Free Settler or Felon

Convict and Colonial History

Patrick Martyn R. N.,

Convict Ship Surgeon-Superintendent

Date of Seniority Royal Navy 26 January 1833

Patrick Martyn was born in Galway Ireland c. 1804. In 1827 he was appointed to the Royal Hospital, Haslar as Dispenser [1]

One of his cases at Haslar was mentioned in James P. Browne's study of Phrenology written many years later - The next case is that of a lunatic seaman, named Welsh, a patient at Haslar Hospital many years ago. This unhappy man had an unconquerable propensity to murder; and he actually did murder two men. The organ of Veneration was very large in Welsh’s head, and those of the animal propensities were also very protuberant, especially Destructiveness. One day this man asked Dr. James Scott’s assistant, Dr. Patrick Martyn, whom he liked and had some confidence in, if he would let him into his neighbour’s cell. And when asked what his object was, he said he wanted to kill him, because he abused Christ and the Virgin Mary. The young surgeon then asked, “Would you kill me.” He said, “No, you are my friend. But I would kill even yourself if you were to say anything against Christ and the Virgin Mary. [2]

Appointed Surgeon

Patrick Martyn was promoted to Surgeon, Royal Navy 26 January 1833.

Surgeon Superintendent

He was employed as Surgeon Superintendent on the convict ship Neptune to New South Wales in 1838.

Naval Appointments

He was appointed to H.M.S. Cleopatra, Captain Stephen Lushington, in North America and West Indies on 24 January 1839. William Henderson was employed as Assistant Surgeon[3]. H.M.S. Cleopatra was built at Pembroke in 1835 and was of 988 tons. 152 officers and men, 33 boys and 25 marines were on board.

He was appointed to the Imaum in 1847[4]

Patrick Martyn's Views on Allowance of Spirits

The Lancet in 1850 contains an interview by William B. Carpenter about his views on the allowance of spirits in the navy -

- I might add the testimony of an experienced medical officer, Dr. Patrick Martyn, given before the Admiralty Committee, which recently sat to inquire into the expediency of diminishing the present allowance of spirits in the navy.

This gentleman, who has been twenty-three years in the service, and has been subject, during that time, to all vicissitudes of climate and exposure, thus replies to the questions asked him in reference to the medical use of spirits under various circumstances.

Question 2354. 'After the men have endured great fatigue, and perhaps have got very wet, which do you think it would be preferable to give them as a refreshment and comfort, a glass of spirits, ' splicing the main brace,' or a good dish of hot tea or cocoa ?'—
Answer. 'I think looking at it in a medical point of view, that hot tea would be still better.'

Question 2370. 'Are you acquainted with any position on any station in which the present allowance of spirits could be beneficial to sailors, and if so, state that, giving your opinion as a medical officer?'
Answer. 'As a question of health, I believe it is in general unnecessary. In swampy districts, such, for instance, as some places in China, and on the coast of Africa, and in going up rivers in swampy situations, I think the serving of grog useful to a man's health as preserving it.'

But being afterwards asked, Question 2372, 'Do you think that a cup of hot coffee would not be just as efficacious in these swampy places?' he replies—'Yes, generally; but it is very often not to get coffee when you are away in boats. I have seen some in the service teetotallers.' The practical difficulty adverted to by Dr. Martyn has been overcome by the whalers who now carry a conjurer as part of the fittings of the whale-boat, having found by experience that tea and coffee are far more sustaining than spirits under long-continued exertion and exposure to severe cold. It is obvious that Dr. Martyn thinks coffee at least equal to spirits in case of exposure to malaria for a short time; and when that exposure is habitual and continuous, the experience of the 84th and other temperance regiments is decidedly in favour of the plan I recommend.[5]

The above was an extract from Minutes of Evidence on the Expediency of Diminishing the Quantity of Spirits in the Royal Navy

{Extract} Doctor Patrick Martyn, examined. Sir T. Byam Martin) What is your present occupation?
I am a surgeon working in London, in practice.

2338. You were a surgeon in the Royal Navy, were you not ? Yes.

2339. How long have you been in the naval service? This is my 23rd year.

2340. How long is it since you were last employed ? About eight years.

2341. In what ship did you last serve? I was last in the ' Cleopatra' as surgeon in the West Indies, and on the North American station.

2342. Had you ever occasion to remark in your medical journal, transmitted to the Director General of the department, that sickness was occasioned by drunkenness? Not in a general way; I never had occasion to notice that; but single cases of sickness, and many accidents, a great many accidents, have occurred in consequence of drunkenness.

2343. What has been the consequence of those accidents, has death followed ? Yes it has, more than once.

2344. And at other times attended with fractures? Yes, and illnesses of different kinds.

2345. It induced illnesses of different kinds ? Yes, sickness and accidents.

2346. To what do you attribute punishments onboard men-of-war generally? I am unexpectedly called upon to attend the Committee here, and I have not prepared myself to answer that question positively; but I should say that three-fourths of the punishments arise from the abuse of spirits,— more than that perhaps; certainly I can safely say that.

