The density of the convict collections now available on Ancestry.com.au allow those researching their convict forbears to paint a vivid picture, not just of the convicts themselves, but also of their journey and their experiences in the fledgling colony of New South Wales.
James Walsh was a 26 year old shoemaker when he arrived in Australia on board the Edward in February of 1831. Born in Waterford, Ireland in 1805, he was convicted of receiving stolen goods and given seven years transportation. His Convict Indent (an official list of convicts being transported aboard a particular ship) describes James as just shy of 5’6” (172 cm) with a ruddy ‘pock-pitted’ complexion, brown hair and hazel eyes.
The indent goes on to describe James as having a crooked right arm with a mermaid and fish tattoo on his left arm, a tattoo of an anchor between the left thumb and forefinger. Interestingly it also tells us that James had taken an earlier voyage to Australia at his majesties pleasure – on board the Prince Regent in 1821 – served his time (7 years) and then made his way home only to be shipped out again.
James’ first ‘involuntary cruise’ to Australia on board the Prince Regent (arriving in Sydney in January 1921) was uneventful. His second trip out on the Edward was far more terrifying. James boarded the Edward in late August 1830 with 157 other male convicts in Cork and they set sail in November. According to the UK Royal Naval Medical Journals (records kept by the ships surgeon to assist with improving conditions on-board in future voyages) in December there was an outbreak of Cholera that infected , among others Patrick Carroll – the ships cook. Five convicts were to die on the voyage, another two in hospital shortly after disembarking in March 1831. James must have been terrified to what his fellow convicts fall ill and perish right before his eye – and he had nowhere to hide.
During his earlier ‘visit’ to Australia, James worked as a carpenter and he no doubt turned his hand back to carpentry when, according to the Settler and Convict Lists, he was assigned to the Australian Agricultural Company in Port Stephens not long after his arrival. In January of 1836 James acquired his Ticket of Leave and 15 months later, in April 1837, his Certificate of Freedom.
The rest of James’ story is waiting to be discovered…
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