Spotlight: The Man Whelan and Convict Discipline (28 May 1855)

Tasmanian Colonist (Hobart Town, Tas. : 1851 – 1855), Monday 28 May 1855, page 2


This celebrated man will be put upon his trial for not only absconding, but for robbery with force and violence. An offence for which in this colony, if convicted, his life is forfeited. We have seen Whelan before to-day, or before his apprehension, and we cannot accord with those who would represent him as a ferocious looking man, whose very appearance would strike terror into the mind of the way farer. If he were one of those blood-thirsty beings which some would represent him, he would not have been apprehended as easily as he was. We do not regard him as a man of ordinary courage. We would put the term courage out of the question when speaking of such a man. He is the mere creature of a system, which never ought to obtain in any country, where pretensions to civilisation have been made. He has been for years the play-thing and sport of officials, who scarcely deserve the name of men. Many years ago he was sentenced to transportation beyond the seas for a limited period. That sentence did not say one word about the petty tyranny which has been practised upon him and upon his fellows, under the name of prison discipline. Those who are conversant with the history of Botany Bay, at the time when Whelan was sent there, will be free to acknowledge, that it was not a convict paradise. We have conversed with many men who were transported to New South Wales, and although some of the convicts became wealthy, others had to endure great hardships, and the most downright tyranny which could be practised. When this tyranny was exercised by the master to whom the convict was assigned, there was no redress for the unfortunate. The magistracy always upheld the masters in their cruelty. If a prisoner happened to get into good employment and turned out successful, this fact was blazoned forth in England, and transportation was thus held out as a boon to the young thief at home, to induce him to become bolder and more expert in his profession. This operated differently in the colonies. Whelan like others, saw that some of his copartners in crime got on well, while he was enduring tyranny. His uncontrolled spirit rebelled against such a state of things. Some of his comrades escaped to the bush, and remained away from the townships until their periods of transportation had expired, and then returned to claim their freedom and to settle down quietly to the ordinary business of life. Whelan made his escape in Sydney, and was taken sentenced, and sent to Norfolk Island. He was there in the days of Captain Maconochy, and any person who knows anything about convictism must know that if that excellent man was allowed to exercise his own judgment in the management of the prisoners, he would have carried out a system reformatory in its nature; but he was not permitted to do it, so far as Sydney prisoners were concerned. Whelan was in Norfolk Island in the days of Major Child, who was no more fit for the situation in which he was placed, than a child of ten years old, if what we have learned respecting him was true. Whelan was in Norfolk Island in the days of John Price. In a word he was there in the days of the Spread Eagle, the period of diurnal flogging, and of repeated gagging. He was there when those scenes occurred, to which the Rev. Mr. Rogers referred, and for doing which, that poor man endured a fearful amount of persecution from all parties in this colony who were in the receipt of large government salaries. There was not, to the best of our belief, any description of punishment practised on Norfolk Island from which Whelan escaped. He must be a very bad fellow indeed! is the exclamation of those who know nothing about discipline at a penal settlement. We have ourselves seen men sentenced to two or three months’ imprisonment to hard labour in chains, for having in their possession a bit of tobacco, not one-fourth of a fig. We know that convict constables have been instructed to open the mouths of the men working in chains, to ascertain whether they had been chewing tobacco, and if they could scrape a bit off a man’s tooth, that was a good charge against him. When once we begin to think over this system, we feel indignant at the men who carry it out, and at the parties, whoever they are, who can in any way sanction such refined cruelty. When we see men like Whelan and Driscol take to the bush, we do not wonder at it. We only wonder the number of bushrangers is not larger. When we see a man like Whelan easily arrested, we do not wonder at it. Tyranny and slavery make men cowards; they do not reform them. The system of discipline adopted by the present convict authorities cannot be known in England; it is such, that if we were to return and lecture there on it, we are confident we should raise such a storm of indignation against the government which could tolerate it, as would be astounding, in any country where the English language is understood. By facts and figures we have proved that convict labour is the dearest that can be obtained, and we are prepared to prove that convict discipline is a tissue of cruelty from beginning to end; yea, that the most refined cruelties have heen practised in the name of the late Lieutenant-Governor, whether with or without his consent we will not pretend to say. We mention this to put Sir H. F. Young on his guard.

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

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


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.

