Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

Convict Ship John Renwick - 1838

Embarked: 173 women
Voyage: 116 days
Deaths: 1
Surgeon's Journal: yes
Previous vessel: Westmoreland arrived 22 August 1838
Next vessel: Clyde arrived 10 September 1838
Captain John Byron
Surgeon Superintendent Andrew Smith R.N.,
Follow the Female Convict Ship Trail
Prisoners and Passengers of the John Renwick in the Hunter Valley

The John Renwick was built at Newcastle UK in 1834.

On 19th April 1838 the Devizes and Wiltshire Gazette reported that the following women were put on board the John Renwick then lying at Woolwich: Jane Bewley, Martha Naggs, Elizabeth Clark, Ellen Watts, each under sentence of seven years transportation and Caroline Harris for 14 years.

A total of one hundred and seventy-three female prisoners + twenty-three of their children were embarked on the John Renwick. Although they were all convicted in counties in England and Wales, thirty women gave their place of birth elsewhere:

Rosanette Almond b. in Paris, France, convicted at Lincoln
Ellen Barber b. Edinburgh, Scotland, convicted at Central Criminal Court, London
Ann Cain b. Dublin, Ireland, convicted at Lancaster
Mary Callan b. Cork City, Ireland, convicted CCC, London
Eleanor Clarke b. America, convicted CCC, London
Eliza Connor b. Waterford, Ireland convicted at Lancaster
Biddy Dunn, b. Dublin, Ireland, convicted at Chester
Mary Hall b. in America, convicted at Kent
Mary Hartwell b. in Germany, convicted CCC, London
Matilda Huxley b. Co. Mayo, Ireland, convicted Lancaster
Margaret Johnson b. Dublin, convicted at Lancaster
Catherine Kelly b. Kilkenny, convicted at Monmouth
Anne Knight b. Dublin, convicted at Warwick
Anne Leden b. Co. Meath convicted CCC, London
Mary McCoy b. Newry, Ireland, convicted at Lancaster
Mary McGoverin b. Co. Longford, convicted at Lancaster
Ellen McGrath b. Cork, convicted CCC London
Elizabeth McLaren, b. Armagh, Ireland, convicted CCC, London
Ann Marshall b. Co. Cavan, Ireland, convicted Lancaster
Catherine Murray b. Limerick, convicted Lancaster
Hannah O'Neill b. Cork city, convicted CCC London
Elizabeth Patching b. at sea. convicted CCC London
Peggy Rutter b. Co. Louth, convicted at Suffolk
Sarah Simpson b. Armagh, convicted at Northampton
Mary Ann Smith b. Dublin, convicted at Middlesex
Sarah Straney b. Co. Longford, convicted at Lancaster
Sarah Sullivan b. Co. Roscommon, convicted at Lancaster
Joanna Thomas b. Cork city, convicted at Devon
Susan Wilson b. at sea. Convicted CCC London
Mary Ann Wood b. Co. Westmeath. Convicted CCC, London.[2]


Five free women with nineteen of their children were embarked on the John Renwick.

Cabin Passengers

Cabin Passengers included Mr. Henry and Mrs. Beverley and Major Marley of the 50th Regiment, former barrack master at Glasgow, who was appointed to supersede Major Jackson as barrack master. Mrs. Marley, three daughters Miss Marley, Misses Fanny and Selina Marley and two sons Edward and Bayley Marley also arrived on the John Renwick.


The John Renwick departed the Downs bound for Port Jackson on 3rd May 1838 in company with the Nautilus carrying female prisoners for Hobart Town.

Surgeon Andrew Smith R.N.

This was Andrew Smith's only voyage as Surgeon Superintendent on a convict ship. He kept a Medical Journal from 9th April 1838 to 5th September 1838.

His first patient was on 16th April 1838 - Jane Edge was badly scalded on her head, neck and breast by one of the mess women falling off a ladder while carrying a large pot of scalding soup.

Margaret Thornhill age 35 was treated on 16th April. He described her as a delicate and emaciated women who complained of pain in her legs and arms.

Ann Marshall age 38 - A stout little woman - admitted to the hospital on 23 April 1838

Hannah Adamson - A strong healthy young woman admitted for a severe pain in the right side.

