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Bee Hives to Sydney 1824 in the convict ship Phoenix

The well known introduction of honey bees into Sydney aboard the convict transport Isabella in 1822 was
not the only incident in which hives of bees shared space with convicts aboard a sailing ship bound for
“Botany Bay.” My first mention of the convict ship Phoenix appeared in my 1995 The Immigrant Bees,
Volume I. The short entry, titled “The Phoenix, 1824”, is as follows: “Gale (1912) quoted from an issue of
the Sydney Morning Herald, 10 August 1863 “.... it stated that at a meeting of the Acclimatisation Society
of New South Wales … bees were brought from England to Sydney in the year 1824, in the ship
’Phoenix,’ which sailed from Portsmouth in March of that year.” Three convict ships carried the name
Phoenix. One of these, under Captain Robert White and surgeon-superintendent Charles Queade, departed
Portsmouth on 29 March 1824, arriving Hobart 21 July 1824, 1 a crossing of 114 days by way of Teneriffe.
“The Phoenix, after disembarking her convicts at Hobart, sailed for Sydney, and early in August
arrived off the entrance to Port Jackson.” (Bateson, 1969, p.230) Several searches of the Sydney Morning
Herald failed to locate the item referred to by Gale.”
In my 1999 Volume II update I added the following minor note: “F. R. Beuhne at the time of writing
Beekeeping in Victoria in 1915-1916 was a former bee expert of the Victorian Department of Agriculture. He
wrote “The Black Bee, it has been stated, was first brought to Tasmania from Great Britain in 1824.
From Tasmania some hives were taken to Sydney and from thence the variety has spread pretty well
over the whole of Australia.” (p.13) Unfortunately, Beuhne supplied no primary source in support of the
1824 date.”
Now in 2006, just when I thought my Volume III was ready for publication, I acquired three old Australian
beekeeping books within the span of three months. Two of these now contribute to this update on the convict
transport ship Phoenix and its supercargo of bees. The first of this trio was Beuhne’s 1925 revised and
enlarged edition of Beekeeping in Victoria. During the intervening nine or so years since the previous edition
he must have become aware of Wallace’s 1822 Isabella bees, for the same chapter titled “Races of Bees” has
the 1824 date modified to 1822: “The Black Bee, it has been stated, was first brought to Australia from
Great Britain in 1822. Since then the variety has spread well over the whole of Australia.” (p.13)
1824 v’s 1831 ? – Mowle, 1898 & Ross, 1863
I next acquired a bound annual of the Australian Bee Bulletin, April 1896 to March 1897. An entry in the
March 1896 issue was taken from an article by Isaac Hopkins in the New Zealand Farmer. It appears strong
interest was also evident across the Tasman re the first introduction of bees to New Zealand “… At present
the case stands thus: …” - the text of this article appears in the later chapter titled “” on page . And finally,
another bound annual of the Australian Bee Bulletin, April 1898 to March 1899. The August issue contains
1½ pages of revelations addressing the first introduction of bees, with the inference this was an ongoing topic.
I expect the 1897-98 annual, when located and studied, will contain more of interest.
Now to the first item from August 1898: A Miss 2 Sophie A. Bradley of Appin, N.S.W., met S. M. Mowle, 3
then Usher of the Black Rod 4 to the Parliament of NSW, at the Exhibition of 1888, presumably the Great
Exhibition held in Melbourne. 5 Mowle had promised to provide her with some personal recollections on the
first introduction of bees to Australia. In her July 1898 letter to E. Tipper, editor of the ABB, she’d written
“As there has been some interest shown by beekeepers lately 6 with regard to the first importation of
Nicholson in his Log of Logs gives arrival date as 26 July 1824
Mowle refers to Sophie Bradley as “Mrs” and elsewhere as “Madam”. The ABB refers to her as “Miss”.
Stewart Marjoribanks Mowle
Mowle was Usher of the Black Rod at the Parliament of NSW between 1 Aug. 1883 and 31 Jan. 1905, being the
third office bearer since the role’s inception on 15 May 1856. Refer
The stately Great Exhibition Hall still stands.
By “lately” she must be referring to an earlier monthly issue of the ABB. A search of the 1897/98 ABB may
uncover earlier correspondence.
bees to the colony, I wrote to Mr. T. M. Mowle, 7 a relation of whose I knew had in some way taken part
in the introduction of bees to the colonies. I enclose his communications to me on the subject, as they
may be of interest to some of your readers, and if published in your columns prove a public record of
past events …” (p.104) Mowle wrote to her on 28 June 1898: “I had to go through my scrap books at
home last night to obtain the information … I had forgotten the interview I had with you … (in) 1888.
