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The Mercury Mutineers: Biographical Analyses of Early Australian Convicts

by Matthew Cunneen

HMS Mercury, by William Huggins, after 1809

HMS Mercury, by William Huggins, after 1809

National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London

At eight o’clock on the morning of 8 April 1784, the Mercury, carrying 179 convicts bound for Virginia, United States, was ‘twenty-five leagues to [the] westward of St. Mary's, on the West India Rocks’, having departed England just six days prior.[1] Suddenly, its convict passengers revolted

…in consequence it is said, of a concerted plot between them and the first mate of the ship, from whose cabin they took a brace of pistols and two blunderbusses; and, having previously sawed off their irons, they rushed upon the deck. The Captain and crew consisting of only 25 made a desperate resistance for an hour, in which three were mortally wounded, but they were at length obliged to surrender, and were immediately loaded with irons.[2]

This essay considers the 82 convicts who, after participating in the mutiny on board the Mercury, subsequently arrived in Australia on the First and Second Fleets in 1788 and 1790 (see Appendix 1).[3] Its primary purpose is twofold. It will consider the strengths and limitations of different biographical practices, namely prosopography, collective biography, and biography, both generally and with respect to Australian convict history, by applying these to the Mercury convicts as a case study. Furthermore, it seeks to provide a comprehensive account of Mercury convicts’ experiences through a consideration of what historical questions can be answered about the identity of this group, given the paucity of surviving archival material. It argues that given the extent of the existing records for these convicts, neither methodology alone can sufficiently offer a satisfactory analysis of the group and that all three must be used simultaneously to achieve such an aim.

Over the course of 80 years, from 1788 to 1868, some 163,000 convicts were transported from the United Kingdom and its colonies to Australia.[4] The administration of an undertaking of this scale produced a wealth of documentation, much of which survives today.[5] Official bodies, such as the State Library Board in Victoria, made it difficult (and in some cases impossible) for historians and the public to access convict records until as late as the 1970s, due to lingering concerns over Australia’s ‘convict stain’.[6] As such, Australia’s convict past initially received little attention from historians. More recently, the richness of this existent archive has been recognised as having enormous potential for applying the methods of big data analysis to Australian foundational history.[7] Similarly, it will be argued that this same archive offers historians a unique opportunity to study the convicts’ common characteristics using the methods of biography, prosopography, and collective biography.[8] The historiography of convict transportation has proceeded through several distinct phases as the archives were increasingly consulted.

The first major phase of convict historiography can be dated from 1956, when Manning Clark refuted the commonly accepted narrative that convicts were victims of poverty, instead arguing that they were members of a professional criminal class, in which an individual pursued criminal activity in the same way he or she would a profession.[9] Clark’s impression soon became the consensus, following a monumental study of the convicts by Lloyd Robson, a pioneer in the application of quantitative analysis to convict history, in which he sampled one in twenty convicts.[10] As Stephen Garton argued, Robson’s 1965 findings ‘laid the foundation for all future discussions’ of the social character of convicts and forever ‘changed the map of convict studies’.[11] Indeed, A. G. L. Shaw and a succession of historians into the 1980s characterised the convicts as a professional criminal class.[12] Other work to emerge as a part of the turn towards the systematic study of convict transportation to Australia included Charles Bateson’ famous The Convict Ships (1959). In it, he documented the phenomenon of convict transportation to Australia by assembling a complete list of all ships that made the voyage, as well other details such as how many convicts each ship carried.[13] In Convict Workers (1988), the economics of convict labour was also systematically studied, thereby overturning previous understandings of the limited literacy and skill sets of convicts. The contributing historians showed that convicts were skilled workers, whose occupations and literacy were representative of the English and Irish working classes.[14]

The second phase of Australian convict historiography was one in which historians began to consider the diversity of convicts. Prominent among the work that emerged in this stage was George Rudé’s Protest and Punishment (1978), in which he examined the transportation of social and political protestors to Australia.[15] Building on Rudé’s work, subsequent historians documented the transportation of political prisoners from the United States and Canada to Australia.[16] Increasing awareness of the diversity of the social classes of convicts accompanied a growing realisation of their national and ethnic diversity. Historians have shown that convicts were transported to Australia from across the British Empire and that among them were former slaves and indentured labourers.[17] Convicts even included Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples transported within Australia, as well as criminals sent from the nearby colony of New Zealand.[18] Additionally, female convicts began to receive specialised attention as a significant cohort of the convict population.[19]

The current phase of Australian convict historiography is one largely attuned to studying more nuanced aspects of convict lives, such as their education and health.[20] Historians of the convict era are also exploring the ways in which transportation to Australia can be understood within the context of global systems of forced labour migration.[21] The discovery of new sources has led to new questions being asked about convicts that were not considered in the earlier historiography. For instance, Janet McCalman and Rebecca Kippen have conducted life course research on convicts that seeks to fully document these lives by utilising archives prior to, during, and post transportation. By using this approach, they examine questions regarding the life outcomes of transported convicts.[22] This essay borrows from all three stages of the historiography, in that a sample of convicts is examined and questions of social character, diversity, and life courses are considered. It is also pluralist in its methodologies.

Section 1: Theory and Methodology
Biography, prosopography, and collective biography have been the subject of debate over their definitions and usefulness in historical studies. As Barbara Caine stressed in Biography and History (2010), biography in the classical world was considered distinct from historical enquiry, which was held in higher status.[23] It was not until the seventeenth century that Francis Bacon challenged this distinction, arguing that individual lives constituted history just as much as great events. Bacon’s ideal was one that would be shared more widely by biographers in the eighteenth century.[24] By the twentieth century, the place of biography within history was a complex one. A sizeable group of historians felt that biography overemphasised the role of the individual, thereby neglecting wider historical processes.[25] However, historians are increasingly arguing for the potential of biography to demonstrate ‘the impact of legal and social institutions and large-scale social, economic and political developments on the lives of individuals and groups’.[26]

Of these three methods, prosopography remains the most conceptually vague. Perhaps the most cogent definition of the method remains that offered by Lawrence Stone in the 1970s. In his leading article, Stone suggested that prosopography is ‘the investigation of the common background characteristics of a group of actors in history by means of a collective study of their lives’.[27] The methodology of prosopography, as outlined by Stone, involves the collection of key biographical details pertaining to a select group of individuals. These details consist of attributes relating to major life events such as birth, marriage, and death, as well as defining characteristics such as education, religion, occupation, and place of residence.[28] Notably, the methodology of prosopography became the subject of intense debate between two prominent twentieth century British historians: Lewis Namier and Herbert Butterfield and their ‘schools’. At the heart of their conflict was an issue central to the utilisation of lives as units of analysis, whether to study lives individually or collectively.[29]

Just as there has been debate surrounding the nature of biography and prosopography, collective biography has also been largely ill-defined and controversial. The conceptual problems faced by collective biography have partially stemmed from its similarity to prosopography. What the methods share in common, as Krista Cowman argued, is ‘a focus on the group’ as well as ‘an interest in how the group impacted on certain things – systems, organisations, institutions – rather than a more subjective concern about how engagement with these things affected the individuals of whom the group was comprised’.[30] With respect to methodology, collective biography has been criticised as being ‘not based upon rigorously established selection criteria’.[31] Cowman challenges this accusation, arguing that collective biography has a distinct methodology in which the individual remains the centre of focus, even when lives are used to analyse collective experiences or study certain types of communities.[32] Not only can the method be used to explore connections between individuals, argues Cowman, but it also has the potential to shed light on the motivations of groups engaging in collective action.[33]

Strengths and Limitations
As methods of historical enquiry, biography, collective biography, and prosopography have varying theoretical and practical strengths and limitations with respect to different research questions. The central aim of biographical research is to ‘to create or establish a better understanding of individuals and their motives or their life experiences’.[34] As such, biography takes an individual as its focus. Yet biographies often prominently feature several other individuals without who the biography would be incomplete, thereby complicating the distinction between biography and collective biography. Moreover, biographical researchers often benefit from having a wealth of source material available on notable individuals. The reliance on source material can also be a severe limitation of biographical research, in that biographers are often hindered by a lack of archives from which to reconstitute an individual’s life.[35] Theoretically, biographical research not only has the potential to narrate an individual’s life and provide insight into their motivations, but it can also unite different kinds of historical fields in a way that other modes of inquiry cannot.[36] Historians like Ian Kershaw, however, argue that biography is limited in its ability to inform ‘long-term processes of historical transformation, or even in illustrating them’.[37]

The problem of a lack of surviving sources for biographical research is less of a constraint when researching collective biography, as the examination of multiple lives allows a researcher to utilise individuals with differing levels of surviving archival material. Collective biography also has certain theoretical benefits. The writing of ‘group biographies’ allows an interest in individuals to be supplemented and complemented by a consideration of the kinds of networks that connect them.[38] These networks could be more abstract, for instance in terms of ideologies or structures, or more concrete (such as familial or occupational networks). Such a methodology has been used in political and social history and is particularly well suited for studies focusing on intimate subjects.[39] A theoretical concern that is ever present in conducting collective biographical research is the risk of making false generalisations from a narrow set of cases. As such, the selection of subjects is crucial. This issue can be minimised by contextualising the lives examined with prior historical knowledge.[40]

As an analytical tool, prosopography can employ advanced multi-variate statistical analysis, done with the benefit of digital databases and advanced processing power from modern computers.[41] Unlike biography and collective biography, which can be limited by a lack of sources, prosopography is conceptualised as a ‘system for organizing mostly scarce data in such a way that they acquire additional significance by revealing connections and patterns influencing historical processes’.[42] As such, prosopography is well suited for the study of groups of individuals for whom little biographical sources survive. A significant limitation of the method is the careful consideration needed in determining the selection criteria for a group of people, particularly as only a select sub-population of a group will typically be studied. In attempting to identify the average, commonness, or general trajectory of the life histories of a group of individuals, it is possible that the selected case will provide a false impression of the group.[43]

Lumping’ and ‘Splitting’
All the biographical methods discussed revolve around an issue at the core of using lives in historical research: that of whether individuals should be considered as they are or as members of a collective. Colloquially, this is known as the problem of ‘lumping and splitting’.[44] The problem is essentially one of classification. To ‘lump’ things together is to classify them as belonging to the same class, or category. Conversely, ‘splitting’ is the process of fragmenting the whole into smaller categories or individual components. Alternatively, the process can also be thought of in terms of similarities and differences, where ‘lumping’ recognises the former and ‘splitting’ classifies the latter.[45]

Three main problems related to ‘lumping’ and ‘splitting’ arise in historical research. One is in the application of comparative standards, whereby historians seek to understand one phenomenon by relating it to another. Implicit in the making of such comparisons is the assumption that both phenomena belong to the same class or category, that is, that they are sufficiently similar that comparing them would highlight the relevance of their differences. Such an approach can be problematic if the cases considered are vastly different, thereby rendering the comparisons meaningless.[46] The second situation in which the problem presents itself is when comparison is used as a form of evidence for causal explanations, particularly when such explanations are based on few known cases. In such a situation, both the preconditions and the outcomes of the phenomena or cases being compared need to demonstrably belong to the same class.[47] Finally, the third situation in which the problem of ‘lumping’ and ‘splitting’ arises is where empirical evidence is meant to either support or disprove explanatory theories. If the class selected is not appropriate to the phenomenon attempting to be explained, then any explanation offered would be fundamentally flawed.[48]

In this regard Miles Fairburn is helpful. He systematically considered solutions to four main issues that arise when ‘lumping’ and ‘splitting’. The first was that of quantified class terms, such as ‘similar’ or ‘unique’, which do not have any kind of intrinsic meaning. Rather, they are context sensitive.[49] To overcome this, Fairburn suggested that classes be based on standards of difference or similarity derived from theoretical models. Secondly, there is the problem that multiple levels of abstraction are used in describing phenomena. The more detail is used to describe something, the more different it will seem to other things (and vice versa). This can be avoided by making explicit the comparative standards used.[50] Another issue is that of indefinite particularity, whereby the status of something being similar or different to another is dependent on how many standards are used in comparisons made. There are innumerable standards that can be applied, meaning that cases will inevitably appear different. Such a problem can be overcome by limiting the number of particulars applied to the most significant ones.[51] Lastly, cases may have characteristics such that they could be put in more than one category. This can be worked around by determining which characteristics hold greater weight and thereby which category would be more appropriate.[52]

Implications for Research
Prosopography, collective biography, and biography are methodologies which differ in usefulness in historical studies depending upon the nature of the sources used. For instance, prosopography is useful when rich demographic data is available. Using this method, it is possible to consider the common characteristics of the Mercury convicts. By employing collective or individual biography, historians can consider the things that differentiate these convicts. Whichever method is adopted, that is, whether the 82 convicts are lumped together or split up and the spotlight put on an individual, care must be taken in the selection of methodology. Again, a consideration of the strengths and weaknesses, usefulness and limits of various methodologies suggests a research strategy utilising mixed methods.

