Free Settler or Felon?
Home    Convict Ship Index    Convict Ship Surgeons

Convict Ship Isabella 1823

Share the story of your ancestor's life
Send an email to contribute your ancestor's story to this page (Convicts and passengers from this ship only)

Convict Ships by Year
    Captains Index     Resources 

Select from the Links below to find information about Convict Ships arriving in New South Wales, Norfolk Island and Van Diemen's Land between the years 1788 and 1850

A       B       C       D       E       F       G       H       I       J-K
 L       M       N-O       P-Q      R       S       T-V       W-Y

Embarked : 200 men
Deaths: 7
Surgeon's Journal: yes
Previous vessel: Mary arrived 18 October 1823
Next vessel: Medina arrived 29 December 1823
Captain John Wallis
Surgeon Superintendent William Rae
Follow the Irish Convict Ship Trail

The Isabella was built in London in 1818. (4) The Isabella transported convicts to Australia in 1818 (NSW), 1822 (NSW), 1823 (NSW), 1832 (NSW), 1833 (VDL) and 1842 (VDL).

Captain John Wallis was formerly Master of a slave ship taking negroes from Africa to the West Indies (2). He was also Master of the Three Bees in 1814, the Fanny in 1816 and the Isabella in 1822.

The guard comprised a detachment of the 40th regiment under command of Lieut. Henry Miller who was accompanied by his wife and family.  The 40th had been serving in Ireland.

Following is an excerpt from  Historical Records of the 40th (2nd Somersetshire) Regiment By Raymond Henry Raymond Smythies listing the ships that brought detachments of the 40th regiment to New South Wales in 1823 and 1824..........

Early in March 1823, the commanding officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Thornton received an intimation that it was intended to send the regiment to New South Wales. In the meantime it was ordered to proceed to Dublin, thence by sea to Liverpool, and after that by road to Chatham, in order to form guards for convict ships when required.
The head quarters reached Dublin on 15th March and occupied the Royal Barracks. On the 30th the whole regiment embarked at Pigeon House, in eight small vessels, and reached Liverpool the following day.

A twenty eight days' march, including three Sundays, brought the regiment to Chatham. The Regiment marched in three divisions; the first arrived at Chatham on 21st April; the second, consisting of two companies, halted, and remained at Deptford; and the 3rd reached Chatham on 23rd April.

During the next year the 40th was sent out, in small detachments, as guards on board convict ships to Australia. This was after several years' rough service in Ireland, and but a short period of rest in England........

Embarkation Command Ship  
25th April 1823Lieutenant Lowe Albion  
5th July 1823 Captain Bishop Asia  
10th July 1823 Lieutenant Miller Isabella  
18th July 1823 Captain Hibbert Sir Godfrey Wilestoe  
29 July 1823 Captain Thornhill Guildford  
31st July 1823 Lieutenant Ganning Medina  
5 August 1823 Lt.- Col. Balfour Castle Forbes  
29 December 1823 Captain Stewart Prince Regent  
5th February 1824 Captain Jebb Chapman  
25 February 1824 Captain Morow Countess of Harcourt  
14 June 1824 Lt.- Col Thornton Mangles  
14 June 1824 Lieut Neilley Princess Charlotte  

Other ships bringing detachments of the 40th regiment included the Minerva and Ann & Amelia.

The convicts to be embarked on the Isabella were held in the Surprize Hulk at Cork to await transportation. The Belfast Newsletter reported in June......

The preparations on board the convict hulk at Cove being completed for the reception of those doomed to become its unfortunate inmates previous to transportation, a draft of 101 male convicts was taken from the depot on Wednesday, and removed to the hulk, and on Thursday a further addition of 31 male convicts was made of these victims of their own folly and violation of the laws of the land. (3)

The Isabella was the next convict ship to leave Ireland bound for New South Wales after the departure of the Earl St. Vincent in April 1823. The Isabella departed Cork in August 1823 with 200 male convicts.

It was a difficult voyage. There was an early outbreak of scurvy and a plot to cause a mutiny was discovered before they even reached the Cape. William Rae kept a Medical Journal from 4th July to 4th December 1823 in which he detailed some of the challenges of the voyage. ......

