Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

Convict Ship John Barry - 1821

Embarked: 180 men
Voyage: 144 days
Deaths: 0
Surgeon's Journal: yes
Previous vessel: Grenada arrived 16 September 1821
Next vessel: Hindostan arrived 24 November 1821
Captain Roger Dobson
Surgeon Superintendent Daniel McNamara
Follow the Irish Convict Ship Trail
Convicts and passengers of the John Barry identified in the Hunter Valley region

The John Barry was built at Whitby in 1814. This was the second of four voyages transporting convicts to New South Wales, the others being in being in 1819, 1836 and 1839.


On 16 May 1821, the John Barry sailed from Deptford for Cork to take on prisoners for Port Jackson. William Elyard, Surgeon and Superintendent of the John Bull, his wife and five children, were passengers for Cork; also, James Mitchell, Assistant Surgeon of the 48th Regiment and Robert Fopp. Henry Hughes and his wife, were passengers for N.S.W., by order of the government.


The John Barry anchored in the Cove of Cork on 22 May.

The prisoners to be embarked on the John Barry were probably held in the Convict Depot at Cork to await transportation. The Third Report of the Committee of the Society For the Improvement of Prison Discipline ... by T. Bensley was released in 1821 and included the following summary of the Cork Depot -

Cork Convict Depot

In reply to your communication requesting information relative to alterations and improvements, and internal management, etc. of the Convict Penitentiary Prison at Cork for the last year - No alterations have taken place: the only classification is that of separating the male and female convicts, the prison admitting of no other.

With respect to employment, many of the male convicts have been, and are employed in re-making and improving the yards and passages, whitewashing, etc. Tailors and shoemakers from amongst them are also constantly employed. The remainder of them attend the school, which has been established in this prison since 1820, where great improvement has been made by many of them in spelling, reading, writing, and arithmetic; and the school supplied by the Protestant and Roman Catholic chaplains, with religious and other books, which are daily read: the good effects are evident in their general good conduct.

The female convicts are constantly employed in spinning, knitting, sewing, washing, and mending, etc. which has the best possible effect on their conduct. I also think it right to mention, with respect to the officers of this prison, that to their great attention is chiefly owing the regularity of such prisoners, as convicts who are committed to it for the purpose of being shipped and banished to New South Wales. Many convicts committed to this from other prisons, and reported to be men of bad character, have been in a great measure reclaimed, previous to their banishment. With respect to its cleanliness, it is at all times in the most perfect order.

Free Passengers

Passengers travelling on the John Barry to New South Wales included Mr. Doyle and his niece.

Surgeon Daniel McNamara

Daniel McNamara kept a medical journal from 16 May to 10 November 1821

Military Guard

On 30 May 1821, the guard, consisting of Lieut. McConchy and 29 men of the 1st Regiment (Royal Scots), with four women and two children, embarked on the John Barry.

Convicts Embarked

Ninety male convicts were received and a bed, blanket and pillow were issued to each, however bad weather prevented more convicts embarking the following day. Another ninety men were embarked on 1st June. The surgeon commented that the prisoners were well behaved and that he had found them at prayers in the prison. The prison was fitted up as a chapel for Sunday prayers and some of the sermons of the Rev. George Burder were delivered. When the surgeon delivered Rev. Burder's sermon on the Prodigal Son, some of the prisoners hung their heads and wept. Bibles, testaments and prayer books supplied by the Ladies Bible Society were distributed. Paper, quills, school books and slates were received for the use of the prisoners. Fires were kept going in stoves all day.

Departure from Cork

After being inspected by Dr. Trevor, Inspector of Prisons at Cork, they sailed at 5am on Saturday 16 June 1821. Most of the prisoners were soon suffering with sea sickness. Reports of the prisoners seizing the ship were dismissed by Daniel McNamara as just talk, to be expected among persons of idle and vicious habits however, precautions must have been taken, as several days later, the prisoners petitioned the doctor stating they had no thoughts of mutiny. McNamara re-assured the prisoners that though precautionary measures had been taken, he believed the reports false and unfounded.

The Voyage

This was to be an unusual voyage in that surgeon Daniel McNamara had great confidence that the prisoners were mostly of good character. Despite several reports of plots of mutiny and escape, the surgeon dismissed them all, fully confident that the prisoners, who regularly attended his sermons, would not entertain mutiny. Each time there was talk of a mutiny, the guard was found to be at fault. McNamara considered them to be the dregs of the military. Despite this confidence in the prisoners he nevertheless took precautions, and there were 64 cases of punishment, mostly by handcuffing but also by returning to double irons or stopping wine allowance. There were no floggings and the prisoners were given a good report by surgeon McNamara, however he regretted the behaviour of the guard, one of whom was flogged for disobeying orders; others became drunk and threatened to fire into the prisoners.

