Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

Convict Ship Lady Ridley - 1821

Embarked: 137 men
Surgeon's Journal: yes
Master Robert Weir
Surgeon James Wilson R.N.


The Lady Ridley left Portsmouth in company with the Marshal Wellington. On the passage they touched at Rio de Janeiro, remaining there three weeks for refreshment.

Military Guard

Lieutenant Marshall of the 48th Regiment was officer of the guard.


The Lady Ridley arrived in Hobart on 27th June 1821.

Surgeon Superintendent James Wilson

James Wilson R.N., kept a medical journal from 17th November 1821 to 26th July 1821. On arrival in Hobart he presented the journal to the Lieutenant-Governor who declared it satisfactory. As well as the medical entries, the journal contains a copy of letters written by the prisoners thanking James Wilson for his care during the voyage. The prisoners were landed on 3rd July and inspected by the Lieutenant-Governor before being assigned to their occupations. They were said to have arrived in a very clean and healthy state. The surgeon's journal also reveals that there was acrimony between the surgeon and Captain Weir caused in part by the Captain's refusal to allow convicts on deck when the surgeon requested it.

Port Jackson

The Lady Ridley departed for Port Jackson on 15th July with James Wilson and Lieutenant Marshall on board.

In December surgeons James Wilson of the Lady Ridley, Peter Cunningham of the Grenada and Henry Ryan of the Claudine all departed for England via the Cape of Good Hope on the ship Brixton.

Notes and Links

1). Lady Ridley at sea - Image National Library of Australia

2). James Wilson was employed as Surgeon Superintendent on the convict ships Blenheim 1834 and Lady Kennaway 1836 to NSW and the Minerva in 1838 (VDL)

3). William Comstive is the only convict of the Lady Ridley so far identified in the Hunter Valley. William Comstive was a linen weaver. He became a leader of the Yorkshire West Riding Revolt of April 1820 and was tried at York Gaol Delivery with several other men on 9 September 1820 and sentenced to transportation for life for high treason. He received a Ticket of Leave in Hobart in February 1824. On 9 May 1834 he was convicted of forging a bill and a lease. His accomplice Thomas Houghton was acquitted. William Comstive was sent to NSW on the Ariel.

He received a Ticket of Leave 42/3320 on 20 December 1842 for the district of Sydney, so long as he remained in the service of government as messenger in the Audit Office. The Ticket reveals a little of his colonial history - He had been tried at the Supreme Court in Hobart Town in May 1834 for forging a bill and sentenced to Norfolk Island for life. This sentence expired on 26 October 1841. The 1842 Ticket was altered to the Maitland district on 24 February 1843, as he had left the situation as messenger at the Audit Office. The ticket was cancelled as he was unable to support himself in August 1845.

He was a resident at the Lunatic and Invalid establishment in Sydney in January 1853 when he gave evidence in a murder inquest.

He may have died c. 1856, the year questions were raised in Parliament regarding Political Exiles:

In 1856 the question regarding Political Exiles was raised in Parliament - Whether, under the recent Act of Amnesty granted by Her Majesty to all political exiles, orders had been given for the liberation of the ten following prisoners, convicted of high treason at the York assizes of September, 1820, and transported to Van Diemen's Land by the ship Lady Ridley in 1821: - William Comstive, William Rice, Richard Addy, Joseph Frith, Charles Stanfield, John Birkenshaw, Benjamin Rogers, Joseph Chapel, Benjamin Hanson, and Michael Downing?

No record of the conviction of those individuals was to be found at the Home Office. They together with thirteen other persons - making in all twenty-three - had been tried at York in 1820, when Lord Sidmouth was at the head of the Home Department, and had been induced to plead guilty to a charge of high treason, upon the condition that their lives should be spared. Out of the twenty-three who had been placed upon trial thirteen had been sentenced to only short periods of imprisonment or transportation, and when the recent amnesty to political exiles had been proclaimed, he had made a communication to the Home Office as to whether indulgence would not be extended to the other ten whose names were comprised in his question. The answer to that communication had been, that there was no record of their conviction at the Home Office, or of their present whereabouts, and his object in calling the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to the subject now was, that the knowledge that they had received Her Majesty's pardon might, by means of the press, be conveyed to those individuals, wherever they might happen to be. The charge made against them had arisen out of a seditious meeting which had been held at Grange Moor, near Barnsley.

Sir George Grey said, that it was not remarkable that no record of the conviction of these men was to be found in the Home Office, because it occurred some thirty-six years ago, and these ten persons were in the following year transported either to Van Diemen's Land or New South Wales - he believed to the latter colony. From other sources of information he had ascertained that the offence of which they were convicted was similar in character to those for which pardons had recently been granted. It was right that if any of these persons were living they should be included in the amnesty, and instructions had been sent to the colonies that they should be set at liberty. -