Aquatint, hand coloured. Engraved by Edward Duncan.

‘The East India ship Mellish entering the Harbour of Sydney.’


The East Indiaman Mellish made a voyage transporting convicts and thirty soldiers of the 63rd regiment to Sydney in 1829.  One hundred and seventy prisoners were originally embarked on Mellish in October 1828 but a thirteen year old boy, Ralph Richardson, was returned to hospital suffering from dysentery, and a serial escaper, James Hawkins, had absconded before departure. In 1821 Hawkings had been transported to Sydney for life but he escaped in 1824 and arrived back in England the following year. He was caught, sent back to New South Wales but escaped and was recaptured a further two times. On board Mellish Hawkins slipped his irons and lowering himself from a porthole, cut away the hawser of a small boat and rowed ashore. It was later reported that Hawkins had drowned and that the master of Mellish had forfeited a thousand pounds for not securing his prisoners adequately.

William John Huggins  (1781-1845) served in the East India Company as a steward and assistant purser on board Perseverance, which sailed for Bombay and China in December 1812, returning in August 1814. He had established himself as a marine painter when he first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1817. He carried out numerous ship portrait commissions for the East India company from his Leadenhall Street studio, which was close to East India House.

Mellish sailed from Falmouth on 2nd January 1829. On 10th she anchored at Teneriffe, and on 31st January 1829 she crossed the equator. Clearly William Huggins was not present in Sydney for the arrival of the Mellish in 1829. He probably sketched the ship in The Thames after her return from Sydney, and based his view of Sydney Harbour on other contemporary depictions. The print is undated and does not designate Huggins as Marine Painter to the King, which he became in 1834. As his works after this date generally bear this title, this would suggest that the aquatint was published before 1834. He was Marine Painter to both George IV and to William IV and was prolific and popular, largely through prints made by his assistant Edward Duncan, his son-in-law from 1834.

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William John Huggins