Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

Convict Ship Hooghley - 1831

Embarked: 187 women
Surgeon's Journal: yes
Previous vessel: Caroline arrived 31st July 1831
Next vessel: Jane arrived 5 November 1831
Captain Peter J. Reeves
Surgeon Superintendent James Ellis
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Prisoners and passengers of the Hooghly identified in the Hunter Valley

The ship Hooghley transported prisoners to New South Wales in 1825, 1828, 1831 and 1834.


On 15th June 1831 the Bury and Norwich Post reported on the Famine in Ireland - The accounts from Ireland are truly appalling. At the lowest estimate, ascertained from personal and minute inquiries, upwards of two hundred thousand human beings are in danger of perishing from famine. A deputation from the Mayo Relief committee waited upon the Lord Lieutenant, at Dublin, on Saturday, to implore of the Government to interfere and endeavour to rescue the population of that county from the dreadful fate which awaits them. The Freeman's Journal states that the members of the deputation offered themselves for examination on oath before the Privy Council, to prove that 148,000 human beings are exposed to the most horrible of deaths - starvation. In Newport 15 have actually died of hunger in four days. Fever, too, in its worst and deadliest form, is sitting in, and will soon rise to the wealthy and the noble. No words can describe the terrible scenes that overspread the country. Persons endeavouring to support life on sea weed, on nettles, and the common weeds of the field - poor mothers wailing for their children, and hordes of men roaming about asking for work and food - families stretched in sickness, without one to attend them.

It was reported that one hundred and seventy-six females from the convict Penitentiary in Cork were to be put on board the steamer Waterloo, on 24th June 1831. They were to be taken to the Hooghly then lying in the harbour and which was to depart at the first opportunity. [1].

They were examined by the surgeon and three women were sent back on shore immediately. - Mary Cavenagh, The convict indents record the total number of women embarked was 187.[3]

The Hooghly departed Cork on 24 June 1831.

The Hooghley was the next convict ship to leave Ireland bound for New South Wales after the departure of the Jane with male prisoners in April 1831.

Free Passengers

The Hooghly embarked female prisoners and 22 of their children as well as eleven free settlers who joined the vessel as steerage passengers. They included Mrs. Bridget Flood, Mary Wool and Mary Gorman age 26 all travelling to the colony to join their husbands; and Thomas Flood, a young boy. Mary Wool had died on the voyage out.

Surgeon James Ellis

James Ellis kept a Medical Journal from 15 May to 13 October 1831 -

The prisoners on their embarkation for the most part appeared in good health and spirits some few there were evidently desponding and ruminating on their fate; during the first fortnight all, with but one exception had suffered from sea sickness many very severely The winds at starting were strong and favourable for our proceeding to the southward so much so that on the 2nd July we came in sight of the Island of Palma, one of the Canaries, and as we proceeded on the voyage, the winds continued to favour us; crossing the Equator on the 20th of the same month and arriving in the vicinity of the Island of Tristan de Cunha on the 13th August. Up to this period we experienced with but little variation, mild and temperate weather. After this the weather turned bad and the hatches were required to be battened down in consequence of the water being taken in.

Two children of convicts and one female free settler (Mary Wool) died on the voyage. From the 4th August to the 11th September when east of the Cape of Good Hope, the ship experienced severe weather and was damp the entire time. The surgeon attributed the death of Mary Wool at least in part, to these difficult conditions. Gales and rain continued for most of the passage between the Cape of Good Hope and Bass Straits which they entered on 21st September.

The Hooghly came direct which was unusual for female convict ships at that time.

Port Jackson

They arrived at Sydney Cove on 27 September 1831 . A muster of 181 women was held on board by the Colonial Secretary Alexander Macleay on the 29th September. The following three women were all absent from the Muster - Elizabeth Gilligan was sent straight to the hospital in Sydney and Anne Leonard (alias O'Brien) and Mary Moore were sick in hospital on arrival.

Convicts Disembarked

The women were landed on Wednesday 5th October 1831 and assigned to settlers and townsfolk. The Sydney Herald reported that a considerable number of indifferent characters were forwarded to the factory [2].

There were seventy-one women who are recorded in the indents as being sent straight to the factory. As can be seen from the list below many had been transported for stealing clothing and shoes -

