SMH Friday 19/3/1858 WATER POLICE


William Johnson Rowland, the surgeon-superintendent of this vessel, was yesterday summoned to the Water Police Court, to answer the two separate complaints of Helen Loughborough and Henrietta Jackson. Defendant did not appear. The following account contains the substance of the complainants' statements :- When at sea, a little more than a month ago, Miss Chase, the matron, complained to William Johnson Rowland, the surgeon-superintendent, that she (Henrietta Jackson) had refused to undergo some punishment which the matron had ordered ; he having asked her what she had been up to, she said nothing wrong, and was about to relate the circumstance, when he walked away and would not listen. Turning to one of the constables named Murphy, he said, "You had better put those girls in the lock-up, it will sober them ;" he alluded to complainant and Ellen Loughborough ; Murphy then put them into boxes, in which they were obliged to stand upright, as they could not even turn round without great difficulty, and the water washing over their feet every time the vessel rolled, they became completely saturated. From three o'clock in the afternoon until ten or eleven o'clock next morning they remained in that position, the surgeon not having visited them during the time. But they broke out during the night, and liberated themselves ; they could not bear the closeness of the place, nor the fatigue of standing so long. They then went to tho hospital, made themselves a bed and went to sleep. Waking up about five o'clock in the morning, the surgeon, in spite of complaints, entreaties, and promises of good conduct, obtained the assistance of Duffy, and she was put in irons ; Ellen Loughborough was put in irons by Duffy, and the doctor fastened those upon complainant, saying, " You shall wear those till we get to Sydney." Complainant replied that she would not, and that rather than suffer what she had the previous night she would throw herself overboard. She was then running up the cuddy steps to go on deck when the doctor seized her and dragged her back, and she was put in the lock-up ; from between five and sir o'clock that morning, she was kept in the lock-up until between eight and nine the same night. The constable came with biscuit and water, and let them out, after their hands had been fastened behind with irons all day ; and when the constable took them off, complainant cried out with pain, and, fainting, fell on the floor. Upon recovery she found herself quite wet from the dirty water, which she was told the doctor had thrown over her. The doctor said that the irons were again to be put on, but complainant showed him her wrists, from which the skin had been worn by the irons, and told him that her shoulders ached ; but he insisted on putting them on, and Murphy was about to obey his order when complainant wrenched her hands from him ; the doctor immediately seized her arms, and pulled them, and held them behind her with such violence, that he made her scream.

Murphy in the meantime being occupied in adjusting the handcuffs. She was again locked up until about eleven o'clock at night, when Duffy came to take the irons off, stating that the captain had interceded with the doctor ; they were immediately locked up again until next morning, and with the exception of a short reprieve, kept in durance until eight and nine o'clock the following night.

Helen Loughborough, having begged Miss Chase's pardon, she was released ; but complainant, who said she was punished unjustly remained in the lock-up during the night. Complainant now became very ill, and, fainting from exhaustion during the night she fell down, and had not power to get up again. The constable carried her out and put her on a bed ; but during her illness that night she threw up something that she afterwards found to be blood. The doctor then came to see her, and said she must have been knocking herself about, but that she should not go in there (the lockup) any more. He ordered Murphy to bring her some brandy and water, and as she was unable to raise up her head to drink it, Murphy raised her and forced it into her mouth. Being unable to walk, Miss Chase ordered now some arrowroot, but she could not eat it until the nurse came and got her to take two teaspoonfuls. Having been taken to the hospital, she lay there for about an hour, when she was assisted down to the 'tween decks. Miss Chase brought her some wine, of which complainant partook ; but she was taken to bed insensible, and has since been told that she was raving for two hours. Weakness obliged her to remain there for two days.

Helen Loughborough's complaint was similar in substance to the above, both being parties to most of the circumstances, though the former seems directed against the doctor and the latter against the matron. She says she can only compare the box into which they were put to a "stand-up coffin". She could not turn round in it ; her shoulders touched each , side, and when the door was shut it touched her chest. She also states that on one occasion having been confined for sixteen hours, when Duffy came to take off the handcuffs her flesh stuck to them, and her arm was quite black and swollen. When she showed the Doctor her hand, he said "you shonld have thought of that before, they must go on again" ; and spite of her entreaties, she was again handcuffed, tho only difference being that they exchanged the irons for those which Henrietta Jackson had worn, and both were again confined. Her wrist was very bad until the last day or two before arrival, and she had to keep her arm in a sling for several days. On the 23rd February, Miss. Chase ordered her to clean out the hospital and lockup. Having said that she was not able, the matron observed, " We'll have none of this humbug and nonsense ; go down and clean it." Shortly after that, the doctor ordered poultices and salve for her wrist. Just before landing, although she had stated her inability to the matron, the latter insisted upon complainant going to clean the lockup, which, as well as she could, she did, through fear. After that, her hand was a great deal worse, and her feet were much swollen, from being kept standing so long. Miss Chase frequently called them " Government ten-shilling paupers," and at times said they were no better thaw , girls off the streets

SMH Monday 29/3/1858


To the Editor of the Sydney Morning Herald.

Sir,-As the Surgeon-superintendent of the Stebonheath has been allowed to get away without having been brought to the bar of justice to answer for the monstrous acts of cruelty with which he is charged; I suppose there will be"no opportunity of a public, investigation into the matter.

The fact that these injured girls were prevented by the Immigration authorities from making their complaints to a magistrate until the doctor was beyond the reach of the law, has had a worse effect on the minds of the class of persons who are principally interested in promoting the emigration of their friends and relatives in Great Britain, hy their remittances, than any amount of exposure as to the practices carried on on board the Stebonheath could possibly have had. Nothing but a searching investigation will convince them or the public that the guilty have not been shielded by the Immigration authorities at the expense of justice ; and dependant as we now are almost entirely on assisted immigration, the effect of , this state of things is likely to be extremely prejudicial to the interests of the colony, even in a pounds, shillings, and pence view of the case- to say nothing of any higher considerations.

The writer of this letter is aware of several instances in which persons were making preparations to send for their friends in England and Ireland, who now declare that nothing should induce them to take any steps by which their sisters and wives would be placed in a similar position to that of the unfortunate girls in the Stebonheath ; and this feeling is rapidly gaining ground, and is likely to act most injuriously on the interests of immigration, unless some public investigation is made into the matter.

I remain, Sir, your obedient servant.




BEFORE the Water Police Magistrate, Mr. G. Eliott;

and Captain M'Lean.

The two complaints of Ellen Loughborough and Henrietta Jackson against William Johnson Rowland, surgeon superintendent of the Stebonheath, charging him with assault, were not heard, defendant not having made an appearance. A warrant was ordered for his apprehension. The substance of the complaints will be found in this day's Herald.