SAMUEL MIDGLEY - First Fleeter

He may have been the son of John Midgley and Ann Cash, baptised at Manchester Cathedral on 15th September 176515.
The IGI entry states:

 Samuel MIGLEY (M).....................  C: 15 Sep 1765       Ba: C005464    Father: John MIGLEY  Cathedral, Manchester, Lancashire, England   So: 443327       Mother: Ann   Pr: 6900001

Samuel Midgley* Transport- Alexander, place & date  of  trial: Lancaster Assizes (Tues) 22nd March 17851.
Stealing goods (after a break-in15) with three others, Thomas Smith*, John  Winter, William Shore (q.qv.)* from Mrs. Braddock of Manchester.2
(*transported on H.M.S. Alexander together, John Winter seems not to be on the First Fleet- died?)

One week later (29th March 1785) Samuel  and the other three were  condemned (to death) but  on the 13th April15 was reprieved and sentenced to be transported for 7 years.
Appears in the order in Council No.1 page 2 (9) Ross’s Returns- Midgeley (sic) p.235. Richards Returns p. 259-Reference Manchester Mercury and Harrop’s General Advertiser, No. 1773 Tuesday 29th March 1785.

Lancaster Castle

After sentencing, the prisoners were taken down into the  windowless cells of the castle which , since H.M. prison Lancaster was closed, can be visited today. Those who received a reprieve were initially destined for the American colonies, but  after the American war of Independence, a new 'off-shore detention centre ' had to be found. Following Lieutenant Cook's exploration of the coast ,of what is now known as Australia, a  system was devised whereby prisoners could be made to travel to the hulks moored on the River Thames before transhipment to the 'First Fleet' at Portsmouth.

The prisoners at Lancaster were made to walk the 320 miles to London in chains! This, it is surmised was to select the strongest prisoners who would then help to build a new nation.. Basically it was Darwin'ian natural selection, although the selection process was  not natural. Survival of the fittest became  corrupted into the survival of the strongest and most resilient.

Samuel was  aged 20 when sent to the prison hulk Ceres sometime before July 1786 and then delivered to the Alexander on 6th January 178715.
The prison hulks were moored off Woolwich. This is where most of the prisoners were loaded, John Powers, described as "The Greatest Rogue" was put aboard the Alexander here. The Prince of Wales and The Alexander sailed from Woolwich to Portsmouth16.

PORTSMOUTH, Hampshire, England.

What came to be known as the First Fleet  amassed &sailed from  Portsmouth on 13th May 1787. Samuel Midgley was aboard the Alexander, 452 tons (with 215 convicts aboard).
The Alexander was the largest ship in the fleet an all male prison ship, it was reported as the dirtiest ship with the most trouble and mutiny than any other in the fleet.
The rest of the fleet consisted of H.M.S. Sirius (Capt. John Hunter), the armed tender Supply, three store ships, six other transports with two years supplies. On board were 1044 people made up of 568 male convicts,191 female convicts (3:1)and 13 children. The official party comprised 206 marines with 26 wives and 19 children  and 20 officials.11
Captain  Arthur Phillip was head of the Fleet. A colony in the making.

RIO DE JANIERO,Argentina & CAPE TOWN, Cape Colony.

The Fleet left Rio de Janiero on the  4th September 1787 after loading citrus fruit as a prevention for scurvy & sailed for Cape Town leaving here on the 12th November 1787 carrying livestock.

  BOTANY BAY, Van Dieman's Land.

The Alexander, carrying Samuel  arrived in  Botany Bay with the Scarborough and Friendship 
dropping anchor in
this wide sheltered sandy bay on Saturday  8am  on  the 19th January 1788.
[Samuel Midgley is recorded in The Index of N.S.W. Convict Indents (0004, 1986): Samuel Midgeley (sic) 1788-1800  324 616 392 4/4003]
The rest of the Fleet arrived in Botany Bay 24 hours later, at 8am Sunday 19th January 1788.

                                                       . HMS Alexander followed by Scarborough and Friendship

                                                      Leaving PortsmouthLeaving Portsmouth

SYDNEY COVE, Van Dieman's Land.

On the Monday  20th January 1788 Capt. Arthur Phillip travelled in an open boat to Port Jackson then returned to Botany Bay.

