James Hally and Margaret Casey ...

James' Journey

The Lord Auckland arrived in Hobart on 29 January 1853. It was the sixth last transport of convicts to VDL. The last, St. Vincent, arrived on 26 May 1853 with 207 convicts, 5 having died on the way.

A barque of 628 ton, the Lord Auckland had been built at Calcutta in 1836. The Master was George Thompson and the Surgeon John Davidson. They embarked 248 male convicts and landed 246. The journey was to take 122 days. The ship’s 3 previous trips had been faster:

§  Arrived 15 November 1844,              from London,          101 days

§  Arrived 26 August 1846,                   from Dublin,            120 days

§  Arrived 20 January 1849,                  from Dublin,            101 days

The Journal kept by the Surgeon shows the ship was fitted at Deptford, on the south bank of the Thames, west of Greenwich, from 17 August 1852, and sailed to Cork harbour on 3 September. There they loaded the 248 prisoners from Spike Island (now Inis Pic) on 22 and 24 September. The ship sailed for VDL on 29 September.

Here are excerpts from Surgeon Davidson’s General Remarks:

Very rough and tempestuous weather was encountered for the first ten days, and a large proportion of the Prisoners suffered more or less from Sea Sickness, and disordered functions of the digestive organs consequent thereon, but on nearing the Tropics the weather became fine, and these afflictions in a great measure disappeared. While in the neighbourhood of the Equator where we were detained nearly a fortnight in consequence of light winds and calms – and indeed till nearing the meridian of the Cape of Good Hope, dyspepsia and diarrhoea were the prevailing complaints – indicating disorder of the hepatic functions – and many slight cases of these complaints … I did not consider worthy of being put on the Sick List.”

Between the meridian of the Cape of Good Hope and Hobart Town the temperature gradually fell particularly when in 40 and 43 degrees South Latitude and several cases of catarrh, bronchitis and ophthalmia, the latter of a scrofulous character, presented themselves. And here I would remark the necessity of a larger supply of flannel waistcoats being put on board for these voyages. Many of the Prisoners complained bitterly of the cold at this time even altho’ it was the height of summer in these latitudes – but I had no means of adding to their comfort in that respect, the supply of flannels being very limited.

Personal cleanliness was most strictly enforced. The Prisoners were allowed on deck as much as possible, and at their own discretion during the day. The Prison was kept thoroughly clean and dry, and proper ventilation maintained by windows and other scuttles whenever practicable.

The minds of the Prisoners were kept usefully employed in improving their education, School having been established, which met regularly both forenoon and afternoon on deck, and in the Prison as convenient, and in the evenings from 5 to half past 7 o’clock they were allowed to amuse and exercise themselves in dancing etc. etc. Lime Juice, Sugar and Wine were issued daily in the proportion of an ounce of each of the two former and half a gill of the latter to each person, issued with a gill of water. Gums were examined weekly, and whenever any sponginess or tendency to bleed was observed. The antiscorbutic mixture was administered for a few days with the happiest effect. By these means the health of the Prisoners was preserved during a rather long passage of 122 days. Tis true that a considerable number of cases were entered in the Sick List, but it will also be observed that the complaints were generally of a trifling character, and the majority were not more than five or six a day under treatment.

James Halley (spelt with an e by the surgeon) was put on the Sick List for the first time on 19 January 1853, 10 days before the Lord Auckland arrived in Hobart. He was suffering from dyspepsia, evidently brought on by seasickness. He was not put off the list until 29 January, the day of arrival. His age was written as 30.

On the last day of January, James was ill again. He was one of 6 prisoners put on the list: Michael Caulfield, 51, John Delahunty, 35, and Patrick Lynch, 28, for diarrhoea; Simon Coolahan, 28, for influenza, and James, again noted as 30, and Thomas Bustard, 22, for ophthalmia. All 6 were sent to hospital, so were on the ship’s sick list for just the one day.

