Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

Convict Ship Minerva - 1818

Embarked: 160 men
Voyage: 119 days
Deaths: 0
Surgeon's Journal: yes
Previous vessel: Lady Castlereagh arrived 30 April 1818
Next vessel: Neptune arrived 5 May 1818
Captain John Bell
Surgeon James Hunter
Follow the Irish Convict Ship Trail
Convicts and passengers of the Minerva identified in the Hunter Valley

The Minerva was built at Lancaster in 1804. [3] This was the first of four voyages bringing convicts to New South Wales, the others being in 1819, 1821 and 1824.


The Minerva was the next convict ship to leave Ireland after the departure of the Guildford in November 1817. She departed Ireland on 1st January 1818

Military Guard

The guard consisted of a detachment of the 48th regiment commanded by Captain Francis Allman.

Abraham Fenton came on the Minerva as Assistant Surgeon of the 48th Regiment. Other members of the 48th regt., included Private Matthew Caroline, Private William Longshaw and Private John Boardman.

Convict ship bringing detachments of the 48th regiment included the Pilot, Caledonia, Dorothy, Larkins, Lady Castlereagh, Agamemnon, Minerva, Guildford, Isabella, Prince Regent and Baring

Surgeon James Hunter

James Hunter kept a Medical Journal from 5 September 1817 to 8 May 1818.....

The convicts were yet to embark on 3rd October when a serious accident occurred. The Minerva lay close to shore in Cork Harbour when a boat fell from the booms and crushed Private William Cullen who was sent to the military hospital in Cork. He died the following day. Private William Longshaw of the 48th regiment was also sent to the military hospital. Several others were injured including a woman, Sarah Mulligan.

James Hunter examined the prisoners when they came on board and found that many of them suffered with ulcers, constipation and an eruptive itch which had commenced in the prison they had been held in. He treated convict John Cartwright in a kindly manner. Cartwright was weighed down by anxiety and lowness of spirits having left a wife and many children behind in Dublin. His strength had been reduced as well after the fatigue and privation during a tedious passage from Dublin. He was fed on arrowroot and wine and the surgeon intended to keep him in the hospital for the entire voyage if possible as the crowded conditions in the prison would be detrimental to his health. [4]


They weighed anchor on 1st January 1818. Some of the convicts were assisting in sailing the ship and one, William McCormick was seriously injured by one of the anchors. He was treated by the surgeon and had recovered by the next week. Another convict John Cavenagh age 14 (according to the surgeon's journal) was injured two days later while employed hauling rope.

James Hunter was called to the prison on 5th January by the messmates of William Barnwell age 24 who had attempted suicide by cutting his throat. He had laid in a pool of blood since the previous evening but was treated by the surgeon and later recovered.

The Voyage

In November 1818 word reached Ireland of the safe arrival of the Minerva in Sydney and of some of the details of the voyage. The Freemans Journal reported:

Cork Nov. 24 - The Minerva, Captain Bell with convicts for Botany Bay, which sailed from this harbour on the 1st January, arrived at Sidney Cove on the 1st of May all well, being a period of only four months, without meeting a sail bound for England during the voyage. While off the Cape of Good Hope, they experienced a tremendous hurricane, which lasted for twenty minutes. The convicts conducted themselves properly, with the exception of a lame fellow (a self styled Captain) who endeavoured to induce them to mutiny; which, being discovered was immediately put a stop to by his being punished. [1]

Port Jackson

The Minerva arrived at Port Jackson 30th April/ 1st May 1818.

Convict Muster

On 8th May John Thomas Campbell, came on board to examine the prisoners. [5] He found them to be in good health except John McGar who had a slight fever. Robert Marang had been sent to the hospital on shore. The surgeon reported that no deaths had occurred on the voyage. [4]

The convict indents reveal the name of the convict, when and where tried, sentence, native place, calling, age and physical description with little else although it was noted that Samuel O'Hara from Antrim died at Port Macquarie 27 July 1833. [2]


The Sydney Gazette reported that 157 male prisoners from the Minerva arrived in Hobart from Sydney in June 1818. The Guard was a detachment of the 48th regiment commanded by Lieut. Vandermulen who were to relieve Captain Nairn's company of the 46th regiment.

Passengers to Hobart included P.G. Hogan, Deputy Assistant Commissary General and wife; Lieut. C.J. Vandermulen and wife; and Ensign Lewis of the 48th regt. Miss Ellen Barry also gave notice of her intention to return to Hobart on the Minerva.

Notes and Links

1). James Hunter was also surgeon on the convict ships Prince Regent in 1820 and the Princess Royal in 1823.

2). Convicts and passengers of the Minerva identified in the Hunter Valley

3). Captain John Bell - Australian Dictionary of Biography

4). MINERVA'S SHOAL, was discovered by Captain Bell, in the ship of this name, in his passage from Port Jackson towards India, of which he has given the following description; and it seems to be a continuation of the Baring's Shoals to the eastward, for the Minerva's soundings were on the eastern part of the bank seen by the Baring.

July 8th, 1818, at midnight, sounded in 33 fathoms coral, hauled up to the eastward, had from 33 to 30 fathoms sand and coral in a run of 5 miles, then tacked to south-west, and steered 8 miles in this direction, the depth gradually increasing to 36 fathoms. At day-light steered N. by E. with the lead kept going, and had from 30 to 35 fathoms coral and sandy bottom: at 114 A.M. had no ground at 40 fathoms, but immediately afterwards found ourselves on a bed of coral, with soundings of 10 to 15 fathoms, and the rocks quite visible. Hauled on a wind to south-west, shoaled to 9 and 8 fathoms, and the water appearing shoaler in that direction, steered to the eastward, and deepened quickly to 30 and 40 fathoms. When we first got soundings, were in lat. 21 22' S, lon. 159 10' E. by four good chronometers, in a run of eight days from Port Jackson: at noon, lat. 20 50' S., lon. 159  22: E. When upon the shoalest part, our situation was directly between the Shoals of Booby and Bellona, as marked in Captain Flinder's chart
. - India Directory


[1] Freeman's Journal 30 November 1818 p. 4

[2] Convict Indents. State Archives NSW; Series: NRS 12188; Item: [4/4006]; Microfiche: 639

[3] Bateson, Charles Library of Australian History (1983). The convict ships, 1787-1868 (Australian ed). Library of Australian History, Sydney : pp.340-341, 382

[4] Medical Journal of James Hunter on the voyage of the Minerva. UK, Royal Navy Medical Journals, 1817-1857 The National Archives. Kew, Richmond, Surrey.

[5] Lachlan and Elizabeth Macquarie Archive