Sophia Golding age 16. A healthy young woman admitted for severe pain in right side

Ann Davies - a delicate woman admitted with severe pain.

Elizabeth Broom age 23. Admitted 4 July - A strong healthy young woman admitted with tenesmus

Jane Jones - a delicate woman admitted 4 July 1838 with dysentery and scorbutus.

Mary Ann Smith age 20. Admitted 28 June. Described as a delicate woman. Scorbutus

Mary McGovern age 22 admitted 4 July 1838. A weak and delicate woman. Sent to the hospital at Sydney on arrival

Mary Gates aged 21. Scurvy. Sent to hospital in Sydney

Sarah Jones age 33. Admitted 19 July 1838. Scorbutus

Prudence Jenkins - a delicate woman admitted for scurvy 24 July. Remarks - This convict was of a melancholy desponding state of mind and it was with great difficulty that she could be persuaded to take her medicine or any food. She died 5th August 1838

Jane Banley - a delicate woman suffering rheumatic pains 26th July. Sent to hospital on arrival in Sydney

Andrew Smith's concluding notes:

During the early part of the voyage a great many prisoners were affected with inflammatory and catarrhal complaints. There was one fatal case of scorbutus, that of prisoner Prudence Jenkins. She was treated with nitrate of Potash in large doses three times daily and a nourishing diet with lime juice were given also, however she died on 5th August. She had previously been confined for a lengthy time in different gaols.

There was one birth during the voyage.

Port Jackson

The John Renwick arrived in Port Jackson on 27 August 1838.

Parbury's Oriental Herald and Colonial Intelligencer in News from Sydney gave the following account of the John Renwick convicts

The women convicts of the ship John Renwick, were said to be the most troublesome cargo ever imported, being almost in a state of mutiny. Lady Gipps had been on board to attempt to pacify them. Was Miss Julia Newman, who went out in this vessel, the cause of the turbulency?

......however the Sydney Gazette dated 4th September reported that the prisoners of the John Renwick were orderly and clean when visited by Lady Gipps the previous Saturday.


The women were landed at the Dock Yard on Wednesday 5th September.


It was reported by the Commercial Journal - that they had all been assigned to private service, where we trust their conduct will be a little more satisfactory than was the case on their passage out.

Any who were not assigned to service were forwarded to Parramatta Female Factory.

The vessel was then hauled into the Cove to discharge her stores. [4]

Some of the women found out very early on the consequences of misbehaviour in their new life in the colony....

Louisa Burgess was assigned to Samuel North at Windsor on arrival. On 16th October 1838, she was charged with absconding and sentenced to three days solitary confinement.

On October 17th, 1838. Eliza Loudon, who had been assigned to Charles Tompson at Penrith, was charged with refusing to work....... Mr. Charles Tompson deposed, that yesterday evening, Mrs. Tompson ordered the prisoner to clean out the verandah, which she refused to do, that he then personally went and ordered the prisoner to perform the work, which she again refused, that she appeared to be in a state of intoxication and deponent had her confined. Police Magistrate - What have you to say in your defence. Prisoner - My Mistress told me that once a week was sufficient to clean the verandah. Sentenced 14 days to the cells for refusing to work. The Police Magistrate said, that he would re peat what he had always told all prisoners coming before him under such circumstances, that -they were bound to obey all orders that were given to them by. their Masters or Mistresses, and if they did not he would most as suredly punish them. Prisoner - I will not stop to be starved.

Eliza Loudon was probably starving before she was even assigned to Charles Tompson as Master and part owner of the John Renwick, John Byron was later found guilty of purloining rations intended for the convicts. In a series of articles below his immorality, perfidy and subsequent punishment is revealed.......

Singular whisperings, with regard to the discipline exercised over the females per John Renwick, Captain Byron, have gone abroad, which, if true, do not reflect much credit on the characters of those concerned. It is to be hoped that the facts of the case will be ascertained, and a strict investigation take place. One female on the feminine side of the transaction has been forwarded to the Parramatta Factory, with, we understand, a heavy addition to her original sentence. She is stated to be the daughter of wealthy Jewish parents in London, but has come out under the pretended name of Hartwell. Her beauty is said not to be first rate, but quite attractive enough to create a feeling of sympathy and jealousy, on the part of those on board, who considered their evil doings on the briney waters, would never be brought to an account on their arrival in this Colony. [5].

