Extracts from Surgeons' Journals for Ships Edward, Blenheim & Westmoreland


Edward (2) James Gilbert Master, Thomas Bell Surgeon Superintendent, dep Cork 17 Oct 1830 arr Sydney 22 Feb 1831

PRO ADM101/22 AJCP Reel 3193

The diseases on board the Edward Convict Ship on the passage from Cove of Cork to New S. Wales were principally Dysentary, Fever and two cases of Colera. For the first month we were perfectly free from disease until we put into Porto Praya in St Jago for a fresh supply of water. Immediately after leaving the place almost all were attacked with disease of the Bowels. On the slightest incline of the vessel all became immediately sea sick. And notwithstanding that the greatest cleanliness and ... action was used during the voyage, together with as much exercise as was possible to allow them, yet it was of no avail. The principal reason I can assign for the convicts being so easily affected is in consequence their minds has been kept in since July last when some of the most evil disposed attempted to burn the Essex Hulk in consequence of which those who remained (after the full number of prisoners were sent on board the Hercules) for New S. Wales. What remained were sent to the Surprise Hulk from which 121 came on board the Edward and although the burning did not succeed in Dublin they again ventured three times to commit the same horried act in Cove. Relative to the agitation of the minds of the prisoners and of which I have above spoken I must remark that the greater number of them being born in a country place the scenes the passed through since they became prisoners not at all contributed to their peace of mind. The villanous attempt of some amongst them, and the treatment those inferior characters received for their conduct, were some amongst those I have on board dread least the should be considered on their arrival at their place of destination accessary to the acts I have above mentioned. His Excellency the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland at the time we sailed from Cove of Cork, was on a visit in that part of the country and in consequence the minds of the prisoners were buoyed up with the hope of their getting home to their families again. In this hope they remained even after their embarkation on board this vessel and they continued to flatter themselves with this too pleasing expectation until the anchor was weighed when they found themselves deceived. That had an additional effect of making or at least the greater number of them discontented so much so that I was frequently necessitated to force them on deck to take that exercise necessary for their health. Immediately after sailing, the prisoners every one became excessively affected with sea sickness. The weather was of course to them unusually severe and the diet being so very different to what any of them had hitherto (never) been accustomed. The want of their accustomed exercise both of body and mind and the important change which took place in their food being changed from being very light and sparing to a greater quantity of strong animal food, I consider predisposed them to the diseases I have already mentioned. I also conceive that the circumstance of the attempt at burning the Hulk in Ireland produced so great a dread of detection or punishment on the minds of the greater number of those on board as made them very discontented and unhappy. All those considerations together with the great disappointment many of them felt on the anchor being weighed without them being reprieved induce me to consider that I may attribute many of the diseases being brought on by the causes already mentioned.


Blenheim I (1) Jas. Temple Brown Master, James Wilson Surgeon-Superintendent, dep Cork 27 Jul 1834 arr Sydney 14 Nov 1834

PRO ADM 101/12 AJCP Reel 3189

On the 7th July I went on board the Surprize Convict Hulk at the Cove of Cork, and was present at the Inspection of the whole of the convicts amounting to about 300 by a Medical Officer sent from Dublin for that purpose. There was also present the Medical Officer belonging to the Hulk. I objected to receive some of the Prisoners, and offered to receive two others, one said by the Surgeon to be blind, in fact he was led to the Cabin door, and then led away as a person unfit for embarkation, one Rect[?] of total loss of vision said to be of long standing. The Officer from Dublin, seeing on the list that his Crime was Sheep Stealing, had him called back, when he and I took the man into open light to examine his eyes, this he resisted by keeping the palpebra so permanently closed that no efforts of our fingers could separate them, this pecair[?] of the muscles no doubt acquired from long continued action, he having (I was afterwards informed) employed it for 13 months. Being defeated in ascertaining by autopsy the state of the globe of the eye, but quite certain the globe in both eyes was entire from the prominence of the palpabra, I got a spatula which I introduced with some force (it being contrary to his will) between the eyelids and separated them with that and my hand, and now that vision was perfect in both eyes. I told him I would[?] receive him on board, and recommended his having his eyes open when he came, or I would punish him at the gangway. The other case said to be chronic Rheuma of long standing, this man was stripped and examined by the Dublin Officer and myself, when we found him to be as a powerful, muscular man, at the advanced age he said of 76. The appearance of the prisoners as a body, was that of being very cleanly in their persons, and their animal strength I would say far above that of most of the Seamen who offer themselves as Volunteers for His Majesty's Navy.

On the 8th of July we embarked 200 of the above convicts, one of them Danl, Tughrue, the blind man who was led yesterday, he came out the boat, and up the ships side in Bargells[?] without assistance, on his getting in board, I desired him to look in my face, he did so with the eyes half opened; when I told him unless he opened both that instant and looked in my face, my promise of flogging him would be carried into execution, on this he opened both his eyes and looked me full in the face showing two eyes perfectly natural.

About the same time we embarked 10 free settlers sons of convicts for a passage to New South Wales, these were messed and slept in the small prison with the convicts three of these lads were suarely[?] destitute of clothing, and the head of one swarming with vermin.

By the copy of the Daily Sick Book herewith transmitted, it will be seen that out of 210 free settlers and convicts only 15 were entered on that List, and the Cases No 5 and 6 as recorded in this Journal lead me to believe that both of these men had been long labouring under the diseases which caused their death; the Sick Book will also shew that nearly all the other diseases among them were of a very slight character.

Out of 33 Officers and men composing the Guard, 4 were entered in the Sick Book.

