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Convict Ship Lady Penrhyn 1788



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Embarked 104 females
Surgeon's Journal - Yes
Captain William Compton Sever.
Surgeons John Turnpenny Altree
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Arthur Bowes Smyth

Governor Arthur Philip
Botany Bay Fleet
A New Song
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The Lady Penrhyn was one of eleven vessels of the historic First Fleet to Australia. Only female prisoners were embarked on the Lady Penrhyn.

The National Archives A2A has the following information....The Lady Penrhyn was built by Greaves and launched in 1786. She had 2 decks, 3in bottom, length 103ft 5in, keel 82ft 3½in, breadth 27ft 6½in, hold 12ft, wing transom 18ft 5½in, port cell 22ft 11in, waist 1ft 8in, roundhouse 6ft 5¾in, 332 tons. Voyages: (1) 1787/8 New South Wales and China. Capt William C. Sever. Whampoa 8 Jan 1789 - 14 Jan Second Bar - 19 May St Helena - 10 Aug Downs.

Apart from the Lady Penrhyn, the First Fleet consisted of two Royal Navy escort ships, HMS Sirius and HMS Supply accompanied by convict transports, the Alexander, Charlotte, Friendship, Prince of Wales and the Scarborough, and three store ships, the Borrowdale, Fishburn and Golden Grove.

Only four of the ships carried female prisoners - the Charlotte, Friendship, Lady Penrhyn and Prince of Wales.
In the months before the Fleet set sail, Governor Philip noted his thoughts on the treatment of the female convicts {Extract}...

The women in general I should suppose possess neither virtue nor honesty. But there may be some for thefts who still retain some degree of virtue, and these should be permitted to keep together, and strict orders to the master of the transport should be given that they are not abused and insulted by the ship's company, which is said to have been the case too often when they were sent to America. (5)

Under-Secretary Evan Nepean thought that all 150 of the female convicts should be embarked on the same vessel, the Lady Penrhyn, or, if that could not be achieved to put on board 124 women and let the remaining twenty-six on board the Dunkirk hulk at Plymouth go in one of the two ships intended to take the male convicts from there. He was dismayed that the women were to be sent on three different ships and thought for safety they should not if possible be divided. In correspondence to Sir Charles Middleton, Comptroller of the Navy, he outlined his thoughts on the matter, however two days later received a terse reply.....

It is absolutely impracticable to arrange the transports in any other manner than we have done without unloading and new filling all the ships, and which would require at least three weeks from this time. The Lady Penrhyn being intended for seventy women, the number we were ordered to provide for, was made a provision ship, and fitted accordingly for the women. The others, being for males had the disposition of provisions suitable to that arrangement. I do not, however, see any force in the objection you have mentioned of putting male and female in the same ship, as it is done continually in all the African (Negro) cargoes that are carried to the West Indies. Each have their separate rooms, and, though, both in the same vessel have no communication with each other. It will be the same in the two ships who are to go to Plymouth and who by a new arrangement of the marines will just carry the number of males and females intended to embark from that place.......The women cannot be more crowded than they are having only 1 ½ tons allowed to each, and which is as little as possible for so long a voyage.  (7)

An order for the female convicts to be embarked on the Lady Penrhyn came in January 1787{Extract}...... Under Secretary Nepean to Mr. Shelton, Whitehall, 1st January 1787... Sir, The Lady Penrhyn, now in the river, will receive all the female convicts now in Newgate under sentence of transportation, and her commander, with Mr. Richardson, will enter into the bonds the latter will contract. (6)

The Freeman's Journal gave a slightly less formal description - An order has been sent to Mr. Akerman, the keeper of the gaol of Newgate, for the removal of the female convicts under sentence of transportation; and this morning seventy of them were removed for the purpose of being conveyed to Botany Bay, to assist in populating that intended settlement. (11)

