10th aniv special May 1989





Taken from MD 797 (Manx Museum Library)

Occupation: Farmer, Servant and Footman William QUIRK 28 years Height: 5ft2 ins. Complexion: Sallow Eyes:Hazel
Hair'. Brown Religion. Protestant
Native of Douglas, Isle of Man
Convicted: Isle of Man
Date: 7th May 1827
Offence: Stealing Table Cloth
Sentence: Seven Years Transportation
Colonial conviction was at the General Sessions at PENRITH on 16tli September 1828

For repeated absconding and being an incorrigible character, for which he was sentenced to 2 years transportation (to Moreton Bay)

Returned to Sydney 8 Nov 1830 The ship on which QUIRK was transported to New South Wales was the John 464 tons, built Chester 1810. Sailed London 2 June 1827 arrived Sydney 25th Nov. 1827.



During the last few months Sylvia Mylchreest and myself have been listing the names of men and women who were transported from the Isle of Man during the early part of the 19th century.

The crimes committed were mostly on a small scale,they may have stolen a few items of clothing or food, in a few cases it was for sheep stealing or for forging promisary notes.

Sentences were mostly for seven years, sometimes 14 years and in one or two cases they were transported for life. Most were sent to New South Wales in Australia, I doubt very much whether any were able to return.

The information given in our records are the court case details, the parish the crime was committed in, the parish the accused lived in, their occupation and in the case of women whether they were single or married. The name of the ship they were to travel on is given and the date of sailing.

If anyone in Australia thinks that their ancestor may have arrived in this way I would be willing to check our lists.

A typical case is of JANE QUAYLE alias Cowell she was the wife of John Quayle shoemaker of Douglas, on the 13th August 1822 she stole a piece of lace valued at 14 shillings, a silk scarf, a silk shawl and some other small articles with Mary Cowell (her sister?). They were taken to the hulks at Woolwich by Thomas Cleator and were received on board the ship 'Mary' by Captain Steele, on May 18th 1823. They were to be transported for seven years for their crime.

Jane of course left her husband behind, she would have been able to take any children with her, boys under six years and girls under ten years of age were allowed to accompany their mother.

For this journey to a new life they had to be provided with a spare jacket or gown, one spare petticoat, two spare shifts, two spare handkerchiefs, two spare pairs of stockings and an extra pair of shoes.

If anyone in Australia has come across any records of their arrival I would be interested to hear from them. - Editor

For any Manx people who would like to search these records themselves to see if any of their ancestors relatives were transported, details can be found in Liber Plitor, Government.Office papers and the newspapers.

The earliest I have come across was the transportation of William and Thomas Watterson who escaped out of gaol in Liverpool and were sent after capture to William Leece a Merchant in Liverpool on the 12th August 1786, to be conveyed first to London and then to the Coast of Africa and to be landed at the Bay of Honduras.



Like New South Wales, Tasmania was colonised by the British in order to overcome a domestic problem: the problem of an acute shortage of accommodation in Britain's prisons. This difficulty arose, in part, from the conditions of wretchedness and poverty in which many people lived in Britain in those days, and in part from the heavy handed manner in which British justice was dispensed.

The first place chosen to serve as Van Diemen's Land's secondary punishment settlement was Macquarie Harbour, on the west coast. This remote harbour, discovered by Captain James Kelly in 1815, was judged to be inaccessible except from the sea. A natural barrier of forests and mountains guarded it on the inland side. This situation, it was thought, would intimidate even the most desperate of men. The harshness of the discipline applied there matched the harshness of the landscape. The name of 'Macquarie Harbour' (says historian John West) 'is associated exclusively with remembrance of inexpressible depravity, degradation and woe.' There is little doubt that the convicts consigned to this settlement suffered the most brutal treatment ever meted out, with official sanction, to prisoners in this colony.

The settlement began in January 1822, when 74 convicts arrived in the charge of 36 military men. The number of prisoners held there reached its maximum in 1826, when the total rose to almost three hundred. Traces of buildings can still be seen on Sarah Island, site of the main establishment. This island, about four miles from the mouth of the Cordon River, had been named by Captain Kelly after Mrs Birch, wife of the merchant who had financed his expedition. As if to avoid sullying that lady's good name, it became known as Settlement island.

After a sea passage from Hobart, following a coast renowned as the graveyard of many ships, those transported here had to endure the final hazard of crossing a sandbar in a roaring surf to enter the narrow, treacherous harbour mouth. Not surprisingly, the entrance became known as Hell's Gates.

