Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

Convict Ship Sugar Cane - 1793

Embarked: 110 men; 50 women
Voyage: 157 days
Deaths 1 (executed)
Surgeon's Journal: no
Previous vessel: Boddingtons arrived 7 August 1793
Next vessel: William arrived 10 March 1794
Master Thomas Musgrave
Surgeon David Wake Bell
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Prisoners and passengers of the Sugar Cane identified in the Hunter Valley

The Sugar Cane was the next convict ship to leave Ireland for New South Wales after the departure of the Boddingtons in February 1793.

The Convicts

Prisoners came from counties throughout Ireland - Cork, Limerick, Wexford, Dublin, Westmeath, Waterford, Cavan, Clare and Tipperary.

Military Guard

The Guard was formed from soldiers of the NSW Corps. Thomas Musgrave held grave fears for the safety of the ship's company because of the calibre and health of some of the guard. Early in February he had been informed that the War Office was sending on board a soldier of the NSW Corps by the name of Samuel John Stanton.....Stanton was said to be of a very infamous character and as well as from the bad tendency his conduct might have by mixing with the convicts, it was recommended that Musgrave keep him entirely separate from them.

Captain Musgrave applied to Under Secretary Nepean to have the man removed...'You must be fully convinced the person mentioned is very unfit to act as a centinel over the convicts and you cannot be ignorant how utterly impossible it will be fore me and my ship's company to keep both soldiers and convicts in subjection. The (former) I naturally concluded were sent on board to assist me in keeping the convicts in order. I have also to observe that Mr. Bell, the superintendent on account of Government and Mr. Rogers the surgeon sent by the contractor are still of opinion notwithstanding the survey that numbers of the recruits are unfit to proceed on the voyage - indeed two of them are already in so bad a state that they are incapable of doing anything.' [1]

Thomas Musgrave in another plea to Nepean also in February - 'Thomas McGennis one of the privates of the New South Wales corps having behaved in a very riotous and mutinous manner and threatened the life of my chief officer, I have confined him in irons. Would be glad to know from you in what manner I am to proceed with him that he may be punish'd as an example for the rest of the men. If it is possible I should wish to be released from him entirely as also of the other man I wrote you about (Samuel Stanton).' [1]

Surgeon David Wake Bell

Surgeon David Wake Bell was about thirty-three years old at the time of sailing. He kept Under-Secretary Nepean informed of the proceedings on the Sugar Cane for the next few months. Their progress from the Downs to Plymouth, Kinsale, Cork, Rio de Janeiro and Port Jackson can be followed through his letters:


In correspondence dated 18 February 1793 at Catwater, Plymouth -

We sailed from the Downs on the 16th instant, and kept company with the convoy as far as Portsmouth, the frigate not being bound any farther to the westward. This morning the wind coming to the SW and having Plymouth under our lee, bore up, in order to know if there was any convoy for Cork, as well as to get some hands, six men having left us since the 9th. On our entering the Sound, the men of war's boats came on board and took the whole of our foremast men, so that we shall not be able to proceed until we get those men again or others from the shore, which I am much afraid will be a difficult matter. Three of the NSW Corps have been in the sick list ever since we sailed from Gravesend. [2]


In correspondence to Nepean dated 11th March from Kinsale, Ireland, he informed Nepean that they had sailed from Plymouth on 9th March without a convoy and made Kinsale port on the afternoon of the 11th.....

'Our reason of our making this port was occasioned by being to leeward of Cork and blowing a strong gale, thought it more advisable to put in than run the risk of beating to windward, especially as the pilot boat informed us that a privateer the day before had chased a ship close in with the Old Head of Kinsale.. The moment the wind will permit we sail for Cork from whence shall inform you of our further proceedings.

One of the four soldiers who deserted at Plymouth was taken by a sergeant of the 11th regiment on the 26th February and is now on board under confinement, together with the one I mentioned in my former letter. It would be highly satisfactory sir, to the master, as well as myself to know what we are to do with these men, as they have now been a considerable time confined without our knowing in what manner to act with them.'