Mary Conway age 16 from Limerick transported for stealing money from her mistress.
Jane Carroll age 19 from Dublin transported for vagrancy
Mary Callaghan age 30 from Cork sent for stealing clothes
Bridget Connors age 21 from Limerick sent for stealing a handkerchief
Mary Connellan age 40 from Clare transported for house robbery (husband Michael Connellan convicted also)
Anne Dunne age 20 from Carlow transported for stealing linen
Jane Davis age 20 from Westmeath sent for stealing money
Anne Dillon age 20 from Clare transported for assault
Bridget Dwyer age 27 from Tipperary transported for stealing
Julia Fay age 21 from Dublin sent for stealing boots and shoes
Mary Foley age 19 from Kerry transported for vagrancy
Anne Freeman age 20 from Tipperary sent for man robbery
Catherine Gillespie age 28 from Tyrone transported for shop lifting (husband James Gillespie sent 1 1/2 years previously)
Honor Geary age 23 from Galway transported for pig stealing
Margaret Grady age 45 from Kerry transported for stealing a cloak (mother to no. 42)
Honor Guilfoyle age 30 from Galway transported for stealing frieze
Margaret Gibney age 40 from Meath transported for assault and robbery
Ellen Gamble age 22 from Tipperary transported for stealing shawls
Ellen Haffey age 40 from Cavan transported for having stolen goods on her person (son Robert Calligan also convicted)
Mary Healy age 22 from Dublin transported for stealing a handkerchief. Unfit for assignment. Lame of left leg
Mary Hickey age 19 from Limerick. Sent for stealing a coat
Honora Hurley age 21 from Limerick transported for stealing clothes
Honora Hammahan from Limerick sent for stealing money
Mary Hogan age 24 rom Limerick sent for stealing clothes
Bridget Hannan age 16 from Cork sent for stealing clothes
Susannah Irwin age 19 from Kilkenny transported for stealing clothes
Anne James age 16 from Carlow transported for stealing wheat
Mary Joyce age 21 from Mayo transported for stealing flannel
Mary James age 20 from Carlow transported for house robbery
Mary Kelly age 54 transported for having stolen goods in her possession
Hannah Kelly age 32 from Clare transported for receiving stolen goods (husband Patrick Conway transported about 10 years previously)
Elizabeth Kinshella age 38 from Tipperary sent for vagrancy
Mary Kelly age 16 from Waterford sent for stealing money
Eliza Loftus age 20 from Mayo transported for stealing clothes
Mary Molony age 22 from Waterford transported for vagrancy
Mary McGrath age24 from Waterford transported for street robbery
Mary Murphy age 20 from Dublin transported for stealing clothes
Ann Marmion age 18 from Galway transported for stealing clothes
Honora Murphy age 20 from Limerick transported for conspiracy to murder
Mary Monaghan age 38 from Limerick transported for stealing fowls
Cicely McCann age 25 from Limerick sent for stealing money
Judith Neill age 19 from Waterford transported for pledging
Bridget O'Donnel age 20 from Donnegal transported for stealing clothes
Ann O'Brien age 19 from Carlow transported for shop lifting
Catherine O'Brien age 21 from Tipperary transported for stealing money. (died at Parramatta 8 December 1831
Martha Prendergast age 38 from Kildare transported for stealing a watch and spectacles
Mary Palmer age 22 from Co. Kerry transported for conspiracy to murder
Alice Powers age 46 from Waterford transported for receiving a stolen handkerchief
Eleanor Powers age 21 from Waterford. Transported for stealing shoes (brother Maurice Powers sent four years ago)
Mary Quane or Fraher age 28 from Tipperary transported for house robbery. Husband Thomas Fraher sent on the Andromeda in 1830
Eliza Rorke age 19 from Dublin, Dressmaker. Transported for stealing calico
Mary Ryan age 25 from Galway transported for stealing clothing
Johanna Robertson age 19 from Kerry. Sent for stealing clothes (daughter of Margaret Grady on the same ship)
Catherine Rock age 24 from Leitrim. Transported for stealing money
Catherine Reilly age 21 from Cavan. Transported for stealing clothing
Catherine Ryan age 60 from Limerick transported for stealing sugar
Catherine Ryan age 28 from Galway. Transported for house robbery
Julia Read age 20 from Kilkenny. Transported for vagrancy
Honora Scally age 30 from Galway transported for coining
Margaret Sheedy age 24 from Limerick transported for house robbery
Bridget Sheedy age 22 from Limerick transported for man robbery
Alice Smith age 63 from Westmeath transported for stealing fowls
Jane Smith age 28 from Tyrone transported for stealing shirts
Eleanor Smyth age 26 from Tyrone sent for stealing lead
Mary Slevin age 30 from Tyrone sent for stealing clothes
Anne Searson age 25 from Tipperary sent for vagrancy
Margaret Shaughnessey age 24 from Limerick transported for receiving stolen goods
Bridget Troy age 20 from Wicklow transported for stealing clothes
Bridget Toddle age 60 from Kings County transported for stealing cloth
Bridget Tiernan age 23 from Louth transported for stealing clothes
Eleanor Whelan age 19 from Queens Co. transported for stealing clothes.

Departure of the Hooghley from Sydney

On 22nd October in Sydney departing former Governor Sir Ralph Darling embarked on the Hooghly for the voyage to England. The Sydney Gazette reported - 'The wind being rather boisterous, the procession was about half an hour in reaching the Hooghly, which was anchored near Pinchgut. The gentlemen in the accompanying boats followed the governor up on deck; where they remained until the anchor began to be weighed, when they bade His Excellency adieu, and returned into their boats'.