We were always under the impression that the produce of the bees imported into Tasmania by Dr.
Wilson found their way to Sydney, and that the originals were the first introduced to the colonies. In
looking through the old Gazettes some two or three years ago, I was quite surprised to find the
auctioneer’s notice and the paragraph, copies of which you now have.”
Mowle was referring to the Sydney Gazette for Friday 21 June 1822, the contents of which he provided: “We
congratulate our readers upon the complete establishment of that most valuable insect, the bee, in this
country. During the last three weeks, three swarms of bees have been produced from two hives, the
property of D. WENTWORTH, Esq, purchased by him from Captain Wallace, of the Isabella, at his estate,
Homebush, near Parramatta.” A similar notice also appeared in the 1 Nov. 1822 issue.
Mowle continued “We cannot ignore these facts, and those contained in Mr. Ross’s letter, 8 and we
therefore must conclude that bees were numerous in N.S.W. long before Dr. Wilson brought them to
Tasmania. I am puzzled to think that in his numerous 9 voyages to these colonies, from 1821 to 1836, he
was not aware that bees were acclimatised here, and that he should have taken the trouble to have
imported them from England, instead of sending them from Sydney to Hobart.” This latter possibility
would likely not have been possible for Wilson would sail next, not south to Hobart, but back to England for
his next convict transport posting. Given the evidence available throughout my three volumes of The
Immigrant Bees, I don’t doubt Wilson was the first to successfully introduce honeybees into Tasmania.
A Digression – could Wentworth’s 1822 hives been viable?
A discussion is needed here to explore the likelihood of the “complete establishment” of Wentworth’s two
hives. The 1822 Gazette notice declared success because three swarms issued from the two hives during a
three week period. There is another possibility: that the swarms were “poverty” swarms, cast in desperation
rather than the usual positive cause - generated due to overcrowding in the hive of stores and/or bees. A
swarm having issued in desperation may not necessarily leave behind a yet to hatch virgin queen. But, if there
was a virgin queen, on hatching, she’d have scant chance of mating successfully on the wing if there were
insufficient drones available.
The convict transport Isabella departed England on 4 Nov. 1821, at the beginning of the last month of
Autumn in the northern hemisphere. It’s possible eviction of drones from the hives chosen for shipment may
have already begun. If the drone population in the hives was significantly depleted on departure, the prospect
of successfully mated future queens in Australia could be seriously at risk in June at the commencement of a
NSW southern hemisphere Winter. Should any feral swarm grow to prosper in both honey stores and
numbers of bees, and subsequently swarm again with the original English mated queen, then again, any
virgin queen left behind would need to successfully mate with whatever drones were then available.
Even a seemingly prosperous hive with good stores of honey would eventually dwindle as the queen aged
and her laying rate diminished, thence to die out after her death, should no virgin queen be available for
subsequent mating. For the non-beekeeper, on issue of a swarm headed by the reigning queen, failure of the
virgin queen left behind to mate after hatching must result in the death of the hive. Note, that for any virgin

The initials “T.M.” appear throughout this section but it must be an ABB typographical error, for Mowle’s Christian
names were “Stewart Marjoribanks”, ie “S.M.” Mowle added a note in his letter which confirms his identity “He
(Dr. T.B. Wilson) was my children’s grandfather”. S.M. Mowle married Wilson’s daughter, Mary Braidwood
Wilson, on 12 may 1845
Read on for these valuable details
Nine voyages in total
queens in Wentworth’s two hives, only the (limited supply of ?) drones from those same two hives would be
available for mating, unless by chance, other Isabella hives were propitiously close by.
