Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

John Dobie R. N.,

Convict Ship Surgeon-Superintendent

Date of Seniority Royal Navy 14 August 1820

John Dobie was born in Fife, Scotland in 1794. He joined the navy at the age of twelve. [5]

Naval Service

He was appointed Assistant-Surgeon to the ship Montagu in 1813 [1] and Assistant-Surgeon on the Leander in 1819. [2]

He was appointed Surgeon to :

Warspite in 1825

Boadicea in 1826

Java in1827

Madagascar in 1828.[3]


John Dobie was appointed Surgeon-Superintendent on convict ship Princess Charlotte in 1824.

The Princess Charlotte departed the Downs 9 July 1824 and arrived in Van Diemen's Land on 9 November 1824 with 140 male prisoners

In 1836 he was appointed to convict ship Lady Nugent

The Lady Nugent departed Sheerness 14 July 1836 and arrived in Van Diemen's Land 12 November 1836 with 286 male prisoners. John Dobie kept a medical journal from 18 June to 5 December 1837 during the voyage to Australia.

Surgeon on Immigrant Ship

Duncan 1838

John Dobie was surgeon on the immigrant ship Duncan arriving in June 1838.(See Historical Records of Australia Vol. XIX)

In 1837 Governor Sir Richard Bourke sent John Dobie to England with personal letters to Glenelg, secretary of state for the colonies, and instructions to use his own judgment in recruiting free immigrants for New South Wales. When he was returning in the Duncan with 272 free settlers, the ship encountered bad weather and docked at Rio de Janeiro where Bourke, returning home on H.M. Spy, commended John Dobie's management of the passengers.

The Sydney Herald reported the arrival of the Duncan -

The Duncan from Greenock, on Saturday, has brought out some excellent mechanics consisting of masons, builders, joiners, house carpenters, bricklayers, slaters, blacksmiths, and several ploughmen, with their wives and families. The Duncan has had a long and tedious passage, and was under the necessity of putting in at Rio Janiero, on the 18th of April, to repair damages sustained in some heavy gales of wind. The Aligator and Haracoutta (men of war) were at Rio, bound to the Cape of Good Hope, King George's Sound, and Sydney. Sir Richard Bourke and suite left Rio Janiero on the 22nd of April in Her Majesty's Packet Spy, bound for England.

Health Officer - Sydney

In December 1838 John Dobie was appointed by Governor Sir George Gipps as first health officer in Sydney. He received a grant of land in the Cassilis district at this time. To the Governor's regret he resigned in November 1839 [3]

The Hobart Town Crier reported on 6th December 1839 that Mr. Surgeon Dobie had retired from the appointment of Health Officer, which he had held for the last twelve months, intending to turn his attention to agricultural and pastoral pursuits. Upon his retirement a dinner was given to him by his friends at the Club house, at which Captain King M.C. presided. The Governor has appointed Mr. Dobie a Magistrate of the territory.

Arthur Savage, a Naval Surgeon, who came out to the colony in July 1838, as Superintendent of the immigrant ship Magistrate (having previously made three voyages as Surgeon of convict ships) was appointed to succeed John Dobie.

Clarence River

John Dobie led an expedition into the unsettled Clarence River valley, where he took up Ramornie station in June 1840, Stratheden station in the Richmond River valley in 1842, and exchanged Ramornie for Gordon Brook station in 1845.[3]

He was described in a Clarence River Historical Society article in The Daily Examiner.....Dr. Dobie moved from Ramornie to Gordon Brook in 1845. Although he was often on the Clarence, he was a member of the Medical Board in Sydney and spent most of his time there. He signed a certificate as a member of the board on May 3, 1841. By Lows Directory for 1847 he was still a member of the Medical Board, and of the committee of the Australian Club.

The old Legislative Council was partly elected and partly nominated by the Governor. Dr. Dobie was a Government nominee and in 1853 attended the proceedings by which the constitution of New South Wales was settled and the Legislature divided into an elective assembly and a nominee council. He voted in favour of the measure, but did not take part in the debate.

A Stout Old Gentleman

More intimate details are provided by the Tindal letters. In June 1853 Fred Tindal wrote:

The doctor is a stout old gentleman with a face a little like Uncle Tuckers. He is seldom at the station, which he manages from Sydney by a viceroy named Shannon; but he is building a fine house of brick, large and handsome, a suspicious proceeding in an elderly bachelor.' But C. G. Tindal wrote on Christmas Day, 1854: 'Dr. Dobie has sold his station (Gordon Brook) to Fred Bundock, and sails for England next month.

Such a sudden change of plans would make it easy to believe that Fred Tindal's guess was correct and that there had been a disappointment. The large house is still fine and handsome and in excellent condition. It is most roomy and comfortable, and the timbering, including the beams and rafters, all cedar. It is thought to be the oldest house on the North Coast. The doctor's memory is kept alive for Graftonians by the name of Dobie street
. [4]


John Dobie returned to England where he died on 17 July 1866

Notes and Links

1). National Archives. Reference: ADM 101/127/1 Description: Medical journal of the Warspite for 21 December 1825 to 7 August 1826 by John Dobie, Surgeon, during which time the said ship was employed in England and on her passage to the East Indies

2). State Archives. - Copies of letters to the Health Officers, 4 March 1839 - 5 October 1859, 1 vol -

No quarantine restrictions had been applied in New South Wales before a Quarantine Act was passed by the Legislative Council in 1832. The measures adopted by this Act proved inadequate because of the growth of overseas commerce and the consequent increased danger of introducing infectious diseases to the colony. Gipps therefore appointed John Dobie, a naval surgeon, to the newly created office of Health Officer in January 1839. This letter book contains the detailed instructions to Dobie under which he and his successors, A Savage (November 1839) and H G Alleyne (July 1852), worked. Indexes: in front of volume Item No: [4/3735]; microfilm copy SR Reel 2861

3). John Dobie at Parramatta - Ellen Bundock


[1] Naval Chronicle

[2] Edinburgh Magazine

[3] Australian Dictionary of Biography Online - John Dobie

[4] Daily Examiner (Grafton, NSW : 1915 - 1954) Sat 7 Mar 1936

[5] Big River Racing: A History of the Clarence River Jockey Club 1861-2001 By John O'Hara