The convicts were suffering from Catarrh when they joined the ship which the surgeon attributed to the very cold season and want of adequate clothing. One man had been sent with only a blanket to cover his nakedness and another with a ragged shirt and trousers with only one leg in them. Few had shoes or stockings. In other respects they appeared to be healthy, although the surgeon was to find out later that several had been confined on the hulk with fever; and scurvy made a very early appearance after only about a month at sea. The surgeon could not account for these early cases of scurvy except perhaps the confinement in the crowded hulk without proper air and exercise may have predisposed them to it. He attributed some of their debility to former illness, sea sickness and also languor and depression of spirits induced by a system of terror, robbery and plunder that a gang of them carried on whilst on board the Surprize.

From a knowledge that the same gang were now hatching a plot for the murder and destruction of every one on board who would not enter with them in taking the ship and threats of instant death to anyone who betrayed them, the other convicts were in a depressed and dejected state......... Nor could any kind treatment within from the Captain of the ship or the myself (both marked for destruction) infuse either joy or cheerfulness amongst them. Through the courage of one man, we fortunately discovered the horrid plot that was hatching against us, which obliged me to replace the most of them in irons and curtail their liberty upon deck as it was improper again to trust men who had been guilty of such base ingratitude for as much liberty granted to them and kind treatment during a period of distress. (5)

They contemplated touching at the Cape of Good Hope for refreshments; but from the number ill at the time the surgeon decided he had sufficient means remaining to enable them to make the rest of the voyage with little loss. There was also a reluctance to delay the voyage further as they were approaching the season when winds could be contrary and besides, as the surgeon recorded in his journal...... they had every inducement to get quit as soon as possible of such a rascally, ungrateful and mutinous crew.

They made the run from the Cape to Van Diemen's Land in a month. About one hundred and ninety-three prisoners arrived  on 16 December 1823. According to the surgeon's journal seven men had died on the voyage out, four of them from scurvy. (The convict indents state five men died). Another twenty-nine men were sent to the hospital on arrival.

The men were mustered on arrival. The indents give such information as name, age, trade, when and where tried, native place, physical description, to whom assigned on arrival and remarks regarding behaviour on board.

Curiously, considering the difficulties of the voyage, remarks at the end of the indents state - The prisoners appear in good health, declaring themselves well treated and have been well spoken of by the Surgeon Superintendent William Rae and Commander John Wallis.

On the 17th December William Rae and John Wallis gave details of the intended mutiny to the Governor -
We have to inform your Excellency that in the course of our voyage hither we had the good fortune to discover a dangerous mutiny which was on the eve of breaking out amongst the prisoners, and but for timely prevention would certainly have ended in much bloodshed. For the information we are mainly indebted to a prisoner of the name of Francis Keefe who at the risk of his own life concealed himself whilst he wrote a short note containing the information. This plot from all the credible evidence we have been able to collect concerning it had been matured by a few of the worst of characters and they had even evinced some degree of cunning in poisoning the minds with the idea of money being on board which was to be distributed amongst those who should most distinguish themselves. Keefe is a man superior to most of the prisoners, has conducted himself with much propriety and some of the ringleaders have even attempted to invalidate his evidence. Situated as we have all been we should be guilty of an act of injustice if we did not recommend this man in the strongest manner to your Excellency 's notice. The names of the ringleaders were :

Charles Devatt, gardener, tried 17th March 1823 at Longford and sentenced to transportation for life. Sent to Port Macquarie on arrival. Died 20 January 1824 at Port Macquarie.

James Kelly, ploughs and makes butter. Tried Co. Carlow 27 March 1823 and sentenced to transportation for ten years. Sent to Port Macquarie on arrival

Patrick Brennan, ploughman from Co. Carlow. Tried 25 March 1823 and sentenced to ten years transportation. Sent to Port Macquarie on arrival.

Denis Brennan, coalminer and soldier from Kilkenny. Tried 6 April 1823 and sentenced to transportation for life. Left arm lost below the elbow. Sent to Port Macquarie on arrival. Died at Port Macquarie 8 December 1824.