Food was poor and insufficient. Crops would not grow. Animals died. The prisoners went out to their daily labours on a breakfast of flour and water. Most spent their days felling and manhandling the 60 foot tall liuon Pine trees that grew along the banks of rivers. The more fortunate were employed in shipbuilding, under the guidance of a master shipwright. Some afterwards found they had learnt a useful trade. Some found their health permanently impaired by what they had endured. Punishments were inflicted capriciously and with great ferocity. Of the 182 prisoners who served there in that first year, 169 received a total of seven thousand lashes.

Many were driven to attempt escape. Over the years a few succeeded, their exploits becoming the material of legend. Many more perished in the attempt. One who succeeded was Matthew Brady, whose career as one of the colony's most notorious bushrangers followed his escape. In 1824, Brady and others took a boat, evaded pursuit and reached the Derwent after a nine-day voyage. He was hanged in Hobart in 1826, aged twenty-seven.

Some who took to the bush resorted to cannibalism in order to survive, murdering their comrades. The most celebrated case concerns Alexander Pierce, who escaped twice from Macquarie Harbour, in the first instance being the only survivor of a party of eight when captured, and on the later occasion giving himself up after eating his only companion a man named Cox. The tradition in the west is that the Pieman River owes its name to this gruesome event. According to this tradition, Pierce, who bad formerly been a pie seller in Hobart, did away with Cox whilst the two were hiding in a wood close to that river. In Pierce's own confession, as printed in the Hobart Town Gazette in 1824, the river is identified as the King.

Two extraordinary escapes by sea, both of which are matters of historical record, make such epic tales of courage and enterprise that they have long since acquired the status of folklore. One of these is commemorated in the stirring old ballad, Seizure of the Cyprus Brig (which is preserved in a manuscript in the Mitchell Library, Sydney). Eighteen convicts out of a complement of thirty-one bound for Macquarie Harbour from Hobart, in 1829, seized their ship after it had anchored in Recherche Bay, in the southeast. The mutineers left the captain, his wife and crew, the guard and thirteen of their fellow convicts, on the shore of the bay, providing food supplies but no boat, and sailed the Cyprus successfully to Japan and on from there to China.

The last escape from Macquarie Harbour coincided with the closure of the station in 1834. The final party of ten convicts was to be shipped out, with a guard of four soldiers, on the last product of the shipyard, a boat of 100 tons called the Frederick. When sailing was delayed by adverse weather, the prioners gained possession of the ship and put their guards ashore, together with the pilot, a Mr. Taw, and the master shipwright, Mr. Hoy. Before departing, the convicts sent provisions ashore for the stranded party. The soldiers, it is said, cheered them on their way. Under their elected captain, John Barker, the escapees navigated their way to Valdivia, in Chile, accomplishing the voyage in six weeks. Some of the men were later handed over to a visiting British naval officer, taken to London and then returned to Van Diemen's Land to stand trial. They were acquitted of the charge of piracy, the judges accepting the defence that the Frederick was not, in law, a ship, never having been completed and not having been registered in any port.

A secondary punishment station was established on Maria Island in 1825. Secondary offenders whose crimes were of.a minor nature were sent here. Several of the buildings of the settlement at Darlington, at the northern end of the island, still stand. In addition to brickmaking, building and agriculture, industries pursued here included lumberwork, limestone quarrying, tanning, clothmaking and shoe manufacture. The settlement was abandoned in 1832, Governor George Arthur having decided to consolidate his two widely separated secondary punishment stations into one, which could be more efficiently managed, on the Tasman Peninsula.'

The product of this decision, the penal settlement at Port Arthur, was to continue in operation for forty-seven years, during which time it became the third largest town in Tasmania, the total population (including the military, and their wives and families) reaching about 9.000 by 1854. Port Arthur was also to become the major monument to the twelve-year rule of its founder, Governor Arthur.

Today, all that remains of the settlement is a collection of ruined buildings and some avenues of English trees. This place of desperation and repression has taken on an air of gentle beauty. There is no menace in the crumbled walls, now weathered to soft hues of pink, grey and yellow with dabs of brown, the crevices sprouting clumps of wildflowers. Dark hills crowd tightly around, but this cleared hollow is an oasis in the wilderness, a patch of bright green divided by a brushstroke of blue where the little harbour cuts in. Port Arthur has become a place of peace, a nice spot for a family picnic. Yet, for those who care to listen, there are ghosts here with a thousand stories to tell.

Originally3 they called it Stewart Harbour. The change of name occurred shortly before the Governor put his plan into operation. In 1830 an advance party of 68 convicts arrived, accompanied by soldiers and under the command of Assistant-Surgeon J.J. Russell. Logging had been carried on here previously, and this, together with the erection of temporary buildings, was the first work to which prisoners were set.