According to Anne McMahon, ophthalmia, inflammation of the eye, especially of its membranes or external structures, “had been endemic in Ireland for centuries. It was known to flare during periods of severe food shortage when those most at risk were the starving.” Before the Great Famine, there had been just 16 cases recorded in the male transports; from 1846, there were 110. [1] “In 1848 and 1849, surgeons reported it to be prevalent at Spike Island prison, where 127 men were treated surgically during 1849.”[2]

Davidson wrote in his Journal:  

The cases of ophthalmia for the most part occurred in scrofulous subjects and who had previously suffered from this disease, when ophthalmia was prevalent about twelve months ago at Spike Island. The predisposing cause may have been slightly impaired health consequent on the length of the voyage, but I have no doubt that the immediate exciting cause in the majority of the cases was too much exposure on deck to the sun’s rays while reading books at school, in circumstances which I would most carefully avoid in future. Several cases are detailed in the Journal, which had ultimately to be sent to the Colonial Hospital at Hobart Town, as also several who suffered relapses after our arrival at that Port.

Of James Halley, (again, his surname was spelt with an e and his age was noted as 30) Davidson wrote on 31 January 1853 at Hobart Town:

This man who was lately under treatment for diarrhoea and of which he was cured on the 29th instant was put on the Sick List this morning: Conjunctivar of both eyes being slightly infected with increased flow of tears and some intolerance of light. No pain in eyes. General health good. This affiction (sic) may also be attributed to the changes of temperature. Sent to Colonial Hospital at Hobart Town.”

James may have been somewhat fortunate to survive. In 1853 in Hobart, 230 people died of scarlet fever.[3] On 30 June 1853, James Hally was still ill, being one of 168 sick convicts in the Colonial Hospital. (They were outnumbered by the 191 in the Lunatic Asylum at New Norfolk[4])

Among those to die in the months after arriving was Patrick Lynch who was sent to hospital on 31 January, the same day as James Hally. He was sent to the Prisoners’ Barracks on 5 February and back to hospital on 1 March. He died in hospital on 9 March. James Nester died in the Hobart Hospital on 18 July and Isaac Philips died there on 19 August 1853.

How did James avoid a similar fate? Perhaps because he was one of those “persons in the prime of life, active, well-nourished, with a will to live, (who) stood a better chance of recovery than old and feeble patients … those who recovered usually did so as a result of warm conditions, regular meals and a restful routine.”[5]

Whether through luck or good care, James did survive. And for just five days short of 50 years after his discharge from the hospital.

There was an unfortunate consequence of the sending of James to hospital. Facts about each convict were listed in an Indent, compiled on board the transportation ships prior to their disembarkation. Most of the information is also found on the Conduct Record, but, in the Remarks column, there was some information usually not found elsewhere: living relatives of the convict, such as parents, siblings, spouse, even aunt or uncle, at the time of his transportation. The Indent for the Lord Auckland has James out of alphabetical order, at the end of the Hs.[6] The date and place of his trial and the sentence are given, but no further information except that he was in hospital. It is much to be regretted that James’ illness led to this vital information being missed.

Table of Contents

  1. James Hally in Ireland
  2. James' Journey
  3. James in Hobart
  4. Margaret Casey in Ireland
  5. Margaret's Journey
  6. Early Married Life
  7. The Family
  8. Life in Pontville
  9. James Hally the Activist

[1] Anne McMahon, Convicts At Sea: The Voyages of the Irish Convicts Transported to VDL 1840-1853, Artemis Publishing Consultants, Hobart 2011, page 55

[2] ibid., page 78

[3] Rimmer, W.G., Portrait of a Hospital – The Royal Hobart, Mercury-Walch, 1981, p. 69

[4] ibid., page 73

[5] Seager, P.S., Hobart General Hospital: Centenary Celebration, Hobart, Tasmanian Government Printer, 1921, page 35

[6] TAHO, CON 14/32, page 182