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Convict Ship Mermaid 1830

Embarked: 200 men
Voyage: 152 days
Deaths: 2
Surgeon's Journal: yes
Previous vessel: Forth arrived 26 April 1830
Next vessel: Nithsdale arrived 12 May 1830
Master William Henniker
Surgeon Superintendent David Boyter

The Mermaid was built at Calcutta in 1817.


The Guard consisted of 30 non-commissioned officers and privates of different corps under the command of the Hon. Cecil Gordon and Lieut. Blackburn of the 17th regiment. Select here to find convict ships bringing detachments of the 17th regiment.


Passengers included the Captain's wife Mrs. Henniker.


This was David Boyter's first voyage as Surgeon Superintendent on a convict ship. As with his later voyages he kept a detailed Medical Journal which is easy to read and includes weather conditions and illnesses experienced by the guard and convicts before leaving England and on the voyage to Australia........

In relating the observations I have made during a voyage to New South Wales on the health and management of the convicts under my charge, I shall commence at the period when the guard came on board.

The guard consisted of two Officers, and 29 men, rank and file. They were marched to Gravesend from Chatham on a very cold rainy afternoon. From Gravesend they embarked in a small lighter, proceeded to Deptford and arrived on board the Mermaid at 12 o'clock at night on the 12th November. During the whole time they were exposed in an open boat to the inclemency of a cold rainy November night, and when they came on board the Mermaid being then in great confusion fitting out in a hurry, was equally dirty and uncomfortable.

The consequences that followed this exposure were long felt by most of them. I had several cases of ophthalmia, one proving very tedious, only giving way to a course of Mercury, frequent scarification and stimulating applications to the eye. A number of them were laid up with colds.

On 6th December while lying at the Nore, the surgeon discovered small pox on board. He treated the affected patient and inoculated fifteen other men who had never been exposed to the disease.


On 8th December they sailed through the Downs and on the 10th were off Plymouth where they met with a gale of wind from the West which continued for several days.


The Hospital and Prison were completely inundated with water in the above storm and the prisoners were nearly all sea sick and unable to help themselves. There was no dry place in the hospital to place patients and shutting the hatchway above only added to the misery of the day by excluding pure air. The surgeon attributed the death of Moses Stephenson to sea sickness suffered at this time. Stephenson became so low and despondent that he never recovered his health and died on 19th January. The surgeon recorded the cause of death as Synochus.

On the 2nd January J. Jennott aged 19 and J. West aged 13 both ships' crew became ill with eruptions that turned out to be small pox. They were isolated until the surgeon considered them well.

The Mermaid was becalmed for three weeks in the tropics and the men became ill with headaches, skin rashes and debility. From 18th January to 1st February thirty-five men were treated by the surgeon. They called at Bahia where they remained 10 days and took in supplies of fresh beef and vegetables. They sailed from there on 13th February.

Towards the end of February, a convict by the name of Charles Rose passed away. He had been ill for most of the voyage but successfully treated by the surgeon. His death followed a fall on the deck from which he never recovered.

During March and April the weather continued fine and clear and on 29th April they sighted the coast of Australia.

There were several accidents to members of the guard on this voyage and David Boyter included them in his journal because they qualified for pensions..........
Private Henry McInally aged 27, 31st regiment received a severe contusion across the loins on 3rd December 1829 by getting entangled between the capstan bars and bulkhead while the crew were heading up the anchor.
Private Henry Cooper aged 20, 63rd regiment lost his little finger and partial loss of the one adjoining of the left hand from a fall on glass on 27 January 1830.
Thomas Copperinger aged 25, 17th regiment received a fracture of the right patella on 28th March from a fall during a gale of wind.

David Boyter returned to England in August and was next appointed surgeon superintendent on the convict ship Camden in February 1831. He was later surgeon on the Andromeda in 1833 and the Hero in 1835.


On passing through Bass Straits Captain Henniker passed very close by to dangerous sunken rocks which he believed no person had ever before noticed and on arrival in Sydney he published a notice in the Sydney Gazette: -

At 1 hour 40 minutes p.m. saw appearance of sunken rocks close to the ship; in all stud-sails, and steered between what appeared to be 5 or 6 sunken rocks, apparently in a group of not more than 3/4 of a mile extent.

The The Mermaid arrived in Port Jackson on 7th May 1830 with 198 male prisoners.

The arrival caused consternation throughout the town when it was heard that small pox had been on board and the vessel was quarantined pending a Medical Board enquiry. The vessel was released in the evening when it was found that all the patients had been long recovered.


The convicts were mustered on board by the Colonial Secretary Alexander McLeay on 10th May and landed on Tuesday morning 18th May 1830. The indents include name, age, education, religion, marital status, family, native place, offence, trade, when and where tried, sentence, prior convictions, physical description and where assigned on arrival. There are also occasional notes re deaths, pardons and relatives in the colony.

