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Convict Ship Sugar Cane

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Embarked: 110 men; 50 women
Voyage: 157 days
Deaths 1 (executed)
Surgeon's Journal: no
Previous vessel: Boddingtons arrived 7 August 1793
Next vessel: William arrived 10 March 1794
Master Thomas Musgrave
Surgeon David Wake Bell
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The Sugar Cane was the next convict ship to leave Ireland for New South Wales after the departure of the Boddingtons in February 1793. 

Supplies on the Sugar Cane included 31,496 lbs of beef; 45,440 lbs. of port; 64,512 lbs. of flour; 44 tons of lime stone; 17 bales and 5 cases of clothing and necessaries.

The Guard was formed from soldiers of the NSW Corps. Thomas Musgrave held grave fears for the safety of the ship's company because of the calibre and health of some of the guard. Early in February he had been informed that the War Office was sending on board a soldier of the NSW Corps by the name of Samuel John Stanton.....Stanton was said to be of a very infamous character and as well as from the bad tendency his conduct might have by mixing with the convicts it was recommended that Musgrave keep him entirely separate from them .

Captain Musgrave applied to Under Secretary Nepean to have the man removed...You must be fully convinced the person mentioned is very unfit to act as a centinel over the convicts and you cannot be ignorant how utterly impossible it will be fore me and my ship's company to keep both soldiers and convicts in subjection. The (former) I naturally concluded were sent on board to assist me in keeping the convicts in order. I have also to observe that Mr. Bell, the superintendent on account of Government and Mr. Rogers the surgeon sent by the contractor are still of opinion notwithstanding the survey that numbers of the recruits are unfit to proceed on the voyage - indeed two of them are already in so bad a state that they are incapable of doing anything. (1)

In another plea to Nepean also in February Thomas Musgrave wrote - Thomas McGennis one of the privates of the New South Wales corps having behaved in a very riotous and mutinous manner and threatened the life of my chief officer, I have confined him in irons. Would be glad to know from you in what manner I am to proceed with him that he may be punish'd as an example for the rest of the men. If it is possible I should wish to be released from him entirely as also of the other man I wrote you about (Samuel Stanton). (1)

Surgeon Superintendent David Wake Bell was about thirty three years old at the time of sailing. He kept Under Secretary Nepean informed of the proceedings on the Sugar Cane for the next few months. Their progress from the Downs to Plymouth, Kinsale, Cork, Rio de Janeiro and Port Jackson can be followed through his letters.

In correspondence dated 18 February 1793 at Catwater, Plymouth.....

We sailed from the Downs on the 16th instant, and kept company with the convoy as far as Portsmouth, the frigate not being bound any farther to the westward. This morning the wind coming to the SW and having Plymouth under our lee, bore up, in order to know if there was any convoy for Cork, as well as to get some hands, six men having left us since the 9th. On our entering the Sound, the men of war's boats came on board and took the whole of our foremast men, so that we shall not be able to proceed until we get those men again or others from the shore, which I am much afraid will be a difficult matter. Three of the NSW Corps have been in the sick list ever since we sailed from Gravesend. (2)

In correspondence to Nepean dated 11th March from Kinsale, Ireland, he informed Nepean that they had sailed from Plymouth on 9th March without a convoy and made Kinsale port on the afternoon of the 11th.....

Our reason of our making this port was occasioned by being to leeward of Cork and blowing a strong gale, thought it more advisable to put in than run the risk of beating to windward, especially as the pilot boat informed us that a privateer the day before had chased a ship close in with the Old Head of Kinsale.. The moment the wind will permit we sail for Cork from whence shall inform you of our further proceedings. One of the four soldiers who deserted at Plymouth was taken by a sergeant of the 11th regiment on the 26th February and is now on board under confinement, together with the one I mentioned in my former letter. It would be highly satisfactory sir, to the master, as well as myself to know what we are to do with these men, as they have now been a considerable time confined without our knowing in what manner to act with them.

Having embarked the prisoners, the Sugar Cane sailed from Cork on 12 April 1793

In correspondence dated 12th July from Rio de Janeiro Bells writes: I had the honor to write you on the 25th of last month by a vessel bound to Bristol, which was the day we came to an anchor at this place. From the difficulty of watering we have made a longer stay than I had reason at first to expect. The convicts are all well, and so much refreshed from the fresh beef and vegetables of which they have had a plentiful supply, that there is every reason to expect the remainder of the voyage they will be equally healthy as the first part of it.

He hired the use of a translator which cost five shillings a day for twenty six days and with his help purchased 10 tons of limestone at one shilling per ton for the use of the colony. If the wind permitted they planned to sail from Rio on the morning of 13th July 1793.

They arrived in Port Jackson on 17th September 1793.........


Lieut-Governor Grose later wrote to Henry Dundas reporting the arrival of the Sugar Cane and Boddingtons -

Sydney, 12 October 1793. Sir, I have the honour to inform you that since the date of my last dispatches the Sugar cane transport, with Irish convicts has arrived here. The contractor, as well in this ship as the Boddingtons, appears to have performed his engagement with great liberality; and the prisoners they have conveyed prove by their healthy appearance the extraordinary attention that must have been paid by the Naval Agents. In two ships containing three hundred and three people, one person only had died, and amongst those landed in the colony scarcely any are sick. The Britannia store ship having been dismissed from government employment was immediately engaged by the civil and military officers for the purpose of purchasing a variety of stores they stood in need of, with the particular view of fetching cattle from the Cape of Good Hope. Messrs, Richard Kent and David Wake Bell, the naval Agents who came out in the Sugar Cane and Boddingtons transports were instructed to take their passage by the Britannia it being the first opportunity that had offered of their returning to England unless a considerable expense had been incurred by their taking the route of India. (Grose to Henry Dundas 31st August 1794, HRA, Series 1, Vol 1., p 482)  

Departure of the Sugar Cane from Port Jackson......

.......An account of the English colony in New South Wales

Notes and Links:

1). Ann Farrelly arrived as a convict on the Sugar Cane. She died in October 1809 and was buried in the Old Sydney Burial Ground.

2). Convict Daniel Brady/Leonard was granted a Certificate of Freedom in 1810 (SG)

3). Patrick Shaffery arrived as a prisoner on the Sugar Cane. In December 1814 he was given special permission to join Rev. Samuel Marsden and a missionary expedition to New Zealand. Select here to find out more about the expedition

4). Hunter Valley convicts / passengers arriving on the Sugar Cane in 1793

5). From the National Archives UK the following information about the Sugar Cane - Voyages: (1) From Bengal 1794. Capt Thomas Musgrave. Calcutta 15 May 1794 - 29 Jun Madras - 4 Oct Cape - 25 Oct St Helena - 25 Dec Crookhaven - 31 Jan 1795 Kinsale - 27 Feb Downs.

6). Convict ship bringing political prisoners and protesters

7). Convict Ships arriving in New South Wales in 1793 - Bellona, Boddingtons and Sugar Cane.  

8).James Fitzpatrick Knareborough arrived as a convict on the Sugar Cane.....

He left the colony in 1796......


1). Historical Records of New South Wales, Vol. 2,  Captain Musgrave to Under Secretary Nepean, 10 February 1793, p.8

2). Historical Records of New South Wales, Vol. 2, Surgeon Superintendent Bell to Under Secretary Nepean, 18th February 1793, p. 16


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