Forced to Settle on St John's Island - The Passengers of the Belisarius, 1811

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Submitted by Bob Pierce C (GC) -

This article is a result of PEIGS receiving the photocopied pages, 35 -36, from the book "Emigrant Passenger Lists to America" from a member several years ago. Bob has kindly given us permission to post the compiled list here which was printed in the November 2003 issue of the PEIGS newsletter.

Forced to Settle on St John's Island
Robert Pierce

The "Belisarius", with Capt Morgan as master, 42 days out of Dublin, arrived at New York city on July 5, 1811. The circumstances of its crossing were written about in the papers of that city.

One story was as follows: " The unfortunate circumstances of the latter having met with the British ship of war Atalanta, on the western border of George's Bank, has been announced in other papers. Among the multifarious acts of British cruelty there will be found few to equal the forcing from on board the Belisarius, 62 Irish passengers, consisting of men, women, and children. A gentleman by the Belisarius gives us a most feeling description of this distressing scene: the shrieks of the unfortunate parties on being dragged into the boats, - the lamentations of the aged parents who were left behind, - the wife clinging to her husband, - the child grasping the knee of its more than distracted father, on giving up his last hope to provide for his little ones, and doomed to serve his tyrants - all contributed to render the scene truly one of the most distressing which ever occurred. ... yet we are concerned to state that we have met with some who justify the iniquitous transaction, on the grounds that those passengers who were taken did not clear out, or pass the custom-house. This assertion we are authorized to say is false, as their names were on the custom-house return - some small children excepted. In the list of passengers will be found the names designated of the unfortunate people who were taken."

The story is continued in the "Shamrock" of August 10, 1811.

"We were happy to announce the safe arrival in this city of Messers. Patrick and William Phelan, two of the persons taken in June last from the ship Belisarius, on her passage from Dublin to this port, by his Britannic majesty's sloop of war Atalanta.

"We are indebted to Mr W. Phelan for the following account of the fate of the persons taken as above , which we publish for the information of their friends here.

"On arrival of the Atalanta at Halifax, the following persons and their families, consisting of forth-three individuals, were removed to a sloop, which sailed with them to the island of St John's, with directions that they should be put on the estate of Lord James Townsend.

Richard King

John Birk

Mary Bird

Ally Burton

Jane King

Eliza Birk

Valient Needham

Michael Murphy

James King

Thomas Walsh

Cath. Needham


Mary King

Thomas Newman

Eliza Needham


Jane King (& 5 children)

Lawrence Current

Joseph Gilbert


John Gilbert

Thomas Bird

Ann Gilbert


"The following seventeen persons were continued on board the Atalanta, and are now probably employed in endeavors to snatch others of their friends or countrymen from a prospect of peace, liberty, and independence, to wear out life in an inhospitable clime and under the guidance of some absentee or merciful landlord; or unwilling to aid in supporting the British claim to be the exclusive sovereignty of the ocean.

Richard Langer

Edward Dore

Bartlet Turner

Peter Foley

William Morgan

Edward Lacey

James Graham

Peter Courtney

Thomas Walsh

John Dunn

Michael M'Holland

Martin Bambrick

James Costigan

Matthew Murphy

Michael Bambrick

William Turner

William Sutton


"Peter Foley, one of the above, having feigned illness, with a view to effect his discharge, the physician of the Alalanta said he would administer a remedy which would cure him if really ill, and force him to confess, if only pretending so....

"The Messers. Phelan were permitted to land, on condition of remaining for life at Halifax; but conceiving that an engagement under such circumstances, and made to such a government, not binding in honor, they took an early opportunity of breaking their parole, and, after passing from place to place and from ship to ship, at length reached this city, the place of their original destination.

"But Lord Townsend 's estate in the cold island of St John's must for ever remain uncultivated but for this expedient."

In addition the Shamrock article includes the names of other passengers on the Belisarius as:

James Charowell Dennis Menteur Robert Hughs and family
Wm. Nailor and family Jane Connor and family Martin Bambrick and family
William M'Donald Stephen Mathews and wife Henry Harding and wife
Rev. Mr. Ryan.    

Dave Hunter and The Island Register: HTML and Graphics© 2003

Last Updated: 12/08/2003 3:19:51 PM
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