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Convict Ship
Lady Shore 1797

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Embarked: 68 females; 2 males
Surgeon's Journal: no
Tons: 482
Previous vessel: Indispensable arrived 30 April 1796
Next vessel: Britannia arrived 27 May 1797
Master James Willcocks.
Surgeon Mr. Fyfe
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On the eve of the departure of the Lady Shore the following account of the convicts appeared in he Belfast Newsletter......

The ship Lady Shore, for Botany Bay has now on board 110 men women and children, belonging to the New South Wales corps and 70 convicts, only two of whom are males, Major Semple, and Knowles, the Duke of Portland's late porter. Their numbers are expected to be considerably increased by the time they reach the place of their destination as most of the female convicts are fine young girls, and many of them already promise to be prolific. (2)

Lady Shore arrived in Portsmouth on 15th April 1797 and departed on 22 April 1797 with 68 female prisoners and 2 male prisoners. There was a Mutiny on board in August 1797 (1)

The Lady Shore had on board, besides convicts, eight solders of the New South Wales corps amongst whom were Germans, French, and condemned criminals; reprieved on condition of serving during life at Botany Bay. They arrived at Portsmouth while the mutiny on board the fleet was at its height. They formed a plan to seize the ship when she should get out to sea. Of this Captain Wilcox was informed by Major Semple. He complained to the Transport Board of the danger of proceeding to sea with such men, while they had arms in their hands. The Colonel of the regiment was sent to investigate the business ; but he, perhaps hesitating to give credit to Semple, and from the Benevolence of his own heart, entertaining a better opinion of his men than it would seem they deserved, over ruled Captain Wilcox' desire. In this state they went to sea. When four days sail from Rio de Janeiro the mutineers rose in the night on the Second Mate, who was then on watch. He found resistance to so many armed men to be all in vain, and of course submitted to save his own life. They then entered the cabin of the Chief Mate (*Mr. Lambert), and murdered him in the most savage manner, cutting his head off. They then proceeded past Mr. Black's birth to the round house, where Captain Wilcox fired a pistol at them through his door. They instantly broke the door in pieces and murdered poor Wilcox in a manner too shocking to describe. They then returned to Mr. Black's hammock and without the least warning thrust their bayonets through it in several places, not in the least doubting but he was in it. But during the disturbance he had quitted it and concealed himself which gave him an opportunity of begging his life when their rage began to abate. This they agreed; put him and ten others into the long boat, gave them a compass and turned them adrift. They got safe to Rio de Janeiro, from whence M.B took his passage in a foreign ship; but at sea fell in with a South Whaler, the Captain of which (Captain Wilkinson) received him on board. After this Captain Wilkinson took a Spanish vessel valued about ten thousand pounds. Mr. Black was appointed prize master and carried her to the Cape. He has since sailed with Captain Wilkinson to the coast of New Holland to fish for whales. (3)    


By the last Lisbon Mail, the Rev. John Black, of Woodbridge, Suffolk, received a packet from his son, who was one of the surviving Officers of that unfortunate ship the Lady Shore, dated Rio Janeiro, Jan. 18, 1798, containing an authentic narrative of the mutiny, and of his subsequent perils and adventures.

Captain Wilcocks did not die till the third day after the mutiny, when he expired without a groan. Every honour was shewn to his remains. Major Semple had no concern in the mutiny; he was the first to acquaint Captain Wilcocks of the mutinous state of the soldiers before they left England. Mr. Black has sent a list of the persons who landed at Rio Grande, thirty-two in number. The officers were received by the General at the head of his garrison, and entertained in the most hospitable and splendid manner.

The surgeon of the ship (Mr. Fyfe), an amiable young man of abilities in his possession, with whom I had formed an intimacy, was forcibly detained by the mutineers, which made him very miserable. Mr. Black wrote to him from Rio Grande. There is no doubt but the Governor of Montevideo will treat him in the most honourable manner. Before Mr. Black left Rio Grande, the Governor of that place had received a letter from the Governor of Montevideo, requesting a list of the mutineers, which was accordingly sent. Mr. Black and Major Semple set out to go by land from Rio Grande to Rio Janeiro; the General supplied them with horses, two servants, two dragoons for guides, and an Indian to take care of the luggage horse, and letters of recommendation to the different places through which they were to pass. When they had arrived at a Whale Fishery, about eleven leagues to the Southward of the Isle of St. Catherine, they embarked in a whale boat for that place. They were kindly received by the Governor, and had separate apartments allotted them in the Palace. Here they staid till the 9th of November, when they embarked on board a Portuguese Fleet for Rio Janeiro; -—Major Semple on board the Admiral's ship, and Mr. Black on board a line of battle ship, commanded by Captain Thompson, an Englishman, at whose request he was placed there, and from whom received the greatest kindness
- Sporting Magazine

