John Simpson 200: convict ship Ocean II

On 16 January 1818, the Yorkshire convict John Simpson left the transport ship Ocean II and set foot on Australian soil.

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.

Medical and surgical journal by George Fairfowl, official document

Fairfowl’s medical journal p1

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’.

Handwritten note by Governor Macquarie approving the conduct of the Surgeon Superintendant of the convict ship Ocean

Note by Macquarie at the end of Fairfowl’s journal

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?

Black and white engraving of the Justitia hulk with convicts working in the foreground, using spades and a wheelbarrow

The Justitia hulk with convicts working, 1777

And even before Ocean left Spithead, near Portsmouth, for Port Jackson on 25 June, 1817, John had been imprisoned on the Justitia hulk, which was moored at Woolwich, for 39 days.

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.

John’s future ‘wife’, Sarah Marshall (also known as Sarah Simpson), had a very different time during her journey on the Friendship II, which I’ll come back to soon.

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.

A plate from the front cover of George Fairfowl's surgeon's journal, showing the name of the ship, Ocean, and the date it sailed, 24 June 1817

Front cover of Fairfowl’s medical journal

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

About rebelhand

A Rebel Hand is: about Nicholas Delaney, Irish rebel of 1798, transported as a convict to New South Wales, roadbuilder, innkeeper and farmer. My great-great-great grandfather. Other ancestors transported to Australia, like Sarah Marshall, John Simpson and James Thomas Richards, pop up as well. This blog's also about the historical background to their lives, in England, Ireland, and Australia. My respectable Welsh ancestors sometimes get a look in.
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9 Responses to John Simpson 200: convict ship Ocean II

  1. Pingback: Sarah Marshall 200: a floating brothel | A Rebel Hand

  2. Pingback: Sarah Marshall 200: convict ship Friendship II | A Rebel Hand

  3. Mark Bucknall says:

    Thank you. I also share John and Sarah on my family treeas my great great great grandparents


    • rebelhand says:

      My pleasure, Mark. It’s great to meet a cousin from their side of the family! I’m descended from Lucy, how about you?


      • Mark Bucknall says:

        Yes, Lucy is my 3xGreat grandmother. I think our family tree parts after that with my 2 x Great grandfather being Alfred Delaney and my Great grandfather being John Delaney. They all continued to live in Hartley or Lithgow. My brother and sisters continue to live in Lithgow. Thanks again for your posts I enjoy them. Another source of joy for me is that I was adopted and I only met my natural family 7 years ago and I had no idea of my wonderful heritage up until then.


      • rebelhand says:

        What an amazing thing to happen! It must have been like birthdays and Christmases all rolled up together!


      • Mark Bucknall says:

        Yes it was amazing and my brother and sisters are lovely, unfortunately my mother had already died. I very much enjoyed your book and in fact went to Ireland a couple of years ago and retraced the steps of Nicholas including going to Ballyellis, (it took a bit to find it as It is so small) and Enniscorthy and the Wicklow jail. I also went went to St Paul’s in London where I was permitted to take a photo of the statue of Lord Cornwallis. I guess if it wasn’t for him none of us would be here. I look forward to your ongoing posts. Cheers.


      • rebelhand says:

        Thank you so much, Mark! I’m so glad you enjoyed the book and the journey to discover your ancestors.


  4. Pingback: Criminal Lives, 1780-1925 | A Rebel Hand

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