Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

Convict Ship Minerva - 1839

Embarked: 119 women
Voyage: 130 days
Deaths: 2
Tons: 398
Surgeon's Journal: yes
Previous vessel: Barossa arrived 8 December 1839
Next vessel: Middlesex arrived 25 January 1840
Captain George Brown
Surgeon Patrick Magovern
Follow the Female Convict Ship Trail
Follow the Irish Convict Ship Trail
Prisoners and passengers of the Minerva identified in the Hunter Valley

The Minerva was the next convict ship to leave Ireland for New South Wales with female prisoners after the Whitby in February 1839.

One hundred and nineteen women were embarked on the Minerva at Dublin. Anne Waterson from Armagh was re-landed while the ship was still in Port


The Minerva departed Kingston Harbour, Dublin on 18th August 1839.

The Voyage

The newspapers of the day recorded the locations and dates that the following vessels were spoken by the Minerva on her voyage to New South Wales.....

September 20th, spoke the Sir Edward Paget from London, bound to Madras, in lat. 3 31' N. long. 17 O' W.
September 25th, the William Nicol from Calcutta and Isle of France, in lat 0 15' S. long. 20 0' W. bound to London.
October 26th, they put into Simon's Bay, Cape of Good Hope departing there on 6th November.
November 9th, the Friends from Liverpool, bound to Singapore in lat. 38 52'S. long. 25 30' W.
November 12th, the Briton from the Cape for Sydney in lat. 38 36' S., long. 139 10' E
November 29th, Columbia, American whaler, in lat. 40 32' S. long. 96 E., out 6 months, with 140 barrels oil.
December 12th, brig Briton, bound to Sydney, and Neptune from Sydney, bound to lndia, in latitude 38 36' S. longitude 130 20 E. (1)
December 20th - H.M. Druid fell in with the Minerva in Bass' Straits[2]

Surgeon Patrick Magovern

This was Patrick Magovern's only voyage as a Surgeon Superintendent on a convict ship. He kept a Medical Journal from 18 August to 26 December 1839........ The first two cases mentioned were young boys, sons of convicts. The first Patrick Quinn age 4 broke his arm just one week into the voyage while playing with other children on deck; the second Michael Sullivan also age 4 was thought to be suffering from chicken pox.

The third case in Patrick McGovern's journal was that of Catherine Irwine who was suffering from spasmodic asthma......Evidently bad constitution and a worse case than I was led to suppose at the prison examination in Dublin. She informed me that after her conviction in Ireland, she was sent on an open car many miles to the county prison, during the greater part of which day it rained incessantly and it may easily be supposed she was not well supplied with clothing. The consequence was disease of the respiratory organs. I was not informed by the medical officer in attendance at the prison of the severity of the attacks because they wished I suppose to get her away. Whilst on decks with the other prisoners she was seized with wheezing and dyspnoea. She was taken below to the hospital and placed in a bath with her head and shoulders all raised. The surgeon thought that her case appeared to be hopeless considering the shattered nature of her constitution, the length of time under which she had been subject to the disease, depression of mind and long confinement in prison. She died on 5th September.

Another women, Susan Stratton from Fermanagh, sentenced to 10 years transportation for cattle stealing, died on 2nd December after suffering from an unmanageable bowel complaint and a cold. She was worn out from endeavouring to feed her 'insatiable' infant, she slipped away and denied of its mother's milk the infant followed soon afterwards. [6]

There were two births, both resulting in fine healthy children.

Some of those mentioned in Patrick Magovern's journal include:

Convicts: Ellen Long; Biddy Spencer; Bella Stewart; Catherine McGarvey; Catherine Carey; Jane Nethercot; Catherine Shear; Mary McSheven; Elizabeth Collins; Catherine McGuin (wounded in a fight); Mary Hartigan; Catherine Bradshaw; Susan Stratton (died) ; Esther Devlin; Mary Sullivan; M.A. Keating; M. Clarke;

Children of convicts: Michael Horan, convict's child (died); William Barry aged 3 months; M. Collins: C. Marquis; James Swann;

Free Settlers: Elizabeth Allen; M. Cary (free settler's son); M. Murphy (free settler's son); Mr. Evans, (free settler's servant); J. Garland (free settler's son); Mary Shea;

Seaman: John Adam.

