1823 (NSW),
1832 (NSW), 1833 (VDL) and 1842
Captain John Wallis was formerly Master of a slave ship
taking negroes from Africa to the West Indies (2). He was also Master of the
Three Bees in 1814,
the Fanny in 1816 and the
Isabella in 1822.
The guard comprised a detachment of the 40th regiment
under command of
Lieut. Henry Miller
who was accompanied by his wife and family.
The 40th had been serving in Ireland.
Early in March 1823, the commanding officer,
Lieutenant-Colonel Thornton received an intimation that
it was intended to send the regiment to New South Wales.
In the meantime it was ordered to proceed to Dublin,
thence by sea to Liverpool, and after that by road to
Chatham, in order to form guards for convict ships when
required. The head quarters
reached Dublin on 15th March and occupied the Royal
Barracks. On the 30th the whole regiment embarked at
Pigeon House, in eight small vessels, and reached
Liverpool the following day.
A twenty eight days'
march, including three Sundays, brought the regiment to
Chatham. The Regiment marched in three divisions; the
first arrived at Chatham on 21st April; the second,
consisting of two companies, halted, and remained at
Deptford; and the 3rd reached Chatham on 23rd April.
During the next year the 40th was sent out, in small
detachments, as guards on board convict ships to
Australia. This was after several years' rough service
in Ireland, and but a short period of rest in
The convicts to be embarked on the Isabella were held in the
Surprize Hulk at Cork to await transportation. The Belfast
Newsletter reported in June......
The preparations on board the
convict hulk at Cove being completed for the reception of those doomed to
become its unfortunate inmates previous to transportation, a draft of 101
male convicts was taken from the depot on Wednesday, and removed to the
hulk, and on Thursday a further addition of 31 male convicts was made of
these victims of their own folly and violation of the laws of the land.
The Isabella was the next convict ship to leave Ireland
bound for New South Wales after the departure of the
Earl St. Vincent
in April 1823. The Isabella departed Cork in August 1823 with 200
It was a difficult voyage. There was an early outbreak of scurvy and
a plot to cause a mutiny was discovered before they even reached the Cape.
William Rae kept a Medical Journal from 4th July to 4th December 1823 in
which he detailed some of the challenges of the voyage. ......
The convicts were suffering from
Catarrh when they joined the ship which the surgeon attributed to the very
cold season and want of adequate clothing. One man had been sent with only a
blanket to cover his nakedness and another with a ragged shirt and trousers
with only one leg in them. Few had shoes or stockings. In other respects
they appeared to be healthy, although the surgeon was to find out later that
several had been confined on the hulk with fever; and scurvy made a very
early appearance after only about a month at sea. The surgeon could not
account for these early cases of scurvy except perhaps the confinement in
the crowded hulk without proper air and exercise may have predisposed them
to it. He attributed some of their debility to former illness, sea sickness
and also languor and depression of spirits induced by a system of terror,
robbery and plunder that a gang of them carried on whilst on board the
From a knowledge that the same gang were now
hatching a plot for the murder and destruction of every one on board who
would not enter with them in taking the ship and threats of instant death to
anyone who betrayed them, the other convicts were in a depressed and
dejected state......... Nor could any kind treatment within from the Captain
of the ship or the myself (both marked for destruction) infuse either joy or
cheerfulness amongst them. Through the courage of one man, we fortunately
discovered the horrid plot that was hatching against us, which obliged me to
replace the most of them in irons and curtail their liberty upon deck as it
was improper again to trust men who had been guilty of such base ingratitude
for as much liberty granted to them and kind treatment during a period of
They contemplated touching at the Cape of Good Hope
for refreshments; but from the number ill at the time the surgeon decided he
had sufficient means remaining to enable them to make the rest of the voyage
with little loss. There was also a reluctance to delay the voyage further as
they were approaching the season when winds could be contrary and besides,
as the surgeon recorded in his journal...... they had every inducement
to get quit as soon as possible of such a rascally, ungrateful and mutinous
They made the run from the Cape to Van Diemen's Land in a
month. About one hundred and ninety-three prisoners arrived on 16
December 1823. According to the surgeon's journal seven men had died on the
voyage out, four of them from scurvy. (The convict indents state five men
died). Another twenty-nine men were sent to the hospital on arrival.
The men were mustered on arrival. The indents give such information as
name, age, trade, when and where tried, native place, physical description,
to whom assigned on arrival and remarks regarding behaviour on board.
Curiously, considering the difficulties of the voyage, remarks at the end of
the indents state - The prisoners appear in good health, declaring
themselves well treated and have been well spoken of by the Surgeon
Superintendent William Rae and Commander John Wallis.
