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#AtoZChallenge: T: Treachery at Sea: Mutiny of The Derry Castle

April 23, 2022

The Blogging from A to Z April Challenge is an annual challenge put out to bloggers, to publish a post from A-Z, every day in April, except for Sundays. April 1 is A, and so on throughout the month. Participants can post on a chosen theme or do random posts with no theme at all. The theme I have chosen for 2022 is Family History Stories. I have done this theme before, but this time, I’m choosing to research people who are more distantly related.

The Derry Castle

The Derry Castle was an iron barque built in Glasgow in 1886 which made regular voyages between the UK and Australia. The MacDOUGALL family, the family of my great uncle, Alexander MacDOUGALL came to Australia on the Derry Castle, sailing from Liverpool on 1 October 1854. They arrived at Portland, Victoria on 21 January 1855. The voyage was marred by a mutiny on board by crew.

Mutiny on The Derry Castle

From: Portland Guardian and Normanby General Advertiser (Vic. : 1842 – 1843; 1854 – 1876), p. 2 (EVENING.). Thursday 25 January 1855

DERRY CASTLE: Amongst the immigrants by this ship are the following trades – 12 masons, 10 carpenters, 8 black smiths, 1 plasterer, 1 bricklayer; the rest being shepherds, domestics and farm servants.

IMMIGRANTS: -By the Derry Castle have arrived 68 married couples, 34 single men, 77 single females, 49 male children and 55 female children below 14 years of age.

MUTINY AND REFUSING DUTY: The first mate and 8 of the crew of the Derry Castle are in custody on a charge of mutiny during the passage. Yesterday 13 more of the men were brought up at the police office charged with refusing to do duty on board [illegible] these last were dealt with in the usual way of allowing them a few months time for reflection in gaol.

From: Portland Guardian and Normanby General Advertiser Thursday, 1 Feb 1855
(Vic. : 1842 – 1843; 1854 – 1876), p. 2

Samuel Manly, Chief Officer, ring leader, William Holland, James Melville alias Melbourne, James Kerr, Thomas Pearson, George Donaldson, Henry Creed, Kenneth McDonald, John Innis, and Richard Davis, able seamen. Charged with making an emeute on board the barque Derry Castle when on the high seas. The vessel sailed from the Mersey on the 1st October, and for the first 8 or 9 days everything went on smoothly, after that the captain had repeatedly occasion to reprimand prisoner, namely, the 1st mate for improper intercourse with the single females.

On the 11th December the steward wanted some tea for the use of the cabin, and reported to the captain that the 1st and 2nd mates had refused to get it from the hold. During tea the mate was asked the reason of his having delayed it; he said it was a lie, that the had not, that it was the stewards fault and called the captain a liar. The surgeon then said the cabin was no place for such behaviour in which manly turned upon him and told him to hold his tongue, at the same time shaking his clenched fist at the Dr and his lady.

He was then ordered from the cabin, he continued to perform duty until about the 16th inst when he knocked off; he was then disrated, and ordered to confine himself to his cabin, which order however he disregarded, and did everything in his power to create discontent and insubordination amongst the sailors and passengers by harranguing them, and then they would cheer, and set both the captain and surgeon at defiance. This resulted in one of the refractory seaman being placed in confinement on the 10th January, but who effected his escape and the captain knowing that it would be imprudent to attempt to retake him while Manly was at large, determined to lock him up in his cabin, and for that purpose asked his officers to his assistance.

Manly resisted locked himself in, in doing which the side of his successor was caught between the door and the jam of the door, and, although the sufferer implored of him to release him by opening the door he persisted in his refusal, and the carpenter was actually obliged to cut away the part of the door which gripped the unfortunate man.

The captain then gave orders to have Manly’s cabin searched for arms ammunition leg irons and medicine chest, the prisoner it appears when asked where the irons were admitted that he had thrown them overboard. In attempting to secure him he struck both the captain and mates and was about to escape up the cabin stairs when the captain pulled him back the prisoner then called out Murder Murder, on which the other prisoners came running aft in a body down into the cabin and rescued Manly whom they carried in triumph to the forecastle deck where he harangued with them and the badly disposed of the passengers who kept cheering him and setting the captain and surgeon at defiance.

At this crisis the surgeon fearing from the determined mutinous conduct of the misguided men that there might be bloodshed persuaded the immigrants to go down below. The captain and officers including the boatswain and carpenter had in the meantime armed themselves and arranged themselves across the quarter deck, which was now clear.

Manly then called out to the revolters “follow me men, and I’ll lead you” “we will soon tie them all and put them in their cabins” and they rushed aft in a body with him at their head. The captain from merciful motives reserved his fire and retired from them about a yard to give them a last chance, seeing however that they were determined to attack, he advanced presenting his arms, when the revolters gradually withdrew to the forecastle.