John Atterbury died in Newcastle Hospital
John Burgess died in Sydney Hospital 23 November 1830
Thomas Burroughs, soldier and shepherd from Gloucester had been in the colony before as a soldier of the 28th regiment.
John Boot was accidentally killed by a fall from a dray at Invermein
George Baird was born in Philadelphia
George Cuckow, age 22 and Thomas Cuckow age 64, father and son.
John Davis from London, Mercantile Clerk sent for embezzlement
George Emery - drowned off the coast on 1 January 1835
Edward Eades - Blind
William Hardesty from Leeds. 2nd conviction. Sent before in the Speke in 1821
Richard Jones age 26 from Kildare. Tried in London. Mercantile clerk. Assigned to the Commissariat
William Jones from Lancashire. Mathematical Instrument maker. Assigned to James Reid at Rosebrook. Died at Rosebrook in 1830
Thomas Kershaw from Rochdale died 16 April 1845 at Singleton
George Kerridge age 18. from London - Compositor and mercantile clerk. Son to Kerridge in office of the Attorney General
Hamlet Kelsale - potter from Stafford. Colonial sentence of transportation for life to a penal settlement reduced to 10 years
John Kipling from Hull, mercantile clerk and traveller. Sent to Newcastle Hospital on arrival
Thomas Livesy from Lancashire. Died at Camden
Thomas Millburn age 46 from Yorkshire. Attorney and solicitor. No place of assignment recorded
Abraham Matson from Northampton. Died in Newcastle hospital
John Mowat - Father at Van Diemen's Land as John Mowat
Archibald McPhail alias Campbell McDonald, soldier and labourer. Here before per Dromedary
Joseph Roberts - Died in Port Macquarie Hospital
Thomas Topley - died at Sydney 6 December 1831
Henry Simmons died in Bathurst Hospital 21 December 1832
William Strong - medical student from Glasgow. Sent to Wisemans as medical attendant on arrival
Thomas Worts from Norfolk - Died 1841


The Monitor reported that tor reported that four of the gentlemen prisoners are under orders for the val. (Wellington Valley), however the men who were clerks and lawyers were mostly privately assigned.

Quite a few were also assigned to the Australian Agricultural Company. Others were assigned to country estates. In the Hunter region they were often employed as shepherds and agricultural labourers.- See George Mossman at Williams River, Edward G. Cory and Alexander Park at Paterson, James Bowman, James Black, William Dangar, John Bingle, Edward Sparke, Robert and Helenus Scott, William Brooks and James Reid.

The Mermaid arrived just a month before the announcement of the new 'Bushranging Act'. This Act did little to deter convict James Gibbons who was assigned to William Dangar on arrival and later became a notorious bushranger. He was captured after robbing the Murrurundi Mail in 1839.


1).Select here to find out more about convicts / passengers of the Mermaid

2). Return of Convicts of the Mermaid assigned between 1st January 1832 and 31st March 1832 (Sydney Gazette 14 June 1832; 21 June 1832; 28 June 1832).....
George Cooper - Brickmaker assigned to C.G. Watson at Brisbane Water
John Doman - Stone cutter assigned to John McClaren at Sydney
Robert Mather - Stone cutter assigned to Richard Jones M.C., at Sydney

3). Convict Ships bringing detachments of the 17th regiment........

Date/Place of Departure Vessel Officer of the Guard
30 September 1829 Sheerness Dunvegan Castle Lieut. John Grey
14 October 1829 Spithead Katherine Stewart Forbes Major Fairtclough 63rd regt.,
5 December 1829 Sheerness Mermaid Lieutenant Isaac Blackburn
1 January 1830 Cork Forth 1 Captain James Oliphant Clunie
1 January 1830 Sheerness Nithsdale Captain Robert G. Moffatt
8 April 1830 Portsmouth Lady Feversham Lieutenant  Harvey 29th regt.,
9 April 1830 Sheerness Marquis of Huntley Lieutenant Watson 20th regt.,
27 April 1830 Portsmouth Adrian Ensign Reynolds
6 June 1830 Downs Lord Melville Lieutenant Robert Graham
3 July 1830 Dublin Hercules Major J.W. Bouverie
5 July 1830 Portsmouth Royal Admiral Captain John Church
27 July 1830 Plymouth Burrell Captain John Alexander Edwards
28 August 1830 Cork Andromeda Captain Charles Forbes
4 September 1830 Sheerness York Lieut-Col. Henry Despard
17 October 1830 Cork Edward Captain Deeds
10 May 1832 Cork Eliza II Lieutenant Hewson 4th regiment

4). National Archives - Reference: ADM 101/53/4 Description: Medical journal of the Mermaid, convict ship from 29 October 1829 to 6 May 1830 by David Boyter, surgeon and superintendent, during which time the said ship was employed on a voyage to New South Wales.


[1] UK, Royal Navy Medical Journals, 1817-1857. Medical Journal of David Boyter on the voyage of the Mermaid in 1830. The National Archives. Kew, Richmond, Surrey.

[2] Bateson, Charles, Library of Australian History (1983). The convict ships, 1787-1868 (Australian ed). Library of Australian History, Sydney : pp.348-349, 386

[3] New South Wales, Australia, Convict Indents, 1788-1842 Original data: Bound manuscript indents, 17881842. NRS 12188, microfiche 614619,626657, 660695. State Records Authority of New South Wales, Kingswood, New South Wales, Australia.