Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

Convict Ship Asia - 1831

Embarked 220 men
Voyage 118 days
Deaths 11
Surgeon's Journal - Yes
Previous vessel: Surry arrived 26 November 1831
Next vessel: Bussorah Merchant arrived 14 December 1831
Master Henry Ager
Surgeon George Birnie
Follow the Irish Convict Ship Trail
Prisoners and passengers of the Asia identified in the Hunter Valley

The Asia transported prisoners from counties throughout Ireland including Wexford, Cork, Clare, Athlone, Mayo, Limerick, Carrick. Galway, Roscommon, Tipperary, Kerry, Waterford, Belfast and Monaghan. Their crimes included varous forms of stealing and robbery, assault, vagrancy, highway robbery, house robbery, receiving, assault, manslaughter and whiteboy crimes. [3]

Unrest in Ireland

There was widespread insurrection against local landholders in Co. Clare in 1831. Landless peasants lived in misery close to starvation. White boy crimes such as firearm offences and unlawful oaths were taking place throughout the county. ..............

Sir Matthew Barrington was Crown Solicitor for the Munster Circuit in 1831, a position he had held for forty years. He gave evidence before the Select Committee on Transportation..... In 1831, just at the moment when Parliament was dissolved on the Reform Bill, the county of Clare was in actual open rebellion. There were murders every night; the fences were levelled, and the whole district was in a state of anarchy and confusion. The Government were naturally alarmed, and there was not time to pass an Insurrection Act. I happened to be in London, and was asked what I would suggest. Special commissions were then issued in 1831; and the effect of what I recommended was, that there should be no trial involving the punishment of death, but that in every case transportation should be tried; the result was, that we transported from the dock, I think, between 50 and 60 persons, and, if I recollect rightly, more; they were sent directly from the court-house after conviction, and the effect was magical. From that period, for nearly 20 years, there was not a more peaceful part of Ireland than the county of Clare, which I attribute to the immediate effect of the transportation. It was thought so good a result, that Mr. Stanley, now Lord Derby, desired me to prepare a Bill to alter the White Boy Act of Ireland, and to substitute the punishment of transportation for death where it existed, which I did, and that Act passed in 1831. Previously to that, if a house was attacked after sunset, the punishment was death; if the house was attacked before the sunset, it was a mere riot; so that there was no analogy in the punishment of the outrage, which was greater and more violent generally in the daytime than it was at night: still the punishment was less. The punishment was then altered to transportation in both instances, and the Act was passed.

Hundreds were tried at the Spring Assizes and afterwards at Special Commissions in Limerick and Ennis which took place until the end of June 1831. Some of the prisoners who were transported on the Asia were tried for White Boy crimes on 2nd June 1831. They included Patrick Collins, Michael Clancy, John Donohue, John Hayes, William Hayes, Patrick Hickey, James Linehan, James Neylan, Michael Magee, Michael McNamara and Maurice Molony.

Select here to read some of the trials.

Military Guard

The Guard on the Asia consisted of a detachment of the 4th regiment of foot under the command of Captain Chetwode and Ensign Henry Zouch. Five soldiers' wives and two children came passengers.

Surgeon George Birnie

This was George Birnie's first voyage as surgeon superintendent of a convict ship. He was later surgeon on the female convict ship Caroline in 1833, Layton in 1835 to Van Diemen's Land and the Blenheim to Van Diemen's Land in 1837.

George Birnie kept a Medical Journal on this voyage from 27 June to 14 December 1831.......

On the 3 August 1831, 120 convicts and free settler, Andrew Gillespie, embarked on the Asia at Cork and on 4th August another 97 convicts.

The majority of the prisoners were found to be in poor health and several had been in the hospital until a few days before embarking. George Birnie considered some men were unfit for the voyage and should never have been sent on board. Three men were rejected and, according to James Gilchrist, Surgeon of the Bussorah Merchant, two of them died within a fortnight. Patrick Canny, Edmond Garraghty and Patrick McGuire were all disembarked before the ship set sail. George Birnie found that prisoners sometimes lied about the state of their health just to escape from the Hulks. They would rather risk dying at sea than remain in a hulk. Samuel Hollingworth was the local Inspector of the hulk Surprize in 1831.

