Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

Convict Ship Pilot - 1817

Embarked: 119 men
Voyage: 142 days
Deaths: 2
Surgeon's Journal: no
Tons: 392
Previous vessel: Chapman arrived 26 July 1817
Next vessel: Canada arrived 6 August 1817
Captain William Pexton
Surgeon Charles Queade
Follow the Irish Convict Ship Trail
Convicts and passengers of the Pilot identified in the Hunter Valley

The Pilot was built at Newcastle UK and owned by S.F. Somes.

The Convicts

Prisoners came from counties throughout Ireland - Meath, Tipperary, Tyrone, Roscommon, Kildare, Dublin, Cork, Down and Antrim etc. Most of the prisoners who were held in Antrim jail were sent on the Chapman, however two who had been tried in Antrim were sentenced to transportation for life and were sent on the Pilot - William Eggleson had been condemned for burglary and Peter Doran for bleach green robbery [2].

Antrim County Jail

The decaying state of Antrim County jail was described in the Belfast Newsletter in August 1816.....

Since last assizes the jail of the county of Antrim we are informed, has been continually crowded, from the daily arrival there of both debtors and felons; so that the completing of the present addition to the jail becomes desirable and necessary, as having so many in the present limited bounds, renders the safe keeping of the prison extremely difficult; particularly so as the walls of the yards have been partly rebuilt, and are yet in an unfinished state. Scarcely a week passes without some attempt to escape being detected; - amongst the last, was that on the 21st ult, when Peter Doran, a convict under rule of transportation for bleach green robbery, found means to conceal himself inn the filth of the necessary until after the yards were cleared; he then succeeded in getting over the timber wall of the yard, and had just reached the roof of the new buildings when he disturbed the sentinels posted there, who gave the alarm. He was found, and brought back to his first lodgings, where he still remains.

On the evening of the 2nd inst. after the prisoners were cleared out of the yards, and those for capital crimes put into their common hall, where they were to remain till eight o'clock, which is the usual time to put them into their sleeping apartments, they had found means , it seems, to procure a well made crow bar, more than three feet long, which must have been handed to them through some of the windows. With this tool, and some small pieces of iron, which (had they succeeded) would have enabled them to get into the Court House kitchen; but they had gone but a short way with their work, when they were heard, - the crow bar taken - and they put into their cells - Had they succeeded in their plan, 42 men might thereby have got into the kitchen, 14 of whom are convicts under rule of transportation; the remainder for trial on charged the most capital; but this plan was altogether impracticable, as they had not three hours to work, until every one is committed into his own apartment, and their work was too great for the limited time, as the building is so strong that they were unable even to get one stone loose, and had they got into the kitchen, they were then at the guard house. It is hoped that the jail will soon be sufficiently strong to bid defiance to any such attempts as the new wing adjoining the green yard has been roofed

Departure from Cork

The convicts ships Pilot, Chapman and Canada all departed Cork in March 1817. They were the next vessels to leave Ireland bound for New South Wales after the departure of the Surry in July 1816.

Military Guard

The Caledonian Mercury reported in February 1817 that several transport ships were assembled at Cork and were to convey the 48th regiment to New South Wales to relieve the 46th. They were to sail in company of convict ships for the same destination. [1]

The military guard on the Pilot consisted of a serjeant and 30 privates of the 46th and 48th regiments under the orders of Lieutenant Franklin of the 69th regiment. Other convict ship bringing detachments of the 48th regiment included the Caledonia, Dorothy, Larkins, Lady Castlereagh, Agamemnon, Minerva, Guildford, Isabella,
Prince Regent, Lord Eldon, Ocean and Baring

Mrs. Pexton's Diary

The Captain's wife, Mrs. Pexton kept a diary while on the voyage from Cork, Ireland to Sydney. The journal provides an informative, witty and insightful account into the seven-month voyage, with substantial notes on life in New South Wales and the return journey to England. Below is an extract from the first two pages of the diary.....

We left Cork on Monday March 14th 1817 and began our voyage to Port Jackson New South Wales having on board 120 convicts 30 soldiers as a guard and an officer (Mr. Franklin) who with the Doctor, Miss Brenan, Mr Foster Chief mate - myself and Mr. Pexton lived together in the cabin. For the first few days Mr Franklin Miss Brenan and myself were very sea-sick and confined to our beds. When we were better and able to sit up to dinner in the cabin I will describe the agility of the party in the following manner......

