Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

John Gibson R. N.,

Convict Ship Surgeon-Superintendent

John Gibson was born in Doune, Kilmadock, Perth, Scotland in 1806. Thomas Gibson R.N., Surgeon, was also born in Doune.

John Gibson was appointed Surgeon in the Royal Navy in 1835. He was appointed to the Fly in that same year.

He was on the Navy List of Surgeons fit for service in 1842.

He as employed as Surgeon-Superintendent on four convicts ships to Australia in 1840s and 1850s.

Westmoreland 1841

John Gibson appointed Surgeon-Superintendent on the convict ship Westmoreland to Van Diemen's Land in 1841.[1] The Westmoreland departed Sheerness 19 May 1841 and arrived in Van Diemen's Land 12 September 1841.

Modeste 1847

He was appointed to the Modeste in 1847. H.M.S Modeste was anchored off Fort Vancouver in winter 1846-47. See Naval Surgeon John Gibson, and Curling on the Columbia River in 1847 by Bob Cowan at The Curling History Blog.

Ratcliffe 1848

Appointed Surgeon-Superintendent on Ratcliffe to Van Diemen's Land in 1848. The Ratcliffe departed Spithead 29 July 1848 and arrived Van Diemen's Land 12 November 1848

Scindian 1850

Appointed Surgeon-Superintendent on Scindian to Western Australia in 1850. The Scindian departed Portsmouth on 4th March 1850 and arrived in Fremantle 1st June 1850......

Copy of a Despatch from Governor Fitzgerald to Earl Grey.
Government House, Perth, July 15, 1850. (Received November 19, 1850.)
My Lord,
In my former Despatch, marked 'Separate,' dated the 3rd of June last, I had only time to report the arrival the day before of the ship 'Scindian,' with 75 convicts, 54 pensioners, their wives and children, and the officers accompanying them, all on board being in good health.

I now lament having to report the deaths of five children on the passage out.

Since then, my Lord, I have visited that ship, and have every reason to be satisfied with the good order, cleanliness, and perfect ventilation I found to prevail in every compartment of the vessel, a state of things that reflects great credit upon Dr. Gibson, the surgeon-superintendent, and Captain Henderson in charge of the guard.

Your Lordship will gladly learn that Dr. Gibson had not one complaint to make against any under his charge during the voyage, a result I was so little prepared for as to induce me to assemble the prisoners, and address them, stating my gratification at the account given of their conduct during the voyage, and trusted they would continue to conduct themselves during their short period of imprisonment in Western Australia, with the same correctness that had distinguished them in Portland prison, and was the cause of the boon given them of being sent to this colony.

I reminded them that their future destiny was in their own keeping, that there was every disposition in the colony to forget the past, and that the inclination of the settlers to take them into service on their discharge would materially depend on the characters given of them by the Comptroller-General during restraint, and that I should have much pleasure in attending to his recommendations, and grant to the deserving every indulgence in my power consistent with their circumstances; as far as I could judge, I saw not one discontented face on the occasion, and on the next morning they addressed a letter of thanks to the surgeon-superintendent for his kindness and humanity during their voyage out, nor is it a little gratifying to find how sanguine Captain Henderson feels that we shall have no trouble with these men, and little need of guards.

The prisoners are now all landed as also the pensioners, the former busily employed under their officers in converting the residence of the harbour master into suitable temporary barracks for their own and officers' accommodation; these premises just on the outskirt of the town of Fremantle.

To John Gibson, Esq., R N., Surgeon-Superintendent of Scindian
Scindian, Swan River,
June 4, 1850. 'we, the undersigned, having been treated by you with the utmost kindness and consideration during the course of that voyage, at the close of which we have now arrived, wish to offer you our most grateful acknowledgments—the only return in our power; and to assure you, that we will ever remember the many benevolent acts by which our comfort has been promoted. (Here follow 75 signatures.). [1]

Minden 1851

Appointed Surgeon-Superintendent on Minden to Western Australia in 1851. The Minden departed Plymouth 21st July 1851 and arrived 14 October 1851

Copy of a Despatch from Governor Fitzgerald to Earl Grey.
My Lord, Government House, Perth, October 23, 1851.
(Received January 20,1852.)

