Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

Convict Ship Janus - 1820

Embarked: 105 women
Voyage: 150 days
Deaths 1
Tons 308
Surgeon's Journal: no
Previous vessel: Coromandel arrived 4 April 1820
Next vessel: Neptune arrived 16 July 1820
Captain Thomas Mowatt.
Surgeon Superintendent James Creagh
Follow the Female Convict Ship Trail
Follow the Irish Convict Ship Trail
Convicts and passengers of the Janus identified in the Hunter Valley region

The Janus was built in New York in 1810. [3]

Convicts Embarked

Both English and Irish female prisoners were transported on the Janus. English prisoners were received on board before the ship sailed to the Cove of Cork to embark the remainder.

Rebecca Connolly was embarked at Cork but appeared unhealthy to the surgeon and so was returned to the Depot.


The Janus sailed from the Cove of Cork on the 5th December 1819. On board were one hundred and five female prisoners and 26 children and free passengers.

Cabin Passengers

Free passengers included Rev. Philip Connelly and Rev. John Joseph Therry.

Rio de Janeiro

They arrived at Rio de Janeiro the 7th February 1820 and remained there a fortnight.

Death of the Surgeon

The death of the Surgeon Superintendent Dr. James Creagh, R.N occurred when the ship had arrived off Van Diemen's Land. He left an amiable wife and four infants who would not hear of his fate for several months.

Port Jackson

The Janus arrived in Port Jackson on 3rd May 1820.

Van Diemen's Land

On 16th May sixty-eight of the women were embarked on the Princess Charlotte bound for Van Diemen's Land. They were obliged at first to put back into port for a week because of unfavourable winds however soon resumed this second voyage. Twenty-five women were sent to Port Dalrymple and forty-three to Hobart. Their names can be found in the Colonial Secretary's Correspondence (Reel 6007; 4/3502 p.38).

Investigation in to the Conduct of Captain and Crew

Questions were raised as to the conduct of the Captain and crew towards the female prisoners on the voyage out and Governor Macquarie deemed it necessary that an investigation by a full Bench of Magistrates be conducted. The Bench of Magistrates, after due consideration, found that Prostitution did prevail to a great degree on board the Janus throughout the voyage from England, and that due exertions were not made on the part of the Captain and Officers to repress and prevent the same; and that the charges against Captain Mowatt and his Officers, individually were true and well founded in fact. Various people had been interviewed during the inquiry - two convict women Mary Long and Lydia Esden; Rev Connolly and Rev. Therry; Ann Moore, wife of Corporal Moore, 48th Regt., and Captain Thomas Mowat.

Thomas Mowat defended himself with the following submission.....

Conscious of having used my best endeavours to comply with the Instructions I received from the Honourable the Commissioners of His Majesty's Navy, in regard to the management of the Convicts and their treatment, while on board the Ship Janus under my command, I cannot avoid expressing the surprize, I experienced, at being called upon to answer before this Bench for charges of Irregularity; but I am convinced, when the Evidence is considered, which has been adduced in support of those charges, it must appear so inconclusive and vague, as to render it impossible for Gentlemen of enlightened minds to attach that crime to my character, which is attempted to be established, and which if true might subject me to serious Inconvenience.

Mrs. Moore, a passenger of good character and unimpeachable morals, whose Berth was in the prison room of the Female Convicts, and therefore, from her close communication and residence with the prisoners, was able to speak more distinctly as to their proceedings during the voyage and as to my conduct with respect to them, has distinctly stated that they were ordered down regularly every evening, and the Hatches were immediately fastened; that the Sailors were never down with the women at night, and only occasionally came into the prison room in the day time, if their duty required it; that She never knew or had reason to believe that a female convict was any length of time in my cabin; That two females (Lydia Esden and Mary Long), whose names in the course of the Examination were much adverted to, slept in Berths opposite her Bed place; and that she frequently saw them undress and go to bed;

That I punished some of the women by putting them on a Strait Waistcoat on occasion of their misbehaviour; and that all the Women were treated kindly and properly by me. In regard to the Evidence of The Reverend Mr. Connolly, a Priest of the Roman Catholic religion, I must beg to observe that it was given with a peculiar invidiousness, as regarded me, but with an obvious determination to represent, as absolutely blameless, all those of his own persuasion. He commenced his Testimony by saying that he observed a manner of familiarity between the Sailors and Women, but that it did not involve my Conduct; and that he presumed they had generally each their own partner, for that he has seen the Women come up from the Men's bench of berth.

