Tales of the Moffatt

The voyage of the Moffatt, transporting 400 convicts to Van Diemen’s Land in the year 1834, might be unique in that there are no less than two narrative accounts of the same passage, written with considerably more detail than the usual bald official accounts of departure and arrival, and the invariably incomplete manifests of passengers and crew.

The names of all the convicts are known, and the record of one particular convict on this voyage called James Dyson reports that he was in good heath and his conduct was “good”.

In neither of the additional accounts now uncovered, is Dyson mentioned at all. This was not unexpected. Neither narrative was ever going to mention the name of a common sailor, servant, or soldier on board ship, much less the name of convict — unless they had done something dramatic, criminal or terminal — preferably all three.

Of these two new primary sources, the first was the Medical and Surgical Journal kept by T. B. Wilson, M.D., Ship’s surgeon and Superintendent of the convicts on this voyage. Both the medical notes he took, and the summary of the entire journey for his masters back in England, he recorded in Latin — apparently for no other reason that he was a pretentious wanker. An extremely rough translation of the “General Remarks” part of this report reinforces my opinion of his character — an opinion increasingly shared by the author of the other detailed account of the voyage — G.T.W.B. Boyes.

from Boyes’ journal

Boyes was a bureaucrat returning to his office in VDL. Apparently he had known Wilson well when they had last been in the Colony together and had even been friends. However they may not have been confined on the same ship before, and Boyes may never have seen Wilson in action in his role as Superintendent. Boyes’ day by day journal records his increasing misgivings as to how Wilson performed his duties. At the beginning of the voyage he refers to the activity of “Wilson,” by the end, he he just referred to as “the Surgeon”.

Boyes records events that are barely touched upon in Wilson’s journal, such as the unofficial trial conducted by the convicts when one of their number was caught stealing food — they had no faith justice would be done if they reported it to the superintendent— nor were the brawls among the convicts in the days afterwards. Six convicts did not survive the passage to Van Diemen’s Land. Not mentioned in the official account is that one of those drowned after falling overboard. Whether it was an accident, suicide, or he was given a push remains an open question. A seventh prisoner is sometimes referred to in other documents as having been “unloaded” before the voyage began. This is cute way of saying he jumped overboard, then either swam to shore or to an awaiting boat near Plymouth. Either way, he was not bound for Van Diemen’s Land.

The sections of Boyes’ handwritten diary concerned with the voyage of the Moffatt between 22 October 1833 ’til 9 May 1834 now exist in the form of a transcription produced by me. I would reproduce it here on this site in its entirety so others need not re-invent the wheel next time, but the copyright notice on the blurry PDF scans of the diary publicly available clearly states:—

You may not develop a derivative version of the material.


So I won’t, and you will have to refer back to the source, like I did:—

Boyes, George Thomas William Blamey 1835 , Diary of G.T.W.B. Boyes, Van Diemen’s Land, February 28th, 1833 – June 1st, 1835 , University of Tasmania Library Special and Rare Materials Collection, Australia.

In regards to the Surgeon’s Journal, a transcription has been made of the five pages of the “General Remarks” that conclude the report, and these have been transcribed into Latin. A crude machine translation of this text into English is laughably bad, but enough of the gist of it is comprehensible, in that specific events referred to, can be cross referenced with Boyes’ diary entries, and that Wilson is using ridiculously grandiose language to describe both himself and his actions.

Scans of the original journal can be seen here.

My translation into English shall never be published while I still live. A representative paragraph is reproduced below to demonstrate WHY this shal be so:—

Although during the course of time, some people human beings are now and again tempted by disease, still ship health first name until the twelfth of May, when Scurvy he provided himself as a companion; and at once made an ambush among the exiles. It is known that the scurvy fall into other prone diseases else; for this reason various diseases of the various diseases rushed forward; among whom diarrhea has been cured
he rejoiced.”

Google Translate

However, my transcription IN LATIN of the Surgeon’s general remarks can be read below, or downloaded here (PDF). I cannot read or write Latin, but I make this available for anyone else who would like to try themselves.—


Page 1

Hiqus navis quadringentos exulum ab oris Anglicae pro legibus
fractis, as Tasmanian usque deportatinuae decimo quinto kalendas
Novembra, Chirungus Constitutus sum. Pridie Nonas qustem
Mensis illam in fluno Tamesi prope “Deptford” jacentem conscende –
Pridicque Idiis Militum trigintor, e legione qurm quorg es unmor exuled
Custoditun navin conscenderment.

