Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

Convict Ship Speke - 1821

Embarked: 156 men
Voyage: 147 days
Deaths: 2
Surgeons Journal: no
Previous vessel: Dick arrived 12 March 1821
Next vessel: Adamant arrived 8 September 1821
Captain Peter McPherson
Surgeon  Edward Coates

The Speke was built in Calcutta..... In an article in the Asiatic Journal in 1819 entitled Comparative Strength of Ships built at different parts of India, she was described as still both a good and safe ship although the frame had been built of sissoo, a wood inferior in durability to the saul, of which the frames of ships were built in 1819. It was anticipated by experts who had examined her that she still had another 15 years left in her.

The Speke transported convicts to New South Wales in 1808, 1821 and 1826.


The Speke departed England on 22 December 1820

Two convicts died on the passage out, one from old age and the other fell overboard and was drowned.

Military Guard

Lieut. Sutherland of the 30th regiment, commanded the military which comprised detachments of the 30th, 34th and 89th regiments.

Other convict ships bringing soldiers of the 89th regiment included :





Other convict ships bringing detachments of the 34th regiment included :

Baring in 1815

Batavia in 1818

Globe in 1819

Asia in 1820

Grenada in 1821

Prince of Orange in 1821

Adamant in 1821.

Free and Cabin Passengers

Passengers included Rev. Kendall of the Church Missionary Society; Henry Grattan Douglass, Assistant Surgeon of medical establishment, with wife and family; Arthur Douglass, Mr. and Mrs. Mulgrave coming with the purpose of establishing a national system of education in Van Diemens Land; Mr. James Christy Phelps and two New Zealand chiefs who had been in London and were returning to New Zealand; the two chiefs, Shungie and Whycato embarked on the Speke on the 15th December for the return voyage which had been granted them by government. They were reported to be highly pleased with the continued kindness and attention which they received from Captain McPherson, Mr. Coates, Lieut. Sutherland and the Ladies and Gentlemen on board.

The Voyage

On the 23rd January, a letter was written at Tenerife from on board the Speke. It was received in Glasgow from one of the poor deluded radicals who were taken in arms at Bonnymuir. It mentioned that nothing of consequence had happened on the voyage. All the convicts had their irons taken off a few days before Tenerife which made their condition more comfortable. There was a gentleman on board going out to settle who had promised to do as much as he could for the benefit of those who conduct themselves with decency and decorum. He and a clergyman were teaching felons to read and giving them religious instruction.

Political Prisoners

The men who were taken in arms at Bonnymuir were part of the Battle of Bonnymuir that took place on 5th April.

.....when a band of Scottish Radicals on their way to take over the Carron Ironworks, were confronted by British military forces in a field which is marked today by a memorial on the roadside to the East of the St. Andrew's Works. Having taken their position behind an old dyke, the Radicals allowed the cavalry to come within thirty yards of them, when they fired a volley. The cavalry instantly charged, firing a few shots when going over the dyke. The Radicals received the charge with their pikes, and made all the resistance in their power, but they soon found themselves in a bad situation and throwing away their arms, endeavoured to escape, when the cavalry captured nineteen prisoners. In September, the men were tried for treason with three executed and 19 others sent to penal colonies at Botany Bay in Australia.

The Bonnymuir men on the Speke included John Anderson, John Barr, William Clackson, James Clelland, Andrew Dawson, Robert Gray, Alexander Hart, Alexander Johnstone, Alexander Latimer, Thomas McCullock, Thomas McFarlane, Benjamin Moir, Allen Murchie, Thomas Pike, William Smith, David Thomas James Wright and Andrew White. They were granted Absolute Pardons in August 1835. Read more about their trial in Trials for high treason, in Scotland ... held at Stirling, Glasgow. Andrew White was seventeen years of age and had been employed as a book binder. On arrival in the colony he was assigned to Henry Grattan Douglas. He accompanied Henry Douglas to England on the Ocean in 1824.

Port Jackson

The Speke arrived in Port Jackson on 18 May 1821.

Convicts Disembarked

The Sydney Gazette reported that the prisoners were landed on Wednesday morning 23rd May and had a healthy and satisfactory appearance - they could not have left their native land in better health. They were inspected by His Honor the Lieutenant Governor (Erskine), who was pleased to enquire into the treatment and usage experienced by them on the voyage, when they, simultaneously, expressed their grateful acknowledgments to Captain McPherson and Edward Coates, with which His Honor was much gratified. They were afterwards distributed, as usual, to their various departments and employments.

Departure from the Colony

The Speke sailed for Madras on 6th August 1821 carrying various military detachments to join their regiments in India. Lieutenants Sutherland, Isaacson and Gordon also departed on the Speke. Surgeon Edward Coates died off the coast of Sumatra on this voyage.

Notes and Links

1). Political Prisoners

2). George Rude in Protest and Punishment: The Story of the Social and Political Protesters Transported to Australia traced the lives of some of the protesters using the 1828 Census -

Thomas Pike, a Glasgow weaver, was pardoned in December 1827 and worked for Frank Gerardy, a miller.

Thomas McCullough and James Cleland both of Glasgow lived or worked in Clarence Street Sydney, McCullough as a labourer with his wife Sarah and three children; Cleland worked as a locksmith lodged in Alexander Johnsons house.

Thomas McFarlane and James Wright were in Sussex Street Sydney.

John Macmillan a blacksmith of Camelon was working at his old trade in Cumberland Street Sydney.

Allan Murchie another blacksmith from Glasgow was described as a dealer or tailor living in York Street with wife Elizabeth and three small children.

