John Nevin snr and family 1851-1854: shipping documents

John NEVIN: the ship Fairlie July 1852
Miss Mary NEVIN: the ship Columbus October 1854
Mr James and Mrs Mary NEVIN: the ship Kingston August 1854

Former soldier of the Royal Scots First Regiment, John Nevin snr (1808-1887), his wife Mary Ann Nevin nee Dickson (1810-1875), and their four children all under 12 years old (Thomas James, Mary Ann, Rebecca Jane and William John) boarded the convict transport Fairlie at Gravesend, England on the 22nd February 1852 bound for Hobart, Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania). John Nevin snr worked the family’s passage as one of 30 out-pensioner guards of the 294 convicts on board.

Details of the family’s movements in the decade between John Nevin’s medical discharge in Canada from the Royal Scots in 1841 and the family’s immigration to VDL in 1852 are sketchy. His return to the British Isles as a Chelsea pensioner on being invalided out in 1841 was followed by his marriage soon afterwards to Mary Ann Dickson (b. 1810 England) who had moved to Newtonards, Ireland with her brother, nurseryman Alexander Dickson. He pursued the vocation of gardener in his wife’s brother’s business, Alexander Dickson’s nurseries at Newtonards, taught school, and contributed to journals with surveyor John Hurst, proprietor of the Freeman newspaper. The births of their four children from August 1842 when Thomas James was born, followed by the births of the two daughters Mary Ann in 1844 and Rebecca Jane in 1847, and just prior to departure, the birth of William John in County Antrim in 1851, were all registered in Ireland. If John Nevin’s  poem “My Cottage in the Wilderness published in 1868 at Hobart, contains factual autobiographical information, he spent an unprofitable and unhappy time at the Californian Goldfields before returning  to his “partner” and children in Tasmania no later than 1854. By the time of his death in his beloved garden at Kangaroo Valley, Hobart, in 1887,  his occupation was registered simply as “gardener”. His old friends from the Royals, for their part however, who published his obituary in the Mercury, 11th October 1887, were keen to praise first and foremost his good nature, his military history, and his literary achievements.

Had John and Mary Nevin and their four children arrived in London before the 15th October 1851, or indeed been resident there in the previous months while preparing for the long voyage, they would have seen hundreds of items from Van Diemen’s Land to excite their interest at the Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations at the Crystal Palace, Hyde Park.

Detail from plate above, representing the Van Diemen’s Land display. Exhibits visible here included framed pictures, animal skins and textiles.

THE CATALOGUE 1851: VDL Exhibits
Title Official descriptive and illustrated catalogue of the Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations, 1851., v.2.
Author; Great Exhibition
Edition; New ed.
Published; London:Spicer Brothers,[1851]
Description v. :ill., plates (some col., some fold.)
Rights; Public Domain, Google-digitized.
Permanent URL; pages 992-999

EXTRACT from the Catalogue,

Page 992:

VAN DIEMEN’S LAND. South Area, S. 81. The general character of the productions of the Tasmanian colony resembles that of the others, and is principally remarkable for the number and interesting nature of the products contained in the first four classes of the Exhibition. The exceptions are, however, more numerous than in some other instances. Some interesting and attractive articles of furniture, turned out of richly-marked woods, are presented to notice, and may prove instrumental in directing the attention of decorative furniture makers to the capabilities of the materials for the construction of furniture in England.

Page 996:

DENISON, His Excellency Sir W. T. 188 Six tanned skins of the Ornithorhynchus paradoxus. The platypus of the colonists. The fine fur under the coat of long hairs upon its back is said to be equal to the fur of beaver for hat -making. [The Ornithorhynchus is peculiar to Australia and Tasmania, and combines with the hair and fur of a mammalian quadruped, the webbed feet and the beak of the duck, whilst the male has spurs on the hind legs like a cock. In its internal anatomy the Ornithorhynchus offers many marks of resemblance to both birds and reptiles, and forms the nearest link in the mammalian series to the oviparous classes.— R. O.]

