Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

Convict Ship Westmoreland - 1838

Embarked: 220 male convicts
Voyage: 117 days
Deaths: 4
Surgeon's Journal: yes
Previous voyage: Lord Lyndoch arrived 8 August 1838
Next voyage: John Renwick arrived 27 August 1838
Master John Brigstock
Surgeon  George McClure
Follow the Irish Convict Ship Trail
Prisoners and passengers of the Westmoreland identified in the Hunter Valley


The prisoners of the Westmoreland were admitted to Kilmainham gaol in Dublin prior to embarkation.....

Kilmainham Gaol was described in The picture of Dublin: or, Stranger's guide to the Irish metropolis in 1835.....

The gaol receives both debtors and felons. It is on an elevated situation, and has a good supply of excellent water. A lofty wall encloses a rectangular space of 283 feet by 190, containing the main building, 178 by 102 feet, composed of two quadrangles, in which are apartments for the keeper, a chapel, infirmary, work-room, common hall, and fifty-two cells. The prison is well ventilated, and accommodated with spacious yards. The guard-room and door-keeper's office are detached from the building.

This prison is well adapted to the classification of prisoners, which has been in a great measure carried into effect. Under the directions of Mr. Pole, a penitentiary has been established, in which several of the prisoners are employed in weaving, and other handicraft occupations : the experiment has been attended with so much success, that some have been liberated on bail, and others admitted into the army and navy. The convicts from the north are received into this prison previous to transportation


The Westmoreland departed Dublin on 27 April 1838. Thirty-six convicts were under the age of 16. One was only ten years old.

Cabin Passengers

Cabin Passengers included Captain Charles Holden and Ensign Arthur Carlos Henry Rumbold of the 51st regiment. Seven free settlers including Michael Hickey age 17 and John McNamara (both mentioned in the surgeon's journal).

Military Guard

Steerage passengers included - 32 rank and file of the 51st and 80th regiments, six women and five children.

Other convict ships bringing detachments of the 51st regiment included Waverley, Earl Grey, Bengal Merchant, William Jardine, Waterloo, Lord Lyndoch, Neptune, John Barry and Portsea. Find out more about the 51st regiment here

Surgeon Superintendent George McClure

George McClure kept a Medical Journal from 7 April to 30 August 1838. This was his first visit to Australia as a Surgeon Superintendent of a convict ship and he kept a detailed record of prisoners' medical complaints........

He reported four deaths in his journal, all in July - Patrick Foley, Michael Cavenagh (died 5th July), James Cavenagh (elderly, died after falling down the hatchway) and James Hayles.

He noted that had he ever been to Sydney before he would have had the same foresight as the surgeons of the Calcutta and William Jardine in rejecting the two convicts named Cavenagh as well as Hayles, and that he would then only have lost Foley, who had died of organic lesion of the lining of the stomach.

The first case entered in his journal is that of Private John Hudson of the 80th regt., who had injured his left knee by falling down the main hatchway. The next entry was ten days later, William Bloomingstock was 20 years old and was one of the ship's company. He had visited Australia, Asia and China before and had suffered from diarrhoea on all those voyages. He was successfully treated by the surgeon and returned to his duties.

Although this was George McClure's first voyage as surgeon superintendent, he was not about to be fooled and had been warned by John Smith, surgeon of the Clyde of some of the trickery that prisoners might employ....On 15th May James Ivors was examined by McClure and was described as young in years and old in ingenuity. He had been in Kilmainham gaol a considerable time and had always managed avoid transportation because of the state of his leg. The moment George McClure saw him he pronounced him a malingerer and attempting to keep his leg in a bad state on purpose.....McClure told him if his leg was not healed in a fortnight he would certainly flog him! Although the leg was not altogether healed two weeks later, Ivors was able to be discharged from the hospital. The surgeon had a similar opinion of James Momford whom he suspected of attempting to get into the hospital thinking that he would have more room and some additional comforts.

In May he noted in his journal that the ship had been sent to sea in a very unfit state, and they were obliged to pump her every ten or fifteen minutes. In June the weather became extremely cold and the majority of the prisoners were nearly barefooted. When the men were all on deck they were so compacted together that there was no room for exercise.

George Warnock aged 56 was entered in the journal on 1st June. The surgeon described him as a poor creature who suffered a good deal in many respects during the voyage, being a cripple and obliged to sit all the time in consequence of his lower extremities being withered and deformed and from the wet state of the boys' prison he had scarcely ever a dry place to sit upon. He suffered from constipation, rheumatism and scurvy and the surgeon brought him into the hospital as it was not always quite as wet as the prison berth, although he remarked that he had as much as one hundred and fifty buckets of water taken out of the hospital in one morning and in fact the medicine chest had been floating through it sometimes after shipping heavy seas.