Having embarked the prisoners, the Sugar Cane sailed from Cork on 12 April 1793

Threatened Mutiny and Execution

'On the 25th May, information was given to the agent on the part of Government, that a meeting was intended by the convicts, and that they had proceeded so far as to saw off some of their irons. Insinuations were at the same time thrown out, of the probability of their being joined by certain of the sailors and of the guard. The agent, after making the necessary inquiry, thought it indispensable to the safety of the ship, to cause an instant example to be made, and ordered one of the convicts who was found out of irons to be executed that night; others were punished the next morning; and by these measures, as might well be expected, threw such a damp on the spirits of the rest, that he heard no more during the voyage of attempts or intentions to take the ship'.[3]

Rio de Janeiro

In correspondence dated 12th July from Rio de Janeiro Bell writes:

'I had the honor to write you on the 25th of last month by a vessel bound to Bristol, which was the day we came to an anchor at this place. From the difficulty of watering we have made a longer stay than I had reason at first to expect. The convicts are all well, and so much refreshed from the fresh beef and vegetables of which they have had a plentiful supply, that there is every reason to expect the remainder of the voyage they will be equally healthy as the first part of it.'

He hired the use of a translator which cost five shillings a day for twenty six days and with his help purchased 10 tons of limestone at one shilling per ton for the use of the colony. If the wind permitted they planned to sail from Rio on the morning of 13th July 1793.

Port Jackson

The Sugar Cane arrived in Port Jackson on 17th September 1793 -

Arrival of the Sugar Cane in 1793 - An Account of the English colony in NSW - David Collins

Lieut-Governor Grose later informed Henry Dundas of the arrival of the Sugar Cane and Boddingtons -

Sydney, 12 October 1793.
I have the honour to inform you that since the date of my last dispatches the Sugar Cane transport, with Irish convicts has arrived here. The contractor, as well in this ship as the Boddingtons, appears to have performed his engagement with great liberality; and the prisoners they have conveyed prove by their healthy appearance the extraordinary attention that must have been paid by the Naval Agents. In two ships containing three hundred and three people, one person only had died, and amongst those landed in the colony scarcely any are sick.

The Britannia store ship having been dismissed from government employment was immediately engaged by the civil and military officers for the purpose of purchasing a variety of stores they stood in need of, with the particular view of fetching cattle from the Cape of Good Hope.

Messrs. Richard Kent and David Wake Bell, the naval Agents who came out in the Sugar Cane and Boddingtons transports were instructed to take their passage by the Britannia it being the first opportunity that had offered of their returning to England unless a considerable expense had been incurred by their taking the route of India. (Grose to Henry Dundas 31st August 1794, HRA, Series 1, Vol 1., p 482)

Supplies on the Sugar Cane included 31,496 lbs of beef; 45,440 lbs. of port; 64,512 lbs. of flour; 44 tons of lime stone; 17 bales and 5 cases of clothing and necessaries.

Departure of the Sugar Cane from Port Jackson -

Departure of the Sugar Cane in 1793 - An Account of the English Colony in NSW - David Collins

.......An account of the English Colony in New South Wales

Notes and Links

1). Ann Farrelly arrived as a convict on the Sugar Cane. She died in October 1809 and was buried in the Old Sydney Burial Ground.

2). Convict Daniel Brady/Leonard was granted a Certificate of Freedom in 1810 (Sydney Gazette)

3). Patrick Shaffery arrived as a prisoner on the Sugar Cane. In December 1814 he was given special permission to join Rev. Samuel Marsden and a missionary expedition to New Zealand. .......

In 1813 Rev Marsden formed the New South Wales Society for Affording Protection to the Natives of the South Sea Islands and Promoting their Civilisation, and on 28 November 1814 set out with a party in the brig Active, which he had bought for 1400 pounds, to maintain the Maoris' contact with civilization. (ADB Online) Others joining the expedition included Thomas Hansen, free settler, master; Alexander Ross, came free in the Surry, John Hunter, free by birth in NSW; Thomas Hamilton , free by servitude; William Campbell, free by certificate; Warrakee a New Zealander, Tommy, ditto; Dicka-hee, Otaheitan, Punnee, Bolabolan. Passengers William Hall, missionary, Mrs. Dinah Hall, wife of William Hall, William Hall aged 3; Thomas Kendall, missionary, Mrs. Jane Kendall; Thomas Henry and William Kendall children of the above, John King, missionary; Mrs. Hannah King; Philip King aged 15 months; Thomas Hensen junior, son to the master, Mrs. Hannah Hansen wife of the Master; John Liddiard Nicholas, free settlers and eight New Zealanders and Chiefs. The following convicts also joined the expedition - Walter Hall arrived as a prisoner on the Archduke Charles. In 1814 he was given special permission to join a missionary expedition to New Zealand on the condition of Rev. Samuel Marsden giving security that Hall would return to New South Wales within 3 years. Patrick/Henry Shaffery who arrived on the Sugar Cane and Richard Stockwell who arrived on the Earl Spencer were permitted to join the expedition likewise. Narrative of a Voyage to New Zealand: By John Liddiard Nicholas