It was later reported that the rumours surrounding the conduct of the Captain of the John Renwick had caught the attention of the Governor who had instigated an enquiry into the voyage. This may have referred to the above misbehaviour however John Byron had committed a serious crime in illegally purloining rations intended for the convicts and his fortunes were about to decline in a dramatic fashion.

At the Central Criminal Court held at the Sessions house, in the Old Bailey, in November 1839 ..... John Byron, late master of the ship John Renwick, of London, which had been employed in conveying female convicts to New South Wales, was indicted for having feloniously embezzled and stolen divers large quantities of provisions and other victualling stores, the property of Her Majesty, which had been placed in his charge for the subsistence and use of the convicts. [6]

The Sydney Herald gave an account of his trial on 27 March 1840 which is interesting as it reveals the names of some of the crew and of their duties on board re victualling and procedures during the voyage. Select here to read the trial

Departure from Port Jackson

The John Renwick departed with the Lord William Bentinck bound for Java on 10th October 1838.

Notes and Links

1). Prisoners and Passengers of the John Renwick in the Hunter Valley

2). Julia St. Clair Newman mentioned in the above Parbury's Oriental Herald was not transported on the John Renwick but on the Nautilus to VDL in 1838 after being convicted at the Old Bailey of robbery. Her mother Margaret was sentenced to 7 years transportation at the same time. They were from a privileged background, had travelled abroad, and held the public interest for months in England before being transported, and again when Julia reached Australia. She was said to be dressed in silk and only required to do light sewing while held in the female factory. She was assigned to W. Powell in Launceston in 1841 and violently assaulted by a ticket of leave man in 1842. She married John Jepson in 1844 in Tasmania and received a conditional pardon in 1847...More about Julia St. Clair Newman in Parliamentary Papers and the Cambridge Chronicle

3). Death of Major Marley... At Sydney, Major Marley, of H.M. 50th regt., barrack-master general of New South Wales, aged 47. He died from the effects of a wound which he received years ago in the service of his country. It appears that a bullet had lodged in his leg and had just been extracted a few days before his death....The Asiatic Journal 15th April 1839

4) Elizabeth Brazier was 26 when she was convicted of highway robbery in London in 1838 and sentenced to 15 years' transportation to NSW. Select here to find out more about her life at Dubbo.

5). Elizabeth Broom alias Rushton, tried at Stafford - Died at the General Hospital Parramatta 10 November 1838

6). Mary Chapman age 28 from Derby convicted of stealing money. Her husband Thomas Chapman was transported for the same offence in the name of Johnson on the Lord Lyndoch 1838

7). The John Renwick was one of two convict ships bringing female prisoners to New South Wales in 1838, the other one being the Diamond from Cork. A total of 333 female prisoners arrived in the colony in 1838.

8). On 2nd October John Burt and James Martin, two apprentices belonging to the John Renwick, and Charles Jackson and Henry King two seamen belonging the the vessel were charged with desertion, and taking with them their clothes and bedding. The apprentices alleged, that the Chief Officer had beaten them, and threatened to serve them out when they got outside the Heads. The blows as well as the threats were both denied. The seamen had nothing to urge in extenuation. The apprentices were sent to the treadmill for ten days each and the seamen were sentenced to forfeit all wages due, together with all clothes they might have on board.

9). John Byron charged with embezzling government stores and provisions of the John Renwick.....London Gazette John Byron, the master of a ship called the John Renwick, was charged before Mr. Ballantine, with unlawfully detaining a quantity of ship stores, consisting of pork, beef, flour, peas, etc, the pro property of the Crown. Mr. Clarkson, appeared on behalf of the accused. Mr. Jones, the solicitor of the Admiralty, said he was instructed by the Navy Board to prosecute in this case, which was one of the greatest importance to the public.

The accused, John Bryan, was the master of a ship called the John Renwick belonging to Messrs. Godwin and Lee. The vessel in question was chartered in the year 1838 to convey female convicts to New South Wales, and was supplied with stores from Her Majesty's victualling-yard at Deptford.

The charge against him was that he deducted a certain portion from the rations allowed by Government to each convict, and appropriated such deductions to his own use. When the ship arrived at Sydney he delivered a small part of the stores that were remaining over to Her Majesty's Commissariat in New South Wales, who was the proper officer to have delivered them to.

