Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

Convict Ship Pyramus - 1832

Embarked: 147 women
Voyage: 116 days
Surgeon's Journal: yes
Tons 361 Crew: 28 men
Previous vessel: Asia arrived 13th February 1832
Next vessel: Isabella arrived 15th March 1832
Captain Alexander Wilson
Surgeon  James Rutherford
Follow the Female Convict Ship Trail
Prisoners and passengers of the Pyramus identified in the Hunter Valley

The Pyramus transported convicts to New South Wales in 1832 and 1836 and to Van Diemen's Land in 1838.

Surgeon James Rutherford

James Rutherford kept a Medical Journal from 16 September 1831 to 16 March 1832 -

The number of female convicts originally embarked on the Pyramus at Woolwich was 149; they were received at different periods from 15th to 29th September 1831, in separate batches from forty different prisons of England and Wales. Two women were returned as James Rutherford considered them totally unfit for embarkation.

The women sent to the Pyramus were accompanied by certificates from the respective surgeons of the prisons, stating that the prisoners so forwarded for transportation were in good health, however James Rutherford considered that surgeons connected with the prison establishments would naturally wish the more speedy removal of those who were likely to be the more troublesome inmates.[2]

Free Passengers

Passengers included Robert Nichol, Mrs. Ann Nichol, Miss E. Willis and Miss Isabella Willis.


The Pyramus departed London on 10th October 1831 with 147 prisoners and seven of their children. They were obliged to seek shelter in Cork harbour because of a severe gale and did not leave there until 10th November.

The Voyage

James Rutherford employed usual means for the preservation of sea board health - namely cleaning below without the aid of water (dry sand with holystones on the decks) and careful removal of damp and moisture by free ventilation and the use of stoves. He wrote:

I must do the unfortunate women embarked in the Pyramus, the justice to say that it was not difficult to enforce the observance of personal cleanliness amongst them. They were allowed a gallon of fresh water each, that is eight gallons for each berth of eight persons, per week, and with this and a proportional quantity of soap they kept their clothes really clean, without murmur or clamour for further allowance. Of water for culinary purposes and for drink they were not put on any allowance. An open cask with cold water and repeatedly replenished from the hold was kept in the main hatchway and by means of a dipper attached to this cask by a small iron chain, the prisoners were enabled to help themselves constantly to drink between two of the hatchway stanchions, it being strictly enjoined that they should not carry any away in vessels from this place. Thus they always had their drink cool and wholesome. This free use of water for drink much more cool and fresh than it could be preserved in kegs hung up in their crowded and heated berths, contributed at least I make no doubt towards the prevention of scurvy, the remotest appearance of which never manifested itself amongst the prisoners. [2]

Considerable mischief was caused by the sailors being allowed to take their liquor below decks, as was the custom on merchant vessels. The surgeon thought that on female convict ships this should not have been allowed.

Port Jackson

The Pyramus arrived in Port Jackson on 4th March 1832. [1]

Convict Muster

A muster was held on board on the 9th March by the Colonial Secretary. The convict indents reveal details such as name, age, religion, education, marital status, family, native place, occupation, offence, date and place of trial, sentence, previous offences and physical description. There is also occasional information such as colonial sentences, conditional pardons and tickets of leave. Their crimes included various forms of stealing and robbery; receiving stolen goods; sacrilege; coining; procuring abortion; passing forged notes; stabbing and pledging.

Thirty eight women were recorded in the indents as having children, however only three are noted as bringing their children with them. Six children belonging to convict women were embarked - Mary Kelly from Cork (convicted London) had four children on board with her; Mary Tansley from Winchester had one child on board and Ann Burrows had one child on board. One child died on the passage out and two convict women also died on the passage - Jane Hudson and Ann Trolip.

The indents have details of those women who had relatives on board or already in the colony. Some may have been fortunate enough to be assigned to their relative or perhaps nearby -

Ellen Neilan's husband Thomas Neilan was convicted at the same time and arrived on the Isabella in 1832

Catherine Witherstone's husband Thomas Witherstone's husband arrived on the Georgiana in 1831

Maria Hyde's husband William Hyde was sent to VDL on the Lord Lyndoch

Margaret Anderson's cousin Robert Dixon arrived 14 years previously

Mary Brown's cousin Thomas Narlin arrived three years previously

Elizabeth Kenyon alias Rippett - husband James Rippett arrived three years previously

Ann Garfitt's cousin William Moffatt a bookbinder

Sarah Darby's cousin John Wilks arrived in the colony some years previously

Mary Ebbs' uncle James Norton in the colony

Ann Jones' sister Nancy Blake arrived 12 months previously

Elizabeth Probyn's brother John Probyn arrived seven years previously

Ann Williams' cousin William Buckley arrived on the Lord Melville in 1830

Elizabeth Smith's cousin Thomas Wilson arrived 14 years previously Ann Bird's sister

