Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

Convict Ship Rolla - 1803

Embarked: 127 men; 37 women
Voyage: 189 days
Deaths 7-8
Surgeon's Journal: no
Previous vessel: Glatton arrived 11 May 1803
Next vessel: Calcutta arrived 9 October 1803
Captain Robert Cumming
Surgeon John Buist
Follow the Female Convict Ship Trail
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Prisoners and passengers of the Rolla identified in the Hunter Valley

The Rolla was built at Shields in 1800. She was the next convict ship to leave Ireland bound for New South Wales after the departure of the Atlas in May 1802.

The London Times reported that the Rolla sailed from Portsmouth, however after receiving some damage in a gale of wind was blown into the Downs. She was at Deal on 15th February 1802 preparing to put into the river to make repairs. [1]

Prisoners of the Rolla came from counties throughout Ireland including Cavan, Dublin, Meath, Cork, Clare, Kilkenny, Limerick, Armagh and Kildare.

Find out more about the convicts from Armagh - Patrick Hand, Hugh Kelly, Cormac McCain, William McDaley and John Murray in Armagh Convicts in Australia, 1800-1806 by Anne-Maree Whitaker.


The Rolla departed Cork on 4 November 1802.

Rio de Janeiro

They arrived at Rio de Janeiro on 12th January after a passage of 72 days. The convicts were very quiet and there was no loss of life until after arrival at Rio when a male convict died suddenly [3].

They sailed from Rio on 6 February 1803. During the voyage there was much bad weather in the course of which the Rolla sprung the main mast and carried away her main yard. [2]

Port Jackson

After a voyage of 95 days they came to anchor at Port Jackson on 12 May 1803. A few of the convicts were suffering from slight scurvy however the rest were of general good health. [4]. Seven or eight convicts died on the passage out.

The Rolla brought Government supplies - 234 tierces of pork, 686 casks of flour and 11 tons of sugar.

Around 1803 convict artist John William Lancashire produced the water color 'View of Sydney taken from The Rocks'. The stone bridge of the Tank Stream is on the extreme right while Government House is centrally located. This is the layout of Sydney Town as the convicts of the Rolla would have known it.

Departure from Port Jackson

The Rolla left Port Jackson on 20 September 1803 in company with the Cumberland with Matthew Flinders on board and the Francis on their way to the shipwrecked vessel Porpoise .....Tales of Shipwrecks. On board the Rolla was a stowaway convict James Alder. (See HRA, Vol IV, p. 423)

They called at Port Stephens on the way sheltering from bad weather there overnight. The Rolla's top gallant sail was the first seen by the survivors of the Porpoise who were overjoyed at Flinders' return.......

On the 7th of October, a little before noon, a sail was descried in the eastern quarter; in a little time another, and soon after a third was discovered. Their emotions at the sight of these can better be conceived than described. Indeed the astonishment on board these vessels was equal to their own; for, on that very day the Resource (their own production) had gone to Turtle Island, by way of trying her, and they little expected to be met by a schooner of 20 tons, erected in this island, considering the short space of time, and the implements they had to work with.

As these vessels approached they perceived the largest to be the Rolla, convict ship, which they had left in Sydney Cove, the others were the Frances and Cumberland, colonial schooners, which were familiar to them. In the afternoon all three vessels anchored to leeward of the reef, and a boat put off soon after from the Cumberland, in which, as she neared them, they saw Captain. Flinders who received a hearty cheer on landing. For the last ten days preceding the arrival of these vessels they had every night at eight o'clock, fired a great gun by way of apprising them of their situation, if chance should have brought them at dusk near to the reef.

Notwithstanding six weeks had expired from the time Captain Flinders had left them, they did not think it proper to adhere to the agreement that was made between them, and therefore had no intention of quitting the island yet. They naturally concluded that he might have had a tardy passage to Port Jackson, and even when he got there, that vessels might not have been in readiness in Sydney Cove to send to their assistance. He might also, from the fatigue of going there, have been incapacitated from returning immediately, and thus the sailing of a vessel might have been procrastinated. These and other considerations made them change their former resolutions; and it was agreed never to separate, but wait patiently till another boat should be built, and go in a body together. Had they parted, as it had been previously planned, at the end of six weeks, it would in all probability have been productive of much uneasiness and dissatisfaction, as well to those who went from, as to those who remained on the reef
... (from)The mariner's chronicle; or Interesting narratives of shipwrecks.

