Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

Convict Ship Palambam - 1831

Voyage: 130 days
Deaths: 2 or 3
Surgeon's Journal: yes
Tons 394 Crew: 30 men
Previous vessel: Exmouth arrived 28 July 1831
Next vessel: Caroline arrived 31st July 1831
Captain George Willis (Wallace)
Surgeon  James Osborne
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Prisoners and passengers of the Palambam identified in the Hunter Valley

The Palambam was built in Shields in 1821.

On the 13th February 1831 while under Dover Castle, the Palambam went ashore in a fog, however there was reportedly no damage to the vessel and she continued to Cork where 117 female convicts and free passengers including 50 young girls from the Foundling Hospital were embarked.

The prisoners came from counties throughout Ireland - Monaghan, Kildare, Carlow, Limerick, Antrim, Roscommon, Waterford and Dublin. They mostly gave their occupations as housemaid, dairymaid and all work. There were some sempstresses and dressmakers among them, a confectioner, dealer and pedlar. Their crimes included man robbery, stealing clothes, money and other articles, vagrancy, shoplifting and one attempt to poison.

Free Passengers

Among the free passengers were Esther Cassidy, Edward Cullen, Esther Hinksky, John Grant, Teresa Maher, and George Swain.


The Palambam was the next convict ship to leave Ireland bound for New South Wales after the departure of the Waterloo in December 1830. The Palambam departed Cork for Sydney Cove on 23rd March 1831.

They called at Rio de Janeiro where they were in contact with the Surry which had called at Rio with a loss of her top masts and after that spoke the Camden which was on the return passage to England. [4]

Surgeon James Osborne

James Osborne kept a Medical Journal from 8th January 1831 - 13 August 1831. The following women and children received treatment during the voyage. [5]

Mary Smith, aged 25, convict;
Mrs O'Brian's child, aged 19 months;
Betsey Riley, aged 25, convict; atrophy. Died 10 May 1831.
Mrs Ferguson's child, aged 11 months; diarrhoea. Died 27 April 1831.
Johanna [Ahern?], aged 26,
Mrs Wood's infant; diarrhoea. Discharged 16 May 1831 cured.
Mary Lyden, aged 24, convict;
Mary Rooney, aged 28, convict; accident, fell from the main deck down the hatch and hurt her left side and shoulder. 10 June 1831, at sea. Discharged 16 June 1831.
Julia Murphy, aged 22, convict;
Mary Lyden, aged 24, convict; pneumonia. Died 23 July 1831.
Mary Connor, aged 28, convict;

James Osborne was also employed as Surgeon Superintendent on the Layton in 1829 and the Royal Admiral in 1835.

Port Jackson

The Palambam arrived in Port Jackson on Sunday 31st July 1831 the same day the Caroline from India arrived with male prisoners. Two or three women died on the passage out - Betsey Riley on 10th May and Mary Lyden on 23 May 1831. (Convict indent states 2, surgeons journal states 3)

Convict Muster

The Colonial Secretary held a Muster of 112 convict women on board on 2nd August 1831. (According to the muster, one prisoner had been re-landed before the voyage, two died on the passage and two were sent to the hospital in Sydney).

The Palambam convict indents include name, age, education, religion, marital status, family, offence, native place, trade or calling, when and where tried, physical description and where and to whom assigned. There are also occasional notes re family members already in the colony, tickets of leave, colonial crimes. Following are some of the notes from the indents:

Johanna Ahern - Brother John Ahern came to colony 2 years previously; sisters Margaret and Ellen 3 years previously.

Mary Brown from Carlow died in the Female Factory at Parramatta 22 April 1838.

Elizbeth Boyle or Carroll from Dublin - brother Patrick Carroll convicted at the same time.

Mary Byrne from Wicklow - sent to the Female Factory at Parramatta 14 November 1843

Catherine Cook or Cooke from Roscommon - Son Patrick Gillespie came to colony 4 years previously. Daughter Mary Gillespie about 2 years previously.

Margaret Casey or Carthy - Husband Michael Carthy came 8 years previously

Mary Ferguson - Sister Mary Haffey came about 6 years previously.

