Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

Convict Ship Castle Forbes - 1820

Embarked 140 men
Voyage: 116 days
Deaths : 4
Surgeon's Journal - yes
Previous vessel: Prince Regent arrived 27 January 1820
Next vessel: Dromedary arrived 28 January 1820
Master Thomas Levington Reid
Surgeon James Scott
Follow the Irish Convict Ship Trail
Prisoners and passengers of the Castle Forbes identified in the Hunter Valley

The Castle Forbes was built at Aberdeen in 1818 by shipbuilders Robert Gibbon and Sons. This was the first of two voyages of the Castle Forbes bringing convicts to New South Wales, the other being in 1824.

Military Guard

The Guard consisted of 26 soldiers of the 34th and 89th regts., under Command of Lieut. Sutherland of the 30th Regiment. On 14th July 1819 Lieutenant Sutherland, the Sergeant, three Corporals and twenty-two privates together with five women and four children all embarked at Deptford. Two of the wives of soldiers were pregnant.

Free Passengers

Francis O'Meara, son of John O'Meara settler of Bringelly came free on the Castle Forbes[4].

Surgeon James Scott

James Scott kept a very detailed Medical Journal which began in London on 6th July 1819 while the ship was still being fitted out at Deptford. He reported himself to Captain Young, Agent for Transports and joined the Castle Forbes on 7th July. He received medical stores from the Apothecaries and recorded the arrival of the Guard on board on 14th July. He Received a copy of the Ship's Charter Party which he acknowledged by Letter to the Navy Board. On the 17th July Captain Young came on board late at night with sailing orders and on the 18th July at 9am the ship left Deptford; in order to give the seamen their advance of wages the Castle Forbes anchored off Gravesend. They left Gravesend at 2am on 19th July and anchored in the Downs at 7pm the following evening. [3]

Departure from England

The Castle Forbes weighed anchor at the Downs on 20th July at 1pm under a light wind, however during the night the wind freshened causing a great deal of motion in the the ship and sea sickness amongst the guard.

Cove of Cork

They came to anchor in Cove of Cork Harbour on 31st July where they remained until September....James Scott recorded in his journal on 16th September.......Since the 31st July until present time the ship has been waiting the embarkation of the convicts. During that period a Court Martial was held on two of the Guard for disobedience and disorderly conduct. One was sentenced to receive 300 lashes and the other 75 which were inflicted under the superintendence of the Military surgeon resident at Cove who took them as well as a venereal patient under his medical treatment. 140 convicts were received on board but before being admitted below decks their persons were examined that they had no infectious disease or might have no instruments concealed about themselves that could favour their escape or do injury to each other. [3]

He then issued a very detailed set of 12 Rules that he expected the convicts to very strictly and cheerfully obey.

On this same day (16th September) that the convicts were received on board James Scott became ill.....I must here remark that on this day I was most unfortunately attacked with bilious fever which not only confined me to bed but rendered my removal to more convenient and comfortable lodgings on shore. During my confinement my duty on board was closely superintended by Mr. Alexander Taylor a half pay surgeon of the navy who having been on the same service in the Guildford convict ship in 1819 was very competent for the Office.

On 21st September 1819 Dr. Edward Trevor Superintendent and Medical Inspector of convicts, wrote to William Gregory, Under Secretary, Dublin Castle, reporting that James Scott, surgeon of the convict ship Castle Forbes was suffering from fever and that he had sent him on shore, and ordered his cabin to be thoroughly cleaned. ..... Chief Secretary's Office Registered Papers, National Archives

Dr. Trevor had requested that another surgeon be appointed to allow the ship to sail on time, however by the 27th September James Scott had recovered from his illness and although he was debilitated he was approved to continue his duties on the Castle Forbes.

Departure from Cork

They were still in the Cove of Cork on 3rd October however according to the Surgeon's journal, by the 4th October were in Lat 50° 44' N Long 10° 24' W.

