Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

Convict Ship Recovery - 1836

Embarked: 284 men
Voyage: 118 days
Deaths: 4
Surgeon's Journal: yes
Previous vessel: Roslin Castle arrived 25 February 1836
Next vessel: Surry arrived 17 May 1836
Captain Thomas Johnson
Surgeon Alexander Neill
Convicts and passengers of the Recovery identified in the Hunter Region

The Recovery was built at Batavia in 1799.[1]

The convicts transported on the Recovery came from counties in England - London, Essex, Sussex, Suffolk, Southampton, Somerset, Cambridge, Norfolk, Wiltshire, Surrey, Northampton, Warwick, Stafford, York, Cornwall, Nottingham, Berks, Devon, Dorset, Worcester and Oxford. None had been convicted in Scotland or Wales. Four prisoners were tried at Newfoundland Supreme Court for petty crimes.

Twenty-eight were soldiers convicted mostly of desertion but also of striking a corporal, insubordination, striking a serjeant and quitting post, all in Quebec, Upper Canada, St. John's Newfoundland, Jamaica, Fredericton New Brunswick and Halifax.

On the 19th October at Spithead 160 male convicts from the Leviathan and 120 from the York Hulks were received on board. Surgeon Alexander Neill noted in his journal that some convicts had been returned to the hulks in consequence of their being a great nuisance on board due to incontinence.[2]

Surgeon Alexander Neill

This was the first of four voyages Alexander Neill undertook as surgeon on a convicts ship. On this voyage he kept a Medical Journal from 5 October 1835 to 16 March 1836.[2]

Military Guard

On the 5th October 1835, the Guard for the Recovery consisting of a Sergeant and a drummer and 26 rank and file of the 28th regiment under the command of Lieut. Russell and Ensign Smith (or Swift); 8 women and 3 children, embarked at Deptford.
Marquis of Huntley 1835 Recovery 1836 Charles Kerr 1837 Westmoreland Norfolk Backwell England John Barry Susan Waterloo Moffatt Strathfieldsaye Portsea Lady McNaughten Convict Ships 1835 28th regiment guard


The Recovery weighed anchor on 30 October 1835 with 280 male prisoners.

Illness and Rations

The surgeon reported that the prisoners suffered from sea sickness in the early part of November which was exacerbated by the cocoa they were fed and of which they had the greatest possible dislike and disgust. He recommended that cocoa was not a fit ration to give to convicts and that oatmeal which the convicts looked on as a luxury would be a better choice.[2]

The Voyage

The weather remained fine throughout November and December and there was little illness on board although one of the soldiers who had been despondent lost all recollection at this time. He remained in a cataleptic state and died on 4th February.[2]

Port Jackson

The Sydney Herald reported that the Recovery came into port on 25 February 1836 in a very creditable manner, both to her commander Captain Johnson and Dr. Neill. The prisoners were all in a healthy condition, not one death having occurred during the voyage, the whole of the berths in the ship present almost the extreme of cleanliness, and the general appearance of the convicts of the same character.

Alexander Neill recorded in his journal that nine prisoners were affected with symptoms of scurvy on arrival - spongy gums, macular on the extremities and in one case contraction of the muscles of both legs.[2]

Convicts Disembarked

The prisoners were held on the vessel for twenty days before being disembarked. They were landed on 16th March 1836.

Departure from Sydney

The Recovery, a fine fast sailing teak ship with a surgeon on board was advertising to sail for Bombay on 1st April.

Notes and Links

1). Convicts and passengers of the Recovery identified in the Hunter Region

2). Alexander Neill was also employed as Surgeon on the Heber in 1837, Parkfield in 1839 and the Eden in 1842 (to VDL)

3). Convict ships bringing detachments of the 28th regiment included the Recovery, Lady McNaughten, Charles Kerr, Westmoreland, Marquis of Huntley, Norfolk, Backwell, England, John Barry, Susan, Waterloo, Moffatt, Strathfieldsaye and Portsea.

4). National Archives. Reference: ADM 101/63/7A Description: The medical and surgical journal of HM convict ship Recovery for 5 October 1835 to 16 March 1836 by Alexander Neill, during which time the said ship was employed in passage to Sydney New South Wales.


[1] Bateson, Charles Library of Australian History (1983). The convict ships, 1787-1868 (Australian ed). Library of Australian History, Sydney : pp.352-353, 390

[2] Journal of Alexander Neill on the voyage of the Recovery in 1836- UK, Royal Navy Medical Journals, 1817-1857 Original data: The National Archives. Kew, Richmond, Surrey