Numbers grew rapidly with the transfer of convicts from the other penal stations. Captain John O'Hara Booth took over as commandant in 1833 to begin his eleven years of residence, and immediately launched an ambitious building programme, using convict skills and labour. The following year, the commandant's house was completed. It still stands positioned high above the harbour, just beyond the watch tower commanding a fine view to the north. In that same year, 1834, the last transferees from Macquarie Harbour arrived to bring the number of prisoners to something in excess of six hundred; shipbuilding commenced as did bootrnaking and vegetable growing - more than 18,000 lbs of cabbages and turnips being produced on twenty one acres. And a separate establishment for juvenile convicts under secondary punishment was set up at Point Puer, abouta mile to the south.

The guard tower (also referred to as the watch tower and powder magazine)s one of Port Arthur's landmarks, was built in 1835. Mr. Coultman Smith calls it 'an echo of the Tower of London'. lt is a smooth sided cylinder composed of great slabs of stone cut on a curve to a common diameter and cemented together with fine precision, set above a wall which contains a row of graceful archways. With its crown-like battlement it could be a fragment of a mediavel castle. It is difficult to keep in mind that these oldest remnants of the settlement have a history of less than a century and a half.

Next came the church. Governor Arthur laid the foundation stone in 1836. At that time the site was at the head of the bay, reclamation of the upper end of which began five years later. Now the shell of the church confronts you as you arrive by road at Port Arthur. In fact it stands slap in the around the cross formed by the empty walls. edifice in its day. Even in ruins it has The walls and a crenellated lower still corner topped by a slender pinnacle. You now open to the sky, and imagine the splendour filled the great window at the northern middle of the road, which loops This must have been an imposing a look of Romanesque nobility. stand complete, each buttressed can walk about its paved floor, of the stained glass which once end.

The church used to hold a congregation of more than a thousand. Because all denominations used it - or, according to some opinions, because murder was committed during the digging of trenches for its foundations - it was never consecrated. A tall steeple once topped the tower, as old photographs reveal, but this blew down in a gale, two years before the closure of the settlement, and was never replaced. After the closure, which came in 1877, the church, along with all the other buildings, was left exposed to the destructive effects of several bushfires which subsequently swept through the abandoned town. No-one, it seems, at that time cared much about preserving Port Arthur. Tasmanians generally wished it would just fade away and the whole episode be forgotten, like some shameful family scandal.

The year 1842 brought,completion of a number of buildings whose vestiges can still be seen on the shoulder of the southern hill: a second round tower, which served as a magazine; a barracks positioned midway between the two 3 towers, the whole military complex being then surrounded by a high stone wall, and the hospital. A second barracks was added.five years later. The small cottage known as Smith O'Brien's cottage, in remembrance of the Irish rebel who spent two or three months in enforced residence here, served originally as the hospital superintendent's quarters.

The town's largest building the penitentiary, came into use in 1848. Its brooding remains still dominate the sceae, although a large section of the front wall has been reduced from a height of four storeys to only one. The bricks have disappeared. What is left retains a gloomy dignity, its bulk extending along the southern side of the flat green quadrangle formed by the reclaimed land, its back against the southern hill, its window sockets gaping across the grass towards the parade ground and a cerner of the harbour. Stone steps beside its end wall lead you up to the grass-grown roadway of Champ Street, where you find the stone arches and brick walls of the administration offices and courtrooms.

Old illustrations show that buildings crowded the southern hill in the 1850's and 1860's. The church, and the government cottage beside it (now separated from it by the road), stood at the head of a sweeping grassy slope, as they do today, with an uninterrupted view of the harbour. The government cottage, where official guests were accommodated, had a pretty garden, complete with stone pool and ornamental fountain. Sunday band concerts took place here.

Transportation of convicts to Van Diemen's Land bad ended three years earlier. And the cat o'nine tails was no longer being used to discipline recalcitrant prisoners.

In the early years at Port Arthur, floggings had been frequent. Indeed, the use of the whip upon those who gave the slightest offence to their superiors had then been common throughout the colony. Assigned servants (the highest class of prisoner short of those who had been granted a ticket of leave) were flogged by their masters. Those who worked in road gangs were flogged by their overseers. John West records a case in which, in 1833, a work party of thirty three men received one hundred lashes each - a total of three thousand three hundred lashes in one morning, for insubordination. Twenty years later, however, the British,Parliament had begun to take heed of prison reformers, and less brutal methods of Correction were being introduced. The separate treatment prison at Port Arthur, built in the early 1858 was a manifestation of the new policy.

