Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Mary (II) - convict ship

My ancestor Edward Ewer travelled to Australia as a convict on the Mary (2) - the '2' signifying that it was this ships second voyage to Australia. The surgeon on convict ships normally kept a diary, and that of the Mary (2) has thankfully survived. While John Rodmell's diary begins on 6 Jul 1821, convicts (176 in total) were not taken on board from the hulks 'Leviathan' and 'York' laying in Portsmouth Harbour till 22nd August. Also on board were 37 guards from the 46th Regiment, and three passengers including the Rev. Mr. Hassell who educated convicts on the voyage. The ship set to sea on 9 Sep 1822 and spent 129 days at sea before arriving in Port Jackson (now Sydney) on 23 Jan 1822.

I was lucky enough to receive a transcript of the surgeon's journal summary that appears, along with a summary of the entries transcribed by Di Crystal. I'll start with the 'general remarks', which effectively speak for themselves. It seems that the journey was relatively event-free, with no deaths occuring on board, and some convicts having the opportunity for instruction on how to read.

MARY 2 Surgeon's Journal
AJCP Reel #3203
(general remarks at end of reel)

General Remarks Mary II Surgeon’s Journal

The Mary arrived at Port Jackson on the 23rd of January 1822 with 176 Male convicts on board after a passage of 129 days from Plymouth and which were landed at Sydney together with the guard on the 28th of the same all in the most perfect health. Several cases of sickness, as will be seen by the journal, occurred but which I am happy to say had a favourable termination.

The ship sailed from Portsmouth on the 9th of September but in consequence of strong Westerly winds setting in when off the Lizard it was deemed advisable to put into Plymouth, not being able to make any progress from the state of the weather at that time , but on the contrary had every prospect of losing what had been gained. On our arrival there, a report was made of the circumstance to Sir T B Martin who happened to be at that port investigating the state of the Dockyards. Sir Thomas directed that the ship should be completed with water and that the usual supply of Fresh Beef and Vegetables should be demanded for the prisoners and Guard. These orders were come into effect without lots of time and everything was kept in readiness for our departure the first favourable opportunity. On the 19th we weighed anchor with a light breeze from the Eastward. After we had been at sea a few days the irons were removed from the whole of the convicts taking of course all necessary precautions to counteract any attempt at insubordination which might possibly be contemplated, but which I was not at all apprehensive of. The Mary was constructed with a Poop a circumstance which I conceive of importance , as affording a most commanding position for the guard a part of whom was constantly under arms in that situation during the day. It was from this circumstance principally that we were induced to remove so great a restraint knowing well from my own observations that such a measure would contribute greatly to the healthy condition of the prisoners, and which the event seemed fully to justify and I must not omit to state that they evinced much gratitude for the attention which was shown to their comfort both as regarding personal freedom and the due issue of provisions agreeably to the orders of Government. In order to remove all doubt from their minds as to the proper quantities being issued they were not only furnished with a scale of allowance but two of them were constantly to be present when the Steward made the distribution. With respect to the provisions supplied by His Majesty’s Government for the use of the convicts every possible care was taken to guard against the substitution of an inferior species which might be on board for ships use. In obedience to my instructions I used to attend the opening of provisions for the purpose of taking the mark, number and contents of each cask, and although it happened on two or three occasions that the Steward omitted to acquaint me when such circumstance took place I requested that the heading of the casks might be produced for my satisfaction. When the issue of lemonade first took place it was considered a very grateful and satisfactory beverage but after a time it did not seem to be taken with that avidity which it had been, and bowels complaints had also made their appearance. I certainly attributed it to some irregularity in the mixing of the lemonade and accordingly, without previously suggesting my suspicions, I requested that some might be brought for my tasting the following day, but instead of bringing it from the pot as was intended I ascertained immediately that a portion had been mixed for me in due proportions a tacit acknowledgement that what was about to be issued was not in conformity to the directions which he had received. The steward was reprimanded by the Master and admonished to be more careful in the future, and I have every reason to think that he fulfilled the duties of his station afterwards with correctness. I have omitted to include above in what the irregularity consisted. It was in the with-holding of a portion of the sugar whereby the lemonade was made unpleasantly acid and occasioned in some instances much intestinal irritation. It was seemed advisable to put into Port Praya (?) Island of St Jago on our passage out in order to complete the water, but it was not accomplished with that facility that could be wished owing to the unsettled state of the local government. A supply of fruit and vegetables was procured for the guard and the convicts. We arrived at Port Praya on the 13th of October and sailed for our ultimate destination on the 18th of the same month. Everything went on smoothly during the voyage, indeed much more so than could be expected from the character of those embarked. It was found only necessary to inflict corporal punishment twice in the course of the voyage and that in a moderate degree for thefts amongst themselves. A school was established under the superintendence of the Rev. Mr. Hassell and myself in that part of the ship appropriated to the Boys and which was generally well filled by those desirous of instruction. Many of them who were unacquainted with the alphabet very soon learnt it and at the termination of the voyage could read with tolerable facility. Divine Service was performed every Sunday by the Rev. Mr. Hassell who was a passenger, mostly on deck, but when the state of the weather would not admit of it, the same was performed in the prisons. Although I am directed to perform Divine Service I think the Board will admit the propriety of conceding that point to a professional man when there is one present and desirous so to do. I am unable to point out any changes or attention that would be more conducive to the health and comfort of the convicts. The arrangements at present both with respect to the fitting up of the prisons, the mode of victualling and the comforts and necessaries supplied in ease of sickness are such as to leave apparently no room for improvement, and are fully adequate to attain all that could be wished. It seems right that I should say something respecting the issue of spirits to the guard, but only with reference to quantity, half a pint of rum was issued agreeably to instructions mixed with a proportion of water as is usual in His Majesty’s Navy and sometimes it was made into Punch by the addition of lemon juice and sugar. It was served to them at twice, the first issue took place immediately after dinner and the last late in the afternoon. This was continued for some time but from the intoxication and disorder that frequently took place it was deemed in consultation with the Officer of the Guard and Master of the ship, absolutely necessary to suspend a portion of their allowance of spirits which was accordingly done. In future they performed their duty as became good Soldiers and I believe were very glad that such a resolution had been adopted for they were remunerated for such privation much beyond their expectation on their arrival in the Colony of New South Wales.

John Rodmell
Surgeon and Superintendent.


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