Margaret Halfpenny - Brother John Halfpenny came 5 years previously

Margaret Kelly - from Leitrim. Brother John Kelly came 3 years ago.

Mary Kelly - re-landed at Cork

Mary Kilmorey - Died at Parramatta 28 October 1833

Mary Lyhane age 50 and Catherine Lyhane age 20 mother and daughter. Son Timothy came about 6 years ago.

Mary Matthews. Sent to Moreton Bay in 1837

Bridget McGuire - Sister Sarah Cunningham came 10 years previously

Mary McGrath - idiot - not assignable

Ellen McCarthy - Father Humphry McCarthy came 8 years previously

Ellen McCallister - Brothers Edward and William Gare convicted March 1830

Catherine Maxwell or Keegan - Brother Edward Keegan came 6 years previously

Margaret Masterson - Mother Judith Masterson came 10 years ago and lives with Rev. Fulton

Bridget Nixon - Aunts Catherine Stanley and Mary Ann Rourke came ago 10 years previously

Catherine Price - Weakly, scarcely fit for assignment

Eliza Page - Sister Maria Kingsmill came free

Mary Rooney - Husband Thomas Rooney convicted at same time

Elizabeth Tomkins. Died in Government Hospital Parramatta 8 September 1839.

Ann Whittle - Cousin Joseph Whittle convicted at same time. [6]

Section of map of Sydney by William Henry Wells 1843 showing dockyardSection of 1843 map of Sydney by William Henry Wells showing location of dock yards in Sydney Cove.

The convict women were landed at the Dockyard on Saturday morning 13th August and handed over to various assignees although three or four were not assignable on arrival. The Sydney Gazette reported that - the damsels look well; and many were the anxious enquiries after brothers, sisters, and friends, that the luckless maidens were seen to make on their journey through the streets.

Just a month before the arrival of the Palambam the famous steam vessel Sophia Jane made her maiden voyage in Sydney Harbour. The free women of the Palambam who travelled to the Hunter Valley may have made the passage from Sydney to Newcastle on one of the little sailing vessels that had been conveying passengers for years, or possibly even on the Sophia Jane..... Select here to read what the passage from Sydney to Newcastle was like in 1831.

After arrival in Newcastle these (free) women travelled further on by road........two were dreadfully injured while travelling to their place of service at Hunters River. They were both expected to recover, however it was later reported that one had died......... From the Sydney Herald : The women were bruised and injured in a shocking manner, by the upsetting of the dray and its contents upon them, the thigh bone of one was broken, and the flesh dreadfully lacerated.

Prisoner Belles

The Sydney Herald reported in September that - 'The prisoner belles by the Palambam, begin already to show signs of unruliness, several of them since their assignment having been handed over to the maternal care of the factory matron.'

Eliza Boyle alias Carroll was one of the abovementioned. She was 26 years of age, a laundry and house maid from Dublin. She was convicted of house robbery in Dublin on 17th April 1830 and sentenced to 7 years transportation. Her brother Patrick Carroll was convicted at the same time. On arrival Eliza was assigned to Ann Kennedy in Sydney. It wasn't long before she was in trouble again. ........Tuesday August 30 - Eliza Boyle, per Palambam, pretended to her mistress on Sunday evening that she could not rest easy in her bed, without having gone to chapel, in consequence, she borrowed a seventeen and sixpenny bonnet of her mistress who allowed her to go; two hours afterwards she was found sans bonnet, which it appeared, she had disposed of, for a few sneakers of strong punch. One month to the third class of the factory. - Sydney Herald 5 September 1831. Matron at the Female Factory at Parramatta at this time was Mrs. Ann Gordon.

Departure of the Palambam From Sydney

The Palambam departed for London on 7th November 1831. Among her extensive colonial cargo were ox hides, ox horns, 133 bales wool, New Zealand spars and flax and four cases of curiosities.