Spotlight: Norfolk Island (29 October 1846)

Sentinel (Sydney, NSW : 1845 – 1848), Thursday 29 October 1846, page 2


(From a Correspondent of the Sydney Morning Herald )

We have been recently favoured with important intelligence from this island, and as it is but rarely any of the doings of that unhappy spot reach the public ear or eye, we are glad to have it in our power to communicate an account of the late proceedings upon which our readers may fully rely. A more melancholy one can scarcely be imagined, and if to what we now publish we were to add other enormities with which we have been made acquainted, we can scarcely doubt but that the whole community would indignantly protest against a station which, it may be feared will sooner or later call down the vengeance of God, as of old, upon the nation which can tolerate such a festering mass of wickedness. The late Commandant it was universally confessed, was unfitted in every possible way for the duties most unaccountably entrusted to him.

The following may be relied upon as a correct outline of the late transactions; and of the incentives which terminated in so frightful and so fatal a tragedy.

From a state of really quiet obedience; the island, from the time of the prisoners (who are not. slow to appreciate character) began to perceive the weakness of the Superintendent, fell into a gradually increasing state of insubordination. Some of the prisoners cringed, others plotted, and others bullied him. Temporary expedients were resorted to, in order to keep them quiet, but all discipline was relaxed, and when the difficulty of managing them became daily greater and the various officers remonstrated, their complaints were either treated with rudeness, or altogether evaded. To make matters worse, an increasing number of ruffians began to be landed from Van Diemens Land, who soon rendered the English prisoners as mischievous as themselves. What a state of things! An absolute ruler! yet thoroughly incapable; at war with every officer on the island, bearded by the convicts, and at length in open day knocked down by one of them. It would occupy too much time to tell of the progressive steps by which the total insubordination of the convicts, and the disorganisation of all system were brought about.

Mutinous disturbances began towards the close of last year. The ration of the prisoners has always been notoriously bad at Norfolk Island — throughout the year they have salt beef and maize meal only, so that but for the indulgence (always allowed them) of growing a few sweet potatoes in plots of ground marked out for their use and cultivated by themselves on Saturday afternoons, their fare would have been positively destructive of life, as indeed it frequently proved to the freshly arrived prisoners, before they could grow potatoes for themselves. On the 1st of January, a public order was posted to the effect, that all their garden plots were henceforth to be taken away from them. It is difficult for any person unacquainted with the island to conceive the commotion this occasioned. The prisoners refused to work unless some equivalent were given for the potatoes, and after some hesitation, which only rendered matters worse, a hall pint of pease was promised each man daily. At the end of three or four days the pease were said to be all issued, and there was another row. The Superintendent then promised to have 8 oz. of 12 percent, flour served out in lieu of the pease, To add to this unhappy state of affairs, a resident Police Magistrate had been appointed from Van Diemen’s Land, who very soon rendered himself an object of vengeance. The flogging became perfectly furious, from 500 to nearly 2000 lashes were inflicted of a morning, until the ground about the triangles was literally soaked with human blood.

Matters daily grew worse, the wretched men by this sort of alternate rage and peevish vacillation gradually grew more and more exasperated and insubordinate. About the commencement of June the store of flour was reported by the Commissariat officer to be nearly exhausted, and as a matter of course the 8 oz. of flour were discontinued. The men became more clamorous than ever By an order published in May 1845, and forming part of the Van Diemen’s Land Regulations for Norfolk Island, it had been announced that the gardens being no longer allowed, 2 lbs, of sweet potatoes should form a part of the daily ration to each prisoner. It will scarcely be credited that Major Childs caused this order to be posted at every station on the island; yet knowing at the time he did so, that it was impossible to furnish the men with a single ounce daily potatoes! During fourteen months this order had been hanging up before the men’s eyes! They read it, and again and again demanded their allowance of vegetables, they promised, but withheld from them: and when at length they became furious and riotously clamorous, they were told that it had been determined by a board that 2 oz. of salt pork was equivalent to 8 oz of flour! (the ration issued instead of peas); and that this, would be accordingly issued to them instead of the 2 lbs of sweet potatoes, to which, under the regulations, they were entitled.

It is utterly impossible to conceive the state of mind in which the men are described to have been at this time; such trifling had really goaded them to the point of madness; they were ready for any desperate deed, and the deed alas! was too soon effected. Ever since the time of Major Anderson, the prisoners had been allowed for each mess a tin pot to cook the potatoes. &c., in. It was suggested by the stipendary magistrate that it would form a powerful effect on the minds of the men — a new stage our penal science, in short powerfully reformatory in every way, if these abominable kettles, (in which more mischief was supposed to be brewed than ever Macbeth’s Witches ever dreamt of) were taken away, and therefore simultaneously with an order, announcing that at length the long expected 2 lbs. of potatoes would be issued; it was added that on the evening previous to the 1st July, all their kettles would be seized.

