Three Bees

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The Three Bees was a convict ship that caught fire in Sydney Cove in 1814.

The Three Bees was built in Bridgewater in 1813. Owned by Buckles and Co, it was registered in London and its master was John Wallis. Three Bees arrived in Sydney Cove on 6 May 1814 with a cargo of male convicts.

This was one of the so-called 'fever-ships' that had a high mortality rate for the convicts transported upon them. Governor Macquarie wrote:

The Three Bees, commanded by Captn. John Wallis, arrived on the 6th inst. with two hundred and ten male Convicts, out of 219 originally embarked, the other nine having died on the passage; and out of those landed, it has been necessary to Send fifty five to the Hospital many of them being much affected with Scurvy and others labouring under various complaints. On enquiring into the cause of this mortality and sickness, it appeared that many of them had been embarked in a bad state of health, and not a few infirm from lameness and old age. I am happy in being enabled to state that the Convicts by the Catherine and the Three Bees have, without a Single Exception, borne grateful Testimony to their having been treated with the most unremitting care, Attention, and kindness, by the Masters and Surgeons of those Vessels, from the day of their Embarkation until they were finally landed here. The circumstance of several of those unfortunate men being embarked in a diseased or feeble State will, I trust, shew the necessity for greater attention being paid to the state of the Health of the Convicts, who are to be embarked in future, which I have much reason to believe has not been so fully attended to by the Examining Surgeons as Humanity demands. [1]

After the 210 convicts were all disembarked a fire was discovered on the ship at 4.30 pm on 20 May 1814. It was later thought that the fire was caused by candle snuff being dropped on oakum when an officer and boy had entered the hold. It soon became apparent that the fire could not be fought and so the Three Bees was cut loose from its moorings and the other ships in the cove maneuvered to avoid the ship. At 5.30 pm the first gun exploded on board and a swivel ball smashed into the parlour of the house of Captain Piper, luckily missing everything but a writing table. The ship drifted onto Bennelong Point and shortly afterwards its magazine exploded. The Three Bees was a total loss. [2]


  1. Despatch No.8 of 1814 from Governor Macquarie to Earl Bathurst, dated Sydney, NSW, 24 May 1814
  2. Australian Shipwrecks - vol 1 1622-1850, Charles Bateson, AH and AW Reed, Sydney, 1972, ISBN 0 589 07112 2 p49