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Convict Ship Speke 1826

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Embarked: 156 men
Voyage: 110 days
Deaths: 0
Surgeon's Journal: yes
Previous voyage: Boyne arrived 28 October 1826
Next voyage: Phoenix arrived 25 December 1826
Commander Robert Harrison
Surgeon Superintendent Alick Osborne

The Speke was built in Calcutta in 1790.(3)

In an article in the Asiatic Journal in 1819 entitled Comparative Strength of Ships built at different parts of India, she was described as still both a good and safe ship although the frame had been built of sissoo, a wood inferior in durability to the saul, of which the frames of ships were built in 1819. It was anticipated by experts who had examined her that she still had another 15 years left in her.

The Speke transported convicts to New South Wales in 1808, 1821 and this voyage in 1826.

The Military Guard embarked in July 1826 and consisted of a detachment of the 39th (Dorsetshire) Regiment of Foot. Lieutenant Henry Clarence Scarman of 39th regiment accompanied by his wife and four children. Select here to find other convict ships bringing detachments of the 39th regiment to New South Wales

From returns ordered to be laid before the House of Commons, by Mr. Capper, superintendent of the Convict Hulk Establishment......The Convict Hulk establishment consists of ten ships, stationed at Plymouth, Portsmouth, Sheerness, Chatham, Woolwich, and Deptford, together with two ships stationed at Bermuda. For the half year ending the 31st of December, 1826, it appears that the total number of convicts employed on board these ships was about 3701, that the expense of the establishment was 44,328., that the earnings of the ships were 32,551; and consequently, the clear cost to the country was about three guineas for each convict. This is exclusive of the establishment at Bermuda, where there are 700 convicts, and where the average expenses and earnings are in about the same proportion as at the home establishments. The convicts are employed in the royal dockyards, and in the construction of public works, with the exception of the boys in the Euryalus hulk at Chatham, who are employed in making clothes and other articles for the prisoners. It appears, that on one or two occasions these boys have been very refractory, in consequence of the ship being too small to effect a due classification,a measure which Mr. Capper states to be absolutely necessary to keep them in a proper state of discipline.(1)

Although Aaron Smith, Daniel Knee and William Green were only about 15 years old they were not sent to the Euryalis Hulk with other young boys but were sent to the Justitia Hulk. The three boys had been tried at Gloucester on 29 March 1826 and admitted to the Justitia on 24th April. They were held there until they were embarked on the Speke on 26th July 1826 . Joseph Coley and George Walker who were 16 years old were first sent to the Euryalis and then transferred to the Justitia on 16th June to await transportation.

The Speke was the next convict ship to leave England after the departure of the England in May 1826. She departed Sheerness on 8th August 1826 with one hundred and fifty six male prisoners who had come from different counties in England and Scotland. Their crimes ranged from pickpocketing, forgery and shop lifting to highway robbery and manslaughter. There was at least one soldier who had been court-martialled for desertion and two men John Spencer and James Lowry were being returned having previously escaped from the colony.

The Speke came direct and arrived in Port Jackson on Sunday 26th November 1826

Alick Osborne kept a Medical Journal from 17 July to 8 December 1826. He recorded that the prisoners were generally healthy and the passage was quick with pleasant weather. There were no medical cases worthy of mention except that of James Johnson who was one of the Fancy (a pugilist) and had fought many battles which had ruined his constitution. James Johnson only survived three days at the hospital in Sydney. (4) The Monitor reported: A well-known Pugilist, whose prowess, under the cognomina of West Country Dick, has long been acknowledged among our Sporting Circle, has at length chosen these shores as the scene of future exploits, having reached them in the Speke, but under sentence of transportation. (2)

The Colonial Secretary Alexander McLeay proceeded on board the Speke on Thursday 30th November 1826 and mustered the prisoners prior to the disembarkation and distribution. The prisoners were to be landed on 7th December 1826 and it was considered that the men were mostly adapted for agricultural employment.