A possible earlier introduction, Parramatta, c1820
Within Heaton’s 1879 Dictionary of Dates coverage of the Isabella’s seven hives of bees is a note that “A
species of this industrious race was introduced into Parramatta some years ago, and lived only a short
time.” This note, in tandem with details of the Wallace / Isabella introduction, are dated “April 1822”, one
month after the arrival of the Isabella on 9 March 1822. Was this note recalling a failed event of “some
years ago”, which had otherwise gone unrecorded, either c1820, or an even earlier introduction of a hive or
hives to Parramatta? 10
Mowle on 1824 and 1831
Mowle continued “It is possible, as I have said, that the N.S.W. stock might have perished, and that it
was necessary to replace them from England. The vicissitudes of this climate favour the idea.” Mowle
signed off his letter “Believe me, yours truly.” After the revelations in John Ross’s letter, which follow,
Mowle added a note “Dear Madam, - You must come to your own conclusions from the above
statements. The bees early imported may have died, as they died in vast numbers years ago. 11 Dr.
Wilson, who first came to the colonies in 1821, might have known this, and brought a fresh supply.”
John Ross, 1863, a witness to 1824
John Ross’s 12 letter, dated 10 August 1863 13 at Moruya, Mowle advised, was published in the Herald
(date not supplied). Ross wrote “In your paper of the 28th July, 14 I see it stated at a meeting of the
Acclimatisation Society of New South Wales, that bees were first brought to this country by Dr.
Braidwood Wilson, from Hobart Town, in the year 1831. This is evidently a mistake. Bees were
brought from England to Sydney in the year 1824, in the ship Phoenix, which sailed from
Portsmouth in March of that year.”
The web site 15 titled “Historical overview of events and development of the Eurobodalla Shire” provides the
entry “Capt John Ross arrived on 14 October 1850 to start the Pilot Station at Moruya Heads. At that time
over a hundred ships sailed up the Moruya and Clyde River a year.”

Research by Keith Campbell, made available via an ABC Radio program in 2002, may be linked to the failed
“c1820” introduction. Campbell stated “In 1821, John MacArthur (of Elizabeth Farm at Parramatta) wrote to his
brother James (1798-1867) from London, that he understood that he had acquired English bees, and wanted to know
how they were doing. The MacArthurs were first to do with livestock in Australia: perhaps this was another.” A
possible location for these bees was the MacArthur’s Camden Park estate.
I believe this is a reference to the wide destruction to hives caused by foul brood, eg., A Mr. “W.A. McK” of
Mingoola (in the Tenterfield / Texas region of Qld.) wrote to the ABB, January 1896 “…In the year 1870 foul brood
destroyed all or nearly all the bees in the Tenterfield district. …”
I’ve become aware (Sept. 2006) of a biography: “The Career of Captain John Ross as First Piilot of the Newstead
Pilot Station, Moruya River, NSW, 1860-1871” in the April 1979 issue of Great Circle (pp.33-35), the journal of the
Australian Association of Maritime History. Copies are held at the State Library of Queensland. I intend to seek out
a copy, and if possible, provide more details on this 1824 witness.
My following thoughts may be considered rambling, but there’s a probability of truth in them: Is it a coincidence
that Gale quoted from a copy of the Sydney Morning Herald of 10 August 1863, the same date that Ross wrote his
letter to the Australian Bee Bulletin ? Could Ross have seen the SMH article and penned his relevant memories that
same day? If so, why not write to the SMH rather than the ABB ? Ross would have to have been in Sydney to read
that day’s paper for copies would, I expect, have taken some days to reach the south coast of NSW, lest they be sent
there each day by steamer.
As at Oct. 2006 I’ve not sighted this edition of the SMH. Investigation of it must await a future trip to the State
• Ross continued “The bees were in charge of Dr. Quede (sic.) Surgeon Superintendent of that
ship, of which I was junior officer, and it was understood on board that they were sent by
the Home Government. 16 However that may be, I have the most perfect recollection of
being one of the boat’s crew who conveyed the bees, accompanied by Dr. Quede, from the
ship in Sydney Cove to Parramatta, where they were landed near the factory, 17 in presence
of Sir. Thomas Brisbane.” Even though the seat of government at that time was located at
Government House in Parramatta,18 I find it more than coincidental that the Governor was
conveniently “at hand”. Some legitimate questions arise:
• Why then, would the Governor personally attend the delivery of a hive or hives of bees? Was he,
apart from his great interest in astronomical observations, a beekeeper 19 as well?

Governor Brisbane: soldier, astronomer, colonial Governor;

Honey bee patron and/or beekeeper ?
• Had he been forewarned of their expected time of arrival from Sydney?