Section 2: Prosopography
One method by which the Mercury convicts can be examined is prosopography. As Katherine Keats-Rohan argued, prosopographical research occurs in two phases. The first is the collection of data on a group of individuals which reveals common characteristics (or lack thereof). The data then forms the basis for a multivariate analysis of the group (see the appendices for the data on which the analyses in this essay were based).[53] Two biographical dictionaries, The Founders of Australia by Mollie Gillen and The Second Fleet by Michael Flynn, serve as the ‘lexicon’ for this prosopography which, together with other archival sources, allows us to tease out Mercury convicts’ commonality.[54] The quality of this data is testified by prominent historians such as Cassandra Pybus and Alan Atkinson, who have acknowledged the immense benefits of these texts to their work.[55] The challenge for using the prosopographical method for the Mercury convicts is twofold, however. First, we cannot establish basic information for some of them; while second, the characteristics that the convicts shared must be considered or balanced by the differences between them. 

Age and Place of Birth
The Mercury convicts as a group can be described by their age, their birthplaces, gender, occupations, literacy, criminal convictions, marriage patterns, health, mortality, and its cause.  The men and women of the Mercury transported to Australia were overwhelmingly members of a generation born in the 1750s and 1760s (see Appendix 2).[56] More than half were born during the 1760s and just over one third in the preceding decade. Their total age range, however, amounted to forty years. The eldest of the group was shoemaker George Clare, who was born in Manchester, Lancashire, in about 1734. About forty years later, the youngest Mercury convict, chimney sweep John Hudson, was born in Middlesex.[57] The average Mercury convict, born in about 1760, was 24 years old at the time of the mutiny and 28 on arriving in Australia.[58] A lack (or in some cases overabundance) of surviving archives makes establishing the birthplaces of these convicts difficult, so much so that only about half could be reliably identified. Nonetheless, it appears that Mercury convicts were all either English or Irish. Of those whose place of birth could be determined, 91 percent were born in England (about half of whom were from Middlesex) and the remainder in Ireland.[59] The English convicts not native to Middlesex came from a total of fourteen different counties across England.[60] The cohort consisted mainly of men, including only eight women.[61]

Pre-Transportation Occupations
What is known of these convicts’ pre-transportation occupations comes from Ralph Clark’s diary recorded en route to Australia and the trial records of the convicts (see Appendix 3).[62] More than half of Mercury convicts were recorded as having no occupation, or have information missing regarding their trade. No single occupation predominated within the group, except perhaps temporary unskilled work. Despite this, nearly one quarter could be considered skilled workers. Clark noted numerous occupations, including saddler, book stitcher, cabinet maker, silver smith, shoemaker, weaver, wax chandler, mantua (a form of women’s gown) maker, leather breeches maker, jeweller, and watch case maker.[63] Among them were a notable minority of seamen, perhaps reflecting, as historian Jerry White noted, the position of London as the British ‘kingdom’s centre of world trade and shipping’ (see Figure 1).[64] The lack of specialised skills among Mercury convicts reflects their low literacy rate, as only about 35 percent of all convicts were able to sign their name.[65]

Figure 1: This painting illustrates the bustle of London's port in the late eighteenth century.[66]

Previous Crime
As indicated above, early Australian historians held that convicts came from the ‘professional criminal classes’ of England and Ireland.[67] Robert Hughes suggested that the New South Wales colony was founded ‘to defend English property not from the frog-eating invader across the Channel but from the marauder within’.[68] Prior to the conviction that saw them transported, however, most Mercury convicts had no discernible criminal past (see Appendix 4).[69] Only twelve of these convicts are suspected to have had previous convictions and half of these are speculative.[70] However, it is difficult to make any claims of their criminal histories with certainty because it is often impossible to confidently link individual convicts to persons with the same name listed in earlier court documents. This problem troubled courts in the eighteenth century, for example in the case of Charles Peat.[71] Of those whose pasts can be established with certainty, three were participants in another mutiny on the Swift in 1783.[72] Their having participated in two convict mutinies makes these Mercury convicts the closest to having the kind of criminal career envisioned by earlier Australian historians. One convict with an established criminal past, though less dramatic, was Oten Batley, who was twice convicted of grand larceny.[73] Others had a far milder record, such as Redmond McGrah, who had one previous conviction for stealing a pair of linen sheets.[74]

Trials and Crimes
Just as the Mercury convicts were born within a narrow period, the crimes that resulted in their being transported were committed in a concentrated two-year period from 1782 to 1784 (see Appendix 1).[75] More than two thirds were tried in 1783, with the remainder near equally divided between 1782 and 1784.[76] This is unremarkable, given the typical amount of time that elapsed between when a convict was sentenced and embarked to be transported. About one quarter were convicted for highway robbery and assault, and two convicts for forgery, both serious offences. Another quarter had stolen clothing and other pieces of fabric. The remaining crimes were a combination of shoplifting, horse theft, and stealing an assortment of other items.[77] For example, John Turner was convicted of ‘Feloniously Steal[ing] from the Stairhead of the Upper Watergate … one Cask containing 28 gallons (or thereabouts) of Small Beer’.[78] Having  sought a different kind of beverage, John Spence was tried for having stolen nearly six pounds of green tea and eight pounds of bohea tea.[79] John Hall was sentenced to transportation after having stolen sixty pounds of butter.[80] For their crimes, the overwhelming majority of Mercury convicts were sentenced to seven years’ transportation, although nearly half to receive this punishment were reprieved from a death sentence. A minority were sentenced to fourteen years or transportation for life.[81]

Recapture, Imprisonment, and Transport
For almost all Mercury convicts, the mutiny was a drastic failure. Of the 82 subsequently sent to Australia, 55 convicts had been recaptured by the Helena while rowing to shore in small boats on 13 April 1784 (see Appendix 5). Several escapees were caught nearby in Devon, while some got as far away as Plymouth, Bristol, and London.[82] Those captured by the Helena were remanded to their former sentences.[83] A special commission was held at Exeter to convict those escapees who were recaptured on land.[84] Eighteen of the twenty-five examined by the commission were later transported to Australia.[85] Gillen argued that among these were the ringleaders of the mutiny.[86] After processing, the convicts were sent to the Dunkirk hulk on the Thames (only a handful were sent to other hulks, see Appendix 6).[87] Three years later, the ships of the First Fleet were assembled to transport the Mercury convicts yet again across the seas. The Friendship and Charlotte transported 48 and 29 of the Mercury convicts, respectively.[88] For unknown reasons, two of the men were sent to the Scarborough and one to the Alexander. Three women were transferred to the Prince of Wales.[89] Four Mercury convicts were later transported to Australia on board the Scarborough and Lady Juliana as a part of the Second Fleet.[90]

Figure 2: An express calling for the recapture of Mercury convicts following the mutiny, 15 April 1784.[91]

Crime in Australia
While their supposed lack of a criminal history may indicate that Mercury convicts were for the most part not criminals by nature, their post-transportation careers perhaps suggests otherwise. A total of 40 transportees are known to have reoffended either in England, on the voyage to Australia, or in the colonies (see Appendix 7). Five convicts were convicted again in England before embarking on the First Fleet.[92] Seven were put in irons either in the hulks or on the voyage to Australia.[93] What is most significant, however, is that most Mercury recidivists reoffended in Australia. Their crimes were rarely severe, usually consisting of stealing bread or illegally possessing rum. Although they may not have all been carried out, these reoffending mutineers were sentenced to receive a combined total of over 1,500 lashes as punishment for their crimes.[94] Two were hanged for crimes committed in Australia.[95]

Post-Transportation Migration
Not all Mercury convicts reoffended, however, and many of those that did went on to lead productive lives. Daniel Barnett, Richard Davis, and John Fendlow were among the first 22 Europeans granted land in the Hawkesbury in 1794.[96] Unsurprisingly, 40 convicts migrated to Norfolk Island at some point in their lives, with 19 of those travelling as part of the mass migration of convicts from Sydney in March 1790 (with 16 on the HMS Sirius and 3 on the HMS Supply, see Appendix 8).[97] Norfolk Island had been established partly to help solve the colony’s food shortage and by 1790 41 percent of the Europeans in Australia resided there.[98] Under Governor King’s administration, convicts were granted land and could farm to be self-sustaining.[99] By the time Norfolk Island was disbanded as a colony in 1813, many Mercury convicts had returned to New South Wales. At least six are known to have gone to Tasmania.[100] At least 39 of the 82 convicts remained in Australia permanently. Only 15 are known to have left the colony. Of these, James Cox died while at sea and James Mackie probably died in Ireland after returning home. Charles Peat spent his last years in India. The fates of the other 27 are unknown.[101]

Family
It is difficult to establish what proportion of Mercury convicts were married or lived with partners at any point in their lives, due to gaps in the sources and the inability to verify with certainty the identities of individuals in marriage records. Despite this, it has been possible to determine that more than half were married or living in a de facto relationship at some point in their lives (see Appendix 9). For the most part, the convicts were single at the time of being transported to Australia with only a handful being (or were previously) married with children. With only three exceptions, those that married in Australia did so within four years of arriving.[102] Due to gaps in the records, it has only been possible to establish that 19 of the mutineers had children, most of whom were born in Australia.[103] At least two convicts left behind families in England.[104]

Health
Little is known about the health of individual Mercury convicts. However, it is possible to make some broad comments on their health as a group. After the mutiny, the recaptured convicts were sent to Exeter gaol. The gaol quickly became overcrowded and the authorities grew concerned about the possible outbreak of ‘infectious Distempers’.[105] To combat this, the prisoners were transferred to the Dunkirk hulk. Lord Sydney ordered that the Mercury convicts be ‘examined by an experienced surgeon’ to ensure that they were ‘free from any infectious or putrid disorder[s]’.[106] Prisoners on the hulk engaged in ‘the most atrocious as well as the most licentious acts’, perhaps in part because ‘many of the prisoners are nearly if not quite naked’.[107] On the voyage to Australia, the convicts were mostly in good health.[108]

Mortality
Death or burial information is known for 44 Mercury convicts. The earliest recorded death was that of Patrick Delaney, who died on board the Friendship in 1787. Ralph Clarke noted that Delaney’s death had ‘been expected ever since he came on board’ as he was ‘at Death’s door before he came on board with us’.[109] The last known surviving Mercury convict was Susannah Garth, who died of apoplexy in Hobart on 24 June 1841, aged 78.[110] James Jemmison had the shortest lifespan, dying at Sydney Cove in 1788 aged just 21 years.[111] Charlotte Ware was probably the longest lived, passing away aged 79 years at Campbelltown in 1839.[112] The few known causes of death include execution by hanging, killed by Aboriginals, and committing suicide.[113] The average life expectancy of Mercury mutineers was 48.4 years.[114] This was significantly lower than their English compatriots, who had an average life expectancy of 61.7 years in the same period, suggesting that transportation had a negative long-term effect on Mercury convicts’ health (see Figure 3).

Figure 3: A graph comparing the probabilities of Mercury convicts and English men dying within the next ten years for every age reached.[115]

Analysis
What does a prosopographical analysis of Mercury convicts reveal? It provides historians with a clear insight into key demographic attributes, such as the age, occupations, literacy, and convictions, of the Mercury convicts. A typical convict was a male, born in about 1760 and convicted for his first offence (theft) in 1783 aged 23. Recaptured quickly after the mutiny, he was subsequently transported to Australia on the First Fleet, where he died aged 48 in 1808. In these matters, the Mercury convicts fit the patterns which Gillen and Flynn found for Australian convicts more generally. Prosopography is less helpful on other cultural attributes, however. This analysis highlights the substantial gaps in what is known about many of these convicts, such as their places of birth, if they married, had children, and when, where, and why they died.