The Voyage

James Scott's Journal reveals that he kept tight control over the prisoners. They were required to following his code of instructions which was posted on the prison wall. Any deviations of his orders were punished by confinement in handcuffs or by flogging of the most incorrigible convicts, however he reported with only a very few exceptions confinement in handcuffs prevented any more serious infractions.

A school was established on board with the assistance of one of the prisoners. Twenty men and boys spent three hours a day at lessons and by the end of the voyage could read and rehearse the Christian Catechism. Sundays were religiously observed by mustering the prisoners in a clean change of clothes; and when the duties of the ship and the weather permitted Divine Worship was always performed.

Mondays and Fridays were alone allotted for the washing of clothes; Tuesdays and Saturdays for the airing of bedding; Wednesdays and Saturdays for shaving; Thursdays were reserved for muster the same as the Sundays.

The prisoners were on deck in rotation every two hours, in general from sunrise to sunset; and no-one was allowed to remain below, other than those confined from sickness, who were treated with medicines and medical comforts in the Hospital. The bedding was lashed up every morning at 6am and none of the prisoners were permitted to lie in bed in the prison during the day under any pretence. None of the prisoners were allowed to have their irons off unless they were ill or if they contributed by their exertions to the benefit and convenience of the whole.

The prison deck was always cleaned with swabs and brooms first thing in the morning, after meals and before going to bed. To assist free ventilation, windsails were constantly used as well as swing stoves in damp weather.[3]

Port Jackson

The Castle Forbes arrived in Sydney on 27 January 1820.

James Scott remarked...... On 3rd February John Thomas Campbell, Secretary to Government came on board by desire of the Governor and mustered the prisoners of which none were sick of the number originally embarked; and on being questioned as to the treatment they received from the ship's Officers all expressed their fullest satisfaction and that they had never been treated more kindly in their lives than since they embarked on board the Castle Forbes.[3]

His Excellency Governor Macquarie's Certificate I have perused the foregoing medical journal and diary kept by Mr. James Scott Surgeon Superintendent on the Castle Forbes, transport and have every reason to be perfectly well satisfied with his good conduct and with his humane kind, judicious and assiduous attention to the health, comfort and morals of the convicts placed under his charge in that ship during her voyage to New South Wales where they arrived in good health and perfectly satisfied with their treatment on board. Government House 10 February 1820.'

On arrival in Sydney 136 prisoners of the Castle Forbes were to be sent to Hobart and 4 remained in Sydney. The Castle Forbes received and additional forty prisoners from the Prince Regent convict ship with several Government Passengers making in all according to the surgeon's journal, with the original prisoners two hundred and four people.

The Castle Forbes sailed from Port Jackson for Van Diemen's Land in February. Governor Lachlan Macquarie recorded the departure of the Castle Forbes from Sydney in his Journal.....Wednesday 16. Feby. 1820 ! This morning the Ship Castle Forbes' commanded by Capt. Thomas Levington Reid, sailed from Port Jackson direct for the Derwent - but ultimately for Bombay. - On the Castle Forbes Edward Bromley, Naval Officer, Mr. Priest Asst. Surgeon, and Mr. Roberts Free Settler, went Passengers, together with 180 Male Convicts for distribution in Van Diemen's Land, with a Guard of 14 Soldiers as their Escort; the Castle Forbes having been engaged to land them at Hobart Town at the rate of Two Pounds Sterling for each man. [5]

Van Diemen's Land

They arrived at Hobart on 1st March 1820 As requested by Governor Macquarie, James Scott continued to perform his duty as surgeon until their arrival.

The Hobart Town Gazette reported.....The male convicts arrived per ship Castle Forbes were landed this morning. 130 were landed at Hobart Town, which were inspected by his honour the Lieutenant Governor and the Hon. the Commissioner of enquiry and a large portion assigned to he service of the settlers. The remaining 50 were landed at Kangaroo Point, destined for Port Dalrymple. The whole of them landed in a state of perfect health and order.[1]

Notes and Links

1). Prisoners and passengers of the Castle Forbes identified in the Hunter Valley

2). Convict Edward Fitzgerald was born in Dublin city and 20 years of age. His occupation is recorded as Clerk and Theatrical Performer. He was re-transported on the Hero in 1835.

