The Surgeons and their Voyages - Tales from Transcribers

by Colleen Arulappu


Department of the

Physician General

Admiralty, 1st December, 1836

The Surgeons Superintendents of Convict Ships are particularly desired to notice, that they will be required to render a regular Sick Book, with the Journal, and the Nosological Synopsis now added thereto, in a complete and Scientific state, together with a certificate from the Medical Storekeeper at Deptford, as to the condition and number of their Surgical Instruments, in all respects the same as if employed in King’s Ships, agreeably to the new Instructions for the Service Afloat, and that in the event of any failure in these particulars, the Certificates necessary from this Department, to entitle them to receive their Pay and Allowances will be withheld.

W. Burnett


Transcribing the medical journals written by the surgeon superintendents aboard the convict transport ships was a journey itself, often taking often nearly as much time as a voyage and providing many glimpses of life aboard a convict transport ship. The routine, the accounts of illnesses and treatment and occasional brief tales of individual women vary but each surgeon gave something of himself in the journal jottings. Occasionally it was flash of humour, frustrations as their patients’ recovery from illness was slow and tedious, sometimes anger at disruption and revolt but always dedication to the regulations regarding cleanliness and avoiding dampness.  The surgeons deserve their own stories and recognition for their role in the history of transportation. They were men the Royal Navy could be proud of with their records of successfully delivering prisoners to the colonies.   

Colleen Arulappu


The Surgeons and their Voyages - Tales from Transcribers will be published below as a series of chapters.


Further Resources:

FCRC Seminar Autumn 2014 paper by Colleen Arulappu:  Five Surgeons and their influence




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For academic referencing (suggestion only) Database: [http address], FCRC Female Convicts in Van Diemen’s Land database, entry for xxxx ID no xxx, accessed online [date].

For academic referencing (suggestion only) Website:  Female Convicts Research Centre Inc., accessed online [date] from [http address].