This order was acted upon in a manner which showed the men that the hand of authority trembled in the execution of its duty. When all the prisoners were shut up in their wards, except the few who attended school, the police went into the lumber yard, and look away the obnoxious kettles, and every thing belonging to the prisoners they could find. At this time “Jackey Jackey” ( William Westwood, of some notoriety in this colony) was sitting in school, about seven o’clock, when a hand-cart came rattling into the barrack-yard, and a crash of tin vessels was heard. Jackey Jackey was busy in the intricacies of a sum at this moment, he suddenly paused — lifted up his hand with the pencil in it, held it elevated for a few seconds, as it listening and hesitating — then dashed down the pencil — pushed the slate off the table with a violent movement — and deliberately folding his arms, as if he had finally made up his mind, remained buried in thought the rest of the evening. Every man followed his example, and sat whispering until the school broke up.

The following morning the men were all mustered for prayers — a practice but recently introduced — (nothing can be more disgraceful than the former negligence in this respect) and during the service a murmuring sort of sound was heard passing from bench to bench. It has since been surmised that this was a signal for the indiscriminate slaughter of the officers present; but nothing was at that time attempted. After prayers they all went into the lumber yard and found the tins gone. A short pause ensued, and then they all marched back again, five or six deep, to the Barrack yard in perfect silence — broke into the store, took out every vessel in it, and returned in the same manner to the lumber yard. As they approached, Jackey Jackey addressed his followers in a speech. “Now, my men,” said he, “I’ve made up my mind to bear this oppression no longer; but, remember, I’m going to the gallows, if any man therefore funks; let him stand out of the way! Come on.” A loud cheer followed from his desperate followers. A policeman named Morris was in the archway, Jackey Jackey, with an immense bludgeon, others with sticks, one man with a reaping hook, and another with a pitchfork, rushed upon the unhappy man, and knocked him down, he struggled, and got into the room behind him. Jackey Jackey followed him, and beat his head to pieces. The men, furious by the taste of blood, then proceeded to the cookhouse, where Stephen Smith, the police runner, was. The same murderous villain rushed on him also; then poor Smith, who was formerly much liked by the prisoners, cried out most piteously, “for God’s sake don’t hurt me, Jackey ! remember my poor wife and children !” “D— n your wife and children” was the horrible reply, accompanied by a blow which beat in poor Smith’s eye, and the side of his face. His shrieks for help, were terrific; but in a second or two his cries were over for ever. From the cookhouse they proceeded to the Police house at the Baarack-gate [sic] At the corner of the road, Price, overseer of work, and a man named Ingram, were standing, Jackey Jackey made a furious rush at Price, and aimed a deadly blow at him, but Price stooped, and the blow fell upon Ingram, nearly killing him. The mob came rushing on with such violence, that Westwood was pushed forward, and Price escaped, he knows not how, and ran for the soldiers.

The great object of the mob at this time seems to have been to seize the stipendiary magistrate, Mr. Barrow, who usually sat at six o’clock every morning to try cases.

Most providentially he was this morning on a board of survey, and so escaped. The beach guard seeing the mob approaching, advanced, and forming near the gaol, drove the rioters back. They then ran towards Government House, and on their way Westwood stopped at the lime-kiln, and entered the hut there with an axe; which he had by this time obtained. Two policemen, Dillon and Saxton, were in bed. The former was actually asleep when the cowardly villain drove in his skull by a blow of the axe, and Saxton only opened his eyes to see his death-blow fall from the hand of the same monster; the wounds were most appalling ones — the walls of the room were scattered with brains and blood.

Westwood, after this atrocity, coolly lighted his pipe, and, after a few puffs, shouted out, “Now for the Christ killer,” and a cry was immediately raised, “To Barrow’s, to Barrow’s.” Happily the alarm given by Price had roused the military, who were now under arms, and at this critical juncture, the soldiers were seen running down the Water-road: the rioters instantly retreated to the lumber yard — Westwood loudly denouncing their cowardice. The place was surrounded, and after much difficulty and delay, the ringleaders were seized, and about sixty left to be tried by a special Court of Criminal Sessions.

So rests for the present this fearful tragedy, unparalleled in heartless atrocity. How much, of its guilt may be justly traced to the hands and heads to which the supreme authority was entrusted, it is hard to say; but never was a greater blunder committed, or one which has been followed by more disastrous consequences, than the appointment of the late Superintendent to a post requiring so much intelligence and firmness, tempered indeed by an enlightened humanity. We ardently hope that discipline may be restored end sounder principles be acted upon. Without extenuating in the most remote degree the enormities of which the diabolical perpetrators of these atrocities have been guilty, we must still commiserate the fate of better men whose feelings hare been insulted, who have been bullied and trifled with, harrassed [sic] and cheated by men who may boast of their savings, but who will not soon shake off the odium of their doings. We trust again, we say, that order may be established in this, after all, most horrible plague spot; but it is to be feared, that like the tiger which has once drunk blood, it will be long before these wretched men, cooped up so unnaturally, and lacerated in mind and body, will forget the power for mischief they have discerned by these acts they really possess.