Newgate prison was visited by prison reformer John Howard in 1787....... In three or four rooms there were near one hundred and fifty women crowded together, many young creatures with the old and hardened, some of whom had been confined upwards two years; on the men's side likewise there were many boys of twelve or fourteen years of age; some almost naked. In the men's infirmary, there were only seven iron bedsteads, and at my last visit there being twenty sick, some of them naked and with sores, in a miserable condition, lay on the floor with only a rug. There were four sick in the infirmary for women, which is only fifteen feet and a half by twelve, has but one window, and no bedsteads; the sewers were offensive and prison not whitewashed. (8)

There was a young girl growing up in Norfolk at this time known as Betsy Gurney. In years to come she would be feted for her courage and determination in assisting the poor women of Newgate but that was far in the future. In 1787 there was no one to ameliorate their situation and their lives were full of deprivation and misery. Young girls or callous criminals, if they were sent to Newgate, they were all incarcerated together. Little wonder they were glad to escape this misery.

Watkins Tench many years later described the behaviour of the First Fleet women as heroic in that they were much less depressed of mind at the thought of leaving Old England than the men (see the Charlotte). He could in no way account for this difference between the men and women.......... I strolled down among the convicts (on the Charlotte), to observe their sentiments at this juncture. A very few excepted, their countenances indicated a high degree of satisfaction, though in some, the pang of being severed, perhaps for ever, from their native land, could not be wholly suppressed; in general, marks of distress were more perceptible among the men than the women; for I recollect to have seen but one of those affected on the occasion, "Some natural tears she dropp'd, but wip'd them soon." After this the accent of sorrow was no longer heard; more genial skies and change of scene banished repining and discontent, and introduced in their stead cheerfulness and acquiescence in a lot, now not to be altered. (10)

The Lady Penrhyn transported the largest number of female prisoners. Despite Sir Charles Middleton's protestations, that the Lady Penrhyn was only fitted for 70 women, 102 - 104 women were sent on her, although at first 109 women and children were mistakenly embarked. Governor Philip thought that she should have 'with propriety have carried only 2/3 of that number' (3)

The women came on board the Lady Penrhyn in a dreadful state..... Governor Phillip wrote to Under Secretary Nepean

(London) 18 March 1787 The situation in which the magistrates sent the women on board the Lady Penrhyn stamps them with infamy - tho' almost naked, and so very filthy, that nothing but clothing them could have prevented them from perishing and which could not be done in time to prevent a fever, which is still on board that ship and where there are many venereal complaints that must spread in spite of every precaution, I may take hereafter, and will be fatal to themselves. There is a necessity for doing something for the young man who is on board that ship as surgeon or I fear that we shall lose him, and then a hundred women will be left without any assistance, several of them with child. Let me repeat my desire that orders immediately may be given to increase the convict allowance of bread. 16lbs of bread for 42 days is very little (1)

The vessels departed London and sailed down to Portsmouth where they moored nearby at the Motherbank. The Mother Bank was a shallow sandbank in in the sea between the Isle of Wight and England and was situated north west of the town of Ryde in the area known as Ryde Roads. They were joined at the Motherbank by the vessels from Plymouth, the Charlotte and Friendship. While at the Motherbank a baby boy was safely delivered on the 13th April and the following day a woman by the name of *Bruce fell from the forecastle and fractured her leg.

John Turnpenny Altree had been appointed to the position of surgeon to the convicts and it was he who was referred to by Governor Phillip in the above correspondence. He had become ill after embarking and was taken on shore to Ryde at the Isle of Wight to recover in late March or early April where he was visited several times by Lieutenant (William) Collins and Arthur Bowes Smyth. Surgeon William Balmain of the Alexander delivered the abovementioned baby and probably attended to other injuries and illness as well.

