Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

Convict Ship Lady Kennaway - 1836

Embarked 300 men
Voyage: 123 days
Deaths 2
Surgeon's Journal - yes
Previous vessel: Elizabeth arrived 12 October 1836
Next vessel: Captain Cook arrived 13 November 1836
Master Robert Davidson
Surgeon Superintendent James Wilson
Convicts and passengers of Lady Kennaway identified in the Hunter Valley region

The Lady Kennaway was built at Calcutta in 1817. Prisoners were transported on the Lady Kennaway to Van Diemen's Land in 1835 and to New South Wales in 1836. [1]

On this voyage the prisoners were tried in counties in England, Scotland and Wales - Lincoln, London, Leicester, Hertford, Lancaster, Devon, Derby, Middlesex, Chester, Kent, Nottingham, Gloucester, Surrey, Cambridge, Berks, Cumberland, Stafford, Warwick, Bucks, Isle of Man, Bristol, York, Somerset, Norfolk, Essex, Northumberland, Salop, Bedford, Durham, Chatham (CM) Merioneth, Pembroke, Glamorgan, Perth, Glasgow, Inverness and Edinburgh. There were also men who were convicted in Trinidad, Dominica and Montserrat.

Military Guard

The Guard on this voyage in 1836 consisted of Major Baker and Lieut. Morris of H.M. 80th regiment, 25 rank and file of the 80th and five of the 50th regiment. Passengers included Mrs. Morris, 6 women and 5 children.

Surgeon James Wilson

Surgeon James Wilson kept a Journal from 21 April 1836 to 21 October 1836........

On 25th May we embarked 130 male convicts from the Justitia hulk at Woolwich, of whom

53 men were between 13 and 20 years of age;

57 men were between 20 and 30 years of age;

4 men were between 30 and 40;

5 men were between 40 and 50;

3 men were between 50 and 60 years of age and

1 man was aged 67.

The strength of nearly all the men was much below the natural standard. On the same day 70 men were embarked from the Ganymede hulk at Woolwich of whom:

17 men were between 15 and 20 years;

31 men were between 20 and 30;

13 men were between 30 to 40;

6 men were between 40 and 50;

2 men were between 50 and 60 and

1 of 66 years of age.

On the 28th May we embarked at Sheerness 100 male convicts from the Fortitude hulk at Chatham of whom:

19 men were between 17 and 20 years of age;

61 men were between 20 and 30 years of age;

14 men were between 30 and 40 years of age;

5 men were between 40 and 50 years of age and

1 was 53.' [2]


The Lady Kennaway departed the Downs 11 June 1836.


By the end of July, James Wilson was concerned for the health of the men -

On 25th July we had 13 persons on the sick list. Taking into consideration the character of the disease which had manifested, and the probability of their numbers being much increased in the course of the voyage still before us, I assessed it my duty to write the following letter to the master of the ship -

Sir, The disease scurvy having attacked some of the convicts and there being four aged convicts at present labouring under atrophies, it is my direction that you carry the ship under your command in to the harbour of Bahia it being the one nearest. Mooring her at some considerable distance from the shore. Complete here in water and then take on board such refreshments as may be there directed for arresting the progress of the said complaints.

The Guard and convicts were given fresh meat and vegetables with three oranges while in port and on sailing we took on board 6 live bullocks. With a proportion of vegetables for use at sea and some soft bread and oranges for the use of the sick.

We were six days in harbour. And to the happy effects which the refreshments procured at Bahia had upon the general health, not only of the sick whose numbers were reduced from 13 to 6, but which extended its influence over all, would I mainly attribute the much higher state of health in which the convicts were landed in Sydney than that they were embarked in England.' [2]

Port Jackson

Two hundred and ninety eight convicts arrived in Port Jackson on 12 October 1836. The voyage had taken 123 days.

The Sydney Gazette reported that the prisoners gave three cheers as the vessel was coming into the harbour and appeared much gratified that they had escaped the dangers of the sea.

The prisoners would have been marched to Hyde Park Barracks on landing. In November 1836 James Backhouse visited the Barracks......

