Voyage of the Emigrant to Morton Bay 8 Aug 1850

Privacy Level: Open (White)
Date: 17 Apr 1850 to 8 Aug 1850
Location: Morton Bay, Colony New South Wales, Australiamap
Surnames/tags: Immigration New_South_Wales
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Ship of Death

The tragedy of the 'Emigrant'

Ship of Death, The tragedy of the 'Emigrant'
The Emigrant left Plymouth on 17 April 1850, carrying 276 assisted emigrants from Ireland and England to Moreton Bay.
She was the second government-sponsored ship to sail directly to Moreton Bay.
Typhus broke out on the voyage, and by the time the barque had reached Moreton Bay, it had killed 20 of the passengers and crew. The ship was diverted to the newly-proclaimed quarantine station at Dunwich, Stradbroke Island, where a further 26 passengers and crew, the ship's surgeon-superintendent, and a Brisbane doctor who had gone to assist at the quarantine hospital, perished[1].
  • Departed: Plymouth, England, on 17 April 1850
  • Arrived: Moreton Bay, Colony of New South Wales, 8 August 1850 (now Queensland since 6 June 1859.)

Newpaper Reports

The Moreton Bay Courier (Brisbane, Qld. : 1846 - 1861) Mon 12 Aug 1850 Page 1 SHIPPING INTELLIGENCE[2].
Aug. 8. Emigrant, ship, 753 tons, Wm. Henry Kemp, commander, from Plymouth 17th April, with immigrants. Cabin passen- gers — Dr. Mitchell, surgeon-superin- tendent, Mrs. Kemp, child, and servant. The Emigrant did not touch at any port during her passage out, nor speak any vessels connected with these colonies. The number of immigrants originally on board, as reported to us, was 39 married couples, 55 single women, 72 single men, 37 male and 27 female children under fourteen years of age, and 3 infants. This would make 272 in all, although we have another report that the number was 276. There is no opportunity at present of correcting the discrepancy. When the ship was off the Cape de Verds, on the 12th May, typhus fever first appeared on board, and in all there had been sixty-four cases of malignant typhus. Two deaths occurred since the ship en- tered this port, viz., one on Friday and one on Saturday last : in all the deaths up to Saturday were 18, of which 14 were from typhus fever, and one of the seamen was amongst the latter number. There were 15 sick patients and 12 convalescents in hospital last Saturday. The ship was ordered into Quarantine at Stradbroke Island, and was on her way there when the Health Officer left the bay. The ketch Aurora has been engaged to convey provisions, tents, and other necessaries to the quarantine ground, for the immigrants. Mr. Watson, the local immigration agent, has gone down to take charge of the station, and four pen- sioners by the Bangalore, engaged for the service, have been sent down as guards.
The Emigrant brought a mail, which, having been properly fumigated, was brought to Brisbane and delivered to the postmaster yesterday.
The Mary White, for Sydney, sailed from Gravesend on the 14th April.
The Moreton Bay Courier (Brisbane, Qld. : 1846 - 1861) Sat 7 Sep 1850 Page 3 To the Editor of the Moreton Bay Courier[3].
To the Editor of the Moreton Bay Courier.
SIR, — On perusal of your paper of the 31st ult., I perceive in your leading article your urging the necessity of the Executive Council examining most strictly into the cause of so much unhappy loss of life on board the ship Emigrant, on her late passage to this port with Commissioners' immigrants, and contrasting the ship with others which have arrived under private superintendence. As far as regards the ship Emigrant, she was acknowledged by the authorities in Sydney last year as a most eligible ship for the conveyance of passengers, both as regards her spacious 'tween-decks and her sailing qualities, — I having landed my immigrants on the 90th day from being put on board at Plymouth. I had on board 50 souls more than this year, viz., 326 instead of 276; and only one adult died during the passage, and that of consumption, although meazles prevailed throughout the whole of the children, 117 in number.