Departure from Cork

The Asia departed Cork on 6 August 1831. [1]

The Voyage

The prisoners on this vessel were well attended by Captain Ager and George Birnie........ The men were allowed on deck regularly and the prison was kept much cleaner than the barracks. Supplies of preserved meat, tea, sulphate of magnesia, castor oil and oil of turpentine (used orally or by enema for dysentery) were insufficient and so were replaced by Birnie at his own expense. Chloride of lime (for scurvy) was used liberally during the voyage and greatly contributed to the comfort of all on board. Captain Ager ordered milk and fresh bread to be given to the sick every day. He also had 'a place fitted up behind the fore chains on each side, for the people to retire to' [as a toilet], to alleviate the nuisance throughout the ship caused by the 'soil pans'. George Birnie recommended similar arrangements should be generally adopted by order of the Navy Board. He also recommended the adoption of iron bars as less wasteful than the wooden prisons fitted in ships and taken down at the end of each voyage. Iron bars would also allow better circulation. The prisoners were generally quiet and orderly, and kept themselves and their berths clean. On arrival 36 of the prisoners, as well as the more serious cases mentioned in the journal were exhibiting scorbutic symptoms. They were all said to have recovered rapidly on being given fresh meat and vegetables.

Scurvy occurred only amongst the prisoners on this voyage. The surgeon attributed this to the 'regular supply of spirits supplied to the crew, guard and families, and their previous wholesome food as well as an absence of depressing passions.'

Arrival in Port Jackson

The Asia arrived in Port Jackson on 2 December 1831 with 206 prisoners. Those who did not survive the voyage included - James Naylor, aged 40 died on 8th November during stormy weather; Patrick Donnelly aged 19 on 17 November - had never recovered from a beating he received on the hulk; Maurice Murphy 44, on 24th November; John Costelloe 21, suffering from pneumonia, revived slightly on the sight of land on 28th November however never fully recovered and died on 3rd December; Cormick Berry was admitted to hospital on arriving in Sydney however died 10 days later from scurvy; Edmund Scanlon also admitted to hospital on arrival and later died.

Convict Muster

According to the convict indents, one hundred and ninety-four men were mustered on board by Colonial Secretary Alexander Macleay on 6th December 1831. Of the original two hundred and twenty men, three had been disembarked while still in Ireland, eleven died at sea, and twelve were sent to the hospital on arrival. The indents reveal the name, age, education, religion, marital status, family, native place, trade, offence, sentence, when and where tried, former convictions, physical description and where assigned on arrival. There is also occasional information about colonial crimes, deaths and relatives already in the colony.


There were eight young prisoners - John Hassett (16), Jeremiah Mahoney (15), Owen McCarthy (15), Patrick McCarthy (16),William Tate (16) and brothers William Mara (16) and John Mara (14). The youngest was Patrick Flynn who was aged 13. John Mara and Patrick Flynn were both sent to the Carter's Barracks on arrival.

On arrival prisoners were distributed to settlers and government service. Ten were assigned to the Australian Agricultural Company. In the Hunter Valley they were sent to John Bingle, John Ewbank Simpson, Lockhart Miller, William Brooks, Thomas Dangar, George Mosman, William White, John Pike, Cyrus Matthew Doyle, John Townshend, Benjamin Cox,
Francis Allman, Peter McIntyre, John Cobb, William Ogilvie, Thomas Valentine Bloomfield, George Williams, Edward C. CloseHenry Pilcher. Select
HERE to find more about convicts assigned to the Hunter Valley region.[3]

Bryan Kine/Kyne age 47, father of 4 from Galway. Occupation Landed Proprietor. Convicted of shooting at Roscommon on 9 March 1831 and sentenced to 7 years transportation. On arrival the assignment note states 'At the Disposal of Government'. He was assigned to Mr. Plunkett at Waterview where he was employed as an overseer. In 1834 he was convicted of murder and executed at Sydney on 13 January 1834. Read the trial here.