• Had he ordered some bees from contacts in England? Given a minimum four month voyage to
England carrying mail and dispatches, then the return voyage, Governor Brisbane may have been
waiting for upwards of a year for delivery. 20

“Home Government” meaning the British Government
The “factory” would have been the Female Factory “a place of supervision for transported women who were not
assigned as servants to settlers. Also the colony’s principal female penitentiary, it played an important role in the
provision of medical care for the wider female convict community and was the means of enforcing moral and social
standards upon both convict and destitute free women.” This quote from the online Australian Dictionary of
Biography, the entry on Ann Gordon, (c.1795-1868), female factory superintendent and matron. … in October 1827.
That building still stands proud within today’s Parramatta Park
From Governor Brisbane, besides his patronage of beekeeping,
also had agricultural interests “While Governor he tackled the many problems of a rapidly growing and expanding
colony. He worked to improve the land grants system and to reform the currency.
He set up the first agricultural training college in New South Wales and was the first patron of the New South Wales
Agricultural Society. He conducted experiments in growing Virginian tobacco, Georgian cotton, Brazilian coffee and
New Zealand flax in the colony.” See also &
As an example of lengthy communication times, I found this item in Donald Gunn’s Links with the past, a history
of early days in Australia: “Before the discovery of gold, a letter to Australia could be posted, or else given to the
captain of a ship leaving for the new colony. I have several letters addressed to my father, posted in Scotland. One
letter posted October 21, 1841, reached Sydney in September, 1842, taking ten months on the voyage. Another
posted in 1846 took six months, still another posted in 1848 seven months, and so on.” (p.175) Payable gold was
• Why would bees be sought from England if they were already “completely established” in 1822?
The implication is that bees were either difficult 21 or impossible to procure within the colony
c1823, prior to the arrival of the Phoenix bees.
Ross continued “I returned to Sydney in February, 1825, when I again visited Parramatta. I was
then informed that the bees had greatly increased, and were doing well. 22 Soon after I left for India,
and did not return to Sydney until 1828, when I found bees common in gentlemen’s gardens, and
was given to understand that they were the produce of bees imported in the ship Phoenix.”
Brisbane’s tenure as Governor was to last only four years, he left Sydney 23 for Scotland in December

An early Jervis Bay settler, 1840

The final letter published in the August 1898 ABB was from a Mr. W. Daley of South Woodburn,
Richmond River: “An old resident of this town says:- “I arrived in N.S.W. in the year 1838 and
settled at Jervis Bay. In 1840 I purchased two colonies of bees, paying ₤2 each for them, and had to
engage aboriginals to carry them on their heads a distance of 40 miles.” My first thoughts on reading
Daley’s report: was this was a small mystery solved? Was this the source of the same tale, with minor
variations, which appeared in Albert Gale’s 1912 Australian Bee Lore and Bee Culture? In my Immigrant
Bees, Volume I, after a discussion on Heaton’s 1879 Dictionary of Dates, I wrote “Somewhere, also, is an
article providing the basis for Albert Gale’s account of the settler from Jervis Bay who bought two hives for
£4 in 1840.” Gale wrote “a settler at Jervis Bay, New South Wales, paid £4 for a colony of bees, and then
hired aboriginals to carry them 24 home, a distance of over 40 miles.” But no, Gale’s source for this story
must be elsewhere, for he made no reference to the other relevant articles in the ABB of August 1898.
Daley continued “At this time there were only a few colonies of bees in N.S.W., but I believe bees
had been transported into Van Diemen’s Land prior to this, and were afterwards brought to N.S.W.
from there.” The “Old resident’s” memory over sixty years later is to be respected for this is most likely
a reference to Dr. T.B. Wilson’s activities in 1831 & 1832. “I do not remember the man’s name who
owned them in Van Diemen’s Land, but a shepherd was one of the first to own bees in Sydney.” A
new mystery here for in my extensive research between early 1995 and October 2006 I’ve yet to uncover
a shepherd who also kept bees.
Next from Ross “Dr. Thomas Braidwood Wilson, R.N., as Surgeon Superintendent of convict ships,
in one of his voyages came to Hobart Town in the ship John, in 1831, and brought with him two
hives 25 of bees, and for his services was presented with a silver snuff box …”
Dr. Charles Queade, bee hive chapereon,1824
A web site 26 lists seamen on ships cleared to depart Hobart Town in the year 1824, sourced from original
Hobart Port Master’s Ships Clearance Ledgers, 27 which is held in the Archives Office, Hobart. Among
discovered in NSW in 1851.
