The Ship’s Owner
According to Lloyd’s Register, the first owner of Asiatic launched in 1841, was Munro and Co.; soon after she was purchased by Allan & Co. Alexander Allan founded the Allan Shipping Line, and rising from shoemaker to shipping magnate in little more than thirty years, made a fortune and created a transatlantic dynasty. James Allan was Alexander’s eldest son. Born 1807 on the west coast of Ayrshire, he gained his practical experience of ships as captain of traders between the Clyde and Montreal. After the death of his father, he and siblings Hugh, Bryce, Andrew and Alexander ran various aspects of the family business. It was James who was listed in the contract details of Asiatic’s convict voyage of 1843. Along with his business interests, he became Chairman of the Clyde Pilot Board and the Clyde Lighthouse Trust. The Allan Line was famous later in the 19th century for its Royal Mail service to Canada and its emigrant ships to Canada and the United States. James Allan died in August 1880 and was survived by four sons and four daughters.
The Ship’s Builder
As often the case, identifying the builder of a ship has been problematic. With some assistance from two ‘Sunderland Ships’ websites (in sources below), it is likely that Asiatic was built by Reed and Banfield, a company active in Sunderland in this period – but unverified at this point in time. Further information would be welcome.
Asiatic was registered in Lloyds 1840/41 as a Barque of 404 tons with an A1 Classification. In February 1841 she was advertised as being ‘under engagement with H.E.I.C.’ at 503 tons. And on 11th March she embarked 280 troops from the 2nd, 17th and 94th Regiments bound for Bombay. Her only voyage as a convict ship was in 1843.
The Ship’s Unwilling Passengers
Asiatic sailed from Sheerness with 188 prisoners on board. These all-male convicts were sentenced in the Assizes and Quarter Session courts of England, Scotland and Wales, and 69 of them in the Central Criminal Court at the Old Bailey in London. The average sentence was eight years, with one ‘lifer’.
Two convicts died on the voyage. Of the 186 convicts landed, Edward Deacon, suffering from impetigo, was sent to hospital along with Patrick Lyons who fractured his thigh – the second time in three months in the same place; the Surgeon reported a ‘perfect cure of the limb’.
The Ship’s Guards and Carers
In 1843 Asiatic was one of sixteen convict ships arriving in Van Diemen’s Land from British ports – her only convict voyage. She was, however, ultimately bound for New South Wales where the majority of 99th Regiment troops in Australia were then garrisoned. Guarding the convicts to Hobart were Captain Reid and 70 troops. In October 1843 most of these men re-boarded Asiatic and sailed to join their regiment in Parramatta, NSW. In 1849 Privates Thomas Allmond, William James, and John F Maguire arrived in Western Australia, eventually receiving their Army discharges and settling in the Colony.
The Master of the vessel Asiatic was George Barlow and Andrew Sinclair was the Surgeon Superintendent on the voyage.
The Ship’s Voyage
Asiatic sailed from Sheerness on 28th May 1843 with 296 souls on board: prisoners, guards, women and children, and crew included. The ship called in at the Cape of Good Hope for supplies and after 118 days passage arrived at Hobart on 23rd September. Asiatic then left Hobart on 8th October for NSW arriving 15th October 1843.
The Ship’s Journal
Surgeon Andrew Sinclair made two voyages on convict ships to Australia – Asia in 1841 and Asiatic in 1843. In his early years with the Royal Navy, he became interested in botany and took many voyages collecting botanical specimens. After the Asiatic voyage, he left the Navy to travel to New Zealand and spent many years in public service as Colonial Secretary and a member of the Legislative Council. He was well known in natural history circles and while on various expeditions collected botanical and zoological specimens which he sent to the British Museum and Botanical Gardens at Kew. In 1861, he drowned on a geological survey of the headwaters of the Rangitātā River. Mount Sinclair and the Sinclair River in New Zealand’s South Island, are named after him. Surgeon Sinclair maintained a journal for Asiatic’s voyage from 16th May to 6th October 1843.
The Nosological Synopsis in the journal (right) shows that there were 87 attendances to the Sick Bay. The Surgeon commented, “In general all on board enjoyed good health, there being seldom more than five prisoners on the Sick List at a time and these with unimportant complaints”. Nonetheless, three passengers died on the voyage: a soldier’s child from catarrhal fever, a prisoner from phthisis and one drowned.
The Ship’s Demise
As can be seen from an excerpt of the Adelaide newspaper report (left), the Asiatic went down on the evening of 9th June 1850 about 100 miles west of Algoa Bay, South Africa. It was later discovered that the problem was not the dragging of her anchors, but the breaking of a defective link in one of the chains.
The agents, William Younghusband & Co. reported that the loss of cargo was estimated at £22,000, mainly composed of copper, wool, wheat, whalebone, and casks of tallow and oil. The cargo was insured.
Lloyds of London Registers 1840-1843.
Convict Records of Australia, State Library of Queensland.
Claim a Convict website.
Australian Medical Pioneer Index.
Ships List website – Contract Details 1843.
The Sunderland Site, Peter Searle.
Sunderland Built Ships website.
Wrecksite website, Levano Herve.
Glasgow West website.
Dictionary of New Zealand Biography.
Musters & Pay Lists WO12-9806-104/105, National Archives, Kew.
Journal of Her Majesty’s Ship Asiatic, ADM101-6-1, National Archives, Kew.
Shipping & Mercantile Gazette 19 Feb 1841.
West Kent Guardian 13 Mar 1841.
Naval & Military Gazette 20 May 1843.
Colonial Times 26 Sep 1843.
The Australian 17 Oct 1843.
Adelaide Times 10 Oct 1850 p.3.
Greenock Advertiser 26 Aug 1880.
© Diane Oldman 2022