Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

Convict Ship Queen - 1791

Embarked: 133 men; 22 women
Voyage: 5 months
Deaths 7
Surgeon's Journal: no
Tons: 400
Previous vessel: Active arrived 26 September 1791
Next vessel Albemarle arrived 13 October 1791
Captain Richard Owen
Follow the Female Convict Ship
Follow the Irish Convict Ship Trail

The convict ship Queen was one of eleven vessels of the Third Fleet. One hundred and thirty-three male and twenty-two female convicts and four children came on the this ship. She was the first vessel to bring convicts from Ireland to New South Wales.


The Queen had been hired and fitted up in December 1790, sailing from the Thames to Portsmouth where a detachment of the New South Wales Corps, including a drummer, twenty-five privates and an ensign were embarked. On 3 January 1791 the Navy Commissioners wrote to the Treasury Department that the ship would be ready to sail for the Cove of Cork within the week and over the next two months convicts were sent to Cork from all over Ireland for embarkation on the Queen which did not arrived at Cove until 5 March 1791.[6]

On 22nd March 1791 the vessels in England were given orders to depart - 'positive orders have been dispatched from the Secretary of State's Office, to Lieutenant King, at Plymouth, for the fleet bound to Botany Bay, to sail the first fair wind; they are to stop at Madeira six days, but no person is to be suffered to go on shore. The Transport (the Queen) with provisions and convicts bound to Botany Bay, sailed from Cork, Ireland the 10th instant. They are to call at Madeira, and remain there (to await) the ships from England'.

The Third Fleet

Other vessels of the Third Fleet -

Mary Ann



Admiral Barrington






William and Ann

Mary Ann
departed England in February 1791 and the rest of the fleet departed in March 1791 and later met with the Queen from Cork at Madeira.

Active, Admiral Barrington, Albemarle, Atlantic, Britannia and Matilda departed from Portsmouth; their naval agent was Lieutenant Robert Parry Young.

Atlantic, Salamander, and William and Ann departed from Plymouth; naval agent was Lieutenant William Bowen.

Queen departed from Cork, Ireland; naval agent, Lieutenant Samuel Blow.


Prisoners came from counties throughout Ireland including Limerick, Monaghan, Armagh, Dublin, Waterford, Downpatrick, Donegal, Meath, Fermanagh and Down.

The convict indents include the name, age, when and where convicted and sentence. There is the following notation included in the indents - ' The original list signed by Samuel Blow, Naval Agent dated on board the Queen at the Cove of Cork 11 April 1791 ' . This was given to the Mayor and Sheriff of the City of Cork, Sir Henry Browne Hayes however was left in Ireland when the Queen departed and did not reach Sydney for eight years after the Queen, so those convicts whose time had expired had no proof of such. [7]

The Voyage

The Queen was spoken by the Prince William Henry packet boat on 19th April on its passage from Leeward Islands to Falmouth and all was reported well.

The voyage to New South Wales included a stop at False Bay, Cape of Good Hope for supplies.

Port Jackson

They arrived in Port Jackson on 26 September 1791 the same day as the Active. They brought with them part of the cargo of the Guardian which had been wrecked and had limped into the Cape under Captain Riou.

The Queen was the next convict ship to arrive in New South Wales with female prisoners after the Mary Ann in July 1791.

There were approximately 600 female prisoners already in the colony and it would be interesting to know how these few Irish women fitted into their new situations.

In the Historical Records of Australia (Series 1. Vol. 1., p. 275) in the Return of the Transports arriving in New South Wales it is noted that the convicts were landed between the 27th September and 1st October and the soldiers were landed on 2nd October.

State of the Convicts on Arrival

David Collins recorded the arrival of the Queen and the fate of some of the prisoners - 'The remaining transports of the fleet were now dropping in. On the 26th September the Active from England and the Queen from Ireland, with convicts of that country, arrived - An officer's party was held on board the Queen, which arrived with one hundred and twenty-six male and twenty-three female convicts and three children. These ships had been unhealthy and had buried several convicts in their passage. The sick which they brought in were landed immediately ; and many of those who remained, and were not so ill as to require medical assistance, were brought on shore in an emaciated and feeble condition.'

