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James Wilson

James Wilson, one of 280 convicts transported on the Hougoumont, 10 October 1867

Name, Aliases & Gender

Name: James Wilson
Aliases: James Thomas
Gender: m

Birth, Occupation & Death

Date of Birth: 6th February, 1836
Occupation: Soldier
Date of Death: 1921
Age: 84 years

Life Span

Life span

Male median life span was 56 years*

* Median life span based on contributions

Conviction & Transportation

Sentence Severity

Sentence Severity

Sentenced to Life

Crime: Irish rebel
Convicted at: Dublin General Court Martial
Sentence term: Life
Ship: Hougoumont
Departure date: 10th October, 1867
Arrival date: 9th January, 1868
Place of arrival Western Australia
Passenger manifest Travelled with 280 other convicts


Primary source: Australian Joint Copying Project. Microfilm Roll 93, Class and Piece Number HO11/19, Page Number 265 (135)
Source description: This record is one of the entries in the British convict transportation registers 1787-1867 database compiled by State Library of Queensland from British Home Office (HO) records which are available on microfilm as part of the Australian Joint Copying Project.

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Community Contributions

Eric Harry Daly on 26th January, 2013 wrote:

James Wilson was a Fenian who was transported as a convict to Western Australia.
Born James McNally in Newry, County Down, Ireland on 6 February 1836, little is known of his early life. He apparently joined the British Army at the age of 17 (enlisting under a false name) to avoid arrest for the battery of a police officer.
He served in India before returning to Ireland where he became a Fenian, being sworn into the Irish Republican Brotherhood in 1864. The following year he deserted, along with Martin Hogan, from the British Army in anticipation of an expected Fenian uprising.
On 10 February 1866, he was arrested by the police who discovered him hiding in a safe house in Dublin. They were betrayed by an informant, Patrick Curran.
Wilson, along with other military Fenians were tried, found guilty of desertion and mutinous conduct, and sentenced to death. However, this sentence was later commuted to penal servitude for life, and they were transported to Western Australia. In October 1867, Wilson and sixty one other Fenians began the long sea voyage on board the Hougoumont to Australia.
Life in Fremantle was hard. Wilson had been sentenced to penal servitude, and found the monotony and work involved so hard to bear that he wrote to a New York journalist, John Devoy entitling his letter, A Voice From the Tomb after having been in jail for some nine years.
Devoy was moved enough by Wilson’s description of the conditions under which he and his colleagues laboured to begin collecting money amongst the American-Irish community to organise their rescue. Enough money was collected and a whaling ship, the Catalpa, was purchased and George Anthony was hired to captain the ship.
In 1876, the Catalpa sailed to Western Australia and rescued Wilson and five other Fenian prisoners. Initially the Royal Navy sought to halt the progress of the Catalpa and recapture the men, but after being fired upon once, Anthony raised the American flag. After this, the British did not fire upon them again and the ship sailed unimpeded to New York, the journey taking some four months.
Wilson settled in Rhode Island, where he got married and lived out the rest of his life. In 1920, Wilson met with √Čamon de Valera who was touring the United States, trying to gain support for his Irish Republic. Wilson died in November 1921.

scott young on 14th May, 2016 wrote:

The Great Australian Escape https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catalpa_rescue
Well documented ,published and promoted escape of the Militant Fenian band of convicts from Perth

Convict Changes History

Eric Harry Daly on 26th January, 2013 made the following changes:

date of birth 6th February, 1836, date of death 1921, gender, occupation

scott young on 14th May, 2016 made the following changes:

alias1: James Thomas, crime

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