3). Patrick Hart was born in Sligo town. His occupation was recorded in the indents as teacher. The following incident resulted in his trial at Cavan and a sentence of 14 years transportation. Others tried at Cavan at the same time included Bernard O'Neil, John McNamara, James Doyle, Philip or Henry McGoldrick and John McHay Mawby...... On the night of Monday week, the family at Freame-mount, the seat of William Mayne, Esq., were alarmed by a loud barking; they armed themselves, and sallied forth, guided by a faithful dog, to a barn or out house, where to their astonishment they found concealed seven fellows, completely armed, who, trusting to their superior numbers, (the searching party being only three), instantly rushed out and attacked them, and would have overpowered them, but for a young gentleman who happened to be on a visit at the house who hearing the noise, rushed out, armed with a sword, and from his dexterity in the use of the weapon, succeeded in severely wounding two of them, which so terrified their companions, that they instantly fled, but were pursued to the house of a suspicious character, named Patrick Hart, where they were all effectually secured, and were safely lodged in Monaghan Gaol. Freemans Journal 1763-1924, Tuesday, September 12, 1820; Page: 4

4). Infamous convict Alexander Pearce arrived on the Castle Forbes. He was executed for bushranging, murder and cannibalism in July 1824. His confession was printed in the Morning Chronicle on 8th January 1825 .....I was born in the county of Fermanagh, in the North of Ireland. In the twenty sixth year of my age I was convicted of stealing six pairs of shoes, and received sentence to be transported for seven years; I arrived in Van Diemen's Land on board the ship Castle Forbes, from Sydney; was assigned as servant to John Bellenger, with whom I remained about nine months; was then, from misconduct, returned to the government Superintendent. A few months after I was assigned to a man, named Cane, a constable, and staid with him only sixteen weeks when an occasion obliged him to take me before the Magistrates, who ordered that I should receive fifty lashes, in the usual way and again be returned to Crown labour. Afterwards I was place to served a Mr. Scattergood, of New Norfolk, from whom I absconded into the woods, and joined Laughton, Saunders, Latten and Atkinson, who were then at large; staid with them three months, and surrendered myself by proclamation, issued by the Lieut-Governor, and was pardoned Shortly afterwards I forged several orders upon which I obtained property. On hearing the fraud was discovered, I was again induced to return into the woods. but, after three or four months, I was taken by a party of the 48th regiment, brought to Hobart Town, tried for the forgeries, found guilty and sent to the Penal Settlement at Macquarie Harbour for the remainder of my sentence. I was not there more than a month before I made my escape with seven others......

Find out more at Alexander Pearce

5). From the National Portrait Gallery......Alexander Pearce was a thief transported for stealing six pairs of shoes. He proved himself a malcontent and was sent to Sarah Island on the West coast of Tasmania, one of the most remote and rugged areas in the world. In 1822, together with eight companions, Pearce escaped into the rugged bush. Two of the convicts died of exhaustion but the others killed and ate their fellows until only Pearce remained. When he was eventually recaptured, the authorities wouldn't believe his incredible story, assuming he was protecting his still at large companions. Returned to Sarah Island he soon escaped again, taking Thomas Cox, another convict, with him. He was alone when he surrendered but his captors made a gristly discovery: he had human flesh in his pocket. Pearce was found guilty of murder and hanged at the Hobart Town Jail on 19 July 1824.


[1] The Hobart Town Gazette and Southern Reporter Sat 4 Mar 1820 Page 2

[2] Bateson, Charles, Library of Australian History (1983). The convict ships, 1787-1868 (Australian ed). Library of Australian History, Sydney : pp.342-343, 383

[3] UK, Royal Navy Medical Journals, 1817-1857. Medical Journal of James Scott on the voyage of the Castle Forbes in 1820. The National Archives. Kew, Richmond, Surrey.

[4] Title: Special Bundles, 1794-1825 Source Information New South Wales, Australia, Colonial Secretary's Papers, 1788-1856

[5] Lachlan and Elizabeth Macquarie Archive Online