James Lawler, ploughman tried in Co. Wicklow 24th March 1823 and sentenced to transportation for 10 years. Sent to Port Macquarie on arrival

William Cowen, gardener from Longford. Forwarded to Parramatta on arrival

Patrick Macnamara (no. 139). Coal miner and militia man from Kilkenny Tried 5th April 1823. Sent to Newcastle on arrival. (2)

The prisoners were landed early on Tuesday morning 23rd December. They were inspected by the Governor who was satisfied with their general appearance. They were afterwards distributed throughout the Colony. On 23rd December the five men mentioned above were embarked on the colonial vessel Sally with eighteen other men convicted of colonial crimes. They were transported to Port Macquarie to serve the remainder of their original sentence.

Port Macquarie at this time was under the command of Captain Francis Allman and convicts of the worst description were sent there. More than a thousand men were held at Port Macquarie at this time, they were employed in public works and agricultural labour, and often in chain gangs.

Port Macquarie was visited by surveyor John Oxley on his expedition northward to Moreton Bay. John Uniacke who accompanied John Oxley wrote the account of Port Macquarie below:

In December 1823, the Sydney Gazette reported that the indulgence of a ticket of leave had been awarded to Francis Keefe at the special recommendation of Captain Wallis and Surgeon William Rae......... The prisoner had given information that a conspiracy was in the act of forming during the voyage and the horrible evils that might have ensued were thus providentially frustrated. In consequence of the service rendered the Public in this instance, His Excellency the Governor was pleased to consider the man worthy of the great indulgence bestowed.  

Notes & Links:

1). One of the convicts arriving on the Isabella was Patrick Clinch. He was assigned to Vicars Jacob near Newcastle on arrival and after absconding from service joined with others to form the most formidable and organised gang of bushrangers the Hunter region had seen. They became known as Jacob's Irish Brigade. Others assigned to Vicars Jacob on arrival included William Finnegan, Patrick Gready, James Kennedy, Patrick McNamara, Arthur Mullin, James Reynolds. Select here to find out what Vicars Jacob thought of his convict servants.

2). William Rae was also employed as surgeon superintendent on the convict ships Eliza in 1822,  Marquis of Huntley in 1826, Prince Regent in 1827 and the Marquis of Hastings in 1828
3). John Wallis was also Commander of the Three Bees and the Fanny

4). Hunter Valley convicts / passengers arriving on the Isabella in 1823

5). Mr. Sergeant Torrens presided at a Sessions under the insurrection Act in Mallow when James Curtin and John Kent were convicted for having administered an unlawful oath to David Nagle, and received sentence of transportation for seven years. They were ordered to be transmitted to the receiving ship at Cove. Curtin had been previously acquitted on a similar charge. On Sergeant Torrens having pronounced the sentence of transportation on him, the wretch, in the most hardened and vindictive tone, was heard to exclaim" the D...I transport yourself my Lord:. A female also said, "he should have money enough to make him comfortable on the voyage, as it was in a good cause he was going". Belfast Newsletter 16 May 1823 (James Curtin died at Bathurst in 1829 and John Kent died on the voyage out)

6). Political Prisoners    

7).  Return of Convicts of the England assigned between 1st January 1832 and 31st March 1832 (Sydney Gazette 5 July 1832).....
John O'Hair or O'Dair, stonecutter assigned to John Coghill at Kirkham
Michael Ryan. Ploughman assigned to Gabriel Thomson at Ultimo


1.  Colonial Secretary's Papers (NRS 897) Main series of letters received, 1788-1825 Item: 4/1765 Page: 227) (Ancestry)

2.  State Records Authority of New South Wales, Kingswood. Main series of letters received, 1788-1825. Series 897, Reel 6044; 4/1730 pp.101-43

3.  Belfast Newsletter 13 June 1823.  

4. Bateson, Charles & Library of Australian History (1983). The convict ships, 1787-1868 (Australian ed). Library of Australian History, Sydney : pp.344-345,  384

5. UK, Royal Navy Medical Journals, 1817-1857 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011. Original data: Admiralty and predecessors: Office of the Director General of the Medical Department of the Navy and predecessors: Medical Journals (ADM 101, 804 bundles and volumes). Records of Medical and Prisoner of War Departments. Records of the Admiralty, Naval Forces, Royal Marines, Coastguard, and related bodies. The National Archives. Kew, Richmond, Surrey.



web counter