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Convict Ship Elizabeth 1828


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Convict Ship Elizabeth 1828

Embarked: 194 women
Voyage: 138 days
Deaths 2
Surgeon's Journal: yes
Tons: 328 Crew: 44 men
Previous vessel: Florentia arrived 3 January 1828
Next vessel: Marquis of Huntley arrived 30 January 1828
Master Walter Cock
Surgeon Superintendent Joseph H. Hughes
Follow the Female Convict Ship Trail
Follow the Irish Convict Ship Trail
Prisoners and passengers of the Elizabeth identified in the Hunter Valley

The Elizabeth was built in Calcutta in 1816. This was the first voyage bringing convicts to New South Wales.

Ship's sailmaker was Thomas Smith and Second Officer Mr. Chalmers.


The female prisoners of the Elizabeth came from districts throughout Ireland where they were held in County gaols before being transferred to Cork to await transportation.

The Belfast Newsletter reported on 22nd June 1827.....On the 11th inst. six female convicts were forwarded from Antrim County Jail, in a securely covered caravan, under a military escort.

Late in July 1827, there was a riot in the Cork depot..........Sunday se'nnight, about eight o'clock, the female prisoners to the number of 200, confined in the depot of this city, under rule of transportation, had a difference with the Dublin convicts whose numbers were not at all equal, and made a desperate attempt to get at them, for the purpose of putting them to death; but through the timely interference of the Governor and his Officers, they were most fortunately separated, and obliged for the preservation of their lives, to be removed to the City prison. The Munster convicts united with the Northerns, disappointed in their plans, made every exertion to destroy the prison, broke every sash and the entire glass of this extensive building, and bid defiance to the guards; having prepared themselves with stones, and every weapon that could be had, they would not allow their removal to the lock up wards allotted for the night; and on the governor and his attendants entering made a most violent attack on them, cut and wounded several in the guard, and, unfortunately for the first time, from the darkness of the night, these wretched creatures, before they submitted, received some severe wounds. - The Morning Post 8 August 1827.

Departure of the Elizabeth from Cork

The Elizabeth was the next convict ship to leave Ireland bound for New South Wales after the departure of the Eliza in July 1827 and the next female convict ship to leave Ireland after the Brothers in October 1826.

One hundred and ninety-four female prisoners (some of whom had been involved in the above riot) and 16 or 17 children, were embarked at Cork and the Elizabeth departed on 27th August 1827.

Surgeon Joseph Hughes

Surgeon superintendent Joseph Hughes was about fifty-six years of age when he undertook this appointment. He kept a Medical Journal from 16th July 1827 to 30th January 1828.

The surgeon's first impressions of his charges would not have been favourable - pale, sickly, recalcitrant women, worn down by poverty and dissolute lives and exhibiting injuries from the recent affray in the depot. Some were pregnant others had young children in tow. All with varying degrees of resentment and anxiety. Many of the women were unruly and disruptive throughout the voyage and the surgeon had a very low opinion of them in general, although those who were employed in the Hospital, he considered to be diligent. His only other appointment on a convict ship was to the Chapman taking male convicts from England to VDL in 1826 and he was genuinely shocked and dismayed at the behaviour of the women of the Elizabeth.

The first entry in his journal was an example of the difficulties to come......... Elizabeth Higgins age 20 who was treated on 14th August. The surgeon described her as a stout young woman who had several wounds on her face and leg caused by a bayonet when resisting the soldiers sent to quell the mutiny in the depot. Later his entry for Mary Flanigan revealed the level of turpitude and violence on board - A few days ago in a fray with some of the women and being a ringleader of mischief she got severely mauled, was obliged to separate her and confine her in the box for 24 hours on bread and water. The weather was very cold and the following day she complained of general pains, head ache and sickness at the stomach. She had been severely beaten by the other prisoners including being kicked in the groin. Although treated by the surgeon after removal from the'box' she was unable to pass urine for some time until the treatment of having a catheter inserted was raised and the idea caused her to pass water! [3]

Iron Maiden
Above is an old postcard of the ship Success. The Success was built in 1849 and used to bring immigrants to Australia, however did not ever bring convicts. The Success was used in the 1850s in Victoria as a convict hulk. The upright prison (Iron Maiden) pictured may have been similar to the 'box' described above which was used to punish Mary Flanigan.

