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Convict Ship Duke of Portland 1807


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Convict Ship Duke of Portland 1807

Embarked 192 men
Voyage - 5 months
Deaths - 3
Surgeon's Journal: no
Owner: Daniel Bennett
523 tons, 18 guns, Crew 39
Previous vessel: Sydney Cove arrived 18 June 1807
Next vessel: Speke arrived 16 November 1808
Master John Clarke Spencer
Surgeon Mr. Barr
Convicts and passengers of the Duke of Portland identified in the Hunter Valley

Convicts transported on the Duke of Portland in 1807 came from districts throughout England and Ireland.

Life in the Captivity Hulk

Many were embarked on the vessel from the Captivity Hulk on 2nd January 1807 including the following prisoners who had come from Dublin gaol....Bartholomew Biglane, Archibald Biglane, James Kinsey, John Kinsey, Patrick Hart, Patrick Harydon, Patrick Flynn, Michael Grant, William Costello, James Ferguson and George Thomas.

In September 1807 an inspection took place on the Captivity. The following report illustrates what everyday life on the Captivity was like for the prisoners in 1807.......

The Rev. Henry Down is appointed Chaplain with a Salary of 150/. per annum. The duty, of Prayers and Sermon, is performed every Sunday on board the Captivity; and upon alternate Sundays, on board the Laurel, at Portsmouth, and the Portland Hulk, in Langston Harbour.

The robust and healthy Prisoners belonging to the Captivity, are employed very usefully in the Dock-Yards; and the industrious receive the Dock allowance of one biscuit, a pint of small beer, and a half-penny worth of tobacco daily. The cripples and convalescents spin oakum, and cut wood, which is sold in parcels to the ships of war. Those who suffer under ruptures are now supplied with trusses, upon application made to the Surgeon, whose stipend is 5s. 6d. per day, and medicines found as required. He visits the Hulks every day, and appears attentive to his duty. Sore legs continue to be the prevalent disorder on board, and I saw six men in the Captivity, who were disabled in consequence.

There is no ground allotted for the growth of vegetables to this ship; but on every meat-day one shilling's worth of cabbages are cut into small pieces, and boiled with the beef. The clothing is uniform. Every man has a new jacket, with a waistcoat, breeches, and handkerchief, twice a year; new stockings, and coarse linen shirt four times a year; clean linen once a week; and is twice a week shaved.

The provisions appeared good in quality: With respect to quantity, two of the Convicts are assigned by the rest, to see that justice is done them; and proper scales, weights, and measures, are provided for their use. The allowance is then delivered to the two Convict-cooks. The number detained on board the Captivity, 18th Sept. 1807, was 438. Of these, 196 slept on the lower deck; 162 on the middle deck; and on the upper deck, 44.

To prevent robbery, or the breaking open of each other's boxes in the night, lamps are kept burning; and those accredited Convicts who are employed to do Ship duty, perform that of watchmen, by appointment, during the night: five are set to each ward or deck, and relieve each other every two hours. These, so entrusted, have only a light iron or ring to one leg. All the Convicts sleep in hammocks; those invalids only excepted, who are put on board the Hospital ship; and in fine weather the bedding of all is brought upon the upper deck to air. I found every port-hole open.

The Officers and Crew, consisted of the Captain, and three Mates, the Boatswain, Steward, and twenty-seven common men. A book is kept, and a regular entry made of daily occurrences. The punishment for slight offences on shore, is a stoppage of the dock-allowance; and on board, by additional irons. Those who attempt an escape, receive one, two, or three dozen lashes, inflicted in presence of the other Convicts, and of the Surgeon. From the 1st of January 1807, to the 18th of September, 36 had their dock allowance stopped; 39 had additional irons; and 12 were flogged, according to their demerits. Report of the Hulks at Portsmouth


The Duke of Portland was awaiting departure at the Motherbank when the Sydney Cove set sail on 11th January 1807.

Map showing location of Portsmouth and the Motherbank

The Duke of Portland departed England on 19th February 1807 in company with the Young William store ship (with members of the NSW Corps) and an India fleet under convoy of the Antelope, Capt. Bazeley, 50 guns. The Antelope was taking Lord Caledon and suite to the Cape of Good Hope. The convoy parted when the Duke of Portland made for Rio de Janeiro.