The Monitor reported - 'HE'S OFF! The Reign Of Terror Ended! The late Governor embarked this morning at ten and at 11 1/2, the Hooghly sailed, being helped out of harbour by the Steam boat.'

It was later reported the wife of Governor Darling gave birth to a daughter on the voyage between New South Wales and Canton.

Prisoners Belles

It wasn't long before the Hooghly ladies made their presence felt. They were often charged at the Police Office before being sent to the Female Factory at Parramatta; and soon their names were entered in the Principal Superintendent of Convict's List of absconding convicts as well....

Mary Ann Agnew, a recent importation per Hooghly made her maiden appearance, charged by Mr. Flynn, her master with walking off, bag and baggage, from his premises, and taking up her abode with a number of notorious characters. She was recommended a six weeks' specimen of Factory discipline, by way of opening her eyes a little. - Sydney Gazette 10 November 1831.

The list of charged at the Police Office on Monday was unusually long; some few of them were of a serious nature, but the majority the effects of that hydra headed monster, rum; no less than six of the damsels recently imported per Hooghly figured among the number -Sydney Gazette 24 November 1831.

The women per the ship Hooghly have turned out a rare set of incorrigibles, the Police office daily overflows with them, while the factory can bear testimony to their conduct. Sydney Herald 28 November 1831

Notes and Links

1). James Ellis was also surgeon on the convict ships Diana in 1833, Bengal Merchant in 1835 and the Waterloo in 1838.

2). The Hooghly was one of four convict ships bringing female prisoners to New South Wales in 1831, the others being the Kains, Palambam and the Earl of Liverpool. A total of 504 female convicts arrived in the colony in 1831.

3). City Limerick Quarter Sessions - The Recorder then proceeded to pass sentence on the following persons, who were engaged in rioting on the 25th June last - John Buckley, John Madden, Patrick Speerin ( a pensioner), Honora Hamahan, Margaret Shannon, and Catherine Lynch to seven years transportation each. - Freeman's Journal 26 July 1830.

4). Kings County Quarter Sessions - Elizabeth Farrell was convicted of stealing a shift, a comb and a frock, the property of Michael Myers, at Cappncur, on the 21st October. It appeared in evidence that she was a vagrant, and having been accommodated with a lodging by prosecutor, she decamped with a considerable quantity of his property, while prosecutor and his wife were at the fair of Tullamore, on which occasion they entrusted prisoner with the care of the house. She heard the well merited sentence of transportation for seven years pronounced without seeming to regard it. Freeman's Journal 26 January 1830.

5). Conviction of a whole family for murder - At the Limerick assizes Mr. Sergeant Blackburne was occupied from twelve o'clock at noon to eight o'clock at night, in the trial of John Murphy, Lawrence Lynch, John Dunworth, Margaret Murphy, Mary Murphy and Honora Murphy, for the wilful murder of Walter Burke, at Balinshinch, in that county, on the night of the 12th April 1829.The circumstances off this atrocious case appeared fully in evidence last Summer Assizes, and on that occasion James Murphy son of John Murphy one of the prisoners was tried before Judge Torrens, found guilty and executed, for the wilful murder off Timothy Neill, one of the keepers on his father's property. On this occasion fresh evidence was produced in the person of Margaret Heffernan, and the prisoners above named were convicted of the murder of Walter Burke, the second keeper on the night with his companion Neill.....His lordship passed sentence of death, execution and dissection, against the first three, for 17th March and sentence of death against the other three. The judgment of the Court elicited the loudest lamentations and the prisoners were removed under a strong guard to the county gaol, by torch light, bewailing their fate in the most pitiful cries. His lordship gave none of them any hope whatever of mercy. - Belfast Newsletter 23 March 1830 (Mary and Honora Murphy were transported on the Hooghley)

6). Limerick Assizes - Saturday March 13 - Elizabeth Browne was indicted for stealing two half crowns, the property of S. Dickson Esq., she being at the time in his service - Guilty.....The prisoner was sentenced to be transported for seven years. After the sentence the prisoner addressed the Court in a firm and collected manner, and concluded by requesting that her husband and children might be permitted to go with her, which the court said he had no power to grant. When the unfortunate woman was removing from the bar she was very much affected and fainted away...Freemans Journal 18 March 1830.

7). Londonderry Assizes - Jane McCrea and Jane Gardiner, for stealing from the person of Andrew Stewart, bank notes to the mount of 400 pounds and a silver watch at Derry - Guilty; transported 7 years. - Belfast Newsletter 13 April 1830.

8). Transportation of Female Convicts

Magnify the map above by scrolling then click on the ship icon to read accounts from the Journal of James Ellis on the voyage of the convict ship Hooghley to NSW in 1831. Enlarge the map using the icon on the top right.


[1] The Standard (UK) 24th June 1831

[2] Sydney Herald 10 October 1831

[3] Convict Indents. State Archives NSW Series NRS 12188. Item 4/4016 Microfiche 697