Scindian was built in Sunderland in 1844 for J Allan of London for trade to India, the Cape of Good Hope (South Africa) and later to St. Helena. She was originally classified as a ship but appears to have been relegated to barque status for a few years; however, by the time of her 1850 voyage to Western Australia, she was once again described as an early frigate ship. (1)
Specifications: Official #15840, 650 tons registered in London. Hull of oak; three masts, two decks + poop deck, square stern, 1/4 galleries; figure head of a female bust. Length: 129.1 ft. Breadth: 30.9 ft. Draft: 20.7 ft. (2)
The British Government employed Scindian as a convict transport and on 4th March 1850 she left Portsmouth with a crew of 43 bound for the Swan River Colony. She carried the first of 37 shipments of male convicts destined for Western Australia. The voyage took 89 days and the Scindian arrived in Fremantle on 1st June 1850 with 200 passengers and 75 male convicts. Captain James Cammell and John Gibson were the captain and surgeon respectively. Of the 200 passengers mentioned above, 163 were pensioner guards and their families, the number being made up of 55 pensioners, 29 wives, 43 sons and 36 daughters. (3)
Most people are inclined to classify Scindian as the first ship to convey convicts to Western Australia. However, in December 1826 Major Edmund Lockyer had landed twenty of his troops from the ship Amity in the harbour of what would be known as Fredericks Town, King George’s Sound (later Albany). By April 1827 a Quarterly Return of Crown Prisoners ‘in the employ of Government’ records that 23 were at King George’s Sound. (4). It is also the case that Parkhurst Prison apprentices arrived in WA between 1842 and 1851.
Among the remaining 27 passengers on board Scindian were Captain Edmund Yeamans Walcott Henderson, Corps Royal Engineers, his wife and infant son. Henderson had been appointed Comptroller General of Convicts and brought with him five men from the Corps of Sappers and Miners – 2nd Corporals Charles Newman and John Hay, Privates Thomas Murdoch, John Tonkin and Alexander Thomson. (5)
Although the number of days’ passage for Scindian’s voyage was only slightly shorter than the average for the times, it was fast enough to overtake the despatches which heralded their movements. When Henderson arrived, he discovered no preparations to receive them and no accommodation for his charges. His sappers and working parties from the pensioner guards and convicts set to, finishing off the roof and flooring of an unoccupied wool shed in Fremantle. (6)
Scindian sailed for London via Calcutta on 10th August 1850 with a cargo of wool, whalebone, 22 horses, one cow and calf. A note in the Perth Gazette newspaper in December announced the safe arrival of Scindian and horses in India. The horses had landed but not sold! (7)
There is a puzzle associated with the fate and final resting place of Scindian. The Wellington Independent newspaper reported that she had been abandoned off Port Elizabeth, a complete wreck, main masts and bulwarks gone with water in the hold. She had allegedly carried a cargo of silks valued at 150,000 pounds. A similar report appeared in the Sacramento Daily Union in January 1865. However, a resurrection surely occurred as the Mercantile Navy List, Wrecksite and Wikipedia have recorded that she was wrecked on 3rd November 1880. Furthermore, an Italian magazine in 2010 ran a story about Captain Laurenson, his wife and five crew members who perished when Scindian ran onto rocks in a storm (1880); the Captain and his wife were buried (with headstone pictured in the article) in Rio Marina, Island of Elba. (1)
George Throssell was a ten year-old lad when he sailed on Scindian to Western Australia (his father was a pensioner guard). He became the Colony’s second Premier.
Also see sources & links
(1) Peter Searle’s Sunderland Site.
(2) Derrick Prall’s publication.
(3) Perth DPS website.
(4) Dorrit Hunt, Albany First Western Settlement Series.
(5) Muster Rolls & Pay Lists WO11-130 July 1850.
(6) Maj. Gen. R R McNicoll.
(7) Marcia Watson, Convict SIG, WAGS.