Port Jackson

The Duke of Portland arrived at Port Jackson twenty days after the Young William on Sunday 27 July 1807 with 189 prisoners. Three prisoners died on the passage out and two others after arrival. She brought a small quantity of sugar and tobacco.

Surgeon Barr

Surgeon Barr is mentioned in the correspondence of Colonial Surgeon Jamison to Viscount Castlereagh in 1807: ........

I further beg leave to represent that the colony is greatly distressed for want of assistant surgeons. I have been under the necessity of employing a Mr. Daniel McCallam to assist me in the discharge of my duty at the General Hospital, where being, since Mr. Wentworth's suspension, only one established assistant surgeon in the colony, who is doing duty at Parramatta. I applied to Mr. Cleghorn and Mr. Barr, who came out surgeons of the transport ships Sydney Cove and Duke of Portland, but neither of them would remain. They appeared disgusted with the treatment medical gentlemen meet with in this remote settlement, and the salary is inadequate to their maintenance, Government allowing only five shillings per day to the junior assistant surgeons. They really cannot exist on that pittance. [1]


Two of the seamen of the Duke of Portland were mentioned in the press in August - Edward Jones was charged with stealing tobacco and was remanded for further questioning and Erasmus Peters was charged with robbery of a quantity of wearing apparel on board the vessel...... The character given of him was by no means calculated to produce a favourable sentiment; and as the evidence admitted left no doubt he was sentenced to 50 lashes and to be returned to his ship with instructions never to be permitted on shore again in Port Jackson.


The Duke of Portland departed Port Jackson bound for England on 10 November 1807 and returned to the colony in January 1809.

Notes and Links

1). Convict David Dickinson arrived on the Duke of Portland. He died in August 1807 and was buried in the Old Sydney Burial Ground

2). Convict engraver Phillip Sleager arrived on the Duke of Portland.

3). Free passengers arriving on the Duke of Portland mentioned in the Colonial Secretary's Index include John Hansen and James Holland.

4). In 1811 two of the prisoners of the Duke of Portland Henry Millson and William Brown together with Robert Dawson alias Leeche of the Admiral Gambier and Benjamin Cordell escaped from Norfolk Island on the ship New Zealander.

5). Among the prisoners who were convicted at the York Assizes in March 1805 were the following prisoners from York Castle. They were admitted to the Captivity Hulk on 27 March 1805 and remained there until 2 January 1807 when they were sent to the Duke of Portland: George Jackson (aged 22) for stealing one gun, the property of John Brathwaite, of Cow Dub, in the township of Dent, in the West Riding, inn keeper; also for being a deserter from the Second Royal Lancashire Military. Seven years transportation. Edward Blake, (aged 38) for having on the 7th day of March, inst. at the house of John Driffield, at the township or hamlet of St. Marygate, in the North Riding, feloniously stolen several Pontefract Bank notes, to the value of eighty five guineas, the property of Richard Woo. Guilty. Seven years transportation William Stephenson alias Scales, for having stolen three keys value 2s, the property of John Williamson of the parish of Whitby, 7 years transportation (Lancaster Gazette 23 March 1805)

6). Tyndal, Newman, and Lander, who were recommended to mercy, have been respited during pleasure, and their sentenced will be mitigated to transportation for life - (Thomas Newman, William Lander and Daniel Tyndall) - The Bury and Norwich Post: Or, Suffolk, Norfolk, Essex, and Cambridge Advertiser (Bury Saint Edmunds, England), Wednesday, February 23, 1803; Issue 1078. 19th Century British Library Newspapers: Part II).

