Friends convict ship 1811

In 1811, the Friends sailed from England to New South Wales with a cargo of 101 female convicts who had been sentenced to transportation to the colony.  Their crimes ranged from stealing to child abduction and murder.  Most of the women though had committed petty crimes.  Some were desperate, some were drunks, some were prostitutes, but nearly all of them were faced with a daily struggle to survive.  They came from all over Great Britain, though half of the women came from the streets of London.

This site provides an insight into the voyage of the Friends, its master James Ralph, and its passengers, who included settlers heading to the colony.  Details of what is known about each of these people are listed on this site, including source information and links to other relevant websites. is an acknowledgement of the existence of the people who travelled on the ship and their place in the establishment of the colony of New South Wales. It has been compiled as part of the publishing project for the book “The Girl Who Stole Stockings”.



‘The East India ship Mellish entering the harbour of Sydney’, by W.J. Huggins, engraved by E. Duncan,
published London c. 1830 National Library of Australia, Rex Nan Kivell Collection, NK 252 (There is no image of the Friends)



“I love the way you talk and write as if you are sitting there on her shoulder.  It’s a lovely technique because you are mixing meticulous research with lovely emotional impact…” Broadcaster Michael McKenzie on ABC National Radio, Afternoons, Australia, November 2015

“A coherent and interesting narrative…A valuable addition to the historiography of women convicts.” 
Australian author Babette Smith’s review for the 2016 edition of the Journal of Australian Colonial History

“We get a real sense of what life was like for women in the settlement under Governor Macquarie, and how some women were able to transform their lives, while others continued to find trouble…Hardie estimates there are more than 100,000 people in Australia and New Zealand today who are descendants of the convict women from the Friends.  In writing this book, she has done them a great service. If any of them want to research their female convict ancestors this book and its comprehensive references would be invaluable.”Em Blamey, Australian National Maritime Museum Signals Magazine, Winter 2017

“There is much to enjoy in this recreation of the world of those transported to, or migrating, to the antipodes. Elsbeth Hardie has managed to create a vivid and vital picture of the world in which her ancestor lived. This is a good read. It is well written and well researched.”  Denis Mootz, Teaching History, Australia, September 2016

 “A brilliantly researched history…may well be one of the best books of New Zealand non- fiction published in 2015.” New Zealand author and columnist Steve Braunias writing on, November 2015