Mary Ann Parker, the wife of Captain John Parker commander of the Gorgon provided the following description:

'Their appearance, to use the words of Captain Parker, will be ever fresh in my memory. I visited the hospital, and was surrounded by mere skeletons of men - in every bed, and on every side, lay the dying and the dead. Horrid spectacle! it makes me shudder when I reflect, that it will not be the last exhibition of this kind of human misery that will take place in this country, whilst the present method of transporting these miserable wretches is pursued; for, the more of them that die, the more it redounds to the interest of the ship owners and master, who are paid so much a head by government, for each individual whether they arrive in the colony or not.' [4]

On 17th October 1791 in Sydney there was an enquiry held in regards to the conduct of Master Richard Owen and Second Mate Robert Stott of the Queen and to examine the complaint made by convicts of not having received the ration of provisions that was directed by contract to be furnished them during the passage. Justices of the Peace included David Collins, Rev. Richard Johnson, Augustus Alt and John Cresswell. An account of the proceedings is in the HRA Vol. 1 p.283 and in Charles Bateson's The Convict Ships.

Those examined at the enquiry included Ensign William Cummings, Lieutenant Blow (naval agent), Andrew Burn (convict), John Martin (convict), John Turner (acted as cook's mate), Hugh McGinnis, James Burn (convict, sail-maker), James Juda (convict), James Kelly (cook on the Queen). The Magistrates found that circumstances of the fraud it is impossible for us to determine with any precision what those deficiencies are, so as to enable us either to redress the complainants or punish the defendants. (HRA Series 1, Vol. 1., p. 288)

Escape Attempt

David Collins - On the first day of November 1791 information was received from Parramatta that a body of twenty male convicts and one female, of those lately arrived in the Queen transport from Ireland, each taking a week's provisions and armed with tomahawks and knives, had absconded from that settlement, with the chimerical idea of walking to China or of finding some country wherein they would be received and entertained without labour. It was generally supposed however, that this improbable tale was only a cover to the real design which might be to procure boats and get on board the transports after they had left the cove.

An officer from Parramatta with a party was immediately sent in pursuit of them, who traced them as far down the harbour as Lane cove whence he reached the settlement of Sydney without obtaining any further intelligence of them. A few days afterward the people in a boat belonging to the Albemarle transport which had been down the harbour to procure wood on the north Shore, met with the wretched female who had accompanied the men. She had been separated from them for three days and wandered by herself entirely ignorant of her situation until she came to the waterside. By April 1792 the mortality amongst the convicts had been extremely great.

Distressing as it was, however, to see the poor wretches daily dropping into the grave, it was far more afflicting to observe the countenances and emaciated persons of many who remained, soon to follow their miserable companions. - The weakest of the convicts were excused from all kinds of hard labour; but it was not hard labour that destroyed them; it was an entire want of strength in the constitution and which nothing but proper nourishment could repair. This dreadful mortality was confined chiefly to the convicts who had arrived in the last year; of one hundred and twenty two male convicts who came out in the Queen transport from Ireland, fifty only were living at the beginning of May.

In 1793 the circumstances surrounding the convict ships of 1791 were mentioned in Parliament - {Extract}

Out of 500 passengers on board the Neptune but 42 were able to crawl over the ship's side; the rest were carried and eight out of every ten died at Sydney Cove. The detail of the sufferings of these wretched convicts would be tedious and painful; suffice it to say, that by the depositions taken by the solicitor of the treasury, they were equal to any endured in the slave ships. Out of 1,863 on board the Queen and other transports in autumn 1791, 576 on landing were sent to the hospital. Governor Philip wished to punish the author of these calamities, but doubted his power over offences committed on the high seas. It was necessary, therefore, that an admiralty court should be established at Sydney Cove. Sir Charles then moved six resolutions, the sixth being: To preserve those criminals who may hereafter be transported from a calamity similar to that which destroyed the greater part of the unfortunate men of the Neptune and to rescue them from the dangers of foul air and famine it seems expedient to allow a space of at least two tons for each person should be allowed; in addition to regulations already in place, a premium should be given to the contractors, on the arrival of every felon in good health at the place of their destination; and likewise that all the provisions on board of the ships hired to carry convicts, should be purchased for the service of government, and the surplus, at the end of the voyage, be deposited in their storehouses - (Sir Charles Bunbury's Resolutions respecting Convicts for Transportation 1793, Parliamentary History of England)