Section 3: Collective Biography
The Mercury convicts can also be analysed by writing a collective biography of them. Collective biographies examine a group by considering the links and associations between its members, demonstrating how they were united in time and space. This method has been masterfully employed by several historians.[116] Some collective biographies have tended to examined convict lives by using their transportation to Australia as the unifying network of association.[117] Others, however, have focused on more personal connections by focussing on the networks of individual shiploads of convicts.[118] This collective biography will draw on the methodology of the latter to explore if and how shared experiences prior to and after transportation fostered associations among a ship of convicts. As the Mercury convicts are far less documented than the renowned subjects of other collective biographies, and their associations less obvious (with the likely exception of class and labour), this section will seek to uncover what kinds of connections were made and maintained by Mercury convicts that are not apparent from the prosopography.

Pre-Mutiny Criminal Associations
For some Mercury convicts, their association with other members of the group began well before the mutiny in 1784. Several had committed crimes together and were thus criminal associates. One pair of co-criminals was Elizabeth Dudgeon and Susannah Garth, who were convicted together in late 1783 for pocket picking.[119] Another was James Branagan and Robert Bruce, who, after having undertaken a highway robbery, were sentenced to transportation for seven years in 1783.[120] Simon Burn and John Haydon, following a joint highway robbery, later found themselves transported on the Mercury for their crime.[121] Forming a larger gang were Francis Garland, Joseph Morley, and Henry Roach, who were convicted for ‘feloniously assaulting Thomas Evans in the King’s Highway’, ‘putting him in corporal fear and danger of his life’ and subsequently stealing from him.[122] As these cases illustrate, Mercury convicts were beginning to form connections with each other well before their late participation in the mutiny, ones based purely on crime. Most, however, did not meet each other until transferred to Newgate Prison or the hulks prior to embarkation on the Mercury (see Figure 4). 31 of them had been held on board the Censor and Justitia hulks before they were ordered on 26 March 1784 to be transferred to the Mercury.[123] The remainder of the convicts were brought on board that same day from Newgate Prison.[124] They then, of course, spent the next two and a half weeks together on board the vessel, until they were captured after the mutiny by the Helena on 13 April. 

Figure 4: The inside of Newgate Prison, where many Mercury convicts were held.[125]

New connections were likely forged by the mutiny, as several of those who succeeded in reaching shore were later recaptured together. One example of this is Francis Garland, the highway robber, who, with William Robinson and another Mercury convict, successfully made it to Plymouth Dock before being recaptured.[126] John O’Craft and Thomas Barrett also evaded the authorities for a while, being among those who covered significance distance. They too were apprehended at Plymouth.[127] A trio consisting of John Jones, Joseph Hall, and Thomas Brown also jointly remained at large. Notably, Jones and Hall had both participated in the mutiny on the Swift the previous year, indicating that their joint escape from the Mercury was likely based on a friendship dating from that event.[128] Thus, many of the mutineers who reached shore travelled with other convicts, as opposed to adopting a free-for-all approach to evading capture, thereby demonstrating that several Mercury convicts were already forming associations prior to the mutiny. 

As outlined in the prosopography section above, most Mercury convicts did not reach the shore after the mutiny. Instead, they were quickly recaptured by the nearby Helena. It then escorted the mutineers some 30 kilometres from Torbay, where they were caught, north to Topsham. From here, they were taken under the guard of the military and transferred to Bridewell, Devon County Gaol.[129] The convicts were committed on 16 April on the oath of George Holt, Steward of the Mercury, and on the prisoners confessing to ‘seizing & and escaping from the said ship which was conveying them to America as Convicts pursuant to their sentence’.[130] Remaining there for over two months, they were subsequently transferred to the Dunkirk hulk in late June 1784.[131] This would serve as their new home for nearly three years until they were discharged onto the Friendship and Charlotte, bound for Botany Bay, on 11 March 1787.[132] No evidence has been uncovered that sheds light on the ways in which Mercury convicts may have associated with each other while in Exeter Gaol or on the Dunkirk. What is evident from this discussion is that the Mercury convicts had already spent three to four years living together before embarking on the First Fleet. Such time spent together would have been conducive to fostering new connections amongst them.

Associations by Marriage
These bonds and associations formed from shared experiences manifested in various forms in Australia. One of these was marriage. There were four marriages in which one Mercury convict married another.[133] The first was between Hannah Green and William Haynes. The archives are silent on the origins of their relationship, but it is worth noting that both were convicts on the Friendship (at least before Green was transferred to the Charlotte mid-voyage).[134] Green is not recorded as having engaged in sexual activity while on the Friendship (unlike other women such as Elizabeth Dudgeon), perhaps indicating that her relationship with Haynes can be traced back to the voyage to Australia, if not earlier.[135] One relationship was formalised much later in that of Mary Kimes and William Ayres, who were married despite their arrival in Australia being separated by two years.[136] What are likely friendships between Mercury convicts are evident from one witnessing the marriage of another. For example, Simon Burn was a witness to the marriage of William Field at Sydney on 14 July 1790. Likewise, James Thody served the same function in the marriage of Edward Flynn the previous year.[137]

Criminal Connections in Australia
Approximately 1,373 individuals are believed to have landed at Botany Bay in January 1788.[138] A new colony formed from such a relatively small population means that certain convicts appearing together in records may be purely coincidental and should be treated with scepticism as sources of deliberate association. This is particularly the case with criminal cases. For instance, William Blatherhorn and John Hall (both of the Charlotte), with two other convicts, was sentenced to 50 lashes at Norfolk Island for concealing fish they had caught.[139] The evidence is ambiguous as to whether Blatherhorn and Hall were friends or regular associates, although their having arrived on the same ship suggests so. John Haydon and Richard McDale also re-offended together, stealing pease with two others at Port Jackson in April 1788.[140] Perhaps a clearer post-transportation criminal association of Mercury convicts is found in that of Thomas Barrett, Henry Lavell, and John Hall. These men were sentenced to death for having stolen pease and beef from the food stores. Barrett was hanged, but Lavell and Hall were reprieved.[141] The bond between one pair Mercury convicts is apparent from the diary of naval officer and surgeon Arthur Bowes Smyth. In it, he recorded that Barrett, on mounting the ladder to be hanged, ‘spoke to one of the Convict men, Saddiway [sic] (a very bad fellow) an intimate acquaintance’.[142] Like these recidivists, Robert Sidaway was also a Mercury convict.[143]

Occupational Associations
Associations between Mercury convicts in Australia were not only matrimonial or criminal, but included connections focused on employment. One Mercury fleeter, Simon Burn, had by April 1790 attained the position of overseer of convict workers.[144] The previous year, Mark Wood was working for Burn when he was ordered to apologise for insolence.[145] In what was likely a more voluntary setting, John Ryan worked for Sidaway. It was Ryan’s responsibility to care for Sidaway’s house and supply him with water, as by this stage the latter was working as a baker for the commissariat.[146] Such work associations were possible well after the arrival of Mercury convicts on the First and Second Fleets, as seen between Mary Cawthorne and Thomas Hughes. Cawthorne, who arrived in New South Wales by the Britannia in 1798, was living with Mercury convict William Field from at least 1806. After his passing in 1826, she appears to have inherited his land.[147] In the 1828 census, Thomas Hughes was recorded as being employed by her.[148] A possible explanation for this is that Hughes kept in contact with Field, and decided to assist his wife in maintaining her property after Field’s passing.

Associations through Common Interests
Common interests were also a factor in some of the connections formed among Mercury convicts. As also noted in the prosopography section, many of these convicts migrated at some point to Norfolk Island (see Figure 5). Having become small farmers, Mercury convicts Thomas Restell Crowder, John Best, and James Mackie joined the Settlers and Landholders Society, founded in September 1793. The Society aimed to regulate the prices of commodities, produce, and labour.[149] Neither were their common interest purely economic. Writing on the history of convict theatres in early Australia, historian Robert Jordan noted that several Mercury convicts were involved in theatre.[150] Crowder was also among these, having likely been a leader of the Norfolk Island theatre company from its inception. He became one of its managers.[151] Edward Flynn also acted in the Norfolk Island theatre, which he possibly came to through his knowing Crowder.[152] In Sydney, Robert Sidaway assisted in the construction and management of a theatre.[153] Henry Lavell, who had been among those Mercury convicts sentenced to be hanged, performed occasionally in Sidaway’s theatre, possibly at the latter’s suggestion.[154]

Figure 5: Norfolk Island, two months after the arrival of several Mercury convicts.[155]

A collective biography of the Mercury convicts has revealed elements of the group’s rich social, political, and cultural history that could not be realised from the prosopography. It is evident that most of these convicts spent as many as five years together before setting foot in Australia, the connections between some of whom can be traced back to when they committed crime together. In that time, they co-lived in prisons, hulks, and transport ships. Given their substantial shared experiences, it is not surprising that various kinds of associations and networks between them flourished in the new colony. The intermarriage of Mercury convicts and their witnessing the marriage of others, particularly in the first weeks of settlement, sheds light on some of the romantic and platonic relationships that had developed amongst them. Just as some had broken the law together in England, others did so as well in Australia. Furthermore, approaching this group by way of collective biography has allowed their associations centred on collective interests to be made apparent. This pertains to their involvement in the Norfolk Island Settler Society and the roles of several Mercury convicts in the origins of the theatre in Australia.

Section 4: Biography
Aspects of the personality and identity of Mercury convicts can be analysed through prosopography and collective biography. Biography can also reveal significant aspects too. Considering the group through the examination of one of its members will not only serve as a way of verifying (or challenging) the findings of the other methods but also highlight the potential strengths and limitations of biographical enquiry, especially with respect to Australian convict history. Central to this exercise is the question of who of the 82 Mercury convicts will be its subject. Should it be someone who was representative of the group or, conversely, an outlier, a convict who was extraordinary in almost every respect? The biography selected straddles these extremes, that of Jamey Mackey (c.1759–1839). Historian Mollie Gillen documented Mackey’s life store in the 1980s, but this can be fleshed out considerably through original and contemporary archival research, something made possible by the advent of the commercial digitisation and indexing of records.[156]

Early Life (c.1759 – 1783)
James Mackey (variably spelt Mackay, Mackie, and McKey) was born in the parish of St James, Dublin, Ireland.[157] James and his older sister Frances were the only children of John and Margaret Mackey. He was baptised at the local Roman Catholic church on 14 September 1759.[158] By the time he was about twenty years old, on 4 April 1779, Mackey enlisted in the 62nd Regiment of Foot.[159] He is listed in military and colonial records as having been both a labourer and a weaver (with the former possibly including the latter) prior to transportation, likely indicating his occupation as a civilian.[160] At the time of his enlistment, the 62nd Regiment was serving overseas in the American War of Independence. During a particularly intense battle in 1777, the regiment sustained heavy casualties. Receiving few supplies or reinforcements, it surrendered, and its soldiers were taken prisoner. There is no indication that Mackey was part of those sent to reinforce the unit. From 1780, the regiment spent two years re-forming after its devastating losses.[161] Because of this, Mackey almost certainly remained in Great Britain.

