Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

Convict Ship Roslin Castle - 1836

Embarked: 165 women
Voyage: 120 days
Deaths: 3
Previous vessel: Henry Wellesley arrived 7 February 1836
Next vessel: Recovery arrived 25 February 1836
Master William Richards
Surgeon John Edwards
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Prisoners and passengers of the Roslin Castle identified in the Hunter Valley

The Roslin Castle was built at Bristol in 1819. Convicts were transported to Australia on the Roslin Castle in 1828 (VDL), 1830, 1833 (NSW), 1834 (NSW) and 1836 (NSW).

Prisoners of the Roslin Castle were brought to Cork from counties throughout Ireland - Armagh, Antrim, Carlow, Cavan, Clare, Cork, Fermanagh, Donegal, Down, Drogheda, Dublin, Galway, Kings Co. Limerick, Londonderry, Longford, Mayo, Meath, Monaghan, Queens co, Sligo, Westmeath, Fermoy and Wicklow. They were held in the Penitentiary at Cork to await transportation.

Cork Penitentiary

The Connaught Telegraph reported on 4th November 1835 that 145 female convicts and 23 children were conveyed from the Convict Penitentiary to Cove, where they were shipped on board the Roslin Castle; and on the following day 20 others, 2 children and 41 free settlers, the wives and children of convicts in New South Wales were embarked in the same vessel. There remained in the Cork Penitentiary 99 female convicts 26 children, 7 male convicts and 27 free settlers (sons of convicts) waiting a passage to New South Wales in the next convict ship.

The Topographical Dictionary of Ireland by Samuel Lewis published in 1837 gives a description of the Penitentiary.....

The Female Penitentiary or Convict Depot, occupies the site of the old fort erected in the southern suburb, in the reign of Elizabeth. It is capable of containing 250 inmates, who are brought hither from all parts of Ireland, and remain until the arrival of vessels to convey them to their final place of destination. During their residence here they are employed in needle-work, washing and knitting, so as to supply not only themselves but all the convicts sent out of Ireland with clothing: the number of suits thus made annually is about 1000. The number committed to this prison, in 1835, was 457, of whom 315 were transported to New South Wales. Schools have been established in all the prisons. The hulk is no longer used as a place of confinement.

Cabin Passengers

Cabin passengers included Mr. Jonathon Croft, Deputy Purveyor of the Forces, Mrs. Croft and 7 children, Miss C. Croft and Master J. Croft.

Jonathon Croft died in 1862. His obituary was published in the Sydney Herald and reads in part: In 1835 several officers of the Medical Staff having been ordered to Australia, Mr. Croft, who had had the management of the Military General Hospital at Cork for several years previous, set sail for this country in the Roslyn Castle, and arrived here with his family in safety. Before he left Ireland the local press spoke in high terms of his service during the prevalence of the cholera at Cork, reminding the public of his zeal and activity in the organisation of temporary hospitals for the reception and treatment of cholera patients, and expressing a well grounded conviction that in parting with Mr. Croft the poor had lost a benefactor and a friend. On his arrival at Sydney, Mr. Croft was placed in charge of the military and convict medical depots of the colony

Steerage Passengers

The seventeen free women and 23 children came in steerage. They are listed in the Unassisted immigrant passenger lists at Ancestry and include:

Ann Connelly, wife of Patrick Dodd with three children;
Catherine Birmingham wife of James Ryan and two children;
Margaret Brogan wife of Thomas Cagney and one child;
Sarah Molloy wife of John Handibo and two children;
Catherine Hickey wife of Thomas Keeffe and one child;
Margaret Toohy wife of Patrick Hogan with two children;
Mary Skahill wife of John Toohy with one child;
Mary Bryan wife of John Nowlan;
Rose Lysett, daughter of James Lysett;
Jane O'Hare with two children;
Johanna Hannigan wife of Michael O'Brien with one child;
Marcella Gorman wife of Luke Gorman (no children);
Mary Hogan wife of William Driscoll with one child;
Jane Byrne wife of Anthony Brown with two children;
Mary Lahey wife of Jeremiah Flinn (no children);
Ann Dean wife of Peter Kelly (no children);
Ellena Brogan wife of James Brogan with four children;
Julia Spiller wife of Michael Spiller with one child.[1]


The Roslin Castle departed Cork on 28 October 1835 with 165 female prisoners and 26 children.

