Ocean was a relatively new ship, built in 1808 at Whitby (coincidentally, that’s just under 30 miles away from John’s birthplace, Yarm). This could have been one of the reasons why only two of the 182 male convicts on board died during the voyage.
John Simpson and his fellows were also lucky to have a good surgeon superintendent on board: George Fairfowl, who New South Wales governor Lachlan Macquarie described as ‘at once an Intelligent and kind humane Man’.
In his dispatches to Henry, Earl Bathurst, the Secretary of State for War and the Colonies, Macquarie also wrote that the convicts were ‘All in Good Health, and highly Satisfied with that Gentleman’s Care and Attention during the passage’.
It’s good to see from Macquarie’s note at the end of Fairfowl’s medical journal that John and his fellow convicts were ‘landed… in a Clean Healthy State’, which was no small success after 149 days – nearly five months – at sea.
They’d only had a short stop at St Helena to take on fresh water and food.
Since Napoleon was imprisoned on the island at the time, I wonder whether the convicts hoped to catch a glimpse of the world’s most famous captive from their own prison ship?
The Justitia was itself a former convict ship, and the first to be used as a floating prison. I can write more about prison hulks if you’re interested – let me know in the comments below.
Macquarie went on to say of the Ocean‘s master, Samuel Remmington, that his ‘Conduct also appears to have been perfectly Correct’.
It looks as if John Simpson’s experience of transportation was (relatively) bearable, like Nicholas Delaney‘s 16 years before.
This is the first in a series of posts marking the 200th anniversary of my great-great-great grandparents, John and Sarah, arriving in New South Wales in January 1818.
Sources (where not linked to):
Frederick Watson (ed): Historical records of Australia. Series I. Governors’ despatches to and from England. Volume IX, January, 1816-December, 1818
The National Archives: HO 9. Convict hulks moored at Woolwich. Index to register of prisoners on the Justitia
TNA: Surgeons at sea – Royal Navy Medical officers’ journals ADM 101/57/8
Fairfowl’s medical journal: TNA: Surgeons at sea – Royal Navy Medical officers’ journals ADM 101/57/8
The Justitia: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich