Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

Convict Ship Bussorah Merchant - 1828

Embarked 170 men
Voyage 121 days
Deaths 4
Surgeons Journal - Yes
Previous vessel: Phoenix arrived 14 July 1828
Next vessel: Countess of Harcourt arrived 8 September 1828
Captain James Baigrie
Surgeon Robert Dunn
Prisoners and passengers of the Bussorah Merchant identified in the Hunter Valley region

The Bussorah Merchant was built at Calcutta in 1818.

Convicts embarked on the Bussorah Merchant came from counties in England and Scotland - Essex, Lancaster, Staffordshire, Hertford, York, Kent, Somersetshire, Derby, Surrey, Nottinghamshire, Somersetshire, Salop, Norfolkshire, Herefordshire, Leicestershire, Worcestershire, Lincolnshire, London, Edinburgh and Glasgow. Some were held in the Ganymede and Euralys hulks at Chatham prior to transportation.

Departure from England

The Bussorah Merchant departed London on 27 March 1828.

Military Guard

On board the military guard consisted of one man of the 57th regiment and 30 of the 39th commanded by Captain Burton Daveney of the 57th regiment and Ensign W. Kennedy Child of the 39th. They were accompanied by 6 women and 6 children.

Surgeon Robert Dunn

Robert Dunn kept a Medical Journal between 14th February and 13th September 1828.

The last prisoners from the hulk at Sheerness embarked on the Bussorah Merchant on 17th March and the remainder of the transportees were sent from Chatham in open boats on the 19th March 1828. This must have been a cold and uncomfortable journey as several men were afterwards affected with catarrh and pneumonia as a result of the cold and damp, the average temperature being 54F.

One of the crew, a man of colour, was found to have smallpox and was sent to Chatham. Although the berths were scrubbed, fumigated and whitewashed, another crew member, two prisoners and a baby belonging to one of the guard also contracted the disease. Robert Dunn attempted to vaccinate everyone on the ship but was not successful.

By May the weather had turned hot and rainy. Fever which was thought to have been introduced by one of the Guard, swept through the prisoners. All recovered except one, William Payne. The surgeon wanted to try bleeding the men but had been warned of the dangers of attempting it on a convict ship due to overcrowded conditions. As the ship ventured further South the weather turned cold and damp. The prison was almost constantly wet from leaky ports and there were many cases of fever, pneumonia, cynanche and catarrhal in consequence. Another young convict died from emaciation after suffering dysentery for some time. Francis Wright died on the 12 July after suffering pneumonia.

The Voyage

They came direct and did not touch land anywhere, necessitating a diet of salt provisions. Although the prisoners spent 120 days on this diet, there was only one very slight case of scurvy. The absence of scurvy, which was so prevalent on other vessels, was attributed to the men having behaved very well during the passage and keeping themselves as well as the prison and hospital very clean. In consequence of this good behaviour, their irons were removed and they were allowed on deck the whole day whenever the weather permitted and bathed in rotation in four messes.

Arrival in Port Jackson

After a voyage of 121 days, the Bussorah Merchant arrived in Port Jackson 26 July 1828. There were a total of four convict deaths on the voyage out. The first being William Whalley.


The vessel was placed in quarantine on arrival in Sydney and the healthy prisoners and guard were landed at Spring Cove as soon as possible. It was reported that the prisoners spent seven weeks in this camp about eight miles out of Sydney.  The Alligator was sent down to be converted into a quarantine hulk where the sick were to be confined.  This was the first use of North Head as a quarantine station.

The Sydney Gazette reported: - "We really feel for Captain Baigrie and the other Gentlemen who are associated with him in their banishment in quarantine; but we are assured that they have too much regard for the welfare of their fellow creatures to repine at the act of Providence. "  Robert Dunn thought this time in quarantine was excessive as it had been eleven weeks since any sign of the disease, however Governor Darling was taking no chances. His son Edward had died on 3rd August 1828 from whooping cough that had been introduced to the colony from the ship Morley in March.

Proclamation, By His Excellency Lieutenant General Ralph Darling, Commanding His Majesty's Forces - Whereas since the Publication of My Proclamation of the twenty-seventh day of last month, it has appeared to me expedient to direct, that the Military Guard and Convicts, lately arrived by the ship Bussorah Merchant, should be landed and encamped on a Point of Land, which has been selected in Spring Cove, on the North Side of the Harbour of Port Jackson; and that the Schooner Alligator should be stationed at a convenient place adjoining thereto, as a Hospital Ship; and that the Bussorah Merchant should continue in Quarantine, until all probability of infection of small pox be removed. Now, therefore, I, the Governor by Virtue of the Authority in me vested, hereby prohibit all persons whatever from having any communication with or quitting the said Encampment, or schooner, or ship, until further orders, without special Authority from me, under pain of being prosecuted with the utmost rigour of the law - Ralph Darling [3]

There were no further outbreaks of smallpox.

Praise for the Captain and Surgeon

Captain Davenay and Ensign Child of the Military Guard publicly expressed their gratitude for the attentions of the Captain and Surgeon during the voyage in an advertisement in the Sydney Gazette......

"We have much pleasure in giving publicity to the annexed documents, which speak in such unquantified terms or the excellent conduct of the above Commander to those Gentlemen, and others, who were privileged with the opportunity to visiting this Colony on the Bussorah Merchant : -

Sydney, July 27th, 1828.
SIR, - It is with much pleasure that I hand this my certificate, expressive the satisfaction I feet at the kind and liberal manner to which I have been treated since my embarkation on board the Bussorah Merchant, and at the same time I cannot omit to thank you for the very generous and human attention you have been pleased to pay the wants of the sick soldiers, women, and children, of the guard, under my command, during their long and tedious passage from England to Sydney
I am, Sir, your obedient humble Servant, BURTON DAVENEY, Capt. 57th Regt. commanding on board. -

To Mr J Baigrie, Master, Bussorah Merchant.

Sir,-In bearing testimony to your good treatment of me, during our passage from England to Sydney, on board the Bussorah Merchant, I would not be doing you justice were I not in the highest terms to thank you for your unwearied kindness and attention, and your very liberal and handsome Conduct. Your humane kindness to the guard in general, and women in particular, does you great credit, of which I have the pleasure and satisfaction to testify.
I am, Sir, your obedient Servant, W. KENNEDY CHILD, Ensign, 39th Regt.
To Mr J. Baigrie, Master, Bussorah Merchant.

We do hereby certify, that, during our passage from England to New South Wales, in the Bussorah Merchant, we have been treated by the Master, Mr. JAMES BAIGRIE, with the greatest liberality, kind- ness, and attention. B. DAVENEY, Capt. 57th Regt. commanding Guard. W. KENNEDY CHILD, Ensign 39th Regt. Dated Spring Cove, Sydney, Aug. 7, 1828."

Robert Dunn remained in the Colony for a further four months. He was later Surgeon-Superintendent on the convict ship Dunvegan Castle in 1830.

Convict Muster

A Muster was held on board by the Colonial Secretary Alexander McLeay on 15 September 1828.


Bussorah Merchant departed the colony bound for the Isle of France on 28th September 1828.

Convicts of Bussorah Merchant identified in the Hunter Valley region

Anderson, Michael
Bell, Alexander
Blackburn, George
Blackburn, William
Bodell, John
Brown, James
Buckley, William
Capps, Robert
Cooper, Thomas
Crawley, Michael
Crossland, William
Dafton, Thomas
Davis, George
Davis, John
Davis, Joseph
Downing, Jeremiah
Eaton, Phillip
Fletcher alias Dixon, Charles
Frost, James
Gallachar, Robert
Hagan, Patrick
Jackson, William
Jarman, James
Jervice, George
Johnson, Thomas
Jones, John
Kent, James
Kipling, John
Leigh, Richard
Levitt, John
Logan, James
Mallet, Robert
Masterman, Thomas
Maybury, William
Minshull, Robert
Palmer, William
Pantry, Edward
Porter, Thomas
Reveley, Thomas
Rinker, John
Robinson, James
Shorthouse, James
Smith, Edward
Smith, George
Smith, William
Stanley, Joseph
Suffolk, Elijah
Tailor, Thomas
Thomas, William
Thorley, John
Tobin, William
Toffts, Henry
Turner, Robert
Tyson, James
Warren, William
Weeks, Charles
White, Thomas
Wigley, William
Wilby, Charles
Wolfe, William
Woods, William

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, City of Edinburgh, Eliza, Royal George

2). The Bussorah Merchant returned to New South Wales with convicts in 1831

3). Convict ships bringing detachments of the 39th regiment included the following............

Regalia departed Dublin 16 March 1826. Lieutenant William Sacheverell Coke

England departed the Downs 6 May 1826. Major George Pitt Darcy

Marquis of Huntley departed Sheerness 16 May 1826 - Major Donald MacPherson

Boyne departed Cork 29 June 1826 - Captain Thomas Edward Wright

Speke departed Sheerness 8 August 1826 - Lieutenant Henry Clarence Scarman

Phoenix departed Dublin 27 August 1826 - Lieutenant Charles Cox

Albion departed Plymouth 4 October 1826 - Captain Francis Crotty

Midas departed Plymouth 16 October 1826 - Lieutenant George Meares Bowen

Mariner departed Cork 14 January 1827 - Captain Charles Sturt

Countess of Harcourt departed Dublin 14 February 1827 - Lieutenant George Sleeman; Ensign Spencer

Guildford departed Plymouth 31 March 1827 - Captain John Douglas Forbes

Manlius departed Downs 17 April 1827 - Quarter-master Benjamin Lloyd

Cambridge departed Dublin 2 June 1827 - Colonel Patrick Lindesay

Champion departed London 3 June 1827 - Ensign Reid

Bussorah Merchant departed London 27 March 1828 - Ensign W. Kennedy Child

Sophia departed Dublin 15 September 1828 departed Dublin 15 September 1828 - Major Thomas Poole

Portland departed Portsmouth on 27 November 1831.

4). 39th regiment.

5). Return of Convicts of the Bussorah Merchant assigned between 1st January 1832 and 31st March 1832 (Sydney Gazette 5 July 1832)......... Isaac Pye - Groom assigned to John Liscombe at Bathurst

6). National Archives - Reference: ADM 101/14/4 Description: Medical and surgical journal of the Bussorah Merchant, convict ship, for 14 February to 13 September 1828 by Robert Dunn, MD, Surgeon, during which time the said ship was employed in making a passage from England to New South Wales.


[1] UK, Royal Navy Medical Journals, 1817-1857. Medical Journal of Robert Dunn on the voyage of the Bussorah Merchant in 1828 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] Sydney Gazette 4 August 1828, p.1