Lady Penrhyn (ship)

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Lady Penrhyn
Lady Penrhyn (sailing ship).jpg
Lady Penrhyn, convict transport ship
Career (Great Britain)
  • Sir William Curtis
  • William Sever
Port of registry: London
Launched: 1786, River Thames
General characteristics
Tons burthen: 333
Propulsion: Sails
Sail plan: Ship rig

Lady Penrhyn was a First Fleet convict transport. She left Portsmouth on 13 May 1787, carrying 101 female convicts, and arrived at Port Jackson, Sydney, Australia, on 26 January 1788. On her return voyage she was the first European vessel to pass by the Kermadec Islands, and the Penrhyn Atoll in the Cook Islands.

Construction and ownership[edit]

Lady Penrhyn was a ship of 333 tons, built on the River Thames in 1786. She was designed for use in the Atlantic slave trade and was capable of holding 275 slaves in one cargo.[1] She was part owned by William Compton Sever - who served as ship's master on her voyage to Australia - and by London alderman and sea-biscuit manufacturer William Curtis.[2]

She was named in honour of the wife of Richard Pennant, 1st Baron Penrhyn.[3]

Voyage to Australia[edit]

The ship left Portsmouth on 13 May 1787, carrying 101 female convicts, as part of a convoy of eleven ships carrying over 1000 convicts, soldiers and seamen to establish European settlement in Australia. The convoy known as the "First Fleet" arrived at Port Jackson, Sydney, Australia, on 26 January 1788. John Turnpenny Altree was surgeon to the convicts, and Arthur Bowes Smyth was surgeon to the ship. Bowes Smyth then took charge of the prisoners on the ship when Altree fell ill at Tenerife and in Governor Arthur Phillip’s opinion had proved unequal to the task.[4]

The list of stores unloaded from Lady Penrhyn on 25 March 1788 at Port Jackson has been widely quoted in books on the First Fleet. In Sydney Cove 1788 by John Cobley [5] the amount of rice unloaded is given as 8 bram. This amount has been repeated in various books on the First Fleet. Bram, however, is not a unit of measurement and the original log entry lists the amount of rice as 8 barrels.[6] Lady Penrhyn also carried the first horses that came to Australia, which it is thought to have consisted of one stallion, one colt, three mares and two fillies from Cape Town, South Africa.[7]

Return voyage[edit]

Following her arrival in New South Wales, Lady Penrhyn was under contract to George Mackenzie McCaulay, an alderman of the City of London, to go to the "North West Coast of America to Trade for furrs & after that to proceed to China & barter the Furrs &ca for Teas or other such Goods..."[8] Her owners had obtained a license to sail to the northwest coast from the South Sea Company, which still maintained its ancient monopoly rights over British trade to the eastern Pacific.[9] Accordingly, she departed Sydney Cove on 5 May 1788 and sailed north with the intention of purchasing furs in Kamchatka for resale in China. Her course was chosen to minimise interaction with Russian vessels, as non-Russian trade in Kamchatka furs was considered by Russia to be smuggling.[10]

On 31 May, the Kermadec Islands were sighted—Macauley Island was named after McCaulay and Curtis Island was named after William Curtis.[11] The poor condition of the ship and sickness among her crew compelled Lady Penrhyn to turn back from this voyage when she had gone only as far as Matavai Bay, Tahiti, where the crew recovered and the ship was repaired. She then visited and named Penrhyn Island—the atoll of Tongareva in the Cook Islands—on 8 August, arriving at Macao on 19 October 1788, then proceeding upriver to Canton (now Guangzhou) to take on a cargo of tea.[12] She arrived in England in August 1789.

Later service[edit]

Her convict transport contract at an end, Lady Penrhyn resumed her previous services as a trading vessel between England and Jamaica.[13] In 1795 she was one of a fleet of transports to carry British troops to the Caribbean, reinforcements against the risk of an attack by Revolutionary France.[14]

She was captured in the West Indies in 1811.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "News". General Evening Post (8194) (London: M. Say). 9 May 1786. p. 6. Retrieved 25 September 2014. (subscription required (help)). 
  2. ^ Byrnes, D. "The Blackheath Connection: The Phantom First Fleet to Australia". Retrieved 2012-07-03. 
  3. ^ "Lady Penrhyn". First Fleet Fellowship Victoria Inc. 2011. 
  4. ^ "Smyth, Arthur Bowes". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Australian National University. Retrieved 12 December 2013. 
  5. ^ Cobley, John, 1914-1989. Sydney Cove, 1788. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1962.
  6. ^ Australian Joint Copying Project. Reel 5777, piece 4376, part 9. Canberra : National Library of Australia, c. 1988
  7. ^ Bain Ike, (chief exec.) The Australian Encyclopaedia, p. 1679, Horses, Australian Geographic Pty. Ltd., 1996
  8. ^ Smyth, Cf. Fidlon and Ryan p. 86
  9. ^ South Sea Company Court of Directors Minutes, 8 and 10 March 1787, South Sea Company Papers, British Library, Additional MS 25,521; cited in Edouard A. Stackpole, Whales and Destiny, Amherst, U. Mass., 1972, p. 118
  10. ^ Letter from Newton Fowell, midshipman HMS Sirius, to John Fowell, 12 July 1788. Cited in Irvine (ed.) 1988, p.81
  11. ^ Hīroa (1953), p. 36
  12. ^ Smyth, "Voyage"; Fidlon and Ryan, Journal.
  13. ^ "Ship News". The Star (2483) (London: J. Mayne, Temple Bar). 29 July 1796. p. 4. Retrieved 6 September 2014. (subscription required (help)). 
  14. ^ "Authentic Port News". Lloyd's Evening Post (London: T. Spilsbury & Son). 22 July 1795. p. 88. Retrieved 26 September 2014. (subscription required (help)). 


Further reading[edit]