New South Wales and Norfolk Island

The Scarborough sailed from England on 19 January 1790 for New South Wales as part of the notorious second fleet. The other ships were the Royal Navy storeship HMS Guardian, the storeship Justinian, and the privately chartered transports Lady Juliana, Neptune, and Surprize. The voyage was notorious because of the conditions suffered by the prisoners, and the subsequent horrific death rate. The transport of convicts for the second fleet was managed by private contractors, Camden, Calvert and King. 1,006 convicts embarked on three of the ships, mostly young men and teenage boys, and only 60% were still alive after eight months of arrival in Sydney. More than a quarter died on the voyage out. This contrasts with the death rate on the First Fleet of only 2.8%. It caused a huge scandal in Britain once the news of the voyage reached England in 1791, but no satisfaction was ever gained, despite a media campaign and the bringing to trial of the worst of the sadistic ship's captains, Donald Trail.1

Painting by Frank Allen, Used with Permission from the Artist

The Lady Juliana left in July 1789 with 226 women convicts from all over Britain. It took the ship a year to arrive in Sydney. The Guardian hit an iceberg, and despite the heroic efforts of her captain and crew and twenty remaining convicts in nursing the ship to Capetown, it meant starvation and isolation for the settlers at Sydney waiting for the ship to arrive with food and other essential supplies.

Meanwhile the other three transport ships moved from Deptford docks to begin embarkation on 15 October 1789, and by 19 November the Scarborough had embarked 2 officers and 32 soldiers, and between 10 and 13 November had taken on board 81 convicts sent direct from Newgate to Deptford before sailing to Portsmouth. Among them were Rayner and Davis. On 29 November 120 convicts were embarked from the Lion, and 51 more the next day from the Fortunee, both hulks. The Justinian was added to the fleet because the stores could not be fitted onto the three transports. The wait on board ship in the middle of Winter must have been an ominous prelude for the convicts of the voyage ahead. After wild weather delayed their departure, the Fleet finally sailed on 17 January 1790. Mutiny was planned by some of the Scarborough convicts on the voyage to Capetown, and was ruthlessly suppressed. In Capetown the convicts stranded off the Guardian were taken on board along with some of the stores. By now scurvy was rife, and 15 men had already died on the Scarborough. The ships remained 16 days at the Cape, and set out for Sydney on 29 April 1790.

The Scarborough and the Neptune arrived on 28 June, 1790, two days after the Surprize. The voyage had been a nightmare for the convicts, although the Scarborough was no where as bad as the Neptune. Rayner was fortunate. 73 of his fellow convicts on the Scarborough had died, and 96 landed in hospital on arrival. William was listed as "Convict No. 33 on the manifest of the Scarborough".2 A letter from a female convict at Sydney Cove on 24 July 1790 which was published in the London Morning Chronicle on 4 August 1791 stated:

Oh! If you had but seen the shocking sight of the poor creatures that came out in the three ships it would make your heart bleed . . . They were almost dead, very few could stand, and they were obliged to fl ing them as you would goods, and hoist them out of the ships, they were so feeble; and they died ten or twelve a day when they first landed . . . The Governor was very angry, and scolded the captains a great deal, and, I heard, intended to write to London about it, for I heard him say it was murdering them. It, to be sure, was a melancholy sight..3

It took a week to unload the ships of convicts and set up tents for them on land. Many were unable to walk, and crept about on hands and knees, still suffering the effects of scurvy, dysentery and typhoid. The population of the colony had jumped from 591 to 1,715 with the arrival of the Second Fleet.

On 31 July 1790 the Surprize sailed for Norfolk Island with 157 female and 37 male convicts, mostly new arrivals. William Rayner was one of these, chosen perhaps because of his reasonably good health. They arrived on 7 August, and were welcomed by the stranded islanders, bringing much needed supplies. From early 1791 Rayner was allowed to cultivate a small piece of land at Cascade (Phillipburgh) where on 1 July he was recorded as having cleared 95 rods, and as living with one other person, who was certainly Elizabeth Goldsmith.4

  • 1. Flynn, M 2001, The Second Fleet: Britain's grim convict armada of 1790, Library of Australian History, Sydney.
  • 2. Bateson, Charles: The Convict Ships
  • 3. London Morning Chronicle 4 August 1791
  • 4. Daniels, Lou: ibid