Prisners of the Palambam identified in the Hunter Valley :

Ahern, Johanna
Housemaid from Cork. Epileptic. Tried 7 January 1831 and sentenced to 7 years transportation for stealing clothes. Ruddy freckled and pockpitted complexion, 4ft 8 1/4in, Dark brown hair, hazel eyes. Note: Brother John Ahern arrived 2 years previously and sisters Margaret and Ellen arrived 3 years previously. Assigned to Catherine Garratt in Sydney on arrival. Application to marry James Fibbins at Singleton July 1845

Ahern, Mary
Dairy maid and all work. Tried at Cork 14 August 1830. Sentenced to 7 years transportation for stealing money. Assigned to William Hayes at Eastern Creek on arrival. Married Joseph Jones at Newcastle in 1833. Admitted to Newcastle Gaol from Invermein in February 1837

Brown, Ann
Dress maker from Limerick. Pregnant. Tried at Cork 25 November 1830. Sentenced to 7 years transportation for shop lifting. No place of assignment on arrival noted. Probably sent to the Female Factory. Note - served four years nine months in the penitentiary. Absconded from Rev. Garven at Maitland in November 1836. Admitted to Newcastle gaol from Maitland April 1837, returned to government service for being pregnant. Forwarded to the Female Factory at Parramatta

Connor, Honora
Honora Connors age 20. Dairy maid and all work. Tried in Cork 7 January 1831. Sentenced to 7 years transportation for stealing geese. Assigned to Mr. Hindmarsh at Illawarra on arrival. Applied to marry Samuel Walton in December 1832

Cremin, Mary
Dairymaid age 27 from Cork. Mother of 1 daughter. Sentenced to transportation for 7 years for stealing clothes. Assigned to George Sparke at Hunter River on arrival. Application to marry James Hennessey in June 1832 refused as she was already married. Transferred to George Muir at Maitland in November 1832

Doyle, Margaret
Laundress age 24 from Dublin. Sentenced to 7 years transportation for stealing a shawl. One previous conviction. Assigned to Cornelius Rowe in Sydney on arrival. Assigned to John Bingle at Puen Buen in November 1832. Sentenced to 14 days in the Newcastle gaol in solitary confinement on bread and water for drunkenness, gross insolence and neglect of duty. Note - Female Factory 11 April 1839

Fitzsimmons, Margaret
Occupation: all work. Age: 26. Sentenced to 7 years transportation at Carlow on 21st July 1830 for stealing fowls. Assigned to Joseph Thorpe in Sydney on arrival. Married John Hutchins at Maitland November 1832. Assigned to Elizabeth Mayo at Newcastle in 1832. Sent to Newcastle gaol November 1836 and sent to the Female Factory at Parramatta. Sent to Newcastle gaol from the Parramatta factory under sentence of 3 months imprisonment in December 1836. Discharged to her husband February 1837

Kelly, Margaret
Maid of all work and dairymaid from Leitrim age 30. Tried at Cavan July 1830 and sentenced to 7 years transportation for man robbery. Brother John Kelly arrived in the colony 3 years previously. Assigned to Mr. Goodwin at Princes Street on arrival.

Kennedy, Bridget
Housemaid (country), and washes. Age 26. Native place: Meath. Sentenced in Wicklow to 7 years transportation for stealing butter. No place of assignment on arrival recorded. Married Joseph Waples in 1833

Mahoney, Mary
Dairymaid age 25 from Cork. Sentenced to 7 years transportation for stealing clothes. Assigned to Leslie Duguid at Cooks River on arrival. Married John Hogan of Dalwood at Maitland in September 1832

Maloney, Mary
Housemaid age 18 from Co. Clare. Tried at Clare July 1830. Sentenced to 7 years transportation for house robbery. Assigned to George Loder at Windsor on arrival. Assigned to Mary Wiseman at Wollombi in July 1832

McNamara, Ann
Nurse girl aged 19 from Sligo. Sentenced to 7 years transportation for man robbery. Tried Cavan 21st July 1830. Assigned to J. Colles in Sydney on arrival. Assigned to William Harper at Oswald in November 1832

Whittle, Ann
Housemaid aged 22 from Kilkenny. Sentenced to 7 years transportation for stealing cloth. Cousin Joseph Whittle convicted at the same time. Assigned to William Brooks at Dalziel on arrival. Application to marry William Cooper at Maitland in September 1832

Wright, Jane
Dairymaid, housemaid aged 30 from Armagh. Mother of two sons. Sentenced to 7 years transportation for stealing clothes. Assigned to Rev. Lancelot Threlkeld at Lake Macquarie on arrival

Notes and Links

1). The Palambam was one of four convict ships bringing female prisoners to New South Wales in 1831, the others being the Kains, Hooghley and the Earl of Liverpool. A total of 504 female convicts arrived in the colony in 1831.