Based on an experimental prison at Pentonville, in England, this 'model' prison was designed to bring prisoners to submission by 'humane' means. Confinement here replaced the lash as the most severe form of punishment. This special prison-within-a-prison had 60 one-man cells. Those incarcerated here were deprived of all contact with others except their warders, with whom they could communicate only in a murmur. A prisoner who; broke the rules received the 'silent treatment' which meant solitary confinement in one of two 'dumb' cells. These had double stone walls which blocked out all light and sound. Guards entered through a series of four doors, ensuring that no chink of light or audible hint of life in the outside world came in with the bread and water. Each prisoner took exercise for an hour each day, alone, wearing a mask on his way to and from the exercise yard. On Sundays the inmates attended the chapel within the prison, again all wearing masks. Each sat in a stall which shut him off from his fellows. But he on this one day each week, they could raise their voices. It is said they sang hymns more lustily than any other congregation in the colony.

The separate treatment prison is largely intact and has been extensively restored. You may peer in through its barred doorway and see the handsome timber staircase and ceiling of the central hall. Or a guide will conduct you through it. Close by is another well-preserved building which has a small tower above an impressive entrance. Built slightly later, this was the lunatic aslum. In recent years it has served as local council chamber.

The Tasman Peninsula is dotted with relics of the convict period. Several of the original penal outstations live on as townships. Largest of these is Nubeena, on Wedge Bay, with a present-day population of about three hundred a centre of orcharding and fisheries. Premaydena, on the Norfolk Bay side of the peninsula, originally a convict timber milling centre, is now important for its orchards and for poultry production. Ten miles north west of Premayde is Plunkett Point, site of the infamous convict coal mines, in which prisoners served hard labour sentences, some suffering solitary confinement in undergrou cells. Coal was exported, chiefly to Hobart, from about 1834. It was said to make hot fires but with some danger to the user, as it spat and flew about when alight. The mines were privately owned from 1847. Soon after their abandonment in 1877 they caught fire and smouldered for years. Some ruins remain of the substantial settlemen built at Saltwater creek.

Choice of this peninsula as a place in which to concentrate all secondary offenders was dictated by its exceptional geography. It is almost an island, being connected to the Forestier Peninsula by a narrow strip of low-lying land descriptively called Eaglehawk Neck. The Forestier Peninsula is itself very nearly detached from Tasmania, being linked by another narrow isthmus - now cut through by a canal - where the village of Dunalley stands. From 1831, guard dogs were chained side by side in a line across Eaglehawk Neck to warn the military guard of any approach. The system proved highly effective No prisoner ever escaped by crossing this neck of land.

A few prisoners managed to win temporary freedom by swimming the narrow waters between the two peninsulas, and this despite the rumours circulated by the officers that the bay was infested with sharks. Most renowned amon these was Martin Cash. He accomplished the feat twice, making his escape complete the second time along with two companions, Lawrence Kavanagh and George Jones. The three of them ranged the colony for a time, carrying out armed holdups and raids on.homes. Cash was captured in Hobart in 1844 sentenced to death for the murder of a constable, then reprieved and sent to Norfolk Island instead. He later had charge of government gardens at Hobart and saw out his days

by Laurence Collins and

(Extract from their book "Tasmania"




Mrs. Patricia Skillicorn who is the Deputy Registrar at the General Registry in Finch Road, gave the Family History members a very interesting and talk on the many records held at the Registry.

Most of the members have consulted the birth, marriage and death records and the more adventurous have looked at the Tithe and Lunatic Asylum plans, a few brave members may have tried to decipher the Inquest files,but not many have delved further into the records held there.

Mrs. Skillicorn has kindly given permission to print the following list for the benefit of the members who were not able to attend the meeting.
Certificates can be obtained by post, but please give the details you know as simply as possible. The name, approximate date and the parish if known should be given; for marriage and death certificates state the occupation. Please remember when writing for information keep letters simple and to the point, print the details known on a separate piece of paper to you letter and state clearly the information you require.

The cost of certificates will probably be £3.50 after the 5th April this year, it would be advisable to check before enclosing the money. Always enclose an SAE or 2 international Reply Coupons if you cannot obtain Manx stamps, to cover postage.

Court Records

Most pre 1800 records are held at the Manx Museum.

Criminal Courts

Called Court of General Gaol [Delivery] - first records in 1500, now presided over by Second Deemster, but originally it was the Governor, members of the clergy and House of Keys. This continued until 1823 - then passed to the Deemsters and in 1921 to the Second Deemster.

Court always with a jury.