It certainly seems that some intercourse did take place in consequence of a contrivance, that they had made to render insecure the bolt or fastening of the hatches; but there is no Evidence whatsoever that I either assisted or connived at the Act, or indeed knew it; and I must beg to remind the Bench that the prisoners were under the Care, Management and Superintendence of the Surgeon, whose duty it was to represent any irregularity, that required Correction; but from the commencement of the voyage to the day of his death, that Gentleman never made such a requisition or communication to me (which on Public Service it was incumbent on him to do in writing), as to render me amenable for any breach or disobedience of it ; indeed it seems the only way in which the Surgeon made any complaint was in rude words, that only did and could only produce an altercation, wherein (for it must be taken as much for me as against me) I denied the imputations thrown out; now, if the Surgeon had any serious ground of complaint, he would not have been so neglectful of his duty, as to omit writing to me on Service upon the subject, and calling for such assistance, as he might require at my hands; and from his never having done so, the only inference to be drawn is that he really had no ground of complaint; and I trust the wrangling words, that happened to pass between us in the course of a seven Months' Voyage, will not by any forced construction be made the foundation for a complaint, that I have deviated from my Instructions.

And it is in Evidence that I never refused to co-operate with the Surgeon, but on the contrary used my best endeavours to suppress the Intercourse between the Sailors and Women; at the same time however intimated my apprehensions that a Mutiny might ensue, if I was too rigid; and when it is considered, that so determined were the Men to have a communication open between themselves and the Women, that they assembled and removed the new bars obtained at Rio Janeiro, I think my apprehensions were not unfounded; and the Bench will not lose sight of the opinion, given in the Evidence of one of the Gentlemen, that it was utterly impossible for me totally to suppress the vice. In regard to the accusation against me of having a female, named Mary Long, as a constant companion in my berthplace, I most unequivocally deny it. She is the female, who washed for me during the voyage, and of consequence necessarily was sometimes in my cabin; but I protest that it was merely for the purpose of obtaining my linen to wash and mend, or bringing them back to me, when done; in the same manner as Mary Ore, Isabella Irvin and Ellen Molloy gave their Attendance on the Two reverend Gentlemen and the Surgeon

Ann Moore's evidence was in support of Captain Mowat gives insight into the living conditions on board the Janus -

I came out in the Ship Janus from England ; Captain Mowat was Master of that Ship ; Mr. Edgey was the Chief Officer ; Mr. Kay, 2nd Officer ; Mr. Craig was the Surgeon ; he died in the passage. I went on board the ship at Cork, the 6th Novr. 1819. Part of the female Convicts from England were then on board.

About three weeks or a Month after I had been on board, we sailed; my Cabin was adjoining where the Sailors were; some of the Convict women slept there ; there was a boarded Wainscot partition between the Sailors and us, but, if we shouted loud, we Could hear. I think, if a loud voice, we could distinguish if it was a Man or Woman's Voice. I have heard female voices, in where the Sailors were. I do not remember to have heard female voices in the night there ; the female Convicts were all in one hold ; there was no prison but the general Convict room and the sick Bay. As far as I know, the female Convicts were locked up of a night. I have never seen more between the Sailors and female Convicts, excepting seeing them walk about the Decks. I do not know of any female Convict having been in the Captain's Cabin for any length of time. I have not seen any there ; they might have been there and I do not know it. I could not see from my Cabin to the Captain's.