Decmo quanto
Kalendus Decembras, Omnibus ad Navxgationem long ano peratis
iter inceptum est, et sub vesperam ejusdem dieu, juxta Navale
apund “Woolwich”, in situ idoneo, naevim posuimus ; ibmque tridunum
in ueupiendis contum et octogenta exulum Moratin sumns. –
Eo facto iter fluvratile capiamus, ad portum prope Insulam
Tolapionis (vernacule “Sheerness” appellatum) centurn et quinguajuta
exulum ibi loci recepturn. —

Quarto Kalendas Decembras,
Exulibus conscensis, anchor soluta est, et veha fecimus, solliciti
portum Damnonium, Plymouth Anglice nurcupatum, attingeie uti
septuagenta exulum navim conscendere designate, adventurm
nostriuan expectabantum. — attamen, ob ventis infaustis stationem
adversnus Cantinm promontorium, “Margate” anglice dictam, non
sine multo bidum detenti sumus. —

Pridie Kalend. Decembris
procella nonmihie sedata iter factum est, ad stationem Downs
anglica dictam, ibique loci, situ commado, ut ventus ex occidente
perflaret, anchor os jeeimuus —

Quarto Nones Decembras,
qucamuis caelum minunre serenum est nee ventus secundus,
tamin pertasi morae anchor as solvimes below venbus exparte
adversis dedimuius, vrannguim anchor tem lentammus. Sed, tridnd
consumpto in bane contentione cum procellis adversis, portum
numis fistinantir ielictum repetere coacti sumus. Atque illic

page 2

sex dus ingratiis ad anchor as statum est.—

Pridie Idus Decembra
Vento pacato et ealo aspectu propiore, cequor undosum iteravimus ;
et cursum obliguamus per fictum Anglicanum, atque post aliguot
dies nune or as galliae nunc Angliae legents, justatique spumantubus
equries undis, Vindelim attiginus ; yinsque portu potiri strenui
nitebumur ; sed non comotes voti, turbine inimica, vi magna saevunte.
Quin der causir et non potentes cum mari irato dintinus certare, utio
Dravigamus ad sepugium petemdum in stationem, inter insulam
Victim et Hautoniam sitam, Nomine Spithead longi latique Notam ;
im quam brevi, belis plenis, deferimur.—

Octavo Kalendar Januarius.
Nucti ventum idoncums, Anchoris solutis, atgue carbasis expansis
Aquiloni, sine mora “liqurmus portum pelagoque volannus.” —
Postridie antem refugunm petre in sinum dictum Torbay, coacti
sumus ; quppe “horrida tempertas calum contraxit”, et procella
adversa magno furore fieniebatur.— tandem, die nempe quanto Kal. Jans.
post conamina iterata, et caelo, et vento et mairn invitus, descoleratum
portum attigimus.—

Kalendis Januarius, Septuagenta
exerlum im havim reciptc sunt ; nune igitum recepta sunt ;
sed, ob ventis adversis saevintibus, cum vati procellosi fatigati
posuere, et Aquilo leniter spiravit; Re ita se habente, nos male
tolerantes morans, anchoris solintis uclisque pansis, “Rovehimun portu
tenæque urbesgre vecdent”

Vix autem a covspectu
Darnmoniorius telluris deccsseranmus, quurm nubes pluviouxce
calum obduceic inipicbant, et Ventus unfauste spiraie
nihilominus, nollintibus cursum retio tenere gnavitei
pugmatum est; et littoribus periculosis Cassiteri Sum ivitatis
necnor, haus sune quadane diffecnbtate præternavigatis, Oceano
Atlantico potiti surmis — Yandentesqure, ad plagas Austrinas
liguidum iter prosequimur; pancisque in dicbus, regionibus
procellarum pluvi amroque relictus mare acceptum legebamus. —

Decimo quarto Kelendas Marties Tropicum Canceri —
Quinto Nonas Sincam Æqunoctiaem — Decimo Sexto Kalendas Aprilis,

page 3

Tropicum Capricorni — Sexto Kalend. longites dinem Grenovre in —
Prideque honas gusdem Mensis, Promontorumn Bonae Sper
ventis plerumque secundis — pace terivinmus. Demque
Nonis nenper Maiis, hora octava matuterna Neptunis arvis
immensis aratis, Sublimica tellu, is Tasmaniæ in Conspectum
venicbant bidneque decinde exacto, via long a feliciter,
celeriterque peracta, Portum intravimus læti optaturm.—

Hoc de itinere : nune quædam dicere de morbis qui sub ejus
decursu obviam iverrnmut, transcundurm est.—