There was a major outbreak of diarrhoea amongst ships company, guard and convicts alike. Mrs. Jones, wife of one of the guard was on the eve of her confinement when she began to suffer diarrhoea and was admitted to the hospital. She gave birth on 4th July, during gale force winds and on the same day Patrick Foley died. Foley's body was unable to be examined due to the bad conditions and was hurriedly buried at sea. Contrary to the surgeon's orders, Mrs Jones walked out of the hospital on that same night into the barrack department in consequence of the prisoner Cavanagh also being in a dying state. Her diarrhoea returned and in addition there was suppression of the lochia and swelling and tenderness of the abdomen. The surgeon successfully treated her however remarked that he had trouble in managing her as she was calling out constantly and when at the worst for bottled ale and fresh meat. He was glad to discharge her on 12 July !

The prisoners suffered a variety of diseases including tinea capitis, diarrhoea, ulcerated legs, constipation, scurvy, tonsillitis, gonorrhoea, asthma and ophthalmia. There were also accidents and violent episodes to deal with. - John Maloney, aged 12 and one of the worst conducted convicts on board, was seriously wounded in the head by another boy; and Thomas Foster, aged 46, received a wound on his knee when one of the convicts quarrelled and the other person drew his knife and thrust it into his knee on a slanting direction under the patella. James Foot age 12 a boy belonging to the guard had his finger jammed in the hospital door and the surgeon was obliged to amputate the first part of the index finger of left hand.

Port Jackson

The Westmoreland arrived in Port Jackson late on Wednesday night 22 August 1838, a voyage of 117 days. Six men were sent immediately to the hospital in Sydney on arrival, all suffering from scurvy.

Convict Indents

The convict indents include information such as name, age, education, religion, marital status, family, native place, trade, offence, date and place of trial, sentence, prior convictions and physical descriptions. There is also some information about relatives already in the colony. There is no information as to whom and where the men were assigned on arrival.

Departure from Australia

Late in August it was reported that the Westmoreland was to proceed through Torres Straits in convoy with Men of War on her voyage to India.

Notes and Links

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

2). George McClure was employed as surgeon on the Nautilus in 1840.

3). George Warnock was mentioned in the Belfast Newsletter in July 1833 - he was a well known cripple, who has for a long time past infested the streets of Belfast, was indicted as being a vagrant and a person without any settled mode of life. - guilty; to be imprisoned for three months, and, if at that time bail be not given to keep the peace, to be transported for seven years. He was first embarked on the William Jardine in 1837 having at that time been found guilty of grievous assault, however was returned to shore being unfit for transportation.

4). Michael Purcell was twenty-one years of age when he was convicted of pig stealing at Limerick on 10th March 1838. He was sentenced to 7 years transportation. His life in Limerick before conviction was described in Rambles in the south of Ireland during the year 1838, Volume 2, Chapter VI By Lady Georgiana Chatterton -

But to return to the window of this pleasant room. To-day I sat near it with my book, sometimes looking at the printed pages, but more often at the pretty view and living pages on the outside; thinking of the various poor people who came, and went, and stood on that venerable charity-worn bit of sod, near the opposite bay window of the parlour.

My attention was particularly arrested by the beautiful profile of a young girl. Her face was raised towards the kind listener within. Tears glistened in her long dark eye-lashes, and her hands were clasped with an air of silent entreaty. A large blue cloak enveloped her slender figure, and in the true Irish and mantilla fashion it descended in graceful drapery from her head, over which it was folded. The expression of deep anxiety which was at first depicted on her interesting countenance, gradually changed to a look of hope, and when she sat down on the steps and leant her head on her hand, a smile played round her pretty mouth. My curiosity to ascertain the cause of this change of expression was strongly excited, for I saw that she had not received either money or food.

Dear M - , perceiving the look of interest with which I regarded her, said, 'I must tell you that pretty creature's history; for indeed it is a touching one. Not six months ago she was the pride and the belle of the village, and not a care darkened her young brow, now so full of anxiety and painful thought. Her cheeks were then rosy and dimpling with the light-hearted joy of gay eighteen; many a bitter tear has coursed over them since.

Well, Kitty Purcell, for that is her name, was married about four months ago to a young man who was just twenty-one the day of the wedding. He bore an excellent character in the village, and for three months they lived together as happily as possible. They had no cares and few wants, and were all the world to each other. True, they were very poor, but then the young man was healthy and strong, and if work did not fail they had no fear but that they would get on; to add to their happiness, Kitty had the prospect of being a mother; which, while it made her perhaps more anxious about the future, increased the industry of the youthful pair. 'Their little cabin was tolerably comfortable, and a palace it seemed to them, brightened as it was with contentment and love.

