Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

William Conborough Watt R. N.,

Convict Ship Surgeon-Superintendent

Date of Seniority Royal Navy 22 February 1819

William Conborough Watt was employed as Surgeon Superintendent on four convict ship voyages to Australia:

Edward to NSW in 1829

Roslin Castle to NSW in 1830

Exmouth to NSW in 1831

Mary to NSW in 1833

William Conborough Watt was born in Scotland, of Scottish parents. He was baptized, on the 12th June 1795 in the parish of New Monkland, Larnark and was educated in Scotland for the medical profession. He had one brother, Thomas Watt, and an only sister Margaret. Thomas Watt was an assistant surgeon in the Royal Navy and resided chiefly at Deptford, Kent and upon his death was buried at Greenwich.

Naval Service

William C. Watt resided in Scotland until 1811, when he came to England and was appointed assistant surgeon in the Royal Navy, and was employed as hospital mate at Haslar Hospital. In 1812, he was appointed assistant surgeon to her majesty's ship Aboukir. He was on the List of Medical Officers who had served at War. He was employed as Assistant-surgeon on the Abourkir at the surrender of Genoa in 1814.

In May 1817 after serving in several ships he was appointed acting surgeon in the Raccoon, in which he remained until December 1818, when, for the first time, he was put on half pay. He returned to Scotland and resided there until January 1821, when he returned to England and was appointed surgeon of the Grasshopper, in which he continued until January 1824, and about February in the same year was appointed surgeon of the Arachne, in which vessel he served in India. When Surgeon of the Arachne was officially noticed for his services while conducting the medical department, against Ava in 1824-25-26.


On the return of that ship in October, 1826, he was for the second time put upon half pay, and again went to Scotland. On arriving in Glasgow he found the circumstances of his family much altered for the worse, his mother had died in that year and his father who died in March 1833 had become of irregular habits and his sister Margaret was in circumstances and in society very unsatisfactory.
He left Glasgow, taking his sister with him and went to reside at the house or Richard Smith at Lasswade where he placed his sister in the boarding school of the Misses Mutter. He continued to reside there till the autumn of 1828 during which time he took the degree of M.D. from the University of Glasgow. In 1828 he expressed a desire to obtain a private practice in England, but as none offered, he visited Falkirk in the county of Stirling and endeavoured, but unsuccessfully, to make arrangements for succeeding to a business there.

Surgeon Superintendent

In the autumn of 1828, having obtained employment, he removed his sister from the school to the family of R. Smith, and was appointed surgeon to the convict ship Edward, which he held until October 1829. While on this voyage the wife of R. Smith died and he removed his sister to the house of a lady near London. In December 1829 he was appointed surgeon of the Roslin Castle and before sailing made his will.

He left in the ship in December 1830 and in January 1831 was appointed to Exmouth convict ship which was lying at Deptford; he took his sister with him and placed her in the house of a lady there; he also caused her piano forte to be removed from Scotland to her then residence. He subsequently served on board the ship Mary and was afterwards for a short time with a marine detachment at Spike Island, off the coast of Cork when, in April 1834 he was appointed surgeon to the Temeraire to the ships in ordinary at Sheerness, which he held until the end of September 1839, when he was for the last time placed on half pay.

He was next appointed secretary to the medical officers of the navy, who were then raising a fund amongst themselves to present a testimonial to their chief, Sir William Burnett. This required his presence in London, and he accordingly removed with his sister and took lodgings at Pimlico, where he resided until 1841 during which time he pressed his claim for employment and promotion in the Navy.

Appointed Deputy-Inspector of Fleets

Early in October 1841, he was appointed a Deputy-Inspector of Fleets and joined the Queen at Portsmouth and sailed for the Mediterranean, and remained in that ship until March 1843.

Appointed Deputy-Inspector of Hospitals

He was appointed Deputy-Inspector of Hospitals in 1843 and went to Malta. This position was previously held by William Martin who had been shot and killed by a sentry on 23rd March. This appointment Watt held until his death there in August 1848. He was joined by his sister at Malta, where they resided until her death in 1846...Courts of Chancery Brown v. Brown v. Smith


Notice - Died, on the morning of the 20th August, at his residence in Rinella Bay, Dr. William Conborough Watt, D.D., F.R.C.S., Deputy Inspector of her Majesty's Royal Naval Hospital, Bighi. Dr. Watts had been upwards of thirty years in her Majesty's service, and greatly distinguished himself by his medical services during the Burmese war in 1825. He was buried on the 22nd, in the tomb at Bighi cemetery, which contains the remains of his sister, deeply regretted by all who knew him. Admiral Harvey, and the officers of the fleet in port at Malta, and all the dockyard and victualling yard officers, followed the remains of the deceased officer to the tomb........The Morning Post 1 September 1848

Notes and Links

1). The New Navy List

2). The New Navy List

3). Gentleman's Magazine