Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

Convict Ship St. Michael - 1820

Prisoners and passengers of the St. Michael identified in the Hunter Valley

The sloop St. Michael was built in Ireland in 1819. She was first owned by Captain Peter Dillon, famous for his adventures in the South Seas

In the latter half of 1820, and under command of Captain Henry Marsh, the St. Michael made two voyages from Calcutta bringing convicts to Port Jackson.

September 1820

On the first voyage, thirteen convicts were landed in Sydney on 28th September 1820. Amongst them were five out of the thirteen piratical convicts who had taken the Young Lachlan schooner in March 1819. They had been wrecked on an Island on the Coast of Java and were seized and imprisoned at Batavia, where several died. The names of the five pirates who were brought back on the St. Michael in September 1820 were

Daniel Clarke,

Christopher Read,

Malcolm Campbell,

Samuel O'Hara and

Patrick Cotton.[1]

November 1820

The St. Michael departed Port Jackson soon afterwards bound again for Calcutta where eight prisoners of the Crown were embarked. She returned to Port Jackson via Hobart in November 1820.

The following six convicts were listed as arriving on the St. Michael in November 1820:

James Crabtree - Weaver from Lancashire. Convicted in Bombay

James Fitzpatrick - Labourer from Longford. Convicted in Bangalore

Thomas Hill - Weaver from Lanarkshire. Convicted in Madras

John Merchant - Fisherman from Colchester. Convicted in Madras. Later sent to Norfolk Island

Thomas Brabazon - Labourer from Limerick. Convicted at Persian Gulf. Later granted an Absolute Pardon

John Hudson - Soldier from Lancashire. Convicted at Bombay

Free Passengers

Free Passengers arriving on the St. Michael in November 1820 included Lieutenant Jacob of the Bengal Army and Mrs. Jacobs. [2]

Coastal Trade and Government work

In July 1821 the St. Michael, under command of Captain N. Caldwell, was engaged to convey passengers from George Town, Port Dalrymple to Sydney.[3] Prisoners under sentence of transportation to Newcastle also arrived in Sydney on this voyage [4]

Friendly Islands

Under command of Captain John Beveridge the St. Michael was engaged in trade in the South Sea islands later in 1821. At the Friendly Islands in September 1821, crew members of the Ceres that had been wrecked on 28 August 1821 were rescued by the crew of St. Michael. John Beveridge was granted 600 acres of land adjoining John Cobb's land at the Hunter River on 22 September 1821. [5]

St. Michael departed Sydney in May 1822 with passengers Thomas Wright, George Lilly, Charles Tindall, Thomas Coke and McConnochie - Sydney Gazette 17 May 1822

In 1823 missionaries were conveyed to the Islands of Tonga on the St. Michael


St. Michael, under Captain Beveridge, arrived in Sydney from Hobart in October 1825. It was intended that she be used to convey prisoners and cargo to and from Sydney, Newcastle and Morpeth in 1825-26.

In April 1826 the Sydney Gazette reported that John Cobb purchased 1/3 share from Captain Beveridge for £500. Alexander Livingstone was master of the St. Michael in 1826. He was perhaps at the helm in September 1826 when her sails were badly damaged in a storm between Sydney and Newcastle. There was no damage to the hull and in October 1826 it was announced she would be moored at Newcastle as a floating store.

In 1830 the St. Michael was moored alongside one of the allotments on part of the Goulburn Grove estate known as Phoenix Park or Narrigan (Narrowgut), the estate of Standish Lawrence Harris. [6]

Richard Cornelius, formerly master of the Parramatta steam boat known as The Experiment, took over a lease of the vessel in 1838. [7]. According to Newcastle historian W. H. Huntingdon, the storeship formed a most commodious warehouse, being roofed in and divided into compartments for the reception of goods from the steamer for the upper districts. [8] Supplies for constables, soldiers and others requiring government goods were also held at the Storeship. Goods remained in the St. Michael or a large nearby warehouse also situated at the Morpeth Wharf, until claimed by the owners or their assigned workers who collected them in drays, to be conveyed further up the country. [9] Produce to be sent to Newcastle for the Sydney Market was also kept in the store ship.