Imprimus mentioneni faceie oportet, tantos exerluim
navim unam numquam antehac conscendisse; ob camque causam
Calum serenum et Venti secumdi maxime desiderander; quirppe
que ad Aortim æquam experimento præbendamus hand parum prodessent.
Res autem lonhe aliter sise habueriment, ut suprascriptis comperturm sit
Igiturque Land mirermdum nonmublos Nautaruns et militurn,
plunimosque epulumn, Objectos ex rei necessitate din siutuis qune,
Aeri mutabilis, procellis hybernis, pluvusque frigidis morbis acuties,
præsertum pulmonum Corripimsse;— Lumat autem scire,
Morbos istas omnes (duobus exceptis, quorum historiæ in ephemeride
scriptæ sunt) remedus adhibitis succubuisse.—

Brevi post decessionem ab oris Angliæ, Ventum est, in
regiones et salutiferas et Amænas; eodemgue tempore, Cohors
morborum, ex causis Jam Memoratis Ortæ, in fingam se Vertebat,
et socirtate Hygcia suavi inter oras longum Mansura refecti
Sumus et accreati

Etsi inter decursum vice, Nonnulli
hominum, nunc et iterum morbo tentarentur, tamen Navis salubus
appelleretum ad usque duodecimumus Kalendarum Maii, quum Scorbutus
comitem se præbebat; atque extemplo, inter exules insidiosw grassabatur.—

Notum est, Scorbuticos incidere in alias morbos proclivos
else; ob eam rem, varii morbi in medium sese proferebaut;
inter quos Diarrhoea sanatum obifficimes prima acii

Quadraginstæ hominum auplusque
scmel et sinme male se habuerment;— Eo tempore, ut
facile credatun, sategi rcrum; Nihilo tamen secius, præmumun
mihi pergratum est, Methodum Medendi plurimun belinsses;

page 4

omnesque ita affectas (uno excepto) salutem aut recuperifse aut
ucuperaturas efse, quo tempore in portum Tasmania vernicbamus.—
atque summo officirbar gaudio, homines tantas, tamdum tot us
valetudini Secundæ ininuicas pass os (tribus ex toto numero as hosoconupion
Missis) san os et, ubus supra dictis Cognitis atgue spectatis validos
terram tetegisse; quod. accidit decimo septo Kalendarum Maii.—

Quad attinet ad nationem Æportantes tractan Si, — ex
ephemieridemetipsu, in qua omnes casus lethaliter finientes narrare
curavi, discendum est.—

Hæ de morbis, — nune non alienum sit perpansa, de more meo
solito, us gestuendi in navim exules vehentem dicere; qupope que (rerum
scilicet administratio) etsi non duecti ad onedice officium spectet, tamen,
ut ad morbos præfutum, nee sine jure, sibi vindicat.—

Haud ita multo post conscensionem exulem, quam commodissune
distribute sunt atique in locis statutis collocati. Nonnulli, bene moratis,
quibus quadam Auctontas ad alios intuendos concedenden selectisent;—hone
securitas, Inpundities et decentia morum, facilius consererentus.—

Quod attinet ad cibum eorum et potum; — ambobus liberie suppedit antum, et
semper curaturm est, ut cibana bene cocta sint, et idoneis temporibus
distributa. Sex libræ interque legiones tropicas Congius Agnæ, sime ullen
deductione, quotidie, unicuique conceduntum. etiamque omnis exul
fubet, singulis diebus, by orthum vini, succi limonumun, et Saecham a in 3
cum libra Aquæ Mixton — Ciyius portus salutiferi et grati, partem demodtatum, hors
undecimis ante mundum altheramque horis quartis post meudiem coramne
presente vice sua quisque bibit. Hoe in modo omnes exulum bis undu
sigillatim, sub menm Conspectum benuent us Land levis Momenti
natione facile perspicienda.—

Inter toturn itineris cursum, attentio summer ad muniditiem
et corporusm et vestimentorum exulum, etiamque as vertilationem navis
idoneum, quesque pumficatronerm, semper perseduli adhibetur —

Cursu pelago inito, terraque relietea, exullum omines e
catenis liberare consuctus sum ; illisque bene se germtibus, ad
libitum, forum superiorem perambulare, ab orient solis ad occasuns
usque, libertatem Concedeie; talique libertate concesson exiles abesos afer
numguamn obsirn ern, e contrauio, est anihi voluptati profan,

page 5

necessitindinem quern quam unum pumende nun quam ortam ifse ; Etsi
auten de ea re haud decet gloriari; tarnen, multitundine et genere hominum
perpensis, liceat administrationem talem rerum, quadam laudes dignam
else, arbitrari.

Hac sunt que scriptu necessarius opinatus sum,—
hunc nihu nuhi restat, hisi aveie, mithodum meurn munus perficiendir
Archiatro nostio approbatum iri.—

So there!

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