Parmelia (barque)

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Name: Parmelia
Launched: 1825
General characteristics
Class and type: barque
Tons burthen: 443
Length: 117 feet (36 m)
Beam: 29 feet (8.8 m)

The Parmelia was a barque that was used to transport the first civilian officials and settlers of the Swan River Colony to Western Australia in 1829.

Parmelia was built in Quebec, Canada in 1825, and registered on 31 May of that year. She was 117 feet (36 m) long, 29 feet (8.8 m) wide and 20 feet (6.1 m) deep in the hold; and she was rated at 443 tons. Johnson (1987) writes that she was more of a plain working girl than the great and beautiful lady of the sea. Parmelia was sent to London, and on 17 November she was transferred from the Quebec to the London register. In 1826 she was used as a troop carrier. Some time in the first half of 1827, Parmelia was sold to Joseph Somes, who was also a director of the British East India Company. For the next year, she operated under charter to the British East India Company, carrying goods and passengers between London and Bengal.

In 1828 the British government, at the urging of Captain James Stirling, decided to establish a colony at the Swan River in Western Australia. HMS Challenger was despatched under Charles Fremantle to annex the colony, and it was arranged that a contingent of soldiers, officials and settlers would follow on HMS Sulphur. Stirling however argued that the passengers and goods to be carried exceeded the capacity of HMS Sulphur, and asked for an additional ship to be chartered. The government reluctantly agreed to the extra cost, chartering the Parmelia in December 1828. It was then arranged that HMS Sulphur would carry the military personnel, with the Parmelia responsible for carriage of the civilian officials and settlers.

HMS Sulphur and Parmelia sailed from Spithead off Portsmouth, England on 3[1] or 6[2] February 1829, sighting their destination on 1 June. Contrary to popular belief, Stirling did not captain the Parmelia (J. H. Luscombe did[2]); on arrival, however, he assumed the duties of pilot. He initially tried to enter Cockburn Sound through a passage that he had discovered in 1827, but was prevented by strong winds and a heavy swell. Instead he hove to off Rottnest Island for the night. The following day, he tried to bring Parmelia into the Sound from the north, against the advice of Fremantle, and ran aground on a sand bank, later to be named Parmelia Bank. Despite the best efforts of the crews to dislodge her, Parmelia remained on the bank for over 18 hours, finally coming off the bank by herself early the following morning. By that time, she had lost her foreyard, rudder, windlass, spare spars, longboat and skiff, and was leaking at a rate of 4 inches (10 cm) per hour. Parmelia then rode out a storm at anchor for three days before finally being brought to a safe anchorage. The passengers were able to disembark on 8 June.

HMS Challenger was due to depart once HMS Sulphur and Parmelia had arrived, but Parmelia needed repairs that it could not get without access to the skilled labour amongst HMS Challenger crew. Fremantle therefore took the decision to remain and assist with the repairs, which were completed many weeks later. Later that year, Stirling chartered the Parmelia to bring food supplies from Java. In 1830, she returned to England.

For the next nine years, Parmelia was used to transport convicts to the penal colonies on the east coast of Australia. She made nine such voyages, each of them carrying at least 200 prisoners. In 1839, Parmelia was refitted for the purpose of carrying migrants to the Americas. She was intended to run between Britain and Quebec, but on 3 May 1839, her refit almost complete, she was destroyed by fire in Bank's Yard, at Frank's Queery, Cremyll. Five days later, Lloyd's of London wrote her off; any remaining timbers were probably salvaged for other purposes.

The Kwinana suburb of Parmelia is named in honour of the Parmelia, as is Parmelia Bank.

Passengers on the Parmelia, 1829[edit]

The following people embarked Parmelia when she left Portsmouth in February 1829.[1][3]

