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Convict Ship Roslin Castle 1830


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Convict Ship Roslin Castle 1830

Last Updated 16 July 2020

Embarked: 128 women
Voyage: 118 days
Deaths 0
Surgeon's Journal - Yes
Tons: 445 Crew: 35 men
Previous vessel: Nithsdale arrived 12 May 1830
Next vessel: Lady Feversham arrived 29 July 1830
Master Henry Ferguson
Surgeon Superintendent William Conborough Watt
Follow the Female Convict Ship Trail
Prisoners and passengers of the Roslin Castle identified in the Hunter Valley

The Roslin Castle was built at Bristol in 1819. She transported convicts to Australia in 1828 (VDL), 1830, 1833 (NSW), 1834 (NSW) and 1836 (NSW).

The previous vessel bringing female prisoners from England was the Lucy Davidson which departed in July 1829.

The women to be embarked on the Roslin Castle began arriving at the vessel during very severe weather in January and February 1830. Some had travelled more than 150 miles (241 kilometres) from country gaols, secured in heavy chains and riding on the outside of coaches. By the time they reached the Roslin Castle they were suffering from chilblains and even frostbite and many were in a very unhealthy state. Bridget Mullins was one prisoner who suffered in this way. With her child she had travelled from Manchester and they were exposed to severe weather on the way. When the mother had been imprisoned in September, the child was in good health but the person entrusted to care for her turned her out and she ended up in the poor house. On being returned to her mother on 31st January she was so emaciated her mother had trouble recognising her. The surgeon thought the child could not be expected to survive the journey but was embarked anyway, 'as a matter of necessity', but later died.

Surgeon William Conborough Watt

When the women arrived the surgeon was already on the vessel. William Conborough Watt was about thirty five years old and experienced in dealing with female convicts, having been employed as surgeon on the Edward in 1829.

He kept a Medical Journal from 12 December 1829 to 15 July 1830. He set about restoring their health before departure and attended to their comforts and cleanliness.


By the time the vessel departed the Downs on 3 March 1830, many of the 128 female prisoners had been restored to health.

The Voyage

William Conborough Watt had many challenges on this voyage. The Sydney Gazette reported that the Roslin Castle lost her main mast and mizen top mast in a sudden black squall off St. Paul's on 3rd June. The ship was also leaky leaving the womens' bedding almost constantly wet. On one occasion the vessel broached and shipped a great deal of water into the prison, creating much panic among the women. At another time a lamp burst nearly starting a fire. The surgeon noted that these occurrences were of a most appalling nature and calculated from their depressing effects to produce disease amongst subjects whose constitutions had been debilitated by a long continuance of every species of debauchery, and whose mental powers were reduced to the lowest ebb from the contemplation of their degraded situations -

Commiseration for their sufferings, remaining with them in the prison on all occasions of danger and keeping them actively employed in administering to their own comforts by cleansing and drying the prison deck and bed places and the adoption of the same system of police regulations which I found so conducive to health and good order in the last ship I had the Superintendence of (the Edward), I had the happy effect of soothing their fears and I had the satisfaction of landing all the prisoners at Sydney on the 10th July with one exception in the most vigorous state of health and spirits.

Cabin Passengers

William Jacques, assistant surveyor arrived with his 9 children including Jane, Lucy, Henry, Maria, Charles, Frederick, Theodore and A.H. and S.D. Jacques. Mrs. Jacques died on the passage out.

Port Jackson

The Roslin Castle arrived in Port Jackson on 29 June 1830 with 128 women.

Convict Muster

A muster of the prisoners was held on board on 2nd July by the Colonial Secretary Alexander Mcleay. The convict indents reveal the women's name, age, religion, education, marital status, family, offence, native place, date and place of trial, sentence, prior convictions, physical description and to whom they were assigned on arrival. There is also occasional information as to deaths, relatives already in the colony and colonial sentences.


On the 1st July a notice was placed in the Sydney Gazette informing families who were in want of female servants that they could be supplied from the English prisoners who arrived on the Roslin Castle, provided they apply according to the Principal Superintendent of convicts before 8th July. There were so many applicants for the women that it was feared there would not be enough to fill the need.