It was a difficult voyage altogether and he later wrote: extreme filthy disposition of the women and their reckless character, choosing rather to live in their dirt than be clean, very often in the week the decks of the prisons have required washing with plenty of ablution instead of the more salutary custom of scraping and dry holystoning; even this washing was and is effected with considerable trouble and coercion, leaving out abuse and the foulest language. Their squabbles have often been productive of wounds (not serious), bruises and contusions by falls, requiring the formality of dressings and bandages and to preserve peace and order where I could. Their waste and destruction of clothes, bedding and blankets deplorable, throwing them overboard in our very faces and shortly after becoming ill for want of the same through cold - I have been obliged to give them others. I have much prejudice to contend with, but from acting with caution towards them when applying to me, I have secured their esteem and goodwill in my medical capacity, but in other respects considerable trouble. They being slothful, dirty disposed with a most lamentable recklessness of character unconquerable. [3]

Many of the women left children behind in Ireland. Those who were permitted to bring some of their children with them included: Mary Bryan (1); Mary Bolasty (1); Catherine Dowling (1); Margaret Hogan (2); Mary Kiely (4); Sarah Marten (1); Catherine Mulligan (1); Ann McAsperit (1); Mary Meany (1); Ellen O'Lea (1); Marianne Robinson (1); Anne Rock (1); Johanna Warren (1); Honora Walsh (1) - Honora Walsh's child died on the voyage out and other children were affected with chicken pox at various states of the voyage. The child of Mary Hogan sustained a fractured leg at the very beginning of the voyage when her mother fell on her just after embarking.

There were two births on board, neither baby destined to survive the voyage - on 17th September Mary Ann Robinson gave birth to her first child, a healthy baby girl after an 18 hour labour. Two months later Margaret McRedman was seized with labour pains about 8 o'clock at night.. The birth was quick but difficult and required the assistance and skill of the surgeon. She gave birth on her knees to her first child at the hour of midnight; a healthy daughter at birth, she was named Elizabeth, but was not long in the world. The surgeon supplied Margaret McRedman with linen for the baby and treated her kindly, however a few weeks later Margaret developed a suppurating breast abscess which was treated unsuccessfully with a poultice and dressing. She was able to feed only from one breast and the child became emaciated and suffered convulsions before finally passing away.

The surgeon revealed the thoughts of the other women on the subject of this child - The singular old look of the child was very remarkable like a child of seventy years of age and gave occasion to the women of the hospital to say (as it appears they have the idea in Ireland amongst the Country people for a fact) that the Fairies had substituted another child in its stead it being a very fine child when born. [3] Margaret McRedmond continued ill with one abscess healing and another breaking open.

Inadequacies of the Vessel

In October they were into warmer weather and there were several cases of headache from exposure to the sun and quite a few were suffering from prickly heat. Others required extra attention from the surgeon when they added vinegar to the drinking water in an attempt to combat the heat. The heat between decks was very great at night especially when the barrier was closed because of the women's atrocious manner of going on quarrelling and fighting. By the beginning of November the cooler weather and breezes had set in giving the women relief from the humid weather in the Tropics. The women were at this time according to the surgeon in tolerable health considering so various and depraved a set of women, many worn out with former debauchery, poverty and chronic diseases. There were still some children suffering from chicken pox towards the middle and end of December while steering an eastern course the weather became cold and windy. The Elizabeth was made of teak which according to the surgeon attracted the damp and as was usual with such built ships retained it longer than where the decks are of fir.

Perhaps it was at this time that the privies referred to in the surgeon's remarks were rendered useless - Two close stool tubs (holding pans) were converted to foul tubs when the privies were obliged to be plugged up from letting the seas in. The Surgeon made every attempt to keep the decks dry and clean yet from the perverse and reckless manner of the female convicts, they never could be kept so for any length of time...... I cannot describe in sufficient terms their proneness to filth and their savage disposition to revenge and thwart all attempts to keep them clean. [3]

Arrival at Port Jackson

By the 1st January the ship was off the coast of New South Wales, the weather was fine and warm and the women's health improved. To the great relief of the surgeon the Elizabeth arrived in Sydney Cove on 12 January 1828 after a voyage of 138 days. 'I cannot refrain,' the surgeon wrote, 'from expressing my painful feelings for the want of decent gratitude on the part of the prisoners, but my consolation is I have faithfully discharged my duty towards them'. [3]

Cabin Passengers

Passengers included Rev. John Vincent, wife and four children and servant Catherine Flynn...... Rev. John Vincent was appointed as first chaplain to the Moreton Bay settlement. He arrived there some time between March and May 1829, but he soon quarrelled with Captain Patrick Logan and was back in Sydney on 29 December 1829. He was the first minister stationed at Goulburn and Sutton's Forest, N.S.W., in 1830., He was appointed to Castlereagh in 1842, and died in January 1854. [4]

Muster of Convicts

The women remained on board for over three weeks before landing and as the ship lay at anchor, a small band on board enlivened the harbour in the evenings. The band of German musicians was privately brought out by Captain Cock.