The Francis returned to Sydney and Matthew Flinders continued on his ill-fated voyage on the Cumberland. Lieutenants Fowler, Flinders (Matthew Flinders' brother), and John Franklin sailed with the Rolla to China.

The Times reported on 12th October 1804.... His Majesty's ship Courageux came from St. Helena with the following East Indiamen under convoy - City of London, Ceylon, Calcutta and Wyndham, the Rolla, Cumming from Botany Bay and the Lively and Vulture from the South Seas. It appears that the fleet has experienced the most tempestuous weather during their passage. In the latitude of the Cape a most tremendous gale came on; the Prince of Wales was seen in the utmost distress, and from the floating pieces of wreck that the fleet fell in with two days after, it is feared that she went down, and every soul on board perished.

Prisoners of the Rolla identified in the Hunter region

Daly, William
Tried at Armagh in 1801. Sentenced to transportation for life. In February 1818 Henry Schooler and William Daly, for pig stealing, Schooner sent for three years and Daly for seven years to Newcastle penal settlement. Punished at Newcastle in November 1820 for purloining provisions in the prisoner's barracks. He was assigned to Alexander Livingstone in 1824. His sentence expired in February 1825 and he returned to Sydney. In 1828 he was employed as a sawyer by Thomas Handson in Sydney, age 56

Day, William
Tried in Dublin City in 1800. Sentenced to 7 years transportation. In 1828 employed as a labourer by Robert Henderson at Brisbane Water

Doyle, Andrew
Tried at Dublin in 1801. Sentenced to transportation for life. Engraver convicted of forgery. He arrived in Sydney in May 1803 in the Rolla; his wife Sophia and their three eldest children came as free settlers on the Rolla (ADB Online). Cyrus Matthew Doyle was one of the sons of Sophia and Andrew

Duffy, Hugh
Tried in Tyrone in 1801. Sentenced to 7 years transportation. Hugh Duffy was granted a Certificate of Freedom in January 1810, however he was sent to Newcastle penal settlement in February 1811 having been sentenced to 2 years hard labour for receiving cloth and other goods stolen from the shop of Thomas Abbott. He was married however in answer to a petition he made in 1811 was informed by headquarters that his request could not be complied with as his wife was a notorious character. He was convicted of the murder of John Suddis a settler at Wilberforce in 1818 and sentenced to be executed

Gorman, Thomas
Alias Martin. Born c. 1776 in Trim, Co. Meath. Tried in Dublin in 1802. Sentenced to transportation for life. In February 1811. Sentenced to work in the coal mines at Newcastle for one year for having fraudulently obtained a Certificate of Freedom. He was granted a Conditional Pardon in 1816. In 1828 he was employed as a wheelwright at Parramatta. Spouse Catherine McLaughlan (ship Tellicherry). Issue 1). Mary Ann b. c 1807. 2). John b. c. 1809. 3). Ellen b. 1811. 4)Elizabeth b. 1813. 5)Catherine b. c. 1816. 6) Margaret b. c. 1822. 7). Thomas b. 1820. 8) Jane b. c. 1823. Thomas Gorman died in August 1849 in Sydney

Higgins, Mary
Alias Tyrrell, Alias Horner. Tried in Dublin in 1802. Sentenced to 7 years transportation. As Mary Tyrrel sent to Newcastle penal settlement in July 1804 for riotous and disorderly conduct. In February 1811 she was in a relationship with Richard Horner who was employed as Surgeon at Newcastle. As Mary Tyrell, the woman who lives with Mr. Horner, she was granted permission to proceed to the settlement on the Lady Nelson. Four children were born to the couple. Richard Horner died in Sydney in 1816. In 1818 Mary was employed as a washerwoman. Her son James was recommended for admission to the Orphan School in August 1818.

