Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

George Shaw Rutherford R.N.

Convict Ship Surgeon

George Shaw Rutherford was born c.1786 in Leitrim, Ireland, son of James and Mary Shaw Rutherford. He joined the navy on 29th March 1812 [1].

He married Elizabeth Tilden on 16th February 1832 at Northfleet Kent, England. A daughter Elizabeth was baptised in 1834; son George Sydney in 1835; Mary Elizabeth in 1839, John James in 1841, William Albert 1843, Lucy Letitia in 1848 all in Marylebone.

George Rutherford was employed as Surgeon Superintendent on the following convict ships to Australia -

Prince of Orange in 1821

Lord Melville in 1829

Shipley in 1822

Royal Admiral in 1830

Marquis of Hastings in 1826

Commodore Hayes in 1823 (VDL)

Eliza in 1827

China (to Norfolk Island) in 1846

He had few cases of serious illness on most of the voyages, however the voyage of the China to Norfolk Island in 1846 proved more of a challenge. They departed the Downs on 10th January and one hundred and twenty six days later they experienced strong gales from the SW for several days. This caused considerable sea sickness amongst the Guard and prisoners, following which they suffered diarrhoea.

No fewer than from 70 to 80 cases came under his care in the course of the passage and he attributed the use of oaten meal porridge which was given daily for breakfast. They called at Teneriffe on 5th February for refreshments and after the Cape of Good Hope experienced bad weather once again when illness broke out. One of the prisoners Peter Gibson died at this time although by the time they reached Norfolk Island the vessel was free of all illness.[4]

Land Grant

In 1830 he applied for a grant of land.....

The humble Memorial of Dr. Rutherford, a Surgeon in the Royal Navy.
To the Right Honorable Sir, George Murray,
His Majesty's Secretary of State for the Colonies
Your humble Memorialist Respectfully sheweth
That he has completed his sixth voyage to New south Wales in charge of Convicts to that Colony; that out of 1021 prisoners embarked under his superintendence, 1019 were landed in perfect health in the Colony; that only 5 deaths occurred in the six voyages, an unusually small proportion out of the number embarked, as the official Document herewith sets forth; That your Memorialist has always given that utmost satisfaction to the Governors of the Colony and the Honorable the Commissioners of His Majesty's Navy; and that your Memorialist's health has materially suffered from the vicissitudes of Climates to which he has been exposed, and the arduous duties which he had to perform. Your manifest your approbation of his conduct in remuneration for the services, he has rendered, and the great injury, which his health has sustained, by granting him some Civil Appointment in the Colony, or ordering him a grant of land or town allotment in Sydney or other remuneration as you may think most proper and your Memorialist shall ever pray as in duty bound, G.S. Rutherford, 8th June 1830, 15th Frith Street Soho .....Historical Records of Australia, Vol. XV, p. 548

George Shaw Rutherford was granted 2650 acres on 24 June 1837. [5] This land had been granted to John Cramer Owen in 1822, however John Owen returned to England without taking up the grant. Location of the grant can be seen lower left on Map 2 below -
James Adair John Boughton Edward Close - Green Hills George Cobb Edward Gostsyck Cory Gilbert Cory John Cory william cummings Andrew Dixon Robert Corum Dillon Leslie Duguid William Dun William Evans George Frankland William Hicks Beresford Hudson William Innes Richard Jones James Kelly Andrew Lang - Dunmore Robert Lethbridge Alexander Livingstone James McClymont Thomas McDougall George Muir Find out more about Maitland Timothy Nowlan Henry Dixon Owen - Aberglasslyn Richard Pritchett James Phillips James Read (Reid) George Shaw Rutherford Walter Scott Gentleman John Smith John Galt Smith Hugh Torrance John Tucker Susannah Matilda Ward Susannah Matilda Ward William Charles Wentworth John Wighton Gorge Williams Caleb and Felix Wilson John Thomas Maughan Early Settler Map 1

John Owen's brother Henry Dixon Owen was granted 1,100 acres adjoining this estate in 1822.


In the 1851 UK Census George Rutherford age 60 (M.D. Edinburgh, Surgeon, General Practitioner), his wife Elizabeth age 48 and their children George age 15, Mary age 12, John age 10 and William age 8 reside in Devonshire St. Marylebone. They had two servants - a cook and a housemaid. George gave his birthplace as Ireland.

George Shaw Rutherford is listed in the Medical Register 1865. Residence 23 Devonshire Street, Portland place, London. Qualifications Lic. Royal College Surgeons Edinburgh 1809 M.D. University Edinburgh 1818.


He died at 23 Devonshire Street Portland Place, London on 17th June 1868 aged 82. [2] The Will of George Shaw Rutherford late of 23 Devonshire Street, Portland Place, Co. Middlesex, deceased who died 17 June 1868 was proved by the oath of Elizabeth Rutherford, aforesaid widow.. Effects under £9000 [3]

Notes and Links

George Shaw Rutherford was the brother of James Rutherford also a surgeon superintendent. Select here to read James Rutherford's correspondence written in 1837 regarding his brother George and the accusations of James Mudie

In 1831 George Rutherford gave evidence before a Select Committee which was appointed to inquire into the best mode of giving efficiency to Secondary Punishments and to report their Observations to the House. Select here to read the evidence he gave


[1] A list of the masters, medical officers, and pursers of his majesty's fleet

[2] Medical Times and Gazette

[3] England and Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1966 Original data: Principal Probate Registry. Calendar of the Grants of Probate and Letters of Administration made in the Probate Registries of the High Court of Justice in England. London, England...National Probate Calendar

[4] UK Royal Navy Medical Journals, 1817-1857 The National Archives. Kew, Richmond, Surrey.

[5] Government Gazette 19 January 1839