Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

Convict Ship Larkins - 1817

Embarked: 250 men
Voyage: 125 days
Deaths 3
Surgeon's Journal: yes
Previous vessel: Lord Eldon arrived 30 September 1817
Next vessel: Ocean arrived 10 January 1818
Master Henry R. Wilkinson.
Surgeon William McDonald
Convicts and passengers of the Larkins identified in the Hunter Valley

The Larkins was built in Calcutta in 1808. [1]


The Larkins was the next convict ship to leave England for New South Wales after the departure of the Lord Eldon in April 1817. She departed Portsmouth on 20 July 1817.

Surgeon William McDonald

William McDonald joined the Larkins on 7 June 1817. He kept a Medical Journal from 7 June 1817 to 2 December 1817.

Military Guard

The guard comprising detachments from the 46th and 48th regiment, being 40 rank and file with a Captain to command them, embarked on 28th June.

Captain John Brabyn of the Royal Veterans Commander of the Guard was on a return voyage to the colony. He embarked on 19th June. The soldiers were accompanied by nine women and nine children. The names of the guard are included in the Colonial Secretary's Correspondence -

48th regiment - Sergeant Joseph Burrows, Corporal Hezekiah Riely, Corporal Henry Singleton, Privates Owen Green, William Ryan, Edward Helvire, Thomas McDonald, Peter Dilworth, James Stafford, Levi Taylor, Bryan McDermott, Daniel Slater, Martin Golding, James Humphries, Thomas Costelow, John Fraser, Edward Kenny.

Convict ship bringing detachments of the 48th regiment included the Pilot, Caledonia, Dorothy, Larkins, Lady Castlereagh, Agamemnon, Minerva, Guildford, Isabella, Prince Regent and Baring

46th regiment Sergeant John Allen, Corporal George Allen, Privates Robert Allen, George Druitt, Christopher Boyce, John Doyle, Michael Corissor, Herbert Collins, Daniel McLaughlin, Thomas Jennings, Michael Mosely, Charles Mallard, John Matraven, Arthur McQuinn, Phillip Spain, William Smith, John Sullivan, John McDonald, William Cash, Thomas Williams, John Presell, Serg. Major Royal Veterans James Carr, James Clarke, Jane Clarke, Ann Burrowes, Mary Green, Nelly Costelow, Mary Singleton, Mary McDonald, Nancy Kenny, Sarah Allen, Sarah Jennings, Ann Collins; Children Ann Burrows, Sally Green, Bartholomew Green, Owen Green, James McDonnell, Mary Singleton, Thomas Costelow, Francis Jennings and Thomas Jennings.

The Headquarters of the 46th regiment commanded by Lieut-Col George James Molle arrived on the Windham and other detachments arrived on the Ocean, Lord Eldon, Fame, Recovery, Elizabeth, Larkins, Three Bees, General Hewitt, Guildford, Surry, Surry, Shipley, Sir William Bensley, Morley and Bencoolen.

Convicts Embarked

On 28th June eighty male convicts from the hulks at Woolwich were received on board, all in good health. They were all put in double leg irons and formed into messes of six men each. The owners of the vessel came on board on 1st July and paid wages in advance to the crew. The weather was very stormy this day and the prisoners were not permitted to go on deck.

The ship dropped down to Norfleet on 2 July and on the 3 July at 11am they got under weigh for the Nore where they anchored at 5.30pm. They received here 50 prisoners from the Retribution hulk at Sheerness. These men received slops and were berthed and divided into messes of six men. On the 4th July 50 prisoners were received from the Bellerophon at Sheerness.

The Larkins weighed anchor at 6am on 5 July and anchored off the South Foreland at 2pm. At 6pm they weighed anchor and continued working round towards Portsmouth to load the remainder of the prisoners.

On 11 July, 40 prisoners from the Captivity and 30 from the Laurel hulks at Portsmouth were received on board. This day also convict George Millington received 3 dozen lashes for abuse to the Sentinel. [2]

Free Passengers

Also boarding at Portsmouth were passengers James Richard Styles, Frederick Dixon, William Francis Weston, Betty (Elizabeth) Weston, and son John Weston. A pilot was received on board on 10th July and they came to anchor at the Motherbank at 11pm that night.