The Hyde Park barrack is the principal depot of prisoners in the colony ; it is a substantial and rather handsome brick building, of three stories, enclosed in an open area, formed by buildings of one story, with sloping roofs resting against the outside walls, at the angles of which there are circular-doomed small buildings. Some taste is also displayed in the gateway and other parts. The lower story of the central building is chiefly the offices of the assignment-board, etc. The second and third stories are divided into large wards, in which the prisoners sleep in hammocks, in single tiers. Those who arrive by one ship occupy one ward, till taken away by the masters to whom they are assigned. This is a good regulation; it keeps them in some measure, from the contamination of the ' old hands.' The mechanics retained in the employment of government, and some others, are also lodged in separate wards. One ward in a side-building has a barrack-bedstead, or platform, on which the prisoners sleep side by side, without any separation. There are only ten solitary cells in this prison, in which flagellation is the usual punishment. One of the officers, who had been here only about fifteen months, said, upwards of one thousand men had been flogged in the course of that period ! He stated his opinion to be, that how much soever men may dread flagellation, when they have not been subjected to it, they are generally degraded in their own esteem and become reckless after its infliction. [4]

Notes and Links

1). James Wilson was also employed as surgeon on the convict ships Blenheim in 1834 and the Minerva in 1838 (VDL)

2). Detachments of the 50th regiment arrived on the Surry, Forth, Bengal Merchant Hooghley, Susan, Blenheim, Royal Admiral, Lady Nugent, Parmelia, James Laing, Hive, Hooghley, Captain Cook, Hero, Roslin Castle, Henry Porcher, Henry Tanner, Lady Kennaway and the Arab.

3). 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.

4). Old Australian Ships - The Register, Adelaide 23 December 1916

5). The Lady Kennaway - The Lady Kennaway was a barque built in 1817, at Calcutta, and was owned at that time by Thomas Ward, of Boston, England. She was of 584 tons, a large ship, and was a frequent visitor both to Sydney and Hobart. She carried troops, convicts, and passengers. In 1835 she was commanded by Captain Bolton, in 1841 by Captain Spencer, when she brought immigrants. In 1848 Captain Avery was in charge. Her voyages were irregular, and like many ships of the period she did a little whaling after leaving the ports at this end. Her present destination, or location, if afloat, cannot be ascertained, but her name is not in the Shipping Register of 1862. - Windsor and Richmond Gazette 2 November 1917

6). Image of the Lady Kennaway - Grosvernor Prints

7). National Archives. Reference: ADM 101/41/6 Description: Medical and surgical journal of His Majesty's convict ship Lady Kennaway for 21 April to 21 October 1836 by James Wilson, Surgeon Superintendent, during which time the said ship was employed in conveying convicts to New South Wales.

8). Charles Adolphus King (Charles Dolphus) arrived on the Lady Kennaway......Following a life of dissipation and debauchery as a young man in London, Charles King was convicted of burglary in 1835 and sentenced to 14 years transportation. He was transported to NSW where he was housed in convict barracks, and then worked in a road gang. He was then assigned as a servant in Sydney before being re-assigned to a master who sent him to the country as a shepherd and hutkeeper. For sheltering an escaped convict he was sentenced to a chain gang, where, he states, 'my life was that of wretchedness: flogging and hunger were the order of the day. He escaped and later after many adventures returned to England..........

Charles Adolphus King

The Narrative

Charles Adolphus King. aged 23, who pleaded guilty to being found at large before the period of his transportation had expired, wished to say a few words previous to his Lordship passing sentence upon him. and hoped he would be listened to patiently.

Turning to the jury he said that having already. to his shame and sorrow, been convicted by a jury of his country, he did not want their decision that day, but as gentlemen of a British jury, he hoped they would listen whilst he addressed himself to his Lordship.

It was nearly four years ago that he was transported for a burglary, from the New Bailey, Manchester, being then only 19 years of age. On receiving the sentence he did not feel it much, because he did not think he should have met with what he had since undergone. He went on board the hulks and after being there about a month he was drafted on board the Lord Kennedy. a convict vessel, which was about to sail to Sydney. He was anxious to go, because he thought it would better his circumstances, but he soon found he was mistaken.

After going on board the convict vessel, where there were so many of the same kind on board, and only being allowed to go on deck at certain periods, he soon found what it was to be under the severe discipline of a convict ship.