Notes and Links

1). Political Prisoners

2). Henry Ager was Captain of the Waterloo convict ship en route to VDL in 1842 when it was wrecked at Table Bay.

3). Edward Allen who arrived as a prisoner on the Asia was a compatriot of poet/bushranger Francis MacNamara. Together they roamed the bush with three other men John Jones, William Thomson and William Eastwood near Campbelltown in the early 1840's. They were all captured in 1842 and sent to Van Diemen's Land.

4). Trials of some of the prisoners of the Asia....

June 1831......Clare Special Commission - Ennis June 3 - At ten o'clock the Judges, Moore and Jebb came into Court, when 26 men were placed at the bar charged under the whiteboy act, with turning up six acres of pastureland, on the lands of Ross, the property of Richard H. Wigmore Esq., they were also indicted for turning up some of the lands of Ardcluny the property of Denis McCormick, Esq., and with assaulting James Reily at which was laid in the indictment as having been committed on the 21st May....After two hours deliberation the jury acquitted five of the prisoners; the rest were found guilty. Anthony Hone (?Hoar) was indicted for feloniously and with menace on the night of 28th April compelling Edward Dwyer to pay him a sum of money. The case having been clearly proved on the part of the Crown, two persons came forward to prove that the prisoner was seized by a body of the Terry Alts and compelled to go; but they completely failed,, and the jury without leaving the box, found the prisoner guilty. All of the twenty six who were tried for assembling at Ross and turning up the lands, were well dressed, and seemingly respectable in their class of farmers. They manifested the utmost indifference.

Third Day - The first prisoner arraigned was James Carroll, who was indicted capitally for taking arms out of the house of Mr. S. Blood of Castle Fergus on 8th April last. It appeared from the evidence of two policemen, who had been stationed at the residence of Mr. Blood, to protect it, that eight men, principally armed, rushed into the yard in the middle of the day; three seized one of the policemen while the remaining five went into the house and took with them eleven stand of arms including the two carabines belonging to the policemen one of whom was thus surprised and detained in the yard, while the other happening to be in front of the house and against whom the door was closed, was unable to offer any resistance. The prisoner, who was proved to be one off the party, was found guilty and sentence of death passed on him. Their offence was one off singular audacity and attended with many of those circumstances of aggravation which in the present state of the country call for such heavy and severe penalties. A notice of a menacing nature was served in this instance, threatening death in case of disobedience to its mandates. In this instance as on Thursday sentence at once followed conviction, namely transportation for life. The seven convicts with another convicted on the evening before were on the instant removed from the dock, placed upon cars, and without the delay of ten minutes, despatched to the hulk in Cork, guarded by two troops of cavalry and a number off infantry and police
. Belfast Newsletter 10 June 1831

Clare Special Commission - June 7.........

The following prisoners applied for leave to withdraw their plea of Not Guilty, and submit to a verdict of Guilty; John Keogh, for assault and endeavour to seize arms; Austin McInerney and John Lysaught, for assault and burglary. The Attorney General said it should be understood by the prisoners, that in these cases there would be no compromise of justice....John Costelloe, Maurice Molony, Patrick Hickey, Patrick Maguire, Thomas Curry, Patrick O'Brien, Peter Murphy, Thomas Qualy and Patrick Collins, were indicted for assaulting and demolishing the habitation of Charles Williams at Lisdeen, and administering to him an unlawful oath. - Verdict Guilty - The witness exclaimed twice or thrice during the trial, that he was so persecuted on account off Mr. O'Connell, during the last election, as the prisoners were tenants of O'Gorman Mahon, and himself being a Kerry man. The Attorney General prayed the immediate sentence of the court in those cases, and those of the day before. Judge Moore then passed sentence of transportation for life upon the prisoners 17 in all. They were removed from the dock forthwith, placed upon cars, and, guarded by a strong detachment of the Carbabiners and 76th Regiment, forwarded on their destination, followed by the cries of thousands of people in the streets. This makes an aggregate of 39 persons on their route for transportation up to this day. - Belfast Newsletter 14 June 1831