The motion of the Ship sending them from side to side of the cabin and their endeavours to keep their plates from being broken - it was more amazing to see Mr. Franklin than any of the rest he being a very little man and so light he was sent spinning round with his plate in one hand and his knife and fork in the other - unfortunately for him Miss Brenan was very lusty and she always sit [sic] very near him at table - the ship would roll and throw her with such force against him that the poor little fellow was scarce able to recover his breath for an hour afterwards. Boots behaved very well on the occasion for he had the puddings on the table and was very useful. Boots is the mate - a little man and wears very large boots so we have given him that name - The Doctor makes tea when we are not able - we continued for some time in this state with the addition of a good many bruises on our shins and arms from the falls we got on deck - until the latter part of March when the weather became very fine
. [5]

Rio de Janeiro

The Pilot touched at Rio de Janeiro on 5th May where she remained until 23rd May before leaving for New South Wales.

Mrs. Pexton made reference in her diary to a disturbing incident that took place when the ship was near the Canary Islands.....

Threatened Mutiny

I must not omit a circumstance which took place on board about this time - which was no other than one of the convicts found in the act of persuading the rest to take the ship, murder the Captain and Mate, and confine the sailors - then take the ship where they pleased, for which he was confined and flogged. [5]

Surgeon Charles Queade

Charles Queade was about 40 years of age when he made this voyage. Although this was his first voyage as Surgeon Superintendent of a convict ship, he was a well experienced naval surgeon and he was taking no chances with the prisoners under his care, which considering the above circumstance and those that took place on board the Chapman, was fortunate.

He made certain recommendations to Lieutenant Franklin for the management of the convicts while at Cork and on the voyage to Australia:

1st. I would recommend that the sentinels be constantly kept on deck under arms night and day, that is, one on each gangway about the Barricade doors on deck and one on the forecastle and that these sentinels are supplied with a certain number of ball cartridge.

2nd. No boats ought to be allowed to come along side with anything for the prisoners without my particular permission or in my absence without the permission of the Master of the ship. All boats at night coming near the ship are to be hailed by the sentinels and if coming to the ship must be reported to me or the Master before being allowed to come along side.

3rd. The key of one of the prison hatchways is to be constantly kept in the possession of the non-commissioned officer of the guard who is to attend when any of the prisoners require to come on deck and never to admit more on deck than twenty while in Harbour unless I particularly order.

4th. The prison hatchways and doors are to be locked every evening before dark by the sergeant of the guard and reported to you but before being locked it would be advisable that the Sergeant goes round the prison and sees that the prisoners are quiet and orderly.

5th All parcels for the soldiers or prisoners ought to be carefully examined by the Sergeant before being permitted to be taken below to prevent if possible the introduction of spirits or beer into the ship clandestinely and it is also advisable that all packages belonging to either the soldiers or prisoners be well searched before leaving the ship so as to prevent their disposing of their necessaries or clothing.

6th It would be highly necessary that you prevent the soldiers under your command while on or off duty from making use of any abusive, insulting or irritating language towards the prisoners

7th. The Soldiers ought to be strictly prohibited from holding any conversation whatever with the prisoners while on or off duty
. [4]

He wrote a similar set of instructions to the Master of the vessel and in addition advised that the windsails were to be kept up all day in harbour when the weather permitted and the stoves were to be lighted in foggy or rainy weather at eleven o'clock in the morning and put out at two in the afternoon. The provisions for the day were to be served out to the prisoners sufficiently early so as to allow their breakfast to be comfortably cooked and ready to be served out by eight o'clock in the morning.

Port Jackson

After a voyage of 142 days the Pilot arrived in Port Jackson on 29th July 1817.


One hundred and seventeen prisoners were landed on Friday morning 8th August and although it rained hard throughout the morning, Governor Macquarie carried out his usual inspection of the prisoners. The Governor extended his warmest thanks to Captain Pexton and Surgeon Charles Queade R.N., for the humane treatment which the prisoners gratefully avowed receiving throughout the voyage.

Departure from Port Jackson

The Pilot departed Port Jackson bound for Hobart in September 1817 and in November 1817 departed for Batavia.

Notes and Links

1). Charles Queade was also surgeon on the convict ships Minerva in 1819, Minerva in 1821 and the Phoenix in 1824 (VDL)

2). Convicts and passengers of the Pilot identified in the Hunter Valley


[1] The Army. The Morning Post (London, England), Saturday, February 15, 1817; Issue 14374. 19th Century British Library Newspapers: Part II.

[2] Belfast Newsletter 10 September 1816

[3] Belfast Newsletter 6 August 1816

[4] Colonial Secretary's Index. Reel 6046; 4/1738 pp.178-88

[5] Mrs Pexton's diary on board the convict transport PILOT 1816 - Australian National Maritime Museum