Above: Dickinson Brothers – Dickinsons’ comprehensive pictures of the Great Exhibition of 1851
The Crystal Palace from the northeast during the Great Exhibition of 1851.
Source: Dickinson’s Comprehensive Pictures of the Great Exhibition of 1851, from the originals painted for … Prince Albert, by Messrs. Nash, Haghe and RobertsPublished: LondonCreated: 1854 Format: Book / Illustration / ImageCreator: Louis Haghe, Joseph Nash, David Roberts Usage terms: Public Domain Held by: British Library Shelfmark: Cup.652.c.33., volume 2 British Library

The ship “Fairlie” in brief
This barque was built by the yard of J. Gilmore, Calcutta for the account of John Biddulph. On the 5th June 1811 the ship was launched under the name FAIRLIE. It was a Class A two-decked vessel. The height between decks was 5.11ft., the tonnage was 698 86/94 tons (bm), and dimensions 106.0 x 35.3 x 17.1ft

On the 4th June 1812 the Fairlie was chartered by the East India Company for a round voyage to Bengal, under the command of Captain Peter d’Esterre. The charter terminated on 3rd June 1814. On the 22nd May 1815 she was chartered again by the British East India Company for a round voyage via Madeira to Bengal under the command of Captain Thomas E.Ward. The charter finished on the 5th November 1816. Her last voyage for the British East India Company under the same command was chartered on 1st April 1818 for a round voyage to Bengal and Bombay. The charter finished on 8th June 1819.

In 1824 the Fairlie was sold to David Gordon, and traded to India as a licensed ship. In 1833 she was under the command of Captain J. Cromartie. She sailed on 27th October 1833 from England with 376 convicts for Australia under the command of Captain Henry Ager. After a passage of 111 days she arrived at New South Wales on 15th February 1834. During the passage four (4) convicts died. After disembarking she sailed for England.

The Fairlie then sailed from London on 4th April 1840 with cargo and 266 passengers under the command of Edward Garrett, RN. And via the DOWNS on 6th April she set course for Australia, arriving at Port Adelaide on 7th July 1840. One of the passengers James Bowley kept a diary during that voyage. In 1843 she was sold to Joseph Soames at London.

On the 11th March 1852 she sailed from Plymouth with 294 convicts on board under the command of Captain Ed Pavey, arriving on 3rd July 1852 at Hobart. John Nevin and his family were on board. In 1865 the Fairlie was transferred to the Merchant Shipping Co. Ltd., London and in sold in 1866 for breaking up or use as a convict hulk.

Further reading and disambiguation of the ship’s name Fairlie can be found here at Ships Stamps UK:

Embarcation: 22nd February 1852
The records below list the names of the convict guard, their wives and their children who embarked on the Fairlie at Gravesend on 18th – 22nd February 1852:

Tasmanian State Archives
Nominal Return of a convict guard on the ship Fairlie 18 Feb 1852
Accession No. 376/164

Above: Nominal Return of a Detachment who Embarked at Gravesend on board the Ship Fairlie being the remainder of the Convict Guard who Embarked at Woolwich. Gravesend 22nd February 1852. Rank and Name, No. Remarks
Private Jno Nevin

Above: Embarked at Gravesend, 22nd February 1852
Wives of the Convict Guard
Mary Nevin (wife of guard John Nevin)

Above and below:
Nominals Return of Children belonging to the men of the Convict Guards. Embarked on board the ship Fairlie Gravesend 22nd February 1852
Boys under 12 years; Thomas Nevin
Girls under 12 years: Mary A. Nevin, Rebecca Nevin
Under 1 year: Will J. Nevin

Boys under 12 years; Thomas Nevin
Girls under 12 years: Mary A. Nevin, Rebecca Nevin
Under 1 year: Will J. Nevin
Nominal return
ADRI: MB2/98/1/1
Source: Archives Office of Tasmania
Series: Nominal return of the convict guard on board the fairlie. (MB2/98) 18 Feb 1852 18 Feb 1852
Electronic resources: MB2-98-1-1
Available here:

29th February 1852: The Fairlie arrived at Spithead from Woolwich to take on convicts for Van Diemen’s Lands. (“Naval Intelligence” “Portsmouth, February 29 “ (1852, March 1). Morning Post, (London, England).

2nd March 1852: Convicts from the hulks York and Sterling Castle embarked at Portsmouth Harbour. Boy prisoners from Parkhurst were put on board at Cowes. Sailed that evening (“The Navy” “Portsmouth, March 3 “(1852, March 4). Morning Chronicle, (London, England).