On arriving at Sydney a boat came alongside to take us on shore and land at different places those persons who had been specially doomed to work in the chained gang, with irons continually on their legs. In a day or two afterwards those who had received ordinary sentences were taken to the barracks. where the governor came and selected those persons who had been best recommended for their previous pond character, such as clerks, and others of the same kind. After remaining a short time in the barracks he was drafted to a small distance from Sydney, where he was compelled to work on the roads; but after being in that capacity for 12 weeks, he was applied to by a gentleman to act as servant for him - a gentleman well known in England.

Whilst he was working there, however, a day did not pass without some 20 or 30 of his companions being taken to the triangles. An order having been issued that all the convicts must leave the town of Sydney, he was transferred into a road party, and where they were working there was also a chained gang; and there, for the first time, he saw the miseries of transportation. Long before the stars had left the skies they were, roused to work, and after partaking of a miserable breakfast of homily, they went to work under a guard of soldiers. The clanking of their chains was most dismal.

Every gang had a pair of triangles; and, for the most trivial offence, or act of disobedience, they were brought before a military man, the case was stated to him, and the convict was immediately tied up and flogged, and then was sent to work again under the heat of a burning sun, and this might be repeated two or three times a-day for the least offence. At night they all lay down together in one apartment, with only a little bark as a bed, and should a word be spoken, or the least noise heard, the offender was ordered up by the sentinel on duty and he was either handcuffed or his hands tied behind him. and compelled to stand in the place till morning, and sent as usual to his work afterwards. It was here his life became a burden to him. One night, after working all day, he looked around him, and saw 300 men, all breakers of their country's laws, and for the first time in his life he felt the degraded and debased situation in which he was placed, and thought of obtaining his liberty.

It was there he became acquainted with a young man who had been 17 years in the colony, and it was to him he first spoke of liberty. One night they left the Stockade together and went through the bush, walking for two days without obtaining anything to eat. On the third, they saw some natives at a distance, but were at first afraid to go to them, as some of them did not possess friendly feelings towards the whites ; but at last they got some food from one of the women. They then threw away their shoes, lest their footsteps should be traced, knowing that their bare feet could not be distinguished from those of the natives. After travelling for some days longer they slept one night at the foot of a monument erected in honour of La Perouse. They cast lots which should watch whilst the, other slept, and it came to his lot to sleep. After sleeping some time he awoke from a dream, and Such a dream as he would never forget whilst life remained, but with which he would not trouble his Lordship. On awakening he found his companion asleep, so he allowed him to sleep on whilst he watched. He thought he heard footsteps coming - perhaps it was only conscience, but he did not waken his companion, knowing he was very much spent and nobody made their appearance. He watched by his companion until the spray from the sea (the tide being rising) and the rain awakened him.

They then proceeded towards Sydney, but did not go there, knowing they would be detected. Many a time he asked his companion what they should do, what he thought of giving themselves up to justice, for his life was totally miserable, and he would have been glad to have had what his Lordship s dog would have turned from him. He knew, if he had given himself up, to what he would have been doomed. He would have been treated worse than before. That night they saw a light on board a vessel, about two or three miles all, He knew the vessel was about to sail by seeing a blue Peter flying from the mast- head. They swam to her, and finding there was a piece of pork swimming at the end of the vessel, attached to a line, by the aid of it they were enabled to reach the main chains after which they managed to get below. Not long after, the searchers came aboard; and, also they looked all about the hold, they did not discover any person.

After the hatchways were put on again his companion came to him and said, from what he had heard the searchers say he feared they were going to smoke the vessel. which they sometimes did when they suspected any convicts were concealed. This alarmed him very much, and he thought of giving himself up but when his companion told him, for he was well acquainted with the laws oi the colony that. if he did so, he would be transported for 14 years to Norfolk Island, the worst of places for convicts, death to him had no terrors then. They then parted, bidding each farewell. His companion went to his hiding place, and he got up to his neck in a cask of water. He expected he should have died, but in a short time he became composed, for he knew if he died he would at least die a man, and that he considered what he never would have done if he had gone to Norfolk island. A short time afterwards I he heard them spreading the topsails, and if he ever felt joy that, indeed, gave him heartfelt joy. They knew not where the vessel was going. Neither did they care, so they left that wretched country behind them.