Spotlight: A Bushranger’s Autobiography (part four)

Australasian (Melbourne), Saturday 22 February 1879, page 7


After this I again went up the country, and done several robberies on the other side of Goulburn, but the mounted police were soon in full chase of me, so I turned and went down until I got 100 miles, when I thought I would call and see Mr. Gray, who kept a large public house. I knew every room in this house, and where he kept his firearms.

One evening, just as it was getting dark, I tied my horse to a tree in the bush, and walked into the house. Mrs. Gray was behind the bar counter, and said, “Good evening, constable; have you heard any talk of Jacky Jacky, lately?”
“Yes, Mrs. Gray; I have heard of him up the country, and have been after him myself for the last month, but couldn’t meet with him. A glass of rum if you please, Mrs. Gray; if Mr. Gray is in I want to see him.”
“Go one of you,” said Mrs. Gray, “and tell Mr. Gray a constable wants him.”
When he came I wheeled round and gave the order “Bail up all; don’t move hand or foot or I’ll blow your brains out.”

When I had bailed them all up, I went straight to Mr. Gray’s bedroom and secured the arms, which made me master of the place. I also knew where the money was, and made Mrs. Gray pull out all the drawers in the chest. She pulled all out but one and it struck me she had her reasons for so doing, and I asked her why she didn’t open that drawer.

“There’s nothing in it, sir,” she said; but I requested her to open it, and about £70 in silver and £20 in notes explained why the drawer was left last.
“Now, Mrs. Gray, take that drawer down to the bar’, if you please, and empty what money there’s in the till into it.” This was done; and now I was master of all the cash as well as the arms in the house.

All the men I had bailed up stood in a passage a few yards in front of me. I now took up the drawer containing the money in my two hands, having first put the two guns I got in the bedroom under my arm; When I turned to go out of the front door, all the men rushed me, pinioned my arms behind my back. Then I saw what a mistake I had made in not making Mrs. Gray carry the drawer with the money outside; but it was too late. There were 12 or 14 men round me, as near as I can say, and although I had a tussle for it, I received a blow that knocked me down senseless, and when I came to myself, I found myself sectored in the taproom, with one end of a long chain round my neck, fastened with a padlock, and the other end made fast to a dray wheel laid in the middle of the room. There I remained all night like a monkey on a chain.

Next morning, I was placed in a cart with the chain made fast to the axletree, and in this conveyed to Berrima gaol. Shortly after I was removed, and conveyed to Sydney gaol in the year 1842. I was tried and convicted, and, with others, were transported for life to the penal settlement of Port Arthur, in Tasmania. Here I was associated with wretches of the foulest dye. It was their daily study to plunge one another into trouble.

I had not been long here when me and four others took the bush. After two days’ wandering our leader brought us back to the spot we started from. In three days more, we were all captured, tried before the commandant, and received 100 lashes apiece for absconding. I was also put in irons, and my daily work was to carry a log of wood l cwt. up and down the settlement road. This continued about nine weeks, when one day the commandant released me, and sent me to gang with the other men.

Shortly afterwards I absconded again, to obtain what I had long been deprived of — liberty. Along with three other men I took the bush, with the intention of making a canoe. After being out several days with nothing to eat, we became quite weak. One morning I smelt a great smell, like the smell of meat roasting. We were more like hounds put on a scent, and seeking the hare. At last, we got to the sea, and there on the beach we saw a huge whale, dead, I should say, several days. It had been harpooned at sea, and washed in by the tide. It was this dead whale we had smelled. We were now supplied with meat in plenty, and subsisted on the flesh of it for several days while making our canoe. When it was almost finished the constables came on us and called on us to submit; but this was out of the question, and we ran for it, hoping they would fire on us and we should be shot, as death was preferable to life at Port Arthur at that time. After a short pursuit my companions were taken, but managed to give the constables the slip for some days longer; but I was taken, and the whole party were tried before Captain Booth, and each received 100 lashes, with heavy irons, and to be chained to a ringbolt while we were stone-breaking, and in a small room by night.