Alexander Macleay....Alexander Macleay

On Tuesday 15 January, the Honourable the Colonial Secretary Alexander McLeay accompanied by the Principal Superintendent of Convicts, mustered the women on board the vessel. The convict indents reveal name, age, religion, education, marital status, family, offence, sentence, when and where convicted, trade, prior convictions and physical description. There is also occasional information as to where the women were assigned on arrival as well as those who had relatives already in the colony or were shortly expected to arrive were named. e.g. Mary Scully's husband Thomas was already in the colony having arrived in the Hercules; Eleanor Smith's husband Edward McNalty was already in the colony; Hannah Wallace's husband John Baxter had arrived on the Countess of Harcourt in 1827.

Fifty-one prisoners were married the rest were widowed or single women. The youngest on board was Letitia Cobb who was 15 years old. Margaret McCormack and Eleanor Barrington were both 16 years old.

Disembarked at the Dockyard

The Monitor reported on 28 January 1828.....The women were landed at the Dockyard early in the morning of Thursday 24 January 1828 and distributed in the forenoon to such as had made application for them; they had the appearance of cleanliness, but we think were rather scant in their covering. It was usual at one time to distribute to each female a suit of clothes upon their arrival in the Colony, in the same way the newly arrived male convicts are allowed slops to land in. This practice has of late been discontinued, but we question its policy. Upwards of seventy of them were assigned to individuals in Sydney, and about one hundred and twenty were sent to Parramatta by water; some for distribution, and others for the Female Factory.

On Friday 25th January an Inquest was held at the Female Factory, Parramatta on the body of Ann Russell, lately arrived on the Elizabeth. It appeared that the deceased when she arrived at Parramatta by the boat, was unable to stand, and had to be conveyed in a cart to the Factory, where she survived but a few hours. Verdict, Died by the Visitation of God. [1]

In 1829 Robert Mudie included a description of Parramatta in The Picture of Australia: Exhibiting New Holland, Van Diemen's Land etc......

Parramatta is nearly as long as Sydney, but the houses are built in a still more scattered manner, so that it does not contain above two thousand people, if it reach that number. The ground around it is elevated, but the town lies in a sort of hollow, which makes it appear to advantage when seen from the Sydney road; but in the dry months, when vegetation is burnt up, the high grounds reflect the light and render the heat excessive. The distance from Sydney by the direct road is about fifteen miles, and the distance between them by sea is at least three miles longer. There is no regular sailing between them, except in boats, not carrying more than fifteen tons, that being the greatest burden that the harbour of Parramatta will admit. The governor has a house at Parramatta and there are some of the public institutions there. There are regular daily coaches to Sydney. Houses of stone or brick are much less frequent at Parramatta than at Sydney, the great number being weather boarded on the outside, and plastered within. [2]

Departure of the Elizabeth

The Elizabeth was to depart for Mauritius on 10th February 1828.

Notes and Links

1). The Elizabeth was one of three convict ships bringing female prisoners to New South Wales in 1828, the others being the Competitor and the City of Edinburgh. A total of 471 female convicts arrived in the colony in the year 1828.

2). Extract of a Despatch from Governor Darling to the Right Hon. William Huskisson .....
New South Wales,
Government House 3rd April 1828
Sir, I do my myself the honour to transmit the accompanying lists of female convicts lately arrived by the ship Elizabeth from Ireland, considering, from the question they involve, that they may prove of some importance to the public. List No. 1 contains the names of 19 women, whose husbands or relations are already in the colony; No 2 is a list of 11 women, whose husbands are under sentence of transportation, but have not yet arrived. Whether these women committed the offences for which they have been transported as a means of joining their husbands and relations, or whether they are the victims of crime unconnected with this object, is perhaps not altogether unimportant. In the former case, it may be a question whether an attempt should not be made to put a stop to such proceeding, though the means may not be convenient or easily devised. It might be well to consider whether it would be best effected by sending out the wives of convicts soon after their husbands are transported, or by not transporting any woman whose husband had been sent out as a convict. These appear to be the only means of effecting the object. The first would certainly render the punishment of transportation less abhorrent, and might operate as an encouragement to crime. The second would perhaps be the more advisable course, as it might possibly prevent the commission of crime on the part of the women who were anxious to join their husbands; and the men would as at present, still have an inducement to behave well, in the hope from that circumstance that their wives would be permitted to join them. I have the honour to be, with the utmost defence and respect,
Your most obedient and most humble servant,
R. Darling