2). County of Down Assizes - Downpatrick - Tuesday, March 30....Mary Kilmurray (Kilmorey), for stealing a cloth shawl, at Newry, the property of Patrick Dowdal. Guilty - transportation for seven years.

Judith Hynes and Catherine Reilly were indicted for stealing 15l. in cash and several articles of wearing apparel, the property of Abigail Greaves. The prisoners pleaded guilty. It appeared that Judith Hynes was niece to the prosecutrix. She was sentenced to seven years' transportation, and the other, who was a servant maid to Abigail, was sentenced to seven months' imprisonment and hard labour. Eliza Callanan, for stealing 30 yards of narrow riband, the property of Mr. Saunderson, seven years' transportation. Eliza Page, for stealing a cloak, the property of Margaret Coftee. Guilty - seven years transportation....Freeman's Journal 20 August 1830

3). County of Down Assizes, Downpatrick, Friday August 6.....At three o'clock, the Hon. Judge Jebb took his seat in the Crown court, after which the King's Proclamation was read by the clerk of the Crown.....Mary Benson and Margaret Campbell, for stealing a piece of ticken from Patrick Dowdall; guilty transportation for seven years. - Belfast Newsletter 10 August 1830.

4). County of Armagh Assizes - Judge Jebb presiding - Mary McCann was found guilty of stealing a canister containing 120, the property of James McAleavy, of Ballybot, on the 16th of July last. She was sentenced to 7 years transportation. - Belfast Newsletter Friday 30 July 1830.

5). Children of Convicts - A female, named Ann Woods, was committed to Carrickfergus gaol in February, 1830 on a charge of vending base money. She was tried at the following Lent Assizes,, and convicted. A point of law was reserved, however, for the consideration off the judges; and sentence of transportation was ultimately passed on her last Summer Assizes. At the time of her committal she had a child on the breast, which she carried into prison with her, and about six months after she was committed she was delivered of another child. When she was removed to Dublin, the authorities there refused to receive the eldest child, and Mr. Erskine, the governor of Carrickfergus gaol had to consign it to the care of a nurse. He applied to Major Palmer, Inspector General of Gaols, who used his influence at the Castle in order to get the child committed to the care of its mother, but the request was refused by the government as being contrary to the regulations. The child remained with the nurse till Thursday last, when she brought it to Mr. Erskine who, after some communication with the Magistrates here, was obliged to pay the nurse for the care of the child, together with her travelling expenses from and back to Dublin. Mr. Erskine's character for humanity and kindness of disposition stands remarkably high indeed and it is a great hardship to suffer him to sustain a heavy pecuniary loss on such an occasion as this; neither is it reasonable to lay the onus on him of separating the mother from her child, that ought to be done, if the law requires it, at the time the Magistrates signed the committal. - Belfast Newsletter 22 February 1831.

6). The Palambam brought fifty girls from the Foundling Hospital of Cork, two matrons, their husbands, seven children, four females, wives of convicts living in the colony and six of their children. These people as well as the convict women were all reported by the surgeon to be extremely healthy on arrival. The Matron came highly recommended by Viscount Goderich who indicated to Governor Darling that he would have no objection to either the Matron or her husband receiving an appointed in the Orphan School or other Public School Appointment. (HRA, Series 1, Vol. XVI, 28 February 1831).