A Troublesome Set

The prisoners of the Roslin Castle were defiant, cantankerous, brash and generally troublesome and it didn't take long before they were at odds with their masters and the law. They came to be considered by some as the worst ship load of women to have ever arrived in the colony and in 1831 the newly arrived women from the Kains were advised to learn by the mistakes of the 'Roslin Castlers'. There was little hope of this however judging by the comments of Thrasycles Clarke, surgeon of the Kains who described the women' behaviour on the voyage out' .... persons whom all the wise and salutary laws of England had failed to reclaim, most immoral and abandoned, if there ever was a Hell afloat it must have been in the shape of a female convict ship, quarrelling, fighting, thieving, destroying in private each others property for a mean spirit of devilishness - conversation with each other most abandoned without feeling or shame.

Many of the Kains ladies would soon join their sisters of the Roslin Castle in the Female Factory at Parramatta. Below are some of the misdemeanours of the Roslin Castlers over the next few months.......

The first case of the Roslin Castlers reported in the newspapers was of Mary Sullivan. She was an 18 years old from Cork, formerly a wool spinner. The Monitor 24 July 1830......Mary Sullivan, a sturdy little maid, from the Emerald Isle, well be-dizened in a party coloured garment, and her long tresses tastefully ornamented in the newest fashion (the fair one having brought out the fashion with her per Roslin Castle) was charged by one of the night constables with being in company with a jolly tar. 'at the dead hour of night, when spirits walk abroad' who was escorting her 'in a serpentine or maizy walk' ! Strong potations of grog having got the 'Weather gage'f the tar's senses, and being pot valiant, he was for 'stropping a block' with the constables who, contrary to his wish, were for carrying off his charmer to the watch house. Mary, on being called on for her defence, meekly observed, that she had only stepped out to procure half a quartern loaf for her mistress's supper. The bench however thought, that half a quarter of pure max was the more likely errand of the two, therefore ordered her to the factory for one month.

Sydney Monitor 7 August 1830 - It would appear that the fair Delilahs imported per Roslin Castle, have peculiar penchant for drinking rum, and its consequent result, 'the Factory'; several of; the have already exhibited at the bar of the Police office. - No less than four were brought before the Bench on this charge on Monday morning but in consideration of their recent arrival, and ignorance of the existing regulations, received suitable admonitions and advice to be more careful for the future with a discharge. Mary Smith per Roslin Castle was brought up on Monday, charged with drunkenness and disorderly conduct the preceding day, but on account of her recent arrival and pretended ignorances, received an admonition and discharge. This however, it would appear, produced little effect on Mary, for she was again taken before the Bench the next day, for a repetition of the same conduct. She was therefore sent, by way of impressing it better on her memory, to sojourn for 14 days upon bread and water in the cells at the factory.

Sydney Monitor 18 August 1830 - Ellen Temple another Roslin Castler, assigned to a person nick named 'utterfly Jack' was charged with indulging in the use of rum so as to be obliged to go to bed at 12 o'clock at noon. The Bench ordered her to do penance in the third class of the factory for six weeks, observing that the Roslin Castlers were the most troublesome set, that ever came to the Colony save the Lucy Davidsons.

Sydney Monitor 25 August 1830 - Rebecca Martin, a Roslyn Castler, assigned to a constable was charged with absence for which she was ordered to the factory for six weeks, on hearing her sentence, she exclaimed 'thank God, it won't hurt, and it's all you can give me!'. and turning to her ci-devant master she threatened to knock his brains out. Four constables were obliged to remove her to the watch house. Sydney Gazette 31 August 1830 -

It will be remembered that some time back the women by the Lucy Davidson occupied no small share of attention; their fame, however, has been completely eclipsed by those who arrived in the Roslin Castle; a great number are already in the Factory, while several others have been suffered to return to their services with an admonition, from an idea that being new comers, they were ignorant of the existing regulations for the preservation of good order among that class of our community. One of these troublesome characters, named Margaret O'Brien, appeared on Friday at the bar for being repeatedly drunk and insolent, and universally neglectful of her duty. On a recent occasion, Margaret modestly told her mistress, that 'if she would allow her a glass of rum every day, and two glasses on washing days, she would work like a Briton, but if not she'd be damned if they should get any good out of her;' and in pursuant of this becoming resolution, she yesterday threw up her work altogether, and sticking her arms akimbo, declared, 'she wouldn' work another stitch'. Under these circumstances her master had no resource but to bring her before the Bench and stated his wish to return her to Government. It was therefore ordered by the Magistrate, that as Margaret did not appear to understand the nature of the Colony, she shall serve an apprenticeship of three months in the third class of the Factory, that she may learn how to behave as an assigned servant for the future.' Sydney Gazette 16 October 1830 - Caroline Knight per Roslin Castle, for being drunk and extremely insolent to her master and mistress, was sent to sojourn upon bread and water for ten days in the cells.

