Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

Alexander Nisbet R. N.,

Convict Ship Surgeon-Superintendent

Date of Seniority Royal Navy 17 August 1815

Alexander Nisbet was entered in the Navy List of Medical Officers in 1814 [1]

He was appointed surgeon in the Royal Navy 17 August 1815.

He was granted Degree of Doctor of Medicine at University of Edinburgh in 1818 - Pneumonia Typhode.[2]

Surgeon Superintendent

He was employed as Surgeon-Superintendent on six convict ship voyages to Australia:

Minerva 1824

Grenada 1827

Hooghley 1828

Asia 1830

Earl Grey 1838

Mangles 1840.

After the voyage of the Minerva in 1824 he was returning to England on the Royal Charlotte when, at Cato reef on 19th June she struck a reef and was wrecked. Leaving the survivors on shore, the chief officer and Dr. Nisbet with twelve others, got into the long boat and after 21 days made Moreton Bay where the Amity was immediately dispatched to assist those who had remained on board.

Dr. Nisbet sailed for Calcutta on the Norfolk in October 1825 and returned again as surgeon on Grenada in 1827 and then Hooghley in 1828.

In 1829 an interesting Court Case took place in England - Dawson v. Nesbit. - Robert Dawson had been dismissed by the Board of the Australian Agricultural Company and was returning to England........

The plaintiff (Dawson) who had gone out to Sydney as agent to the Australian Agricultural Company, was coming home to England by a return convict ship on board of which was also Mr. Nesbit a superintendent surgeon of convicts. One evening, at tea, the conversation between these two passengers turned upon the hot winds which prevail in those latitudes. Mr. Nesbit said they always blew with great violence. Mr. Dawson observed that the hot winds themselves were not violent, but were generally followed by squalls. The defendant declared he was satisfied they blew with violence, because he knew of boats having been upset by them. The plaintiff nevertheless maintained his opinion, and said he did not believe that such was the case, although.......The defendant, without suffering him to finish his sentence, struck him a blow on the nose, which drew blood, asking him at the same time how he presumed to contradict him? The plaintiff replied, that if he had not struck him, he was about to have added, 'although I know you would not say so if you did not think it'. The defendant then expressed his regret for the blow he had given him, and invited the plaintiff to shake hands; which invitation, however, he declined to accept, and left the ship on the first opportunity, to return home by one in which he would be relieved from the company of Mr. Nesbit. Verdict for the plaintiff. Damages £100..[3]

Alexander Nisbet returned to Australia again on the Asia in January 1830 and was appointed Assistant Commissioner to the Australian Agricultural Company in 1830 a position he held until August 1831 when he was replaced by James Ebsworth.[4]

Magnify the map above by scrolling then click on the green ship icons to read Alexander Nisbet's account of each day of the voyage of the Asia. Enlarge the map using the icon on the top right

Appointed Surgeon to the Cornwallis

Alexander Nisbet was on the List of Surgeons of the Royal Navy who were fit for service in 1841; he was appointed surgeon to the Cornwallis [5]

Deputy Inspector Hospitals and Fleets

He was Deputy Medical Inspector of Hospitals and Fleets on half-pay in 1844 [6]

1851 Census

In the 1851 Census Alexander Nisbet is recorded living at the Greenwich Hospital. He is employed as Deputy Inspector, unmarried and aged 56. His sister Jane Findlater also resided there. Also residing at Greenwich Hospital at this time was surgeon James McTernan and his wife and assistant surgeon Robert Beith


Alexander Nisbet married Lucy Susanna, daughter of Rev. E.J. Davenport of Davenport House, Shropshire at Arley Staffordshire in 1854.[7]

Presented to the Queen

In 1859 he was among the medical gentlemen presented to Her Majesty the Queen at St. James Palace [8]

1861 Census

In 1861 he lived at Her Majesty's Royal Naval hospital, Alverstoke with his wife Lucy and their children Alexander age 4 and Lucy age 3. Alexander aged 65 and Lucy 41. Jane Findlater, unmarried and age 42 still resided with him.


Alexander Nisbet received the good service pension in 1865 on the death of Sir J. Richardson.[9]


He is listed in the Medical Register 1865.
Residence Royal Hospital, Haslar, Gosport.
Qualifications Lic. Royal College Surgeons Edinburgh 1812.
M.D. University Edinburgh 1818.

Knighted in 1873

In June 1873 Alexander Nisbet R.N., and Captain George Biddlecombe, R.N. were introduced by the Earl of Kimberley, in the absence of the Secretary of State for the Home Department, and received the honour of Knighthood. [10]


Alexander Nisbet died at Arley Lodge, Lee, Kent on 22 June 1874 - Sir Alexander Nisbet M.D., late Inspector-General of Hospital in the Royal Navy and an Honorary Physician to the Queen, expired at Arley Lodge, at Lee, in Kent on the 22nd ult. [11]

His estate was valued at (under) £6000

Marriage of Lucy Nisbet

On June 20 at Worfield Shropshire, the Rev. W. Kitching of Runnymeade, Old Windsore and of Tan-yr-Allt, Tremadoc, Carnarvonshire, to Lucy Susannah Nisbet, widow of Sir Alexander Nisbet, Inspector General, R.N., and daughter of the late Rev. E.S. Davenport of Davenport. [12]

Lucy died in 1892.

Notes and Links

1). Recognising a former convict -The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 - 1842) Wed 23 Apr 1828 Page 2


[1] Navy List

[2] Caledonian Mercury (Edinburgh, Scotland), Saturday, August 8, 1818; Issue 15119. British Library Newspapers, Part I: 1800-1900.

[3] Times [London, England] 4 Nov. 1829: 4. The Times Digital Archive

[4] In the Service of the Company: letters of Sir Edward Parry, Commissioner to the Australian Agricultural company: volume 1, December 1829 - June 1832 Letter 556a

[5] Nautical Magazine

[6] The New Navy List

[7] The Annual Register of the World.

[8] Medical Times and Gazette

[9] The Lancet

[10] Naval and Military . The Bath Chronicle (Bath, England), Thursday, July 03, 1873; pg. 6; Issue 5984. British Library Newspapers, Part IV: 1732-1950.

[11] Hampshire Telegraph and Sussex Chronicle etc (Portsmouth, England), Saturday, June 27, 1874; Issue 4368. British Library Newspapers, Part I: 1800-1900.

[12] Jackson's Oxford Journal 30 June 1877.