4th March 1852: “…put into the Sound on Thursday, on her way down the channel.”(“The Navy” “Plymouth, March 6 “(1852, March 9). Morning Chronicle, (London, England).

9th March 1852: embarked prisoners from hulks at the Spithead. (“Naval Intelligence” “Portsmouth, Sunday “(1852, March 9). Kerry Examiner and Munster General Observer, (Kerry, Republic of Ireland).

10th March 1852: In the Sound. More than a thousand emigrants left for the colonies from the Plymouth that week. (“Naval Intelligence”, “Emigration“ (1852, March 10). Western Courier, West of England Conservative, Plymouth and Devonport Advertiser, (Kerry, Republic of Ireland).

11th March 1852: Fifty-two convicts had embarked from Dartmoor, probably days before. Sailed from Plymouth for Van Diemen’s Land (“The Navy” (1852, March 12). London Evening Standard, (London, England).

Source: HAA007 Convict Ancestors Story – Evelyn Mitchell
Intro: Why I chose Samuel Sheepwash! [a convict on board the Fairlie 1852]

1852: Nevins on the “Fairlie” sick lists
Thomas James Nevin’s father, John Nevin snr, born in 1808 at Grey Abbey, County Down, Ireland, with service in the West Indies (1825-1838) and Canada (1839-42), was one of 30 out-pensioners and guards travelling with the 99th Regiment on board the Fairlie when it left Plymouth on March 11th, 1852, bound for Hobart with 294 convicts. Thomas’ mother Mary Ann Nevin nee Dickson was one of 24 women on board, and Thomas himself, together with his three younger siblings, Mary Anne, Rebecca Jane and William John were numbered among the 47 children. Among the convicts were 32 boys from the Parkhurst prison who had embarked at the Isle of Wight on March 2, 1852.

While conditions on board must have been rudimentary for women and children accompanying a crew member, for a mother and baby it must have been a floating hell. The medical officer for the voyage which began on March 2-11, 1852 recorded that prior to departure, on February 28th, both John Nevin and his wife Mary suffered diarrhoea, and were discharged from the list on the day of departure. Mary (Anne) Nevin, aged 5 yrs, was put on the sick list on the 23rd April. Her mother Mary Nevin (aged 40 [sic]), joined her daughter on the sick list a day later, on the 24th April. Both were listed in the “QUALITY” column with their status: child of guard and wife of guard.

Mary Nevin, aged 5, child of guard; Mary Nevin, aged 40, wife of guard.

William Nevin, aged 6 months, child of guard

Reference: ADM 101/27/2
Medical journal of convict ship Fairlie .
Admiralty and predecessors: Office of the Director General of the Medical Department of the Navy and predecessors: Medical Journals Convict Ships etc. Date: 1852. Source: The Catalogue of The National Archives [UK]

On the 2nd June, the babe in arms, William Nevin, aged 6 months, was also put on the sick list, “QUALITY” also listed as child of guard. As the sick lists indicate, they were named in the company of other wives and children of guards, and of convicts of all ages.

Folio 2: John Nevin, aged 43, Private of pensioners; sick or hurt, diarrhoea; put on sick list 28 February 1852, discharged 2 March 1852 to duty. Folio 2: Mary Nevin, aged 40, Wife of pensioners;

Folio 2: Mary Nevin, aged 40, Wife of pensioners; sick or hurt, diarrhoea; put on sick list 14 March 1852, discharged 25 March 1852 to duty.

Folio 4: Mary Nevin, aged 5, Child of Guard; sick or hurt, diarrhoea; put on sick list 23 April 1852, discharged 30 April 1852 to duty. Folio 4: Mary Nevin, aged 40, Wife of Guard; sick or hurt, diarrhoea; put on sick list 24 April 1852, discharged 14 May 1852 to duty.

Folio 5: William Nevin, aged 6 months, Child of Guard; sick or hurt, convulsio; put on sick list 2 June 1852, discharged 9 June 1852 to duty.

See the complete sick list for this voyage of the Fairlie 1852 in this article – click here.