Sentence and Transportation (1783 – 1788)
For reasons unknown, Mackey is recorded as having left the 62nd Regiment on 24 April 1783.[162] He next appears in London three months later. On 4 August, at six in the evening, he and another man entered a clothing warehouse in Saint Giles in the Fields, London, owned by Richard Worrall. The two men approached Timothy Lacy, a salesman there, and began to bargain with him for some waistcoats. Lacy went upstairs to tailor a waistcoat for one of the men. When he returned, Lacy noticed that Mackey had stuffed two waistcoats under his clothing. Upon being questioned, Mackey attempted to run away but was ultimately caught by Lacy. Subsequently tried at the Old Bailey on 10 September 1783, Mackey was found guilty of theft and sentenced to transportation for seven years.[163] At the time of his trial, Mackey was a ‘Soldier in the Guards’.[164] This indicates that he likely served in one of the flank companies of the 62nd Regiment, which were stationed at Windsor Castle to do guard duty.[165]

Along with two others, Mackey was delivered to Newgate Prison on 4 October 1783, to await ‘Transportation to some of his Majestys [sic] Colonies & plantations in America’.[166] Soon thereafter, he was transferred to a hulk to be held until 31 March 1784, when convicts were then embarked on the Mercury, bound for North America.[167] After the mutiny on board the ship, Mackey was among those immediately recaptured by the Helena on 13 April and sent to Exeter Gaol. From there, he was transferred to the Dunkirk hulk in June 1784.[168] Mackey and his fellow Mercury convicts remained on the Dunkirk for nearly three years. On 11 March 1787, he embarked on the First Fleet ship Friendship.[169]

Life in Australia (1788 – 1810)
After two years in New South Wales, Mackey travelled to Norfolk Island per the Sirius, where he disembarked on 14 March 1790.[170] Later that year, he was sentenced to receive 50 lashes as punishment for encouraging others to ask for additional free time. Despite this, by July 1791 Mackey had established himself, with 144 roods of cleared land and a two-month-old pig. He continued to accrue land. Joining other Mercury convicts, Mackey became a member of the Settlers and Landholders Society.[171] After four years on Norfolk Island, aged about 35, Mackey again joined the British army. This time, he enlisted in the 102nd Regiment of Foot (the New South Wales Corps) on 12 July 1794 (see Figure 6). He stood five feet eight inches tall and was described as having grey eyes and a long, dark face, topped with dark brown hair.[172] The following year, Governor Hunter leased Mackey ten acres of land on Norfolk Island, for a period of 14 years.[173] By the late 1790s, he was serving in the company of Captain Edward Abbott.[174] Given his service under Abbott, Mackey was likely involved in the repair of Georges Head Battery at Sydney Cove.[175]

Figure 6: Members of the NSW Corps, of whom Mackey was a member, depicted arresting Governor Bligh.[176]

Last Years in Ireland (1810 – c.1839)
On 1 March 1810, the 102nd Regiment was ordered to be ‘held in readiness to embark for England on the shortest notice’.[177] Mackey, likely wanting to formalise his relationship with Mary Page before he left NSW (and thereby allowing her to accompany him on the voyage), married her on 7 March at St Philip’s Church of England, Sydney.[178] Their marriage was timely, as the regiment received notice a week later that it would embark on ships bound for England on 10 April.[179] The regiment finally departed Australia on 12 May and arrived at Portsmouth on 24 October.[180] Mackey continued to serve in the Corps for another nine months in England. In July 1811, he was found to be ‘unfit for further Service’ and was discharged from that regiment at Horsham Barracks, Sussex.[181]

Immediately after his discharge, Mackey, was enlisted in the 12th Royal Veterans Battalion.[182] The Veterans Battalions were comprised of men no longer fit enough for front line duty. Mackey returned to his native Ireland, where the 12th was stationed.[183] Now in his late-50s, Mackey’s health was failing. After almost a years’ service in the 12th Veterans, he was discharged at Youghal, Cork, on the grounds of ‘being worn out’.[184] Curiously, Mackey’s discharge papers incorrectly note that from 1783 to 1794 (the years in between his military service) he was serving in the British marines.[185] No doubt this was an attempt by Mackey to conceal his convict past, for a contingent of marines had indeed accompanied the First Fleet to Botany Bay.[186]

Upon his discharge from the 12th Veterans, Mackey was admitted as a pensioner to the Royal Hospital at Kilmainham (see Figure 7).[187] He was granted a pension of 1 shilling 6 sixpence per day. From his pension record, it appears that Mackey died on 25 December 1839.[188] If correct, he would have been about 80 years old, making him the longest-lived Mercury convict.

Figure 7: The Royal Hospital Kilmainham, Dublin, where Mackey was admitted as a pensioner in 1812. The hospital served as a home for retired soldiers.[189]

In many respects, Mackey is the typical Mercury convict. His baptism in 1759 closely matches the average birth year of 1760. He was convicted for his first offence in 1783, for theft, was illiterate, captured quickly after the mutiny, and later travelled to Norfolk Island, all characteristics typical of Mercury convicts. Yet, his biography reveals the many ways in which he differs from his cohort. He was the only convict to have served in the military both before and after his sentence. Such a career resulted in his being better documented than his counterparts. Information has been uncovered regarding his birth, marriage, and death, which is uncommon for Mercury convicts. Research into Mackey’s biography reveals details about his pre and post transportation life in England, another rarity for Mercury convicts. It reveals aspects of his motivations which were not uncovered by the other methods. But it is also speculative. Despite the relative abundance of sources, Mackey is not the most documented Mercury convict. There are thus many gaps and contradictions in the sources that limit the extent to which his life can be reliably and coherently narrated. Importantly, little in his biography speaks to the general characteristics or experiences of the Mercury convicts, something that can only be investigated through methods other than biography.

Conclusion
This essay has diverted from common biographical practice by applying separately the methods of biography, collective biography, and prosopography to the same topic. Comparing their findings allows the strengths and weaknesses of each to be made apparent. Prosopography is beneficial for answering questions regarding the ‘typicality’ of a group, that is, what kinds of people and characteristics are representative of a group. A biography, while possibly mentioning several people, only takes one individual as its focus. While it may contextualise the subject within his or her broader group (whether occupational, religious, political, and so on), it cannot reliably inform the general characteristics of such groups. Collective biography comes closer to offering broad generalisations of a group. However, there is always the risk of skewed conclusions from the selection of a small sample if those chosen are not representative. It can, however, reveal details about the bonds and associations between members in ways the other methodologies cannot. The application of these to the Mercury convicts confirms that, aside from their exceptional quality of having participated in a mutiny, they were not significantly different from other First and Second Fleet convicts as revealed in Gillen and Flynn.[190]

The application of these methodologies to Mercury convicts also reveals which are better suited to the exploration of certain themes within Australian convict history. Prosopography provides useful insights for themes such as labour, criminal, and health history. This is because there is enough information available for all individuals (as in the case of the convicts’ criminal histories and pre- and post-transportation occupations), or that conclusions about the group can be drawn from generalisations made in the sources (such as the general health of the convicts). Collective biography is the most useful of the three for exploring cultural and social history due to a greater emphasis on detailed qualitative examination of individual lives. It can draw attention to the common experiences and connections of individuals in ways the other methods cannot. This is most apparent in the case of the platonic and romantic relationships of Mercury convicts and their participation in other enterprises, such as theatre. While biography can potentially contribute to almost any historical theme, it is limited in its ability to inform wider historical debates.

Each method draws on different types of sampling. Where prosopography benefits from the largest sample size possible, collective biography and biography are far more selective. The nature of the sampling in the latter two can have profound impacts on the kinds of conclusions drawn. Likewise, which archives are used to document convict lives (whether those prior to transportation, after, or both) will also impact the final analysis. To focus only on those records of convicts prior to transportation would not make the analyses around such things as health, family forming, and network analysis possible. Neglecting pre-voyage archives would severely limit the extent to which the criminal lives of convicts could be properly understood.

There remains scope for future study on the Mercury convicts. The ship’s muster may reveal further details about the convicts themselves and possibly allow for the identification of any who were later sent to Australia that were missed in this study.[191] Even if the muster does not list the names of convicts transported in 1784, this research has identified at least 42 convicts on the Mercury who were not transported to Australia.[192] Performing a similar analysis on this group as done in this essay could reveal why some Mercury convicts were transported to Australia while others were not.[193] The findings from such research could contribute to one of the most fundamental debates of Australian colonial history, that is, the purpose behind the foundation of the colony of New South Wales and the selection of those to be sent on the First Fleet.[194]

Appendix 1: List of Mercury Convicts transported to Australia on the First and Second Fleets.

Name

Date of Trial

Place of Trial

Sentence

Ship

Ayres, William (alias Eyres)

23 July 1783

Winchester

Death to 7 years

Friendship

Barber, Elizabeth

11 September 1782

Old Bailey

Death to 7 years

Prince of Wales

Barnett, Daniel (alias Barret)

29 July 1783

Winchester

7 years

Friendship

Barrett, Thomas

11 September 1782

Old Bailey

Death to Life

Charlotte

Batley, Oten (alies Houghton Bately, John Buckley)

10 December 1783

Old Bailey

7 years

Charlotte

Batley, Walter (alias John Rowse, Rouse, Rous)

29 October 1783

Old Bailey

7 years

Friendship

Baughn, John (alias Baughan, Bingham, Innis, Buffin,

30 July 1783

Oxford

7 years

Friendship

Bayliss, John (alias Busley)

25 February 1784

Oxford

7 years

Friendship

Best, John

29 October 1783

Old Bailey

7 years

Friendship

Bishop, Joseph

10 December 1783

Old Bailey

7 years

Friendship

Blatherhorn, William (alias Beans, Fisher)

26 February 1783

Old Bailey

7 years

Charlotte

Branagan, James (alias Baranegan)

29 July 1783

Winchester

Death to 7 years

Charlotte

Brand, Curtis (alias Bryn)

6 January 1784

Maidstone

7 years

Friendship

Brown, Thomas

29 October 1783

Old Bailey

7 years

Charlotte

Brown, William

29 July 1783

Winchester

Death to 7 years

Charlotte

Bruce, Robert

29 July 1783

Winchester

Death to 7 years

Charlotte

Bryant, Michael

10 December 1783

Old Bailey

14 years

Friendship

Burn, Patrick

11 August 1783

Exeter

Death to 7 years

Friendship

Burn, Simon

11 August 1783

Exeter

Death to 7 years

Friendship

Clare, George (alias Clear, Clair)

26 February 1783

Old Bailey

Death to 7 years

Friendship

Cox, James (alias Rolt)

11 September 1782

Old Bailey

Death to 7 years

Charlotte

Crowder, Thomas Restell

4 December 1782

Old Bailey

Death to Life

Alexander

Davis, Richard

10 September 1783

Old Bailey

7 years

Friendship

Day, Thomas (alias King)

October 1783

Old Bailey

7 years

Scarborough

Delaney, Patrick

8 March 1783

York

Death to 7 years

Friendship

Dodding, James (alias Dorren, Doran)

25 February 1784

Old Bailey

7 years

Friendship

Dudgeon, Elizabeth (alias Drizzen)

10 September 1783

Old Bailey

7 years

Charlotte

Edwards, William

January 1784

Guildhall

7 years

Friendship

Fendlow, John (alias Finlow, Harvey)

10 December 1783

Old Bailey

7 years

Friendship

Field, William

29 July 1783

Winchester

Death to 7 years

Friendship

Flinn/Flynn, Edward

14 January 1784

Old Bailey

7 years

Friendship

Garland, Francis

3 March 1783

Winchester

Death to 7 years

Charlotte

Garth, Susannah (alias Gough, Grates)

10 September 1783

Old Bailey

7 years

Charlotte

Grace, James

14 January 1784

Old Bailey

7 years

Friendship

Green, Hannah

10 September 1783

Old Bailey

7 years

Charlotte

Hall, John

14 January 1784

Old Bailey

7 years

Charlotte

Hall, Joseph

9 January 1782

Old Bailey

Death to 14 years

Charlotte

Hall, Margaret

4 December 1782

Old Bailey

Death to 7 years

Prince of Wales

Harris, John

15 January 1783

Old Bailey

Death to 14 years

Scarborough

Hart, Frances

10 September 1783

Old Bailey

14 years

Charlotte

Haydon, John (alias Hadon)

11 August 1783

Exeter

7 years

Charlotte

Haynes, William (alias Haines)

10 December 1783

Old Bailey

Death to 7 years

Friendship

Henley, Cooper (alias Handley, Handy)

8 March 1783

New Sarum, Salisbury

Death to 7 years

Friendship

Hill, Thomas

13 March 1783

Dorchester

7 years

Friendship

Hudson, John

10 December 1783

Old Bailey

7 years

Friendship

Hughes, Thomas

20 February 1783

Old Bailey

Death to 7 years

Friendship

Hussey, Samuel (alias James Hussey, Stussey)

3 March 1784

Oxford

Death to 7 years

Friendship

Jemmison/Jamison, James

19 March 1784

Maidstone

7 years

Friendship

Jones, John

23 July 1783

Old Bailey

7 years

Charlotte

Kimes, Mary (Potten)

10 December 1783

Old Bailey

7 years

Lady Juliana

Knowland, Michael (Nowland)

26 February 1783

Old Bailey

Death to Life

Scarborough

Lavell, Henry (alias Lovell)

11 September 1782

Old Bailey

Death to Life

Friendship

Le Grove, Stephen

14 January 1784

Old Bailey

7 years

Friendship

Limpus, Thomas

10 September 1783

Old Bailey

Death to 7 years

Charlotte

Lloyd, John (alias Loyd, Lyde, Load)

