Catalogue description Medical and surgical journal of the Isabella Convict Ship, for the 4 July to 24 December...

Details of ADM 101/36/3
Reference: ADM 101/36/3

Medical and surgical journal of the Isabella Convict Ship, for the 4 July to 24 December 1823 by Mr William Rae, Surgeon and Superintendent, during which time the said ship was employed in a voyage to Port Jackson, New South Wales.

Folios 1-3: William Coxe, aged 26, Corporal of the 40th Regiment of Foot; disease or hurt, aescarides. Put on sick list, 1 August 1823, the channel. Discharged cured, 29 August 1823.

Folio 3-6: George Brown, aged 26, Private Soldier; disease or hurt, syphilitic eruption all over his body, chancres and discharge. Put on sick list, 1 August 1823, the channel. Discharged 17 December 1823, at Sydney, nearly well.

Folios 6-7: James O'Donnel, aged 66, Convict; disease or hurt, exhaustion almost solely from the causes of nature [old age]. Put on sick list, 1 September 1823, at sea. Died 4 September 1823. The Surgeon complains of the Superintendent of the Hulk at Cove offering this man for a voyage he was very unlikely to survive and on which he will use up valuable supplies for the sick. He objected to two other old men offered for the voyage, one who did not have a single tooth left.

Folios 7-8: James Ryder, aged 30, Convict; disease or hurt, catarrh, [synochus] a cough which worsens towards evening with considerable fever terminating in perspiration, vertigo, nausea, anorexia, rigors followed by heat and thirst. Put on sick list, 4 September 1823. Cured of the fever but kept on the sick list for debility and later attacked with scurvy.

Folios 9-10: Joseph Rushton, aged 28, Private Soldier; disease or hurt, great languor and sense of debility, frequent rigors succeeded by heat and thirst, pain of back and limbs, headache, nausea and occasional vomiting. Put on sick list, 16 September 1823. Died 21 September 1823.

Folios 10-11: Master Frederick Daly, aged 7, Passenger; disease or hurt, had suffered some time from a lingering disease similar to tales [mercuterica], hectic flushes at night, tickling cough, frequent irritable and feeble pulse, irregular bowels, emaciation. Put on sick list, 12 October 1823, Died, 12 October 1823. With a description of the body dissected after death.

Folios 11-12: John Kent, aged 30, Convict; disease or hurt, scurvy, sallow countenance, somewhat bloated, gums dark, spongy and bleed upon pressure, breath fetid and knees discoloured and covered with spots like flea bites. Put on sick list, 15 September 1823. Died, 25 November 1823. Described as of a weak, indolent and dirty habit, had been convalescent from fever but from filthiness, want of spirit and exertion had not recovered as fast as others. Three other cases died but this was the worst, the scorbutic diathesis being more exaggerated.

Folio 12: James Ryder, aged 30, Convict; disease or hurt, scurvy. Put on sick list, 29 November 1823. Died, 29 November 1823.

Folio 12: William Boreman, aged 35, Convict; disease or hurt, scurvy. Put on sick list, [about middle of October 1823]. Died, 30 November 1823. By means of warm clothing, fresh diet, free air when the weather would admit of his being taken upon deck, lemon juice, porter, bark and [nitre] given with lemon juice or vinegar the scorbutic diathesis was fairly overcome. The weather became worse before his death and he could not be taken on deck, his spirits became dejected and he suffered diarrhoea.

Folio 13: Patrick Hartigan, aged 24, Convict; disease or hurt, scurvy. Put on sick list, 18 December 1823. Died, 18 December 1823. Scorbutic symptoms appeared about the middle of November. His symptoms worsened when he could not be brought on deck and he also suffered diarrhoea.

Folio 13: Abstract of the preceding journal, being a summary of all the cases contained therein and the total number put on the list during the voyage.Continued fevers, 35 put on the list, 1 died on board, 3 related in the journal; Fluxes, 20 put on the list, none in the journal; Scurvy, 41 put on the list, 4 died on board, 29 sent to the hospital, 4 in the journal; Rheumatism, 2 put on the list, none in the journal; Venereal, 1 put on the list and related in the journal; Catarrhal Complaints, 9 put on the list, none in the journal; Other complaints, 10 put on the list, 2 died on board, 2 in the journal.

Folios 13-15: Observations. Comments on the poor state of the convicts when embarked from the Surprise Hulk at Cove of Cork. One man having only a blanket for clothing and another only one leg to his trousers. The state of their clothing and the severity of the weather giving rise to a number of catarrhal complaints. Wine was issued very early in the voyage to lift their spirits. Fever soon appeared and some prisoners had suffered before joining the hulk. The cause must have been either latent in their systems or attached to the clothing they were supplied on leaving the hulk. Amongst other possible causes is the 'system of terror, robbery and plunder' that a gang had practiced on board the hulk and the plans of that gang to seize the ship, murdering anyone who stood in their way. The treatment of the fever is discussed along with methods of isolating the sufferers and fumigating their clothing in a barrel modified for the purpose. At the first opportunity, 4th October, the hospital was emptied and entirely cleaned and fumigated with nitre, sulphur and gunpowder. About this time the plan to mutiny and seize the ship was discovered and most of the convicts were replaced in irons and their liberty on deck curtailed. Just before this incident scurvy had appeared. The Surgeon's method of treatment is described in the case of John Kent. It's early appearance may be attributable to the prisoners having been previously in crowded conditions for some time in the hulk. After the lemon juice was used up, oatmeal pottage and porter proved very beneficial. It was decided it was unnecessary to touch at the Cape of Good Hope to pick up fresh provisions because there were enough provisions remaining and also to land the prisoners as soon as possible. The provisions supplied are sufficient for a healthy ship but in the case of sickness, some of the medical items are not in sufficient quantity. The salted meat and flour they were given was of very poor quality. Oatmeal pottage with sugar molasses was a very nutritious substitute. Potatoes could also be kept if supplied in baskets and occasionally aired upon deck. Beer would be more nutritious and antiseptic than the wine currently supplied. Signed, William Rea, Surgeon Superintendent of the Isabella To, The Commissioners for Victualling His Majesty's Navy etc.

Folios 16-47: Blank.

Date: 1823
Held by: The National Archives, Kew
Legal status: Public Record(s)
Closure status: Open Document, Open Description

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