H.M.S. Supply left Botany Bay on Friday 25th Jan. 1788 with 40 convicts and sailed to Port Jackson arriving in Sydney Cove at 7pm.
The remainder of the fleet left Botany Bay at 7am on Saturday 25th January 1788 arriving  Sydney Cove at 6.30pm

On Sunday 27th January 1788 Marines  and 40 convicts  were set to clearing trees along the Tank Stream.

Strong winds with rain and thunder were experienced in  Sydney  on Saturday 2nd February.
On Tuesday 5th Feb. five couples were married by the Rev.  Johnson (including Kable & Bryant).

The female convicts were released on Sunday 10th February, this episode has been termed “debauchery in the rain”.

On the 6th March Sydney Cove .James Barrett was   hanged at the  age   of 17 years.

NORFOLK ISLAND, Van Dieman's Land.

Thurday 14th February 1788 Lieutenant King arrived on  Norfolk Island in  the Supply with a small party of marines &  convicts (19 males & six disciplined convicts). They were to establish a permanent settlement to grow flax, cotton, corn etc.
King ordered 12 men to clear the land for a vegetable garden at Sydney Bay, Norfolk Island.

A settlement of tents was set up at “Sydney Bay” (Kings  Town, later Kingston) with 35 people.

On the 29th Feb. 1788 the first “settlers” arrived  on the sloop “Supply”. The Supply did not return to Norfolk Island until late July 1788.
Meanwhile in the Sydney area in April  1788 Governor Phillip had explored and found fertile soil at Rose Hill, near Parramatta.
Soon convict gangs were building a road ,felling trees and brush and putting in rough log bridges.
By November 1788 The Government Farm was established at Rose Hill. Henry Dodd  took 100 convicts and marine guards to start the Rose Hill farm. James Ruse was amongst the convicts and most likely so was Samuel Midgley.

In October 1788 the “Golden Grove arrived at Norfolk Island with convicts, troops and a few free people but Samuel was still in the Parramatta - Sydney Cove area. We know this because he rates a mention in at least three  places in Capt.(Governor)  Arthur Phillip’s diary when he recorded:

1. “March 9th 1789 Samuel Midgley landing stores”6

In June/July 1789 food was becoming a problem in Sydney because it was winter and there was virtually nothing growing.

2.“Monday 13th April 1789. Collins (Capt. David Collins as Judge-Advocate) conducted two examinations. George Eggleston, William Connelly and Samuel Midgley were accused of stealing one gallon of pease at Rosehill. Samuel Benear and the prisoners gave contradictory evidence about events which occurred on Thursday 9th March when stores were being landed. Connolly and Eggleston were discharged but Midgley was ordered 100 lashes to be administered at Rosehill.”6

In July 1789 W. Grenville (Secretary to the Home Office) wrote to Governor Phillip suggesting he transport   as many convicts from Sydney to Norfolk Island as possible.7

3. “Sunday 13th September 1789 The records of the
magistrates  Court show that three convicts were sentenced at Rose Hill. Samuel Midgley was ordered 100 lashes for being found in a stoker’s (John Stokoe  q.v.15)hut with an intent to commit a felony; Gepp 25 lashes for insolence  to a sentry and John Boyle 25 lashes for insolence”6

In November 1789  Phillip granted James Ruse 1.5 acres of cleared ground  at Rose Hill, A hut was built, tools, rations, 2 pigs, 6 hens &seeds were provided.

By October 1789 the population was on 2/3 rations.

“Samuel Midgley,  arrived Norfolk Island  Dec. 3rd   1789  in the ?Alexander  and received rations until 1794” 4  However Gillen 15states  that Samuel was sent on the ship Supply to Norfolk Island on 8th January 1790. In December 1789 Norfolk Island besides one free male, held :
TYPE civilians military male convicts female convicts children
NUMBER 7 24 51 24 5

In 1790 Governor Phillip sent parties of convicts, probably re-offenders from Sydney to Norfolk Island due to the pressure on food and supplies in Sydney.