2347- Do you think if drunkenness were put a stop to, that punishments would become infrequent in a man-of-war? Very much less frequent

2348.. Do you bear in your recollection what the allowance of spirits was in a man-of-war? Yes, a gill. [6] continue....

1851 Census

Bennett Street, St. George, Hanover Square, Mayfair
Patrick Martyn, age 47, Birthplace Ireland
Elizabeth, wife, age 31 born Middlesex
Richard McCormick, nephew, surgeon
They employ two servants.

He was on the Navy List of surgeons fit for service in 1852.

In 1855 he was appointed to HMS Powerful [7]


The Function of the Thyroid Body was published in 1857[8]


In the Medical Times and Gazette in 1866 he is mentioned in correspondence regarding retirement and pensions awarded to Surgeons of the Royal Navy........


To the Editor of the Medical Times and Gazette.
The recommendations of the Committee of which Admiral Sir Alexander Milne was the president, on the vital question of tempting Medical men to enter and to remain in the navy, have been some weeks before the public, and Lord Clarence Paget in Parliament has declared the intention of the Admiralty to carry out these recommendations. The Royal Colleges of Physicians and of Surgeons, London, have (conditionally) approved of the labours of the Committee; but these corporate bodies must recollect that Admiral Milne's summary or report is not based on the opinions of those naval Medical officers called in evidence before the Committee.

The national Medical colleges of Ireland and of Scotland, with a caution to be commended, have as yet waited for the Admiralty Warrant defining the rank, the pay, the distribution of prize money, good service pensions, honorary distinctions; whether the Admiralty exacts a life-service from all Assistant Surgeons who may enter the navy; whether the candidates are to be examined at one common portal with the army and East India Company's service; whether the right of petition is still to be denied naval Surgeons, as it is at present; whether Medical men are to be allowed to retire from the navy under the conviction that competency and honour do not belong to those who faithfully give, to a life of privation and discomfort, their best years.

The publicity of Admiral Milne's report has brought no influx of candidates!

The men who have avoided the navy and its ten shillings per day are not to be tempted by an additional half-crown. The ship service, it may be, up to 55 years of age gives no reasonable period of retirement with family and friends. The advice of the body of naval Medical officers to their friends is not to enter the navy.

The authorities have to deal liberally and honestly with those in the service before they can expect Assistant-Surgeons for the navy; and it will take years of good works to do away with the bad impression which more than half a century of illegality and injustice has created. The inspectorial class ask for an increase to their emoluments; for an addition to their numbers in the active list of the inspectorial officers; that there should be a naval Medical school or college, or that Netley Hospital should be made available.

The surviving Surgeons ask for retirement at twenty years' full pay service; on one pound per day, and it will take nearly a quarter of a century, on an average, to complete such full pay time. The senior Surgeon on the active list, Dr. Patrick Martyn - promoted to that rank in 1833, - has not yet completed twenty years' full pay service. This venerable officer is attached to H.M. ship Winchester at Aberdeen, and, being without an Assistant-Surgeon, he must dispense the medicines for the sick of the Winchester.

A naval Surgeon from foreign stations gives the opinions of his brethren on Admiral Milne's report: - 'It is a great disappointment that the retirement should be so miserable as to starve us into continuous service when we ought to be abandoning the miseries of naval life for family and friends. The trick is this : After twenty years' full pay service we can purchase our discharge by offering the Admiralty £100 per annum as 'black mail.' If we are worn out they will not deprive us of the £100, provided that a Medical Board say there is no more work in us. After that period nothing but broken-down health or 55 years of age will see us out of harness. This retirement allowance, as Dr. F. J. Brown calls it in his comments, is a ' pecuniary punishment.' An equitable retirement with good pay will get Medical officers for the navy, but not the present dreary prospects of continuous ship-board service.


He was Candidate for the Degree of Bachelor of Medicine, University of London 1844. Second Division. School of Physic in Ireland [10]

Patrick Martyn is listed in the Medical Register 1865 - Residence 7 Bennett Street, St. James's, London. Qualifications M.D. University London 1844.

1871 Census

In the Census taken 2 April 1871 Patrick and Elizabeth Martyn are visitors at the house of Frederick and Mary Word in Hackney.


In October 1871 noted that Patrick Martyn Esq., M.D. London 1844, had been enrolled in the list of legally qualified medical practitioners of Tasmania. [11]


[1] The Navy List.

[2] Phrenology: And Its Application to Education, Insanity, and Prison Discipline By James P. Browne

[3] The Navy List

[4] Hampshire Advertiser 10 July 1847

[5] The Lancet

[6] Minutes of Evidence on the Expediency of Diminishing the Quantity of Spirits in the Royal Navy

[7] The Morning Chronicle 17 February 1855

[8] The London, Edinburgh and Dublin Philosophical Magazine and Journal of Science

[9]The Medical Times and Gazette 1866

[10] The Lancet

[11]The Tasmanian (Launceston, Tas. : 1871 - 1879) Sat 28 Oct 1871 Page 13