Norfolk Island

Historical Records of Australia (Series 1. Vol. 1., p. 275) in the Return of the Transports arriving in New South Wales noted that the Stores and provisions were all cleared by 14th October and the Queen was taken up again on the 19th to carry the Active's cargo to Norfolk Island and to return with the detachment of Marines -

The quantity of provisions received by these ships being calculated for the numbers on board of each for nine months only after their arrival, and as, so large a body of convicts having been sent out, it was not probable that we should soon receive another supply, the governor judged it expedient to send one of the transports to Bengal, to procure provisions for the colony; for which purpose he hired the Atlantic at fifteen shillings and sixpence per ton per month. In the way thither she was to touch at Norfolk Island, where Lieutenant Governor King, with some settlers, was to be landed ; and the Queen transport was hired for the purpose of bringing back Lieutenant Governor Ross, and the marine detachment serving there, relieved by a company of the New South Wales corps.

David Collins - January 1792 -' Early in this month sixty-two people, settlers and convicts, with Mr. Bayne, the chaplain of the New South Wales corps, who offered his services, as there never had been a clergyman there, embarked on board the Queen transport for Norfolk Island, the master of that ship having engaged to carry them and a certain quantity of provisions thither for the sum of 150. Of the settlers twenty-two were lately discharged from the marine service, and the remainder were convicts; some of the latter, whose terms of transportation had expired, had chosen Norfolk Island to settle in, and others were sent to be employed for the public.

Arrival in England

The Queen arrived back in England after an absence of two years and four months. She had with her a cargo of cotton on account of the East India Company.

The Times reported on the 6th February 1793.... her crew were reported to be all dead (except eight or nine) and those very ill from scurvy. She did not touch at the Cape of Good Hope nor at St. Helena, to which the violent disorder of the scurvy is attributed. Only six men could come up on deck when she came in. Had the wind been unfavourable, they may have all perished. [2]

Finns Leinster Journal....Friday morning at two o'clock, Richard Birdwood, Esq. Agent to the East India Company, arrived at the East India house with dispatches from Bombay, brought to Plymouth by the Botany Bay ship Queen. She left Botany Bay 14 September 1791. [5]

Notes and Links

1). Sergeant Major William Jamison arrived on the Queen. He died in April 1802 and was interred in the Old Sydney Burial Ground

2). Convict ships bringing political prisoners and protesters

3). James Grant who arrived as a convict on the Queen died in November 1792. He was buried in th Old Sydney Burial Ground.

4). Convicts and passengers mentioned in the Colonial Secretary's Correspondence:

Stephen Burr- Came free. Former soldier in NSW Corps

Michael Delaney - Memorial 2 September 1822

Matthew Keane - Petition for mitigation of sentence 13 February 1810

Michael Lamb - Windsor 26 October 1825

Lawrence May - Hawkesbury - 5 December 1810

William McDonald - Hawkesbury

Francis McLawrence - Hawkesbury

John Vardy - Drowned in 1812

Francis Wylde - Constable


[1]. Historical Records of Australia, Vol.1, p.225

[2]. Times [London, England] 5 Feb. 1793

[3]. An account of the English colony in New South Wales: with remarks ..., Volume 1 By David Collins, Philip Gidley King, George Bass

[4]. Mary Ann Parker, A Voyage round the World, in the Gorgon Man of War, 1795

[5]. Finns Leinster Journal 1771-1828, Wednesday, February 13, 1793; Page: 3

[6]. Reece Bob., (ed.,) Exiles from Erin; Keith Johnson and Michael Flynn, Convicts of the Queen, p.10.

[7]. Keneally, Thomas, A Commonwealth of Thieves, p. 357