The soil  and the  plant growth was much better on Norfolk Island, the growth season being in full swing.
By  January of 1790 famine was approaching for the 900 inhabitants of Sydney, the salt pork was rotten.
By 19th March 1790 Commander Kings first term on Norfolk Island ended and he was replaced by Major Robert Ross.
The Sirius and Supply (Samuel had arrived earlier in January in the Supply15)arrived at Norfolk Island in March 1790 with 300 people which left only 600 in Sydney and Parramatta.

Parramatta from the west 1819

The Captain of the Sirius, John Hunter manouevering the Sirius into Kings Town harbour hit a reef. It is likely that Samuel Midgley  was among the convicts who helped  save  the  crew & salvage  the  cargo.
Later Samuel was to  have a petition endorsed by  John Hunter to settle in Norfolk Island as a free settler15.
Because of this accident almost 500 souls were left marooned on Norfolk.
As a result, martial Law was invoked.
The  ship“Supply”returned to Sydney Cove and then to Batavia to get food.

By May 1790 Petrels  and their eggs  from  Mt. Pitt  were being killed for food in large numbers ,Convicts were sent out in the evening with knots of pine leaves to take  the birds from their burrows. Fish & the  heads of Cabbage Palms were being eaten in Kings Town.

The “Justinian” and “Surprize” arrived  at   Norfolk Island in August 1790. The Surprize carried 200 female convicts.
Food supplies were improving & The Great Hunger was over, as a result martial law was discontinued.

The crew of the foundered Sirius departed  in January 1791 from Norfolk after 11 months.
Clay was found and 12 prisoners were set to make bricks in January.
In 1791 the Rev. Johnson sailed from Sydney to baptise 30 children all born at Norfolk, perhaps  as a result of the influx of female convicts the previous year.
It may have been at this time that Samuel had a child born15.

At this time Major Ross tried to make the convicts self sufficient, it did not work so on King’s return in November 1791 to Norfolk the  idea was abandoned.

In March 1791 William & Mary Bryant with two young children & seven convicts escaped to Timor in   an   open boat.
For July 1790 Samuel Midgley is recorded15 as subsisting himself on a Sydney Town lot (N.I.) of which he had cleared 54 rods (1 rod = 30.5 square yards) i.e. about 0.4 of an acre or 0.17 of a hectare.

Phillip Gidley King returned as Lt. Governor of Norfolk Island in  November 1791.
By 1792 the stone beach at Cascade Bay was cleared to provide another landing place. By September the population had grown to 1,115 with 812 being maintained from the public store. Of the remaining 303 convicts, which included 22 females, 158 were permanently employed in cultivation and others as carpenters, shingle makers, charcoal burners, quarrymen, limeburners, lath makers ,barrowmen, masons &labourers.
In 1793 Norfolk Island became self sufficient, the harvest was successful so that by May the population of 1,028 souls was well fed. But by November 1794 the Norfolk Island population had fallen to 954 and remained at about this level until at least  late 1795 when a good harvest was  again recorded.

King's report for 18th October 1795 showed that out of a total of 887 people there were 120 military with wives & children, 767 settlers, people whose sentences had expired and prisoners. There were two schools, an  orphanage & 619 hectares cleared of timber for  maize, wheat, potatoes, sugarcane, bananas, lemons, apples and coffee.
There were 12 cattle, six horses, 12 asses, 374 sheep, 772 goats, 14,642 swine, 2 windmills and one watermill.

From Nov. 1791-18th  Oct. 1796 there were 191 births and 137 deaths. Convicts were bartering clothes etc. to obtain liquor from the soldiers and settlers.
The convicts worked the military officers pig farms , the pork being sold to the government store on Norfolk Island. The free settlers resented the preference given to officers farms.
Hunter had to confiscate the sloop “The Norfolk”

In May 1794 Samuel was hired for six months as a labourer by Thomas Sparks  and probably continued as a labourer on Norfolk Island until late 179615. Gillen then states that "Samuel returned to  England in the next few years" 15. This contradicts later references to  a Samuel Midgley of Hobart but it must be conceded that there could be more than one Samuel Midgley in the Van Dieman's Land records at this time.

In late 1796 King left the island and was replaced by Capt. Townson on Norfolk Island, King retiring in April 1800.
Between 1797 and 1801 there are very few records forNorfolk Island.
By the end of 1797 there were 875 people on Norfolk island and wheat had ceased to be grown. The maize crop was lost in 1799 and many people fell sick from drinking from two liquor stills on the island.

