Sunday, June 12, 2016

Transportation on the Hillsborough

Life in the 'Hulks" was hard, prisoners were housed in ships on the Thames prior to their transportation.  This information from the Sydney Living Museums site gives us a glimps into what it was like:

 "Once tried and sentenced convicts were sent to a receiving hulk for four to six days, where they were washed, inspected and issued with clothing, blankets, mess mugs and plates. They were then sent to a convict hulk, assigned to a mess and allocated to a work gang. They spent 10 to 12 hours a day working on river cleaning projects, stone collecting, timber cutting, embankment and dockyard work while they waited for a convict transport to become available. In some cases convicts sentenced to transportation spent their entire sentence (up to seven years) on board the hulks and were never sent overseas."

The Hillsborough departed Portsmouth on 23rd  December 1798, and arrived in Australia on 26 July, 1799 at Port Jackson.  It became known as the "death ship" because 300 prisoners sailed on her and 95 of them died on the voyage. The master of the ship was William Hingston, and the surgeon John Justice William Kuns

Below is an extract of a message from Governor Hunter to the Duke of Portland. 

"Sydney New South Wales 27th July 1799
My Lord Duke,
The Albion, south whaler, anchor'd here on the 29th of June, and deliver'd nine hundred tuns of salt pork, and the Hillsborough, transport, arriv'd yesterday, in which had been embark'd three hundred convicts, but I am sorry to say that such had been the mortality on board that ship two hundr'd and five only were landed here, and of that number six are since dead; most of them must for a time be placed in the hospitals.
Here again my Lord, I am compell'd, much against my inclination, to recur to my former representations of the want of cloathing and blankets. These people have been put on board this ship with a miserable matrass, and one blanket, and the cloaths only in which they embark'd, not a supply of any kind to land them here in, and those worne on board the ship are not fit to be taken on shore; yet, ragged as they are, I cannot suffer even those things which are liable to carry infection to be destroy'd, because I have nothing to supply in lieu, the whole colony being naked. I will direct every means to be us'd for preventing the goal fever (which I understand to be the principal malady) from being introduc'd into our hospitals. Permit me, my Lord, to solicit most earnestly that your Grace may issue such directions on the subject of cloathing for the people in this colony as may serve to furnish us with an early supply."

[Gaol fever was typhoid often treated with fumigation with nitrous vapour (sulphur), largely inefective.]

In 1954 a book written by one of the convicts, William Noah was bequeathed to the Dixson Library, and below is the newspaper report of the book that details his time in the hulks and some of the journey of the Hillsborough.

 Back to the main story of Thomas Bates

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