Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

Convict Ship John - 1837

Embarked: 260 men
Voyage: 130 days
Deaths: 5
Surgeon's Journal: yes
Previous vessel: St. Vincent arrived 5 January 1837
Next vessel: Norfolk arrived 12 February 1837
Captain Adam Dixon
Surgeon Superintendent Charles Inches
Convicts and passengers of the John identified in the Hunter Valley

The John was built in London in 1811. This was the only voyage of this vessel transporting prisoners to Australia. [1]

Military Guard

The embarkation of the Guard consisting of Ensign Christie of the 80th regiment, 30 rank and file of the 80th regiment, six women and five children took place on 17th September 1836 at Deptford.

Free Passengers

Passengers included D.A.C.G. Goodsir, Mrs. Goodsir and Master Goodsir.

Convicts Embarked

One hundred male convicts were embarked at Woolwich on 19th September. The remainder of 160 were received at Sheerness on 22 September.

Surgeon Charles Inches

Charles Inches kept a Medical Journal on the voyage out however it was later lost in the shipwreck of the Medora and the journal he submitted in London was a summary..........

The prisoners generally looked in good condition at first especially those received at Sheerness from Chatham the others from Woolwich less so. It was soon found that of the 50 received from the Justitia a considerable proportion were unhealthy. The weather at the time of embarkation was exceedingly bad and severely trying to all.

Rains were almost incessant for nearly a months and gales of wind frequent. The decks above were subsequently always wet and below impracticable to be kept dry or well ventilated. We left Sheerness on the 30th September and anchored in the Downs same night. Here we were detained till the 6th October by heavy gales and contrary winds. For the next week we experienced a succession of gales and rainy weather which compelled us to sail for Falmouth where we anchored on the 13th. The morning after arrival here a prisoner James Sinclair (age 22) died. At Falmouth we were detained a week by mutiny of the crew who refused to proceed to sea in the ship.

Twenty-one of the crew were implicated and 11 were landed and committed to the town prison for one month. Their names were Robert Gowlett, 45; Robert Colman, 25; Thomas Rosevear, 23; Peter Poor, 25; John Job, 37; Thomas Freeman, 22; Joseph Winlay, 33; George Jamieson 35; James Jones, 25; John Robins 28 and William Ralph 17.

The weather having improved our stay in this port was very beneficial to the Guard and prisoners allowing them to recover from sea sickness. By this time and shortly after several cases of intermittent fever presented all of which prisoners had come from the Justitia. On the Friday 21st October we put to sea and after a few days a case of scurvy presented in a boy who had previously laboured under this disease while in the Hulk and been much in hospital for it. Though he improved so much as to get quit of all external symptoms and to be twice discharged from the sick list he ultimately sank under it (Peter McQuade age 15).

A third fatal case of phthisis presented after being on board a fortnight. This man had been nearly twelve months in the hulk hospital for this complaint. Though he improved considerably on board, the heat of the tropics was too much and he sank rapidly. (Samuel Halford age 22). A fourth fatal case occasioned in a prisoner George Beamish age 44. Symptoms indicative of impending apoplexy presented and he sank exhausted while crossing the Equator. The fifth and last fatal case was that of Louis Gomsell a West Indian who during the voyage was always in very delicate health suffering from frequent colds coughs and debility. Chronic Bronchitis carried him off in the end just a few days from Sydney.

Port Jackson

The John arrived in Port Jackson on 7 February 1837 after a voyage of 130 days and more rain and moist weather than the surgeon had ever encountered before on any previous voyage.

In Sydney on 21st July, Charles Inches embarked on the Medora bound for London which was wrecked near Bahia the following September. Other passengers on the Medora who were shipwrecked with Charles Inches included the three Misses Potter Macqueen and Master Macqueen, Miss Arked and Mr. Gilbert Smith.

Loss of the Medora - Sydney Herald 28 December 1837

Notes and Links

1). Charles Inches had previously been employed as surgeon on the convict ships William Glen Anderson in 1831 (VDL) Portland in 1833 and Westmoreland in 1835

2). Select here to find out more about Bushranger John Thompson who arrived on the John

3). Convicts and passengers of the John identified in the Hunter Valley

4). Detachments of the 80th regiment arrived the Lady Kennaway, Lloyds, Norfolk, Bengal Merchant, Asia, Captain Cook, Earl Grey, St. Vincent, John, Prince George, Mangles, Heber, Theresa, Calcutta, Eden, Emma Eugenia and Blundell.


[1] Bateson, Charles Library of Australian History (1983). The convict ships, 1787-1868 (Australian ed). Library of Australian History, Sydney : pp.354-355, 390

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