Saturday, 16 December 2017

Mary's Voyage to Australia

In the Diploma of Family History we were encouraged to write in a variety of styles. This was the major assignment for th Convicts in Context unit of the course. It was to be written, as an academic essay, about the voyage of a convict on a ship to Australia with comparison to experiences on another convict ship.
The Lady Juliana left England for Port Jackson on 29 July 1789. [1] This expedition received notoriety not only because of the time taken to complete the journey – more than ten months – but because of the ship’s reputation as a ‘floating brothel’. However the death toll was low during the voyage and the health of the convicts on arrival in Sydney was generally considered to be good, compared with other voyages. Historians have documented the journey of the Lady Juliana in histories about the establishment of the new British colony. My interest in the voyage was enhanced when the book, The Floating Brothel, was published, as one of my ancestors was a convict on the ship.

Mary Bateman was fifteen when arrested for stealing a watch from a client.[3] At her trial at the Old Bailey on 7 May 1788, Mary was sentenced to seven years transportation.[4] After spending eleven months in an over-crowded prison she transferred to a convict ship to travel half way around the world.[2]

The Lady Juliana was the third female only convict transport to travel to Port Jackson. There were two female only convict ships in the First Fleet.[5] The decision to ship female convicts to Port Jackson in 1789 was made because the gaols in England were overcrowded and disease ridden.[6] There was also concern about the small number of female convicts at Port Jackson and hopefully the additional women would become wives to emancipated male convicts, thereby providing stability in the new colony.[7] Consequently Mary found herself on a convict ship carrying 226 women.

Before leaving Newgate, Mary and 107 other female prisoners were examined by doctors to ensure that they were healthy and relatively clean. At dawn on 12 March 1789, the women were herded the short distance to Blackfriars Bridge and loaded on to boats.[8] They were then rowed sixteen kilometres along the River Thames to Gallions Reach and the Lady Juliana – their home for the next fifteen months. Four months passed before the ship travelled to Portsmouth and during this time women from other gaols arrived.

The steward, John Nicol, issued Mary with clothes to wear during the voyage.[9] Street clothes and other convict belongings were stored in the hold, however some convicts wore their own clothes once the ship sailed. The women were given numbers and divided into messes. Each mess was provided with rations for the week plus utensils including a teapot for making tea.[10] Experience from the First Fleet showed that women required a different diet from men so some of the meat was replaced with brown sugar, tea and additional bread.[11]

Mary’s voyage lasted 309 days – considerably longer than the journeys of the First and Second Fleets.[12] By any standard the Lady Juliana was a slow ship and, at the ports visited, time was spent ensuring that the ship remained sea-worthy.[13] Further delays near the equator occurred when the ship was stranded in the doldrums waiting for a suitable breeze.

Although stopping at four ports prolonged the journey, there were advantages for the women that other convicts did not experience; particularly access to fresh meat and vegetables resulting in a healthier diet than salt meat and bread – the normal diet at sea. Access to fresh water also contributed to better health outcomes for the Lady Juliana convicts compared with those who travelled on the Neptune.

The surgeon, Richard Alley, believed that cleanliness aboard ship was essential to reduce the risk of illness. At sea, saltwater was used for washing clothes and bathing. Soap was also provided. Sleeping quarters had to be kept tidy and scrubbed clean. Some of the women assisted the crew in scrubbing the decks. Others tended the livestock on board. Captain Edgar also provided linen for twenty women to sew shirts later sold at the colony.[14] Future convict ships implemented schemes to keep the convicts occupied plus learn skills useful in the colony.[15]

According to Nichol, the crew began cohabitating with some of the convicts once the ship sailed.[16] Sailors from other vessels visited the ship when in port and prostitutes, including Mary, provided a service for these visitors. Poll Randall and Mary Butler, co-workers with Mary in Cable Street, were also on the ship as was Elizabeth Sully, the owner of the Cable Street establishment. No doubt Sully saw the opportunity to work her girls when sailors came looking for female companionship.[17] Ship officers also knew of this sex trade and obviously condoned it.[18] Aboard the First Fleet ships such behaviour was discouraged and the instructions to the agent of the Neptune stated that the women were to be ‘kept separate from the men, and not abused’.[19]

The Lady Juliana convicts were confined below deck at night but, unlike most ships, during the day they were usually allowed on deck. Female convicts had a reputation for being undisciplined on convict vessels. Nichol refers to the Lady Juliana convicts as ‘troublesome cargo’ but not dangerous. Troublesome convicts were placed in the hold until the discovery that this punishment was used to access the porter stored there.[20]

Sea travel provided many experiences including the traditional crossing the equator ceremony. Mary would have observed from the ship the sights and sounds of life in the Spanish and Portuguese colonies visited. However there were also dangers. The supply ship, the Guardian, was wrecked. There was a fire aboard the ship, a crew member was swept overboard and rough seas in Sydney Harbour almost caused the ship to run aground. The women would also have experienced sea-sickness, extreme heat and extreme cold at times.

Although it was such a long journey, the convicts were fortunate that the surgeon and officers generally looked after the convicts’ welfare. Living on a ship with 225 other women could be a challenge but at least the conditions were preferable to those on the Neptune – fewer convicts but without the freedom experienced on the Lady Juliana. It is true that during the voyage there was cohabitation between some convicts and crew and some prostitutes, including Mary, continued their trade when the ship was in port. However, for some, this was a continuation of their lifestyle at home.[21] Although five women died during the voyage, many more died on the Neptune.[22] Generally the Lady Juliana convicts were healthy on arrival at Port Jackson and, like Mary, were ready for the next stage of their lives in a new land.