3). April 1843 - At the Liverpool Assizes on Tuesday last, one George Robinson, alias Saxon, pleaded 'Guilty' to the charge of having illegally returned from transportation, and when brought up for sentence entered into a long and singular statement, which was listened to by a crowded court with great attention. From this it appeared, that in 1820, being then but 18 years of ago, he had been convicted of a highway robbery at Pendleton. He received sentence of death, but was finally transported for life. He had, however an irresistible desire to return to his native land, and some time after his arrival in Sydney made an attempt to by swimming off to a brig lying in the roads, and succeeded in concealing himself below until she was at sea. She was driven back, however, by stress of weather, he was given up to the authorities, and received 100 lashes, and was sent ton penal settlement, first at Hunters River, and afterwards at Macquarie harbor.

For 12 months at a time he never had the irons off his legs. He described the situation as intolerable without any communication with his friends, shut out from the world, and with hardly a hope for the future. He determined again to make an attempt to escape. He left the colony with several others. Three days after they were attacked by the natives and several of them were wounded, and all their clothes and provisions were carried off. To go forward In this condition was almost hopeless, to go back was to suffer again a punishment of one hundred lashes, and to be condemned to work in the gang reserved for the worst criminals. They resolved to go on. They lost themselves in the Blue Mountains and wandered about naked sixty days, living on what they could find in the bush or along the shore, to which they were finally conducted by another party of natives.

They were then near the site of Port Philip. Here they fell in with another tribe, by whom they were taken and given up to the authorities. They were conveyed to Coal River naked as they were. They there were allowed a blanket to cover them, but even this they were obliged to leave behind when they were shipped on board a Government vessel which was taking coals to Sydney; and, but for some canvass which they were allowed to have to cover them, they would have had to lie naked on the coals in the hold. They were landed in this plight at Sydney.

There public charity supplied them with some clothing but one of his companions, for months, had nothing but a pair of trousers. They were sentenced to receive 100 lashes, and to be sent back to Macquarie harbour. Their wretched state was such, however, that the first part of the sentence was not inflicted, the medical man having made a representation that prevented it. He remained at Macquarie harbour some time, when he again with some others, got away in a whale-boat, and ran along the coast for nine days, having made sail by fastening together the shirts of the party. They were obliged, by want of provisions, to put into Hobart-town, and were again sent back to Macquarie harbour, and placed on Big Island - the depot for the worst offenders. He described the horrors of this place as being more than language could paint. Several, he said, had committed murder that they might be removed to Sydney for trial, though certain that after this short respite death would be the punishment of their crime.

He told a singular tale of one Pearce who had attempted to escape with several others. Provisions failing they were obliged to sacrifice one to save the rest. All perished in this way, till Pearce and another alone remained. They watched, each conscious of the others intention, for forty-eight hours, until Pearce got an opportunity of killing his companion. He was taken, and again escaped with one Cox, whom he also killed, and for this he was finally executed. At this horrible place the prisoner said he remained upwards of seven years, when he was sent to Hobart-town. He again escaped on board a vessel, and concealed himself till she was 21 days at sea. The Captain, however, gave him up on his arrival at St. Helena. He was sent back to the Cape, and thence to Robins Island, where he worked for seven months, with 251b. of irons upon him.

He was then sent to Macquarie harbour. His conduct, during a gale on the passage, recommended him to the merciful consideration of the authorities, and after the lapse of three years he was allowed to come bock to Hobart town, and finally obtained a ticket of leave. He still, however, longed to see his native land. He escaped on board an American whaler, in which he cruised for several months, but the captain intending to hire him up at the first opportunity, he took advantage of the vessel touching at New Zealand to take refuge with the natives. By them he was well treated, and finally got an opportunity of entering without suspicion on board a vessel bound for Boston hence he wrought up his passage to Quebec and thence to Greenock and Liverpool. He had since been living at Manchester and gaining an honest livelihood by the labour of his hands. He protested that since his original offence his conduct had been that of an honest man. His sole wish had been to see his native land, and he expressed a hope that his sufferings and his good conduct would recommend him to the merciful consideration of the minorities. Mr. Baron Parke said the tale which he had related would, he trusted, help to dissipate any Idea that might be lurking in the minds of any who might hear it, that transportation was a light punishment. It was his duty simply to pass on him the sentence, that he should be transported again for the term of his natural life.

The prisoner bowed respectfully, and was removed from the bar. The appearance of the man was calculated to procure credence for the history he related. There was a remarkable expression of suffering and hardship in his countenance, and there was something very moving in the manner in which he received the sentence that was to consign him again to the horrors he had been describing
Irish Examiner 1841-1949, Monday, April 03, 1843; Page: 4

(George Saxon was re-transported to Norfolk Island on the Blundell in 1844)

4). Return of Convicts of the Speke assigned between 1st January 1832 and 31st March 1832 (Sydney Gazette 14 June 1832)......... William Clarkson or Clackson - Shoemaker assigned to Edward Smith at Parramatta

5). Convicts and passengers of the Speke identified in the Hunter Valley region -

Alexander, John

Brady, James

Briggs, James

Clarke, Robert

Dawson, Andrew

Doyle, John

Duggan, John

Fowler, Charles

Fraser, Thomas

Gidlow, William

Green, Thomas

Hinton, Thomas

Hough, Isaac

Hutton, Lewis

Jakeman, Benjamin

Lewis, Thomas

Malone, Thomas

McBean, Alexander

McCarthy, Michael

Miller, James

Morgan, James

Painter, John

Penny, Charles

Pixley, Frederick

Streeter, James

Watkins, Charles


1. Bateson, Charles, Library of Australian History (1983). The convict ships, 1787-1868 (Australian ed). Library of Australian History, Sydney : pp.344-345, 383