Later the Sydney Gazette revealed what life would be like for the Foundling girls - It will be seen by our Shipping Intelligence that the young girls from Ireland have arrived by the Palambam, under charge of Dr. Osborne and two married matrons. It appears they are from the Cork Foundling Hospital - one of those charitable institutions in which the children of misfortune are not only sheltered and fed, but carefully instructed in the principles of virtue and religion, and in the duties of social and domestic life. Thus initiated in useful habits, they are now thrown upon the generosity of this far-off land; and we trust those heads of families to whose care they are about to be committed, will feel a paternal solicitude for their future welfare, and spare no proper exertion for confirming and maturing the discipline of their earlier years. The Sydney Herald reported - The free girls are to be indented to persons of respectability for the period of three years, who were bound to find them in board, lodging and clothing and to send them to Church once a week; each master is also to pay into the savings bank at the expiration of every year the sum of two pounds, which will be given to the girl on the expiration of her service. The girls are for the most part strong and in excellent health.
A list of these girls can be found in the Index to Miscellaneous Immigrants at State Records of New South Wales. (Enter Palambam in the Search box)

7). Foundling Hospital....A Report on the Foundling Hospital of Cork in 1831-32...... We have been led to give much time to the investigation of the state of the Foundling Hospital, from the large sum levied annually for its support, nearly 6,000 pounds, is raised by a tax on all coals and culm imported into the harbour of Cork, and also from the very opposite opinions given as to the utility of such an establishment. The government of the institution is exclusively under the corporation of the city. By this party it is lauded for the excellence of its arrangements, its great utility in preventing infanticide, and, further, that the children brought up in it generally turn out well.

In the year 1832, when one of the members for the city proposed bringing a Bill into the House of Commons to annul the tax on coals, and to do away with the institution, a petition to Parliament was forwarded from the governors, in which its advantages are thus described: ';The throwing of the foundlings and destitute children upon the parishes would increase the parochial assessments to a degree which must eventually prove absolutely ruinous to the industrious classes of resident householders, upon whom the rates are sufficiently heavy already. Under the present indirect method of raising funds for this purpose, the charge is so spread over the community as to be little, if at all, felt by any individual. The children in the house are supported at a far cheaper rate than they could possibly be maintained by the parishes in several distinct places, receiving, moreover, the advantage of a plain practical education, with moral and religious instruction, such as it is not likely it would be in the power of the parishes to afford. Besides which, petitioners conceive that a change of system would a manifest tendency to promote the destruction of human life, as regards the deserted exposed children of this populous city.'

Besides the above there are 40 unpaid servants, and, further, the girls act as servants in rotation in the kitchen and laundry departments, and are thus trained for the situations of servants in families. The children likewise make all articles of clothing used in the establishment. The children are admitted on the certificate of a churchwarden of any of the parishes within the city or liberties that the child has been deserted in his parish; but there is no nursery for infants in the establishment, and the parishes must provide the nurse until the following Easter, at which period children are put on the books of the hospital, and the nurse is thenceforth paid out of its funds. When this takes place the nurse employed by the parish is retained, or the child is sent to a new one, as may be thought fit. The wet-nurses are paid at the rate of 2. 8s yearly, and the further sum of 1. 1. if the child has been taken good care of. The dry-nurses receive at the rate of 1. 17s. per annum for each child, and also 1 pound, 1 shilling as a premium, if on removal of the child it appears to have been well attended to; the same nurses who have been selected in the first instance by the churchwardens are generally retained when the children are brought on the establishment, not only as wetnurses, but afterwards as dry-nurses, unless they themselves wish to part with the children, or have neglected or been unkind to them. The children are apprenticed exclusively to Protestant masters; and, when to trades, an apprentice fee of 3 pounds is given, which is paid at the end of the first year ; when apprenticed merely as servants no fee is given; but in both cases the child is entitled to a reward of 3 pounds if the apprenticeship is completed, and its conduct has been good. Among the trades to which the boys are apprenticed we find cabinet-makers, bakers, tailors, shoemakers, cutlers, smiths, weavers, lastmakers, ropemakers, umbrella-makers, and paper-hangers. The girls to milliners and dressmakers. Several of the boys who have been apprenticed as servants, where their masters have happened to be mercantile or professional gentlemen, are now acting in the capacity of clerks; and many of the boys who were in former years apprenticed from the establishment could now be enumerated as having raised themselves to the situations of respectable shopkeepers, master tradesmen, schoolmasters, parish and writing clerks, English assistants in academies, etc

In 1830 and 1831, 59 girls were sent to New South Wales at the expense of Government the stipulations being that they should be above 14 years of age, that the establishment should provide them a respectable outfit, and that their going should be voluntary on their part. Several accounts have been received from them since their arrival at Sydney, all of a very satisfactory nature.

