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Transportation on the "Joseph Somes"

Compiled by Russell Hudson 28 January 2006. Updated 04 March 2011.


Ian Wynd (1986), in the introduction to his publication "The Exiles" (for the reference see Credits and Links), records some statistics on convict transportation. He states that some 160,000 convicts were transported to Australia, most arriving before transportation to New South Wales ceased in 1840. Convicts continued to be sent to Tasmania (then Van Diemen's Land), but the demand was declining, and many settlers argued against the continued landing of convicted prisoners.  In addition, some 1,751 transportees with a conditional pardon, known as "exiles", arrived in Australia between 1844 and 1849, many in the Port Phillip District of Victoria. In all, nine ships brought exiles to the Port Phillip District, delivering them to both Melbourne and Point Henry, near Geelong. On arrival, many of the exiles accepted short-term employment contracts with land-owners and squatters. For further details on "exiles" see the note on the page "Prison Records".

The sailing ship "Joseph Somes" was one of the transport ships that brought "exiles" to Australia, departing Spithead 4 June 1847 and arriving at Point Henry, Geelong on 24 September 1847. A detailed description of the "Joseph Somes" has been compiled by Colin Dearnley (1993) and the reference to his publication is given in "Credits and Links. A brief summary appears below:

The vessel was of 780 tons, constructed of teak and oak and sheathed in yellow metal (copper-zinc alloy or "brass", containing about 60-70% copper) to protect it from worm damage. It was built in 1845 by the firm of Curling Young and Co. at Limehouse, London. The owner was Thomas Colyer of Melton, County of Kent, who was the son-in-law of the shipowner Joseph Somes.

The first record of the "Joseph Somes" being taken up by the Admiralty to transport "exiles" is in a dispatch from Earl Grey to Sir Charles Fitzroy: "Sir, I have to inform you that the ship "Joseph Somes" has been chartered for the conveyance of 250 Exiles from Millbank, Parkhurst and Pentonville Prisons to Port Phillip. I am Etc., Grey."

After having been fitted out at Deptford (on the Thames), the "Joseph Somes" sailed to Woolwich on 6 May 1847, where the guard and 165 "exiles" embarked (from Millbank 81 and Pentonville 84) . On 18 May 1847, the ship sailed for Cowes, on the Isle of Wight, where a further 84 boys from Parkhurst (a prison for juvenile males aged 9-19 years) embarked, giving a total of 249. A Royal Pardon was granted to the "exiles" on 25 or 28 May 1847 (unclear in the record of the nominal list of exiles, although Dearnley, 1993 suggests the 28th). On the 4 June 1847, the ship set sail for Port Phillip via Hobart Town. (Further details of Millbank, Pentonville and Parkhurst Prisons are also given in Dearnley,1993).

The Surgeon Superintendent's Journal, under "General Remarks" contains a description of the voyage. He reports that after some "nausea and inability to take food ..." prior to departure, the early part of the voyage was calm and without incident. On reaching the Southern Ocean, "a succession of gales and squalls with wretched wet weather and high sea running and frequently breaking over the ship" resulted in the men being confined below deck. Nevertheless, the ship arrived in Hobart Town on 9 September 1847, with all but one of the men (John Little) "perfectly healthy" - John Little was removed to shore. There was little illness on the voyage, and most patients responded well to treatment. One man suffered a fractured femur in a fall, but after two months in a splint, the surgeon reported "the bone had perfectly united".

The main record of the officers and exiles on the voyage has the heading "Nominal list of Exiles from Pentonville, Millbank, and Parkhurst Prison; arrived at Point Henry on the 24th day of September 1847 per the ship "Joseph Somes"; sailed from Portsmouth on the 4th of June 1847. J.W. Elliott Esq. Surgeon Superintendent (of the Royal Navy), G. Thompson Esq. Master, Charles Cooper, Religious Instructor. Date of Royal Pardon 28 May 1847."

The complete list of officers on board the "Joseph Somes" were Dr. J.W. Elliott Esq. (Surgeon Superintendent R.N.), George Thompson Esq. (Master of the "Joseph Somes"), Charles Cooper (Religious Instructor), Chris Elmstone (Chief Mate), Wm ?Bradway (Second Mate), and ?Julius Hallpike (Third Mate).

Newspaper reports (quoted by Dearnley, 1993) contain additional information on the arrival of the vessel and clearly indicate that within the colonial population many settlers had severe reservations about the arrival of the transportees, regardless of the fact that all had been granted a Royal Pardon. A report from the Geelong Advertiser of 24 September 1847 includes "a large ship in sight this afternoon, supposed to be the 'Joseph Somes', from England via Hobart Town, with Exiles". On 28 September 1847, the Melbourne Argus reported the arrival of the "Joseph Somes ....with 249 Exiles under military guard", and also "....with a cargo of Pentonvillains, arrived at Geelong on Saturday". On 28 September 1847, the Geelong Advertiser reported "...exiles from the prisons of Pentonville, Parkhurst and Millbank, under a guard of 19 soldiers of the 90th Regiment and one Ensign".

This cool reception for the 249 new settlers is further emphasised by remarks made by Lieutenant Addis, who boarded the vessel on 27 September. His briefing was reported by the Geelong Advertiser of 28 September as follows: "Lieutenant Addis ... read the proclamation setting forth the tenure upon which their freedom will be held, informed them at some length of the nature of the country they had been sent to - of what would be required from them - and the consequences that would result from any infringement of the laws here. The Commissioner did not forget to mention that the characters that their predecessors had earned for themselves (presumably he said they were not good), and strongly advised all of the exiles to hire for the bush, and leave the town immediately on landing".