Absent from the sick lists were the two other children of John and Mary Nevin – Thomas James (b. 1842), and his sister Rebecca Jane (b.1847). Whatever ailments they endured on the voyage apparently left few permanent effects on Thomas and his father: Thomas James Nevin (photographer) lived to the age of 81 yrs (d. 1923). His father John also lived to the age of 80, and remarried at the age of 71 to a 46 year old widow, Martha Salter nee Genge, soon after the death of his wife and mother of his four children, Mary Nevin nee Dickson (1810-1875), who lived just 65 years. However, the two sisters did not survive to the 20th century: Rebecca died in 1865, aged 18 years at Kangaroo Valley, Hobart; Mary Anne died in Victoria, aged 34 yrs shortly after her marriage in 1877 to John Carr and within a fortnight of giving birth to a daughter in 1878, and younger brother William John, known as Constable John Nevin and simply as Jack to the family, died of typhoid fever in 1891, aged 39 yrs. Jack joined the Prison administration at H. M. Hobart Gaol while still in his teens,and remained there until his untimely death, assisting his brother Thomas as the official photographer supplying convicts’ identification cartes-de-visite mugshots for the Municipal Police Office and Prisons Department. Jack was variously enrolled as an elector with the name (Constable) John Nevin and William John Nevin, not to be confused with Thomas Nevin’s son carrying the name into the next generation: William John Nevin, born in 1878, who died in 1927 in a horse and cart accident in Hobart.

Arrival at Hobart, VDL, July 3rd 1852
The Principal Medical Officer, Dr Edward Nollett (also spelt as Nolleth) reported no serious medical incidents had occurred during the voyage. Yet one child was still-born, vaccinations were attempted (unspecified types), and two prisoners were found to be nearly blind on disembarkation.

The barque Fairlie arrived in Hobart on July 3, 1852. On board were 292 male convicts, 30 pensioner guards with their families – 24 women and 47 children. In charge of the convict guard was Ensign Meagher for the 99th Regiment. Surgeon Edwarth Nolloth RN voyaged in the Cabin as did the religious instructor John B. Seaman and his wife. The Rev. Seaman reported:


July 13 [1852]
The arrangement and cleanliness of the Penitentiary, the courtesy of the officers, combined with the discipline exercised, will effect, it is hoped, the reformation of England’s exiles.
(Signed) John B. SEAMAN, Queen’s, Cambridge,
Religious Instructor of “Fairlie”, C. S.

Religious instructor John B. Seaman, on visit to Male House of Correction, Hobart Town
Source:Parliamentary Papers, House of Commons and Command, Volume 54, page 19 

The Calcutta-built Fairlie, 775 tons and carrying two guns, had left Plymouth on March 11, 1852 with 45 crew. Cargo listed included 1 bag of despatches, 2 ropes, 8 leather bags, 1 ship bag and 1 small paper parcel. When the ship sailed into the River Derwent at Hobart and the pilot Mr Hurburgh boarded at 4pm, he reported the weather was fine, winds light, and the ship’s draught was 18 feet.

The Port Officer’s Form carried the REMARKS:
2 Deaths Convicts – 1 Birth – Female
And this note:
“The Pest Bomangee” was to leave [?] in about 3 weeks after this vessel sailed
“The Sylph”. Sailed from Plymouth three days before.

Source: State Library of Tasmania
Series Number MB2/39
Start Date 24 Mar 1828
End Date 31 Dec 1970



“Copy of a DESPATCH from Lieut.-Governor Sir W. Dension to the Duke of Newcastle
Government House , Van Diemen’s Land, May 5, 1853 [etc etc]
…inspection made by the principal medical officer of the convict ship “Fairlie” on her arrival in this port, and I would beg to draw attention to that portion of it which states that two of the men are nearly blind, and who will consequently become a permanent charge up on the convict establishment.
I have & (Signed ) W. DENISON [&&&]”

Below: Enclosure in No 10 Encl in No 10
Principal Medical Officer’s Office July 5 1852


