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William Balmain
Assistant Surgeon - First Fleet 1788

William Balmain - Surgeon

WILLIAM BALMAIN, surgeon and landholder, was born on 2 February 1762 at Balhepburn, Rhynd, Perthshire, Scotland, the son of Alexander Balmain and Jane Henderson. He entered the navy in 1780 as a surgeon's mate. [1]


In October 1786 he was commissioned assistant surgeon to New South Wales and sailed in the First Fleet transport Alexander the following May reaching Port Jackson in January 1788.


Magnify the map above by scrolling then click on the ship icons to read accounts from First Fleet Journals. Each of the eleven ships is represented by a different colour.  Enlarge the map using the icon on the top right. Select here to find out more about this map


He served in Sydney until October 1791, when he was appointed senior assistant surgeon to Norfolk Island. At Norfolk Island he formed a relationship with Margaret Dawson, a convict girl who had arrived on the Lady Penryhn. Their daughter Ann was born at Norfolk Island.

Thomas Jamison was also stationed at Norfolk Island from 1788 to October 1799. He later succeeded William Balmain to the position of Surgeon General of New South Wales.

In 1796 William Balmain became Chief Surgeon in succession to Surgeon John White who had returned to England in December 1794. He was appointed Magistrate and served on committees and was active in other public duties.


William Balmain returned to England in August 1801 on the Albion and was appointed Surgeon to the Forces in 1803.


He died in November1803.

The Morning Chronicle reported his death in November 1803 - On the 17th instant in King Street, Bloomsbury, Dr. William Balmain, Surgeon to His Majesty's Forces and late Principal Surgeon to the territory of New South Wales.

He left most of his estate to Margaret Dawson who had returned to England with him.


(1). Australian Dictionary of Biography

(2) Wikipedia

(3) Sydney Mail 17 December

(4) Truth 18 September 1949

(5) A List of Civil and Military Establishments in New South Wales

(6). John White served as Surgeon-General on the First Fleet in 1787. Eight other surgeons served under him - Dennis Considen, Thomas Arndell, William Balmain, John Turnpenny Altree, Arthur Bowes Smyth, James Callam, Thomas Jamison and George Bouchier Worgan.