Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

Convict Ship Providence - 1826

Embarked: 100
Deaths: 1
Tons: 380
Surgeon's Journal: Yes
Master John Wauchope
Surgeon Matthew Burnside

The Providence was built in Lynn in 1812. Convicts were transported to Australia on the Providence in 1822 (VDL and NSW) and 1826 (VDL)


The Providence departed the Downs on 24th December 1825, called at Santa Cruz, Tenerife 18th January

Free Passengers

Passengers included Mr. Johnson Mrs. Johnson, child and female servant; with 4 women the wives of prisoners in the Colony and eleven children [2]

One of the free passengers was Miss Crawford, a young lady of Thespian fame at Drury Lane Theatre, who arrived to introduce some of the latest London fashions among the Colonists. [4]


A quantity of stores for the military stationed in Hobart and 35 tons of bar iron for Government came on the Providence.

Arrival in Van Diemen's Land

The Providence arrived in Van Diemen's Land on 16 May 1826.

A Superior Class

It was reported in the newspapers that most of the females of the Providence were selected from the prisons in London......

The majority are young women, of a very superior class to those which have been recently sent. In the Providence, there were also between thirty and forty females who are come out as free settlers! We wish them much happiness. When we consider the great disproportion that exists between the numbers of the two sexes in this Colony, which is said to be ten to one female, perhaps not a more desirable consignment could be made to this Colony than a cargo of the fair sex. The Government at home, at length seems to be aware of this fact, as scarcely any females are now sent to the Penitentiary at Milbank. [1]


By 26th May all of the female prisoners had been assigned to the service of families.[3]

Surgeon Matthew Burnside

Matthew Burnside kept a medical journal from 1 November 1825 to 18th May 1826.

According to the Log of Logs by Ian Nicholson, Matthew Burnside was banned from further transport service after the voyage of the Providence. Joy Damousi in Depraved and Disorderly etc., explains why -

In 1826 Governor Arthur expressed his alarm at the conduct of Surgeon Superintendent Matthew Burnside employed on the Providence, who had cohabited with one of the women Julia Mills, and 'Frequently allured others into his Cabin to drink. He has also in other respects conducted himself most unworthy of the trust reposed in him.' It was found that the master, John Wauchope, had 'in no way exerted himself in an earnest manner to prevent the improprieties'.[5]

Governor Darling thoughts on the subject are included in the Historical Records of Australia (6)

'Governor Darling to the Commissioners of the Navy. (Per ship Lady Rowena.)

Gentlemen, 26th July, 1826.
I have the honor to transmit, for Your information, the Report, which the Quarter Master of the 57th Regiment has made of the highly improper and indecorous conduct of Mr. Burnside, Surgeon Superintendent of the Female Convict Ship the Providence, on his arrival here from Van Diemen's Land. I have been informed by the Lieutenant Governor of that Colony that the Behaviour of Mr. Burnside on the Passage out was so extremely unbecoming his character, as a Married Man and inconsistent with his duty, that he had felt himself called on to represent it to You.

I have, etc, Ra. Darling

Notes and Links

1). Select here to read a transcript of surgeon Matthew Burside's Journal at Female Convicts Research Centre

2). Other convict ships bringing female prisoners to Australia in 1826 were the Woodman (VDL) and the Lady Rowena (NSW)


[1] Colonial Times and Tasmanian Advertiser (Hobart, Tas. : 1825 - 1827) Friday 19 May 1826

[2] Hobart Town Gazette (Tas. : 1825 - 1827)Saturday 20 May 1826

[3] Colonial Times and Tasmanian Advertiser (Hobart, Tas. : 1825 - 1827)Friday 26 May 1826

[4] Hobart Town Gazette (Tas. : 1825 - 1827)Saturday 27 May 1826

[5] Damousi, Joy, Depraved and Disorderly: Female Convicts, Sexuality and Gender in Colonial Australia, p.10

[6] HRA., Series 1, vol., XII, p.451