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William Balmain

Convict Ship Assistant-Surgeon

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William Balmain - The Newcastle Sun 10 September 1938

WILLIAM BALMAIN, surgeon and landholder, was born on 2 February 1762 at Balhepburn, Rhynd, Perthshire, Scotland, the son of Alexander Balmain and Jane Henderson. He entered the navy in 1780 as a surgeon's mate. [1]

Assistant Surgeon First Fleet

In October 1786 he was commissioned assistant surgeon to New South Wales and sailed in the First Fleet transport Alexander the following May reaching Port Jackson in January 1788.

Norfolk Island

He served in Sydney until October 1791, when he was appointed senior assistant surgeon to Norfolk Island. At Norfolk Island he formed a relationship with Margaret Dawson, a convict girl who had arrived on the Lady Penryhn. Their daughter Ann was born at Norfolk Island.

Thomas Jamison was also stationed at Norfolk Island from 1788 to October 1799. He later succeeded William Balmain to the position of Surgeon General of New South Wales.

In 1796 William Balmain became Chief Surgeon in succession to Surgeon John White who had returned to England in December 1794. He was appointed Magistrate and served on committees and was active in other public duties.

Return to England

William Balmain returned to England in August 1801 on the Albion and was appointed Surgeon to the Forces in 1803.


The Morning Chronicle reported his death in November 1803 - On the 17th instant in King Street, Bloomsbury, Dr. William Balmain, Surgeon to His Majesty's Forces and late Principal Surgeon to the territory of New South Wales.

He left most of his estate to Margaret Dawson who had returned to England with him.

Notes and Links

(1). Australian Dictionary of Biography

(2) Wikipedia

(3) Sydney Mail 17 December

(4) Truth 18 September 1949

(5) A List of Civil and Military Establishments in New South Wales

(6). John White served as Surgeon-General on the First Fleet in 1787.

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Eight Surgeons served on the First Fleet under John White -

Dennis Considen,

Thomas Arndell,

William Balmain

John Turnpenny Altree,

Arthur Bowes Smyth,

James Callam,

Thomas Jamison

George Bouchier Worgan