Arthur Bowes Smyth was appointed surgeon to the Captain and ship's company. He kept a Journal from 22 March 1787, the date of his embarkation at the Motherbank near Portsmouth. The National Library of Australia holds the Journal of Arthur Bowes Smyth ........ Arthur Bowes Smyth was born in Essex. In his writings Smyth puts a human face to the convicts as well as revealing his interest in natural history, the collection of specimens and drawing, including the earliest existing depiction by a European of an emu. In April 1788, Smyth returned to England on the "Lady Penrhyn" via Lord Howe Island, Tahiti, China and St Helena. On Lord Howe Island, he made the earliest drawing of the now extinct white gallinule, and observed the currawong (or bell magpie) and four now rare or extinct birds, namely, the Lord Howe pigeon, the booby, the Lord Howe rail or woodhen and an extinct species of parakeet. (2)

 Arthur Bowes Smyth recorded in his Journal that 104 women and eight children were embarked. The children included Jane Jones age 2; Mary Mullens age 3; Mary Fowler age 4; William Tilley age 6 weeks; John Harrison age 15. One infant died.

The Crew and Guard consisted of Captain Sever, Captain James Campbell, Lieutenant Johnston, Lieutenant Collins all of the Marines; Lieutenant Watts of the Navy; a passenger to China, Mr. Nicholas Anstis, Chief Mate, Mr. Young, the steward; and 36 foremast men with a carpenter and cooper; Mr. Squires 2nd Mate, Mr. Ball 3rd Mate, Mr. Holmes 4th Mate.

On the 19th April word was received that Governor Phillip who was still in London had completed all the arrangements and was soon expected at the Motherbank. At this time there were seventy women on the Lady Penrhyn and they were managing to create mischief. Four had been found with the male convicts and another with the 2nd Mate Squires. It was recommended that Squires be removed from the ship and all five women were put in irons. Bowes Smythe took over the duties of caring for the injured Elizabeth Bruce. It was unusual enough for him to remark at this time that a corpse sewed up in a hammock floated by the Lady Penrhyn and a few days another, supposed to be the body of a woman.

Some of the women were put in irons for fighting and then the wind began to blow hard about 25th April and they all began to feel the effects of the motion of the ship and were probably too ill to quarrel.

Mr. Altree joined the ship again, having recovered from his illness. On the 3rd May Arthur Bowes Smythe noted that 36 female convicts and 3 male convicts together with 2 children arrived at Portsmouth and were shipped for the Motherbank.

The convicts were now all on board and the Fleet was assembled at the Motherbank. The Scarborough and Lady Penrhyn had embarked convicts at Portsmouth, the Friendship and Charlotte at Plymouth, and the Prince of Wales and Alexander at Woolwich. (11)

Governor Phillip arrived at Portsmouth on 6th May and went on board the Sirius on the 8th. An order was sent out that all the dogs on board were to be sent on shore. On Saturday 12 May 1787 Arthur Bowes wrote...Very little wind. The Commodore sent on board all the ships to desire no one might be suffered to leave the ships. At 9am the signal made by the Sirius to weigh the anchors and sail....4pm the Sirius got under weigh and most of the other ships except the Charlotte, the Lady Penrhyn and Prince of Wales, as their bread and water were not completed. The Lady Penrhyn set sail about 5 o'clock in the morning of Sunday 13th May as did all the other ships. A very fine day with a good breeze and East-S-E. Went through the Needles 11am.

Surgeon John White who was on the Charlotte made the following entry in his journal as they crossed the line on 10th June..........

This morning the fleet got under way with a light breeze, which carried us out of Santa Cruz, but left us two days becalmed between Teneriffe and the Grand Canary. After this a fine breeze sprung up from the north-east; and no occurrence worthy of notice happened for some days. We crossed the tropical line in 18°20' west longitude, and was nearly pressed on board the Lady Penrhynn transport, whose people did not attend to her steerage, being deeply engaged in sluicing and ducking all those on board who had never crossed it.

They arrived at Rio de Janeiro on 6th August 1787 and sailed from there on 5th September 1787.

