Sarah Marshall 200: convict ship Friendship II

It’s exactly 200 years since Sarah Marshall, a convict from the Manchester area, climbed out of the boat that brought her from the transport ship Friendship II to the penal colony of New South Wales.

Friendship was built in 1793. According to Lloyd’s Register of Ships, she was a triple-decker second-class ship made with good materials. At the time she arrived in Sydney Cove, like a growing number of merchant ships sailing into warm waters, her hull was sheathed with copper (over boards). She’d had a thorough refit in 1813 and damage repaired in 1817.

Sarah Marshall's entry on the Friendship II list of convicts with their characters

Sarah Marshall’s entry on the Friendship II ‘list of convicts with their characters’

But Friendship was 25 years old and, only seven months after Sarah disembarked, the ship was condemned as unseaworthy.

Add to this an unusually long, ‘tedious’ voyage during which the women were deprived of water… and all the nice materials and copper bottoms in the world wouldn’t have made it as (relatively) easy an experience as her future ‘husband’ John was having.

Sarah Marshall’s voyage across the world began at Deptford, in East London, where another branch of my Aussie ancestors, the Richards and Wickings, were working as watermen and in the dockyards.

An old painting showing ships on the Thames near the dockyards at Deptford

Deptford dockyards, around 1800

She and 96 other convict women, along with a few wives of serving convicts and some free passengers, along with the crew, were crammed into a ship 180 feet long and just over 28 feet in the beam. They shared this space with food and drink for the voyage and with supplies for the colony.

The ship sailed on 3 July, 1817, and took a gruelling 195 days – over six months – to reach Port Jackson. John Simpson‘s voyage, on the Ocean II, was 46 days shorter.

But although Friendship II dropped anchor in Sydney Cove on January 14, 1818, the convicts didn’t disembark for many days. First the legal niceties had to be observed. The cargo had to be accounted for and inspected before it was handed over.

And that cargo included 3,175 blankets; 1,996 cotton shirts; 8,000 shoes*; 4,000 pairs of trousers; one sugar mill; and 97 convict women.

For cargo is what they were.

Text of Cosgreave's letter describing ocnvicts as cargo

As Friendship’s surgeon-superintendant Peter Cosgreave wrote in a letter to Lachlan Macquarie, the Governor of New South Wales: ‘The Master of the Ship also apprized his Crew of the Consequence that was likely to result from their meddling with the Convicts, being Considered as the Cargo…’

But meddle they did. And there were consequences. I’ll come back to this in a separate post.

Six days after the ship arrived, on 21 January, the convicts were mustered and inspected by Macquarie’s hard-working secretary, John Campbell. Their names were recorded to check that all were accounted for. Then they were checked for their state of health and questioned about their trades before imprisonment, to see what work they could be used for.

Sydney Gazette account of the women being landed

Sydney Gazette account of the women being landed

They were landed at last on 30 January, as the Sydney Gazette reported the following day.

I don’t know whether Sarah was one of the women sent to be a servant, or whether she had scurvy and went straight to hospital.

What I do know is that she was healthy enough and in the Sydney area by the middle of February, where John Simpson was living, because on 18 November, 1818, she gave birth to their first child, Lucy, my direct ancestor.

But I don’t want to jump too far ahead, because (you might have guessed this from my hints) there’s a lot to say about what it was like to be a transported convict aboard the Friendship. And not much of it is positive.

So if you’ve come here fresh from the disappointment that Sarah wasn’t murdered horribly and that she doesn’t haunt Castlereagh cemetery, I’ve got some good news for you. Her voyage in Friendship II was a nightmare. Cruel punishments, suicide, deliberate dehydration, ‘prostitution’, pirates… they all feature in her story and I’ll be writing more about it soon.

In the meantime, there are some murders on this blog: my ancestor Nicholas Delaney died in very mysterious circumstances, and I also tell the tale of the infamous Islington Murderer, Celestina Sommer.

*As my genealogist friend Anne Powers has reminded me, shoes weren’t made in left- and right-foot versions until relatively recently.

Sources (where not linked to):
(ed) Frederick Watson: Historical records of Australia. Series I. Governors’ despatches to and from England. Volume IX

Deptford Dockyard and ships c 1800 by Joseph Farington via Wikimedia Commons


Previous posts: John Simpson arrives on Ocean II

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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3 Responses to Sarah Marshall 200: convict ship Friendship II

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

  2. Anne Powers says:

    Fascinating as always, thank you. I think the 8000 shoes may well have been individual shoes since until relatively recently shoes were not made for right and left but were identical.


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