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The Blackwall frigate Hougoumont was named for a chateau or farmhouse which was the site of an important moment in the battle at Waterloo. She was the last ship to transport convicts to Australia, arriving off Fremantle 9 January 1868. One of the transported was Lionel Holdsworth.


The only known photograph of the convict ship Hougoumont, as a hulk being used in the Forth Bridge Works in 1885.

On that trip she also brought 62 political prisoners, Fenians, members of the Irish Republican Brotherhood. Also on board were a number of pensioner guards and their families. The captain was Wiliam Cozens and William Smith the surgeon. There was one death during the voyage. John Boyle O'Reilly was one of the transportees. Journals of three of the Fenians have been published: those of Denis Cashman, John Casey, and Thomas McCarthy Fennell. A newspaper, The Wild Goose, was produced on board ship during the trip.

The arrival of the Hougoumont on January 10th with the Fenians on board marked the end of the transportation period that had existed for 18 years. The Fenians were not desperadoes by any means, yet the decision of the Imperial Government to send them to the colony created quite a scare among timid people. To allay those fears H.M.S. Brisk was sent to Fremantle, where she remained for some months. A company of the 14th Regiment was also sent from New Zealand, though the enrolled guard of military pensioners already here was ample for coping with any outbreak of unarmed prisoners that might have occurred. In addition there was also a comparatively large force of volunteer riflemen. Hitchcock: 52-53.

There is a Hougoumont Hotel in Bannister Street named after the ship. In 2020 it gained a new tavern built on what was its carpark and called Calamity's Rod, the name being taken from two words in a poem written for Denis Cashman by John Boyle O'Reilly.

5-14 January 2018: the Fenians, Fremantle and Freedom Festival in Fremantle, commemorating the Irish political prisoners who were transported on the Hougoumont.

This is NOT the Hougoumont:


This is the image that is commonly used incorrectly to represent the convict ship Hougoumont. This is a four-masted barque built at Greenock in 1897 and called Hougomont (without the second U) - which conveniently differentiates between the two ships. The convict ship had three masts. This one has three.
See this catalogue entry in SLWA.

With regard to the precise date of arrival of the Hougoumont, Bill Edgar writes: "On 9 January 1868, the Hougoumont hove to off Fremantle and the following day began discharging her cargo, including the 279 convicts on board ..." (2012: 179), so you can take your pick of two dates.

Hougoumont at the Forth Bridge

From William Westhofen, Forth Bridge, General Books LLC, 2010:
The contractors purchased an old hulk called - while in its prime - the Hougomont - in which ten to twelve hundred tons could be readily stored. It was moored off Queensferry, and the ships bringing cement from the south were moored alongside and discharged. From this ship the cement was brought ashore and stored in such quantities as might be required at any time. Subsequently the Hougomont was moored close to the west side of the South Queensferry jetty, and thus a more direct and speedy communication established. While the caissons were being sunk at Queensferry a large number of foreign workmen were lodged on board this hulk, and when, shortly after new year, 1886, an epidemic of small-pox broke out at Queensferry, the ship was towed round into Port Edgar, and moored in an isolated position, and converted into a small-pox hospital. As such it proved of signal service in speedily stamping out the disease.

W. Clark Russell 1894:
In this ship, the Hougoumont, I served three years. She was a transport, and was in the China war, 1860-1. Her burden was about 1,000 tons. This picture represents her as a sheer hulk employed in the construction of the Forth Bridge. I saw her towing down Channel in this state in 1889—she drew abreast of my house at Deal—and I could have wept to witness my old floating home in so miserable a condition.—C. R.

An article in the Scotsman newspaper, 4th Aug, 1885, refers to "an old three masted convict ship - the Hougomont" [sic] at the Forth Bridge.

References, Links, Events, Acknowledgements

Edgar, Bill 2012, 'Lags': A History of the Western Australian Convict Phenomenon, Tammar Publications.

Fennell, Thomas McCarthy 2000, Voyage of the Hougoumont and Life at Fremantle, ed Philip Fennell & Marie King, privately published.

Russell, William Clark 1894, My First Book, Chatto & Windus, London (contributor).

Hitchcock, JK 1929, The History of Fremantle, The Front Gate of Australia 1829-1929, FCC.

EPFWA page for the Hougoumont - lists all members of the EPF who were aboard.

Page for the Hougoumont at Diane Oldman's site, Crimean War Veterans in WA

Perth DPS page for the Hougoumont with a passenger list

Note about the Irish festival Fremantle January 2018

Wikipedia page

WAGS 'End of Transportation' EPG Special presentation 20 Jan 2018

RWAHS event: Hougoumont and its cargo of convicts, 14 Jan 2018

Photo of the (real) Hougoumont courtesy of Gary Bush. The articles about the hulk at the Forth Bridge works are also courtesy of Gary Bush: many thanks.

Garry Gillard | New: 30 June, 2016 | Now: 3 June, 2023