Out of 8 Women and 9 Children, belonging to the Guard one Woman was entered in the Sick Book and one child.

Out of 30 Officers, Men and Boys composing the ships crew, 10 were entered in the Sick Book.

And here I beg to state that it is my uniform rule of practice to put every individual upon the Sick List however trifling the complaint may be, if it interferes in any way with the performance of their ordinary invocations, that in may thereby be enabled to form an accurate judgement regarding the health collectively, and severally, of every person on board the ship.

The proportional analysis of sick among the different classes of persons embarked in the Blenheim is as follows

Convicts 1 of 14
Guard 1 of 8 1/33
Guards Wives 1 of 8
Guards Children 1 of 9
Ships Company 1 of 3

We cannot look at this analysis without being struck with the great disparity of sickness, and we behold the least sickness among that of the Convicts, among whom in a superficial view we would expect to have seen the greatest sickness.

But when we examine more closely and take into consideration the great differences existing in each class of Persons, as regards their Provisions with and without Spirits, their duties with and without exposure to inclemencies of weather, and lastly the discipline and regularity maintained, probably the disparity of sickness if not altogether satisfactorily accounted for will at least have much diminished.

The diseases on the Daily Sick Book the Cases of which are not given in the Journal, are Catarrh in a Convict five days on the List, Dysenteria in a Pt of the Guard ten days on the list, Dysenteria in a Child eight days on the list, Diarrhea in a Convict two days on the list, Cephalagia in a Convict eleven days on the list, Catarrh in a Seaman two days on the list, Dyspepsia in a Sergeant of the Guard four days on the list, Cy. Tonsillaris in a Seaman two days on list, Rheumatism in a Seaman four days on the list, Rheumatism ina Seaman fortynine days on the list, Cy. Parotidea in a Pt of the Guard two days on the list, Prona in a Convict four days on the list, Phlegmon in a Convict eight days on the list, Pneumonia in a Seaman eight days on the list, Ophthalmia in a Seaman eleven days on the list, Contused Leg in a Drummer four days on the list, Catarrh in a Seaman one day on the list.

The Guard with their Families embarked at Deptford on the 24th of June. The Convicts embarked at the Cove of Cork on the 8th of July. The Free Settlers were also embarked at the Cove of Cork about the same time. The ships sailed from thence on the 27th July, and anchored in Sydney Harbour, New South Wales on the 14th November, when out of 289 the number of person on board, there was only one Individual sick, and he was an old Seaman one of the Ships Company, his disease Chronic Rheumatism.

The Convicts disembarked on the 28th Nov and were inspected by the Colonial Secretary when they expressed themselves satisfied with the treatment which they had experienced on board, and the Colonial Secretary, on my expressing a hope that their appearance was satisfactory to him, was pleased to make some obvservations, which were highly gratifying to my mind.

James Wilson Surgeon Superintendent


Westmoreland (3) Jn. Brigstock Master, George McClure Surgeon-Superintendent, dep Dublin 27 Apr 1838 arr Sydney 22 Aug 1838

PRO ADM101/74 AJCP Reel 3212

[From the Journal] Michael Cavanagh     56     Dysentery

17th June.Although not very old in years he has all the appearance of a broken down old man. He expected not to have been sent out to Sydney, which along with a tedious and disagreeable voyage has been the means of depressing his mind. In fact the Irish are more easily elevated, or depressed, [than] any other nation and have a great attachment to their country and families and the Political convicts in particular consider they have done nothing to deserve transportation. This man was seized in the night time with severe griping pains in the Bowels and cramps in the limbs with a frequent desire to go stool, He had some watery stools during the night tinged with Blood, and a disposition to throw off. [Daily reports show his condition progressively worsened until he died 5th July.]

Had I ever been to Sydney before I think I would have had the same foresight that the Surgeons of the Calcutta and William Jardine had in rejecting the two Cavanaghs and Hayles. I would in that case only have lost Foley whose disease had I been on shore I would not have been able to remove, for I am confident that he died of game?/gastric? lesion of the coats of the stomach. I have had altogether a sickly ship, and I am really astonished in considering the matters there I did not loose more men remembering the very wet and uncomfortable state of the ship from the Southward of the Cape of Good Hope until arrival at Sydney, our decks were never once dry, I have often had as much as two Punchions of water taken out of the Prison in a morning and one hundred and fifty buckets out of the hospital, it must appear evident[?] from this that the health of the Prisoners could not hold out.

I likewise know that the Clyde and some other Ships that arrived at Sydney when I was there, never had, had their decks wet except where washed. The number of cases both of Diarrhoea & sore throat were brought by the witness of the Ship, and when it is recollected that I was obliged to confine the Convicts below closed Hatches in a wet Prison in the wet weather it certainly facilitated very much in bringing on Scurvy, so long a voyage and confinement was very much against the Scrophalous cases [..t] this could not be avoided. I remember perfectly well the last advice Sir William Burnett gave me, not on any account to keep wet decks but to dry holy stone them. I am extremely sorry that it was not in my power to carry into effect this human and prudent admonition. I have done all in my power under the circumstances to prevent disease and to remove it when it occurred.

In conclusion I have to remark that I received the Convicts on board the Westmoreland in Kingston Harbour from Kilmainham, and generally speaking they were in clean and healthy condition, with the exception of the four cases of Tinia Capitis and three cases of Gonorrhea which were not made known to me until after we were at Sea.

They were two hundred and seventeen in number. Four died at sea, consequently I disembarked 213 at Sydney in August 1838.

George McClure R.N.
late Surgeon Superintendent
of the Westmoreland Convict Ship

Sydney 1st Sep 1838


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