Irish Convicts to Australia


Lesley Uebel


Governor King to the Transport Commissioners
HRA – Aug 1802
I had the honor of receiving your letters and their several enclosures dated
as per margin by the Coromandel which arrived here 13th June, Hercules 26th
June, Atlas 6th July and Perseus 4th instant.
The above transports were cleared of all the prisoners, passengers,
provisions and stores, before the time limited for that purpose was expired;
and the Commissary has furnished the respective masters with receipts for
all that was landed here.
The healthy state in which the Coromandel and Perseus arrived requires my
particularly pointing out the masters of those ships to your notice. It
appears by the log books, surgeon’s diaries and the unanimous voice of every
person on board those ships that the utmost kindness had been shown by the
masters and surgeons to the convicts. This, with the proper application of
the comforts Government had so liberally provided for them and the good
state of health all the people were in, induced the master of the Coromandel
to proceed without stopping at any port. He arrived here in four months and
one day, bringing every person in a state of high health, and fit for
immediate labour; and altho’ it appears that the Perseus necessarily
stopped at Rio and the Cape, yet the convicts were in as good condition as
those on board the Coromandel; nor can I omit the great pleasure felt by
myself and the other visiting officers at the grateful thanks expressed by
the prisoners and passengers for the kind attention and care they had
received from the masters and surgeons, who returned, an unusual quantity of
the articles laid in by Government for the convicts during the voyage.
I am sorry that the conduct of the Masters of the Hercules and Atlas appears
to be the reverse of what I have just stated. By the surgeon’s list, and
the masters of the Hercules and Atlas’s letters to me, of which I send you a
copy, you will observe the dreadful mortality that raged on board those
ships, exclusive of the numbers killed. Altho’ there was no mutiny on board
the Atlas, yet in every other respect the master of that vessels conduct
appears as much if not more reprehensible than the other. The miserable
state the survivors were in in both those ships on their arrival in this
port, being filthy beyond description, some of the convicts lying dead with
heavy irons on, many of them died as they were coming from the ship to the
hospital. These circumstances, together with the complaints made against
the masters by the officers, rendered it necessary to investigate the
necessity of their having to put in Rio de Janeiro and the Cape, and how far
the masters had infracted the charter-parties. The result of these
investigations are enclosed. The log books and diaries will be forwarded by
the first direct conveyance mentioned in my letter of the 23rd ultimo.
The master of the Hercules was necessarily tried by a Court of
Vice-Admiralty on two indictments, first for killing ten men in the mutiny,
and afterwards for shooting one man (a ringleader), it was alleged, some
time after the mutiny had subsided. On the first count he was acquitted,
and on the second he was found guilty of manslaughter, and was sentenced by
the Court to pay a fine of 500 Pounds to the Orphan School, and to be
imprisoned until it was paid. As a doubt arose in my mind respecting the
propriety of his being fined, I have given a conditional remission of that
part of the sentence which I have referred to the judge of the Admiralty
Court, for His Majesty’s pleasure being signified thereon; and that the
course of justice may not be perverted (if I am wrong respecting the fine)
the master is bound over to abide by that determination and to surrender
himself within five days after his arrival in the port of London.
The master of the Atlas having such a quantity of private trade and spirits
on board, appears to have produced most of the bad consequences complained
of in that ship. What that private trade consisted of , and the bulk
occupied on board, will be obvious from the enclosed report of that ship’s
I have judged it necessary to forward this by the Hercules, in case she
should arrive in England before my letters which I mean to send by the
conveyance pointed out in my letter of the 23rd ultimo
I have, etc
Philip Gidley King



Mayberry Home Page


Wicklow United Irishmen
1797 – 1804



Index to the Colonial Secretary’s Papers, 1788-1825


Deaths and Mutiny on convict vessels provoke a scandal

Sydney, August 9. Despite the past disgraces of convict ships, and the regulations and warnings designed to improve their condition, two more vessels have arrived at Sydney in deplorable state, and with awful death rates.
The Hercules arrived on June 26 with the news that 30 convicts had died on the voyage and another 11 had been killed during a mutiny, with two dying later of their wounds and a third being summary executed by the captain.
The Atlas arrived on July 6, having lost 68 people through scurvy and dysentery.
Governor King described the ships as being "filthy beyond description. Some convicts were lying dead with heavy irons on, while many more died as they were coming to the hospital"
There has been an inquiry as to whether the masters had contravened their charters as convict carriers. The Governor noted that the Atlas was carrying liquor.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s