ACCOUNT OF VOYAGES: The diaries and journals kept by the surgeons on numerous ships to Australian ports from the time of the First Fleet in 1788 until about 1856 provide a wonderful insight into the journeys, and also personal stories of those on board. Although not all have survived, a great number are available on Australian Joint Copying Project reels 3187-3216, detailed in Handbook Part 7, pages 69-71, under Admiralty 101: Medical Departments: Registers: Medical Journals. Several libraries in Ireland, Britain and Australia hold copies of these microfilms. (Check and see if the LDS (Mormon) Family History Centers have anything similar). The arrangement is alphabetical under each vessel, with several voyages available for some ships. Before commencing, a researcher needs to determine the name of the vessel, the date of the particular voyage, and should be aware that occasionally the material runs onto the next reel. A detailed listing of each reel is available at the back of the Archives Office of New South Wales' publication, "Guide to Convict Records." Each surgeon variously interpreted the rules for the maintenance of these documents and they should be fascinating reading, as is the account below.
For your information, other resources include "Irish Roots" periodical, Belgrave Publications, Cork, which has a regular feature called "Australian Notebook;" John Grenham's fine book, "Tracing Your Irish Ancestors, (1999 ed.); Keith Johnson and J. Selkirk Provis' privately published "Cadman's Cottage," 1972, (more information on Weiss); the indent of the "John Bull," AONSW 4/4007, p. 439-446, microfiche 646; and Elyard's journal, Mitchell Library, Sydney, NSW, Australia - (Mass (manuscript?) A2884.
For updated information on the Australian Joint Copying Project of Australia/New Zealand, please contact the National Library of Australia in Canberra.
WILLIAM ELYARD'S JOURNAL: A particularly good example of one of these fascinating journals was that written by William Elyard, surgeon superintendent on the "John Bull" which sailed from Cork on 25 July 1821 via St. Jago, to arrive in Sydney on 18 December 1821. This vessel carried 80 female convicts with some children, 22 free passengers (relatives of convicts already in NSW), and some free settlers travelling to the colony. Only the convicts are detailed on the Indent.
Elyard joined the vessel in Cork seven weeks before the ship sailed. The surgeon had travelled in the "John Barry" from London, accompanied by his family who intended to settle in NSW. The procedures involved in preparing the ship for the reception of convicts and readiness for the long sea voyage were recorded. He wrote of reporting for duty and of his visits, with Captain William Corlett, to the Naval Agent for Transports Lieutenant Lewis, and to the Inspector General of the Convicts, Dr. Edward Trevor.
Early on a seaman was found with smallpox. While this man was evacuated ashore, the rest of the crew was checked with one man being vaccinated, then the ship was well cleaned, fumigated and ventilated.
A week later, a brig from Dublin arrived with 80 women and some children, none of whom were permitted to transfer until all clothes were washed, then berths were allocated following a recommendation to good behaviour. Blankets and pillows were distributed before the women were locked up for the night. The following day the free passengers joined the ship. At sunset all were put to bed.
A daily schedule was established: Breakfast for the prisoners on deck between 7 and 8 a.m. after which they did their washing and sewing. Initially, this time was devoted to altering the basic issue of clothing, already distributed by Dr. Trevor, to ensure a good fit. Each adult received a pound of soap with the children being allocated half a pound. The sleeping accommodation was thoroughly washed and aired while the women were on deck. Dinner, the second and final meal of the day, was served mid-afternoon and at sunset the convicts were mustered and taken below to be locked up for the night.
On the first Sunday, bibles, testaments, prayer books and Psalters were issued when Surgeon Elyard performed divine service and read a sermon out of Dr. Cooper's publication. After church he directed them to attend to their own Bibles and other manuals of devotion "for their afternoon's amusement." Note should be made that while most of the women were Roman Catholic the service and tracts reflected the teachings of the Church of England.
Seven weeks after Elyard boarded the ship the anchor was weighed and the ship relocated to Man of War Bay in the Cove of Cork. When a hold was opened to take the anchor chain, the convicts took advantage of the situation and stole a bag of bread and mischievously scattered it about between decks for which act they were all sent below and locked up. At 3 p.m. on 26 July 1821, the "John Bull" sailed. A gale blew in from the west and as sea sickness affected most of the passengers, many settled for rations of tea and sugar. The surgeon distributed Dipworth's spelling books and some children's books to those who were not ill. In an attempt to introduce some learning to the children and adults, Rose Rechey, a 30-year-old prisoner from Baltinglass who had worked previously as a cook, was appointed general schoolmistress and conducted classes throughout the voyage with rather limited results.
In most of the journals daily records of weather conditions were kept, temperature charts and latitudes and longitudes noted. Climate is shown to have affected tempers, health and the daily routine, determining whether the prisoners could spend the day on deck. About a month after sailing, a hurricane frightened several of them but the surgeon assured them he would keep them advised of any danger. At the beginning of September dark and gloomy weather set in with heavy rain, thunder, lightening and wind. Only the cooks were encouraged on deck to prepare meals, although the prison doors were left open for the convicts to go up and down at will. Sometimes water washed through the living quarters making conditions very uncomfortable. During the night prisoners were known to call out in alarm, wishing to go on deck, but Elyard did not permit them out of their quarters once the evening muster had been conducted.