In March 1840 Richard Cornelius announced he was taking over the publican's license for the Albion Hotel. An extensive sale was held at the St. Michael comprising wines, spirits, groceries, drapery, furniture and many other domestic items [10]

John Cobb who had purchased the St. Michael from John Beveridge in 1826, died at his residence Anambah on 7 April 1840

In February 1841 St. Michael was advertised for auction:

Lying off the town of Morpeth in first rate order, replete with every convenience for conducting the business of a General store. Main deck roofed in and fitted up as a dwelling house. Accommodation - Loft to hold 20 tons; main deck 19' x 22' with crane; retail store adjoining; sitting rooms opposite main deck; bedrooms both above and below deck; Lazaret; storage for 200 tons of goods in the hold. Could be moved to any one of the Rivers.

In March 1841 it was announced that Frederick B. Thurtell, former Commander of the Arachne, was to take out the lease of the St. Michael storeship, taking over from Richard Cornelius. Thurtell intended to carry on the business of a general store however he drowned in the Hunter River in May 1841.


The St. Michael sank off Taggart's reef in November 1841:

The St. Michael store-ship formerly moored at Morpeth sank a few days since, probably from the effects of her extreme age. For some time previous to this occurrence she had become remarkable leaky, and the daily increase in the quantity of water she made, went so clearly to show the approach of her final exit, that her owner commenced selling off at auction the stores which she contained, and had fortunately disposed of the most valuable of them before the occurrence. Owing to the timely warning thus given, no lives were lost [11]

She was still there in 1844 although there was speculation that she could be raised and used again in the coal trade. [12]

Notes and Links

1). Commanders of the St. Michael:
Peter Dillon
Henry Marsh
John Beveridge
N. Caldwell
Alexander Livingstone

2). The sloop St. Michael was once owned by Captain Peter Dillon, famous for his adventures in the South Seas. An extract from Dillon's biography written by Samuel Pasfield Oliver published in the Dictionary of National Biography is below:

Peter Dillon navigator in the South Seas, born about 1785, seems to have been engaged in the sandalwood trade between the West Pacific Islands and China from his youth upwards, as he states that when in the Mercury, during 1809, he visited New Zealand and the Fiji Islands, where he remained four months, 'associating very much with the natives' and learning their language. In 1812 and 1813 he sailed as an officer in the Calcutta ship Hunter under Captain Robson, who had obtained influence over the Fijians by joining in their wars and assisting them to destroy their enemies, who were cut up, baked, and eaten in his presence. In September 1813 a portion of the crew of the Hunter, when on shore at Vilear. was attacked by the Fijians, and fourteen of the Europeans were slain, Dillon, with a certain Prussian refugee, Martin Bushart, and a lascar alone escaping alive. In 1814 Captain Dillon was in command of the Active brig of Calcutta, and commissioned by the Rev. Samuel Marsden to convey Messrs. Kendall and Hall, missionaries, to the Bay of Islands in New Zealand. In 1819 Dillon commanded the St. Michael. While commanding his own ship, the Calder, from 1822 to 1825, he was employed likewise in purchasing and taking cargoes of timber from New Zealand and the South Sea Islands for the East India market. In May 1825 the Calder was wrecked and lost at Valparaiso. In May 1826, being commander of his own ship, St. Patrick, when bound from Valparaiso to Pondichery, Dillon visited the island of Tucopia, where he obtained a silver sword-guard, a silver spoon with crest and cipher, which Dillon rightly surmised might be relics of the long-lost expedition of La Perouse. These articles were said to have been brought from an island of the Mannicolo group to the westward of Tucopia. Dillon attempted to reach this island, but being becalmed for seven days when in sight of it, and being short of provisions, he sailed for Calcutta, where he gave information of his discovery to the Bengal government.

The East India Company's surveying vessel Research was fitted out and placed under the command of Captain Dillon, who sailed from Calcutta in January 1827. A French officer, M. Chaigneau, and Dr. Tytler, a scientist, were sent to assist Captain Dillon in his investigations [13]

3). Entry from Lloyds Shipping Register -

St. Michael. Lloyds Register


[1] Sydney Gazette 28 October 1820

[2] Sydney Gazette 4 November 1820

[3] Colonial Secretary's Index. Reel 6051; 4/1749 pp.413-4

[4] Colonial Secretary's Index. Reel 6008; 4/3504 pp.167-8

[5] Sydney Gazette 9 April 1825

[6] Sydney Gazette 10 February 1831

[7] Sydney Monitor 29 June 1838

[8] Newcastle Morning Herald 20 May 1898

[9] Sydney Gazette 3 August 1833

[10] The Australian 21 March 1840

[11] Sydney Free Press 20 November 1841

[12] Maitland Mercury 2 March 1844

[13] Oliver, Samuel Pasfield, Dictionary of National Biography, 1901 supplement/Dillon, Peter