Mr. Ballantine inquired of Mr. Jones if he intended to press the charge of felony against the captain, or merely the unlawful possession of the property. Mr. Jones said it was his intention to press the charge of stealing the stores against him, but if the evidence would not sustain the charge of felony, he would confine himself to the unlawful detention of the property.

Frederick Augustus Skey, second mate of the John Renwick, was then sworn. He stated that the ship received the stores from Her Majesty's victualling-yard at Deptford, and left the river in the month of April, 1838, with 173 female convicts and some emigrants on board. For a month after the vessel sailed, witness, by the captain's direction, delivered out the rations to the convicts deducting a portion from each person's allowance by order of the captain, it was termed eight upon six, that is, feeding eight upon the rations of six. One bucket of peas, containing between two and three gallons, was served out daily for the whole mess, whereas the quantity afforded by Government was from nine to ten gallons.

During the voyage frequent complaints were made by the convicts respecting the shortness of the provisions which the captain told him to take no notice of. When the ship arrived at Sydney, the convicts and passengers were landed and consigned to the proper authorities ; a small portion of the Government stores that remained was also sent ashore and the captain made oath before the authorities in the colony that he had delivered up all the overplus stores.

Mr. Ballantine - You say a quantity of stores was given up to the proper authorities in New South Wales ; pray what was detained on board the ship ?
The witness said, that to the best of his recollection there were no less than 45 bushels of peas in bags and casks, four casks of flour, a cask of wine, a chest and-a-half of tea, six or seven bags of biscuit, 8 casks of beef, 6 casks of pork, a quantity of soap, chocolate, sugar, oatmeal, and suet, and a great quantity of other stores, all of which were the property of Her Majesty, and not of the owners of the ship.

While the ship was lying in Sydney-harbour a cooper came on board and took the heads out of the casks marked with the broad arrow, and put fresh heads in. Those with tile Queen's mark on were burnt. The stores were taken down into the gun-room, and covered over with sails, to escape the observation of an officer sent on board to search the vessel.

Mr. Ballantine - After leaving Sydney what ; became of the stores ?
Witness-They were served out to the ship's crew, and the remainder brought to England. I can swear to this, as the peas supplied for the use of the crew by the owners of the ship were split; those supplied by Government for the convicts were whole.

Cross-examined by Mr. Clarkson - On the voyage home he was dis- rated and sent before the mast for correcting the apprentices contrary to the master's order. The reason he did not tell the authorities at Sydney of the fraud practised by the captain was, because he had no opportunity to do so. Gave information at the Admiralty of the affair two days after the ship arrived in the river, at the suggestion of Mr. Smith, the surgeon of the ship, and afterwards waited upon Mr. Jones, the Admiralty solicitor, accompanied by the doctor. He had been ill used and starved on board.

Thomas Cabe Wilkinson, third mate, said, he succeeded the last witness in delivering out the rations; a deduction was made of every person's allowance by order of the captain ; a bucket full of peas, containing less than three gallons, was delivered out each day for the whole of the women. The Government allowance was two quarts daily for each mess, and there- were 21 messes and a half, including the whole of the con- victs and emigrants, the latter of whom fared exactly the same as the convicts on board the ship. Upon nearly every article served out there was a diminution. The stores were concealed in the gun-room, and a cooper was employed to put fresh heads on the casks which had the Queen's mark on them. Witness was disrated by the captain because he refused to enter some offensive expressions made use of by the second mate in the log. The captain did all he could to annoy his officers.

Mr. Ballantine - This case assumes a very serious complexion. Did the defendant come here voluntarily, or was he brought up in custody ?

J. C. Evans, an inspector of Thames police, said that he attended voluntarily.

Matthew Macintosh, the first mate of the John Renwick, was examined by Mr. Jones, and stated that the stores supplied from the Government Victualling-yard were for the exclusive use of the convicts and passengers, and not for the ship's crew. The convicts complained upon several occasions of not having sufficient food. A certain dietary table was issued by the Government authorities, one of which the captain had in his possession. The allowance to the convicts was, however, much less than what was specified in the table in question. This witness confirmed the two former, as to a large quantity of Government stores being detained on board the ship, some of which were afterwards dealt out to the ship's crew. He also spoke as to the cooper putting fresh heads in the casks having the broad arrow upon them.

