Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

Convict Ship Marquis Cornwallis - 1796

Embarked: 163 men; 70 women
Voyage: 186 days
Deaths 11
Surgeon's Journal: no
Previous vessel: Sovereign arrived 5 November 1795
Next vessel: Indispensable arrived 30 April 1796
Captain Michael Hogan
Surgeon Matthew Austin;
Surgeon John Hogan
First Officer Hugh Reid; Midshipman William Roberts
Follow the Irish Convict Ship Trail
Follow the Female Convict Ship Trail
Prisoners of the Marquis Cornwallis identified in the Hunter Valley

Portrait of Il Netunno, later Marquis Cornwallis, under sail F.B. Solvyns, 1793 State Library NSW
Portrait of Il Netunno, later Marquis Cornwallis, under sail oil painting by] F.B. Solvyns, 1793. State Library NSW

Military Guard

Officer in charge of the detachment of the New South Wales Corps forming the Guard on the Marquis Cornwallis, was Ensign John Brabyn. He was about thirty six years old and had only been appointed to the position of Ensign on the 6th May. He was accompanied on the voyage by his wife, son and daughter and did not join the vessel until 6th July when he took charge of the guard at the Cove of Cork.

The detachment of the New South Wales Corps had embarked on the Marquis Cornwallis at Portsmouth in June 1795. The officer who escorted them from Chatham Barracks informed First Officer Hugh Reid that the soldiers had been excessively mutinous and troublesome to him on the march; that the serjeant had been the most so, and set a very bad example to some of the young soldiers; one man he recommended to have confined in double irons.

There were 36 troops (incl. families) in total on the Marquis Cornwallis - two ensigns, 1 sergeant (Francis Abel), 1 corporal and 26 privates. Among the privates were William Kellow, Samuel Baxter, George Harley, Noah Trump, Charles Stutt and Brian O'Donnell, James Martin and Lawrence Gaffney.

Departure from Portsmouth

The Marquis Cornwallis sailed from Portsmouth on 7 August 1795 bound for Cork where the convicts were to be embarked.

Arrival at Cork

Finns' Leinster Journal reported in August 1795 of the arrival of the convicts at Cork.....Seventy of them were said to be defenders, six convicted at the assizes in the county Leitrim and three in the county Roscommon. A total of one hundred and sixty-three male and seventy female convicts were embarked at Cork after which the ship immediately put to sea.

The Marquis Cornwallis was the next convict ship to leave Ireland for New South Wales after the departure of the Sugar Cane in April 1793. With the departure of the Marquis Cornwallis the total number of female convicts embarked in Ireland and transported to New South Wales had reached 162 women.

Departure from Cork

The ship departed Cork on 9 August 1795.


On 9th September around the vicinity of Cape de Verde, a plot was formed to seize the ship. For the next few days Captain Hogan gathered information using a trusted convict Patt Hines. Other prisoners William Mouton and Francis Royal also gave information, one of these informants was later strangled by the convicts. Soldiers as well as convicts were involved in the plot and an eye witness later gave this account: -

*On the 11th September we discovered a most desperate plot formed by the men convicts, who, to the number of one hundred and sixty three, are the most horrid ruffians that ever left the kingdom of Ireland. They were on the point of putting the captain, officers, and ship's company to death, when one of them, either through fear of punishment or from a hope of reward, discovered the whole affair.

It was a common practice for Capt. Hogan and the officers of the deck to go down and see that their births were clean twice a week, at which time they were to watch an opportunity to seize the captain, surgeon, and such other officers as went down with them, whom they were to put to death with their own swords, and force their way upon deck, where they were to be assisted by the serjeant, corporal, and some of the private soldiers, who were to dispatch the officers upon deck, and also to supply the convicts with arms.

We got upon deck the ringleaders, to the number of forty, who, after a severe punishment, confessed the whole. We thought this might put a stop to any further proceedings; but in this we were much mistaken. About two nights after they made an attempt to break out. They began by strangling the man who discovered the plot, whilst the rest were to force down the bulkhead, force their way upon deck, put those not in the plot to death, and take possession of the ship, or die in the attempt. The captain and officers did all in their power to appease them by fair words, and also by threats; but all would not do. They were desperate. Capt. Hogan rushed down the fore hatchway, followed by Mr. Richardson and three more of the officers and myself, armed with a pair of pistols and cutlass each, where began a scene which was not by any means pleasant. We stuck together in the hatchway and discharged our pistols amongst them that were most desperate, who, seeing their comrades drop in several places, soon felt a damp upon their spirits. Their courage failed them, and they called out for quarter. I broke my cutlass in the affray, but met with no accident myself. There were none killed upon the spot, but seven have since died of their wounds. The serjeant (Sergeant Ellis) was severely punished, and is since dead. *From the Historical Records of New South Wales - Extract of a letter from an Officer on board the Marquis Cornwallis, Indiaman, to his brother, in London. Letter dated 22 October 1795 and was written at St. Helena. It was reprinted in the Edinburgh Advertiser January 1796.