Sydney Gazette 19th February 1831 - Ellen Roach, per Roslin Castle 'a pretty considerably troublesome acquaintance' as brother Jonathan would say, with the Bench, was charged by her master Mr. Joseph Maule, with absenting herself from service - being sent to the doctor's for some drops instead of which she staid by the way to get a few drops of 'Cooper's colonial.' She was ordered to have no drops but water for the next six weeks, which she is to spend at the factory.

Sydney Gazette March 1831 - The damsels of the Roslin Castle are as troublesome as ever to the Bench. Ann Williams by that vessel made her appearance at the police Office yesterday for 'keeping the Sabbath' in a public house, for which their worships sent her to reside one month at the factory.

Sydney Gazette 26 March 1831 - The women by the Kains were landed yesterday morning at the Dock yard, and from thence removed to their various services by the successful applicants. There were, it is said, five or six hundred applicants. Those, therefore who have not been fortunate enough to obtain one will see the reason of their failure, for out of one hundred and eighteen women the Authorities could not of course supply five hundred families. The factory, however, is very full, and many in the first class, eligible of course for assignment. The women who arrived by the Roslin Castle were three fourths of them in the factory before they had been ashore six weeks, for their disorderly conduct. Let those now landed take warning by their example to profit by the excellent inducements and encouragements kindly held out by the Government to those who behave well.

Sydney Gazette 7 July 1831 - Catherine Weston, who arrived by the ship Roslin Castle, in the month of August last, was brought forward under the following circumstances: - It appeared that she was assigned from the vessel to Captain Perry; and a few days afterwards, on representing herself to be unwell, was sent to the hospital. She was discharged from thence in September; and, on the road to her employ, a man met her, who told the messenger that he was Captain P's. servant, and sent to fetch her home. On the faith of this representation she was allowed to accompany him, and had not snce returned to her master's house, who, of course, reported her as absent. She appeared to be considerably distressed in mind, shedding tears bitterly, and the constable who apprehended her stated that she had a husband, who came out in the same ship with her, and with whom she had been residing during the period of her absence. The Bench sentenced her to undergo nine months' punishment in the third class of the Parramatta Factory. (Ann Weston in the indents)


A new mainmast, formed of colonial timber, was rigged up in the Roslin Castle, the first apparently which had been made from wood grown in the Colony for a vessel of her size. She was intending to leave Sydney for the Isle of France in September 1830 with a noble cargo of Colonial produce, consisting of beef, pork, tongues, bacon, soap, cheese, flour, shingles, horses, cows, sheep, potatoes etc. This trip is a sort of experiment with the Mauritius market, and upon its result much will depend as regards our export trade. Sydney Gazette 28 September 1830

Notes and Links

1). Hannah Emmerson's husband Michael Emmerson arrived on the Lord Melville in 1830

2). The Roslin Castle was one of three convict ships bringing female prisoners to New South Wales in 1830, the others being the Forth (II) and the Asia. A total of 444 female convicts arrived in the colony in 1830.

3). William Conborough Watt was also employed as surgeon superintendent on the convict ships Edward in 1829, Exmouth in 1831 and the Mary in 1833.

4). Some of the women of the Roslin Castle were involved in a riot at the Parramatta Female Factory in 1831. They were sent to Newcastle as punishment in March 1831.


[1] UK, Royal Navy Medical Journals, 1817-1857. Medical Journal of William Conborough Watt on the voyage of the Roslin Castle in 1830. The National Archives. Kew, Richmond, Surrey.

[2] Bateson, Charles, Library of Australian History (1983). The convict ships, 1787-1868 (Australian ed). Library of Australian History, Sydney : pp.348-349, 387



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