Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

Convict Ship Competitor - 1828

Embarked: 99 women
Voyage: 119 days
Deaths 0
Surgeon's Journal - Yes
Previous vessel: Countess of Harcourt arrived 8 September 1828
Next vessel: Marquis of Hastings arrived 12 October 1828
Master John Stewart
Surgeon Thomas Hunter
Follow the Female Convict Ship Trail
Convicts and passengers of the Competitor identified in the Hunter Valley

The Competitor was built at Whitby in 1813. She was the next convict ship to leave England for New South Wales after the departure of the Countess of Harcourt in May 1828. The previous female convict ship leaving England was Louisa in August 1827.

Leaving England

When the Competitor departed London on 13 June 1828 she took with her 99 female prisoners and twenty children gathered from different parts of Britain - Bristol, Chester, Stafford, Lancaster, Oxford, Durham, Gloucester, London, Carmarthen, Monmouth etc.

The women had been forwarded to London from county prisons or held in Newgate prior to embarking on the Competitor.

Among them were 47 year old Elizabeth Fisher and her daughter Anne age 13. The case was reported in the newspapers - Eliza Young, aged fourteen, convicted on 4 indictments of stealing different articles of linen drapery, from the shops of Mr. Hutchinson and Mr. Smith at Gloucester and was sentenced to two separate punishments of seven years transportation each; also similarly sentenced - Elizabeth Fisher, Anne Fisher age 13 and Mary Woodcock for receiving the property stolen by Eliza Young knowing it to have been so obtained.

Twenty children are mentioned sailing on the Competitor. They included four children of Esther Bowman whose husband was expected to arrive as a seaman on the Marquis of Hastings. Catherine Ragan had three children with her; Elizabeth Mortimer two children; Sarah Mears one child ; Mary Haley two children ; Ann Jarvis had one child ; Elizabeth Cooper two children and Amy Buckley had one child. Many left children behind in England.

Surgeon Thomas Hunter

Thomas Hunter kept a Medical Journal from 31st May to 20 October 1828.

He recorded that the prisoners were generally healthy - there were no attacks of dysentery, scurvy or fevers of an infectious kind. The illness of Jane Burt was the only case of importance; she suffered 'the most determined visceral inflammation' the surgeon had ever witnessed.

From the Cape of Good Hope until the coast of New Holland hard gales constantly kept the Competitor shipping large quantities of water, making the lower deck very uncomfortable. Fires were kept burning constantly and the ventilating stove used. The surgeon found 'the long range of funnel' supplied to prison ships extremely useful and moved it from one side to another of the prison, on alternate days, to distribute the warmth. The women found the bad weather hard to bear. Elizabeth Cooper aged 36 suffered with sea sickness between July and October. She was reported to be dying and when Thomas Hunter examined her he found her 'countenance expressive of the utmost debility, her skin cold and moist, hardly any pulsation at the wrist... great oppression about the praecordia, difficulty of breathing and her extremities were cold'.

There were accidents as well. Five year old Thomas Hayley, son of Mary Hayley was seriously injured when he fell ten feet down the main hatchway and hit his head on a water cask and Harriet Williams, aged 24 was lucky to survive after being struck by the end of a spar being used for hauling in salt water while she was seated on the leeside of the quarter deck.

Those women mentioned in the surgeon's journal included:

Eliza Norman, aged 23, convict; Put on sick list, 31 May 1828, at Woolwich

Mary Merritt, aged 50, convict; Pleuritis. Put on sick list, 9 June 1828, at Woolwich.

Sophia Shepperd, aged 27, convict; pseudo syphilis. Put on sick list, 10 June 1828, at Woolwich. On arrival at Sydney she was able to go out to service in a gentleman's family.

Diana Stanford, aged 26, convict; febris intermittens. Put on sick list, 25 June 1828, at sea.

Ann Lee, aged 21, convict; synocha. Put on sick list, 26 June 1828, at sea.

Ellen Pearce, aged 21; synocha. Put on sick list, 30 June 1828, at sea.

Harriet Gilbert, aged 20, convict; , cynanche tonsillaris. Put on sick list, 1 July 1828, at sea.

Mary Hayly, aged 27, convict; , obstipatis. Put on sick list, 2 July, at sea.

Elizabeth Mortimer, aged 33, convict; , synocha. Put on sick list, 3 July 1828, at sea.

Elizabeth Watts, aged 20, convict; , synocha. Put on sick list, 3 July 1828, at sea.

Maria Smith, aged 22, convict; , colica. Put on sick list, 8 July 1828,

Elizabeth Cooper, aged 36, convict; disease or hurt, asthenia, induced by excessive sea sickness. Put on sick list, 13 July 1828, at sea.

Mary Woodcock, aged 20, convict; cynanche tonsillaris. Put on sick list, 19 July 1828, at sea.

Jane Burt, aged 24, convict; hepatitis. Put on sick list, 22 July 1828, at sea.

Eliza Collins, aged 19, convict; obstipatis. Put on sick list, 24 July 1828, at sea.

Ann Jarvis, aged 30; synocha. Put on sick list, 24 July 1828, at sea.

Harriet Gilbert, aged 20; convict; cynanche paroticlea. Put on sick list, 30 July 1828, at sea.