7). Edward Nelson, recognized as a person who had returned from transportation before the expiration of his time, was brought up for re examination; when his conviction was proved by a certificate of Mr. Kirby. The prisoner said he had made his escape about two years ago, from the hulks, by swimming a mile and a half, with his irons on, to shore at Portsmouth from which place he walked, by night, to London, to his father's house, where with the aid of two knives he extricated himself from his irons, and threw them into the Serpentine River. He afterwards entered himself a sailor on board a man of war, and was in the fleet under Sir Robert Calder, at the time it engaged the combined squadrons of France and Spain. He was committed for trial. - Belfast Newsletter 22 November 1805

8). Trial of Threshers - Carrick-on-Shannon - Thursday December 16 1806 - The Court opened at 10 o'clock pursuant to adjournment. Bills of indictment were sent up to the Grand Jury, against James Ferguson, Michael Grant, and James Conolly, when after some deliberations and examining several witnesses, the bills were found against those persons who are charged under four several counts - associating under the name of threshers, dressed in a garb not usual with his Majesty's subjects on their ordinary occasions, dressed in white shirts, armed with guns, pikes, and other weapons - and that they did assemble after such manner on the night of 29th October last, at Gortinmore in the county of Leitrim The prisoners were put to the bar and pleaded not guilty. First witness on behalf of the Crown, Richard Irwin of Dremulla, a Magistrate - Recollects the 29th October last - had heard on that day of an intended meeting of Threshers, was informed they were to come into the Parish he was in (Carrygallan) on that night, to swear in persons to be of their party - went out about twelve or one o'clock on that night, with a party of yeomanry - party consisted of about 14 or 15 - came up with the on the lands of Gortermone - they were marching in regular order - at first took them for a stream of water being dressed white - 150 in number - Threshers stopped at the house off one Castello - brought out a coal and gave a hurra - he supposes to encourage their party - upon this, witness gave orders to fire - Threshers immediately fled - witness not being active enough to join in the pursuit, remained on the field, while the party pursued - witness found some pikes, some pitchforks and a grape, on the ground the Threshers stood on - witness explains to the court, what he meant by a grape 9 a three prong pitchfork) found also a straw bonnet and shirt - party in about fifteen minutes returned with the prisoners Grant and Connolly, had shirts over their clothes - Ferguson had not - knew the latter before - knew Grant and Little but not Connolly - prisoners confessed their being sworn - but in the defence said they had complied through force - but declared that they knew not the person who had compelled them to become Threshers - witness asked the nature of the Threshers oath as he had most depended on him - Ferguson said, it was to observe the Threshers laws, to go out when called upon - to pay no Tythes, except to the Rector, and not to prosecute a Thresher - knew Ferguson to be a protestant - Ferguson said nothing about the dues of the Priest - Connolly acknowledged he carried a grape shaft - Grant carried a pitchfork - Ferguson had a short in his pocket with much bog dirt on it - owned it to be his.......The Jury retired and after about half an hour's deliberation found the three prisoners guilty. Sentence transportation for life. The trial lasted the whole of the day; both the Judges sat on the Bench and the court was greatly crowded. - Belfast Newsletter 26 December 1806

Trial of Threshers - Monday, December, 8th, 1806. Thomas Kilmartin and John Killerlane were indicted, for that they with many others, on the 21st of September, 1806, at Lugnadiva in the county of Sligo, did unlawfully, to seize into their hands the arms of the regular and orderly inhabitants of the country. Gentlemen, it is not imputed to the prisoner, that he was the captain or leader of these disturbers of the peace; nor that he was the man who fired into Brett's house; nor that he was the man, who with the sheaf of oats, threatened to burn the house, if the arms were not delivered out - what he is charged to have done is, the searching about the house, looking for arms - and it is right, that you should know, and that this crowded audience should hear, that when a body or party of men go out to commit a felony, every man of them is as criminal as the leader or captain. - The captain could do little mischief, if he were alone, and without the presence and support of his deluded followers: and all persons here should likewise know the danger of going forth with a riotous and tumultuous body of men, to disturb the peace : for although a man should go out resolved to do nothing more than to add himself to their number; yet that will not save or defend him in a court of justice; for here he will have to answer for every act, which the worst man of that party may in his wantonness and wickedness commit, in furtherance of the object of the rising; and thus it may happen, that a man, who never before offended against the laws of his country, may after he has joined such a body, and before he has remained a quarter of an hour in their company, or gone a field's length, be fatally involved, and guilty in law of murder, burglary, robbery, and the test crimes. It is right, that you should now that such is the law, and it is import: that all now present should know it also. Gentlemen, upon the evidence here given, you are now to consider, and decide, whether the prisoner be guilty or not; and if upon the evidence, a fair or reasonable doubt arises, you should give way to that doubt, and acquit, but if you find your minds satisfied, and convinced by evidence, in that case you will find the truth. The Jury retired, and after deliberating near an hour, returned a verdict, guilty. The Court then adjourned to Monday, upon which day and Tuesday, the following persons were tried before the lord chief justice for wilfully, and tumultuously rise, and assemble and appear by night to the terror of his majesty's subjects - and did assume the name and denomination of Threshers and wear unusual badges, namely white shirts over their cloaths, and white bands over their hats, etc. against peace and statute. The prisoners were found guilty, and sentenced to be twice publicly whipped, and imprisoned for six months.

