Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

Robert Dickson R. N.,

Convict Ship Surgeon-Superintendent

Robert Dickson was employed as Surgeon-Superintendent on the convict ship Java in 1833. He kept a Medical Journal from 3rd June to 3rd December 1833. Five convicts died on the voyage out.

A note on the front of the Journal states:

This is a very ill written Journal and by no means creditable in any respect to Mr. Dickson. (signed WB)

In the Journal Robert Dickson refers to the system of payment of surgeons - Several Naval Surgeons have boasted of their great success in taking out convicts without losing a man; nay they have printed it - I shall not shrink from comparing Professional testimonials (now in my possession) with the vainest of these Gentlemen, yet, I lost four men, on the passage, and one the Day after the ship arrived at Sydney. (*this was John Connolly) Had this fifth man been sent to Hospital and died in the dockyard, or died in a cart, going up to the hospital - as too many have done; I should have gained the sum of 10s 6d, further I was advised to send this man to Hospital instantly but I am not yet so poor as to sell my humanity for 10s 6d. To prevent a recurrence of this indecent, unprofessional, inhumane, unchristian like practice, would it not be well to pay surgeons for all those whom they brought into Sydney, or Hobart Town?

Notes and Links

The following Entry in the Medical Register 1865 for Robert Dickson may (or may not) be the same man as the surgeon of the Java:

Residence 16 Hertford Street, Mayfair, London.
Qualifications M.D. University Edinburgh 1826
Fellow Royal College Physicians London 1855.