Harriet Williams, aged 24; contusion of the right eye and cheek. Put on sick list, 31 July 1828, at sea.

Elizabeth Austin, aged 20, convict; pneumonia. Put on sick list, 7 August 1828, at sea.

Elizabeth Rhodes, aged 37; ophthalmia. Put on sick list, 27 August 1828, at sea.

Ann Walter, aged 52; diarrhoea biliosa. Put on sick list, 5 September 1828, at sea.

Jane Burt, aged 24, convict; disease or hurt, hepatitis. Put on sick list, 23 September 1828, at sea. Discharged to the hospital at Sydney, 14 October 1828. Had been cured of a previous attack on 27 August 1828 but had not been sufficiently careful during the very severe weather the ship experienced and caught cold. On 25 September 1828 she was accused of theft by one of the other prisoners and her symptoms became worse.[3]

Arrival in Port Jackson

The Competitor arrived in Port Jackson on 10 October 1828.

On Saturday 11th October the Colonial Secretary Alexander McLeay boarded the vessel to muster the women prior to landing.

Alexander Macleay - Alexander Macleay

The indents record the name, age, education, religion, marital status, family, native place, trade or calling, when and where tried, sentence, former convictions, how disposed of (assignment) and physical description. The indents of the Competitor contain more information than most including occasional details of husbands and colonial circumstances. The descriptions of some of the women are also more informative than many indents. As well as the usual complexion and colour of eyes, hair etc there are also extra notes, and so it is revealed that

Augusta Downer from Portsmouth had a good countenance;
Ann Griffiths from Ludlow was good looking;
Margaret Beveridge had a good countenance;
Elizabeth Austin from Manchester was brazen looking;
Elizabeth Cheers from Chester had a good countenance;
Ann Copeland from London had a face full of scars;
Maria Howells had a good countenance;
Elizabeth Mortimer was melancholy;
Frances Moore from Kent had a deep scar across her nose and was vile looking;
Ellen Pearse had a good countenance;
Hannah Smith had bad teeth;
Ann Thomas good countenance;
Mary Woodcock had a prim countenance;
Frances Wright had a red nose;
Ann Walters had heavy eyebrows;
Harriet Williams and Jane Walsh were pregnant.


On arrival the women were assigned to various settlers and townsfolk whose names are recorded in the indents but not their residence.

Nineteen women, probably some of those children were sent to the Female Factory at Parramatta.

Below are the assignment details of some of the women:

Ann Brown was assigned to John Jackson and later to William Sparke and William Harper

Abby Desmond was assigned to Arnold Fisk at Newcastle

Augusta Downer assigned to William Love, probably in Sydney

Margaret Ellis assigned to Robert Henderson at Brisbane Water

Ann Fisher to Nicholas Divine

Elizabeth Fisher to James Reid

Harriett Gilbert to William Barton

Margaret Higham assigned to John Beveridge

Maria Howells assigned to George Wyndham

Elizabeth Hughess assigned to Margaret Robinson

Ann Lee assigned to Sir James Dowling

Catherine Lewis assigned to Francis Allman

Ellen Madden assigned to Thomas Wills

Eliza Norman assigned to Margaret Delaney

Ellen Pierce assigned to John Wood

Hannah Smith assigned to John Rochester

Departure from Sydney

The Competitor was reported to have sailed for Manilla on 10th November 1828.

Convicts and passengers of the Competitor identified in the Hunter Valley -

Battledore, Hannah

Blake, Hannah

Brown, Ann

Brown, Mary

Desmond, Abby

Downer, Augusta

Ellis, Margaret

Fisher, Ann

Fisher, Elizabeth

Gilbert, Harriet

Higham, Margaret

Hobson, Susannah

Howells, Maria

Hughes, Elizabeth

Lee, Ann

Lewis, Catherine

Lord, Betty

Madden, Ellen

Norman, Eliza

Pears, Ellen

Pike, Mary

Smith, Hannah

Smith, Maria

Woodcock, Mary

Notes and Links

1). Seventeen convict ships arrived in New South Wales in 1828 - Florentia, Elizabeth, Marquis of Huntley, Hooghly, Morley, Asia, Mangles, Borodino, Phoenix, Bussorah Merchant, Countess of Harcourt, Competitor, Marquis of Hastings, Albion, Eliza, Royal George, City of Edinburgh.

2). The Competitor was one of three convict ships bringing female prisoners to New South Wales in 1828, the others being the Elizabeth and the City of Edinburgh. A total of 471 female convicts arrived in the colony in the year 1828.

3). Report from the Select Committee on Transportation showing the number of females sent from the convict ship Competitor to the Parramatta Female Factory in 1828:


[1] UK, Royal Navy Medical Journals, 1817-1857. Medical Journal of James Hunter on the voyage of the Princess Royal in 1823. The National Archives. Kew, Richmond, Surrey.

[2] Bateson, Charles Library of Australian History (1983). The convict ships, 1787-1868 (Australian ed). Library of Australian History, Sydney : pp.348-349, 386

[3] National Archives - Reference: ADM 101/17/8 Description: Medical and surgical journal of the female convict ship Competitor for 31May to 20 October 1828 by Thomas Hunter, surgeon, during which time the said ship was employed on a voyage from England to New South Wales.