Sugar Cane (1786 ship)

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Name: Sugar Cane
Owner: Turner & Co.[1]
Builder: Rotherhithe
Launched: 16 October 1786[1]
Captured: 1797, but recaptured and returned to service
Fate: No longer listed in 1798
General characteristics
Tons burthen: 362,[2][1] or 403[3]
Complement: 33 or 40[2]
Armament: 16 x 6-pounder guns[2]

Sugar Cane, was a three-decker merchantman and convict ship. In 1792 she transported convicts from Ireland to Australia. On her return trip she sailed from Bengal to Britain under contract to the British East India Company. During the French Revolutionary Wars she sailed under a letter of marque. In 1796 or 1797 she captured a French ship, but shortly thereafter was herself captured. The British Royal Navy recaptured her and she apparently was returned to service.


She was launched in 1786 upon the Thames River. In 1789 Lloyd's Register showed her master as W. Seaton, her owners as Turner and Co., and her trade as London-St Vincent.[4] She was coppered in 1793.[3]

Under the command of Thomas Musgrave, she sailed from Portsmouth for Ireland, on 9 March 1793. Having embarked with 110 male and 50 female convicts, she left Cork, Ireland, on 12 April 1792. A sergeant's party from the New South Wales Corps provided the guards for the convicts.

On 25 May the Government's agent had a prisoner executed. The man had managed to get out of his irons and another prisoner had accused the man of planning a mutiny.[5] Sugar Cane arrived at Rio de Janeiro in late June and left on 13 July.

Sugar Cane arrived at Port Jackson, New South Wales on 17 September 1793. Other than the man who had been executed, no convicts died on the voyage, and the prisoners arrived in good health.[6]

Sugar Cane left Port Jackson for Bengal in late 1793, in company with Boddington.

The vessels separated at some point, and Sugar Cane went on to discover some islands in the Caroline archipelago. The islands were the Pingelap (6°13′5″N 160°42′10″E / 6.21806°N 160.70278°E / 6.21806; 160.70278) atoll, now part of Pohnpei State of the Federated States of Micronesia.[Note 1]

Sugar Cane left Calcutta on 15 May 1794. She reached Madras on 29 June, the Cape on 4 October, St Helena on 25 October, Crookhaven on 25 December, and Kinsale on 31 January. She arrived at the Downs on 27 February.[9]

On 18 July 1795, John Marman received a letter of marque for a ship by the name of Sugar Cane.[2] The vessel is described as being of 362 tons (bm). The name of the vessel is unique so it is almost certain that this is the same vessel as the convict transport. The letter of marque authorized Sugar Cane to engage in offensive action against French shipping should the opportunity arise. Lloyd's Register for 1795 shows her master changing from Musgrave to "J. Manning". and her trade changing to London-Africa.[10] Marman received a second letter of credit on 1 July 1796.[2] Sugar Cane, with Marman, master, then sailed to the Gold Coast to gather slaves. One database gives the destination of the slaves as Rio de la Plata.[11]

In late 1796 or early 1797, Sugar Cane recaptured Harlequin, which the French had captured as she was sailing from Liverpool to Africa. Sugar Cane sent Harlequin into Cape Coast.[12][13] Shortly thereafter, the French captured Sugar Cane as she was sailing from Africa to Barbadoes.[14]

In 1797 Lloyd's Register still showed Sugar Cane, Manning, master, with trade Liverpool-Africa.[3]

Recapture and subsequent career[edit]

The French renamed Sugar Cane Marseilloise (or Marsellois). However, in October 1797 HMS Minerva and HMS Lively recaptured Marsellois as she was sailing from Guadeloupe to France.[1] They then took the richly-laden former Sugar Cane into Martinique.[15]

Sugar Cane was restored to her former owners, who revived her name.[1] Although there is a report that she was loaned out to transport convicts,[1] there is no record of that. A Sugarcane, Campbell, master, did arrive at Port Jackson on 15 October 1798 with a cargo of provisions. She then sailed for India, no date of departure being given.[16]

Sugar Cane is no longer listed in the 1798 Lloyd's Register.

Notes, citations, and references[edit]


  1. ^ Captain MacAskill in Lady Barlow rediscovered them in 1809. Errors in measurement of their location resulted in the islands being separately named as the Musgrave Islands and the MacAskill islands.[7][8]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Hackman (2001), p.198.
  2. ^ a b c d e Letter of Marque, 1793–1815, p.28;
  3. ^ a b c Lloyd's Register (1797), Seq. №369.
  4. ^ Lloyd's Register' (1789).
  5. ^ "Early Australian Days.". Barrier Miner (Broken Hill, NSW), Wednesday 12 April 1911, p.7. Retrieved 9 January 2012. 
  6. ^ Bateson (1959), pp.129-39.
  7. ^ Findlay (1851), Vol. 2, p.1076.
  8. ^ Brigham (1900), Vol. 1, issue 2, p.131.
  9. ^ British Library: Sugar Cane.
  10. ^ Lloyd's Register (1795), Seq. №411.
  11. ^ Thomas Cozens: London Slave Ship Voyages Database
  12. ^ Lloyd's List, no.2896,[1] - accessed 8 February 2015.
  13. ^ Williams (1897), p.343.
  14. ^ Lloyd's List, no.2916,[2] - accessed 8 February 2015.
  15. ^ Lloyd's List, n°2968.
  16. ^ "Arrival of Vessels at Port Jackson, and their Departure". Australian Town and Country Journal, Saturday 3 January 1891, p.18. Retrieved 10 May 2012. 


  • Bateson, Charles (1959) The Convict Ships, 1787–1868. (Glasgow: Brown, son & Ferguson).
  • Brigham, William Tufts (1900) An Index to the Islands of the Pacific Ocean: A Handbook to the Chart on the Walls of the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum of Polynesian Ethnology and Natural History. (Bishop Museum Press)
  • Findlay, A.G. (1851; reprinted 2013) A Directory for the Navigation of the Pacific Ocean, with Descriptions of Its Coasts, Islands, Etc.: From the Strait of Magalhaens to the Arctic Sea, and Those of Asia and Australia. (Cambridge University). ISBN 9781108059732
  • Hackman, Rowan (2001) Ships of the East India Company. (Gravesend, Kent: World Ship Society). ISBN 0-905617-96-7
  • Williams, Gomer (1897; since republished) History of the Liverpool Privateers and Letters of Marque: With an Account of the Liverpool Slave Trade. (W. Heinemann).