A busybody passenger, 1842

This gives an insight into life on board an immigrant ship and may help to explain some elusive ancestors’ arrivals, in that some people assumed another identity or status to travel to New South Wales.

Many cases of abuse of the Bounty system are evident in these Reports and it seems that many busybody passengers acted as spies! For example George O’Brien was a married bounty immigrant on the Sir Charles Napier. When he was examined by the Board he gave information on over 20 other passengers who had either sailed on false pretences or who had committed immoral acts while on board. It is interesting to note that the government refused to pay 102 of the 239 bounties for that ship.

Source: NRS 5257, Immigration Board: Reports by Immigration Board on complaints of immigrants about their passage, 1838-87 Extract from Evidence of George O’Brien re voyage of ‘Sir Charles Napier’, 1842 [4/4700 pp.70-71], Reel 2852


(This is an extract from Evidence of George O’Brien)
George O’Brien a married man Bounty
Immigrant by “Sir Charles Napier” called in
and examined – I am a married man I have
a wife and six children I knew a man
on board called Flynn, he told me
he was a single man, there was a woman
on board who had some children with her
she passed as Flynn’s wife, but was not so,
as I heard from Flynn I heard some
conversations on board between Kings Bounty
People and the Sailors, which induced me to
keep a case of pistols about me I heard four
of them, two men named Scully and a man
named Guynan and another whose name I
do not recall say, that they were tried for the
murder of Mr Biddulph, and owing to some
contradictory evidence, they were liberated on
bail I knew a woman on board named
Anne Chambers, she shipped as a single woman
but she told me she was married and had
a child on board, passing as a child of Patk
Cummins and that she was coming out to her
husband who was a prisoner of the Crown
I knew Mrs Flynn alias Hartford to be coming
out to her husband who I heard was a prisoner
here. I know a single girl named Jane
Bryan, she was delivered of a male child on
board I heard her say that she was a
married woman and that her husband was
a prisoner here
I knew Matthew Bryan, who passed as Jane
Bryan’s brother I heard Matthew Bryan
acknowledge that he was the father of the child
of which Jane was delivered on board
Mary Flood I do not think was a good
girl, she could never be kept away from
the Sailors, Isabella Thompson & Rachel
Thompson were also incorrect I think
Mary Shaw an incorrect Girl She came on
board in the Workhouse dress I think Jane
Perry an incorrect Girl I knew Catherine
Murphy, she was a most barefaced Girl I
have seen her lying in a bed the Hospital
with Watson 3d mate I have also seen her
in the Green House on deck in very improper
situations with Watson I knew Hannah
Plunkett I have seen a very undue intimacy
between Pemberton and her, I have seen them
on deck with a Cloak folded about them
I knew Mary Carroll a single girl, I
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