Alexander (1783 ship)
|Career (Great Britain)|
|Length:||114 feet (35 m)|
|Beam:||31 feet (9.4 m)|
|Sail plan:||Ship rig|
Construction and ownership
Alexander was barque-built with three masts and two decks, 114 feet (35 m) in length and with a beam of 31 feet (9.4 m). She was a plain-looking vessel, without galleries or figurehead. At 452 tons burthen, she was the largest transport in the Fleet and carried at least 40 crew.
She was built in Hull in 1783 and prior to her Fleet service, was owned by Walton & Company, a firm of Southwark merchants headed by master mariner William Walton. Her master was Duncan Sinclair.
Voyage to Australia
Alexander's convict cargo were drawn from prison hulks on the Thames and directly from Newgate Prison and were loaded aboard at Woolwich Docks in early 1787. The ship then sailed to Portsmouth alongside Lady Penrhyn to meet the remainder of the Fleet.
Before leaving Portsmouth, fever broke out on board, and sixteen men died. She left Portsmouth on 13 May 1787, carrying 195 male convicts. Fifteen more convicts died on the journey, the most for any ship in the fleet. The cause of the fever was likely inadequate management of the bilge, as reported by John White, the surgeon aboard HMS Sirius in June 1787: —
The illness complained of was wholly occasioned by the bilge water which had by some means or other risen to so great a height that the panels of the cabin and the buttons on the clothes of the officers were turned nearly black by the noxious effluvia. When the hatches were taken off the stench was so powerful it was scarcely possible to stand over them.
An attempted mutiny aboard the vessel was thwarted in October 1787, when a band of five convicts and a number of able seamen were narrowly prevented from seizing the helm. The convicts had armed themselves with iron bars, intending to overpower the guard and sail the vessel to the nearest landfall. Master Sinclair, aware of the plot through an informer, had crew and convicts locked below decks while the conspirators were identified. Two of the mutineers, Philip Farrell[a] and Thomas Griffiths,[b] were transferred to Sirius, flogged, then sent aboard Prince of Wales for the remainder of the voyage to New South Wales. Sinclair's informer was transferred to Scarborough for his own protection.
Arrival in Botany Bay
Alexander arrived at Port Jackson, Sydney, Australia, on 26 January 1788 to unload her human cargo. She left Port Jackson on 14 July 1788 in company with the Friendship, whose crew she picked up when that ship was scuttled. She reached England on 3 June 1789.
- Philip Farrell, formerly the bo'sun's mate aboard HMS Goliath, but convicted in 1784 for stealing a handkerchief worth 1 shilling and sentenced to seven years' transportation. Also accused in April 1788 of stealing peas from the government store in Port Jackson, but acquitted due to a lack of witnesses. In 1790 Farrell was himself a victim of theft when his personal supply of food was stolen by another convict.
- Thomas Griffiths, the former master of a French privateer, convicted at the Old Bailey in September 1784 for the theft of 140 yards (130 m) of black gauze from a warehouse in Bishopsgate.
- Bateson 1969, p.95
- Hill 2009, p.53
- Gillen 1989, p. 427
- Bateson 1969, pp.95-96
- The Voyage of Governor Phillip to Botany Bay (1789)
- Hill 2009, p.70
- Hill 2009, p. 96
- White, John (1790). John White: Surgeon General to the First Fleet. Debrett's, London. cited in Hill 2009, p.104
- Hill 2009, p. 104
- Chapman 1986, p.86
- Cobley, "1788" 1980, p.131
- Cobley "1789-1790", 1980, p.287
- "September 1784, trial of THOMAS GRIFFITHS (t17840915-73)". Old Bailey Proceedings Online. April 2013. Retrieved 20 September 2014.
- Bateson 1969, p. 101
- Hill 2009, p. 123
- Bateson, Charles (1969). The Convict Ships. Brown, Son & Ferguson. OCLC 11085505.
- Cobley, John (1980). Sydney Cove, 1788. Angus and Robertson. ISBN 0207141797.
- Cobley, John (1980). Sydney Cove, 1789-1790. Angus and Robertson. ISBN 0207141711.
- Hill, David (2009). 1788. Random House. ISBN 9781741668001.
- Gillen, Mollie (1989). The Founders of Australia: A Biographical Dictionary of the First Fleet. Library of Australian History. ISBN 0-908120-69-9.