No. 1 List of Female convicts per 'Elizabeth' whose husbands or relations are in this colony and Van Diemen's Land: - rren - Husband came as Michael Murray per 'Eliza'
Ellen Healy - Husband came as Michael Griffen per 'Eliza'
Catherine Neale - Husband came as James Fitzgerald 12 months previously
Mary Field - Has two daughters and a son in the colony and one daughter aged 18 years on board, convicted with the mother
Hannah Wallace - Husband here as John Baxter per Countess of Harcourt in 1827
Catherine Gogarty - Husband here as Thomas Gogarty, about two years since
Mary McCormick - Husband here as James McMahan per 'Cambridge
Mary Ann Downes - Husband here as Michael Downes per 'Countess of Harcourt' in 1827
Margaret Maloney - Husband here as James Riley per 'Countess of Harcourt'
Mary Connor or McGuity - Husband, McGuity, at Van Diemen's Land
Ann Murphy - Husband here as Patrick Murphy about six months ago
Margaret Godfrey - Husband here as Thomas Hayes per 'Eliza'
Sarah Cummins - Husband here as Thomas Cummins, about three years ago; also three sons in the colony.
Rose Fallon - Husband William Moore per 'Eliza'
Margaret Murphy - Has a brother here, a Peter Thompson, or Murphy about eight years ago.
Mary Scully or Macguire - Husband here as Thomas Scully per 'Hercules
Catherine Connors - Husband here as John Connor, private in the 57th regiment
Eleanor Smith - Husband here as Edward McAnalty, seven years ago.
Mary Doyle or Dempsey - Husband here as Morris Dempsey perCambridge

No. 2 - List of Female convicts per Elizabeth whose husbands have been convicted but not yet arrived.
Catherine Holmes - Husband convicted and expected as Thomas Kennedy
Bridget Johnson - Husband as Richard Kelly
Mary Long - Husband as Thomas Hunt
Mary Dogherty - husband as James McCullum
Mary Moore - husband as James Mehan
Mary Morris - husband as William Russell
Honora McGrath - husband as Thomas McGrath
Mary Riley - Husband as Patrick Hearne
Mary Scott - Husband as Matthew Power
Catherine Dowling or Hennessy - Husband as James Hennessey
Ann McAspert - Husband as James McAnn McAspert - Husband as James McAspert

Hunter Valley convicts / passengers arriving on the Elizabeth in 1828

4). Carlow - Catherine Lawler, for stealing 7s and a handkerchief from John Lawler, at the last races of Ballybar - Guilty, to be transported for 7 yearsp;

5). County Tipperary Spring Assizes, Clonmel....Friday March 30 - Mary Dwyer was charged with stealing several articles of wearing apparel, on the 1st September last at Coolquill - Guilty, to be transported for seven years

6). Waterford Assizes, Monday March 19, John Walsh, Darby Lynch, Catherine Connor, and Margaret Harrington were indicted for robbing Thomas Morris of his watch and 5 10 in cash. Morris it appeared, lived in Taghon, in the County of Wexford but had occasion to visit Waterford some time ago; and being a lover equally of the bottle and the fair sex, he had the gratification of indulging his usual propensities in the company of the two female prisoners on his last visit; and after carousing with them until all recollection and reason was gone, he, to his very great surprise, awoke the next morning stretched on a pavement bed in High Street minus his watch 5 10s in money, his shoes, and a favourite tobacco knife. The prisoners were traced to their rendezvous at a house in the Mayors walk, and taken into custody, and the knife and hoses found on two of the party. The watch was stopped at a public house where it had been just deposited by Lynch for a naggin of whiskey; and although an alibi set up in defence, and divers ingenious efforts to throw the guilt on each others shoulders, the whole group were found guilty, and sentenced each to seven years transportationnbsp;


[1] Sydney Gazette 30 January 1828

[2] The Picture of Australia: Exhibiting New Holland, Van Diemans Land ... By Robert Mudie

[3] UK, Royal Navy Medical Journals, 1817-1857. . The National Archives. Kew, Richmond, Surrey.

[4] Cranfield, Louis, Early Commandants of Moreton Bay., p. 389

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