25 February 1784

Old Bailey

7 years

Friendship

Mackey, James (alias Mackie, McKay)

10 September 1783

Old Bailey

7 years

Friendship

Martin, Thomas

10 December 1783

Old Bailey

7 years

Charlotte

McDale, Richard (alias McDeed, McDade, Deane)

30 April 1783

Old Bailey

Death to 7 years

Friendship

McGrah, Redmund

29 October 1783

Old Bailey

7 years

Friendship

McNamara, William

10 September 1783

Old Bailey,

Death to 7 years

Friendship

Mills, Matthew (alias John Hill)

30 July 1783

Oxford

Death to 7 years

Friendship

Morley, Joseph

3 March 1783

Winchester

Death to 7 years

Friendship

Murphy, James

11 August 1783

Exeter

Death to 7 years

Friendship

O’Craft, John (alias Honcraft)

17 March 1783

Exeter

7 years

Charlotte

Peat, Charles

April 1783

Newgate, London

Life

Scarborough

Penny, John

25 February 1784

Old Bailey

7 years

Friendship

Pritchard, Thomas

10 December 1783

Old Bailey

7 years

Friendship

Roach, Henry

3 March 1783

Winchester

Death to 7 years

Charlotte

Robinson, William

3 March 1783

Hampshire

Death to 7 years

Charlotte

Ronold/Ronan, Andrew

10 September 1783

Old Bailey

7 years

Friendship

Ryan, John (alias Bryant)

14 January 1784

Old Bailey

7 years

Friendship

Sidaway, Robert

18 September 1782

Old Bailey

Death to Life

Friendship

Spence/Pearce, John

10 December 1783

Old Bailey

7 years

Friendship

Taylor, Henry

14 January 1784

Old Bailey

7 years

Friendship

Tenhel, James (alias John Tenhel, James Daniel)

14 January 1784

Old Bailey

7 years

Charlotte

Thody/Thodie, James (alias Ives)

3 July 1782

Old Bailey

Death to 7 years

Friendship

Turner, John

16 April 1783

Maidstone

7 years

Friendship

Turner, Thomas

6 March 1782

Oxford

Death to 7 years

Friendship

Ware, Charlotte

10 December 1783

Old Bailey

7 years

Prince of Wales

White, John

July 1782

Old Bailey

7 years

Scarborough

Williams, Peter (alias Creamer, Flagett)

10 September 1783

Old Bailey

Death to 7 years

Charlotte

Wood, Mark

29 October 1783

Old Bailey

7 years

Friendship

 

Appendix 2: Birth and Death Details of Mercury Convicts.

Name

Date of Birth / Baptism (circa)

Place of Birth / Baptism

Date of Death / Burial

Place of Death / Burial

Ayres, William

1763

Staffordshire, England

 

 

Barber, Elizabeth

1760

 

 

 

Barnett, Daniel

1757

Middlesex, England

15 February 1823

Windsor, NSW, Australia

Barrett, Thomas

1761

 

27 February 1788

Sydney, NSW, Australia

Batley, Oten

9 November 1763 (baptism)

Swaffham, Norfolk, England

5 October 1794 (burial)

London, England

Batley, Walter

17 January 1762 (baptism)

Swaffham, Norfolk, England

 

 

Baughn, John

1754

Warwickshire, England

27 September 1797

St Phillip's, Sydney, NSW, Australia

Bayliss, John

1750

Birmingham, Warwickshire, England

30 August 1811

St Phillip's, Sydney, NSW, Australia

Best, John

1760

Middlesex, England

6 March 1839

Windsor, NSW, Australia

Bishop, Joseph

1764

 

August 1825

Parramatta, New South Wales, Australia

Blatherhorn, William

1762

 

 

 

Branagan, James

1758

 

 

 

Brand, Curtis

1764

Manfield/Mayfield, Sussex, England

15 May 1800

Sydney, NSW, Australia

Brown, Thomas

1765

 

 

 

Brown, William

1764

 

19 September 1787

Rio de Janeiro

Bruce, Robert

1754

 

 

 

Bryant, Michael

1767

London

 

 

Burn, Patrick

1761

Ireland

13 July 1791

Sydney, NSW, Australia

Burn, Simon

1757

 

5 October 1794

Sydney, NSW, Australia

Clare, George

1734

Manchester, Lancashire, England

 

 

Cox, James

1763

 

1791

At sea

Crowder, Thomas Restell

1755

 

28 November 1824

Elizabeth Street, Hobart, Tasmania

Davis, Richard

1759

Middlesex, England

 

 

Day, Thomas

25 February 1764

St Sepulchre, Holborn, London, England

2 January 1823 (burial)

Sydney, NSW, Australia

Delaney, Patrick

1762

 

 

 

Dodding, James

1765

Middlesex, England

 

 

Dudgeon, Elizabeth

1764

 

 

 

Edwards, William

1762

Bedfordshire, England

 

 

Fendlow, John

1766

Middlesex, England

 

 

Field, William

1762

Hertfordshire, England

 

 

Flinn/Flynn, Edward

1760

 

 

 

Garland, Francis

1764

 

 

 

Garth, Susannah

1763

St Giles in the Fields, Holborn, London, England

 

 

Grace, James

1769

London, England

 

 

Green, Hannah

1756

 

 

 

Hall, John

1757

 

 

 

Hall, Joseph

1759

 

 

 

Hall, Margaret

1765

 

 

 

Harris, John

1759

 

 

 

Hart, Frances

1751

 

 

 

Haydon, John

1759

 

 

 

Haynes, William

1755

Middlesex, England

 

 

Henley, Cooper

1754

Yorkshire, England

 

 

Hill, Thomas

1759

Shrewsbury, England

 

 

Hudson, John

1774

Middlesex, England

 

 

Hughes, Thomas

1763

Berkshire, England

 

 

Hussey, Samuel

1754

Oxfordshire, England

 

 

Jemmison/Jamison, James

1767

Kent, England

 

 

Jones, John

1764

 

 

 

Kimes, Mary

1769

 

 

 

Knowland, Michael

1758

 

31 October 1828

Wilberforce, NSW, Australia

Lavell, Henry

1764

Middlesex, England

 

 

Le Grove, Stephen

1758

Middlesex, England

 

 

Limpus, Thomas

1762

 

1801

Norfolk Island

Lloyd, John

1765

Middlesex, England

27 September 1811

Sydney, NSW, Australia

Mackey, James

14 September 1759 (baptism)

St Mary’s, Dublin, Dublin, Ireland

 

 

Martin, Thomas

1768

 

26 September 1822

St John's, Parramatta, NSW, Australia

McDale, Richard

1756

Strabane, West Tyrone, Northern Ireland

 

 

McGrah, Redmund

1759

 

20 July 1788

Sydney, NSW, Australia

McNamara, William

1766

Ireland

 

 

Mills, Matthew

1763

Berkshire, England

 

 

Morley, Joseph

1761

 

1822

Sydney, NSW, Australia

Murphy, James

1743

Maybe Braunton, Devon

20 May 1804

Norfolk Island

O’Craft, John

1753

 

 

 

Peat, Charles

25 November 1759

St George, Hanover Square, London, England

1 June 1813

Fort William, Calcutta, India

Penny, John

1760

 

11 April 1799

St Phillip's, Sydney, NSW, Australia

Pritchard, Thomas

1761

 

 

 

Roach, Henry

1764

 

 

 

Robinson, William

1766

 

 

 

Ronold, Andrew

1755

 

 

 

Ryan, John

1760

 

1815

Parramatta, NSW, Australia

Sidaway, Robert

1759

Shoreditch, Middlesex, England

13 October 1809

Sydney, NSW, Australia

Spence, John

1764

Middlesex, England

 

 

Taylor, Henry

1754

Derbyshire, England

30 May 1806

Norfolk Island

Tenhel, James

1766

 

 

 

Thody, James

1760

Middlesex, England

1 November 1795

Sydney, NSW, Australia

Turner, John

1743

Kent, England

 

 

Turner, Thomas

1757

Berkshire, England

18 March 1788 (burial)

Sydney, NSW, Australia

Ware, Charlotte

1761

 

18 February 1839

Campbelltown, NSW, Australia

White, John

1746

 

17 September 1820

Second Branch (Colo River), NSW, Australia

Williams, Peter

1767

Wapping, London, England

 

 

Wood, Mark

1763

Shropshire, England

 

 


Appendix 3:
Occupations of Mercury Convicts, Pre, and Post Transportation.

Name

Pre-Transportation

Post-Transportation

Ayres, William

Sadler

 

Barber, Elizabeth

Book stitcher

Wife

Barnett, Daniel

Waterman

Farmer

Barrett, Thomas

 

Prisoner

Batley, Oten

Seaman

Labourer/Farmer

Batley, Walter

Bricklayer/Servant

Bricklayer

Baughn, John

Cabinet Maker

Carpenter/Millwright/Farmer

Bayliss, John

Silversmith

Labourer/Farmer/Carpenter

Best, John

 

Farmer/Clerk/Overseer

Bishop, Joseph

Fisherman/Sawyer

Farmer/Labourer

Blatherhorn, William

Sweep?

Constable/Farmer

Branagan, James

 

Farmer

Brand, Curtis

 

Farmer/Carpenter

Brown, Thomas

Servant

 

Brown, William

 

 

Bruce, Robert

 

Farmer

Bryant, Michael

 

 

Burn, Patrick

Baker

Game Killer

Burn, Simon

Stocking Weaver

Timber Getter

Clare, George

Shoemaker

Shoemaker

Cox, James

Seaman

 

Crowder, Thomas Restell

 

Farmer

Davis, Richard

Printer

Labourer

Day, Thomas

 

 

Delaney, Patrick

 

 

Dodding, James

Seaman

Farmer/Under Goaler

Dudgeon, Elizabeth

 

Wife

Edwards, William

Brickmaker

 

Fendlow, John

Whitesmith

Farmer

Field, William

 

Farmer

Flinn/Flynn, Edward

 

Servant/Labourer/Fisherman

Garland, Francis

 

 

Garth, Susannah

 

Wife

Grace, James

Shoemaker

Farmer

Green, Hannah

 

Wife

Hall, John

Seaman

Farmer

Hall, Joseph

 

Farmer

Hall, Margaret

 

Wife

Harris, John

 

Farmer/Constable/Inn Keeper

Hart, Frances

Mantua Maker

Wife

Haydon, John

 

Farmer

Haynes, William

Cabinet Maker

 

Henley, Cooper

Weaver

Prisoner

Hill, Thomas

Breeches Maker

 

Hudson, John

Chimney Sweep

 

Hughes, Thomas

 

Labourer/Landholder

Hussey, Samuel

 

Farmer/Constable

Jemmison/Jamison, James

 

Prisoner

Jones, John

 

Farmer

Kimes, Mary

 

 

Knowland, Michael

 

 

Lavell, Henry

Ivory Turner

 

Le Grove, Stephen

Waterman

Seaman

Limpus, Thomas

 

Farmer

Lloyd, John

 

Fisherman

Mackey, James

Labourer/Weaver/Soldier

Soldier

Martin, Thomas

Weaver

Farmer

McDale, Richard

Shoemaker/Soldier

Farmer

McGrah, Redmund

Seaman

Prisoner

McNamara, William

Seaman

 

Mills, Matthew

 

 

Morley, Joseph

Silk Dyer

Farmer/Constable

Murphy, James

Shoemaker

Farmer

O’Craft, John

 

 

Peat, Charles

Naval Seaman

Farmer/Seaman/Dealer

Penny, John

Jeweller

Farmer

Pritchard, Thomas

 

 

Roach, Henry

 

Labourer

Robinson, William

Seaman

Farmer

Ronold, Andrew

Seaman?