Name Notes
Captain James Stirling Governor
Ellen Stirling Wife of Captain Stirling
Andrew Stirling Son of Captain Stirling, 3 yrs old
Frederick Henry Stirling Son of Captain Stirling, born at sea on 16 April 1829.
George Mangles Cousin of Ellen Stirling
George Eliot Clerk to Captain Stirling, also his nephew
Thomas Blakey Servant of Captain Stirling
Sarah Blakey Wife of Thomas Blakey; servant of Captain Stirling
John Kelly Servant of Captain Stirling
Elizabeth Kelly Wife of John Kelly; servant of Captain Stirling
Peter Brown[note 1] Colonial Secretary
Caroline Brown Wife of Peter Brown
Macbride Brown Son of Peter Brown
Ann Brown Daughter of Peter Brown
Richard Evans Servant of Peter Brown
Margaret McLeod Servant of Peter Brown
Mary Ann Smith Servant of Peter Brown
John Morgan Storekeeper
Rebecca Morgan Wife of John Morgan
Rebecca Morgan Daughter of John Morgan
Ann Skipsey Servant of John Morgan
Commander Mark Currie RN Harbourmaster
Jane Currie Wife of Commander Currie
Frederick Ludlow Servant of Commander Currie
Mildred ("Kitty") Ludlow Wife of Frederick Ludlow; servant of Commander Currie
Jane Fruin Servant of Commander Currie
John Septimus Roe Surveyor-General
Matilda Roe Wife of John Septimus Roe
Charles Wright Servant of John Septimus Roe
Henry Sutherland Assistant Surveyor
Ann Sutherland Wife of Henry Sutherland
William Sheldon Clerk to the Colonial Secretary
James Drummond Horticulturalist
Sarah Drummond Wife of James Drummond
Thomas Drummond Son of James Drummond, 18 yrs
Jane Drummond Daughter of James Drummond, 16 yrs
James Drummond Son of James Drummond, 15 yrs
John Drummond Son of James Drummond, 13 yrs
Johnston Drummond Son of James Drummond, 9 yrs
Euphemia Drummond Daughter of James Drummond, 3 yrs. The last of Parmelia's passengers to die, on 4 December 1920 aged 94 (at Culham near Toodyay).[1]
Elizabeth Gamble Servant of James Drummond
Charles Simmons Surgeon
Tully Davy[note 2] Assistant Surgeon
Jane Davy Wife of Tully Davy
Jessie Jane Davy[note 2] Daughter of Tully Davy, 8 yrs
Joseph Davy Son of Tully Davy, 6 yrs
Henry Davy Son of Tully Davy, 4 yrs
Edward Davy Son of Tully Davy, 2 yrs
Emily Rose Davy Daughter of Tully Davy, 2 months
James Elliott Servant of Tully Davy
Patrick Murphy Servant of Tully Davy
Alex Fandom Cooper
Mary Fandom Wife of Alex Fandom
William Hokin[note 3] Bricklayer
Mary Hokin Wife of William Hokin
William Hokin Son of William Hokin, 14 years
John Hokin Son of William Hokin, 12 yrs
Mary Hokin Daughter of William Hokin, 10 yrs
Thomas Hokin Son of William Hokin, 8 yrs
David Hokin Son of William Hokin, 5 yrs
Charles Hokin Son of WIlliam Hokin, 2 yrs
Thomas Davis Smith
Catherine Davis Wife of Thomas Davis
John Davis Son of Thomas Davis, 3 yrs
Charlotte Davis Daughter of Thomas Davis, 2 yrs. First white female to go ashore.[4][5]


John Davis Nephew of Thomas Davis, 13 yrs
James Smith Boatbuilder
Sarah Smith Wife of James Smith


  1. ^ Brown was born as, and later returned to using, the French spelling Broun.
  2. ^ a b Tully and Jessie Davy were lost overboard and drowned on 25 April 1829.
  3. ^ Hoking also used.


  1. ^ a b "The Parmelia Pioneers Landed 125 Years Ago.". The West Australian (Perth: National Library of Australia). 4 June 1954. p. 3. Retrieved 13 March 2014. 
  2. ^ J.S. Battye (1 June 1929). "The First Fleet". The West Australian. p. 4. Retrieved 5 May 2014. 
  3. ^ Caption on portrait of Davis family, Toodyay Old Gaol Museum, retrieved 12 March 2014 
  4. ^ "Charlotte Davis". Monument Australia. Retrieved 5 May 2014. 
  5. ^ Plaque on the Charlotte Davis Memorial, Newcastle Park, Toodyay Western Australia, 4 May 2014
  • Appleyard, Reginald; Manford, Toby (1979). The beginning. Nedlands, Western Australia: University of Western Australia Press. ISBN 0-85564-146-0. 
  • Johnson, G. L. (Les) (1987). "The Parmelia Barque". Early Days 9 (5).