4). Hunter Valley convicts / passengers arriving on the Sugar Cane in 1793

5). From the National Archives UK the following information about the Sugar Cane - Voyages: (1) From Bengal 1794. Capt Thomas Musgrave. Calcutta 15 May 1794 - 29 Jun Madras - 4 Oct Cape - 25 Oct St Helena - 25 Dec Crookhaven - 31 Jan 1795 Kinsale - 27 Feb Downs.

6). Convict ship bringing political prisoners and protesters

7). Convict Ships arriving in New South Wales in 1793 - Bellona, Boddingtons and Sugar Cane.

8).James Fitzpatrick Knareborough arrived as a convict on the Sugar Cane

James Fitzpatrick Knaresborough was a young man of tolerable private fortune in the county of Kilkenny. Unlike the common run of young men at that day, he was sober, money-making, and even avaricious, though moderately hospitable; his principal virtue consisting in making no exhibition of his vices. He was of good figure; and, without having the presence of a gentleman, was what is called a handsome young fellow. Mr. Knaresborough had been accused of a capital crime by a Miss Barton, (natural daughter of William Barton, Esq., a magistrate of the county of Kilkenny,) who stated that she had gone away with him for the purpose, and in the strict confidence, of being married the same day at Leighlin Bridge. - Her father was a gentleman, a magistrate, and of consideration in the county, and a warrant was granted against Knaresborough for the felony; but he contrived to get liberated on bail - the amount being doubled. The grand-jury, however, on the young woman's testimony, found true bills against him for the capital offence, and he came to Carlow to take his trial at the assizes......Personal Sketches of His Own Times, Volume 1 By Sir Jonah Barrington.

He left the colony in 1796

On the 10th the American sailed for the north-west coast of America. In her went Mr.James Fitzpatrick Knaresbro', a gentleman whose hard lot it was to be doomed to banishment for life from his native country, Ireland, and the enjoyment of a comfortable fortune which he there possessed. He arrived here in the Sugar Cane transport, in the year 1793, and had lived constantly at Parramatta with the most rigid economy and severe self-denial, even of the common comforts of life, - An Account of the English Colony in NSW - David Collins, p.466.
February - March 1820 - James Fitzpatrick Knaresboro, sheriffs prison, Dublin: claim of fabricated charges against him....letter from James Fitzpatrick Knaresboro [Knaresborough], sheriffs prison, Dublin, County Dublin, to Charles Grant, Chief Secretary, Dublin Castle, requesting relief from imprisonment on grounds that he is victim of a miscarriage of justice, and has been confined for over three years due to fabricated charges taken against him by a debtor; encloses memorial from Knaresboro, to Earl Talbot, Lord Lieutenant, Dublin Castle, requesting that investigation be made of claim that particular debentures have been fraudulently used and that the Governors and Company of the Bank of Ireland may be restrained from paying the Interest on the Debentures. Includes letter from Knaresboro to Grant, pleading to have case impartially investigated and to seek a situation of employment under government: encloses affidavit outlining action and detail of case brought against him by Sir James Riddall. - Chief Secretary's Office Registered Papers, National Archives, Ireland


[1] Historical Records of New South Wales, Vol. 2, Captain Musgrave to Under Secretary Nepean, 10 February 1793, p.8

[2] Historical Records of New South Wales, Vol. 2, Surgeon Superintendent Bell to Under Secretary Nepean, 18th February 1793, p. 16

[3] Collins, David, An Account of the English Colony in New South Wales., p. 225