All exhibits for court are stored in General Registry until the case is heard. Can cover drugs, money, guns down to burned out T.V.'s.

The Civil Courts - Chancery

Established in 1580 - called Court of Exchequer. Records run from 1800 in Registry and called Libri Cancellarii.
liquidations and some damages claims.

Common Law Courts

Now divided into Superior and Summary jurisdictions but originally covered any kind of action between subject and subject - real or personal estate. The early records are called Libri Placitorium or book of Common Pleas.

In 1982 the Summary Jurisdiction default procedure was introduced, which is mainly an administrative system with referral to the Small Claims Arbitration Service. The system is designed to make it easier to sue in person. All Court sittings are open to the public.


Originally the only way to get divorced was by Act of Tynwald - therefore only for the wealthy. It became part of the Court system in 1938. These records are not open to public inspection. In 1986 a new system was introduced, can all be done without an appearance in open court if both parties agree the facts. If there are children, maintenance to be decided, or property etc., these matters are heard in Chamber.


First legal adoption in the Isle of Man was 1928, no doubt before that there were many unofficial adoptions but these records are not open to public inspection.

Probate and Administration

A will can be proved, or if a person dies intestate a grant of administration can be issued from the General Registry. Our records run from 1900 but earlier ones are held at Manx Museum. The petition used to have to be proved in court, but can now be issued administratively if not contested.

Tithe and Asylum Plans

First official records with Woods Atlas, of land held in the Isle of Man.

Tithe Plans

Originally a "church" rent, collected on behalf of the Lord Bishop from all the Parishes. In 1841 the Tithe Act was passed which allowed the church a once and for all payment from the various parishes.
Agents were employed to draw up plans of land and dwellings, these plans are now lodged at the General Registry.

Asylum Plans

A similar idea, the Act was passed in 1860, again agents were employed to draw up plans, ascertain the owners and levy a rate, which was used to assist in the building of Ballamona Hospital.

This was due to a growing concern among some people that the only place for mentally or physically handicapped people, was to be kept in the prison at Castle Rushen because there was nowhere else for them to go. The plans are not drawn to scale in many cases, but are used daily by advocates to search titles to land.

Because of their constant use many are becoming worn and a major conservation project is envisaged in the next few years. [now, 1999 at last! on microfilm at Manx Museum]

Companies and Deeds Registry

All company files are open to public inspection.

All Deeds are also registered but to trace owners/or previous owners of property you need a name to begin, there is no land registry at the moment.


Our records date from 1800 - earlier ones kept at Manx Museum. Recent inquests are not usually available for public inspection, but older ones can be seen with permission.
Many inquests recorded in Second World War, aircraft crashing on the Island, or into the sea nearby. Also we hold inquests into deaths of internees on the Island.


All registered charities must submit yearly accounts, to the General Registry. These files are open for public inspection and many of these make interesting reading.

Acts of Tynwald

Original Acts passed by Tynwald are held in the General Registry. We hold the records from 1900 - again earlier ones can be found in the Manx Museum.
Each year the Acts are taken to Tynwald by the Chief Registrar for promulgation at the Tynwald Court on July 5th. .
The sword of state which is present at all sittings of the Keys and Tynwald is also stored at the Registry.

Births, Marriages and Deaths

The Island is divided into 4 registration areas, the largest records being the Eastern Division, Douglas area.
Records of marriage are separate for Church of England and Dissenters records.
Since 1980 the births, marriages and deaths for all areas are held in one index, which should help genealogists in 100 years time!
Compulsory registration began in the Isle of Man in 1878, before that we can only rely on parish registers, some of which can be sketchy. The indexes prepared by the Morman Church are a great help when tracing baptisms and marriages, but the burials are not indexed. These records are available at the Museum on microfiche and old newspaper records can be useful.

Copies of all entries can be ordered either in person or by post.



We love you, dear island, fair Island of Mannin.
We love all your hills and your valleys and bays,
Whether Winter's dark pinions are scattering snowflakes,
Or Summer's bright sun gilds the earth with its rays.

Long silent stretches of heather-clad moorland,
The gossamer mist floating low in the glen,
Black rocks, silver seas in a glorious sunset -
Who would not wish to behold them again?

Sweet is your music - the crooning of wavelets,
Birds' songs at dawn, and the humming of bees,
Crashing crescendoes when thunder-clouds hover,
Soft whispers of winds making love to the trees.

On gorse-covered headlands the curlew is calling,
The soaring lark sings, although hidden from view
We may have to wander and leave you, dear Island,
We'll always come back, Mannin Villish, to you.

by Elizabeth Callow


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Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received MNB Editor
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