An Authentic Narrative of the Mutiny on Board the Ship Lady Shore; with Particulars of a Journey Through Part of Brazil: in a Letter, Dated "Rio Janeiro, Jan. 18, 1798," to the Rev. John Black, Woodbridge, from Mr. John Black, One of the Surviving Officers of the Ship, Volume 4...............

The London Times reported in November 1799 that a Bow street Officer had arrived in London from Portsmouth with Jean Sanlard alias Provost and Jean Baptiste Escala. They are charged with being concerned in the mutiny on board the Lady Shore Botany Bay ship, and to have been the men who murdered Capt. Wilcocks, the commander. They were taken prisoners on board a French frigate, captured in the West Indies, and were sent to England in the Racoon sloop of war. They were committed to the House of Correction. (4)    

Jean Prevot/Provost was later executed for his crimes. Click on the text above to read his full trial.

In December 1804 Spanish ships were captured off Cadiz and were found to have four Englishmen, who on being interrogated, gave the following account of themselves: That they sailed on board the Lady Shore transport from Falmouth, in August 1797, for Botany Bay; that a mutiny took place during the voyage and Officers were murdered and the ship carried by the mutineers into Monte Vido, and afterwards to Buenos Ayres where they had been confined in prison as prisoners of war until released by order of the Government of Spain and were to have been landed at Cadiz and conveyed to England by the first conveyance, at the expense of that Government had they not been taken by the English squadron.

This account being transmitted to the Secretary of States Office, with their names viz John Brown, Edward Eagle, Francis Ward, and Launcelot Knowles, and information being sent that they were arrived in the River, on board the Enterprise tender, two Bow Street Officers were sent to removed them to Tothill fields Bridewell for examination.

Edward Eagle said, he was a drummer in the New South Wales Corps; that he was on board the Lady Shore when the mutiny took place, but had no share in it; he was then only fourteen years of age; that since that time he had chiefly been in prison in Buenos Ayres, and other places in South America; John Brown said he was born at Cambridge and was about 30 years of age; that he was on board at the time of the mutiny as a soldier in the NSW Corps; he was not in the watch at the time of the mutiny. Francis Ward said, he was born in the North of Ireland at Ballay Bay; he was a soldier at the time of the mutiny. Launcelot Knowles said, he was born at Roseway in Ireland; is now upwards of seventy years of age He went in the Lady Shore as a convict, having been found guilty of a fraud in obtaining money by false pretences, and was ordered to be transported for seven years. Major Semple and he were the only two male convicts on board; they laid in the steerage and heard nor knew nothing of the mutiny until the pistols and guns were fired on deck. The mutineers were eleven Frenchmen and seven Irishmen who were soldiers in the South Wales corps. Captain Willcox's uniform was worn by the Frenchman who took the command and was generally called French Jack. There were sixty four young female convicts on board, and when they arrived at Monte Vido, it not being customary for Europeans to do any work, they were taken under the care of the female inhabitants who provided them with Spanish dresses, and made them their companions. some of the women conducted themselves with a deal of propriety and are married and settled there - some to the inhabitants and some to American Captains. Several of them behaved in a very loose and disorderly manner, and were in consequence taken into custody, and carried before the Governor who committed them to prison at Buenos Ayres where they reformed and agreed to profess the Roman Catholic Religion


Notes and Links:

1). Ship's Carpenter Thomas Millard wrote a 320 page Journal describing the Mutiny. The Journal was sold at auction for £12,500 in May 2012

2). National Archives UK - Extra ship, measured 1794, 3 decks, length 98ft 4in, keel 77ft 6¾in, breadth 27ft 8in, hold 16ft 9in, wing transom 16ft 9in, between decks 6ft 4in & 6ft 5in, 315 tons.  


(1) HR NSW., p. 787

(2) Belfast Newsletter 21 April 1797

(3) Belfast Newsletter 4 August 1798

(4) The Times 27 November 1799

(5). Englishmen on Board the Spanish Ships, Caledonian Mercury (Edinburgh, Scotland), Thursday, January 3, 1805

*Finn's Leinster Journal 7 December 1799  


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