I HAVE the honour to report my inspection of the “Fairlie” male prison ship, surgeon superintendent, Dr Edward Nollett. The ship left Plymouth on the 11th March with 294 prisoners, under a guard of 30 out- pensioners, with 24 women and 47 children. They were generally healthy, the more prevalent complaints being diarrhoea and pulmonic affections. Two prisoners died, one from disease of the heart the second from pleurisy There were also two births, one still born. I observed two prisoners who (I am informed) were embarked nearly blind They are fit cases for an invalid depot, and I have directed their removal to the General Hospital, together with four other men who are in delicate health and unfit at present for labour. Vaccination was attempted but without success. The berths, decks, and utensils were clean, and in good order. I have etc The Comptroller General (Signed) A. SHANKS &c & &c Deputy Inspector General PMOReport of August 11, 1853:

Source: Parliamentary Papers By Great Britain Parliament. House of Common papers Vol 54

1854: Miss Mary Nevin on the ship “Columbus”
On 11th, July 1854, John Nevin snr, schoolmaster at Kangaroo Valley, paid £5 at Hobart for two single tickets for the passage of “R” indicating relatives (and not “Servants”) on a “Family Ticket”. No details of the passenger, the name of the ship or the origin of the journey are shown on this register.

Second name, page on left:
Application No. 450: 11th July 1854
John Nevin schoolmaster Kangaroo Valley
Payment for Family Ticket “R” = relative
Number issued: 2 single tickets
Payment received at Hobart Town £5

Source: Archives Office Tasmania
Link: Nevin John 1854 image 27
Source Citation: Register of applications for immigrants from Europe, of payments received and bounty tickets issues with some monthly and half yearly summaries; Film: SLTX/AO/MB/266; Series: CB7/30.

The fee of £5, according to the Immigration Department schedule of 1865 (Walch’s Tasmanian Almanac 1865, page 86) was the amount to be paid for a single female, so who was the female immigrant who arrived in 1854? Or did John Nevin pay just an initial £5 for two single tickets, one in advance, one to be paid on arrival, or indeed were some of the costs pre-paid by the “R” – relative(s)?

Immigration DepartmentExtract from Walch’s Tasmanian Almanac 1865: 86


The Commissioners of Immigration have issue the following Regulations for persons desirous of introducing servants or relatives from the United Kingdom, under the Bounty System adopted on the 21st December 1858: –
An Immigrant resident in Tasmania who may wish to bring to the colony any relative from the United Kingdom, being a British subject, and being either a mechanic, domestic servant, or laborer, should apply to the Immigration Agent at Hobart Town or Launceston, in writing; and Bounty Tickets will be issued (subject to approval of the Commissioners) on the following rates of payment by the applicant: –
Family Ticket for man, wife (or either of them) with the children under 12 years at time of embarkation ———————— £15
Single Male Ticket ——————— 10
Single Female Ticket ——————– 5
The Tickets should be sent to the Agent appointed by the applicant in the United Kingdom, who will take the proper steps for procuring passages in vessels sailing direct to Hobart Town or Launceston, or to Melbourne, whence the emigrants will be forwarded to their destined port, and will in all cases be provided for at the expense of the ship owners until their friends may be enabled to receive them, provided that the period for such accommodation does not exceed fifteen working days from date of arrival.

The fee of £5, according to this schedule of 1865, was the fee to be paid for a single female. A single male ticket cost £10. Those fees were established with the Bounty System Regulations of 1858. Perhaps in 1854 they were cheaper when John Nevin paid £5 for two singles.

In this record (below) of the arrival at Hobart of the Columbus in October 1854, Miss Mary Nevin, 21 yrs old, a Roman Catholic from County Clare, unable to read or write (indicated by the word “none”) was listed as a housemaid who could cook and wash linen. In several respects this was probably not the relative/family member whose ticket John Nevin funded in July 1854, firstly because she was from County Clare in the south west of Ireland, whereas John Nevin’s family originated from Grey Abbey, County Down in the north, but more significantly, her religious affiliation was Roman Catholicism, whereas John Nevin’s was Protestantism. He was a teacher at the Wesleyan Chapel, Kangaroo Valley (now Lenah Valley, Hobart) by 1854 where he built his cottage adjacent to the Lady Franklin Museum on land in trust to the Wesleyan Church.