 

Ryan, John

Silk Weaver

Farmer

Sidaway, Robert

Watchcase Maker

Baker/Publican/Theatre Manager

Spence, John

 

Farmer

Taylor, Henry

Stocking Weaver

Farmer/Overseer

Tenhel, James

 

Boatman

Thody, James

Plasterer

Plasterer

Turner, John

 

 

Turner, Thomas

 

 

Ware, Charlotte

 

Landholder

White, John

 

 

Williams, Peter

 

Farmer

Wood, Mark

Shoemaker

 

 

Appendix 4: List of Mercury Convicts with (or Suspected) Prior Criminal Convictions.*

Name

Date of Trial

Place of Trial

Crime

Sentence

Batley, Oten

(1) 30 May 1781

(2) 23 July 1783

(1) Old Bailey

(2) Old Bailey

(1) Theft of a handkerchief

(2) Theft of a linen handkerchief

(1) Imprisonment

(2) Whipping

Blatherhorn, William*

21 October 1778

Old Bailey

Stealing sugar

Naval training

Fendlow, John*

15 May 1782

Old Bailey

Theft of a handkerchief

Whipped, 12 months hard labour

Hart, Frances*

9 January 1782

Old Bailey

Stealing printed calico

Acquitted, not guilty

Jones, John

10 December 1783

Old Bailey

Return from transportation (abord the Swift)

Death

Limpus, Thomas

(1) 31 October 1777

(2) 8 October 1782

(1) Old Bailey

(2) Westminster

 

(1) Theft of a handkerchief

(2) Theft of a handkerchief

(1) 3 years hard labour

(2) 7 years transportation

McGrah, Redmund

10 September 1783

Old Bailey

Stealing a pair of linen sheets

Whipping

Peat, Charles

5 December 1781

Old Bailey

Highway robbery and assault

Death

Pritchard, Thomas*

20 October 1779

Old Bailey

Stealing five shillings

Whipping, military naval duty

Sidaway, Robert

(1) 3 June 1778

(2) 10 April 1782

(1) Old Bailey

(2) Old Bailey

(1) Theft of various goods

(2) Theft of a trunk

(1) Imprisonment, hard labour

(2) Not guilty, acquitted

Ware, Charlotte*

(1) 3 December 1777

(2) 13 September 1780

(3) 25 April 1781

(4) 11 September 1782

(1) Old Bailey

(2) Old Bailey

(3) Old Bailey

(4) Old Bailey

(1) Unknown

(2) Theft of silk ribband

(3) Theft of five pieces of silk ribband

(4) Theft of a black coat

(1) Branded, imprisonment 6 months

(2) Whipping

(3) Whipping, imprisonment 3 months

(4) Hard labour, 12 months

Wood, Mark *

9 December 1778

Old Bailey

Theft of assorted items

Hard labour, 3 years

*There is some doubt that these convicts are the same person mentioned in these trials.


Appendix 5:
When and Where Recaptured, and Whether Reconvicted at the Exeter Special Commission.

Name

Date of Recapture

Place of Recapture

Whether Reconvicted at Exeter, 24 May 1784

Ayres, William

13 April 1784

Torbay

No

Barber, Elizabeth

13 April 1784

Torbay

No

Barnett, Daniel

13 April 1784

Torbay

No

Barrett, Thomas

 

Stoke Demeral

Yes

Batley, Oten

 

Plymouth

Yes

Batley, Walter

 

 

No

Baughn, John

13 April 1784

Torbay

No

Bayliss, John

13 April 1784

Torbay

No

Best, John

13 April 1784

Torbay

No

Bishop, Joseph

13 April 1784

Torbay

No

Blatherhorn, William

 

On shore, Devon

Yes

Branagan, James

13 April 1784

Torbay

Yes

Brand, Curtis

13 April 1784

Torbay

No

Brown, Thomas

2 May 1784

Exeter

Yes

Brown, William

 

Devon

Yes

Bruce, Robert

13 April 1784

Torbay

Yes

Bryant, Michael

13 April 1784

Torbay

No

Burn, Patrick

13 April 1784

Torbay

No

Burn, Simon

13 April 1784

Torbay

No

Clare, George

13 April 1784

Torbay

No

Cox, James

 

Devon

Yes

Crowder, Thomas Restell

 

 

No

Davis, Richard

13 April 1784

Torbay

No

Day, Thomas

13 April 1784

Torbay

No

Delaney, Patrick

13 April 1784

Torbay

No

Dodding, James

13 April 1784

Torbay

No

Dudgeon, Elizabeth

13 April 1784

Torbay

No

Edwards, William

13 April 1784

Torbay

No

Fendlow, John

13 April 1784

 

No

Field, William

13 April 1784

Torbay

No

Flinn/Flynn, Edward

13 April 1784

Torbay

No

Garland, Francis

 

Plymouth Dock

Yes

Garth, Susannah

13 April 1784

Torbay

No

Grace, James

13 April 1784

Torbay

No

Green, Hannah

13 April 1784

Torbay

No

Hall, John

April 1784

Dartmouth

Yes

Hall, Joseph

 

Exeter

No

Hall, Margaret

13 April 1784

Torbay

No

Harris, John

 

Hammersmith turnpike, London

No

Hart, Frances

13 April 1784

Torbay

No

Haydon, John

13 April 1784

Torbay

Yes

Haynes, William

13 April 1784

Torbay

No

Henley, Cooper

13 April 1784

Torbay

No

Hill, Thomas

13 April 1784

Torbay

No

Hudson, John

13 April 1784

Torbay

No

Hughes, Thomas

13 April 1784

Torbay

No

Hussey, Samuel

13 April 1784

Torbay

No

Jemmison/Jamison, James

13 April 1784

Torbay

No

Jones, John

 

Exeter

Yes

Kimes, Mary

June 1784

Bristol

No

Knowland, Michael

4 May 1784

Bath

No

Lavell, Henry

13 April 1784

Torbay

No

Le Grove, Stephen

13 April 1784

Torbay

No

Limpus, Thomas

 

Devon

Yes

Lloyd, John

13 April 1784

Torbay

No

Mackey, James

13 April 1784

Torbay

No

Martin, Thomas

 

Devon

Yes

McDale, Richard

13 April 1784

Torbay

No

McGrah, Redmund

13 April 1784

Torbay

No

McNamara, William

13 April 1784

Torbay

No

Mills, Matthew

13 April 1784

Torbay

No

Morley, Joseph

13 April 1784

Torbay

No

Murphy, James

13 April 1784

Torbay

No

O’Craft, John

 

Stoke Dameral, Plymouth

Yes

Peat, Charles

4 June 1784

Smithfield, London

No

Penny, John

13 April 1784

Torbay

No

Pritchard, Thomas

13 April 1784

Torbay

No

Roach, Henry

 

On shore.

Yes

Robinson, William

 

Plymouth Dock.

Yes

Ronold, Andrew

13 April 1784

Torbay

No

Ryan, John

13 April 1784

Torbay

No

Sidaway, Robert

 

Totnes

No

Spence, John

13 April 1784

Torbay

No

Taylor, Henry

13 April 1784

Torbay

No

Tenhel, James

13 April 1784

Torbay

No

Thody, James

13 April 1784

Torbay

No

Turner, John

13 April 1784

Torbay

No

Turner, Thomas

13 April 1784

Torbay

No

Ware, Charlotte

14 April 1784

Caught scrambling down the side of a grounded ship.

No

White, John

July 1784

London

No

Williams, Peter

 

Devon

Yes

Wood, Mark

13 April 1784

Torbay

No



Appendix 6:
Hulks to Which Mercury Convicts were Assigned, and their Behaviour on Board.

Name

Name of Hulk

Behaviour on Board

Ayres, William (alias Eyres)

Dunkirk

In general tolerably well behaved, but troublesome at times.

Barber, Elizabeth

Dunkirk

Better than formerly.

Barnett, Daniel (alias Barret)

Dunkirk

Troublesome at times.

Barrett, Thomas

Dunkirk

In general tolerably well behaved, but troublesome at times.

Batley, Oten (alies Houghton Bately, John Buckley)

Dunkirk

Troublesome at times.

Batley, Walter (alias John Rowse, Rouse, Rous)

Dunkirk

Troublesome at times.

Baughn, John (alias Baughan, Bingham, Innis, Buffin,

Dunkirk

Troublesome at times.

Bayliss, John (alias Busley)

Dunkirk

Troublesome at times.

Best, John

Dunkirk

Troublesome at times.

Bishop, Joseph

Dunkirk

Troublesome at times.

Blatherhorn, William (alias Beans, Fisher)

Dunkirk

Troublesome at times.

Branagan, James (alias Baranegan)

Dunkirk

Troublesome at times.

Brand, Curtis (alias Bryn)

Dunkirk

In general tolerably well behaved, but troublesome at times.

Brown, Thomas

Dunkirk

Troublesome at times.

Brown, William

Dunkirk

Troublesome at times.

Bruce, Robert

Dunkirk

In general tolerably well behaved, but troublesome at times.

Bryant, Michael

Dunkirk

Troublesome at times.

Burn, Patrick

Dunkirk

Troublesome at times.

Burn, Simon

Dunkirk

Troublesome at times.

Clare, George (alias Clear, Clair)

Dunkirk

Troublesome at times.

Cox, James (alias Rolt)

Dunkirk

Remarkably well.

Crowder, Thomas Restell

Justitia

 

Davis, Richard

Dunkirk

Troublesome at times.

Day, Thomas (alias King)

Fortunee

 

Delaney, Patrick

Dunkirk

Troublesome at times.

Dodding, James (alias Dorren, Doran)

Dunkirk

Troublesome at times.

Dudgeon, Elizabeth (alias Drizzen)

Dunkirk

Better than formerly.

Edwards, William

Dunkirk

Troublesome at times.

Fendlow, John (alias Finlow, Harvey)

 

 

Field, William

Dunkirk

Troublesome at times.

Flinn/Flynn, Edward

Dunkirk

In general tolerably well behaved, but troublesome at times.

Garland, Francis

Dunkirk

Troublesome at times.

Garth, Susannah (alias Gough, Grates)

Dunkirk

Better than formerly.

Grace, James

Dunkirk

In general tolerably well behaved, but troublesome at times.

Green, Hannah

Dunkirk

Better than formerly.

Hall, John

Dunkirk

In general tolerably well behaved, but troublesome at times.

Hall, Joseph

Dunkirk

Tolerably well.

Hall, Margaret

Dunkirk

Better than formerly.

Harris, John

Ceres

 

Hart, Frances

Dunkirk

Better than formerly.

Haydon, John (alias Hadon)

Dunkirk

Troublesome at times.

Haynes, William (alias Haines)

Dunkirk

Remarkably well.

Henley, Cooper (alias Handley, Handy)

Dunkirk

Remarkably well.

Hill, Thomas

Dunkirk

 

Hudson, John

Dunkirk

Very well.

Hughes, Thomas

Dunkirk

Troublesome at times.

Hussey, Samuel (alias James Hussey, Stussey)

Dunkirk

Remarkably well.

Jemmison/Jamison, James

Dunkirk

In general tolerably well behaved, but troublesome at times.

Jones, John

Dunkirk

Troublesome at times.

Kimes, Mary (Potten)

 

 

Knowland, Michael (Nowland)

Fortunee

 

Lavell, Henry (alias Lovell)

Friendship

In general tolerably well behaved, but troublesome at times.

Le Grove, Stephen

Friendship

Quiet

Limpus, Thomas

Charlotte

Quiet

Lloyd, John (alias Loyd, Lyde, Load)

Friendship

In general tolerably well behaved, but troublesome at times.

Mackey, James (alias Mackie, McKay)

Friendship

In general tolerably well behaved, but troublesome at times.

Martin, Thomas

Charlotte

Sometimes troublesome.

McDale, Richard (alias McDeed, McDade, Deane)

Friendship

In general tolerably well behaved, but troublesome at times.

McGrah, Redmund

Friendship

Troublesome at times.

McNamara, William

Friendship

A dangerous Fellow, full of low cunning.

Mills, Matthew (alias John Hill)

Friendship

Troublesome at times.

Morley, Joseph

Friendship

Troublesome at times.

Murphy, James

Friendship

Troublesome at times.

O’Craft, John (alias Honcraft)

Charlotte

Remarkably well.

Peat, Charles

Scarborough

 

Penny, John

Friendship

Troublesome at times.

Pritchard, Thomas

Friendship

In general tolerably well behaved, but troublesome at times.

Roach, Henry

Charlotte

Remarkably well.

Robinson, William

Charlotte

In general tolerably well behaved, but troublesome at times.

Ronold/Ronan, Andrew

Friendship

Troublesome at times.

Ryan, John (alias Bryant)

Friendship

In general tolerably well behaved, but troublesome at times.

Sidaway, Robert

Friendship

Remarkably well.

Spence/Pearce, John

Friendship

Troublesome at times.

