Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

Convict Ship Bussorah Merchant - 1831

Embarked: 200 men
Voyage: 120 days
Deaths: 2
Surgeon's Journal - Yes
Crew 42 men
Previous vessel: Asia arrived 2 December 1831
Next vessel: Norfolk arrived 9 February 1832
Captain John Moncrief
Surgeon James Gilchrist
Follow the Irish Convict Ship Trail
Convicts and Passengers of the Bussorah Merchant identified in the Hunter Valley

The Bussorah Merchant was built at Calcutta in 1818.[1] Convicts were transported to Australia on the Bussorah Merchant in 1828 and this voyage in 1831.

The prisoners were tried in counties in Ireland - Dublin, Carrickfergus, Down, Donegal, Armagh, Leitrim, Louth, Meath, Belfast, Cavan, Drogheda, Kildare, Londonderry and Cavan

Military Guard

A military guard under command of Lieutenant William Lonsdale consisted of 29 soldiers of the 4th regiment (chiefly recruits) accompanied by four women and four children. They embarked on the Bussorah Merchant at Deptford on 19 July 1831. The vessel then departed for Ireland.

Some of the soldiers mentioned in the surgeon's journal included

Private David Newton age 19;
John Wiggingdon aged 35;
John Willingale aged 20;
John O'Regan aged 32;
Richard Parsons aged 18;
Arthur McCaffrey aged 22;
John Donnelly aged 18;
William Andrews aged 22.

There were two births to wives of the guard - Eliza Hobbs aged 32 gave birth to a daughter on 9th December and Elizabeth Bond, Sergeant's wife gave birth on 13 December 1831.

Cabin Passengers

Cabin passengers included Solicitor-General Edward MacDowell. (Edward MacDowell was removed from the office of Solicitor General in March 1832 and replaced by Mr. Plunkett. In October 1832 it was announced that MacDowell was appointed Solicitor General of Van Diemen's Land.

Surgeon James Gilchrist

Surgeon-Superintendent James Gilchrist kept a Medical Journal from 8 July to 24 December 1831.......

On the 6 August the Bussorah Merchant anchored in Kingstown harbour and on the 8th the convicts were mustered and examined on board the Hulk. The surgeon remarked that many of them appeared pale, sallow and in some degree emaciated, probably in consequence of long confinement (the majority having been from 6 to 12, and few under five months), moreover influenza then epidemic, had prevailed to a great degree amongst them and several were still ill.

On the 11 and 12 August 1831, 200 men were transferred from the Hulk to the Bussorah Merchant. All of the men were apparently in good spirits and pleased to be out of the Hulk. Living conditions on the Hulks in Ireland were dire and the surgeon had found in examining the men that they anxiously longed to be removed from them and for a change of scene. They endeavoured by every means in their power to conceal any complaint or disease which they may have in an attempt to be accepted onto the convict ship. This was not James Gilchrist's first voyage as Surgeon Superintendent however, and he was wise to their ploys. Two prisoners, Michael Hughes and Hugh Simpson were returned to the Hulk Essex on 15th August after an examination on board proved they were not fit enough to make the journey. [2]

Among the prisoners to be embarked on the Bussorah Merchant at Dublin in 1831 was the notorious Luke Dillon who was sentenced to transportation for life for the rape of Ann Frizell of Dublin. The Belfast Newsletter reported his journey from prison to the Essex Hulk at Kingstown where he was held to await transportation....

The decision of Government was communicated to him on Wednesday, when his irons were struck off, and he was on Thursday conveyed, hand cuffed to a common felon, who was also sentenced to undergo the mitigated penalty of the law, from Newgate to the Essex Hulk at Kingstown. His head was shaved, and he was dressed in the slop clothing provided by Government for convicts under rule of transportation. [4] John Lamb was Keeper at the Essex Hulk in 1831.

Departure from Dublin

The Bussorah Merchant departed Dublin on 16th August 1831.

Arrival at Port Jackson

They arrived in Port Jackson on 14 December 1831


A muster was held on board by Colonial Secretary Alexander Macleay. The indents include name, age, religion, education, marital status, family, native place, trade, offence, place and date of trial, sentence, prior convictions, physical descriptions and where assigned on arrival. There are also occasional notes regarding family members in the colony, colonial sentences and pardons.