Elyard sometimes found women missing when taking a head count. Often they were located on the forecastle in the company of Mr. Wise, the second officer, and Mr. Moore, steward to the purser. Mr. Wise (whose name was actually John von Mangerhausen Weiss, RN, the son of the Prussian consul in Liverpool who later was Superintendent of Government Boats, later becoming a Methodist minister and missionary to the Friendly Islands) proved troublesome for the whole journey, sometimes protesting and behaving in a threatening way to the captain. In fact, Wise urged mutiny and as the women were intruding onto the quarter-deck, the officers were uneasy about possible support for him, so the prisoners were taken below and confined to their quarters. The convicts assured Elyard that they had no intentions of mutiny. Two of the women were persistently absent without leave. When it was found that the two men again had secreted them away, lying about their whereabouts, the women were put in irons and detailed in the hospital overnight and for the next morning. As it was Sunday, Elyard took advantage of this situation to bring them, still in irons, to the deck where after the church service he read them religious tracts on intemperance and chastity. Two years later, Wise/Weiss married the woman, Mary Ryan of Kilglass, Co. Roscommon, with whom he had been associating on board. One other problem the surgeon encountered with the women's behaviour was their taking lighted rags below to permit smoking once they were confined for the night. Again, a stern lecture was given on the dangers of having fire in close quarters and the offending rags and pipes were thrown overboard.
To provide a treat, Elyard obtained a small supply of snuff at St. Jago (Santiago, the capital of the Cape Verde Islands off West Africa) which he distributed to all those who chose it. In addition, the opportunity was taken to obtain fresh beef, vegetables and fruit. This change of diet, and sedentary occupations and lack of exercise on board led to gastrointestinal problems constantly during the voyage.
On occasion, comments were recorded about the "infamous" language used with threats of severe punishments. Quarrelling was a regular occurrence with detentions in the coal hole, sometimes with an iron collar. Minor thieving was a constant problem. One time two of the women discovered their bed ticking missing only to find a child wearing a pinafore of the same material the next day! Blankets were found cut up or missing and pillows were often missing. On 2 October, Elyard was called to stop one of the convicts who was beating her child and threatening murder. The poor child's head was bleeding from a blow from a half-pint pot, so the school-mistress was designated to provide care until a final decision could be made in Sydney!
During November, having been at sea over three months, quarrels and disobedient and disturbances were frequent and Elyard was found threatening severe floggings although records appear to bear out the fact that Surgeon Elyard showed a genuine concern for the physical and moral welfare of his charges and that he was meticulous in describing each provision opened and accounting for numbered items such as blankets.
Many disturbances were recorded with the names of the participants. One story concerned young Patrick Montgomery who was travelling with his mother and brothers to join his father in NSW. He was knocked overboard by the stay-sail sheet and the captain immediately ordered a lowering of a boat and personally manned it, returning within 15 minutes with the boy who fully recovered after being vigorously rubbed with flannels!
Just outside Sydney, the ship experienced harsh weather with many possessions being soaked. The surgeon's family sleeping in hammocks was completely deluged; some windows and frames were broken by the water's force. The next days were spent drying charts, papers and books and washing clothing before arrival in Port Jackson on 18 December. The very next day, Elyard was on shore visiting Captain Piper, Deputy-Governor Erskine and Major Goulburn the colonial Secretary. He also made application for one of the convicts to continue serving his family. Finally, he returned to the ship with a supply of potatoes, a welcome change of diet. Major Goulburn inspected the prisoners, passengers and free settlers while Major Wemyss served out slops (watery food?) to the convicts to be disembarked the following day. His Excellency Major General Sir Thomas Brisbane KB, Governor of New South Wales, came on board and expressed his approbation of their appearance and good order. On 21 December the convicts destined for the Parramatta Factory were provisioned and put into schooners to take them up river. On departure, Elyard recorded that most expressed thanks for his attention to them, many of them pressing his hands as they went over the side. With their departure, the prison was dismantled.
Over 30 of the 80 prisoners connected with various incidents or in the sickness lists were named by the surgeon. Among these were Jane Burne, the 58-year-old soda water maker from Dublin City convicted for life, whom he selected as nurse for the voyage; Jane Hamilton, one of five sentenced in Monaghan, often was impertinent and indulged in "turbulent behaviour"; Maria Wade, another lifer whose healthy daughter provided the plasma for vaccination purposes, continued to commit crime in the colony; and an aggressive pair, Mary O'Neill and Ellen Nolan, were identified as assaulting one of the men while cleaning. The voyage is described by Charles Bateson in his book, "The Convict Ships," as troublesome, but nowhere in this account is there any reference to the charges brought against the captain and chief officer by 23 crewmen.
- Found posted by Jean Rice on RootsWeb.com, 7 Nov 2000.