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Barque William Rogers

Page history last edited by Michael Hicks 9 years, 7 months ago


The William Rogers


A tale of misery on a notorious Fever Ship




The Barque William Rogers sailed to Australia as part of the Bounty Immigration Scheme in 1838. There were several Immigration schemes operating during this period one run by the New South Wales Government, known as the Bounty Scheme and the second by the United Kingdom, known as the Government Scheme.  The William Rogers was part of the United Kingdom Government Scheme, which ran from 1837 to 1840.  Its main purpose was simple  - to provide a means to reduce over population within England and Scotland of its poorer classes by encouraging emigration. Australia at that time needed workers, especially Agricultural labourers and "Mechanics", tradesmen, in todays language.  


The Immigration scheme also offered a payment to the immigrants, 40 pounds for a husband and wife under 40, 10 pounds for a child between 7 and 14 and 5 pounds for each child under 7.   An excellent page on immigration can be found here.  Statistics of the Immigration Scheme ships can be found on TheShipsList for this period.



The William Rogers, a Barque of 496 tonnes departed Greenock Scotland on the 13th of May for a voyage that would last around 4 months at sea .  It  was under the command of Captain Hall, with John Reid the appointed surgeon.  On board were 71 Male adults, 65 Female adults and 160 children, totaling 296 passengers.  A Barque had three or more masts with fore-and-aft sails on the aftermost mast and square sails on all other masts.  They were the workhorse of the Golden Age of Sail in the mid 19th century as they attained passages that nearly matched full rigged ships but could operate with smaller crews.  The James Craig based in Darling Harbour today is surviving example of this style of ship.  


The ship touched at the Cape of Good Hope in August, before arriving at Sydney on the 27th of September.  During the voyage, 6 Adults and 10 Children had died on board.  It was a period where the typical death rate for a ship was between 6-10% of the passengers during the voyage.  This was the risk every immigrant faced to make the decision to depart the United Kingdom.



Things however were going to become much worse.  The following are articles from the Sydney Herald and the Sydney Gazette that document the fate of the passengers of the William Rogers.



September 1838



The William Rogers was immediately taken to Spring Cove due to fever being present on the voyage.  A ship was required to be placed in Quarantine if disease was on board within the last 30 days of arriving at Port Jackson.  The William Rogers would have flown a yellow quarantine flag for this period.




Sydney Gazette - Sept 27, 1838 






Sydney Gazette - Sept 27, 1838






On the 28th of September, John Reid, the William Rogers Surgeon, wrote the account of the deaths on board the Barque during the voyage.



Date Name  Age  Disease  
May 25
James Reid 
6 years 
May 27 Duncan Clark  3 years  Ditto Neil Clark on other lists
June 4  Jane Wardrop  2 years  Ditto This disease rose from checked persperation
June 5  John Thompson  2 1/2 years  Inft ????  
June 18  Sarah Hastings  2 years  Convulsions  
June 28  Sarah Kelly  1 1/3 years  Debility She was delicate all the passage
July 8  Elisia Reid  1 year  Convulsing Betsy Reid on other lists
August 16 Ellen Hamilton 3 1/2 years Croup  
August 20 Jane Parkhill 6 years Debility After along severe attack of Hooping Cough disease
Sept 2 Mary Smith 29 years Abcession Liver Brought on from excessive drinking before embarking
Ditto Robert Smith 28 years ????

Brought on from drinking Brandy to excess he got smuggled  on board at

Cape Good Hope.  Husband of Mary Smith

Sept 12 Miller Parkhill 2 years Debility has been delicate all the voyage
Ditto Grizel Thomson 34 years Premature Labour Brought on by a sever fall on the deck
Sept 14 Isabella Finlay 34 years Pleurasy  
Sept 19 John Thomson 22 years Infl. Fever His consitution had been good before drinking excess of spirits
Sept 21 William Hamilton 29 Infl. Fever

brought on by the sudden change of heat and cold having been cook

for the Emigrants

Sept 29 John Bannatyne 29 Infl. Fever included in the count of people dying at Spring Cove



The report went on "I consider this fever to have originated from the sudden transition from Hot to Cold, the thermometer being one day so high at 66 and the next day down at 48 from the strong gales we have experienced since leaving the cape"


There were also three passengers still recovering from the fever on board when the ship arrived :-

Robert Fisher, aged 28 "very low"

Mrs Meek, aged 34 "symptoms favourable" and

John McMillan aged 28 "Convalescent"


"The people are in general very stout and healthy, but their spirits are getting very much depressed after the long voyage and the thought of being detained any time on board with the three that are sick and I have no doubt that the sooner they are set at liberty the better.


I am, John Reid Surgeon, Barque Wm Rodger September 28th, 1838




October 1838 



By the end of the first week in October, the ship was expected to be released.  After the ship had anchored in Darling Harbour, the fever had again broken out on board.  The ship was towed back to Spring Cove on the Tuesday (9th of October).  This had caused on outrage with the population of Sydney that the ship could have been released with the fever still present.  The Sydney Herald article from the 10th clearly shows the tone of the times.



