Convict Histories

William Carmichael (1827 – ?) (Reg. No. 5460)

By Irma Walter, 2021.

William Carmichael was a clerk and a soldier in the 76th Foot Regiment at Fredericktown in New Brunswick, Canada, when he faced a General Court Martial on a charge of desertion and was convicted on 22 June 1854. The fact that he had undergone two Regimental Courts Martial and one District Court Martial was enough to earn him a sentence of penal servitude for life.[1]

Since the 76th Foot Regiment was formed in Scotland in the 1800s, it’s likely that William Carmichael was born there. There are gaps in his record, however it is known that following his conviction in Canada he was sent to Bermuda on 6 December 1855 onboard the Castle Eden convict ship.[2] On 30 June 1857 he was discharged from hospital to the schooner G. O. Bigelow for passage to England.[3] He was received at Millbank Prison on 3 August 1857 from Bermuda, then removed from there to Dartmoor Prison on 22 October 1857. Carmichael was described as aged 28, single, a clerk and a soldier, able to read and write well.[4]

He was taken to Portland Prison on 16 October 1858, awaiting transportation to Western Australia.[5] He arrived at Fremantle on 19 August 1859, having left the port of Plymouth on 29 May that year onboard the Sultana. His behaviour was good during the voyage.[6] He was 5’9” tall, with brown hair, hazel eyes, a long face, fresh complexion, of spare build, and a ‘D’ on his left side.[7] [The permanent ‘D’ stamp was inflicted as a sign that he had deserted from military service.]

On arrival he received a four-month remission from His Excellency as a result of a special recommendation by the Surgeon Superintendent onboard the ship. His record while in Solitary Confinement was Good, on Public Works – V. Good. during Embarkation – 1, and during the voyage – V. Good.[8]

Carmichael’s record in Western Australia indicates a determination to begin a new life –

3/12/59 – Made a constable.

19/12/59 – Transferred to Perth Prison.[9]

7/2/60 – C.E. (?)

7/2/1860 – Diagnosed with Phthisis (Tuberculosis).[10]

29/2/60 – Provisional Prisoner, received back from Sutherland Bay. Sent back there same day.[11]

12/3/60 – Transferred to Guildford.[12]

20/10/60 – A further remission of three months by His Excellency for arresting an absconder.

4/1/61 – His Excellency authorised immediate discharge.

19/1/61 – Received his Ticket of Leave at Guildford.[13]

Oct.1865 – Applied for a Conditional Pardon.

24/8/66 – Conditional Pardon sent to the Resident Magistrate at Bunbury.

6/10/66 – Received his Conditional Pardon.[14]

On 15 March 1861, Marshall Waller Clifton briefly recorded in his journal that – ‘A Man named Carmichael sent down by Charley as Footman arrived – but Mamma having engaged Mary Ann & Mrs Allen as Parlour Maid did not wish me to engage him & I sent him on to Pearce’s.[15]

Where William was employed after that is not known. One record has him employed as a teacher at the Ferguson School in 1865.[16] Another record has him there in 1867.[17]

With no record of a marriage or a death for William Carmichael in WA, it is likely that he left the colony as soon as he could afford it. His diagnosis of phthisis in 1860 indicates a short life span.


[1] Convict Department Registers, Character Book (R8)

[2] UK National Archives, Convict Hulks, Prisons, etc., Quarterly Returns of Prisoners, Series HO8, Piece No. 126.

[3] UK National Archives, Convict Hulks, Prisons, etc., Seires HO8, Piece No. 132.

[4] England & Wales Crime, Prisons and Punishments, Millbank Prison Registers Series HO24, Piece No. 7.

[5] England & Wales Crime, Prisons and Punishments, Series HO8, Piece No. 138.

[6] Convict Department Register, (128/38-39)

[7] Convict Ships to WA, at

[8] Convict Department Registers, Character Book (R8)

[9] Convict Department, Receipts and Discharges (RD3-RD4)

[10] Convict Establishment, Medical, Register of Admissions & Discharges from Hospital (M32)

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Convict Department Registers, Character Book (R8)

[14] Convict Department General Register (R21B)

[15] P Barnes, JM Cameron, HA Willis, The Australind Journals of Marshall Waller Clifton 1840-1861, Hesperian Press, Carlyle, WA, 2010, p.655.

[16] WA Ex-convict School Teachers at

[17] Rica Erickson, Bicentennial Dictionary of Western Australians,, p.471.