Notes from the Indents

The youngest prisoners were sent to Carter's Barracks. - James Alwell age 14; William Doyle age 13; Michael Kilfoyle age 15

William Benson - Brother James Brown or Benson came per Waterloo
Edward Boyd - Brother James Boyde came 2 or 3 years previously
Daniel Boyle received an Absolute Pardon ated 22 September 1836.
James Corven - Died in Sydney Hospital 24 July 1836
Michal Dennison - Brother James Dennison came 2 years previously
Thomas Dignan - Died in Windsor Hospital 26 March 1836
Thomas Ferguson - Wife Margaret McMahon or Ferguson came last ship
Michael Fitzsimmons - Brother in colony Peter Fitzsimmons las ship
William Goodfellow - Died on the way to hospital 28 August 1834
Thomas Gamble - Brother Richard Gamble 1 1/2 years previously
Thomas Hogan - from Lancashire. Father Thomas Higgins came 15 years previously
James Leeson - Spent time on Cockatoo Island and Norfolk Island
Dominick McCoy - Died at Norfolk Island 1834
John Nowlan - Died in Sydney Hospital
James Ross - Died at Liverpool Plains 4 January 1838
John Sheeky - Wife Bridget McCullock came by last ship [3]

Life in the Colony

While some convicts managed to turn their lives around, there were many who never conformed. Joseph Cotsel was one of these. He was 21 years of age in 1831 and gave his native place as Portsmouth and occupation seaman and soldier. He was sentenced to 7 years transportation at Fermanagh on 18 March 1831 for stealing a watch. On arrival he was assigned to William White at Hunter River. He suffered the following punishments over the next few years:.

14 April 1832 - Ten days on the treadmill for disrespect to the Superintendent of the Hulk

8 May 1832 - Three months to an iron gang for absconding

25 August 1832 - Six months in an iron gang for neglect of Work and abusing his overseer

24 November 1832 for refusing to work thirty lashes

24 November 1832 - thirty five lashes for insolence

1 January 1833 - fifty lashes for feigning sickness and breaking his irons at No. 2 stockade

27 May 1833 - Iron gang until 27 May 1834 for absenting and have stolen property in his possession (Bathurst)

5 October 1833 - Fourteen days solitary confinement for insolence and refusing to work (No 2 Stockade)

3 November 1833 - fifty lashes for mutinous conduct and refusing to work

7 December 1833 - admonished for refusing to work

21 December - fifty lashes for breaking his leg irons and concealing himself from muster

16 May 1834 - gross insolence to Constable O'Connors - remanded being sick

13 June 1834 - fifty lashes for refusing to take medicine and refusing to work

13 June 1834 - fifty lashes for refusing to work and take medicine presented by the doctor.

27 March 1835 to be in irons until 20 March 1836 for absconding a second time.

13 June 1836 - in irons till 10 December 1836 for assault.

14 March 1838 - Admitted to Parramatta Gaol

21 August 1838 - Sent to Newcastle Gaol

26 December 1839 - absconded from the lockup at Cassilis

11 March 1840 - With Joshua Dooley, Peter Ryan and Michael Boyle found guilty of bushranging with arms and sentenced to transportation for life to a penal settlement.

3 April 1840 Transported to Norfolk Island. [3]

Notes and Links

1). James Gilchrist was also surgeon on the convict ship Mermaid in 1828 (VDL) and James Pattison in 1830

2). Convicts and Passengers of the Bussorah Merchant identified in the Hunter Valley

3). County Antrim Assizes, Crown Court Carrickfergus , March 26 - Daniel Kelly, for taking from Roger glover, on 1st November last a gun, the property of the Earl O'Neill - Guilty; seven years' transportation - Belfast Newsletter 1 April 1831

4). County Antrim Assizes, Crown Court Carrickfergus, March 26 - Hugh Simpson, for stealing a yarn reel and spade, the property of Eneas Black on 3dr July last - Guilty - Seven years transportation (Hugh Simpson was embarked on the Bussorah Merchant but re-landed). Belfast Newsletter 1 April 1831

5). County of Down Assizes, Downpatrick, Tuesday March 29 - James O'Hare and William Burns for stealing a blanket at Tullamore Park, on 10th March - Both guilty; transportation for 14 years - Belfast Newsletter 1 April 1831

6). Recorder Court, Dublin, William McAuley, an old offender, stealing a cloak from Major Sirr. Guilty - seven years transportation. Freemans Journal - 26th May 1831

7). The county calendar, which was unusually light was disposed of yesterday by three o'clock. The following trials took place and sentences passed - Michael Harvey, for a highway robbery on the person of Winifred Ward in company with others taking from her a cloak and one shilling in money was found guilty and sentence of death recorded. John Murray and Christopher Murphy, who were evidently part of the above gang, were found guilty of a similar offence on the same day and in the same neighbourhood,, by forcibly taking from the person of Anne Cooney a cloak, value 14s with which they ran across the fields - Sentence of death recorded. Anne Ryan who resides in the same room in which they were arrested, and on whose person a pawnbroker's duplicate of the cloak taken from Anne Cooney was found, was convicted of receiving same, and sentenced to seven years' transportation. John Carty and Judith Carty were convicted of a larceny. They were sentenced to seven years transportation. William Kerrigan for stealing a horse and set of harness, the property of James Kirwan of Corbally, near Lucan was found guilty and sentence of death recorded. Richard Dogherty was found guilty of a similar offence in taking a horse or gelding the property of Peter Dunne, and a harness the property of another individual which he attempted to dispose of in Tullamore, where he was taken into custody by Thomas Goulding on suspicion. The prosecutor recommended him to the mercy of the Court. Sentence of death was notwithstanding recorded...... Freeman's Journal. 12 April 1831

8). Return of Convicts of the Bussorah Merchant assigned between 1st January 1832 and 31st March 1832 (Sydney Gazette 14 June 1832; 21 June 1832; 28 June 1832; 5 July 1832).....