Taylor, Henry

Friendship

Troublesome at times.

Tenhel, James (alias John Tenhel, James Daniel)

Charlotte

Very quiet.

Thody/Thodie, James (alias Ives)

Friendship

Troublesome at times.

Turner, John

Friendship

Remarkably well.

Turner, Thomas

Friendship

Troublesome at times.

Ware, Charlotte

Prince of Wales

Better than formerly.

White, John

Fortunee

 

Williams, Peter (alias Creamer, Flagett)

Dunkirk

Troublesome at times.

Wood, Mark

Dunkirk

Troublesome at times.



Appendix 7:
List of Mercury Convicts who Reoffended after the Mutiny.*

Name

Date of Trial / Offence

Place of Trial / Offence

Crime

Sentence

Ayres, William

(1) 2 February 1789

(2) 13 April 1789

 

(1) Sydney

(2) Sydney

(1) ‘attempting to impose a falsehood’

(2) refusing to obey orders

(1) 50 lashes

(2) 25 lashes

Barber, Elizabeth

(1) 18 July 1787

(2) 24 July 1787

(3) 1 August 1787

(4) 13 August 1787

(5) 20 October 1787

(1) Friendship

(2) Friendship

(3) Friendship

(4) Friendship

(5) Friendship

(1) abusing the ship’s doctor

 

 

(5) fighting with Elizabeth Dudgeon

(1) leg irons

(2) leg irons

(3) leg irons

(4) leg irons

(5) leg irons

Barrett, Thomas

27 February 1788

Sydney

Theft

Death

Blatherhorn, William

10 May 1790

Norfolk Island

Concealing fish

50 lashes

Branagan, James

22 March 1790

Norfolk Island

Being drunk, starting a fire

Confinement in guard house

Burn, Simon

8 January 1791

Sydney

Fighting with soldiers

Serve in a gang

Clare, George

June 1789

Sydney

Insolence

50 lashes

Cox, James

28 March 1791

Sydney

Escaped from the colony

 

Crowder, Thomas Restell

(1) 29 March 1785

(2) 16 November 1788

(1) Bristol Quarter Sessions

(2) Sydney

(1) Grand larceny

(2) Disturbing the peace

(1) Death

(2) Reprimanded

Dudgeon, Elizabeth

(1) 9 June 1787

(2) 3 July 1787

(3) 5 July 1787

(4) 1 August 1787

(5) 20 October 1787

(1) Friendship

(2) Friendship

(3) Friendship

(4) Friendship

(5) Friendship

(1) Fighting

(2) Found in men’s quarters

(3) Impertinence

(4) Unknown

(5) Fighting

(1) Ten days in irons

(2) Leg irons

(3) Flogging with a rope

(4) Leg irons

(5) Leg irons

Edwards, William

(1) 3 June 1789

(2) 15 August 1789

(3) 14 October 1789

(4) 25 February 1790

(1) Sydney

(2) Sydney

(3) Sydney

(4) Sydney

(1) Attempt to defraud stores

(2) Breaking and entering

(3) Insolence

(4) Theft

(1) Reduced rations

(2) 50 lashes

(3) 50 lashes

(4) 100 lashes

Fendlow, John

4 July 1796

Sydney

Murder

Death by hanging

Flinn, Edward

May 1810

Hawkesbury

Burglary

Death to Life (NSW)

Hall, John

May 1790

Norfolk Island

Concealing fish

50 lashes

Hall, Joseph

27 February 1788

Sydney

Theft of food

Death to banishment, about two months

Hall, Margaret

(1) 9 June 1787

(2) 22 July 1787

(1) Friendship

(2) Friendship

(1) Fighting

(2) Unknown

(1) leg irons

(2) leg irons

Harris, John

26 May 1784

Old Bailey

Return from transportation

Death to Life

Haydon, John

(1) 30 April 1788

(2) January 1789

 

(1) Sydney

(2) Rose Hill

(1) Theft from storehouse

(2) Absence from work

(1) Acquitted

(2) 100 lashes

Hill, Thomas

12 February 1788

Sydney

Theft of a biscuit

Leg irons, eight days, on an island, bread, and water diet

Hudson, John

15 February 1791

Norfolk Island

Breaking curfew

50 lashes

Kimes, Mary

18 April 1787

Old Bailey

Shoplifting

Death to 7 years

Knowland, Michael

 

 

 

 

Lavell, Henry

(1) 23 December 1787

(2) 27 February 1788

(3) February 1791

(1) Friendship

(2) Sydney

(3) Norfolk Island

(1) Theft of beer and wood

(2) Plot to rob stores

(3) Telling a lie

(1) Unknown

(2) Death to banishment

(3) Unknown

Le Grove, Stephen

16 March 1789

Sydney

Absent from work

50 lashes

Mackey, James

November 1790

Norfolk Island

Encouraging others to ask for extra time off

50 lashes

Martin, Thomas

6 September 1788

Sydney

Theft and attempted bribery

200 lashes

McDale, Richard

30 April 1788

Sydney

Theft of food

Acquitted

McNamara, William

(1) 24 July 1787

(2) 27 April 1790

(1) Friendship

(2) Norfolk Island

(1) Impertinence

(2) Unknown

(1) Leg irons

(2) 50 lashes to chained to a grindstone

Morley, Joseph

20 July 1789

Sydney

Illegally buying items from a soldier

100 lashes

Peat, Charles

7 July 1784

Old Bailey

Return from transportation

Life

Robinson, William

August 1789

Norfolk Island

Playing cards on a Sunday

81 lashes (out of 100)

Ryan, John

27 February 1788

Sydney

Robbing stores

300 lashes

Sidaway, Robert

December 1787

Friendship

Impudence to an officer

1 month in chains

Spence, John

(1) 11 September 1789

(2) 18 November 1790

(1) Sydney

(2) Norfolk Island

(1) Drunkenness

(2) Stealing potatoes

(1) 25 lashes

(2) Confinement

Tenhel, James

11 February 1788

Sydney

Theft of bread

1 week in irons, bread and water

Turner, John

6 September 1788

Sydney

Found in possession of rum

Reprimanded

Ware, Charlotte

(1) June 1787

(2) 9 February 1789

(1) Friendship

(2) Sydney

(1) Breaking through bulkhead

(2) Beating another convict

(1) Irons, 10 days

(2) 50 lashes

White, John

 

 

 

 

Williams, Peter

(1) 12 September 1789

(2) 11 June 1790

(1) Sydney

(2) Norfolk Island

(1) Concealing the truth

(2) Neglect of duty

(1) 25 lashes

(2) 50 lashes

Wood, Mark

13 October 1789

Sydney

Insolence

Made to apologise, severely reprimanded

*Excluding those remanded to former sentences at Exeter, 24 May 1784, after the Mercury mutiny.

Appendix 8: List of Mercury Convicts Sent to Norfolk Island.

Name

Date of Departure from Sydney

Ship

Batley, Oten (alies Houghton Bately, John Buckley)

January 1790

Supply

Batley, Walter (alias John Rowse, Rouse, Rous)

1789

Supply

Bayliss, John (alias Busley)

c.1790

Sirius or Supply

Best, John

4 March 1790

Sirius

Blatherhorn, William (alias Beans, Fisher)

4 March 1790

Supply

Branagan, James (alias Baranegan)

4 March 1790

Sirius

Bruce, Robert

4 March 1790

Sirius

Burn, Patrick?

13 March 1790 (arrived)

 

Cox, James (alias Rolt)?

4 November 1791 (arrived)

 

Crowder, Thomas Restell

17 February 1789

Supply

Davis, Richard?

11 November 1791 (arrived)

 

Dodding, James (alias Dorren, Doran)

4 March 1790

Sirius

Fendlow, John (alias Finlow, Harvey)

4 March 1790

Supply

Flinn/Flynn, Edward

4 March 1790

Sirius

Garth, Susannah (alias Gough, Grates)

14 February 1788

Supply

Grace, James

4 March 1790

Sirius

Hall, John

4 March 1790

Supply

Hall, Joseph

4 March 1790

Sirius

Hall, Margaret

7 January 1790

Supply

Harris, John

7 January 1790

Supply

Hart, Frances

17 February 1789

Supply

Haydon, John (alias Hadon)

4 March 1790

Sirius

Hudson, John

4 March 1790

Sirius

Hussey, Samuel (alias James Hussey, Stussey)

2 October 1788

Golden Grove

Jones, John

17 February 1788

Supply

Knowland, Michael (Nowland)

1 August 1790

Surprize

Lavell, Henry (alias Lovell)

8 January 1790

Supply

Limpus, Thomas

4 March 1790

Sirius

Mackey, James (alias Mackie, McKay)

4 March 1790

Sirius

McDale, Richard (alias McDeed, McDade, Deane)

4 March 1790

Sirius

McNamara, William

4 March 1790

Sirius

Mills, Matthew (alias John Hill)

11 November 1789

Supply

Murphy, James

4 March 1790

Sirius

Penny, John

7 August 1790

Surprize

Robinson, William

17 February 1789

Supply

Spence/Pearce, John

7 January 1790

Supply

Taylor, Henry

17 February 1789

Supply

Ware, Charlotte

4 March 1790

Sirius

Williams, Peter (alias Creamer, Flagett)

8 January 1790

Supply

 

Appendix 9: Marriages and Relationships of Mercury Convicts.

Name

Date of Marriage / Relationship

Place of Marriage / Relationship

Spouse

Children

Ayres, William

17 July 1790

Sydney, NSW, Australia

Mary Kimes

 

Barber, Elizabeth

17 February 1788

Sydney, NSW, Australia

Thomas Brown

Thomas (23 Nov 1788), David (29 Jan 1790), Elizabeth (19 Jun 1791)

Barnett, Daniel

16 June 1793

Parramatta, NSW, Australia

Ann Baker

Daniel (1796)

Barrett, Thomas

 

 

 

 

Batley, Oten

 

 

 

 

Batley, Walter

21 February 1788

Sydney, NSW, Australia

Martha Baker

 

Baughn, John

17 February 1788

Sydney, NSW, Australia

Mary Clever

Charles (Bpt 18 Jul 1790)

Bayliss, John

 

 

Elizabeth Douglas

Rose (1794)

Best, John

(1) c.1791

(2) 16 June 1817

(1) Norfolk Island, NSW, Australia

(2) Castlereagh, NSW, Australia

(1) Grace Mattocks

(2) Rebecca Chippenham

Mary Wheeler (1808)?

Bishop, Joseph

13 November 1790

Sydney, NSW, Australia

Ann Dring

 

Blatherhorn, William

 c.1791

Norfolk Island, NSW, Australia

Mary Randall

Three

Branagan, James

 

 

 

 

Brand, Curtis

20 November 1791

St John's, Parramatta, NSW, Australia

Elizabeth Sulley

 

Brown, Thomas

 

 

 

 

Brown, William

 

 

 

 

Bruce, Robert

c.1790

Rose Hill, NSW, Australia

Caroline Laycock (Haylock)

Elizabeth Mason Haylock (21 Mar 1790)

Bryant, Michael

 

 

 

 

Burn, Patrick

(1) Unknown

(2) 29 July 1790

(1) Sydney, NSW, Australia

(2) Sydney, NSW, Australia

(1) Ann Smith

(2) Mary Newton

(1) Thomas (15 Oct 1789)

Burn, Simon

10 February 1788

Sydney, NSW, Australia

Frances Anderson

 

Clare, George

12 July 1789

Sydney, NSW, Australia

Catharine Smith

 

Cox, James

 

 

 

 

Crowder, Thomas Restell

(1) 7 June 1788

(2) 22 December 1799

(1) Sydney, NSW, Australia

(2) Norfolk Island, NSW, Australia

(1) Sarah Davis

(2) Mary Christmas

(1) Elizabeth (Jan 1794)

(2) Mary (1799), Thomas Russel Crowder (28 Oct 1810)

Davis, Richard

 

 

 

 

Day, Thomas

30 August 1790

Sydney, NSW, Australia

Mary Clayton

Thomas (1797)

Delaney, Patrick

 

 

 

 

Dodding, James

 c.1794

Norfolk Island, NSW, Australia

Elizabeth Thackery

 

Dudgeon, Elizabeth

24 April 1788

Sydney, NSW, Australia

George Clayton

 

Edwards, William

 

 

 

 

Fendlow, John

 

 

Eleanor Byrnes

 