Sergeant Ellis had been severely punished by flogging with cat o' nine tails, put in irons and sent below. Private Lawrence Gaffney was also accused of being involved and was put in irons and his head shaved, although he seems to have had no further punishment and protested his innocence. Sergeant Ellis under the duress of his punishment, also absolved Gaffney of the crime.

Ellis and Gaffney were ironed together and remained so until Ellis died nine days later. Gaffney in his later evidence gave the details of what it was like to be ironed. Altogether 42 men were flogged and 6 women were punished for the mutiny.

Cape of Good Hope

They called at Table Bay, Cape of Good Hope and remained there from 24th November until 20th December, during this time, the prisoners were victualled with one pound one quarter of mutton each day with soup and vegetables, 42 pounds of soft bread for every six persons per week and they had fresh provisions served on several days during the passage. The ship was kept clean by sprinkling the prison beams and carlines, in the prisoners' berths with vinegar.

Port Jackson

When the ship sailed into Port Jackson on 11th February 1796, the day was squally with rain, lightning and thunder all around. They brought with them the news that the Dutch settlement at the Cape of Good Hope had been occupied by British troops - They also brought with them one years' supply of ready made clothing.

John Hunter assumed Governorship of the colony in September 1795 just five months before the arrival of the Marquis Cornwallis.

In his correspondence to the Duke of Portland a year later it is revealed how some of the male convicts of the Marquis Cornwallis would have been employed...... 'We are also erecting upon the high ground over Sydney a strong substantial and well built windmill with a stone tower, which will last for two hundred years and we are preparing materials for another such at Parramatta. The brick buildings barracks, storehouses, and officers' dwelling houses have been some time past in a state of rapid decay and crumbling to ruins; the decay has been occasion'd by the want of lime or proper cement in the beginning and to rebuild such another set would be attended with great expense and we have now a gang of people employed collecting sea shells which we find all round the harbour in considerable quantities; these we burn to lime and are repairing and completely covering all the brick buildings so as to ensure their lasting at least twenty years to come. This work I expect will be nearly finished by the end of this year

To prevent as far as it is possible the repeated robberies which are so continually committing amongst us, I am now arranging the inhabitants of this town of Sydney which is a mere sink of every species of infamy, into divisions and shall have the different houses numbered and a register kept of the people inhabiting each. We shall have watchmen chosen from amongst the inhabitants to guard during the night their respective divisions and a constable will also be chosen who shall have proper instructions. This regulation I propose shall take place in every district of the colony. - Governor Hunter to The Duke of Portland 12 November 1796 HRA Vol 1.Series 1,p 675

In August 2004 the Sydney Morning Herald reported that the log book of the Marquis Cornwallis was being sold by British auction house Christie's the following month and was expected to fetch up to $US150,000 ($210,334). The log had remained in the family of the ship's captain for almost 200 years before being bought by a private collector in the 1980s, but had never previously been up for public sale. 'It is a very rare document, and very evocative. Very few logs of this type have ended up in private hands,' a spokesperson said. The surviving pages cover events such as the landing of the convicts at Sydney Cove along with cargo such as dried fruit, two large cheeses and spare handcuffs, leg irons and thumb screws, as well as later voyages. Captain Hogan, after being cleared of wrongdoing by the enquiry, took his ship to India, taking more convicts en route to the even more remote Norfolk Island in the Pacific. He later made a fortune as a merchant and slave trader, settling in a mansion in the United States and serving as Washington's first consul to the newly independent Chile.

Notes and Links

1). Log Book of the Marquis Cornwallis - Library of New South Wales- Daily log of the Marquis Cornwallis from 1 February to 1 November 1796. The folio log is enclosed in a sailcloth cover which is lettered in ink: 'Ship Marqs. Cornwallis. Log book 1795 and 1796'. The log records courses, speeds, wind, weather, latitudes, and daily events on the ship including work done by sailors and convicts. It also records sightings of land, movements of other ships, trading with natives, and occasionally the names of seamen and passengers. The entries in the log are written in several hands by the watchmen. Some entries are signed by officers: Henry Moor, Hugh Reid, J. Waine and John Roberts. The log records the ship's arrival in Sydney on 11 February. In the following days the guards and convicts disembarked and the cargo was unloaded. The ship left Sydney on 15 May to return to England by way of Norfolk Island, the New Hebrides, the northern coast of New Guinea, Buton (Celebes), the roads of Madras, and Calcutta. The log ends on 1 November when the ship was taking on cargo at Calcutta.

2). Hunter Valley convicts / passengers arriving on the Marquis Cornwallis in 1796

3). More about the convicts and officers of the Marquis Cornwallis from An Account of the English Colony by David Collins -

About this time the Marquis Cornwallis and Experiment sailed for lndia. Previous to their departure, Mr. Hogan, the commander of -the former, had requested an examination might be taken as to the circumstances of his conduCt toward the conviets and others on board his ship during their passage from Ireland to this country. - The examination upon oath was made by the judge-advocate, assisted by two other magistrates, to whom it appeared, that Mr. Hogan, but for the fortunate and timely discovery of it, would with his ship have fallen a sacrifice to as daring and alarming a conspiracy as, perhaps, ever had been entered into bya set of desperate wretches on board of any ship; and that nothing was left for him, to save himself from the danger of a similar circumstance occurring during the voyage, but to inflict immediate punishment on the persons who were concerned in it.