On the 17th
December William Rae and John Wallis gave details of the intended mutiny to
the Governor -
We have to inform your Excellency that in the
course of our voyage hither we had the good fortune to discover a dangerous
mutiny which was on the eve of breaking out amongst the prisoners, and but
for timely prevention would certainly have ended in much bloodshed. For the
information we are mainly indebted to a prisoner of the name of Francis
Keefe who at the risk of his own life concealed himself whilst he wrote a
short note containing the information. This plot from all the credible
evidence we have been able to collect concerning it had been matured by a
few of the worst of characters and they had even evinced some degree of
cunning in poisoning the minds with the idea of money being on board which
was to be distributed amongst those who should most distinguish themselves.
Keefe is a man superior to most of the prisoners, has conducted himself with
much propriety and some of the ringleaders have even attempted to invalidate
his evidence. Situated as we have all been we should be guilty of an act of
injustice if we did not recommend this man in the strongest manner to your
Excellency 's notice.
The names of the ringleaders were :
Charles Devatt, gardener, tried 17th March 1823 at Longford and
sentenced to transportation for life. Sent to Port Macquarie on arrival.
Died 20 January 1824 at Port Macquarie.
James Kelly, ploughs and
makes butter. Tried Co. Carlow 27 March 1823 and sentenced to transportation
for ten years. Sent to Port Macquarie on arrival
ploughman from Co. Carlow. Tried 25 March 1823 and sentenced to ten years
transportation. Sent to Port Macquarie on arrival.
coalminer and soldier from Kilkenny. Tried 6 April 1823 and sentenced to
transportation for life. Left arm lost below the elbow. Sent to Port
Macquarie on arrival. Died at Port Macquarie 8 December 1824.
Lawler, ploughman tried in Co. Wicklow 24th March 1823 and sentenced to
transportation for 10 years. Sent to Port Macquarie on arrival
William Cowen, gardener from Longford. Forwarded to Parramatta on arrival
Patrick Macnamara (no. 139). Coal miner and militia man from
Kilkenny Tried 5th April 1823. Sent to Newcastle on arrival. (2)
The prisoners were landed early on Tuesday morning 23rd December. They
were inspected by the Governor who was satisfied with their general
appearance. They were afterwards distributed throughout the Colony. On 23rd
December the five men mentioned above were embarked on the colonial vessel
Sally with eighteen other men convicted of colonial crimes. They
were transported to Port Macquarie to serve the remainder of their original
Port Macquarie at this time was under the command of Captain Francis Allman and convicts of the
worst description were sent there. More than a thousand men were held at
Port Macquarie at this time, they were employed in public works and
agricultural labour, and often in chain gangs.
Port Macquarie was
visited by surveyor John Oxley on his expedition northward to
Moreton Bay. John Uniacke who accompanied
John Oxley wrote the account of Port Macquarie on the right.
In December 1823, the Sydney Gazette reported that the
indulgence of a ticket of leave had been awarded to Francis Keefe at the
special recommendation of Captain Wallis and Surgeon William Rae.........
The prisoner had given information that a conspiracy was in the act of
forming during the voyage and the horrible evils that might have ensued were
thus providentially frustrated. In consequence of the service rendered the
Public in this instance, His Excellency the Governor was pleased to consider
the man worthy of the great indulgence bestowed.
1). One of the convicts arriving on the Isabella was
Patrick Clinch. He was assigned to Vicars Jacob
near Newcastle on arrival and after absconding from service joined with
others to form the most formidable and organised gang of bushrangers the
Hunter region had seen. They became known as
Jacob's Irish Brigade. Others
assigned to Vicars Jacob on arrival included
Patrick Gready, James Kennedy, Patrick McNamara, Arthur Mullin, James
Select here to find out what Vicars Jacob thought of his convict
5). Mr. Sergeant Torrens presided at a Sessions under the
insurrection Act in Mallow when James Curtin and John Kent were convicted
for having administered an unlawful oath to David Nagle, and received
sentence of transportation for seven years. They were ordered to be
transmitted to the receiving ship at Cove. Curtin had been previously
acquitted on a similar charge. On Sergeant Torrens having pronounced the
sentence of transportation on him, the wretch, in the most hardened and
vindictive tone, was heard to exclaim" the D...I transport yourself my
Lord:. A female also said, "he should have money enough to make him
comfortable on the voyage, as it was in a good cause he was going".
Belfast Newsletter 16 May 1823 (James Curtin died at Bathurst in 1829 and
John Kent died on the voyage out)
Return of Convicts of the England assigned between 1st
January 1832 and 31st March 1832 (Sydney Gazette 5 July 1832)..... John O'Hair or O'Dair, stonecutter assigned to John
Coghill at Kirkham Michael Ryan. Ploughman assigned to Gabriel Thomson at
Secretary's Papers (NRS 897) Main series of letters received, 1788-1825
Item: 4/1765 Page: 227) (Ancestry)
(2). State Records Authority of
New South Wales, Kingswood. Main series of letters received, 1788-1825.
Series 897, Reel 6044; 4/1730 pp.101-43