I remained in this way for nearly 12 months, when Captain Booth released me, and once more sent me to ordinary hard labour with the other men. About four months afterwards I took the bush once more, with two men who knew it well.
We got to the place agreed on, and where I could see the main land at about two miles distance. We must get across to it, and had no boat. I was a very bad swimmer. and two miles was a long pull for a new beginner. But my two companions did not hesitate, but pulled off their trousers and plunged into the water, with me after them, with my trousers thrown over my neck, for I was determined to get over to the mainland or be drowned in the attempt. After swimming about a mile, one of my companions — and very soon after the other — was seized, and drawn down by the sharks. I was left alone to the mercy of the waves, expecting the same fate every minute. At last, after a desperate struggle, I got to the land, but had lost my trousers and shirt, and scrambled ashore quite naked. In this state I found myself alone in a bush that I did not know, and greatly grieved at the death of my two companions. I made a bed in the long grass and picked up some shellfish that kept me alive for three days. On the fourth day the constables saw me, and I was brought back to Port Arthur once more, where I was punished with 90 days’ solitary confinement and 12 months’ “E.H.L.C.” (extension with hard labour in chains).
After my 90 days’ solitary was done things took a change. Captain Booth left Port Arthur, and Mr. Champ came Commandant, who treated me with great kindness; he took off my leg irons and removed me from the chain gang and soon placed me as servant to Mr. Laidley, the commissariat officer at Port Arthur, and a better master I never had. I was with him three months when I was promoted into the commandant’s boat crew, and was going on well.

One day two gentlemen went out in their own boat to have a sail in the harbour, when they got capsized. The commandant’s crew launched his boat and rescued them. In reward for this I and others were removed from Port Arthur to Hobart Town, and sent to Glenorchy probation station, which was a great advance. I was here six months when I felt a longing desire to see Sydney again, and me and Thos. Grilling and Wm. Allom agreed to take the bush. Allom was to be leader, as he said he knew the country. We got away, and after a whole day and night, the next morning our leader brought us back close to the station. I then took the lead, and the first place we stuck up was Mr. T. Y. Lowe’s station to get arms. The next day was Sunday, and about dusk in the evening we stuck up Mr. White’s, in Kangaroo Bottom, where we got a double and single barrel gun and two brace of pistols, by which we could now stand fight with the constables. We also took three suits of clothes and other things we wanted.
The very next morning a party of constables came across us, and shots were exchanged, one of which tore the pouch off a constable’s belt, and it was a drawn battle. We now made for Brown’s River, hoping to seize a small craft there, but were disappointed. We then headed up for New Norfolk, and four miles above it we stuck up a farm-house, beginning with the huts and ending with the house, from which we took a supply of things needful. Allom now turned right round, and would soon have got us among the constables, when I took the lead, and made for the Dromedary, where Martin Cash once took up his refuge.
From the top of this hill, we could see for miles round the country. Among the rocks we made up a fire, and with melted snow made tea and had our supper, for we were hungry, and tired, and cold.

Next day Allom again took the lead. But I soon saw that he did not know the country, and I had some sharp words with him for deceiving us before we bolted by bragging of his acquaintance with it. We were very uncomfortable, a sign that misfortune was near. I took the lead through a thick scrub, but soon after I missed Gilling, for whom I had a sincere regard, and I called a halt for him to come up. After waiting a long time, I set to look for him, and cooeyed as loud as I dare; but I never saw him again. He sent me word afterwards, when he was lying under sentence in Launceston gaol, that he lost us by accident in taking a wrong turn, and was afraid to cooey.
Towards evening I and Allom made for the township or Green Ponds, and, after pitching on a place to camp in, Allom set out for the village to get some things we wanted. After waiting for him five or six hours I began to think he had fallen in with the constables, for he never came back. He was a resolute man, and had many good qualities; but he deceived me in saying he knew the bush of Tasmania. He told me afterwards, when I met him a prisoner in Norfolk Island, that he left me because he was afraid I would shoot him; but such a thing never entered my mind, and I always had a fear of shedding blood, though I often spoke rough to people I stuck up. When I found that Allom did not return, I was quite cast down. I was left to myself; ignorant of the country, hungry and tired, constables on the alert at all the townships, my comrades lost, and no hope of getting to the coast and escape.

I spent a very miserable night after Allom’s departure, and next day pushed on by myself to the Lovely Banks, where I was seen and challenged by a constable, who called on me to surrender. This roused me, and, levelling my gun at him, I ordered him to throw down his piece or I’d blow his head off. To my great astonishment he threw it down, at the first word. I bid him stand back, and then I took up his gun and fired it off, and rifled him of his ammunition. I was going to break his gun, but he begged hard of me to give it back to him, and did so and let him go. Yet this cowardly fellow afterwards swore in court that I fired five shots at him when I never fired at him at all.
I got some food at a house, and the second day after my encounter with the constable I reached Oatlands, but I was now too dejected to go any further. My lightness of heart, that never failed me before, now deserted me. At sundown I turned off the road some way and lighted a fire to have some refreshment, and then lay down to sleep very unhappy, and indifferent whether I ever woke again.
Next morning a stockman passing early through the bush saw me, and gave information to the constables at Oatlands police station, and I was soon surrounded by four of them well armed, captured, and sent down handcuffed to Hobart Town, where I was tried at the next assizes, and for the third time sentenced to transportation for life, and now with 10 years’ detention at Norfolk Island.