[1] The Lady Juliana, a ship of 401 tons, was chartered by the merchant, William Richards, the contractor for the First Fleet. After taking 226 convicts to Port Jackson the ship was to return to England via Canton. The ship was middle-range size when compared with First Fleet and Second Fleet ships. These ships varied in size between 274 ton (Friendship – First Fleet)) and 809 ton (Neptune - Second Fleet). Bateson, The Convict Ships 1787-1868, Sydney, Library of Australian History, 2004, pp. 97, 120, 126.

[2] Sian Rees, The Floating Brothel, Sydney, Hachette Australia, 2001. The ABC screened the documentary, The Floating Brothel, based on the book in 2006.

[3] Michael Flynn, The Second Fleet, Sydney, Library of Australian History, 1993, pp.154–155.

[4] ‘Mary Bateman theft from a specified place, 7 May 1788’, Old Bailey Online,  Accessed 1 September 2017.

[5] The six transports of the First Fleet left England carrying 759 convicts – 191 of these were women. A total of 150 female convicts travelled on the Lady Penrhyn and the Prince of Wales while the remainder shared two transports with male convicts. Bateson, The Convict Ships, p. 100. The three transports of the Second Fleet carried 1006 convicts including 78 females who travelled on the Neptune with 421 male convicts. Bateson, The Convict Ships, p. 127.

[6] Thomas Keneally, The Commonwealth of Thieves, Milson Point, NSW, Random House, 2005, pp. 161-162.

[7] Rees, The Floating Brothel, pp. 40–42.

[8] Rees, The Floating Brothel, p. 67.

[9] John Nichol wrote the only eye-witness account of the journey of the Lady Juliana to New South Wales – Life and Adventures 1776-1801, chapter 9. [10] Bateson, The Convict Ships, p. 67.

[11] Flynn, The Second Fleet, pp. 16–17.

[12] The six transports of the First Fleet arrived at Sydney Cove on 26 January 1788, a journey taking approximately 256 days. The Second Fleet arrived approximately three weeks after the Lady Juliana, a journey of 158-160 days. By contrast the Lady Juliana journey took 309 days.

[13] The First Fleet ships stopped at three ports for a total of 68 days. Bateson, The Convict Ships, p. 114. The Second Fleet ships only stopped at one port.

[14] Joy Damousi, ‘Chaos and Order’, Australian Historical Studies, April 1995, p353.

[15] Bateson, The Convict Ships, p. 123.

[16] Nichol, Life and Adventures 1776-1801, p121; Michael Sturma, ‘Eye of the Beholder’, Labour History, May 1978, p. 7.

[17] Keneally, The Commonwealth of Thieves, p. 191.

[18] Rees, The Floating Brothel, p. 129.

[19] Historical Records of New South Wales, volume 2 p. 437.

[20] Nichol, Life and Adventures 1776-1801, pp. 122-123.

[21] Sturma, ‘Eye of the Beholder’, p. 10.

[22] Eleven women out of 78 died on the Neptune. One hundred and forty-seven men died on the Neptune. On the three ships a total of 256 male convicts died. More than 400 convicts required medical treatment on arrival at Port Jackson. Many died. Historical Records of New South Wales, Volume 1, Part 2, p. 355.

Bateson, Charles, The Convict Ships 1787-1868, 2nd edn, Sydney, Library of Australian History, 2004.

Cobley, John, Sydney Cove 1789-1790, Sydney, Angus & Robertson, 1963.
------, Crimes of the Lady Juliana Convicts, 1790, Sydney, Library of Australian History, 1989.

Damousi, Joy, ‘Chaos and Order: Gender, Space and Sexuality on Female Convict Ships’, Australian Historical Studies, Volume 26, Issue 104, April 1995, pp. 351-373.

Flynn, Michael, The Second Fleet: Britain’s Grim Convict Amada of 1790, Sydney, Library of Australian History, 1993.

Historical Records of New South Wales, Volume 1 Part 2, Mona Vale, NSW, Lansdown Slattery & Co, 1978.
Historical Records of New South Wales, Volume 2, Mona Vale, NSW, Lansdown Slattery & Co, 1978.

Keneally, Thomas, The Commonwealth of Thieves: the Improbable Birth of Australia, Milson Point, NSW, Random House, 2005.

Nicol, John, Life and Adventures 1776-1801, Melbourne, Text Publishing, 1997.

Old Bailey Online 

Rees, Sian, The Floating Brothel, Sydney, Hachette Australia, 2001.

Robson, L L, Convict Settlers of Australia, 2nd edn, Melbourne, Melbourne University Press, 1994.
------, ‘The Origin of the Women Convicts Sent to Australia 1787-1852’ Historical Studies: Australia and New Zealand, Vol. 11, 1963, pp. 43-53.

Ryan, R J, Second Fleet Convicts: a Comprehensive Listing of the Convicts who sailed in HMS Guardian, Lady Juliana, Neptune, Scarborough and Surprise, Sydney, Australian Documents Library, 1990.

Sturma, Michael, ‘Eye of the Beholder: the Stereotype of Women Convicts, 1788-1852’, Labour History, No. 34, May 1978, pp. 3-10.

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