Conclusion of the Special Commission -

Thursday June 9 - Judge Moore passed sentence this morning on the following prisoners, who had been previously convicted: Patrick Sullivan and twenty others, for turning up land at Ross; twelve months imprisonment and hard labour. - John, Thomas and James McInerny and five others, for assaulting the habitation of James McMahon; sentence of death recorded. T. Welsh for assaulting Thomas Copner, a soldier, with intent to steal his arms; one week's imprisonment - John Fitzgerald, for demanding arms from Francis McNamara, at Ennistymon; transportation for seven years. John Keogh, for assaulting Francis Brew; transportation for life. Austin McInerneey and John Lysaught for assaulting the habitation of G. Robinson; sentence of death recorded. - Keady Callaghan for assaulting Francis Morony, with intent to rob him; sentence of death recorded. - John Moskell, Matthew Hehir, Martin Phillips, Patrick Ronan, James Hehir, and Denis O'Grady were then put to the bar, charged with assaulting James Ravel with an intent to rob him of his arms at Clondegad on 8th May last. Mr. Charles O'Connell on behalf of the prisoners applied to withdraw the plea of not guilty and to plead guilty. The Attorney General consented and the plea was recorded. The Attorney General then said - My Lord, in this case I must call upon you to pronounce sentence on the prisoners at the bar. The prisoners have been indicted for being of that very party by whom the barbarous murder of the brave but unfortunate Robinson was effect. I might have indicted them for the crime of murder, or capitally on the present charge; but in the same spirit which has actuated me throughout these proceedings I only indicted them for the transportable offence, to which the prisoners have pleaded guilty; and it now only remains for the court to pronounce the sentence of the law.

Mr. Justice Jebb addressed the prisoners - On your own confession you are part of that rebellious body of men who premeditated the destruction of men forming part off his Majesty's army, and of the executive portion of the law who sacrificed the life of one brave man, and would have deluged the county in blood. Mercy has already been shown you, and that mercy cannot be further extended - you cannot be permitted to remain longer in your native land. The sentence of the court is, that you be transported for the term of your natural life - The prisoners heard their doom pronounced with the utmost unconcern and silently withdrew from the bar
....Belfast Newsletter 14 June 1831

5). Seventeen prisoners of the Asia were tried in Roscommon. The trials of eleven of them were recorded in the Freemans Journal in June 1831........

Special Commission at Roscommon - Tuesday, 21st June, Fourth day (from a Special Reporter)

The Judges entered the court at a quarter past 10 o'clock. Marcus Dillon, Michael Rhatigan and Thomas Paidin, were placed at the bar, charged with the robbery of arms in the house of Henry Irwin of Cranagh, in this county, in August last. The prisoners pleaded guilty. One of them evinced great contrition, and sobbed loudly.

Michael Kelly, Hugh Conniff and Andrew Gately were then brought forward, who had been found guilty of an assault on Joseph Mitten. Mr. Justice Moore addressed the prisoners, and expatiated on the aggravated circumstances of their offence. They had attacked a man for no other reason than that he had dared to vote for the candidate of his choice - that circumstance highly enhanced the enormity of their personal attack. The prosecutor was in his bed with his wife then in a state of pregnancy. It was impossible that the country should be left under the dominion of such an atrocious system of outrage their lives might have been sacrificed if they had been rigorously prosecuted. The learned Judge sentenced the prisoners to seven years' transportation.

Edward Geraghty and Hugh Keeveny, convicted of feloniously administering an oath to Patrick McClean and Patrick Mullery for administering an unlawful oath to John Kelly. The learned Judge stated that the prisoners had already experienced the clemency of the law in not having been prosecuted on capital indictments. Further clemency they could not expect. Sentence - Transportation for life. James McDonough, convicted of feloniously demanding from John Foly and Hugh Clarke different sums of money. Mr. Justice Moore said that the prisoner had been found guilty on very satisfactory evidence. He would say the same of every conviction that had taken place for every conviction had been produced by the evidence of worthy persons. The prisoner had been found guilty of being one of the banditti that were making an illegal levy off money in the country. Sentenced to transportation for life.