In the True Colonist of 14 February 1835, following references to Dr. Wilson’s introduction and Mr. Clayton’s
apiary in Van Diemen’s Land, “… We are informed that Mr George Wise, of the Ship Inn, has sent a swarm as
a present to a friend in Sydney, where they have as yet been without any bees.”
Still not a guarantee of success, given my earlier lengthy “discussion” on poverty swarms.
Refer the online Australian Dictionary of Biography
“Them” could refer to the bees, or to two hives rather than one. The report in the ABB of August 1898 confirms
there were two hives.
This is the first reference to two hives I’ve located, all other historical notes I’ve discovered mention or infer only
one hive.
From the same web site “When a ship was to depart Hobart, the Mate handed a list of the crew and passengers
names to the Port Officer, who, after inspecting the vessel would give a certificate of clearance to the Mate. The
Officer would then enter the names in a ledger detailing crew, passengers, ship’s owners, tonnage, master and
this list are John Ross and a Robert Queade, both of the Phoenix. The ships surgeon’s first name was
Charles, so either the “Robert” entry was in error or he was another seaman of the same family name.
Although the Phoenix was never again to leave Sydney Harbour, both Dr. Queade (circa Sept. 1824) and
Ross were. From the Colonial Secretary’s web site index 28 to NSW Government records, Queade (also
therein referred to as Charles 29 ) was a Royal Navy Surgeon-Superintendent who’d served on at least
three convict transports - the Pilot, the Minerva and the Phoenix. The Colonial Secretary’s records
regarding Queade cover some fifteen documentations 30 between August 1817 and February 1825.
The fate of the convict/bee hive transport Phoenix
I performed some research on the internet and one web site informs 31 “The Phoenix II (so referred to as
the 2nd for there were three ships of this name) of 589 tons, departed Portsmouth, England on 29 March
1824. On board were 190 male convicts. 32 After a voyage of 114 days via Tenerife and the Canary
Islands, the ship arrived in Hobart on 21 July 1824.” The ship remained in port until 31 July.
From an online index 33 to the N.S.W. Colonial Secretary’s records I found the Phoenix was sold to the
New South Wales Government in August 1825. The “shipsasail” site informs 34 the “Phoenix II …
commanded by Captain Robert White … arrived at Van Diemen's Land on 21 July 1824 and Port Jackson
in August of that year. After striking a group of rocks 35 in Port Jackson, the damage sustained rendered
the ship unseaworthy. In 1825, Phoenix II was purchased for £1,000 by the colonial authority for use as a
floating prison to accommodate prisoners awaiting transportation to Moreton Bay, Norfolk Island and
other penal settlements. The hulk was used as a prison from 1825 to 1848.” I was aware of the use of
prison hulks in England, but their adoption in Australia quite surprised me.
From the “harboursghts” web site 36 I extracted the following version of the fate of the Phoenix: 37 “The
Phoenix 38 … came on to Sydney for cleaning and reprovisioning. She ran aground on the Sow and Pigs
in August 1824 39 on a falling tide and sustained severe damage. Next day at high tide she was refloated
and towed into Darling Harbour. When the damage was assessed, it was realised that the town did not
have the facilities to repair such a large ship for sea duty, and serious consideration was given to breaking
her up.
When the fittings on the ship and all the sails and running rigging were sold, the hull was patched up and
bought by the colony to serve as a prison hulk. This was the only time such a ship was used in the colony,
though many such hulks were in use in England, especially on the Thames and in Portsmouth. Phoenix
was used to accommodate prisoners … and was able to house up to 250 men.
Initially moored in Sydney Cove, Phoenix was moved to Goat Island in 1826 to enable the convicts to
work on the island. This work was very taxing manual labour, breaking stone and carrying or hauling it to
the places where the island’s buildings were being erected, or to boats to be sent to Sydney Cove. Later
destination, and sailing date.”