There was a total of 367 men women and children when the Larkins set sail for St. Helen's on 24 July. There had been one more - George Keen, however he was unable to be found and it was conjectured that he had got his irons off his legs, concealed himself among the boats or booms when the prisoners were sent below and took an opportunity to swim to the Isle of Wright, a distance of about two miles.

The Voyage

A great number of prisoners, guards and passengers were very sick for the next 12 hours before they came to anchor off Brixham. William McDonald attended to cleanliness by employing a method of heating sand in the oven and scattering it over the deck. At the next cleaning, the grease and filth was found to be easily able to be swept away. [2]

Port Jackson

The Larkins arrived in Port Jackson on 22 November 1817. On arrival several prisoners made an official complaint of ill treatment and that boxes they had brought on board with them had been plundered. George Handley maintained that he handed over his belongings to the Chief Mate Mr. Laurens and the items had not been returned. An enquiry was held and it was found that the boxes had been stowed below for safe keeping and had been broken open by other prisoners. No further action resulted from the enquiry.

The prisoners were distributed to Windsor, Liverpool and Bringelly.

Departure from Port Jackson

Governor Macquarie recorded the departure of the Larkins in his diary......

Tuesday 6. Jany. 1818 ! This morning Sailed from Sydney Cove for Bengal - and ultimately for England - the Ship Larkins Commanded by Capt. Wilkinson; Doctr. Mc.Donald having proceeded as a Passenger on board her.

The Larkins returned to New South Wales with prisoners in 1829

Notes and Links

1). In Sydney in July 1818 eleven desperate convicts made a bid for freedom by attempting to steal two boats. They attempted this while Governor Macquarie was on a tour of Newcastle settlement . Among their number were three men who had arrived on the Larkins - John Giddings, Thomas Scott and James Pocock. Find out more about their attempted escape here. The Governor considered them all to be of the most depraved characters in the colony and after capture they were sentenced to work at hard labour in double irons at the Lime Kilns near Newcastle for up to three years.

2). In 1825 another escape was attempted at Newcastle. This time the convicts were never found. James Johnston who arrived on the Larkins was one of eleven pirates who seized the cutter Eclipse and made for the open sea. Find out more about their audacious escape Here

3). John Popjoy arrived as a convict. He later achieved fame when he assisted in rescuing survivors from a mutiny on the brig Cyprus.

4). William Turvey arrived as a convict and later became a Constable at Newcastle

5). Innkeeper, pilot, Charles Hughes arrived as a convict

6). John Kirby was executed in 1820 for the wilful Murder of native chief Burragong near Newcastle.

7). William McDonald was also surgeon on the convict ship Fanny in 1816

8). John Slater arrived as a convict. He later wrote to his wife in England giving an account of the voyage and colony ..... A description of Sydney, Parramatta, Newcastle, settlements in New South Wales, with some account of the manners and employment of the convicts in a letter from John Slater, to his wife in Nottingham, published for the benefit of his wife and four children. Canberra : National Library of Australia, c1988. Select here to read the letter.

9). John Hunt arrived as a convict on the Larkins. He was later employed as a Constable at Maitland and at Patrick Plains.

10). Convicts and passengers of the Larkins identified in the Hunter Valley

11). Ships carrying Letters and Packets to NSW

12). Return of Convicts of the Larkins assigned between 1st January 1832 and 31st March 1832 (Sydney Gazette 14 June 1832; 21 June 1832).....
William Hudson - Brick moulder assigned to F.A. Hely at Brisbane Water

13). A diary and medical journal for 7 June to 2 December 1817 of the Larkins convict ship carrying 250 male prisoners from England to New South Wales by William McDonald, MD, Surgeon and Superintendent. - National Archives


[1] Bateson, Charles Library of Australian History (1983). The convict ships, 1787-1868 (Australian ed). Library of Australian History, Sydney : pp.340-341, 382

[2] Medical Journal of William McDonald on the voyage of the Larkins. UK, Royal Navy Medical Journals, 1817-1857 The National Archives. Kew, Richmond, Surrey.