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The ship Scindian, master James Cammell, brought convicts to Fremantle 1 June 1850, the first of thirty-seven ships so to do. She also brought Edmund Henderson, the first Comptroller-General of Convicts, Thomas Dixon, Prison Governor, and James Murray, Clerk of Works, and the first five Sappers and Miners (later Royal Engineers): Charles Newman, John Hay, Thomas Murdoch, John Tonkin, and Alexander Thomson. Future WA Premier George Throssell also arrived, with his father, a pensioner guard.

The most notable event of 1850 was the arrival, on June 1st, of the ship Scindian with the first batch of convicts, the date synchronising with the twenty-first anniversary of the foundation of the colony. In addition to the convicts and military guards with their wives and families there arrived by the Scindian, Captain Henderson, R.E., Comptroller-General of convicts, and a large staff of officials, including Dickson [sic], principal overseer, and James Manning, clerk of works. Later a number of tradesmen were brought from South Australia to instruct the convicts in the various trades in which they were to be employed. [34]
As no preparation had been made for the reception of the convicts, the first batches were quartered in premises rented from Captain Daniel Scott, fronting Marine Terrace, Collie Street and Essex Street, extending half-way-up to Essex-lane. The only part now [1929] remaining is used as a warehouse and extends from the Esplanade Hotel to Essex-street.
That temporary prison reverted to Captain Scott when the convicts were transferred to the new prison erected by themselves on the hill. The numerous outbuildings at the rear of the main building were then converted into tenements which, in the course of time, degenerated into mere hovels and what was known as the Old Establishment Yard became the slum quarters of Fremantle in the sixties and seventies, the tenants being mostly ticket-of-leave men and their consorts, the demimonde always to be found in a seaport town. Hitchcock: 33-34.


A barque of 650 tons, Scindian was constructed at Sunderland, England in 1844 and named after the Indian Scindia dynasty. She left Portsmouth on 4 March 1850 under the command of Captain James Cammell and surgeon-superintendent John Gibson, and docked at Fremantle on 1 June 1850 after a voyage of 89 days. The vessel carried 275 people to Western Australia including 75 male convicts and 163 pensioner guards. Among the passengers were a number of convict officials including Comptroller General of Convicts Edmund Henderson and Superintendent of Convicts Thomas Hill Dixon. Also on board was 10-year-old George Throssell, a son of a pensioner guard, who later became the second Premier of Western Australia.
The arrival of the convicts was a surprise to many of the Swan River Colony settlers, as Western Australia had petitioned for convicts but had not yet received a reply when Scindian arrived. As no preparations had been made for their arrival, the colony had no jail capable of housing so many convicts. This had been anticipated, and only convicts with a record of good behaviour had been sent. The convicts were initially housed in the warehouse premises of the harbourmaster, which is now the Esplanade Hotel. Shortly after the arrival, work began on the building of a Convict Establishment prison, now Fremantle Prison.
Scindian sank off the cost of Rio Marina, Elba, Italy on 3 November 1880.
Scindian is widely considered the first convict ship to arrive in Western Australia, because she was the first to arrive after Western Australia became a penal colony. A number of ships did bring Parkhurst apprentices to Western Australia between 1842 and 1849, and while these were not considered convict ships by the Western Australian authorities, they were classified as such in English records. Wikipedia.

Henderson wrote a Return of Persons to Travel to Fremantle, as follows:
The Comptroller-General Capt. E.Y.W. Henderson, with wife, 1 child, 2 servants.
The Prison Governor, Mr. Thomas Dixon, with wife, 2 children, 1 servant.
The Clerk-of-Works, Mr. James Manning, with wife, 2 children, 1 servant.
One Corporal, Royal Sappers and Miners, Warder;
Four privates, Royal Sappers and Miners, Warders;
One Civilian Warder;
Two women, two children. (Campbell: 338.)

Clip from Perth Gazette, 7 June 1850 (thanks to Diane Oldman)

References and Links

Campbell, Robin McKellar 2010, Building the Fremantle Convict Establishment, PhD, UWA (Faculty of Architecture).

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

O'Brien, Jacqueline & Pamela Statham-Drew 2013, Court and Camera: The Life and Times of A.H. Stone, Fremantle Press: 90-91 (passenger list).

Full list of EPF guards on Scindian at the EPF website.

Entry for Scindian at the Royal Sappers and Miners WA site (Diane Oldman).

Wikipedia page

Garry Gillard | New: 17 June, 2015 | Now: 20 February, 2021