A civil court was assembled nearly about the same time, to try an assault, the action for which was brought by Mr. Matthew Austin (a gentleman who came out in the Marquis Cornwallis, as a superintending surgeon of the convicts in that ship, on the part of government) against Mr. Michael Hogan the commander, Mr. John Hogan, the surgeon, and Henry Hacking the pilot. The circumstances of the assault being proved, the court adjudged Mr. M. Hogan to pay damages to the amount of fifty pounds; the others were acquitted.

- Among the Irish prisoners who arrived in the Marquis Cornwallis was one who professed to understand the business of a millwright, and who undertook with very little assistance to construct a mill at this place. He appeared rough and uncouth in his manners; but our want of a mill was so great, that it was determined to try what his abilities were, and place some hired artisers under his direction. A spot was chosen on the summit of the ground which forms the western side of the cove, and, saw-pits being dug for him, he began the work. With a mill once erected competent to the grinding of all our wheat, a reduction in the ration of flour would not be felt. So sensible of this advantage had the governor been, that he brought out with him the most material parts of a windmill, with a model, by which any millwright he might find here would be enabled to set up the different parts; and Thorp the millwright was employed in collecting and preparing the timber necessary for putting up this mill at Parramatta. -
An Account of the English Colony in NSW, David Collins

4). Details of the Earl Cornwallis from the National Archives - . Extra ship, built by Perry, measured 1794, 3 decks, length 121ft, keel 95ft 8in, breadth 33ft 11 1/4in, hold 17ft, wing transom 20ft 6in, between decks 6ft 4 1/2in, roundhouse 6ft 5in, ports 5 middle and 10 upper, 586 tons. Voyages: (1) From Bengal 1796. Capt John Roberts. Calcutta 9 Dec 1796 - 8 Jan 1797 Saugor - 27 Jan Madras - 12 Apr Cape - 17 May St Helena - 25 Jul Downs.

5). Only two Convict Ships arrived in New South Wales in 1796 the Marquis Cornwallis and Indispensable.

6). Michael Hogan - Australian Dictionary of Biography

7) In 1800 Hugh Reid was Master of the ship Friendship bringing convicts to New South Wales. His wife kept a journal during the voyage of the Friendship in which she relates the reason for the choice of a non-military guard on that vessel after his experience on the Marquis Cornwallis. Read more about Hugh Reid here

Prisoners of the Marqis Cornwallis identified in the Hunter region :

Allen, Robert
Robert Allen was convicted at Dublin in 1793 and sentenced to 7 years transportation. He received a grant of land in 1816. In 1819 he was a settler at Castle Hill. After a period of 21 years in the colony he received a sentence of transportation for life having been found guilty of harbouring, secreting and countenancing a gang of bushrangers led by the notorious William Geary. He was sent to Newcastle penal settlement in August 1821. His wife Mary, a free born woman and mother of his three children, petitioned for mitigation of his sentence in February 1822 and that he be recalled from Newcastle to be a support and protection to her and her three helpless children. Mary remained on their farm with their children however Robert was not released from his servitude. He was on a list of convicts sent from Newcastle to Port Macquarie per Mermaid in September 1823 when the Newcastle penal settlement came to a close. In 1824 he petitioned to be given a pass to return to arrange his affairs stating his wife was living in a state of prostitution . There is no indication whether he was given a pass. He died at Pennant Hills in 1847

Dansford, Susannah
Susannah Dansford was tried in Dublin in November 1793 and sentenced to 7 years transportation. She could never have imagined the dreadful ordeal she would endure in a few years time. In 1805 she escaped from Newcastle penal settlement with two other women and two men. Incredibly they made it all the way to Parramatta. The Sydney Gazette reported... The women who accompanied the rash adventure from Newcastle a few days since got into Parramatta; their names, Susannah Danford, Mary Murphy and Ann Goolder. Their travel through the woods was attended as might be expected with every vicissitude of famine and fatigue. The body of natives by whom they were stripped consisted of several hundreds; who departing from their accustomed hospitality to travellers within their power, were content with plundering them .This mark of extreme forbearance was owing to the friendly interference of one of the Newcastle natives among the number, who had received civility from one of the deplorable travellers and in return afforded his protection. This fellow distinguished by the name of Mellon was still further induced by a sense of gratitude to to past obligation, to assist them with part of a kangaroo, when sinking under extreme hunger.....

Last Thursday se'nnight two men were taken into Parramatta, that had surrendered themselves after a dismal flight from Newcastle, in which they were accompanied by three female adventurers through the woods. The distress endured by these unthinking people may almost be said to exceed any horrible account of hardships yet recited, having in the early part of the journey undergone the customary ceremony of being stripped and deprived of every morsel of provision by the natives, for many days after wretchedly endeavouring to support nature by such fare only as the woods afforded