Too much praise cannot be awarded to Captain McKervitt for his firmness on this trying occasion; for had he not shown a most determined front to the mutineers God knows what might have been the consequence, the surgeon superintendent in giving his evidence showed clearly, that the captain had behaved most kindly to the passengers and crew, and that the out break was entirely caused by Manly’s inflammatary addresses. The conduct of the surgeon during the passage appears to have been very satisfactory. The prisoners fully committed to take their trial at the Circuit Court to be held at Portland.

From: Portland Guardian and Normanby General Advertiser (Vic. : 1842 – 1843; 1854 – 1876), p. 2

The inspection of this ship having been concluded, and the single females landed, the immigrants are now open for hiring at the Depot, and on board from 10 ck a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.
No persons will be admitted into the Single Females Depot without a Ticket Of Admission, which can be obtained at the Office during the usual office hours.


Those involved in the mutiny were committed to stand trial in the Supreme Court of Victoria, charged with the capital offence of mutiny on the high seas. The circuit court was held at Portland on 20 April 1855, but there was no mention of the mutiny on the Derry Castle. I haven’t been able to find any record at all of the case being heard in the Supreme Court.

From The Passengers

January 19, 1855
We the constables and a committee of the passengers of the Government Emigrant Ship “Derry Castle” beg to tender our grateful thanks to the Captain and Surgeon Superintendent of the said ship for their unremitting attention to our health and comfort during the voyage, and also for the prudent and cautious manner in bringing us in safety to our destination; notwithstanding the mutinous state of the ship for a long period previous to our arrival at Portland Bay, Victoria. Given under our hands this twenty-ninth January, one thousand eight hundred and fifty five years.

James Stewart – Thos Gray – Hugh Cameron – James Duncan – Alex McDougall – William Remp
Colin Donald – Murdoch McDonald – Archd. Kennedy – Donald McMallam – George McCalmon
John McLean – James Kennedy – Donald Cameron – Alex Macaulay – James Duncan – Donald McPherson
Henry McDonald – John Watson – Dugald Cameron – Iohn McLean – Alexander Mackintosh
John McLachlan – Angus McNaughton – Dugald Cameron – James McGregor – Ewen Rankin
Charles Stewart – John Cameron Archibald McArthur – Ewen McLeod – Angus Cameron – John Kennedy
(1855, January 25). Portland Guardian and Normanby General Advertiser (Vic. : 1842 – 1843; 1854 – 1876), p. 2 (EVENING.). Thursday 25 January 1855 Retrieved February 18, 2022, from

**Please note: Punctuation and paragraphs have been added to the above transcription for ease and speed

Immigrants Wall

The immigrants wall, on the foreshore at Portland, Victoria, commemorates the ships that arrived at Portland between 1851 and 1857 carrying assisted immigrants.

Families were able to purchase a plaque in memory of the first arrival of their family to Australia. The plaque below commemorates the MacDOUGALL family.


Local Intelligence. (1855, February 1). Portland Guardian and Normanby General Advertiser (Vic. : 1842 – 1843; 1854 – 1876), Thursday 1 Feb 1855 p. 2 (EVENING.). Retrieved February 18, 2022, from
1855, February 1). Portland Guardian and Normanby General Advertiser (Vic. : 1842 – 1843; 1854 – 1876), Thursday 1 Feb 1855 p. 1 (EVENING.). Retrieved February 18, 2022, from
1855, February 1). Portland Guardian and Normanby General Advertiser (Vic. : 1842 – 1843; 1854 – 1876), p. 3 (EVENING.). Retrieved February 18, 2022, from
Derry Castle, Passenger List, PROV: VPRS 14/P0000, Book No.10 1853-01-01 – 1855-01-31

The Official images for the A to Z Challenge in 2022 are in memory of the late Jeremy Hawkins, the official badge designer since the the first challenge.

©2022 copyright. All rights reserved

  1. It must have been terrifying. The lives of everybody aboard would have been jeopardised by the revolt.

  2. A fascinating story and a lovely plaque to remember the family by.

    Today’s post: T Is For TKO

  3. Antoinette Truglio Martin permalink

    Very interesting bit of history.

  4. Quite an ordeal for the passengers, I’d imagine.

  5. Fascinating!

    And I love that admission to see the single females required a ticket. 😉

  6. Well done on your A to Z challenge. You are nearly at the end. So interesting reading about the mutiny. Manly sounds like a right pain in the neck.

  7. That must have been terrifying for the passengers leaving them feel vulnerable. Strange that the men were never tried.

    You’ve done very well to persevere through the month Jennifer!

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