I have been now in command of ships for eighteen years, and much of the time employed in conveying passengers, having crossed the seas ten different voyages, with ships full and crowded, two of which have been to Sydney — 1841 and 1849, and the present one to Moreton Bay ; during the whole of which I never lost more than one adult on any passage, and two or three children. Even during the raging of typhus in Ireland and Liverpool, in '46 and '47, I went to Quebec with 500 on board ; I lost but one, when there were vessels arriving with 150 deaths on board, — not single instances, but numbers, with upwards of 100. You wish the thing to be diligently inquired into. I make no doubt but such will be the case, or it will be different from any voyage I have made under the Commissioners, which have been generally sifted so closely as almost to make the commander of a ship feel himself degraded to hear questions put to some who are in no way fit to answer them. However, I am happy to say I never yet had fault found.
As far as regards the sickness, I presume you are aware what a fearful malady typhus is ashore, even where you can get away from it ; but how much more so must it be on board ship, where there are no back-doors to escape by, and where you can hardly get a second person to attend upon the sick ! for almost certain everyone who attends falls, which has been the case on board my ship. The surgeon at times could scarcely get anyone to attend; 'twas only by the utmost persuasion such could be done. We have only one, who has been a constant attendant upon the sick, who has escaped altogether, — John Farmer ; he is an aged married man, and I wonder, when I look at him, how he has sustained the fatigue. J. W. Ball, the surgeon's assistant, struggled through it in a most wonderful manner until a few days since ; but it had such severe hold of him that he died after going on shore. The same with George Houston : he was also in the hospital attending ; when he went ashore a lease might have been taken of his life, but it took him off in a few hours. The female nurses have both had very severe attacks, but are recovering ; and Dr. Mitchell himself, after superintending the whole both night and day, was attacked the day we arrived here ; he has been laid down ever since, and very near death's door, and still lingers.
Up to my arrival in Bass's Straits, 24th July, our cases of deaths (although there had been a fearful number of cases) were not so many : 3 infants of diarrhoea, 1 married woman apoplexy, 3 married women and 1 man fever, and the matron from decay of nature, making 6 adults and 3 infants ; after which time it gained ground fearfully, having nothing but light winds on the coast from 24th July to 8th August, when I was boarded by my pilot in Moreton Bay, no less than 7 adults fell a prey to fever, and after he was on board up to the 13th, 3 more were taken off. As for the true origin of the sickness, I believe there is no possibility of ascertaining, but it often occurs from people who have been rather scant of provisions, or using bad, being placed upon full allowance : also the changes of climate will, I believe, often have a similar effect. I subjoin a list of the deaths which took place during the passage :
May 2. Wm. Faith, 8 months, diarrhoea.
 " 24. Hannah Hallett, married, apoplexy.
 " 25. Mary Meara, married, fever.
June 3. Catharine Slattery, infant, diarrhoea.
 " 18. Infant child Hallett, 1 month, diarrhoea.
 " 19. Mrs. Burberow, 56, decay of nature, matron.
July 10. Mary Waterson, married, fever.
 " 15. James Chapple, " "
 " 22. Ann Gleeson, " "
After entering Bass's Straits :—
 " 26. Ann Charlton, single, fever. " " Geo. Hayward, " "
 " 28. Sophia Bremble, " "
 " 29. Ann Connor, married, "
 " 31. James Lancaster, supery. seaman, fever.
Aug. 3. Caroline Loder, single, fever.
 " 5. Fanny Bloxam, married, fever.
Boarded by pilot 8th August — at anchor in Moreton Bay :—
 " 8. Euphemia Furphy, widow, 67, fever.
 " 10. Joseph Waterson, married, fever.
 " 12. At Anchor, Quarantine Ground.
 " 13. J. German, married, fever.
I am, Sir,
Your most obedient servant,
Ship Emigrant,    W. H. Kemp.
Thursday, 5th August, 1850.


  1. The tragedy of the 'Emigrant', Ship of Death
  2. 1850 'SHIPPING INTELLIGENCE.', The Moreton Bay Courier (Brisbane, Qld. : 1846 - 1861), 12 August, p. 1. ("Moreton Bay Courier" Extraordinary.), viewed 07 Dec 2021,
  3. 1850 'To the Editor of the Moreton Bay Courier.', The Moreton Bay Courier (Brisbane, Qld. : 1846 - 1861), 7 September, p. 3. , viewed 07 Dec 2021,

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The first death, William Frith (2 May) actually appears as Henry Frith (in Wikitree) as the Captain on the ship renamed the child for some reason. His parents are my G.G.G. Grandparents.
posted 8 Dec 2021 by Anonymous Rayner   [thank Anonymous]
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