It  is recorded that Samuel  had his sentence expire in 1805 and  Gillen15 states he returned to England .This would indicate he had served about  27years in the penal colonies and would make him  about 40 years of age.

By 1800 the Irish were appearing on Norfolk Island as a  result of the Insurrection in 1798.
About this time the last of the petrels (“Birds of Providence”) disappeared and today no longer exist on the island.
Major Foveaux was appointed  to Norfolk Island on 6th June 1800, he gave orders to :
I) Make sure the convicts laboured for the public welfare, not for private persons (except in special circumstances., when they should be clothed and fed by them.)

II) Establish a Government Store.

By the end of 1800 the population was only 953 and Kings Town was run-down and little work being done.

About this time there was a convict conspiracy at Norfolk  Island ostensibly run by the newly arrived Irish rebels. About 100 convicts formed a plot to take over the island. Each man made and concealed a pike.
Capt. Foveaux was given information where the pikes were kept and arrested the ringleaders, Two Irishmen were hanged without trial. Shortly after this the military strength was increased to 100 men.
In 1801 is was reported that the inhabitants were often drunk, some for a whole week.

1st January 1802, Samuel Midgeley (sic) was reported to be  a labourer &"given rations (victualled) for 365 days" at Norfolk Island from this date , he heads the male convict list after the listing of the free women12

 However  as Samuel stated in a petition to John Hunter, second governor of N.S.W. 15 he had a son living in Norfolk Island in 1811, this son  who may by now have been aged about 20 could conceivably have been moved to Tasmania or he may have gone  to England.
However a large branch of the  Midgley  pedigree in Tasmania indicates that Samuel Midgley (baptised 1765) nor his son were  progenitors of  at least one branch of the Midgley's of Tasmania14
In June 1803 Lord  Hobart wrote from London that all settlers bonded and free should be moved from Norfolk Island to Port Dalrymple, Tasmania.

In September 1803 Lt. Gordon John Bowen  left the Island in the barque “Albion” with Capt. Arbor Bunker and settled a group of convicts at Risdon Cove on the Derwent River, the first settlement in Tasmania.
For each acre  on Norfolk Island four were provided at Risdon.
By 1804 Risdon Settlement moved to the present site of Hobart on the other side of the Derwent River.
In August 1804 41 persons left Norfolk Island, and by August the same year Lt. Gov. Foveaux had left for England being succeeded by Capt. John Piper.
Nine large ships were seen off the S.W. of the Island on the 7th of November, this was the English China Fleet.

“Samuel Midgley - Laborer, sentence expired ,off stores. Norfolk Island muster February 1805”3

In March  1805 , the first evacuation of any size  from Norfolk Island took place  with almost all military staff and a number of convicts in the “Investigator” bound for Port Dalrymple (Launceston - the second settlement  in Tasmania)

On the 25th March 1805 H.M.S. Buffalo  left Sydney , arriving at Norfolk Island it departed  for Hobart Town. She was  run by Capt. Lt. John Houston  R.N. The Buffalo carried 50 convicts and settlers from Norfolk Island. She also carried sheep, cattle, horses, stores and provisions. She was the first R.N. ship to visit Hobart Town8.
The Buffalo left Hobart Town with  the “Integrity” in company until 26th April arriving at Port Jackson
(Sydney).8The Buffalo returned in August to Norfolk Island but this time took only provisions and one passenger, Mr. Humphrey a mineralogist to Hobart Town8.
There were no other recorded ships travelling from N.I.  in 1805 so Samuel could have been  on  one  of the  March sailings.
Free settlers were moved from Norfolk Island to Tasmania and were compensated by the Government.  Many declared they were  too old to pioneer again, Samuel would have been about forty years of age.

In September 1808 the “City of Edinburgh” carried 28 families from Norfolk Island to The Derwent River and  “left them in a state of wretchedness, almost naked”9

In the 1811 Norfolk Island Muster there is no mention of Samuel so we must assume he had left the island before this time12.