Hurley, Catherine
Alias Early. Alias Hare. Tried Clonmel, Tipperary, Co. in 1802. Sentenced to transportation for life. She was sent to Newcastle in October 1818 In 1822 Catherine Early and Bridget Smith were found guilty of feloniously stealing two glasses and goods belonging to William Laverton at Sydney. Both were sentenced to be transported to such place as His Excellency the Governor may direct for the term of twelve calendar months. They were sent to Port Macquarie in May 1822. From Port Macquarie they were admitted to Sydney Gaol and then the Female Factory at Parramatta in May 1823. In 1828 Catherine was 65 years of age and a resident at the Parramatta Female Factory. Catherine Hurley was granted a Ticket of Leave for Sydney in March 1829

Doyle, Margaret
Alias Lawrence. Born in 1786. Dark complexion with grey eyes. 4ft 11 in. Tried in Dublin in 1802. Sentenced to 7 years transportation. In November 1820 sentenced to Newcastle penal settlement with Margaret Cuddy for seven years for robbing Charles Tunstall. She was sent to Newcastle in January 1821. In May 1824. Margaret Lawrence, Ann Carr alias Coffee and Harriet Bray all in government service. Charged with being absent from Muster and missing Divine Service the previous day. The Chief Constable stated that the prisoners were absent from Muster on the bell ringing for Church yesterday and did not attend Divine service. Sentenced to be kept in the cells at night for one week

Nangle, James
Tried at Kilkenny in 1801. Sentenced to 7 years transportation. Sentenced to two years at Newcastle penal settlement in December 1818 for stealing a blanket.

Wallis, John
Tried at Omagh, Tyrone in 1801. Sentenced to transportation for life. Sentenced to transportation to Newcastle for life in November 1811 for a colonial crime. Forwarded in January 1812. Former gaoler at Newcastle. In November 1822 he petitioned for emancipation....he claimed that he was treated as a convict due to clerical error. Had received sentence of transportation for life at Omagh and arrived on the Rolla in 1803. Having been nine years in the colony was sent to Newcastle for life also but there he behaved so well first as overseer and then as jailer that Governor Macquarie emancipated him on the recommendation of Captain Wallis, commandant at the settlement. Since then he had endeavoured to procure honest livelihood and was at one time employed by William Gore. He lately had the misfortune to be brought before the magistrates on a charge which was not proved however because of an alleged informality on his Certificate of Emancipation, he was returned to Government service and sent to work in an iron gang........after a residence of close upon twenty years in the colony, seventeen years of which, seventeen of the best years of his life, he has passed in the actual employ of Government, coping the most part of that time with hardships and difficulties which can scarcely be conceived, unless by such as have had the misfortune to experience them - thus has he been plunged at once into a state of helpless, he had almost said hopeless misery for a mere clerical error. In 1822 he was on a list of prisoners to be forwarded to Parramatta for distribution. He was assigned to William Murray in Kent St. Sydney in 1824.

Notes and Links

1). National Archives - Voyages: (1) 1802/3 New South Wales and China. Captain Robert Cumming. Cork 4 Nov 1802 - 22 Sep 1803 Port Jackson - 14 Dec Whampoa - 31 Jan 1804 Second Bar - 14 Mar Malacca - 13 Jul St Helena - 9 Oct Downs.

2). Andrew Doyle was one of the convicts of the Rolla. His wife Sophie and their three children including son Cyrus Matthew Doyle arrived as a free passengers on the Rolla.

3). Other free passengers included Humphrey Evans a former First Fleet Marine and his wife Mary who had first arrived on the Lady Penrhyn in 1788. They had sailed to England in 1797 before returning to New South Wales on the Rolla. Michaela Ann Cameron, Mary Kelly: The First Lady of Kellyville, St. Johns Cemetery Project, (2016)

4). Edward Hyland was indicted for having stolen two silver cups, the property of Henry Westray Esq., - The first witness was Ann Doyle, examined by Mr. Bethel; she deposed that she was in the service of Mr. Westray, and that on the 19th of September last, she perceived the prisoner at the bar running out of the hall door; that she followed, had him apprehended, and the cups, which were her master's property, taken from him. The recorder asked the prisoner if he had anything to say in his defence, and he answering in the negative, was found guilty ,and received sentence to be transported for seven years. - Freeman's Journal 16 October 1800

5). Irish Convict Database by Peter Mayberry.

6). Cork Mercantile Chronicle Cork, Cork, Ireland 01 Oct 1802, Page 3
Convict List for Rolla


[1] 'Ship News.' Times [London, England] 17 Feb. 1802: 3. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 10 Mar. 2013.

[2] Sydney Gazette 15 May 1803

[3] Finn's Leinster Journal 22 June 1803

[4] HRA, Series 1, Vol. IV, p. 301