Field, William

14 July 1790

Sydney, NSW, Australia

Elizabeth Robertson

 

Flinn/Flynn, Edward

28 September 1789

Sydney, NSW, Australia

Sarah Ault

 

Garland, Francis

24 December 1791

Sydney, NSW, Australia

Sarah Bartlam

 

Garth, Susannah

November 1791

Norfolk Island, NSW, Australia

Edward Garth

Mary Anne (16 Oct 1789), James (1791), Edward (1795), John (c.1800), William (c.1801), Susannah (c.1803), Richard (c.1807)

Grace, James

1791

Norfolk Island, NSW, Australia

Elizabeth Smith

 

Green, Hannah

10 February 1788

Sydney, NSW, Australia

William Haynes

 

Hall, John

 c.1794

Norfolk Island, NSW, Australia

Elizabeth Farrell

 

Hall, Joseph

 

 

 

 

Hall, Margaret

(1) 13 February 1788

(2) c.1806

(1) St Phillip's, Sydney, NSW, Australia

(2) Sydney, NSW, Australia

(1) Peter Williams

(2) Nathaniel Fowler

 

Harris, John

 c.1791

Norfolk Island, NSW, Australia

Mary Green

John, Elizabeth (1795), Hannah

Hart, Frances

13 February 1788

Sydney, NSW, Australia

William Robinson

 

Haydon, John

 

 

 

 

Haynes, William

10 February 1788

Sydney, NSW, Australia

Hannah Green

 

Henley, Cooper

 

 

 

 

Hill, Thomas

 

 

 

 

Hudson, John

 

 

 

 

Hughes, Thomas

 

 

 

 

Hussey, Samuel

 c.1791

Norfolk Island, NSW, Australia

Frances Ann Hughes

 

Jemmison/Jamison, James

 

 

 

 

Jones, John

 

 

 

 

Kimes, Mary

17 July 1790

Sydney, NSW, Australia

William Ayres

 

Knowland, Michael

c.1791

Norfolk Island, NSW, Australia

Elizabeth Richards

William (1792), Michael (1794), Henry (1796), Elizabeth (1798) Ann (1801), William (1804), Edward (1806), Mary (1807), Sarah (1814)

Lavell, Henry

 

 

 

 

Le Grove, Stephen

 

 

 

 

Limpus, Thomas

 

 

 

 

Lloyd, John

 

 

 

 

Mackey, James

 7 March 1810

St Philip’s, Sydney, NSW, Australia

Elizabeth Steel

 

Martin, Thomas

24 June 1792

St Luke's, Parramatta, NSW, Australia

Mary Ann Hugo

Elizabeth (1797)

McDale, Richard

 

 

 

 

McGrah, Redmund

 

 

 

 

McNamara, William

 

 

Sarah Beaxon?

William (Bpt 2 January 1796)?

Mills, Matthew

 

 

 

 

Morley, Joseph

19 December 1790

St Luke's, Parramatta, NSW, Australia

Mary Gosling

 

Murphy, James

 c.1793

Norfolk Island, NSW, Australia

Susanna Pigott/Pickett

 

O’Craft, John

 

 

 

 

Peat, Charles

(1) 6 January 1779

(2) 22 February 1788

(1) St George, Hanover Square, London, England

(2) Sydney, NSW, Australia

(1) Mary Cannon

(2) Ann Mullan

Charles (Bpt. 25 Dec 1789), Nancy (Bpt. 1792), George (Bpt. 1794), William (Bpt. 1799), Elizabeth (1797).

Penny, John

 

 

 

Three

Pritchard, Thomas

 

 

 

 

Roach, Henry

23 August 1790

St Phillip's, Sydney, NSW, Australia

Elizabeth Holloway

 

Robinson, William

13 February 1788

St Phillip's, Sydney, NSW, Australia

Frances Hart

 

Ronold, Andrew

 

 

 

 

Ryan, John

 

 

 

 

Sidaway, Robert

 c.1806

Sydney, NSW, Australia

Mary Marshall

 

Spence, John

 

 

 

 

Taylor, Henry

 

 

Hannah Hawkins

 

Tenhel, James

 

 

 

 

Thody, James

13 November 1770

St Luke, Finsbury, Islington, London

Anne Furrance

James Stephen (1771), Samuel (1773)

Turner, John

 

 

 

 

Turner, Thomas

 

 

 

 

Ware, Charlotte

 c.1790

Norfolk Island, NSW, Australia

John Hayes

One

White, John

 

 

 

 

Williams, Peter

13 February 1788

Sydney, NSW, Australia

Margaret Hall

 

Wood, Mark

 

 

 

 

 

Acknowledgements
This research, and the internship that produced it, would not have been possible without the generous support and guidance of a great many people. I would like to thank Laurence Brown who, despite the chaos and uncertainty brought about by a global pandemic, worked persistently and tirelessly to find me an internship host and to help me get as much out of my placement as possible. He was, of course, supported by the wonderful ANIP Team, to who I also owe my gratitude. Likewise, I am heavily indebted to Professor Melanie Nolan, who with little notice agreed to host me as an intern at the National Centre of Biography. I have benefitted immensely from her guidance and supervision. The topic for this project was conceived by Christine Fernon who, through her diligent and careful reading on the First Fleet, noted that a study of the Mercury convicts would make for an interesting and worthwhile investigative exercise. Christine’s support throughout this project has been most valuable. She provided me with many possible avenues of inquiry and was always available for me to refer to when I needed to verify something.

While this research is my own, I have been immensely privileged to have received feedback and advice from numerous historians, many of them specialists in the field of convict history. For discussing with me her previous research on Mercury convicts, I would like to thank Emma Christopher. The historiography section of this report benefitted greatly from the close review of Jennifer Bird and Babette Smith. I was incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to work with Rebecca Kippen, who is a leader in the field of convict demography. Her kindly agreeing to supply a graph was a much-appreciated contribution to this research. Feedback from Nicholas Brown assisted greatly in prompting me to frame this research in its wider contexts and to tease out its implications, potential or otherwise, for Australian historiography. Of those not already named, I received excellent feedback from Malcolm Allbrook, Joshua Black, Samuel Furphy, Tom Gardner, Nichola Garvey, Nichole McLennan, James Watson, and Stephen Wilks, for which I am most thankful. For sharing her expertise on convict soldiers, I am indebted to Patricia Downes.

Bibliography

Appendix

  • Baptism record of Oughton Batley, 9 November 1763, PD 52/479, Norfolk Record Office (NRO), Norwich.
  • Burial record of Oughton Battley, 5 October 1794, P69/GIS/A/003/MS06420/003, London Metropolitan Archive (LMA), London.
  • Baptism record of Walter Batley, 17 January 1762, PD 52/479, NRO, Norwich.
  • Baptism record of Thomas Green Day, 3 March 1764, P69/SEP/A/002/MS07220/002, LMA, London.
  • Baptisms of James McKey, 14 September 1759, Microfilm 07228/01, NLI, Dublin.
  • Entry for Richd McDeed, 7 October 1777, WO 116 – Disability and Out-Pensions, Admissions, Piece 7 – 1774-1782 (Cavalry and Infantry), p. 72, TNA, Kew.
  • Baptism of Charles Peat, 17 December 1759, STA/PR/4/23, City of Westminster Archives Centre (CWAC), London.
  • Burial of Charles Peat, 1 June 1813, N-1-9, p. 327, The British Library, London.
  • Marriage of Charles Peat and Mary Cannon, 6 January 1779, STC/PR/5/9, CWAC, London.

Manuscripts
British Library

  • Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette.
  • Exeter Flying Post.
  • The Derby Mercury.

 

City of Westminster Archives Centre

  • STC/PR – St Clement Danes, parish registers

 

Devon Records Office

  • QS32/63 – Devon Quarter Sessions, Easter 1784.

 

London Metropolitan Archive

 

National Archives of the United Kingdom

  • ADM 1 – Admiralty, and Ministry of Defence, Navy Department: Correspondence and Papers.
  • ADM 36 – Admiralty: Royal Navy Ships' Musters (Series I).
  • HO 10 – Home Office: Settlers and Convicts, New South Wales and Tasmania: Records.
  • HO 13 – Home Office: Criminal Entry Books, 1782-1871.
  • HO 42 – Home Office: Domestic Correspondence, George III.
  • HO 47 – Home Office: Judges' Reports on Criminals, 1784-1830.
  • HO 77 – Home Office: Newgate Prison Calendar, Piece 1.
  • T 1 – Treasury: Treasury Board Papers and In-Letters.
  • WO 12 – Commissary General of Musters Office and successors: General Muster Books and Pay Lists.
  • WO 25 – Description and Succession Books (Regimental).
  • WO 118 – Royal Hospital, Kilmainham: Pension Admission Books.
  • WO 119 – Royal Hospital, Kilmainham: Pensioners' Discharge Documents (Certificates of Service).

 

National Library of Australia

  • Society of Australian Genealogists Series 0090 – Registers of St Philip’s Church of England, Sydney.
  • MS 4567 – Journal of Arthur Bowes Smyth, 27 February 1788.

 

National Library of Ireland

  • Microfilm 07228/01 – Baptisms 25 September 1752 to 02 September 1798, St James, Dublin.
  • James Malton, Old Soldiers Hospital, Kilmainham, Dublin, February 1794, plate.

 

National Maritime Museum

  • BHC0589 – William John Huggins, HMS 'Mercury' cuts out the French gunboat Leda from Rovigno, 1 April 1809.

 

New South Wales Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages

  • V18391129 23A – Charlotte Weare, 18 February 1839.
  • V1788117 4 – James Jamieson, 10 June 1788.

 

New South Wales State Archives and Records Authority

  • NRS 898 – Colonial Secretary, Special Bundles 1794-1825.

 

State Library of New South Wales

  • Call Number Safe 1/27a – Collection 03: Ralph Clark journal kept on the Friendship during a voyage to Botany Bay and Norfolk Island, and on the Gorgon returning to England.
  • ML 1003 – Francis Greenway, Item 2: [Scene inside Newgate Prison], 1812, oil on canvas, timber framed.
  • SV8/Norf I/4 – George Raper, The Settlement on Norfolk Island, May 16th 1790, 1790, watercolour.
  • Safe 4/5 – Artist unknown, The arrest of Governor Bligh, 1808, Drawing, Safe 4/5, Mitchell Library.

 

Tasmanian Archives and Heritage Office

  • RGD35 – Registers of Deaths in Hobart, Launceston and Country Districts.

 

Yale Center for British Arts

  • B1976.7130 – Thomas Luny, The Port of London, 1798, oil on canvas, Paul Mellon Collection.

 

Printed Manuscripts

  • Collins, David. An Account of the English Colony in New South Wales, from its First Settlement in January 1788 to August 1801. London: Cadell & Davies, 1804.
  • White, John. Journal of a Voyage to New South Wales: with sixty-five plates of non descript animals, birds, lizards, serpents, curious cones of trees and other natural productions. Sydney: University of Sydney Library, 2001.

 

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 PhD Theses

  • Taylor, Louise Westall. Recovering lives: 15 convicts in New South Wales. PhD diss., Australian National University, 2015.

 

Online Databases

Original publication

  • People Australia , 18 February 2021

Citation details

Matthew Cunneen, 'The Mercury Mutineers: Biographical Analyses of Early Australian Convicts', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, https://oa.anu.edu.au/essay/24/text38996, originally published 18 February 2021, accessed 20 October 2021.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2021

HMS Mercury, by William Huggins, after 1809

HMS Mercury, by William Huggins, after 1809

National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London

pic

Figure 1: The Port of London, by Thomas Luny, 1798

Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection, B1976.7130.

pic

Figure 2: an express calling for the recapture of Mercury convicts following the mutiny, 15 April 1784.

National Library of Australia,

pic

Figure 3: graph comparing the probabilities of Mercury convicts and English men dying within the next ten years for every age reached

produced by Rebecca Kippen, 2020

pic

Figure 4: Newgate Gaol, London, 1812, by Francis Greenway

State Library of New South Wales, 110580952

pic

Figure 5: Norfolk Island, 1790, by George Raper

State Library of New South Wales, 110338199

pic

Figure 6: The arrest of Governor Bligh, 1808

State Library of New South Wales, 110359080

pic

Figure 7: Royal Hospital Kilmainham, Dublin, by James Malton, 1794

National Library of Ireland