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Convict Ship Margaret 1837

Embarked 153 women
Voyage: 126 days
Deaths: 2 women; 5 children
Surgeon's Journal: yes
Previous voyage: Prince George arrived 8 May 1837
Next voyage: Mangles arrived 10 July 1837
Captain Edward Canney
Surgeon Superintendent Henry Kelsall
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The Margaret was built in Chepstow in 1829. Female prisoners were transported to New South Wales on the Margaret in 1837, 1839 and 1840. [2].

Prisoners on the Margaret came from counties and cities in Ireland - Tipperary, Clare, Kings Co., Dublin, Cork City, Roscommon, Cavan, Antrim, Belfast, Monaghan, Limerick, Kilkenny, Queen's Co., Enniscarthy, Mulligan, Cashel, Tyrone, Armagh, Wicklo, Carlow, Sligo, Galway, Waterford, Donegal, Westmeath, Dungannon, Bandon, Longford, Down, Drogheda, Norwich and Manchester (England) [1]


The Margaret departed Cork on 24th January 1837 bringing 153 female prisoners, 28 children and 35 free women and children, the families of convicts in the Colony of New South Wales.


Henry Kelsall kept a Medical Journal from 10 November 1836 to 10 June 1837. His previous voyage as surgeon on the Andromeda in 1834 which also brought female prisoners from Ireland, was a very different experience to this voyage of the Margaret. The women of the Andromeda were embarked in a clean condition and were healthy and in good spirits for most of the voyage. In contrast the prisoners of the Margaret disgusted him by their offensive habits and reluctance to keep clean.

His antipathy towards the women was evident from the time they were first embarked. He remarked in his journal that the women were all sent on board in a very filthy state from the Cork Penitentiary - with a small supply of spare clothing (linen). A great number were infected with psora as well as with influenza which was prevalent at the time in England and Ireland. A number of the crew were also affected.

Bilious fever became a problem when the ship reached the warmer climate. The surgeon also mentioned that most of the convicts if permitted passed the whole of the day in bed and collected all kinds of rubbish about them. He was appalled with another filthy habit of the convicts which he found difficult to stop - that of washing their linen in putrid urine which they would hang up to dry in the prison. Two convicts and five of their children died on the voyage out. [4] The two convicts were Rose Dogherty and Margaret Murphy.

Those treated by the surgeon during the voyage included:
Catherine Hurley, aged 21;
Eliza Wilson, aged 31;
FAnne Lawlor, aged 25;
Mary Maher, aged 24;
Mary Corcoran, aged 18;
Ellen Roe, aged 28;
Ellen Tierney, aged 34;
Ann Hamilton, aged 45;
Sarah Cassidy, aged 40;
Margaret Rohan, aged 24;
Bridget Doyle, aged 26;
Eliza Field, aged 23;
Eliza Doyle, aged 22;
Mary Moore, aged 34;
Elizabeth Donohue, aged 18;
Catherine Mullane, aged 28;
Mary Jessop, aged 30;
Margaret Maher, aged 31;
Mary Johnston, aged 28;
Ellen Lynch, aged 60; sick or hurt,
Eliza Beatty, aged 21;
William Hopkins, aged 18, seaman;
Ellen Stoneham, aged 25;
Judy Hanley, aged 30;
Margaret Murphy,
Eliza Moore, aged 40,
Ellen McGough, aged 29; sent 1 June 1837 to general hospital at Sydney.[4]


Passengers included Mr. Benson, Paymaster of the 28th Regiment, Mrs. Benson and Thomas Benson.


There twenty-five emigrants in the steerage. Mary Tobin aged 24, a free girl, was employed as servant to Mrs. Benson.

Henry Kelsall was no less scathing of the Irish free women and children of which he thought there were too many in the ship. He found them incorrigible and incredibly filthy. Most of these people were embarked in rags without a change of clothes of any description; and loaded with vermin - some of them mendicants by profession. [3]


The Margaret arrived in Port Jackson on 30 May 1837 and the women were landed at the Dockyard on 10th June 1837.

The convict indents include name, age, education, marital status, family, native place, trade, offence, previous convictions and physical description.


1). Hunter Valley convicts and passengers arriving on the Margaret in 1837

2). Nightean, ein, - Soap; a mixture of dung and urine for washing linen, used by the lower classes in Ireland and the Highlands. - From A Gaelic Dictionary (Click on the text).....

3). The Margaret was one of four convict ships bringing female prisoners to New South Wales in 1837, the others being the Sarah and Elizabeth, Henry Wellesley and Sir Charles Forbes. A total of 533 female convicts arrived in the colony in 1837.

4). Henry Kelsall was also employed as surgeon on the convict ships Andromeda in 1834, Cape Packet in 1842 (VDL) Waterloo in 1842 and the John Calvin in 1846 (Norfolk Island)


1. Convict Indents. State Archives NSW; Series: NRS 12189; Item: [X640]; Microfiche: 729

2. Bateson, Charles Library of Australian History (1983). The convict ships, 1787-1868 (Australian ed). Library of Australian History, Sydney, pp.354-355

3. Journal of Henry Kelsall. UK Royal Navy Medical Journals, 1817-1857 . The National Archives, Kew, Surry

4. National Archives - ADM 101/48/4 1836-1837 Medical journal of the Margaret, female convict ship from 10 November 1836 to 10 June 1837 by Henry Kelsall, surgeon and superintendent, during which time the ship was employed in a passage to Sydney, New South Wales.