Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

David Wyse R. N.,

Convict Ship Surgeon-Superintendent

Date of Seniority Royal Navy 23 October 1813

David Wyse was born in Falkirk, Stirlingshire in 1790, son of William Wyse and Margaret Black.

He married Susan, the eldest daughter of Mr. Alexander Burgess at Carron in April 1819. - Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine

Early Naval Career

He was appointed Assistant Surgeon to the Defiance in 1810 and to the Gladiator in 1813. He was entered in the Navy List of Medical Officers in 1814.

Surgeon Superintendent

David Wyse was employed as Surgeon Superintendent on two convict ship voyages:

Surry to Van Diemen's Land in 1833

George The Third - wrecked in 1835

Voyage of the Surry in 1833

Excerpt from the Medical Journal of the voyage of the Surry - 'The accommodation and fittings up in the Surry are of the very best description, and the convicts came on board with every prospect of comfort and convenience.....Cholera first made its appearance on board on the 10th November in a soldier from Chatham. Between the 18th and 28th many many cases occurred. The weather was very inclement. Blowing in strong gales with much rain and very cold. The ship bore up off Dungeness and came to anchor in the Downs. On the 27th November matters had come to a crises - two men died on that day, after about 6 or 8 hours illness; both had been stout healthy men previously. The day was excessively tempestuous and rainy - almost every individual below being sick, I could not find enough of sound people to look after the sick and had resolved to apply to the Commanding Office in the Downs for assistance.

The following day the weather improved and some of the cases were resolved and assistance was not sought. There was little illness once the vessel put to sea. David Wyse attributed the abovementioned illness to the poor condition of the oatmeal provided.

He remarked that with so much illness he had opportunity to try different modes of treatment......He described one of the men who died - Anderson after severe spasms had assumed his natural heat and was lying on his back with a large sinapism over all the abdomen, and quite collected; he kept whinging and moaning from the pain of the mustard, and I requested him to be quiet and bear it like a man. After twenty minutes application I went to remove it when he died as suddenly as if shot.

Wreck of George the Third in 1835

In 1835 David Wyse was appointed to the ill-fated convict ship George the Third which was wrecked on 12 April 1835 in the D'Entrecasteaux Channel off the coast of Tasmania. He later gave evidence at the enquiry into the circumstances surrounding the disaster. His testimony appeared in the John Bull (London) 25 September 1835. Below is an extract of part of his evidence:

'On the Captain giving the order to put the helm hard up, the ship rounded too, considerably, her head from the land; whilst she was rounding, she struck violently, the rudder tearing away the wheel, throwing the first officer from the wheel to the lee side of the poop. The first officer called out loudly for me to come to the leading chains. Soon after she struck again, and the rudder was shifted. I ran immediately to the Captain on the poop, and said 'The rudder is gone, the ship may swing now into the deep water'. 'Impossible Doctor,' said he, 'she is full of water'.

The call at this time of 'Doctor, Doctor!' was most astounding. I rushed from the poop to the main hatchway; Lieutenant Minto accompanied me. The prisoners were screaming in a most violent and agitated manner, 'oh, let us out, let us out; in the name of God, let us out'. The poor fellows put their hands through the grating, and seized me by the hand, 'You promised to stand by us Doctor, you promised to stand by us'. 'And so I will, ' I replied, ' I will now remain here with you'.

Two of the stanchions, forming the barricade round the main hatchway, had been broken down. Three or four of the convicts were putting their heads through the broken space. A considerable body of the military formed a compact guard round the main hatch, with their muskets levelled against their obtruded heads, as I conceived, merely for intimidation. Two of the most deserving convicts in the ship came through the opening to me, and clung to my knees, entreating me to pass them. The poor fellows below kept crying out that the water was already up to their knees. The crushing of the bottom of the vessel on the rock at this time was most dreadful. On retreating from the hatchway I called to Corporal Bell, to allow these two men to come up with me; these men's names are Bart and Nelson.

On coming up I made my way back to the poop; the men accompanied me. The mainmast was tottering. No shots had been fired up to this period. Soon after this the main mast fell. The Captain at this time was forward, endeavouring to get the launch out; this might be five minutes from the first concussion, and in a minute more the foremast fell; I heard it suggested that a gun should be fired as a signal of distress, but it was found impracticable. Major Ryan exclaimed, 'I will cause some muskets to be fired;' I heard the report of two or three shots, but did not see from what part of the ship; at this time Major Ryan was sitting in front of the mizenmast; he seized me by the hand, exclaiming 'What can we do now, Doctor?' I replied. 'In a few minutes we shall be in eternity!' I left him and pulled off my surtout, expecting everything would be floating in the water immediately and thought the only chance of saving my life would be by attaching myself to a spar. I saw the launch get clear of the vessel, made a rush, and got on board just as she cleared the wreck; the convicts, as I went forward, opened a passage for me; the convicts were all on the larboard side the starboard being entirely under water.

The Doctor then corroborated what the Captain had previously reported. To questions asked, he answered - ' it was not till after the whole of the survivors were taken from the wreck that Robert Hart, a convict, told me that one of the prisoners had been shot. No person in authority from my time of joining the ship, ever appeared the least the worse for liquor, up to the day of the fatal accident. The conduct of the prisoners, from the first striking of the ship was most meritorious. They were kept down till the boat should have been launched; and even before the boat was launched many were drowned. The moment the boat was launched the guard was withdrawn. At the time of the ship striking, 60 men were in bed labouring under the effects of scurvy of whom 10 only might have helped themselves, which I attribute to the poorness of provisions generally, but particularly to the withdrawing the meal of oatmeal and substituting cocoa. '

'One great inducement to proceed up De'Entrecasteaux Channel was to get to Hobart Town with the least possible delay, from the dreadful and increasing sickness on board and total want of every sort of nourishment. The mortality amongst the prisoners was dreadful; we buried five men in one day; I attributed this, in a great measure to the 'new system of provisioning' of which this was the first attempt.'

Later Career

David Wyse was on the List of Surgeons of the Royal Navy who were fit for service in 1841. He was appointed to Her Majesty's ship Samarang. He appears on the Nominal List of the Officers and Men employed in the Samarang during the Operations in China viz on the 7th January 26th February and 12 March 1841 who were entitled to receive Medals in commemoration of the success of Her Majesty's Arms in the Country.


Notice of the death of David Wyse who died on 16 February 1843 at Falkirk, Stirlingshire, Scotland was published in the Quarterly Naval Obituaries in the London Age 9th April 1843