Also supplying a shortened version of Charles, namely “Chas”, is web site
These await research
Nicholson states there were 202 male prisoners
the Sow & Pigs reef
the full text first appeared in Afloat magazine, refer
note: after discharging its cargo of convicts in Hobart
Nicholson in Shipping Arrivals and Departures, Tasmania, 1803 – 1833, gives the date as 5 August 1824
of NSW; I understand Van Diemen’s Land also had one prison hulk
Phoenix was moved again to the bay between Blue’s Point and Milson’s Point, which was from then on
known as Hulk Bay. … In time, after the Phoenix became quite unusable and was given up in 1837, the
bay became known as Lavender Bay, named after George Lavender, an experienced seaman, who in 1829
was appointed Bosun on the prison hulk. …”
From the “genseek” web site 41 on Australia’s prison hulks I found this extract from the Sydney Morning
Herald of 15 Sept. 1834 “In Consequence of the increase of doubly convicted offenders, the Government
have come to the determination of purchasing a large vessel for an additional Hulk. The Phoenix having
been found insufficient to contain the numerous characters of this description. The brig Harriett and the
Indianna have it is said, been surveyed for that purpose, but it is supposed that neither of them will be
capacious enough.” Rather than the “shipsasail” date of 1848, the “” site 42 gives an
earlier date of 1838 for decommissioning the Phoenix while “harboursghts” provides 1837.
The additional detail in this log I found most interesting: was the plot inexperienced, incompetent, drunk
or asleep?: 43 “Phoenix. … Built on the Thames, 1798. … Arrived at Hobart with convicts from England
on 21 July 1824. Entering Port Jackson on 5 August 1824, with a pilot, struck Sow and Pigs Reef, near
the harbour entrance. No loss of life. Refloated with assistance from HMS Tamar, 44 but found to be
unseaworthy, 45 and purchased by the colonial authorities and converted to a prison hulk …”
What became of Captain John Ross
As part of my research into Captain John Ross I looked to the online pictorial collection index at the State
Library of NSW in the hope of finding a painting or photograph of him. Once junior officer on the
Phoenix in 1824, Ross became, some thirty-six years later in 1860 until his death in 1871, master of the
Pilot Station on the Moruya River, near Batemans Bay on the South Coast of NSW. I wondered what
became of him in this intervening period.? There is a clue – more of it later.
I did find several index entries describing photographs of a Captain John Ross, identified as master of the
• Colonial Empire c1870 46 (10.2 x 6.3 cm., no date, inscribed “Ross ‘Colonial Empire’” in a
contemporary hand below the photograph, and “Ross, Captain of the ship ‘Colonial Empire’” 47 in
pencil on the reverse of the photograph, photographer’s stamp unreadable.)
• Damascus, c1862-1870 (10.4 x 6.3 cm., no date, inscribed “Ross ‘Damascus’” 48 in a
contemporary hand under the photograph. Library research attributes the photographer as Oswald
Allen, George Street, Sydney)
• Philosopher, c1870-1885 (10.1 x 6.4 cm., no date, inscribed “Ross ‘Philosopher’” 49 in a
contemporary hand under the photograph, photographer’s stamp unreadable.)

Nicholson gives the refloating date as the following day, 6 Aug. 1824
Ncholson states her keel was seriously damaged
Web site identified Captain J. Ross of the Colonial
Empire, 1305 tons, London to Sydney, arriving 18 Oct. 1865. A previous voyage of the Colonial Empire, Sydney to
London, arriving May 1865, is noted in site
On the web I found references to voyages of the barque Colonial Empire: London – Sydney, March – 22 June
1862; London – Sydney arriving 17 Nov 1863; arriving Melbourne 1870 with 447 immigrants; another in 1871
On the web I found a build year of 1857 for the Damascus and references to voyages: London – Sydney arriving 7
July 1860; departing Sydney 13 Sept. 1860 for London; 1861; London – Sydney arriving 10 Dec. 1876.
The iron ship Philosopher made her maiden voyage to India on 19 June 1857. From web site
her-maiden-voyage-to-india-19-june-1857.html accessed on 11 Nov. 2006
• A fourth photograph of Captain John Ross, c1870-1880, (10.6 x 6.4 cm., no date, by W.H.
Prestwich, artist, 87 Broad Street Reading, England)
These photographs were purchased by the library in 1938. Recorded within the index against each
photograph, Captain Ross was also identified as master of the 523 ton convict ship Hashemy which
arrived at Port Phillip in May 1849, and on a subsequent voyage she arrived in Fremantle, Western
Australia 50 on 25 Oct. 1850. Other voyages included those of 1854 and 1855.