By mid October they had arrived at Table Bay at the Cape of Good Hope where thanks to the persistence of Governor Philip they obtained supplies of corn, stock and other necessaries. Unfortunately the quantity they could find room for fell very short of what was needed to have taken in as the only spare room was what had been used by the consumption of provisions since they had left Rio and the removal of twenty female convicts from the Friendship into the Charlotte, the Lady Penrhyn and the Prince of Wales.

John White was ill in the beginning of January. When he recovered he went on board the Fishburne to treat the boatswain who had fallen from the topsail yard and was mortally injured.....

8th January. The master of the ship showed evident marks of great concern for this invaluable man, as he termed him. He declared to me that, sooner than venture again on so long a voyage without a surgeon, he would put to sea with less than half his complement of men; for he was strongly of opinion that if the poor fellow had received immediate assistance he would have recovered. I should have seen him sooner, but was prevented by my own indifferent state of health. How owners of ships can think of sending them through such a variety of climates, and a voyage of so great a length, without a surgeon, is to me a matter of surprise. The Lady Penrhyn, owned by Alderman William Curtis, was the only merchant ship in our fleet that had a surgeon. What the others will do on their return, Heaven only knows; but this I well know, that they would never have reached thus far but for the succour given them by myself and my assistants.

The Lady Penrhyn arrived in Botany Bay on 20 January 1788.

Governor Phillip to Under Secretary Nepean, Headquarters, Sydney Cove 26th April 1788.......  Sir, As the surgeon volunteer who was put on board the Lady Penrhyn transport to attend the convicts was found to be very unequal to the task, I was under the necessity of desiring Mr. Arthur Bowes, surgeon of that transport, to take charge of the medicines, and attend to the sick, which he did with great attention. I therefore beg leave to recommend him to your notice, as he has not received any recompense for his trouble....Arthur Phillip (9)

 The Lady Penrhyn arrived back safely in England in August 1789 and was sold to Wedderburn & Co., London and used in a regular run to Jamaica.

In July 1811 the Lady Penrhyn was taken by a French privateer while on a voyage to Grenada. She was set on fire and scuttled.

The next convict ship to arrive in New South Wales after the First Fleet was the Lady Juliana.  

 

Notes and Links:

1). *probably Elizabeth Bruce who had been tried in London 10 January 1787 and sentenced to 7 years transportation for stealing aprons. See the Proceedings of the Old Bailey Online

2). Surgeon John Irvine arrived as a convict on the Lady Penrhyn

3). One of the woman on the Lady Penrhyn, Ann Davis from London became the first woman executed in Australia. She was publicly hanged for theft in November 1789. Watkin Tench recorded her attempt to escape the sentence.....To the honour of the female part of our community let it be recorded, that only one woman has suffered capital punishment; on her condemnation she pleaded pregnancy; and a jury of venerable matrons was empanelled on the spot, to examine and pronounce her state; which the forewoman, a grave personage between 60 and 70 years old, did, by this short address to the court; "Gentlemen! 'she is as much with child as I am'. Sentence was accordingly passed and she was executed.  (10)

4). The youngest female convict transported on the First Fleet arrived on the Lady Penrhyn. This was 13 year old Elizabeth Hayward. (4)

5). Dorothy Handland an old clothes woman in her 80's who had been tried at the Old Bailey in 1786 arrived on the Lady Penrhyn. In 1793 she was given permission to return to England on the Kitty.

6). Mary Eggleton who arrived as a convict on the Lady Penrhyn died in August 1799. She was buried in the Old Sydney Burial Ground as was Mary Finn who died in May 1793; Mary Davidson/Horrall who died in March 1809; and Ann Sandlands who drowned in Cockle Bay in January 1809.

