by Granville Allen Mawer

The Convict Shipwreck Disasters of 1833 to 1842

Book Cover Illustration by David Legge. Cover Design by Megan Smith.

Most Perfectly Safe “was dedicated to the memory of John Allsop, Granville Allen Mawer’s great-great-grandfather, standing number 37-2500, ship James Pattison who sailed unscathed through it all

Granville Allen Mawer “Most Perfectly Safe”


“If you had to sail to Australia in the early nineteen century there were worse ways to travel than being transported as a convict. Your living conditions were better than those of the sailors who manned your ship. Discipline was harsher for the troops who guarded you. And, disease and mutiny apart, it was as the Admiralty claimed, ‘most perfectly safe’.

Until 1833 . . .

Allen Mawer takes us back to Australia’s colonial past to vividly describe what life was really like on a convict transport – and conduct an investigation into a train of disasters that, were they to occur today, would be at least be worth a Royal Commission and might put paid to a political career or two.

This lively account of the convict trade in the 1830’s and the shipwrecks that plunged it into crisis is the first full-scale account of the experiences of the convicts (both men and women), and the guards and crew, the civil servants who ran the system and the businessmen who profited from it.

Most Perfectly Safe is a fascinating yarn for anyone interested in Australia’s pioneering past and the age of sail.”


Granville Allen Mawer, historian, is the author of several books including his book Ahab’s Trade, short listed for the Queensland Premier’s History Prize 2000 and the NSW Premier’s History Prize 2001. He is a contributor to the Australian Dictionary of Biography and sometime reviewer of maritime books for The Times Literary Supplement. His most recently published work is Diary of a Spitfire Pilot, over the English Channel and Over Darwin (Rosenberg Publishing 2011).

Copyright © Granville Allen Mawer, 1997.
First published in 1997 by Allen & Unwin Pty Ltd
ISBN 1864481862