The foregoing was, in fact, written by Westwood, on my suggestion. To a sanguine and nervous temperament like his, a Norfolk Island cell was as irksome as stable and halter to a zebra of the Zulu deserts. He could read pretty well ; but he soon wearied of it, and sought relief for his restlessness in an attempt to break out of “prison thrall.” But the strong stone walls and solid flooring of freestone blocks of the new octagon gaol might defy the industry of Trenck himself. There was, however, a vulnerable point. The ceiling of the cells was only wooden planks, two inches thick, and 13ft. from the ground. Westwood resolved that the ceiling should be cut through, though the gaol authorities supplied neither step ladder or saw. A step ladder was dispensed with by his standing on the shoulders of a fellow prisoner confined in the same cell; a saw was smuggled into his hands by a confederate employed about the gaol. This “saw” was an instrument once well renown at Tasmanian penal stations and at Norfolk Island. It was of steel, about three or four inches long, easily carried and concealed. With one of these, and elevated on his cell mate’s neck, he cut away cautiously and painfully for a fortnight at the wooden ceiling. The gaol was only one story high. If a hole were made in the ceiling the shingles of the roof could be removed by the hand, and egress secured. But to get clear off, he must creep along the roof to the boundary wall at the risk of being shot by the military sentry within the gaol; and if he jumped down he was almost sure to drop into the grasp of the patrol constable outside; and if he could evade these difficulties and get into the lemon groves, their densest thicket and deepest gully could afford him a hiding-place and freedom only for a day. Yet, for this one day’s exemption from convict “chains and slavery,” he would gladly saw his anxious road through the ceilings of all the cells in the gaol. A prisoner in a next cell overheard the sawing, and hinted to the gaoler that there was “something up” in Westwood’s cell. The result was that turnkeys came and surprised him when he had well nigh completed his opening in the ceiling, removed him to another, and placed him in heavier fetters. For some days he was in great perturbation at being detected, and to turn his thoughts into a calmer channel, I recommended him to ask for paper and write his life. The idea seemed to please him. I knew it would be slow and tedious employment for him. But he got the paper, commenced writing, and there was no more trouble with him. The end of his story is told in my introductory remarks. P.

Spotlight: A Bushranger’s Autobiography (part three)

Australasian (Melbourne), Saturday 15 February 1879, page 7

(continued from last week.) THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY.

In the year 1841, on April 15, I was tried at Berrima for being in the bush under arms. I was found guilty, and transported for life to Norfolk Island, never to return. I remained in the gaol waiting to be conveyed down to Sydney. One morning the order came for me to go. I was placed in a cart and guarded by three mounted police and a constable. One night on the road I was placed in the lock-up at the Stone Quarry for the night. I put my wits to work to get out, and succeeded. I instantly made for the place where the mounted police slept. I took what arms I wanted, as they were all fast asleep. Next, I scaled the wall of the lock-up yard after a deal of trouble, for I was so heavily chained I could scarcely walk. Before I could get well into the bush, daylight made its appearance. I was surrounded by constables in all directions searching for me. I expected to be taken every minute. The thought came into my head to get up a tree. I picked out a good one, and scrambling up, there I remained all day. At night I came down, but dare not proceed any further, as the constables would be lying in wait all round me. I remained in this way for four days, up in the tree in the daytime, and down at night.

The fourth night I made to a house I could see some way off, to seek some refreshment and likewise something to cut my irons with. I knocked at the door, they opened it, and I went in. They all appeared to be very much frightened at my appearance. They were very poor people, and it grieved me to the heart to take anything from them. They gave me some refreshment, and I felt a different man altogether. I asked them for a knife and file to cut off my irons with. They gave them to me, and I bid them good night. I now walked into the bush, and cut my chains off that night. The next morning, I concealed myself under a bridge, waiting to stop the first man that came. In the course of an hour a gentleman came on horseback. I made my appearance in front of him with no hat and no shoes; all the clothes I had on was a shirt and a pair of trousers. I was something like a wild man, but I gave the old war cry, “Stand, or I’ll blow your head off.” I then ordered him off his horse, and to turn out his pockets. Then I mounted his horse, and marched him in the front of me a mile into the bush. I made him take off everything but his shirt. Then I put on his clothes and gave him my trousers; his own mother would hardly have known him. I told him I was going up the country, and bid him good day. After I had got out of sight, I turned my horse’s head right round, and took down the country. I came on to the road and held gently along until I met two gentlemen going up the country. I stopped them, and took all their money and their watches. This job over I put spurs to my horse, and went lull gallop along, robbing everyone I met until I came to the Cow Pastures. Here I turned my horse adrift, as I did not consider I was safe on his back. He was dead beat. I then went to one of my friends to take a spell, and get some things I required.