7). Thomas Bramwell came free by the Lady Penrhyn

8). The following anonymous letter was written by one of the First Fleet convict women, perhaps one of those arriving on the Lady Penrhyn..... LETTER FROM A FEMALE CONVICT. Port Jackson, 14th November, 1788. I TAKE the first opportunity that has been given us to acquaint you with our disconsolate situation in this solitary waste of the creation. Our passage, you may have heard by the first ships, was tolerably favourable; but the inconveniences since suffered for want of shelter, bedding, &c., are not to be imagined by any stranger. However, we have now two streets, if four rows of the most miserable huts you can possibly conceive of deserve that name. Windows they have none, as from the Governor's house, &c., now nearly finished, no glass could be spared; so that lattices of twigs are made by our people to supply their places. At the extremity of the lines, where since our arrival the dead are buried, there is a place called the church-yard; but we hear, as soon as a sufficient quantity of bricks can be made, a church is to be built, and named St. Philip, after the Governor. Notwithstanding all our presents, the savages still continue to do us all the injury they can, which makes the soldiers' duty very hard, and much dissatisfaction among the officers. I know not how many of our people have been killed. As for the distresses of the women, they are past description, as they are deprived of tea and other things they were indulged in in the voyage by the seamen, and as they are all totally unprovided with clothes, those who have young children are quite wretched. Besides this, though a number of marriages have taken place, several women, who became pregnant on the voyage, and are since left by their partners, who have returned to England, are not likely even here to form any fresh connections. We are comforted with the hopes of a supply of tea from China, and flattered with getting riches when the settlement is complete, and the hemp which the place produces is brought to perfection. Our kingaroo rats are like mutton, but much leaner; and there is a kind of chickweed so much in taste like our spinach that no difference can be discerned. Something like ground ivy is used for tea; but a scarcity of salt and sugar makes our best meals insipid. The separation of several of us to an uninhabited island was like a second transportation. In short, every one is so taken up with their own misfortunes that they have no pity to bestow upon others. All our letters are examined by an officer, but a friend takes this for me privately. The ships sail tomorrow.* [* The Fishburn and Golden Grove, transports.] Title: Early News from a New Colony: British Museum Papers Author: Anonymous, Unknown * A Project Gutenberg Australia eBook  

9). Lieutenant Watt....

10). A New Song

11). Botany Bay Fleet -

12). Colonial Events 1788

13). A letter home by James Callam - Surgeon on First Fleet vessel Supply

14). Weather on the voyage of the First Fleet - Google Earth

15). Founding of the settlement at Port Jackson - British Museum

16). Convict Margaret Dawson was born c. 1771 and died 16 Feb 1816 in St James, Westminster. She was tried at the Old Bailey on 22 Feb 1786 at the age of 15 for stealing from her employer. She later entered into a relationship with surgeon William Balmain....See Convict Records

17). Obituary of Sir Charles Middleton

18). James Campbell embarked as Captain of Marines with the First Fleet on board the Lady Penrhyn and served in New South Wales until December 1791. He took a great interest in the flora and fauna, sending natural history specimens including a kangaroo skin, and drawings by Captain John Hunter, back to his patron and Royal Navy Captain, Lord Ducie.  He returned to England on the Gorgon in 1791.  Read the Letters received from Captain James Campbell, 12 July 1788 - State Library of NSW

 

References:

1
) HRA, Vol 1, Part 2, Governor Philip to Under Secretary Nepean 18 March 1787 p.59

(2) Journal of Arthur Bowes Smyth, 1787 March 22-1789 August 8 [manuscript]., National Library of Australia, MS 4568

3) HRA. Vol 1, Part 2, Governor Philip to Under Secretary Nepean 11 April 1787. p77

4) Robinson, Portia, The Women of Botany Bay, Penguin Books 1993, p. 57.

(5) HR NSW, Vol 1, part 2, p. 51

(6) HR NSW, Vol.1, part 2, p.43

(7) HR NSW, Vol 1 part 2, p.35

8) Account of the Principal Lazarettos in Europe - John Howard

9) HRA. Vol.1 Part 2. p 120

(10) Narrative of the Expedition to Botany Bay - Watkin Tench.

(11) Encyclopędia: Or, A Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, and Miscellaneous Literature Top   

 

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