I do not know of Lydia Elsden's being often in the Captain's Cabin. I knew her and often spoke to her. I have seen her undress herself and go to her own bed. I slept in the large room with the Prisoners ; some of them slept in the same birth with me, sometimes four, sometimes three, sometimes two, and latterly a woman and a Boy. I slept there from my first going on board. I applied to the 2nd Officer, and he told me there was no place for me but the sick Bay; and I preferred being with the women. As far as I know, the female Convicts regularly slept in the Prison Room; the Bars and gratings were put on at night, and the Candles put out ; and I never knew a night that it was not so. The Surgeon Sup'd't, while he was alive, regularly read service to the Prisoners. I never heard him blame them for having intercourse with the Sailors. I have only frequently heard him check them for riotous Conduct and swearing. I have also heard him Check them for playing Cards. After the Surgeon's Death, Captn. Mowat used to Come down into the Prison and Check them for playing Cards and being riotous. I think the Captain has done everything in his power to keep them in order ; several were punished for fighting and rioting. I have seen some of the female Convicts tipsy. I do not know of any of the Sailors coming into the Prison, except when they had business. I heard no Complaints about provision.

I think Captain Mowat and his Officers were kind and did every thing they could to make the Prisoners and every body on board Comfortable; nothing ever occurred, that I know of, that induced me to think that any of the Prisoners had left the Prison during the night. Sworn before us this 17th Day of June, 1820
. [2]

Provisions used During the Voyage

Captain Mowat provided a quantity of rum from the stores of the vessel when supplies provided for the surgeon and passengers by the victualling department in England ran out before the end of the voyage. He later requested to be re-supplied from government stores to the amount of 26 gallons (118 litres!). Also provided by government to be used in case of illness was 69 bottles of red port wine, tea, sugar, chocolate, sago, scotch barley, ginger, allspice and black pepper.

Articles of comfort for use during the voyage included....mustard, soap, combs, needles, scissors, moist sugar, souchong tea, preserved meats, lemon juice, white thread and coloured thread.

Whales in Sydney Harbour

The Janus was also a whaler. In July when a pod of whales appeared off the Heads she joined in the pursuit -

The Sydney Gazette reported: Much amusement has been created during the last week to the crews of the whalers, the Janus now lying in the stream, and the Saracen at anchor within the heads, in the pursuit of the numerous whales that have made their appearance off the heads and within the harbour. So many as nine were observable on Saturday last. The boats of the Janus had the good fortune to succeed in taking two, which were towed alongside of the vessel on Thursday afternoon amidst loud cheering ;  and it is reported that the Saracen has procured another.

Departure from the Colony

In July the Janus left the colony bound for the sperm whale fishery. Those preparing to depart on her were Captain Mowatt, First Officer John Edges and Second Officer Alexander Ray.

Notes and Links

1). The Janus was one of three convict ships bringing female prisoners to New South Wales in 1820, the others being the Lord Wellington and Morley. A total of 306 female prisoners arrived in the colony in 1820.

2). Sarah Porter arrived free on the Janus. In 1822 she was sentenced to three years at Newcastle for stealing a silver coin worth 3 shillings. After a year at Newcastle she was sent to Port Macquarie. Her parents petitioned to have her freed in 1824. (Sydney Gazette)

3). Sophia Stratford from Surrey was sent to the Female Factory at Parramatta. She repeatedly absconded threatening to burn it down if she was sent there again and was obliged to be kept in the gaol. She was sent to Newcastle and later married Chief Constable James Calvert at Newcastle

4). Report of Commissioner of Inquiry - John Thomas Bigge.

5). Convicts and passengers of the Janus identified in the Hunter Valley region


[1] Bateson, Charles, Library of Australian History (1983). The convict ships, 1787-1868 (Australian ed). Library of Australian History, Sydney : pp.342-343, 383

[2] HRA, Series 1, Vol.X.,

[3] Lloyds Register