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A three-masted full rigged ship of the type commonly known as a Blackwall Frigate of 875 tons gross on dimensions of 165.5 feet long, 34 ft beam and 23 ft depth of hold, Hougoumont was constructed at Moulmein, Burma in 1852 and named after the Château d'Hougomont where the Battle of Waterloo was fought. The ship's original owner was Duncan Dunbar, a highly successful ship owner who entered the convict transport trade in the 1840s, providing nearly a third of the ships that transported convicts to Western Australia.
The nineteenth century author W. Clark Russell claimed to have served on the Hougoumont for three years.
Hougoumont was chartered by the French as a troop carrier during the Crimean War, during which time it was renamed Baraguey d'Hilliers after the French general Achille Baraguey d'Hilliers, as its original name would have been offensive to the French. After the Crimean War ended in 1856, it was renamed Hougoumont.
In the 1860s, Hougoumont's tender was accepted by the Emigration Commission. On 9 June 1866 it began a voyage from Plymouth to Port Adelaide, carrying 335 government-assisted emigrants. It arrived on 16 September.
Hougoumont's most famous voyage occurred in 1867, after it was chartered to transport convicts to Western Australia. By this time, it was owned by Luscombe of London. A number of convicts boarded the ship at Sheerness, London on 30 September. It then sailed along the south coast of Britain to Portland, where more convicts were boarded. It departed Portsmouth on 12 October 1867 with 280 convicts and 108 passengers on board. Most of the passengers were pensioner guards and their families. The ship captain was William Cozens and the surgeon-superintendent was Dr William Smith. After a largely uneventful voyage of 89 days, during which time one convict died, Hougoumont docked at Fremantle, Western Australia on 9 January 1868.
Amongst the convicts were 62 Fenian political prisoners, transported for their part in the Fenian Rising of 1867. About 17 of these were military Fenians. The transportation of political prisoners contravened the agreement between the United Kingdom and Western Australia, and news of their impending arrival caused panic in Western Australia. The fact that military Fenians were transported was also highly unusual, given the United Kingdom Government's previous firm policy not to transport military prisoners.
The presence of Fenians amongst the convicts meant that there were many more literate convicts on board than was usual for a convict ship. Consequently, a number of journals of the voyage are extant: the journal of Denis Cashman has been known of for many years, and the journal of John Casey and the memoirs of Thomas McCarthy Fennell have recently been discovered and published. Numerous letters survive, and many articles about the voyage were later written by Fenians who went on to become journalists, such as John Boyle O'Reilly. Also, during the voyage a number of the Fenians entertained themselves by producing seven editions of a shipboard newspaper entitled The Wild Goose, which survive in the State Library of New South Wales.
Little is known of Hougoumont's later service, but there are records of emigrants arriving in Melbourne on board Hougoumont in 1869, and was still listed in Lloyd's Register in 1883, but is not in the 1889/90 volume.
Many pictures purporting to be "the" Hougoumont are in fact of a later steel four-masted barque named Hougomont, 2428 tons, built at Greenock in 1897, and hulked at Stenhouse Bay in South Australia in 1932.
Convicts transported on board Hougoumont include:
- Thomas Berwick
- John Boyle O'Reilly
- James Wilson (Irish Nationalist)
- Thomas McCarthy Fennell
- Joseph Nunan
For other convict ship voyages to Western Australia, see List of convict ship voyages to Western Australia.
- "Stenhouse Bay". The Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources. Retrieved 14 September 2013.
- Various (1894). My First Book. London: Chatto & Windus.
- Bateson, Charles (1959). The Convict Ships 1787–1868. Glasgow: Brown Son & Ferguson.
- Evans, Anthony G. (1997). Fanatic Heart: A Life of John Boyle O'Reilly 1844–1890. Nedlands, Western Australia: University of Western Australia Press. ISBN 1-875560-82-3.
- "Western Australian Convicts - Hougoumont 1868". Retrieved 10 February 2006.
- Lloyd Register 1868
- RCAHMS website "RCHAMS".