He remained in that cask for 12 or 14 days, he did not know which, but he believed it was about twelve days, and suffered pain during that time which he never would forget. During that period he had only seven biscuits to eat. When he was discovered he did not know, but when he came to himself the sailors were rubbing him and bathing him on the hatchways. The captain suspected they were runaway convicts, and asked them whether they were so or not. He told the captain they were not, as he well knew the penalty to which captains were liable for carrying away convicts. After they had been on board a short time he told the mate he could take his turn at the wheel, as he had been a sailor. This seemed to ease the captain's mind a little; but they afterwards learned that it was the captain's determination to turn back with them. When he heard this he was at the wheel, and as soon as he was relieved he informed his companion, who said he would rather jump over-board than return.

Having done so, they entered the water together, and when they were halfway to the to the shore his companion called, Charley, Charley, I'm afraid I'm sinking. He spoke to him and told him to be composed, and not beat against the water, but go gently along with them, as the tide was coming in at the time. Shortly afterwards he called out again, ' I'm sinking ' when observing something a-head which he took to be a shoal he told him to keep up his spirits as they would soon be ashore. On reaching what he took to be a shoal, he found to be an old man-of-war canoe turned upside down. He righted it and helped his companion into it who, not being acquainted With sitting in canoes upset it. He again righted it, put his companion into it, and reached the shore shortly afterwards. When they landed that night they saw fires at a distance, but supposing they were amongst savages, they did not near them. The next morning about eleven o'clock, as near as he could tell by the sun, a party savages came to them, and amongst them was a chief to whom he became better acquainted.

A dispute arose between his companion and one of the party, about a belt he wore round him, which he re- fused to give up, and a general attack was made against them. His companion was seized and taken into the woods, and he never saw him again alive. He himself received a spear wound in the shoulder, and when lying on the ground for some days, under the heat of a burning sun, he often put the arm out that he could use to pull the grass from the ground to eat, and put a pebble in his mouth to quench his thirst. In a day or two he became delirious and quite insensible.

When he came to his senses, he found a young native female bathing him and sucking the poison from his Wound, for he had been struck with a poisoned spear. She afterwards brought him fish to eat and water to drink, and one day when she came to him, she made signs that there was a white man in the bush. He went to the spot along with the Woman, and there be found the remains of his comrade, with scarcely a piece of flesh on his limbs. Whether his flesh had been eaten by the native wild hogs, or by the natives themselves, who, it is said, are very fond of the trunk of a man, he could not tell, but he rather thought it was done by the hogs.

He took a string and tied the legs of his comrade together, and with the assistance of the woman he buried him. Finding there was a little island about two miles out in the sea he and the female swam to it. He remained there sometime, the woman visiting him frequently, and bringing him fish to eat. When she was away he gathered shell- fish, and subsisted on them. Shortly afterwards in consequence of the Interference of the woman, he became reconciled to the natives of the country, and went twice to battle with them. Thinking of liberty again, and not liking some of the natives, he started again to obtain it. He bade the young female good bye, and left her, but when the boat had gone about half way to the ship, the woman jumped into the sea, and followed them, and she was taken on board.

The vessel proved to be the Argelius, from Havre de Gras they landed himself and the woman on an island where he got a situation under a missionary to assist in building a church, it was a wooden building. He then obtained another vessel, and came to London, leaving the woman with the missionary- When he arrived he had not a shoe to his feet, nor a place he could call his home. He came to Manchester, and remained there for a short time. He afterwards went to Liverpool, and shipped on board the Cumbrian bound to Quebec. On the 16th of November he came back again, and went to Manchester, where he was apprehended. If he were transported now he knew what would be his fate.

Mr. Justice Coleridge said he did not wish to prevent the prisoner from saying what he had to say in hopes of obtaining a mitigation of is punishment that he had no discretion,

The prisoner. - Then God help me. He would have to go to what he would not describe to his Lordship. At that moment he would quit life without a tear. He appealed to God Almighty, as the judge before whom he expected one day to stand, if he would not sooner that his Lordship Would consign him to die than transport him to the colony of New South Wales.

He therefore begged that his Lordship would consign him to the gallows rather than transport him. Mr. Justice Coleridge told him he had no discretion in the matter, he must be transported again, but previous to that he must suffer a short space of imprisonment. The sentence of the Court was, that he be imprisoned 3 months, and alter the expiration of that sentence to be transported for the term of his natural life.

Prisoner - That term shall be short.


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

[3] Convict Indents. State Archives NSW; Series: NRS 12189; Item: [X638]; Microfiche: 718

[4] Backhouse, James, Extracts from the Letters of James Backhouse