On board the prisoners were put into three divisions of 60 men each and allowed on deck. School books and paper were handed out and those unable to read placed in messes with convicts willing to teach them. The surgeon later remarked that the school was doing well.


By the 30th June they were near Madeira. Prisoners were well behaved and paid great attention to the routines of cleaning the decks and prison. The Surgeon commented at this time that there were very few of what are esteemed bad characters in a convict ship amongst them. On the 18th July the surgeon heard of another plot to seize the ship involving some of the convicts and some of the guard. He did not believe the convicts would be involved but did believe that the guard would, he considered them the very refuse of the first battalion of their regiment (1st or Royal Scots). He did not believe many of the convicts even knew of the plot. He felt confident that his measures of changing the divisions of convicts regularly and only allowing them on deck 60 at a time would lessen the chance of collusion. In addition most had leg irons on. One of the soldiers James Murphy was placed in the prison with the convicts after injudicious language by his wife and reports that he was connected with the planned mutiny.

The surgeons journal contained the report of an incident that occurred on 18th August - at about half past seven in the evening a musket shot was heard on deck, quickly followed by two more and then more shots from the soldier's quarters into the prison. The Surgeon, the Master and the Officer of the Guard, finding no disturbance on deck called for firing to stop but by then about a dozen shots had been fired into the prison. On opening the door to the prison, the prisoners were found to be in their beds and three of them wounded. Patrick Duffy and Thomas Coyle were severely wounded. The surgeon determined that they were lying in their beds, which were opposite the main hatchway, when they received the wounds. The sentry who first fired his musket was Patrick Leary, claiming that noise was made in the prison and he ordered them to be quiet before shooting. It was suspected that Leary was drunk and he was later arrested at the surgeons insistence.

Rio de Janeiro

On 20th August they arrived in Rio de Janeiro where they took on fresh provisions and water, departing from there on 29th August. They experienced bad weather on 9th September and sermons were postponed during a gale when water washed over the deck and entered the hatchways. On 1st November at daylight, they sighted land near the Derwent river in Van Diemen's Land and by Sunday 3rd November they were off the coast near Jervis Bay. After Sunday sermons had been delivered the surgeon advised the prisoners to future good behaviour and promised to pardon all of the offences committed on board.

Port Jackson

They anchored at Port Jackson on 7 November 1821, the same day the Royal George commanded by Captain Powditch arrived in Sydney Cove with the new Governor Sir Thomas Brisbane.

Governor Macquarie had departed on 1st November for a tour of inspection to Newcastle and Port Macquarie and so was not on hand to address the prisoners as he often did. Lieut-Governor Erskine inspected the men instead.


There were no deaths on the voyage and one hundred and eighty prisoners and guard were landed on 10 November 1821, all in good health.

The Surgeon reported to the Lieutenant Governor the incident of 18 August, the guards' good behaviour since, his promise to the prisoners to not forward any complaints against them and the fortunate recovery of the wounded men. His intention of prosecuting Leary was put aside on the prospect of gaining some indulgence for the wounded men and other considerations.

Notes and Links

1). One of the seamen Benjamin Adams was discharged from the vessel on arrival.

2). Daniel McNamara's Medical Journal - UK National Archives - This is a large PDF file of the original document.

3). Daniel McNamara was also surgeon on the convict ships Lord Melville in 1817 and Canada in 1819

4). The John Barry was advertising to depart for England in December 1821. Mr. John Slight First Officer; Mr. John Foster, Second Officer; and Mr. Vinnis, Third Officer to leave on her.

5). Heroes - by John Pilger

6). Return of Convicts of the John Barry assigned between 1st January 1832 and 31st March 1832 (Sydney Gazette 14 June 1832)..... William Crawford - Errand boy assigned to James Woodward at Brisbane Water

7). Ship Conditions

8). Commissioners Enquiry

9). Convicts and passengers of the John Barry identified in the Hunter Valley region

Boheen, John

Breon, William

Burdett, James

Campbell, Patrick

Casey, John

Collin, John

Connor, James

Coyle, Thomas

Crawford, William

Cullen, John

Divine, Bernard

Dore, Michael

Fagan, Patrick

Farrell, Garrett

Flanagan, Timothy

Fox, Patrick

Gordon, Bryan

Innis, James

Johnston, James

Maron, Michael

Mathews, Patrick

McGrath, James

McTear, Joseph

Morrissy, Patrick

Mullen, John

O'Neill, Edward

Reel, Bryan

Reed, Thomas

Reel, Bryan

Reilly, James

Rice, Edward

Walsh, Patrick

Walsh, Henry

Weldon, Patrick

Wood, Patrick


[1] Bateson, Charles Library of Australian History (1983). The convict ships, 1787-1868 (Australian ed). Library of Australian History, Sydney : pp.344-345, 383

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

[3] National Archives. Part transcription of the Surgeons Journal. ADM 101/38/2/2