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James Mackey (c. 1759–1839)

James Mackey (c.1759- ), a weaver, was baptised James McKey on 14 September 1759 at Dublin City, Dublin, Ireland, the son of John and Margaret McKey. He was found guilty (as James Mackey) on 10 September 1783 at the Old Bailey, London, of stealing two waistcoats from a warehouse. Sentenced to 7 years transportation to America, he was among the prisoners who mutinied on the convict transport Mercury in April 1784. Recaptured, he was sent to the Dunkirk hulk in June 1784. He was discharged to the Friendship in March 1787 and arrived in Sydney in January 1788 as part of the First Fleet.

Mackey was sent to Norfolk Island on the Sirius in March 1790. He received 50 lashes in November 1790 for advising people to ask for more free time. By 1 July 1791 he was subsisting two people on a Sydney Town lot with 144 rods cleared and was elected a member of the Norfolk Island Settlers Society in 1793. He was living with Elizabeth Steel by June 1794 (they had probably been living together since 1791; Elizabeth died in Sydney in 1795). 

As James Mackie he joined the New South Wales Corps at Norfolk Island on 12 July 1794. He returned to Sydney that year but was back on Norfolk Island in 1795. By 1799 he had again returned to New South Wales and in 1808 was stationed at Parramatta with the NSW Corps. He was described as a dark complexioned, long-faced man, 5 feet 8 inches tall, and had grey eyes and dark brown hair.

Mackey married Mary Page on 7 March 1810 at St Philip’s Church of England, Sydney. He returned to England in May 1810 (with his wife) when the NSW Corps was withdrawn from the colony. Discharged on 11 July 1811, at Horsham Barracks, Sussex, he enlisted in the 12th Royal Veterans Battalion, and returned to Ireland, where the 12th was stationed. After almost a years’ service in the 12th Veterans, he was discharged at Youghal, Cork, on the grounds of ‘being worn out’. He was then admitted as a pensioner to the Royal Hospital at Kilmainham which served as a home for retired soldiers. It appears that Mackey died on 25 December 1839.

information from

  • Mollie Gillen, The Founders of Australia: A Biographical Dictionary of the First Fleet (1989), pp 231-32
  • HMS Sirius 1786-1790 — accessed 10 August 2020
  • Matthew Cunneen, 'The Mercury Mutineers: Biographical Analyses of Early Australian Convicts', People Australia, 18 February 2021 — accessed 22 February 2021

Additional Resources

Citation details

'Mackey, James (c. 1759–1839)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 15 June 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Mackie, James
  • Mackay, James
  • McKay, James
  • Macky, James
  • McKey, James

c. 1759
Dublin, Ireland


25 December, 1839 (aged ~ 80)

Cause of Death


Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.

Passenger Ship
Military Service
Key Events
Key Organisations
Key Places
Social Issues
Convict Record

Crime: theft
Sentence: 7 years
Court: Old Bailey, London
Trial Date: 10 September 1783


Occupation: weaver


Left the colony: Yes