Patrick Hart, Bartholomew Bighlane, Archibold Biglane, James Kinzy, and John Kinzy, were indicted, for that they on the 21st of November, 1806, at Oghill, in the county of Sligo, did feloniously in a forcible manner, demand fire arms from Robert Armstrong, with intent feloniously to rob him thereof, against peace and statute. The prisoners were all convicted and sentenced to be transported for seven years. Cobbett's Complete Collection of State Trials and Proceedings

9) Trial of Patrick Hart, Bartholomew Biglane, Archibold Biglane, James Kinzy and John Kinzy.

10). Political Prisoners

11). Extract of a letter from Cavan dated December 23 - Yesterday the Special Commission opened in this town - Francis Donohoo was twice arraigned; first for administering and afterwards for tendering an illegal oath, but acquitted of both the charges - (George) Thomas, the witness for the Crown, was in consequence off his gross prevarication, committed, tried, and convicted of perjury; and sentenced to transportation for life. Such was the result of the Commission in this county, and it will no doubt afford you much satisfaction as it did the Court and Gentry of this place, to find how truly insignificant the insurrection of the Threshers has been, though so much exaggerated by the different accounts circulated in Dublin' - Finn's Leinster Journal 31 December 1806.

12). Proceedings of a General Court-martial Held at Chelsea Hospital. By George Johnston, J. Bartrum.......

{Extract from John Blaxland's evidence mentioning Duke of Portland}........

'Sydney, 32d of January 1808.

'Do you know of that report - I know nothing of that; I can only state, as I have done already, that I did not wish for that land at Lane-Cove ; I took it upon the understanding that I should have the remaining part good; I did select a part which I thought good, and that it was not permitted me to have. -
Do-you not know that the Duke of Portland was the only ship that brought out male convicts while Capt. Bligh was Governor; and do you know whether this paper is a true account of the distribution of those convicts? - I cannot speak to that ; the Duke of Portland did come out while I was there. -

[It appeared that the Duke of Portland landed at Sydney 189 convicts, two of whom died on shore soon after, leaving 187; and that Mr. Blaxland had ten men out of this ship, and thirteen others in his employment, in all twenty-three men.

Do you know whether that was the only ship - No, I do not know.

Do you not know that Gov. Bligh had various applications from the settlers for convicts at the time you received yours? - I believe he had many.

Can you state any instance of any settler receiving, from partiality, a greater allowance of cattle and convicts than yourself? - Of the ten of those which I got out of the Duke of Portland, the Governor professed to let me have them as they stood in the books : but I understood that three of those who were found to be useful were taken from me.

13).Convicts and passengers of the Duke of Portland identified in the Hunter Valley:

Joseph Brooks
Thomas Camel
Charles Clarke
John Dent
William Fitzgerald
Stephen Haines / Hayes
John Hicks
John McKenzie / Kinsey
Thomas McQuestion
John Menslowe / Muntzler
Henry Millson
Joseph Nettleton
Charles Pickering
Benjamin Porter
Edward Rammell
James Ratty
John Ross
Daniel Tyndall
Samuel Walters


[1] HR NSW Vol.VI., p.329

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