Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

Convict Ship John Barry - 1836

Embarked: 321 men
Voyage: 118 days
Deaths: 3
Surgeon's Journal: yes
Previous vessel: Royal Sovereign arrived 12 December 1835
Next vessel: Susan arrived 7 February 1836
Captain John Robson
Surgeon Superintendent James McTernan
Prisoners and passengers of the John Barry identified in the Hunter Valley

The John Barry was built at Whitby in 1814. Convicts were transported to New South Wales on the John Barry in 1819, 1821, 1836 and 1839.

Some of the convicts had been tried and convicted at the Old Bailey, imprisoned in Newgate and sent to the hulks before being embarked on the John Barry. Select here to find out what it may have been like to be imprisoned in Newgate in 1835.

Convicts Embarked

On 31st August convicts were embarked from the Euryalus and Fortitude Hulks moored at Chatham.

Military Guard

The Guard consisted of Lieutenant-Colonel (Cudbert) French, Lieutenant McDonnell and Ensign Smart of H.M. 28th Regiment, Vincent Chiodette, Bandmaster, Mrs. Chiodette, and thirty rank and file of the 28th regiment, seven women and three children.

Convict ships bringing detachments of the 28th regiment included Recovery, Marquis of Huntley, Charles Kerr, Westmoreland, Norfolk, Backwell, England, John Barry, Susan, Waterloo, Moffatt, Strathfieldsaye, Portsea, Lady McNaughten and Royal Sovereign.


The John Barry departed Torbay on 21 September 1835 with 321 male prisoners.

Surgeon James McTernan

James McTernan kept a Medical Journal from 14 August 1835 to 4 February 1836. He makes no mention of amusements that the convicts of the Eliza participated in or of boxing matches that he had organised on the voyage of the Lady Harewood in 1831, however he was a well experienced Surgeon Superintendent this being his sixth voyage and he recognised the benefits of exercise as well as cleanliness.

He insisted on co-operation between the prisoners and enforced a strict adherence to a regime that he had found previously to be of advantage -

At the commencement of the voyage I much feared the invasion of my old enemy the Cholera so severe were the few bowel complaints which first presented themselves. Its malignancy gave so much apprehension and long continued boisterous weather producing sea sickness and confinement below increased my fears, yet with the exception of one case none continued with serious illness.

Notwithstanding the unfortunate commencement of the voyage, immunity may be mainly attributed to the following system from which I never deviated - Forming the convicts into seven divisions I gave to each division a specific morning for being mustered on deck at day light and without shoes or stockings, for the purpose of exercise in washing decks and filling the bathtub and buckets for their own and the use of the remaining divisions which followed in due procession, so that by seven o'clock all had washed their persons. After breakfast the division of the day was mustered, legs and arms bared for examination each having his bed blanket and pillow for inspection, after which the chief boatswain superintended their being aired on the forecastle at all times that the weather permitted. Whilst this work was going on above the division of the previous day was employed in the cleanliness and comfort of the prisoner's water closets windsails and stoves. The certainty of a commensurate punishment for any dereliction in these duties instituted a regularity in the performance of them as well as a systematic course of exercise and cleanliness to all. To the proper and noiseless performance of these duties my own presence was necessary and never wanting, and in the high southern latitudes, I had nearly prevailed on myself to relinquish my plan so bitterly cold were the mornings. The certain belief that its effects had been thus far satisfactory overruled my feelings of compassion for their shivering limbs and I trust that the deductions which I may draw from this description may light me in my future course.[1]

The Voyage

William Jackman claimed to have arrived as a crew member on the John Barry and later recorded some of the events of the voyage (*dates and people mentioned in the narrative do not correlate with other records)........

We got under weigh, sailed down the Thames, and stood out upon our long voyage., I say long, the distance from London to Sydney being reckoned in round numbers at 14000 miles. The John Barry was a government vessel and freighted with male convicts. The ship's crew, including officers and common sailors was about thirty, beside which we had on board not far from an equal number of marines.

The first land we made was Tenerife where we took in three bullocks, and thirty pipes of water. Here the people of the island who are principally Spanish, came off to the ship with various productions of the place, such as oranges, grapes and wine for the purpose of trafficking with us. We had lain there but a short time, when the Runnimede arrived with another cargo of convicts for Hobart Town which made it necessary for us to proceed upon our voyage; as the Admiralty forbids two convicts ships to lie together in a foreign port, unless a man of war be there at the time. We were obliged, though in the night, to get up our anchor and proceed on our voyage without having completed our supplies.

When off the Canary Islands, it was about 10 at night we were struck by a sudden squall which threw us on our beam ends, and nearly drove us ashore. Such, indeed, was our dangerous proximity to the rocks, at one moment, that we could have reached them by the throw of a biscuit. True our ship soon righted; but, our topmast went by the board, our jib went to shivers, and our foresail was taken clean from the rovings, At this crisis, though our ship had regained an even keel, the prisoners were under the panic of apprehension that she was going down. This produced a loud uproar, and a general rush upon the hatches, for the purpose of gaining the deck and possessing themselves of the boats. The sentinel, who was over the hatchway, fired an alarm, and the marines were ordered to stand to their arms, and shoot the first man who made his appearance. This had the salutary effect of subduing one great fear, by another still greater. The insurrection ceased. For their greater comfort, poor fellows! the captain told them, that, if the ship went down, they would all - officers, crew, and convicts - go together, and be buried in one coffin.