Patrick MacGovern concluded -

In attending to the endless complaints and wants both real and assumed of 119 female convicts, the greater number of whom were victims of dishonesty, it may easily be imagined what trouble the medical officer in charge is put through. Then there is the fighting and scolding day and night above and below. The real sickness and sham illness to obtain hospital comforts are scarcely credible. Then there are the children of convicts, the greater number at the breast from whom the poor wretches had little nourishment to obtain. [6]

Port Jackson

The Minerva arrived at Port Jackson on 26th December 1839.

As well as the female convicts and their 30 children there were 32 emigrants with six children. The Sydney Herald in reporting on the practice of bringing emigrants out on convicts ships revealed the attitude of many towards female convicts...

The vessel in addition to the convicts on board, it is also reported, brings 32 emigrants. This practice is certainly not altogether new, as a similar instance occurred in the Palambam, but that it is extremely injudicious no one can deny. To mix up free persons with the 'offscourings of humanity' as Father Ullathorne terms this class, must tend to deprave the morals and engender a spirit of companionship which it should be the great desire of the Government to avoid. The practice, which can be attributed only to the detestable spirit of Whig economy, cannot be sufficiently reprobated. [3]

Convict Indents

The convict indents include the name, age, education, religion, marital status, family, occupation, native place, offence, place and date of trial, sentence, former convictions, physical description and occasional information about relatives already in the colony, pardons and tickets of leave. The oldest convict on board was Margaret Shelley who was 67 years of age and the youngest was Margaret Bourke who was 14.

Those with relatives already in the colony included:
Catherine Bean - husband Patrick Bean arrived on the William Jardine
Margaret Bourke - brother Thomas arrived three years previously and mother 1 year previously
Margaret Brown - husband Thomas Brown arrived 3 years previously
Margaret Carmichael - brother Paddy Loughery 5 years previously
Catherine Casey - daughter Mary Quinn 7 years previously
Mary Cherry - husband James Ryan 7 years previously
Ann Cole - aunt Hannah Cawl 11 years previously
Eliza Collins - husband Michael Collins, a pensioner
Esther Devlin - father Patrick Devlin 12 years previously
Margaret Fitton - brother James Fitton 1 year previously
Alicia Foran - sister Catherine Lindon on board; son James Foran on the Blenheim
Mary Grady - uncle Martin Grady 12 years previously
Catherine Lindon - husband John Lindon on the Blenheim
Mary Lynch - husband Patrick Ryan two years previously; brother Francis Callaghan arrived previous May
Marianne McBurney - sister Margaret Brown on board Mary McKenna - daughter Eliza McIntyre out 12 months
Eleanor Rafferty - sister Sally Rafferty arrived 7 years previously Margaret Reilly - sister Eliza Brown on board
Catherine Ryan - cousin Michael Bradley six years previously
Bella Stewart - brother John Stewart out in 1833
Catherine Sullivan - brothers Patrick out 12 years and Jeremiah out 7 years
Ellen Sullivan - sister Bridget Sullivan 9 months previously
Ann Swaine - husband Charles Ramsey 9 years previously
Mary Tully - brother Hugh Tully 8 months previously [7]

Notice was given on Friday 26th December that families in want of Female Servants could be supplied from the Minerva prisoners. Each application was to be signed by a Magistrate and Clergyman and the assignees were required to enter into an engagement under a penalty of forty shillings to keep their servants for one month unless removed in due course of the law. [4]


The women were landed at the Dockyard on 3rd January 1840. [5]

Notes and Links

1). Five ships transported female convicts to New South Wales in 1839 the Margaret, Planter, Whitby, Mary Ann and Minerva. A total of 727 female prisoners arrived in the colony in 1839.

2). Hunter Valley convicts and passengers arriving on the Minerva in 1839


[1] Sydney Gazette 28th December 1839

[2] Sydney Gazette 26 December 1839

[3] Sydney Herald 25 December 1839

[4] Sydney Herald 27 December 1839

[5] Australasian Chronicle 7 January 1840

[6] Journal of Patrick Macgovern. The National Archives of the UK (TNA); Admiralty and predecessors: Office of the Director General of the Medical Department of the Navy and predecessors: Medical Journals; Reference Number: ADM 101/54/6B (Ancestry)

[7] Journal of Patrick Macgovern. UK, Royal Navy Medical Journals, 1817-1857 Original data: Admiralty and predecessors: Office of the Director General of the Medical Department of the Navy and predecessors: Medical Journals (ADM 101, 804 bundles and volumes).

[8] Convict Indents. State Archives NSW; Series: NRS 12189; Item: [X642]; Microfiche: 740