Surgeon John Edwards

John Edwards kept a Medical Journal from 15 September 1835 to 14 March 1836. This was his third voyage as Surgeon Superintendent. He considered the women who embarked on the Roslin Castle to be of the worst description he had seen, both morally and physically -

A more filthy, indolent and reprobate set of women were never expatriated. Most had been in prison more than a year and many were sent from the hospital as incurable.

There were a total of 182 women and 49 children on the voyage, 17 of them were free women and 23 of their children. Adverse weather increased the sea sickness at the start of the voyage and many of the women suffered the consequences even after the bad weather ceased. There were many long lasting cases of gastric irritability and some of the old women were nursed all through the voyage. Obstinate obstruction of the bowels was also a general consequence, made worse by the women not reporting it for 10 or 15 days. The bowel conditions were made worse by the change in diet from the low hospital diet to the ship's dry provisions and by existing diseases from leading dissipated lives.

'A week after leaving harbour one of the women died of fever which caused a great alarm among the women. This at least did have the effect of encouraging the prisoners to keep themselves and the prison clean, 'although even after this, from time to time, the filthy habits of some among them in the night about the water closets was a source of great annoyance to the people in the contiguous berths and of anxiety and vexation to myself'.

Three women in total died as well as four infants. Few of the women became reconciled to their new diet, they especially objected to cocoa and after a few days it was thrown away and tea substituted; even this did not suit some who had never had tea before. They had an incessant, almost morbid, longing for potatoes, for which they would have sacrificed everything else. [2]

Port Jackson

The Roslin Castle arrived in Port Jackson on 25 February 1836 the same day as the Recovery from London.

Convict Indents

The indents reveal the women who died :
Sarah Linehan - died at sea 7 February 1836
Johanna Reilly - died at sea 15 November 1835
Ann Foley - Died at sea 13 December 1835
Bridget Daley - died in Hospital at Parramatta 22 March 1836.

There were also two other women for whom there were few details in the indents.....
Eleanor Thompson or Wilson - From Armagh tried for larceny at Spring Assizes March 1835. No further details in the indent
Ellen Maher - tried for murder. No further details in the indents. [3]

Notes and Links

1). Sarah Crossen, for stealing one table cloth, the property of Martin Harper at Belfast, on 6th January; guilty, seven years transportation.

2). John Edwards was also surgeon on the Convict Ships Hercules in 1832, Henry Tanner in 1834 and the Charles Kerr in 1837

3). Hunter Valley convicts and passengers arriving on the Roslin Castle in 1836

4). The Roslin Castle was one of five convict ships transporting female prisoners to New South Wales in the year 1836, the others being the Henry Wellesley, Thomas Harrison, Elizabeth and Pyramus. A total of 668 female prisoners arrived in the colony in 1836.

5). National Archives. Reference: ADM 101/64/7B Description: Medical and surgical journal of His Majesty's Convict Ship, Roslin Castle, for 15 September 1835 to 14 March 1836 by John Edwards, Surgeon.


[1] New South Wales Government. Inward passenger lists. Series 13278, Reels 399-560, 2001-2122, 2751. State Records Authority of New South Wales. Kingswood (Ancestry)

[2] Journal of John Edwards. UK Royal Navy Medical Journals, 1817-1857 . The National Archives, Kew, Surry

[3] Convict Indents. State Archives NSW; Series: NRS 12189; Item: [X638]; Microfiche: 719