Mr. Clarkson - Pray have any of the articles seized on board the ship, which I understand is now in the London Dock, the Queen's mark upon them ?

Witness-Yes. There are some old bread bags, and some cakes of chocolate, with the broad arrow upon them.

Mr. Clarkson - I should have thought, if the Captain bad gone to the trouble of removing the Government marks at all, he would have done it effectually. During the voyage did he make any remark to you about reducing the rations ?

Witness-Yes ; on the voyage home he was told that proceedings would be instituted against him for robbing the Queen, upon which he re plied that he did not care a pin about that, as he was allowed a tenth part of the stores by the Government.

Mr. Clarkson-Indeed ! Is that the case, Mr. Jones ?

Mr. Jones - Most certainly not. In the Royal Navy the purser is allowed a tenth part, not of the rations, but of the value thereof, to remune- rate him for his trouble in serving them out ; but in a convict ship chartered by Government, the master has no claim whatever to a tenth part.

Mr. Clarkson here said that the case, which was one of the highest importance, had already occupied several hours, and was, he apprehended, far from being concluded. He had urgent business to attend to elsewhere; he therefore trusted the magistrate would postpone it till a future day. Mr. Ballantine said, he perfectly agreed with the learned gentleman, that the case was a most important, indeed an unprecedented one ; he therefore thought an adjournment advisable. In the mean time he thought it would be as well if the Admiralty authorities were to consult the Attorney and Solicitor - General, as to how they should shape their course in this particular case. At present things looked very suspicious against the Captain, but he was willing to accept bail for his appearance, himself in 200 pounds and two sureties in 100 pounds each. Two gentlemen in the office immediately offered themselves as bail, and were accepted. The investigation was then adjourned until Thursday next. The case excited a great deal of interest, and the office was crowded with persons connected with the Admiralty and Navy Board.

John Byron failed to make an appearance at the next court and the recognizances were, on the application of the prisoner's counsel, who said that Byron did not surrender because one of his witnesses had not arrived in in England, respited until the next sessions ; the recognizances were estreated, and the amount of bail was paid into Her Majesty's Exchequer. In consequence of instructions from the Lords of the Admiralty, advertisements were inserted in the principal journals, giving a description of Byron, reciting the offence of which he stands charged, and offering a reward of 50 pounds for his apprehesion. Large placards were posted all over the metropolis and in the outports. The witnesses were kept in London, and supported by the Admiralty, ever since the prisoner's examination at the police office. Tbe John Renwick was advertised to sail again for Sydney, with goods and passengers soon after and it was expected that Captain Byron would attempt to join her as she departed England ; but in anticipation of this, the Government sent out instructions to the authorities of New South Wales, to arrest him if he should be seen there. - Commercial Journal 4 July 1840

Reward offered for apprehension of John Byron, master of the John Renwick

He was apprehended and committed to Newgate, and on Saturday, the 7th July, he was arraigned, and pleaded guilty to embezzling and stealing government stores and on the 9th was adjudged for his offence to be imprisoned in the Millbank Penitentiary for the term of one year. On passing this sentence, the Common-Serjeant, after observing on the serious nature of the offence, said, that, if a similar case should occur, the Court would feel itself bound to transport the offender.

Later the surgeon also came under criticism....'Who was the surgeon superintendent of the John Renwick' What was he about when the unfortunate women confided to his charge were thus treated? Did he receive his half guinea a head bounty? Could he be ignorant of the master's robberies if he did his duty, and if so should he still continue in the service? If not should he not take his trial with the master? [7]


[1]. Journal of Andrew Smith. UK Royal Navy Medical Journals, 1817-1857. The National Archives, Kew, Surry

[2]. Convict Indents. State Archives NSW; Series: NRS 12189; Item: [X641]; Microfiche: 736

[3] Commercial Journal and Advertiser 5 September 1838

[4] Sydney Gazette 8 September 1838

[5] Commerical Journal and Advertiser 12 September 1838

[6] The South Australian Colonist and Settlers' Weekly Record of British, Foreign and Colonial Intelligence 17 Mar 1840

[7] The Austral-Asiatic Review, Tasmanian and Australian Advertiser 12 May 1840