Spotlight: Westwood writes to his parents (29 April 1847)

Britannia and Trades’ Advocate (Hobart Town, Tas. : 1846 – 1851), Thursday 29 April 1847, page 4


NORFOLK ISLAND.

Recent arrivals from the Ocean Hell have put us in possession of most astounding information on many points connected with that depôt of crime, injustice, and misery. It appears that, much credit was given to its present Civil Commandant for the manner in which he, it was said, had put down the spirit of insubordination, whereas the following facts will prove that to circumstances alone may be attributed the change. Mr. Price arrived when one great source of discontent had expired. The Indian corn meal had all been used, and within a day after his arrival, wheaten flour was necessarily again issued. An extra company of soldiers had arrived from Sydney, thus placing the power of the military beyond all dispute. The great body, of the mutineers were in close and safe confinement, and the sentences passed upon many of them, relieved the mass from the fatal consequences of their example. The resident police magistrate was removed, and human blood no longer flowed in streams from the triangles. In a former number we gave the copy of a letter written by William Westwood, better known as Jackey Jackey, and at the time of its appearance an attempt was made to shew that he had died breathing a spirit of bitterness very unsuited to any man at the last hour of his existence. What the motives for doing Westwood such an injustice, it is not our present purpose to inquire; certain however it is, that such was not the fact, as the following copy of another letter will show. “Justice to free and bond” is our maxim in such matters, and we see no reason why the last dying thoughts of the malefactor should not be as fairly represented as those of him whose life has not been forfeited to the offended laws of his country.

Westwood, although an illiterate person, was a man of strong natural abilities; those enabled him to dictate every word of the following address, to a fellow prisoner, who wrote them down for him, as his (Westwood’s) thoughts flowed; but the signature, and what may be considered the postscript, were written by himself. At an early opportunity we will return to the present state of affairs at Norfolk Island; in the meantime, we have quite enough before us to show, that Mr. Gilbert Robertson, Lieut. Butler, R.N., and others, have been victimized in a manner which will assuredly bring with it, its ultimate reward.

The Lord gave, and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.

Norfolk Island, South Pacific Ocean, 12th October, 1846.

My dear Father and Mother, — Heaven knows I have neglected you, to whom I owe so many kindnesses, and have in my youth acted contrary to your wishes, and parental instructions; thus it follows, that it is now my lot to address you whom I love dearly, under such distressing and to you as well as myself, such painful circumstances. You have, I am sure, had many unhuppy moments respecting me; but I now must endeavour to prepare you for a shock, which I am afraid will be almost more than you can or will be able to endure. But, my dear parents, brothers, and sisters, mourn not for me, I who long before you can possibly receive his will have been ushered into the awful presence of his Maker, and will have appeared before that great Tribunal of Justice, where all must render an account for their actions, where all hearts are open, and where all secrets are known: — therefore I say, my dear relations, mourn not for me, but let my unfortunate lot be a lesson to the living, let the younger branches of our family, and the offspring of them, learn to honour their fathers, and mothers in their youth; for neglecting those precepts, these holy and heavenly laws, has brought me to the situation I now am placed in; but it is, it must be the work of that great God who made heaven and earth, and all that therein is, and who knows all things; for it is now, and only now, that I see my error; it is now only I can see and know the multitude of God’s mercies towards me, it is now I am brought to a right sense of my duty towards Him, and it is now I can repeat, as applicable to my own case, these beautiful words of the Psalmist—

The wonders he for me has wrought shall fill my mouth with songs of praise and others to his worship brought, To hopes of like deliverance raise. 40th Psalm, 3rd verse.

No sooner I my wound disclosed; The guilt that tortur’d me within, But thy forgiveness interposed, And mercy’s healing balm poured in. 32nd Psalm, 5th verse.

I can now, my dear and beloved parents, withhold the truth of my fate no longer from you; for an outbreak took place at this ill-fated settlement on the 1st day of July last, when some lives were lost, for which I have been tried and condemned to die, — which sentence will be carried into effect before the setting of tomorrow’s sun. Bear this with humble fortitude, for I at first made up my mind not to write at all, but then I thought you might perchance see the account in the public press, and I know it would be a great satisfaction to you, even under such trying and truly heart-rending circumstances, to hear, and that from myself, that I died as a Christian, embracing the same faith as I was taught when a child, putting my whole trust and confidence in Christ Jesus, who shed his blood in ignominy for me and all repenting sinners; through his blood alone I can and must be saved: he heard the prayers of the dying thief upon the cross, and through his faith forgave his sins even at the eleventh hour. During this time or trial and affliction, I have been attended by the Rev. Thomas Rogers, of the Church of England, to which gentleman I owe everything; his attention to me has been unceasing; night and day has he laboured to bring me to a right sense of my duty towards an offended Maker. May that God whom he has taught me to fear and love, reward him ten thousand fold!

Dearly beloved parents, give my kind love and affection to my dear brothers and sisters; tell them, I trust and earnestly hope my disgraceful and unfortunate untimely end will be an everlasting barrier against their ever doing evil; tell them, with you to bear up against this unhappy occurrence, and endeavour to spend their lives in such a way as will ensure a peaceful death.

I again entreat you all not to mourn for me, for through Christ Jesus, and a hearty and sincere repentence; I hope to meet you all in the realms of everlasting bliss. May God bless you; may He be with you, may He guide your steps; direct your hearts, and in the end may he receive your never-dying souls into his mansion of everlasting happiness and peace, is the earnest and sincere prayers of your unfortunate and dying son.

William Westwood.

Dear pearants, I send you a piece of my hear in remberance of me, your son, Wm. Westwood. Good Bye, and God Bless you all.

3 thoughts on “Spotlight: Westwood writes to his parents (29 April 1847)

  1. This has been added to my mother’s family history. Many of the relatives of Jacky Jackey (William Westwood) did not move far from the village of Manuden. My ancestors moved to Farnham and are buried in the churchyard. The surname then was Brett.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Westwood had become very religious in his final days, and no doubt given that he was writing to his parents he would have driven that home to put their minds at ease over the state of his soul. It seems to have been the thing be that comforted him in those dark days.

      Liked by 1 person

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