James Govern, convicted of feloniously demanding his gun from Hugh Morrow at Clonsellan. Mr. Justice Moore - Throughout this entire commission there had been but one instance of a crime like this directed against the rich. The other crimes had been perpetrated against the humbler classes. But the law had put forth its authority with tremendous power to protect society, and the result of that commission should convince the public that there was not one law for the rich and another for the poor. Sentenced to be transported for life.

Andrew Warren and Michael Warren, found guilty of administering an unlawful oath to Mr. Mooney, and demanding his money at Carrageenacappul. Mr. Justice Moore - This case was distinguished for a peculiar audacity of crime, and if the law had been rigorously acted on, their lives might have been forfeited. But these prosecutions had been conducted with particular humanity and displayed that the object sought after, was not so much the severity as the certainty of punishment. The learned judge alluded to the circumstances of this case, and eulogised the bravery off those villagers who had arrested and brought the prisoners to justice. Sentence Transportation for Life. The prisoner, Andrew Warren on hearing the sentence vehemently appealed to Heaven that he was innocent.

Marcus Dillon, Michael Rhatigan and Thomas Paidin - These pleaded guilty of the robbery of arms at Mr. Irwin's. Mr. Justice Moore addressed the prisoners. They were young men and had probably been deluded into the crime. They had also appealed to the mercy of one (the Attorney General - who, to do him justice, had done all in his power to conduct those prosecutions with as much mercy as possible. In consideration of this and the contrition manifested, the Court would only sentence them to be transported for seven years. The prisoner Rhatigan cried most piteously all the time.

As soon as the sentence of the law was passed on the convicts, those doomed to transportation were at once taken back to jail and the preparations that had been previously made for their removal were forwarded. Three drays were drawn up outside the jail door and an immense concourse off people assembled outside. This was far different from Clare, where the peasantry shrunk back dismayed; here they thronged in a multitude There is an anomalous proneness in mankind to witness that spectacular exhibition of human suffering which the execution off the justice off the laws uniformly affords; but I believe it was less the operation of that tendency than an extensive commiseration in the fate off those unfortunate men that assembled the peasantry in such vast numbers. Many off the gentry crowded the windows of the grand jury rooms and balcony over the passage off the court house, which exactly fronts the jail. The day was exceedingly fine - the fiercer effulgence off the sun was subdued into a mild and golden lustre which shed its mellowing influence on every object, and if it was the last time they were to look upon their native scenes, they could not have ever beheld them more beautiful. They were escorted by a troop of dragoons and a strong party of police. An immense crowd accompanied them on the way to Athlone and at every part of the road the crowd was augmented by the numbers that were every instant thronging to meet the convicts who were expected during the day. By the time the party reached Athlone the throng must have been immense. At the time I passed it, about three miles from Roscommon, there must have been more than a thousand persons; and as we got on almost every part of the road was lined with persons waiting for the party to come up. Some of the men seemed to suffer greatly, and on the cars were some of their female relatives, who accompanied them to Athlone, whose wailings were piteous
. - Freeman's Journal 23 June 1831

6). Justice Richard Jebb passed sentence on many of the transportees from Ireland in these years......Read a brief biography at A Genealogical and Heraldic History.... John Burke

7). Captain Richard Chetwode departed the colony with the Headquarters of the 4th regiment on the John in 1837 bound for India

8). Return of Convicts of the Asia assigned between 1st January 1832 and 31st March 1832 (Sydney Gazette 14 June 1832; 21 June 1832; 28 June 1832; 5 July 1832).....