Sydney Gazette - Oct 2, 1838



Sydney Gazette - Oct 5, 1838



Sydney Gazette - Oct 6, 1838 





William Harvey aged 36 was recorded as dying on the 6th of October from the fever.



Sydney Gazette - Oct 9, 1838



Sydney Herald - Oct 10, 1838



Sydney Gazette - Oct 11, 1838




The William Rogers was back at Spring Cove and the immigrants were now at the Quarantine Station at North Head.  The Quarantine Station itself was enlarged in July 1837, to include "the whole of the land on the Northern Head of Port Jackson, bounded on the north, east, south and part of the west by the sea and waters of Port Jackson, and on the remainder of the west by a line from the west side of Spring Cove to Cabbage Tree Beach, forming the western boundary of Cheers’s land".


The station was divided into the Healthy Ground on the high ground above the beach and the Sick Ground above the beach but closer to the shore.  Four wooden buildings were erected on the Healthy Ground, each 40 feet by 12 feet to house 40 people each.  A house was also erected for the Medical Officer and a store building was located to the north.  On the Sick Ground, a 40 by 12 feet building was erected to house up to 50 sick people, with a house for the doctor adjacent to it.


The ship itself would have been fumigated and scoured for return back to the owners with little delays as possible during this time.


The fever however has now spread quickly, with up to 50 people including both immigrants and the crew being infected and several deaths having already occurred by the middle of the month.




Sydney Gazette - Oct 16, 1838





Sydney Herald - Oct 19, 1838


Sydney Herald - Oct 19, 1838




Towards the end of the month, the strange death of the Captains son occurred.



Sydney Gazette - 20 Oct, 1838



Sydney Gazette - 27 Oct, 1838





The papers themselves were clearly not impressed with the lack of information being provided by the Government.  The total number of infected was now 80, with half that number dangerously ill.  Captain Hall is also seriously ill and not expected to survive.







Sydney Gazette - 30 Oct, 1838








November 1838



The Captains illness did not prevent him from warning the public about the William Rogers crew.  The government also needed to get the immigrants working and off their hands.  The immigrants were advertised for employment in the first week of November, despite still being at North Head.



Sydney Herald - Oct 31, 1838





Sydney Herald - Nov 5, 1838





Within two weeks, the Captain was dead.  The work also at the Quarantine Station by Dr James Lawrence was not going unnoticed.



Sydney Gazette Nov 8, 1838


Sydney Gazette Nov 11, 1838





To make matters worse, the ship Maitland had arrived on the 4th of November where 40 people had died on board during its voyage as a result of Scarlet Fever and Typhus.  The ship was also placed into Quarantine around the 6th of November.  




The Newspapers are still unhappy with the lack of information provided by the Government.  Dr Reid has now joined Dr Lawrence at the Station who has been there since the start of the outbreak.  The number of patients affected is now up to 140, which is more than half of the passengers.  The news is however better in that the disease has seemed to have eased in its attacks.








Sydney Gazette - Nov 17, 1838







By the end of November, the William Rogers had been hauled up from Spring Cove to Sydney Cove for refitting prior to its next voyage.  Again, the Sydney Herald was very unimpressed with the information being made available from the Government.


Sydney Gazette - 29 Nov, 1838




Sydney Herald - 30 Nov, 1838





Sydney Gazette - 4 Dec, 1838








December 1838


By the second week of December, the Government stores had been unloaded from the ship and advertised for sale at the Commissariat Stores (near where the Museum of Contemporary Art is today at Circular Quay).  The Barque was being made ready to leave in January and finally, by around the 22 of December, some of the emigrants had now left Quarantine.




Sydney Herald - Dec 12, 1838






Sydney Gazette - Dec 15, 1838




Sydney Gazette - Dec 25, 1838








January 1839



The Quarantine Station was finally cleared around the 3rd of January with the last of the emigrants leaving.  The troubles for the William Rogers was not over yet, with the crew refusing to sail with its new Captain, previously first mate Currie.






Sydney Gazette - Jan 5, 1839









The William Rogers finally departed for Batavia on January the 10th.



Sydney Gazette - Jan 5, 1839




Sydney Gazette - Jan 8, 1839



Sydney Herald - Jan 9, 1839






Sydney Herald - Jan 21, 1839 





Descendants of the immigrants of the William Rogers


If you are descended from the immigrants who arrived on the William Rogers, you are invited to add any information here, or join the wiki and place a comment on the bottom of this page








Comments (2)

maryleah@... said

at 1:40 am on Mar 2, 2011

Devastating is the right word - what would the conditions on the ship have been like, and how could it have been so preferable to the conditions left behind in Scotland?

Ian Finlay said

at 2:33 pm on Feb 20, 2021

Thanks for doing this research , I had two relations who died from Typhus on this vessel, 1) Robert McGaw Blacksmith age 36 d. 15 Oct 1838 and 2) his 10m old Daug. Ann (or Mary) d. 24 Nov 1838, I am wondering if the mother stopped feeding her as the surgeon notes said she was in need of nutriment, mother had 3 other children to care for. Or maybe they had a strict rule to isolated sick from healthy on board. I think I need to review the ships logs

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