One prime object of ambition, however, to the Irish peasant, that on which so many schemes of improved fortune are founded, was lacking. I mean a pig. They looked forward to being able one day to procure this desideratum, but the prospect seemed very distant.

What was Kitty's delight when one evening she saw her husband return home after a longer absence than usual, driving before him a pig, which he told her he had bought that morning at the fair of Limerick. She could hardly sleep for joy. 'The next day, when Michael Purcell was at his work in the fields, and Kitty was in the cabin by herself, busy in settling a straw bed in one corner for the newly acquired treasure, a man came into the kitchen. '

'Where did you get this bonnove (little pig)?' he said, sternly; 'how did you come by it, young woman?' '' My husband bought it at the fair,' replied Kitty. '' The pig is mine,' said the man; 'I'll swear to it any where.' '' If the pig is yours, honest man,' said the young woman, 'sure you must have it, an' welcome, if it was worth twenty pounds;' and she gave the pig to him instantly. 'When Michael Purcell came home, his wife told him what had happened; she was so miserable at the slur that rested on his character, that she prevailed on him to go at daybreak to Adare, and endeavour to find out the man who he said had sold him the pig. While he was absent on this errand, the police came to the cabin to arrest Michael for having stolen the animal.

Poor Kitty was horror-struck. '' He's as innocent as the child unborn/ she exclaimed; 'indeed he is. The minute he comes home I'll take him down to you myself to the barrack, and he'll clear it all up, and make you sensible that he had neither hand, act or part in such a thing.' 'And so she did. Kitty sat outside the door of her cabin, and the moment her husband appeared in sight, she flew to meet him, and entreated him to accompany her to the barrack. In the innocency of her heart, and the full confidingness of her conjugal love, she twined her arm within his, and drew him towards his accusers. 'I told you I'd bring him,' she said, 'and shew you 'twas belying him you were.' 'What was her agony and dismay when he was forcibly dragged from her by the police, and thrust into the black hole of the barrack, from which next day he was removed into the Limerick jail. 'Michael was tried, found guilty, and sentenced to transportation for life. He was instantly sent off to the hulk in Kingston harbour, a sort of floating prison, where convicts await the arrival of the ships that take them out to New South Wales. There he is now lying. '

His wretched wife, in her agony and despair, came off to pour her tale of woe into my dear father's compassionate ears. It was about a fortnight since that her poor sorrow-stricken face first appeared at that window. Since then it has gradually brightened, and I have watched the expression of returning peace, or rather hope, that is beginning to succeed that first haggard, hopeless despair.

My father, whose benevolent heart is always open to the appeal of suffering and distress, was deeply interested by the sad story of this young pair; their little cup of happiness dashed from their lips just as they were beginning to taste its sweets; the picture of humble domestic pleasure so soon darkened and clouded. He is exerting all his energies to obtain the pardon of the young man, and get him restored to his wife. It seems the judge who tried him recommended him to mercy, and that is so far favourable; but still we know not whether the effort will be successful. 'My father has drawn up a petition to the Lord Lieutenant, and is now busy trying to get signatures to it. Oh! how many wearisome journies that poor young creature, the 'widowed bride' as we call her, has had about this petition; how many times her anxious, interesting face has appeared at that window since first the negotiation began; and with what intense anxiety she scans her benefactor's countenance every time she comes, as though her fate were written in it.'

M - then asked me whether I should like to see the petition, and while she went for it to her father, I took another long gaze at the delicate and youthful form seated on the steps, and thought how much hope, and fear, and devoted love, and sickening anxiety must throb in the heart over which that blue mantle was folded. The concluding clause of the petition is so touching and simple that I must transcribe it.

'That petitioner humbly intreats your Excellency will take this case into your merciful consideration, and restore her husband to her, and not allow him to be transported to a foreign country, where she would never see him again. That if your Excellency should not comply with the prayer of this petition, you may at least permit your humble petitioner to accompany her husband, and that you will please to give directions that she may be received on board the same vessel which is to take him away from his native country that for your Excellency's kindness in so doing, petitioner will never cease to pray for your Excellency.'

My morning at the window has convinced me of what has been sometimes said in the newspapers, but which until now I never had an opportunity of observing myself - that the Irish poor support each other. This literally is the case.

Michael Purcell received a ticket of leave for the district of Berrima in 1843. In 1850 he was admitted to Goulburn gaol from Gundagai under sentence of 6 months imprisonment.

5). 51st (The 2nd Yorkshire West Riding) or The King's own Light Infantry Regiment