Elizabeth Brown sent to VDL on the Mary

Eliza Hurry's brother Thomas Deasy alias John Williams arrived 8 years previously

Ann Curtis' brother James Curtis or Smith arrived 6 years previously

Sisters Ann McCarthy and Catherine McCarthy both on the Pyramus. Their mother Mary McCarthy transported to VDL on the America in 1831

Caroline Booth's cousin Peter Fagan expected to arrive on the Captain Cook

Ann Mallett's husband Edward Mallett sent to VDL on the William Glen Anderson

Ann Wilkins' cousin John Wilkins arrived 4 years previously

Sarah Collins' sister Frances Kenney arrived 8 years previously

Eliza Manley's brother Thomas Pratt at Hobart 15 years previously

Mary Burns' brother Henry Burns arrived 6 years previously; cousin Samuel Hodkin 4 years previously

Mary Clewley's brother Thomas Clewley arrived on the Adrian in 1830

Elizabeth Ross' brother James Ross arrived 2 years previously either NSW or VDL

Elizabeth Standley's brother Benjamin Rooker arrived 9 years previously

Hannah Ebbon's uncle Joseph Parish arrived 14 years previously [3]

Prisoners Disembarked

The women were landed on Wednesday 14th March 1832 and forwarded to their various assignments. They appeared to be clean and healthy women according to an article in the Monitor [4] .

A Government Notice was issued on 7th March informing the public that English female servants from the Pyramus could be supplied provided families apply according to the established Form by 13th March 1832. According to the Sydney Gazette, so numerous were the applications for female servants on the arrival of a London ship, that forms for many more than the number of females brought in the Pyramus were sent into the office that very same night.

Just one week later two of the women were in trouble -

Eliza Ross, who was landed a week back from the Pyramus made her debut at the Police Office, for taking a cruise to see the Sydney lions, but, at the intercession of her master, was discharged. Margaret Jones another importation by the same vessel was charged with taking French leave when refused by her master permission to go out; when returning home drunk and when reproved for the same, with starting again. Such an early specimen of her qualifications being rather too much to be overlooked, she was ordered to try a month's factory discipline [5]


A list of female prisoners assigned to settlers in the month of October 1832 was published in the Sydney Gazette and the following women from the Pyramus were included in the list:

Ann Andrews Assigned to W.P. Palmer at Maitland
Margaret Andrews Assigned to T.V. Bloomfield at Maitland
Ann Andrews Assigned to Andrew Doyle at Portland Head
Margaret Baswell Assigned to Captain Hunter at Sydney
Sarah Clarke Assigned to John F. Staff, Parramatta
Mary Cornice Assigned to J. Clarke, Windmill St. Sydney
Ann Goulden Assigned to W. Lackey at Parramatta
Ellen Hurley Assigned to Patrick Murphy at Sydney
Sarah Jones Assigned to Hannah Hill at Pitt St. Sydney
Mary Johnson Assigned to Elizabeth Handley at Market St. Sydney
Ann Mallett Assigned to Ann Bunker at Argyle
Jane McAnally Assigned to C. Brooks, Denham Court
Catherine Phillips Assigned to J. Myers at Prospect
Sarah Smith Assigned to George Walpole at Windsor
Margaret Smith Assigned to Esther Lyons, Castlereagh St. Sydney
Ann Welsh Assigned to James Connor, Campbell St, Sydney
Eliza Wilson Assigned to Mary Orchard at Sydney.

Notes and Links

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

2). James Rutherford was also employed as surgeon on the convict ships Regalia in 1826, Mangles in 1833 and the Hooghley in 1834.

3). News arrived on the Pyramus of the Bristol Riots which took place in October 1831 - Captain Wilson reported on arrival that the principal part of Bristol was burned down by rioters. Some of the rioters were transported on the Parmelia which arrived in November 1832.

4). The Pyramus was one of three convict ships bringing female prisoners to New South Wales in 1832, the others being the Southworth and the Burrell. A total of 381 female convicts arrived in the colony in 1832. There were no female prisoners who had been convicted in Scotland transported to New South Wales in 1832.


[1] Bateson, Charles, Library of Australian History (1983). The convict ships, 1787-1868 (Australian ed). Library of Australian History, Sydney, pp.350-351

[2] Journal of James Rutherford on the voyage of the Pyramus in 1832. UK, Royal Navy Medical Journals, 1817-1857 Original data: The National Archives. Kew, Richmond, Surrey.

[3] Convict Ship Pyramus. Bound manuscript indents, 1788 - 1842. NRS 12188, microfiche 681. State Records Authority of New South Wales, Kingswood, New South Wales, Australia.

[4] The Monitor 14th March 1832

[5] Sydney Gazette 27 March 1832