Cormick Berry - Labourer assigned to G.C. Curlewis at Sydney
ns - Kitchen boy assigned to Rev. T. Reddall at Campbelltown
Michael Dunn - Stable boy assigned to Edward Lee at Waverly Crescent
Martin Dolan - Ploughs. Assigned to Frederick Augustus Hely at Sydney
John Downing - In and outdoor servant. Assigned to Catherine Garrett at Sydney Fitzgerald - Butcher assigned to John Blaxland junior at Newington
Patrick Groomley (Gormley) - Ploughs etc., Assigned to H. Hume at Appin
Michael Green - Butcher's apprentice. Assigned to William Lane at Bathurst
John Hayes - Labourer assigned to David Foley at Pitt Water
Pierce Hayes - Labourer assigned to James Mullen at Brisbane Water
John Jiffords - Stone sawyer assigned to Major Lockyer at Parramatta
Timothy Lynch - Ploughs. Assigned to Thomas Pye at Bathurst
John Looney - Hammerman. Assigned to Terence Murray at Argyle
Patrick Larkins - Fisherman. Assigned to William Pawley at Sydney
James Murphy - Ploughs . Assigned to William Lane at Bathurst
Austin McInerney - Labourer assigned to William Rosetta at Stonequarry
James Morissey - Labourer assigned to J.R. Cleeve at Wickham, Liverpool
Joseph Malen - Ploughs. Assigned to John Gilchrist at Sydney
Thomas Mann - Miller and farmer. Assigned to Robert Pringle at Maitland
Edward Molloy - Violin string maker. Assigned to Robert Pymble at Lane Cove
John Morris - Butcher's boy assigned to James Reid at Hunter's River
Maurice Magnus - Salesman assigned to Cooper and Levy at Sydney
George Munden - Printers' pressman. Assigned to E.S. Hall at Sydney
William Mavelly - Stone mason assigned to T. McQuoid at Sydney
Matthew Marriner - Sawyer assigned to Dr. Wardell at Petersham
Charles Mann - Turner and carpenter. Assigned to Alexander Livingstone at Hunter's River
Patrick Meyrick - Sweep. Assigned to John Langdon at Sydney
James O'Brien - Fisherman's labourer assigned to H.H. Macarthur at Parramatta
John Sullivan - Weaver. Assigned to John Sullivan - Weaver. Assigned to Henry Rae at Maitland
Michael Shea - Boatman assigned to George Muir at Maitland

9). Convict Ships bringing detachments of the 4th (King's Own) Regiment

Jane departed Cork 29 April 1831. Commander of the Guard Captain George Mason

Surry departed Portsmouth 17 July 1831. Commander of the Guard Captain Charles Waldron 38th regt.

Asia departed Cork 6 August 1831. Commander of the Guard Captain Richard Chetwode

Norfolk departed 15 October 1831. Commander of the Guard Lieut. David William Lardy 4th regt.

Captain Cook departed Dublin 5 November 1831. Commander of the Guard Lieut. Gibbons 49th regt.

Portland departed Portsmouth 27 November 1831.

Isabella departed Cork 27 November 1831. Commander of the Guard Captain William Clarke 4th regt.

Bussorah Merchant departed Dublin 14 December 1831. Commander of the Guard Lieut. William Lonsdale 4th regt.

John departed the Downs 7 February 1832. Commander of the Guard Lieut. George Baldwin 31st regt.,

Lady Harewood departed Portsmouth 15 March 1832. Commander of the Guard Lieut. Lowth 38th regt.,

City of Edinburgh departed Cork 18 March 1832 . Commander of the Guard Lieut. Bayliss

Clyde departed Portsmouth 9 May 1832. Commander of the Guard Lieut-Colonel Mackenzie

Eliza departed Cork 10 May 1832. Commander of the Guard Lieut. Hewson

Planter departed Portsmouth 16 June 1832 under command of Lieuts. Bullin and Irvine of 38th regt.

Hercules departed the Downs 19 June 1832. Commander of the Guard Lieut. Gibson 4th regt.

Dunvegan Castle departed Dublin 1 July 1832. Commander of the Guard Lieut. Thomas Faunce 4th regt.

Parmelia departed Sheerness 28 July 1832 under Command of Captain Young 38th regt.

Waterloo departed Sheerness 12 March 1833 under Command of Captain Mondilhan 54th regt.


[1] Bateson, Charles Library of Australian History (1983). The convict ships, 1787-1868 (Australian ed). Library of Australian History, Sydney, pp.350-351, 387

[2] Journal of George Birnie. UK, Royal Navy Medical Journals, 1817-1857 . The National Archives. Kew, Richmond, Surrey.

[3] Bound manuscript indents, 1788 - 1842. NRS 12188, microfiche 614 - 619,626 - 657, 660 - 695. State Records Authority of New South Wales, Kingswood, New South Wales, Australia