Unfortunately, it does not appear that John Ross, Phoenix junior officer, can be the same Captain John
Ross referred to in the library’s collection of photographs: the dates don’t match - Ross could not have
been master of the Colonial Empire in 1865 or the Damascus and Philosopher c1862 to c1885 and
serving at Moruya Pilot Station from 1860. His death on 21 March 1871 also mismatches with the
believed attributed dates of the photographs. He might however, with breaks, have continued his career
serving aboard convict transports for some thirty years on from 1824, eventually becoming master of one.
It’s possible he did just that. Or did he also serve aboard an East Indiaman? 51 Remember, Ross wrote in
his August 1863 letter “Soon after (February 1825) I left for India, and did not return to Sydney until
1828 …” Convict transports did not include India in their itinerary.
W. Doyle, of the Moruya and District Historical Society, authored a short article 52 about Ross of Moruya
which appeared in Great Circle, Vol.1, No,1, 1979, being the journal of the Australian Association of
Maritime History. Doyle notes Ross as “the retired Scots master of several East Indiamen” who was
“born at Forres in Morayshire in 1806”. Ross had “figured once before in the Australian scene as master
of the Hashemy, transporting the last cargo of convicts to New South Wales in 1849”.53 “Ross also
commanded the Hashemy on her next voyage with convicts to Western Australia” 54 in 1850.
It’s unclear whether the master of the convict transport Hashemy 55 in 1849 was the “Phoenix / Moruya”
Ross or the “Colonial Empire” Ross. So, contrary to my hopes, there was not to be an appropriate
photograph of Ross to embellish this Volume 3. Such are the ups and downs, as well as traps for the
historical researcher.
Left Portland, England, 22 July 1850.
From web site of The Australian National Maritime Museum, describing a book
titled The old East Indiamen (Chatterton, Keble E. (1933), London, Rich & Cowan) “Many early convict ships to
Australia were East Indiamen.” From web site
“Sea-going merchant ships were generally built on the same principles as warships, with the same system of framing
and planking, and similar principles of rigging. Vessels of more than about 250 tons were generally ship rigged, with
three masts. … The largest merchant ships were the East Indiamen, in three broad classes, of 1200 tons, 800 tons, or
500 tons. … East Indiaman: the name given to the ships of the various East India companies. Ships of these
companies were highly gilded and decorated with carving and were often well furnished for the comfort of
passengers and crew as well providing large cargo space. They were always well armed as warships for protection
against pirates and the warships of other nations. The English and Dutch companies built and serviced their own
ships and maintained them in their own private dockyards.” The Encyclopaedia Britannica online at defines an East Indiaman as a “large sailing vessel of
the type built from the 16th to the 19th century for the trade between Europe and southern Asia. The first were
Portuguese and Dutch; English Indiamen appeared late in the 16th century and eventually came to dominate the
trade. The ships varied in size from about 400 to 1,500 tons and more; often they were larger than contemporary
men-of-war. They were three-masted ships.”
titled “The Career of Captain John Ross as First Pilot at the Newstead Pilot Station, Moruya River, New South
Wales, 1860-1871”
Doyle cites an obituary in the Moruya Telegraph, 21 Mar. 1871.
Doyle cites Bateson, C. The Convict Ships (2nd ed., Sydney, 1976), p.375
Extracted from The Hashemy departed Portsmouth on
11 Feb. 1849, sailing via Cape of Good Hope. She discharged some juvenile convicts in Victoria in May 1849,
arriving Sydney on 9 June 1849. The majority of her convicts were apparently destined for Moreton Bay at the head
of the Brisbane River.
Doyle refers to “the official diary, or log … which is still held at Newstead, begins in October 1860 with a
list of stores received …and an estimate for the erection of a flagstaff. …” Doyle noted “Ross had arrived
in September … the total complement of the station was eleven persons.” 56 (p.34) Doyle teasingly
mentions a separate volume, now held within the Mitchell Library “The first few days of the (official)
journal were kept in a separate volume.” Investigation of this private journal awaits my future research
It is possible Ross may have recalled other bee related events surrounding his experiences on the Phoenix
during 1824 around the time he authored his 10 August 1863 letter to the Sydney Morning Herald –
wherein he gave his eye witness account of the delivery of a hive or hives of bees from the Phoenix to
Governor Brisbane at Parramatta. Doyle recorded that Ross in 1863 was “… the most experienced
seaman in the district (and) was a consultant in the building of new punts for the river crossing ferries at
Moruya …” (p.35) There are conflicting reports on the success or otherwise of the Phoenix bees.

The complement included Ross’s wife, his two children, and two married boatmen.