Ship Arrivals

Between February and July 1836 nine ships left England bound for South Australia. Four carried South Australian Company officials, labourers, fisherman and supplies to the new colony. These were the John Pirie, Duke of York, Lady Mary Pelham and Emma. Colonel Light’s surveying party was aboard two of the Colonization Commissioners’ ships, the Cygnet and Rapid. Two privately chartered barques, the Africaine and Tam O’Shanter brought out more emigrants, provisions and building supplies for the establishment of the province. Finally the Buffalo, conveying Governor Hindmarsh and his officials and other passengers, was the last of these nine vessels to leave England and the last to arrive in South Australia on 28 December 1836.

Profiles for each of the vessels – listed in alphabetical order- can be found below.


The Africaine was a barque of 316 tons. It was built by Robert and Thomas Brown junior in 1832 at their shipyard on the River Tyne, downstream from Newcastle. The yard lay on the south bank of the river at Jarrow in County Durham, the same county in which the Tam O’Shanter was built. The […]


SLSA_B4263_HMS_Buffalo_1836 low res

HMS Buffalo was originally named the Hindostan. It was built of teak in Calcutta, India in 1813. Its builders, James Bonner and James Horsburgh, sailed the Hindostan and a second vessel to London and sold them to the Admiralty to be used as storeships for the Navy. The Buffalo’s early history did not promise a […]


Sketch of the Cygnet at anchorage, Port Augusta, April 1833.

The Cygnet was built of teak in India in 1827. On its first voyage the Cygnet sailed from Calcutta to Singapore and Batavia (now named Jakarta). It traded to Madras and Bombay and then on to London under the command of Captain Morce in 1829. Thomas Ward, a prominent ship owner, bought the Cygnet, re-registered […]

Duke of York

Model of the ship Duke of York

The Duke of York was built in 1817 as a Falmouth packet. Falmouth lies in Cornwall on the south-west coast of Britain. In the early nineteenth century it was the major port through which Britain communicated with the world. The Falmouth packets were built to carry the mail and they also carried passengers and precious cargoes such as gold bullion. They were small ships and they carried few guns to protect their cargo but they had a reputation for speed. The packets were built to flee pirates, not to stand and fight them.


The Emma was built as a 160 ton brig at Newcastle-on-Tyne in 1824 and was first owned by John Pirie and Company. Pirie was a London ship owner, a merchant and an alderman. Over the years the vessel traded between Britain and the West Indies and South America. The Emma was only a small vessel, […]

John Pirie

Artist representation of the ship John Pirie

The John Pirie was the smallest of the nine ships that arrived South Australia in 1836. It was just 19 metres long!  By comparison, today an articulated bus is 17 metres long. It was named after the London merchant  and alderman John Pirie who owned half of the shares in the vessel. The other half […]

Lady Mary Pelham

The Lady Mary Pelham, like the Duke of York, had been a Falmouth packet. The Lady Mary Pelham carried a female bust as its figurehead; the Duke of York carried a male bust. The Falmouth packets were contracted to carry British mail overseas. They also carried passengers and gold bullion and they had a reputation […]



The Rapid was built in 1826 by Frederick Preston at Southtown, Great Yarmouth. It was rigged as a brig, with two masts and was 23.3 metres long. During its early years, the Rapid made many trading voyages from Britain to the Mediterranean Sea, reaching the ports of Gibraltar, Malta, Messina, Trieste, Zante, Constantinople, and even […]

Tam O’Shanter

Artist representation of the ship Tam O'Shanter

The Tam O’Shanter was a barque of 383 tons. It was built by Robert Reay at North Hylton, County Durham, in 1829. His yard was on the banks of the River Wear just upstream from Sunderland. The ship’s early voyages were made from its home port of London to Calcutta under the command of its […]

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