Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

Convict Ship Asia V (3) - 1837

Embarked 280 men
Voyage 120 days
Deaths 3
Surgeon's Journal - Yes
Previous vessel: James Pattison arrived 25 October 1837
Next vessel: Henry Wellesley arrived 22 December 1837
Captain Benjamin Freeman
Surgeon John Gannon

The ship Asia was built at Calcutta in 1814. Convicts were transported to Australia on the Asia in 1827 (VDL), 1831 (NSW), 1837 (NSW), 1841 (VDL) and 1847 (VDL).[5]

Prisoners embarked on the Asia on this voyage were tried in counties in England, Scotland and Wales - Cumberland, Bedford, Berks, Bristol, Chester, Derby, Devon, Durham, Gloucester, Hertford, Kent, Lancaster, Leicester, Lincoln, London, Middlesex, Northampton, Nottingham, Warwick, Worcester, York, Salop, Stafford, Suffolk, Surrey, Perth, Inverness, Dumfries, Nevis, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Monmouth, Flint and Pembroke. There were also former soldiers who had been Court-martialled at Chatham and Barbados.[1]

John Gannon joined the Asia at Deptford on 28 June 1837. He kept a Medical Journal from that day until 11 December 1837.[2]

Convicts Embarked

Fifty people altogether joined the ship on 7th July and on 10 July they sailed to Woolwich. On 11 July, 140 convicts were received from the Justitia and Ganymede hulks and on 14 July, another 140 arrived from the Fortitude at Chatham.

Military Guard

The guard consisted of 29 rank and file of 80th and 4th regiments, under command of Major William Kemp and Ensign Cross with passengers Mrs. Kemp and 7 children, 8 soldiers' wives.

Departure from England

Asia was anchored in the Downs on 23 July and at Torbay, because of strong westerly winds, on 28 July. They sailed again on 4 August, passing Madeira on 18 August and getting into the North East trades on 21 August. The Asia departed England on 4th August 1837.

Illness on Board

The prevailing diseases that John Gannon had to deal with were catarrh, diarrhoea, inflammatory fevers, some ring worm, and there was one case of confirmed phthisis pulmonalis.

They crossed the equator on 17 September and found the South East trades on 18 September. There were catarrhs, sore throats, diarrhoea and one case of chronic rheumatism at this time. The catarrhs and sore throats occurred in the prisoners who were on deck in the evenings, which were damp and sometimes chilly.

In October the weather was mostly clear and dry with some days of heavy showers. Prevalent diseases in October, were catarrhs and diarrhoea, a case of scorbutus supervened in a man on the sick list for boils. One man died from consumption, P. McGuire.

In November the weather became boisterous with heavy showers of hail and gales and heavy seas but was clear and dry from the 8th.

On 24 November they sighted the West Coast of New South Wales. Prevailing diseases were catarrh, rheumatism and several severe cases of scurvy 'caused by the cold, damp and heavy state of the weather, and the 'wet state of the ship' at the start of the month. There were two deaths, one from consumption, James Holmes, and one from apoplexy, Matthew Coxford.[2]

Arrival in Port Jackson

On 2 December 1837 they arrived in Port Jackson, a passage of 120 days from Torbay.


Joseph Allison from Cumberland died in Sydney General Hospital 8th December 1837.

The prisoners were landed on 11 December 1837.

Convict Attitudes to their new life

Amongst the convicts were two men who had been held in London prisons in 1837. George Caddell and John Cook were interviewed while in prison by John Ward who later gave evidence at the Molesworth Select Committee on transportation. -

Q. - Did you find that they were aware at all that if they committed offences in the colony they would be subjected to very severe punishment? -
A. - I do not believe that the agricultural prisoners that I spoke to, had any idea of that.

Q. - Did you find that the more educated class, for instance, the London thieves, had any idea of that description? -
A. - In Maidstone gaol I examined George Caddell, who was under sentence of transportation for 14 years, for uttering; he had been in prison before, having been a year in Coldbath-fields; he told me that he knew nothing of the place where he was going to, for he had never read about it or heard any particulars; he thought that other prisoners were equally ignorant with himself; he did not particularly dread going out, because he did not know what he might meet with, and when he was in prison he knew what he must expect. In Aylesbury county gaol I examined John Cook, who was under sentence of transportation for life, for sheep stealing; he said he knew nothing about the place to which he was going; that he did not know how he might find it, but he thought it could not be worse than a prison. [3]

News by the Asia

Asia brought the news to the colony that Sir George Gipps would succeed Sir Richard Bourke as Governor of the colony.

Notes and Links

1). John Gannon was also employed as surgeon on the Barossa in 1844 (VDL)

2). Convicts and passengers of the Asia identified in the Hunter Valley

3). Detachments of the 80th regiment arrived on the Lady Kennaway, Lloyds, Norfolk, Bengal Merchant, Asia, Captain Cook, Earl Grey, St. Vincent, John, Prince George, Mangles, Heber, Theresa, Calcutta and Eden

4). Colonial Appointments


[1] Convict Indents. State Archives NSW; Series: NRS 12189; Item: [X640]; Microfiche: 729

[2] UK, Royal Navy Medical Journals, 1817-1857 Medical Journal of John Gannon on the voyage of the Asia in 1837. The National Archives. Kew, Richmond, Surrey.

[3] Report from the Select Committee on Transportation. Sir William Molesworth, Chairman. Interview with John Ward Esq., 5 February 1838, Parliamentary Papers.

[4] Bateson, Charles Library of Australian History (1983). The convict ships, 1787-1868 (Australian ed). Library of Australian History, Sydney : pp.354-355, 390