At the meeting of the Board which we attended, the following are amongst, the replies given to our inquiries: - The girls may often turn out prostitutes; ruffians take advantage of their unprotected state. The mass of both sexes are lost sight of after leaving the institution. In after-life the children may sometimes conceal that they had been brought up at the Foundling Hospital, but the governors are not aware that it is a reproach to have been so. Previous to being given out to nurse, the children are marked under the arm by punching the skin and rubbing it with Indian ink, which is indelible, so that no imposition by substituting one child for another can take place; and, further, the Protestant clergymen of the parishes generally look after the children.

The children are never apprenticed to the nurses with whom they have been brought up, for, besides that they are generally Roman Catholics, they are in too low a station of life. The children are better fed, clothed, and educated, than those of the labouring classes and peasantry brought up with their parents. The children are never removed from a Roman Catholic to a Protestant nurse previously to being brought into the house. They ought, according to the regulation, to be brought in at four or five years old, but from want of room they generally remain until seven or eight. They seldom obtain any education in the country, and speak nothing but Irish. They have, therefore, on coming into the house, in the first place to learn English. They remain in the house until about 15. The nurses with whom they are boarded are always much attached to the children. They are brought up with their own children, and treated with equal kindness.' 'The board of the children, out of the house, is paid quarterly. Instances of nurses not bringing up the child to receive payment, when they might expect from its age that it would be taken from them, are not known to the governors, but they sometimes allow even five quarters to remain due.'
....Selection of Reports and Papers of the House of Commons: Irish poor, Volume 48

8). Extract from Chutes Western Herald 28 March 1833 p.3 re the girls from the Foundling Hospital.......

'About two years ago fifty girls of the Cork Foundling Hospital were offered a free passage by Government, and last year eight younger ones were sent by the Red Rover. The following are extracts from letters received from Mr. Gabriel Bennett, whose wife went as matron to the girls : ' The fifty girls that came out with me are doing very well and giving general satisfaction to their masters and mistresses. They are now beginning to be valuable girls to them. All the girls that are living in Sydney are doing well. The good conduct of the girls in general that caused the eight small girls who came out last to be taken in preference to many of the young women who came out. Several of my fifty would have been married before now, but they came to me first to make inquiry as to the characters of the persons who propose for them, and I immediately set to work making every inquiry ; and if I do not see clearly that it is to their advantage I put a stop to farther proceedings. The wages which the girls receive vary between eight and fifteen pounds a year, according to the place. The country is beautiful and healthful, and provisions of every kind extremely cheap.'

9). Lloyds Register of Shipping

10). A List of Officers and Servants at the Foundling Hospital


[1] Journal of James Osborne. UK, Royal Navy Medical Journals, 1817-1857 Original data: Admiralty and predecessors: Office of the Director General of the Medical Department of the Navy and predecessors: Medical Journals (ADM 101, 804 bundles and volumes). Records of Medical and Prisoner of War Departments. Records of the Admiralty, Naval Forces, Royal Marines, Coastguard, and related bodies. 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.350 - 351, 387

[3] Bound manuscript indents, 1788 - 1842. NRS 12188, microfiche 614 - 619,626 - 657, 660 - 695. State Records Authority of New South Wales, Kingswood, New South Wales, Australia.

[4] Sydney Gazette 28 July 1831

[5] National Archives. Reference: ADM 101/58/1 Description: Medical and surgical journal of convict ship Palambam from 8 January to 13 August 1831 by James Osborne, surgeon.

[6] Bound manuscript indents, 1788 - 1842. NRS 12188, microfiche 614 - 619,626 - 657, 660 - 695. State Records Authority of New South Wales, Kingswood, New South Wales, Australia.