Australia in the 1810s


Escaped convicts


Throughout the period of transportation, escaped convicts were known as 'bolters'. As many of the transported convicts were Irish, this group constituted the majority of 'bolters'. Some escapees became bushrangers and a few lived with Aboriginal groups. Some also returned to the colony, frightened by the loneliness and failure to find food and water. A small number managed to survive in the regional and remote areas where there were few colonists.

Many sympathised with the plight of the convicts and the harsh conditions they were forced to experience. Some convicts also managed to stow away on boats that were constantly travelling along the coastal areas. At times, the authorities searched ships before they left Sydney Harbour, resorting to using sulphur bombs to smoke out the stowaways. In 1814 the authorities searched a trader named the Earl Spencer and found 28 stowaways, some hidden in barrels of flour and cheese. Governor Macquarie complained to the Colonial Office about the help given by the sailors to the convicts and reported that it was always the most recently arrived convicts who were the keenest to escape. Once caught the escapees could expect severe punishment, including flogging, hard labour and worst of all, hanging.

In 1813, seven armed convicts stole the schooner Unity from the Derwent River in Van Diemen's Land. A year later, four convicts seized a sloop in Newcastle with few provisions. Governor Macquarie issued an edict to ships' captains that they were responsible for guarding their ships from stowaways. If convicts were found aboard, the captain could be fined heavily and the cargo forfeited.


A snapshot of 1818

  • January
    • Celebrations were held on the 30th anniversary of the establishment of the colony.

  • March
    • Samuel Marsden resigned from the magistracy, and in the Gazette of 28 March 1818 it was announced that his services had been dispensed with.

  • May
    • A regular mail service started operating between Hobart Town and Launceston.

  • June
    • The Benevolent Society of New South Wales was formed under Government Macquarie's patronage.

  • November
    • A lantern was lit for the first time at the Macquarie Tower lighthouse at South Head.
    • John Oxley names Castlereagh, the Liverpool Plains and the Peel River, and crossed the Great Dividing Range to reach Port Macquarie.
    • The legendary Aboriginal tracker Bundle and another Aboriginal man, Broughton, accompanied Charles Throsby on an expedition south.

Downloads