William Brennan - Porter assigned to John Brown in Sydney
John Burke - Labourer assigned to Sir John Jamison at Regent Ville
Daniel Beirne - Seaman assigned to Richard Siddons at South head
Edward Cullen - Stockman assigned to Terence Murray at Argyle
Joseph Costell - Seaman assigned to Richard Siddons (pilot), South Head
Peter Connelly - Weaver and stockman assigned to William Dun at Paterson River
Richard Crampton - Fisherman assigned to George Groemes at Liverpool
William Conway - Cabinet maker assigned to William Johnstone at Bathurst
Peter Cummins - Kitchen gardener assigned to George Barber at Argyle
Thomas Coll - Shoemaker assigned to Duncan McFarlane at Argyle
Patrick Coffee - Ploughman assigned to H. McArthur at Parramatta
Terence Drew or Adams - Miller and seaman assigned to James King at Sydney
Thomas Farrell - Ploughman assigned to William Klensendoriffe at Minto
Michael Fitzsimmons - Ploughman assigned to George Muir at Maitland
Thomas Gamble - Dealer assigned to Thomas Connell at Goulburn Plains
Francis Glancy - Waiter at public house. Assigned to Edward Biddulph, Captain of the Sophia Jane
Patrick Geogeghan (James Kingsbury) - Stone cutter assigned to F.C.L. Thompson at Bathurst
Edward Keogh - Comb maker assigned to Edward Biddulph, Commander of the Sophia Jane
Martin Keane - Shoemaker assigned to Henry Rae at Maitland
William Kerrigan - Labourer assigned to George Bunn in Sydney
George Long - Baker assigned to James Reid at Hunter River
Richard Murphy - Blacksmith assigned to John Hosking in Sydney
Charles Murphy - Carpenter assigned to Frederick Jones at Illawarra
William Murray - Carpenter assigned to William Dun at Patterson's Plains
James Noon - Blacksmiths' apprentice. Assigned to James Rogers at Bringelly
David Owens or Todd - Shoemaker assigned to John Smith at Newcastle
John Patterson - Ploughs. Assigned to John Jamison jun., at Argyle
Francis Reilly - Shoemaker assigned to Richard Dawes at Richmond
John Edward Savage - Servant and brass founder. Assigned to John White at Sydney

9). Convict Ships bringing detachments of the 4th (King's Own) Regiment.....

Jane departed Cork 29 April 1831. Commander of the Guard Captain George Mason

Surry departed Portsmouth 17 July 1831. Commander of the Guard Captain Charles Waldron 38th regt.

Asia departed Cork 6 August 1831. Commander of the Guard Captain Richard Chetwode

Norfolk departed 15 October 1831. Commander of the Guard Lieut. David William Lardy 4th regt.

Captain Cook departed Dublin 5 November 1831. Commander of the Guard Lieut. Gibbons 49th regt.

Portland departed Portsmouth 27 November 1831.

Isabella departed Cork 27 November 1831. Commander of the Guard Captain William Clarke 4th regt.

Bussorah Merchant departed Dublin 14 December 1831. Commander of the Guard Lieut. William Lonsdale 4th regt.

John departed the Downs 7 February 1832. Commander of the Guard Lieut. George Baldwin 31st regt.,

Lady Harewood departed Portsmouth 15 March 1832. Commander of the Guard Lieut. Lowth 38th regt.,

City of Edinburgh departed Cork 18 March 1832 . Commander of the Guard Lieut. Bayliss

Clyde departed Portsmouth 9 May 1832. Commander of the Guard Lieut-Colonel Mackenzie

Eliza departed Cork 10 May 1832. Commander of the Guard Lieut. Hewson

Planter departed Portsmouth 16 June 1832 under command of Lieuts. Bullin and Irvine of 38th regt.

Hercules departed the Downs 19 June 1832. Commander of the Guard Lieut. Gibson 4th regt.

Dunvegan Castle departed Dublin 1 July 1832. Commander of the Guard Lieut. Thomas Faunce 4th regt.

Parmelia departed Sheerness 28 July 1832 under Command of Captain Young 38th regt.

Waterloo departed Sheerness 12 March 1833 under Command of Captain Mondilhan 54th regt.

10). 4th (or The King's own) Regiment of Foot.


[1] Bateson, Charles and Library of Australian History (1983). The convict ships, 1787-1868 (Australian ed). Library of Australian History, Sydney, pp.350-351, 387

[2] Journal of James Gilchrist. UK, Royal Navy Medical Journals, 1817-1857 . The National Archives. Kew, Richmond, Surrey.

[3] Bound manuscript indents, 1788 - 1842. NRS 12188, microfiche 614 - 619,626 - 657, 660 - 695. State Records Authority of New South Wales, Kingswood, New South Wales, Australia.

[4] Belfast Newsletter 10 May 1831