Perhaps some of the exiles might have been hoping for a warmer reception, after their voyage of three months. After all, Queen Victoria herself had directed that the exiles be accepted as free men. She said: "We .... are graciously pleased to extend our mercy and grace unto them and to grant them our pardon for which they stand convicted ... (and) ... this our pardon shall have the effect of a free pardon within our said Australian Territories".

Ian Wynd (1986) confirms that "the exiles received a mixed reception at Port Phillip:  the squatters were desperate for labour of any sort and welcomed them, but the inhabitants of Melbourne (and, presumably, Geelong) saw their introduction as the resumption of transportation ... (and) ... as the cause of a crime wave in their town."

The "Nominal List of Exiles" contains the names of the exiles, their age, marital status, literacy skills, former trade, trade taught in prison, crime, sentence, when and where convicted, and when and where received. The exiles on the "Joseph Somes" were drawn from many of the English Counties, with a number from Scotland as well. Their most obvious characteristic was their youth. Sixty five of the exiles gave their age as 17, over half of the exiles (130) had ages listed in the range from16 to 18, and about three-quarters of the exiles were in the range from 14 to 20. Of the the remainder, a further 27 had ages from 21 to 23 and the rest ranged in ages up to the oldest at age 37. All had originally received severe sentences, from 7 to 15 years, with most having been sentenced to either 7 or 10 years.

Records of Goddards transported as exiles to the Port Phillip District are given in the following table.

Details of Convict Ships


"Joseph Somes"

"Marion" (1)

"Anna Maria"


George Thompson

Charles W.M.S.McKerlie

Edward M. Smith


Spithead (2)




4 June 1847

29 September 1847

9 March 1848






24 September 1847

25 January 1848

23 June 1848

List of Goddard Exiles


Book 2/3-016-277

Book 2/3- -293






Register No.







John GODDARD (4)





Read & Write




Former Trade or Profession


Shoemaker & Policeman


Trade Taught in Prison




Married or Single






?Horse Stealing



10 Years

10 Years


When Convicted

30 June 1845

27 February 1846


Where Convicted

Winchester (5)

Hertford Assizes


When Received

16 August 1845

1 May 1846


Where Received




From Which Prison




Disposal List of Goddard Exiles


Book 2/3-016-286

Book 2/3- -303










Capacity Engaged

General Servant

Went on shore at his own request


Name of Employer

Mr. Willis (6)



Residence of Employer




Term of Engagement

3 months



Annual Wages




Notes: 1. Sometimes spelled as Marian. 2. Spithead, Portsmouth, England. 3.A fellow exile was James Hudson who, like many others, was “sent on shore having refused to take reasonable wages”. 4. John Goddard is listed incorrectly as “Joan” Goddard in the alphabetical list of the pamphlet “The Exiles” (Gen. Soc. Victoria, 1986). 5.Winchester, Hampshire, England. 6. Other exiles engaged to Mr. Willis were No. 86 Wm. Furnifs (Genl Servt), No. 88 Andw. Harper (?Cutter), and No. 89 Jas. Wilkinson (Carter).

The first task for the exiles was to find work. For many transportees this had been pre-arranged, and is recorded in the Disposal List of the Exiles, where the following details are listed: names of the exiles, in what capacity they were engaged, name and residence of the employer, term of employment, and the rate of wages per annum. The Geelong Advertiser of 28 September 1847 reported of the exiles: "Many of them have been already hired at wages from 23 to 26 pounds, and those who are willing to hire will be readily engaged at that rate".

Colin Dearnley (1993) compiled a list of the names and addresses of the employers of the exiles, and states that the main occupations accepted by the exiles were: Hut Keeper, General Servant, Servant and Hut Keeper, Shepherd, and Butcher. Ian Wynd (1986) observes that despite the fact that "all of the exiles had undergone instruction in a trade in prison and many were tradesmen before their incarceration ... only a few found employment in their trades, the bulk (being) employed by the squatters as shepherds or labourers". Wages offered were typically within the range from 18 to 26 pounds per annum and employment contracts varied from 1 month to 2 years, most having contracts for three, six or twelve months duration.

Ian Wynd (1986) states "the figures available suggest that only a small number (of exiles) relapsed into their old ways" and that "it is easy enough to find evidence of the exile's criminal activities but more difficult to unearth the facts about those who settled down to become law abiding citizens". He quotes examples of exiles who became magistrates and others who became successful businessmen. Colin Dearnley (1993) also believes that "the exiles certainly had their critics .. (but) .. probably too much notice was taken from so few". He notes that " prominent squatters preferred to hire exiles rather than the locals". Les Pickering of the South Cheshire Studies Centre (see reference in Credits and Links), described 22 Cheshire Convicts granted pardons under the exile scheme. He remarked: "I could not find any instance of a man returning to England after the term of his sentence expired, but most men were given a complete free pardon within four years of arrival in Australia".

As a concluding remark Dearnley (1993) says: "It is now nearly 150 years since the "Joseph Somes" landed exiles at Point Henry, and it would be interesting to know how many descendants of those exiles are now making their way in the world". I would hazard a guess that the number of James Goddard's descendants, who have made, or are making their way in the world, would exceed one thousand!

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