The blow was soon over; so that, with what little sail we could make, under favour of a gracious providence, daylight showed that we were clear of the islands. The blast had gone by; but it left us a nice little piece of work. Happily, however we had two good carpenters on board, and plenty of spare spars; and by the time, which was not long, that the spars were ready to go aloft a new suit of sails was ready to be bent on to them. In two days, to be brief, we were bearing away once more for the South Pacific. Beside losing a sailor by sickness, we came very near losing a prisoner by drowning, in the following manner. For bathing purposes, the prisoners were restricted, by the regulations of the ship, to a large tub, which served for their exclusive accommodation. One of their number, however, determined, one calm day, to have the luxury of a sea bath, out and out; and over he went accordingly. He had calculated on being able to keep up with the ship, but was out in his reckoning, as she was under rapid motion and he fell fast astern. The prisoners sung out, that a man was overboard; but the mate, who was walking the poop at the time coolly said: 'let him go, for an example to the rest'.

The Doctor, who was in the cabin heard the alarm , and, immediately making his appearance on deck, demanded of the mate, why he did not lower a boat, and pick that man up. The latter gave, for answer, that he did not think it worth his while to do that for a convict. The supercargo ordered him to lower and send off a boat immediately adding that if he ever acted in that manner again he would confine him to his cabin. The boat was lowered; but, by the time we reached the poor fellow he was a long way astern, and could have kept his head above water but a very little longer. At any rate, we found he had been spoken for; for we had scarcely got him into the boat and begun pulling for the ship, when a large blue shark came alongside of us, and looked disappointed.

The rascal dogged us to the ship. The first thing done, upon gaining her deck, was to put the prisoner in irons. The next day the marines were ordered to stand to their arms. The ship's crew were also called on deck, and every man armed with a pistol and cutlass. None of us knew to what all this tended, till the prisoners were marched out, the boatswain ordered to rig the gratings, and the picked-up convict of the day before was brought aft on to the quarter deck. Then it was plain that the poor fellow, in default of having been caught by the shark was to catch the cat. In his long lecture, the Doctor told him, that, as he was the first man who had been brought up for punishment, he intended to make him an example; and that he should now give him four dozen for the benefit of his health. Then followed the seizing up and the infliction of the four dozen on the culprits bare back, which was cut up in a manner which I will not pain the reader by attempting to describe. The display of force was doubtless well timed in its effect upon the prisoners. They saw that resistance or a rescue was impracticable, and stood out the scene in silence; immediately after which they were all turned forward, and every man went his way
The Australian captive: or, An authentic narrative of fifteen years in the life of William Jackman

William Jackman deserted his ship soon after arrival and made his way to Launceston.

John Barry Becalmed

On Friday 30th October the John Barry became becalmed. They met with the missionary vessel Louvre with the Rev. Howard Malcom of the Missionary Society on board, also becalmed. Rev. Malcom later recorded the encounter in his journal: -

Friday, 30 October - The monotony of a calm (for the N. E. trade wind has already failed us,) has been agreeably relieved yesterday and to-day by the neighbourhood of two ships, much larger than our own: - one English, and the other American.

The English ship, (the John Barry, of London,) is full of convicts for Sydney, in New South Wales: we understood the captain when he spoke us, that there were 200 of them. They swarmed on the whole deck, and in the rigging, while men under arms stood sentry over them. There were probably some troops also on board, as there were several officers on the quarter-deck, and a fine band of music. This was politely mustered yesterday, when we were as near as we could safely sail, and played for an hour or two, very delightfully. As the music swelled and died away in heaving and exquisite cadences - now gay - now plaintive, and now rising into martial pomp, it not only refreshed, and soothed, and exhilarated, but awakened trains of not unprofitable thought. They belonged to our fatherland - they came from the noblest nation earth ever saw  - they were but lately arrayed against us in horrid war - they bore to a distant home, a motley crew of refined and vulgar, educated, and ignorant, now reduced by sin to common convicts, and perpetual banishment.

And was God acknowledged among them? Did any of them go to Him in their distresses? Would they in exile finish an inglorious life, and meet the second death? Or, will some faithful preacher find them there, under whose admonitions they may recover earthly honour, and find eternal life?'

Port Jackson

The John Barry arrived in Port Jackson on 17 January 1836 with 318 male prisoners. On Wednesday 20 January the Head Quarters and Band of the 28th regiment disembarked and were escorted to the Barracks by the Band of the 17th regiment. The Band of the 28th was said to be of a superior description.

Arrival of the convict ship John Barry in 1836 - Sydney Gazette 19 January 1836

£15,300 in specie was brought out on the John Barry as well as a lanthorn (lantern) for Newcastle Heads -

A lanthorn with eight reflectors has arrived by the John Barry. It is to be erected on an iron pillar on the South Head of Newcastle Harbour, where it is much wanted; the present miserable apology for a light there always going out in squally rainy weather when there is most danger. (Sydney Monitor 20 January 1836)

Deaths During the Voyage

The surgeon recorded that three prisoners died on the journey out -

J.H. Ward (possibly Edward Ward) age 18 died after eating too much; Morgan Davies age 52, died after suffering paralysis and debility and William Lees aged 65 died after falling down the hatchway.

Departure From Port Jackson

The John Barry departed Sydney in March bound for Bombay with a detachment of the 17th regiment.

Notes and Links

1). James McTernan was also surgeon on the convict ships Ocean in 1823 Sir Charles Forbes in 1827 (VDL) Asia in 1828, Eliza in 1829, Lady Harewood in 1831 and the Sara in 1837 (VDL)

2). Find out more about bushranger Henry Ellis and surgeon John Waugh Drysdale who arrived as prisoners on the John Barry

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


[1] Journal of James McTernan. UK, Royal Navy Medical Journals, 1817-1857 Original data: The National Archives. Kew, Richmond, Surrey.

[2] Bateson, Charles Library of Australian History (1983). The Convict Ships, 1787-1868 (Australian ed). Library of Australian History, Sydney : pp.352-53.