Name: Nevin, Mary
Record Type: Arrivals
Title: Miss
Age: 21
Arrival date: 27 Oct 1854
Departure port: Plymouth
Ship: Columbus
Record ID:
Resource: CB7/12/1/2 Bk14 p90
Archives Office of Tasmania

This same single young woman, 21 year old Mary Nevin, housemaid, Roman Catholic, unable to read or write, from County Clare in southwest Ireland lodged two applications in her own name on behalf of two single men also from County Clare who arrived within weeks of each other in November 1855 as passengers on board the Emma to Hobart via Melbourne, viz:

  • David Maloney, single male, 24 years old, Roman Catholic, unable to read or write, a farm labourer, arrived on board the Emma, November 2, 1855 (primary document at page 41), and
  • Hugh Nevin, single male, 22 years old, Roman Catholic, able to read and write, a farm labourer, arrived on board the Emma, November 30th, 1855 (primary document at page 45)

1854: James and Mary Nevin on the ship “Kingston”
Two other immigrants with the surname “Nevin” arrived at Hobart in 1854: James Nevin, 28 years old, and Mrs Mary Nevin, presumably his wife, 25 years old, arrived on 26th August 1854 from Southampton on board the Kingston.

Name: Nevin, Mary
Record Type: Arrivals
Title: Mrs
Age: 25
Arrival date: 26 Aug 1854
Departure port: Southampton
Ship: Kingston
Remarks: With husband James.
Record ID: NAME_INDEXES:1510960
Resource: CB712/1/2 Bk19 p290
Archives Office of Tasmania

In this record, James Nevin was listed as a 28 year old coachman and groom from County Derry, able to read and write. Mrs Mary Nevin was listed as a 25 year old housemaid from County Antrim, able to read. Both were registered as Presbyterians. In the remarks column of this record is written the comment “useful persons“. These two were more likely to be the two “family ticket” holders for whom John Nevin paid an initial £5 on 11th July 1854, for these reasons: they originated from the north of Ireland, they were both literate, and their religious affiliation was Protestant rather than Roman Catholic. They were married three months before sailing, on 7th February, 1854 at County Coleraine, Ireland: James was the son of Samuel Nevin of Coleraine (1807-1879) and Mary was the daughter of Robert Hemphill. James Nevin may have been a nephew of John Nevin’s – how they were “R” = related – is yet to be determined.

Source: See image for citation.

Page on left: James and Mary Nevin sailed from Southampton, England on board the Kingston. 843 tons, 4 guns, master R. L. Weeks, departing 26th May, 1854. They were “Gov’t Emmigrants” among 35 married couples, 23 single men, 145 single women and 54 children.

Port Officers’s Log
Arrival of the ship Kingston at the Port of Hobart Town 25 August 1854
Archives Office Tasmania
Ref: MB2-39-1-18 Image 137

Bounty immigrants, James and Mary Nevin listed as “Married with families: Nevin 2”
Ship Kingston arrivals in Hobart
Mercury 30 August 1854

The point here is to negate any speculation that the document above which shows John Nevin paid £5 for the passage of two relatives on a family ticket on 11th July 1854 is the actual same document that proves he paid for three members of the Hurst family who arrived on 3rd February, 1855 on board the Flora McDonald viz. John Hurst, 16 years old, a designer, with Eliza Hurst, 40 years old, a needlewoman, and 14 year old house servant Mary Jane, despite the claims of the author of a Wikipedia page about William Nevin Tatlow Hurst (viz. serial troll Karen Mather who also references irrelevant documents in pursuit of her claims). These are two separate events, two different dates, and two separate groups of passengers. Even if the Hurst and Nevin families had associations in both Ireland and Tasmania before and after both families emigrated, the  list clearly shows these three Hursts arrived in 1855, not 1854, at Launceston via Hobart.  So, if their sponsor was the same John Nevin (no address given on this document below) who had sponsored two emigrants on a family ticket the previous year, in 1854, the document cited above with his address at Kangaroo Valley ( Nevin John 1854 image 27) does not reference this document below dated 1855 which names the three Hursts:

Detail: of above: Hursts x 3 left hand page
Tasmanian Archives and Heritage Office, TA211 Immigration Agents Department, CB7/17/1/1 Alphabetical descriptive list of immigrants arriving under the indenture system – details of name, ship, marital state, age, religion, native place, trade & bounty paid, January 1854 to December 1856, Page 24, book no. 9, url=

Photograph of John Nevin (1808-1887) taken in 1873 by his son Thomas Nevin
Copyright © KLW NFC Imprint Private Collections 2003 ARR

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