I Have the honour to report the arrival, after a rapid passage of 85 days, from Plymouth, Her Majesty's hired convict ship 'Minden', under the superintendence of Doctor Gibson, R.N.

By the returns forwarded to me I find there are on board 301 prisoners who are entitled to tickets-of-leave, 113 pensioners with their families included, 41 captain and crew, 2 surgeon and religious instructor; making a total on board of 457.

Doctor Gibson reports 2 births and 4 deaths having occurred during the passage, the latter were one prisoner, one sailor boy, and two children; otherwise, all well. I am happy to inform your Lordship, that Doctor Gibson reports the conduct of all on board as generally good, and that the Comptroller-General speaks in the highest terms of the order, cleanliness, and general arrangement which he found to prevail on board the 'Minden' on his visit the day of her arrival.

I do myself the honour to transmit copies of addresses presented by the prisoners and pensioners on board the 'Minden ' to the Superintendent-Surgeon previous to their disembarkation, and anxiously call your Lordship's attention to this fresh proof of the success with which Doctor Gibson has again discharged his trust. I have, etc.
(Signed) Charles Fitzgerald.

Ship ' Minden,' October 13, 1851.
We, the undersigned, the adult convicts under your charge, do give you our hearty thanks for the fatherly interest you have taken in our comfort and health, and for the general excellent arrangement; of the system of order and cleanliness maintained throughout the happy and comfortable voyage; for the mild and gentlemanly behaviour shown to us, the excellent moral and spiritual advice, and the kind interest you have taken in our welfare; and for the lenient punishment to which you have resorted to maintain discipline, in which you have, in the mildest means, so happily succeeded; also for your interest and exertions in our schools, and your kind interest in our eternal welfare ; for the amusements you have provided for our health, and for your general kindness and attention to everything that added to our comfort; and, lastly, we thank you for your encouragement in the spiritual exercises that have been observed in this ship, we trust to the salvation of many Western Australia souls; and we also thank the kind Government that have provided for us such a fine and comfortable ship, and most kind and yet firm Surgeon-Superintendent; and we your charge will endeavour to show our gratitude to you, Sir, by our good conduct; and conclude by wishing you a safe passage home, and every blessing. (Here follow 269 signatures.)

To the Surgeon-Superintendent, John Gibson, Esq., R.N.

Sir, Swan River, October 20, 1851.

The pensioners embarked with you on board the ship ' Minden' beg to return you sincere thanks for the studious attention manifested by you towards them during the passage, and to express their satisfaction at the interest taken by you for the women and children; especially to those whom circumstances placer! more immediately under your superintendence. They cannot leave the vessel without thanking you, and to assure you, that the unwearied exertions experienced on their behalf from you, shall remain as a lasting testimonial of your goodness to themselves and families; and beg to subscribe themselves, (Signed) John Allen, Sergeant-Major,
Commanding the Guard on behalf of the Pensioners embarked.


John Gibson married Mary Catherine Johnston on 13 December 1854, and resided in Doune, Kilmadock Parish, Perth, Scotland.[4] They had three children together John and Mary b. 1857 (twins) and James b. 1858.

John Gibson died suddenly on October 10, 1858, aged just 52. The Stirling Observer dated October 14, 1858, in recording his sudden death, describes him as 'one of our most active and intelligent townsmen'. [5]


[1] The Nautical Magazine

[2] Parliamentary Papers, House of Commons and Command, Volume 45

[3] Parliamentary Papers, House of Commons and Command, Volume 41

[4] Scotland, Select Marriages, 1561-1910 Original data: Scotland, Marriages, 1561-1910. Salt Lake City, Utah: FamilySearch, 2013.

[5] Cowan, Bob., Naval Surgeon John Gibson, and Curling on the Columbia River in 1847 The Curling History Blog