People Australia

  • searches all National Centre of Biography websites
  • searches all National Centre of Biography websites
  • searches all National Centre of Biography websites

Browse Lists:

Cultural Advice

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website contains names, images, and voices of deceased persons.

In addition, some articles contain terms or views that were acceptable within mainstream Australian culture in the period in which they were written, but may no longer be considered appropriate.

These articles do not necessarily reflect the views of The Australian National University.

Older articles are being reviewed with a view to bringing them into line with contemporary values but the original text will remain available for historical context.

Michael Nowland (c. 1758–1828)

Michael Nowland (c.1758-1828) was tried on two charges on 26 February 1783 at the Old Bailey, London. He was found not guilty of a highway robbery on 13 February but was sentenced to death on the charge of stealing a black gelding. His sentence was commuted to transportation to America for life on 4 October 1783. Nowland was among the prisoners who mutinied on the convict transport Mercury in April 1784. He was recaptured at Bath on 4 May but escaped from gaol on 14 May and was recaptured again on 27 May. Remanded to his former sentence in January 1786, Nowland was sent to the Fortunee hulk where he spent almost four years before embarking for New South Wales on the Scarborough in November 1789, arriving in the colony in June 1790 as part of the Second Fleet.

Nowland was sent to Norfolk Island on the Surprize, arriving in August 1790. By about February 1791 he was living Elizabeth Richards; they were married in the mass wedding ceremony held on the island in November 1791. Nowland received a conditional pardon in December 1794 and became a successful pig farmer, supplying 165 lbs of pork to the Commissariat in 1794.

About 1798 Nowland moved to Sydney with his wife and three surviving children; a further five children would be born in New South Wales. He was granted 30 acres at Bankstown in August 1799, followed by 130 acres at Toongabbie. He either sold or leased the smaller farm and lost the larger farm having failed to cultivate it.

Nowland was appointed superintendent of convicts at Castle Hill Public Agricultural Settlement in September 1802. In December 1805 he leased 37 acres in the Hawkesbury district and was leasing a total of 52 the next year. From 1812 he operated a punt on the river between Wilberforce and Pitt Town; financial difficulties forced him to sell his ferry and other effects in 1814. In 1820 he was recorded as holding 167 acres and was appointed a district constable in May of that year.

Michael Nowland died on 31 October 1828 at Wilberforce and was buried next to his 17-year-old daughter Ann who had died in 1819. His age was recorded as 67.

* information from Michael Flynn, The Second Fleet: Britain’s Grim Convict Armada of 1790 (1993), p 461

Additional Resources

Citation details

'Nowland, Michael (c. 1758–1828)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 19 May 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Knowland, Michael

c. 1758
Dublin, Ireland


31 October, 1828 (aged ~ 70)
Wilberforce, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death


Passenger Ship
Key Events
Key Places
Convict Record

Crime: theft
Sentence: life