The next place where I made my appearance was on the West End road, close to Paramatta. I stood by the road, and the first person I stuck up was a parson going to the West End church to preach. I did not rob him. I let him pass as he was a parson. I had an hour’s conversation with him. He tried to get me to go to church with him, but that did not answer. A horse and chaise now made its appearance, and I bid the parson good day. When the horse and chaise came up to where I was standing, I ordered the driver to pull up or I would shoot him. I made him come down and empty his pockets. He was very loth to perform this part of the business but turned out about £27. I took also his coat and hat and let him go.

I did not fancy that part of the country, so I took the coach and went up towards Goulburn. Here I was in a part I knew well. I began again by sticking up Mr. H. I took all his money and his clothes, but I gave him mine in return. I then took him to a bridge and placed him underneath for about an hour. Three horsemen now made their appearance, all abreast and in earnest conversation. As they came near I jumped into the centre of the road with the word of command, made them get down and tie their horses to a tree. Then their pockets were turned out, and they stood back. I then advanced and took the money up. I then took Mr. J. M.’s horse and bid them good day.

One day as I came out on to the road, I saw some drays encamped. I tied my horse to a tree about 300 yards from the drays. I walked down to the drays. I knew one of the men. I asked him to make me a pot of tea. He told me I had better get off into the bush, as I was in danger there, five constables being with them looking for me only half an hour ago. I took his advice, and went back to my horse to wait while he brought me some tea and other refreshment, as he said he would. About five minutes after I had left the drays, I saw four mounted police come full gallop up to the drays. They did not stop there long, but came full speed towards me. My horse was unsaddled, with a tether rope round his neck, taking a feed of grass. I had no time for anything before they were upon me. I mounted a tree close to where my horse was tied, from which I had the pleasure of seeing them seeking for me for about an hour. They took my horse, but did not discover me. I got clean off, and they did not know how it was done.

I now thought the sooner I get a new horse the better; so, I made to Mr. Stukey’s, to pay him a visit. I arrived at his place before he was up. When he made his appearance, I rather surprised him by telling him to stand. At this time there was no one up but himself. I went to the kitchen, and called the servant-man. He dressed himself, and came down stairs.
“Tie your master’s hands behind him,” I said. At this time all the young ladies came running down stairs in their nightgowns. “For God’s sake, don’t hurt my father,” they cried. It seemed there was an ill-feeling between the servant-man and his master, as he had got him flogged a few days before. The servant-man now commenced pitching into his master, right and left; at which the young females appealed to me to prevent the servant from beating their father. I gave I the young ladies no answer to that, for I considered he was doing nothing but right.
The man now came to me and said, “Give me a pistol and I’ll shoot him.”
“No,” I said, “I’ll do no such thing.”
I now over hauled the house. I found a double-barrelled gun. I then went into the kitchen and ordered the servant-woman to get breakfast ready. I then asked the master where the key of the store was. The servant-man took the key and unlocked the store. I went in, and found plenty of rum, wine, and brandy. I took a glass of the brandy, gave the servant-man one, and likewise the woman. I then asked the young ladies to take a glass of wine with me. This they did, and drank my health. After I had got such things as I required out of the store, I took breakfast with Mr. and Mrs. Stukey. After breakfast I ordered Miss Stukey to go and bring me a suit of Mr. Stukey’s best clothes. At this time the servant-man and also the servant-woman wanted to join me as companions. I gave my consent to the man, but not to the woman. He then put on a suit of his master’s best clothes, while I went into the stable, saddled a horse, and put the plunder on his back. He was quite a young horse, and had not been rode many times. I mounted him, and off we went. The servant-woman came running after us and caught me by the hand. The horse took fright, and by chance flung me off and galloped away into the bush. I went back to Mr. Stukey’s, and he begged and prayed of me not to let his servant-man go with me, as his time was almost done, and he promised me faithfully not to take him to court for his conduct that morning. I then advised the man to stay where he was, for mine was a very bad game to play. Having arranged my swag, I bid them good day, and was getting out of the paddock, when the female servant came running to me again, and catching hold of me said, “Where you go, I will go, so say no more.” I tried to persuade her to go back, but she would not. So, I let her come with me, and a faithful companion she was whilst I remained in the bush.