In Mid 1811 Gillen states that Samuel Midgley sent a petition on his own behalf and his nephew Charles for a passage from England to Norfolk Island saying he had been a settler there for upwards of twelve years and had property there and a son. "Whilst I was there I conducted myself with a steady manner" The petition was endorsed by John Hunter. Midgley wrote that he could provide for himself. No later records have so far been traced15.
Of course at this time the inhabitants of  the First Norfolk Island Settlement were being moved  to Tasmania so it is unlikely that Samuel's wishes were ever granted. However if he had a son as he stated15 then this son perhaps with his mother could have been moved to Tasmania or returned to England when the mother's sentence expired.
There should be records of the child's birth  or baptism  probably about May 1791 as Norfolk Island had seen an influx of 200 female convicts in August 1790, and the Rev. Johnson had baptised 30 chilfdren in 1791, later in November there were many births.

Also the mention of a nephew named Charles may be a useful point to follow genealogically although if Samuel's sibling was a sister, Charles could have been given a different surname.


In 1808 The New Norfolk Colony was settled (Norfolk Bay Settlement on the Tasman Peninsula?)

In 1979 I found a family home here  at the  Norfolk Bay Settlement, near Port Arthur,  with a sign “The Midgleys”. Are these the surviving members of his family? The family pedigree subsequently shown by David Midgley of Tasmania  does not indicate this14.
Port Arthur, Tasmania. Today in Tasmania there are Midgleys living at: Riana, Trevallyn (Launceston), Glen Orchy, Moonah, Dodges Ferry, Rokeby, Austin's Ferry, Chigwell and Stanley.
The oldest gravestone in GlenOrchy churchyard  near Hobart is 1847.
A record of a Samuel Midgley shows:
“Midgley, Samuel, Came Free, off stores. Hobart Muster 1819”3
However this could  conceivably be another person to the one who had lived on Norfolk Island.

Evidence14 suggests that Samuel was issued with a pardon and in  1805 returned to England and applied  in mid 1811 for a land grant for himself and a  nephew, Charles15 but we do not yet know what happened to him after this.

The final  comment goes to Norfolk Island.
The first  penal colony on the island was abandoned in February 1814 after 26 years. The last people left in the brig “Kangaroo”. All the buildings were destroyed lest the French use them. The island heaved a sigh of relief until the next settlement which proved to be a hell from which few escaped.10/13
                                                                                                                                                        First Fleet List

Port Arthur, Tasmania.


                                       Model of the bonded warehouse in Hobart Town during the 1820's.

q.v.= cross reference, q.q.v = cross reference to more than one item.

1. The Manchester Mercury and Harrops-General Advertiser No. 1773 Tues 29th March 1785.

2.The Crimes of the First Fleet Convicts- J. Cobley.

3. T.D. Mutch Index cards.

4. Norfolk Island Victualling Book p.215 (A/1958 N.I. Vict.Book).

5. Pers. Comm. J. Selkirk Provis , Research Officer The 1788-1820 Association, Box 1212 G.P.O. Sydney 2001.

6. From the Diary of Capt.(Governor) Arthur Phillip in “Sydney Cove 1789-1790” - John Cobley p. 25.

7. Historical Records NSW Part 2 p.253.

8. Shipping Arrivals and Departures, Tasmania, 1803-1833, I. Hawkins & Nicholson.

9. Governor Bligh's Diary (Governor N.S.W.)

10.The Commandants- M.G. Britts.

11. A Pictorial History of Australia -Rex & Thea Rienits Paul Hamlyn 1969.

12. "Musters & Lists N.S.W. & Norfolk Island, 1800-1822." 1802: Ref C.A. 320 male convicts &  "A list of every man, woman & child on & off stores residing in His Majesties settlement of Norfolk Island February 1805".

13.Convicts & Commandants of Norfolk Island 1788-1855, M. Hazzard, Norfolk Is. 1978

14. Email communication with David Midgley, Launceston, Tasmania, November 1998

15. Founders of Australia - A Biographical Dictionary Of The First Fleet, Mollie Gillen 1989, 245.   (First Fleet Association, Wooloomooloo, Sydney). I am indebted to Milnthorpe and David Midgley of Tasmania for the supply of this resource.

16. Arthur Phillip, The Voyage to Botany Bay, Hutchinson, 1968.

17. List of Australia's First Fleet                           Captain Cook's Journal online

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Midgley Memorabilia

Copyright © 1998  Tim Midgley, revised 9th January 2019.