When the Speke arrived in Port Jackson the Phoenix Hulk or Floating Prison was undergoing some extensive alterations with a view to the accommodation of nearly double the number of inmates, which did not on average fall far short of two hundred. What was termed the Orlop deck was fitted up with apartments to contain six men each. The Prisoners, who with the exception of mechanics were unemployed, were to commence operations on Goat Island in constructing a dock-yard and quarries, &c. were immediately to be formed. The Hulk was to then change her moorings, and a similar system to the Prison Hulks in England was to be adopted. The Australian remarked that the Sydney gaol had lately been cleared of several prisoners, by removals to the Phoenix hulk, and Colonial vessels which had been despatched to penal settlements, and the gaol was in consequence less crowded. (2)

Notes & Links:

1). Alick Osborne was also employed as surgeon on the convict ships Lonach in 1825,  Sophia in 1829, Sarah in 1829, Planter in 1832, Fairlie in 1834,   Marquis of Huntley in 1835 and the Elphinstone in 1838.

2). Morgan Browne, a married father of three from Hereford was assigned to William Ogilvie at Merton after arrival. He became a notorious bushranger and was one of several men charged with robbing the house of Hugh Cameron in 1831. Several of his companions were executed.

3). William Simpson was also assigned to William Ogilvie. He married Ellen Partridge who arrived on the Brothers in 1824 and together they raised a large family. They ran the Plough Inn at Jerry's Plains until their deaths.

4 ). Eleven convict ships brought prisoners to New South Wales in 1826 - Marquis of Hastings, Sir Godfrey Webster, Mangles, Sesostris, Lady Rowena, Regalia, Marquis of Huntley, England, Boyne, Speke and Phoenix

5). Hunter Valley Convicts / passengers arriving on the Speke in 1826

6). Ship's boy - Thomas Barry aged 14 mentioned in surgeon's journal.

 Return of Convicts of the Speke assigned between 1st January 1832 and 31st March 1832 (Sydney Gazette 14 June 1832; 21 June 1832; 5 July 1832).....
John Anderson - Shoemaker. Assigned to John McDonald at Pitt Town
Morgan Browne - Glazier and horse dealer assigned to Roger Murphy at Sydney
Edward Etchells - Labourer assigned to Robert Gordon at Parramatta
John Griffiths - Bookbinder's boy assigned to H.P. Dutton at Hunter's River
William Holland - Waterman assigned to J.H. Edwards at Brisbane Water
James Harris - Seaman assigned to William Innes at Hunter's River
John Price - Farm man assigned to Donald McLeod at Argyle
Thomas Randall - House servant assigned to William Jenkins at Lower Portland Head

8). Convict ships bringing detachments of the 39th regiment included the following............

Departed Vessel Command
Dublin 16 March 1826 Regalia Lieutenant William Sacheverell Coke
Downs 6 May 1826 England Major George Pitt D'Arcy
Sheerness 16 May 1826 Marquis of Huntley Major Donald MacPherson
Cork 29 June 1826 Boyne Captain Thomas Edward Wright
Sheerness 8 August 1826 Speke Lieutenant Henry Clarence Scarman
Dublin 27 August 1826 Phoenix Lieutenant Charles Cox
Plymouth 4 October 1826 Albion Captain Francis Crotty
Plymouth 16 October 1826 Midas Lieutenant George Meares Bowen
Cork 14 January 1827 Mariner Captain Charles Sturt
Dublin 14 February 1827 Countess of Harcourt Ensign Spencer
Plymouth 31 March 1827 Guildford Captain John Douglas Forbes
Downs 17 April 1827 Manlius Quarter-master Benjamin Lloyd
Dublin 2 June 1827 Cambridge Colonel Patrick Lindesay
London 3 June 1827 Champion Ensign Reid
London 27 March 1828 Bussorah Merchant Ensign W. Kennedy Child
Dublin 15 September 1828 Sophia Major Thomas Poole

9). National Archives - Reference: ADM 101/69/3 Description: Medical and surgical journal of convict ship Speke for 17 July - 8 December 1826 by Alick Osborne Surgeon, during which time the said ship was employed in transporting convicts to New South Wales.    


1). The Naval and Military Magazine

The Monitor 8 December 1826

3). Bateson, Charles & Library of Australian History (1983). The convict ships, 1787-1868 (Australian ed). Library of Australian History, Sydney : pp.346-347

4). 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.



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