I now thought I would pay my friend Mr. “Black Francis” McCarthy a visit. He was in the habit of going to Goulburn church every Sunday. I came to the road and waited. About 4 o’clock in the afternoon I saw him coming in his carriage. I was ready, and sprang out before them, and bid them pull up or be shot. I then ordered him down out of the carriage, and turn out his pockets, and be sharp about it, and not dare to speak one word to me, as he hadn’t me in Goulburn Court-house now, and trying to make men swear away my life, and his life was now in my hands. It was my firm intention to tie him up to the wheel of his carriage, and make his driver flog him; but through his sister being with him he escaped this punishment. I next ordered him to take one of the horses out of the carriage and take off the harness, and I warned him that if he let the horse escape, I would consider he did it purposely, and blow his head off. When I had picked up the money and watch I got on the back of his carriage horse, and left him to his reflections. He was “black” enough when I met him, but I left him white enough; and from the top of a hill, I looked back and had the pleasure to see the coachman leading the one horse up the hill, and Mr. Black Francis pushing the carriage behind — a sight that gave me real satisfaction.

Spotlight: A Bushranger’s Autobiography (part one)

In 1879, the Australasian newspaper published a series of articles that transcribed a handwritten manuscript. This manuscript contained the memoirs of William Westwood, alias Jackey Jackey. These rushed memories covered his early life, his time as a convict, and his bushranging career. Here on A Guide to Australian Bushranging, we will publish the installments weekly, just as they were when first published over 140 years ago.

This first installment covers how the author of the articles came by such a unique and precious document. It give a powerful insight into Westwood’s last hours and a rare glimpse at the man himself.


Australasian (Melbourne), Saturday 1 February 1879, page 8

The narrative, to which these remarks are introductory, which has been handed to us by a contributor, is of interest as presenting the incidents and motives of a bushranger’s life from a point of view from which it is seldom seen. It is unnecessary to point out the “personal equation” which has to be allowed for in the writer’s statement of his actions, resulting partly from that desire to put forward a justification of some sort or other which is shown by the greatest criminals, and partly from the vanity and mock-heroism which seem usually to be conspicuous elements in the characters of highwaymen of all times. These allowances we may safely leave to the reader. We wish here merely to mention that we have satisfied ourselves of the perfect authenticity of the narrative, and now leave our contributor to explain how the document came into his hands. He gives the following account “How I Came By It”:—

I do not believe there is a word of fiction in the following narrative. It is no made-up story, fancifully exaggerated, but a very unadorned, and straightforward tale of audacious bushranger adventure and privation, in which a young outlaw relates in his own way the incidents of his brigand career in two colonies. These incidents he describes without bravado or self-glorification, and with slight excuses for his lawless exploits. His rustic habits and limited education did not qualify him to write with any view to stage effect; yet the scenes he delineates, and in which he was a chief actor, are full of wild robber – daring and dramatic pose, and have all the interest that attaches to bold and reckless deeds of actual occurrence. The recent tragic events near Mansfield will serve to show with what fatal facility such deeds may be done in half-reclaimed woodland regions, and how a few desperadoes like the Kellys can terrify a whole district for many months together, and plunder or destroy life with impunity, even in times when mounted police and well-made roads are by no means so few and far between as in the dark ages of Australia five and thirty years ago, and before Victoria was born. In those dark and less settled times, the “Bolters” were a very dangerous substitute in the bush for royal Bengal tigers, though the thirst of blood in these human beasts of prey does not seem to have much abated since the convict era; for what Siberian wolf could ravin for and lap up gore with keener appetite than Morgan, or what old Sydney “cockatoo” or Port Arthur “canary ” could more treacherously assassinate than the gang which has now so long baffled the whole gendarmerie of this country? Unlike so many of the class, the hero of this present bush romance had few of the exterior marks and tokens about him of the brutal and ferocious marauder. He was a young man of six and twenty, of good stature, broad-chested, and muscular in limb, though not of brawny build, but lithe and agile as a leopard. He was of a fair complexion, regular features, and a good humoured expression of countenance, to which a broad forehead gave an air of intelligence. This broad forehead was overhung with a profusion of straw-coloured hair of a dark shade. He had a pleasant smile, which disclosed two rows of small white teeth, so small and so white as to give him a somewhat feminine appearance, which was made more feminine by thin red lips, small mouth, and well-shaped chin. But the most noticeable of all his features were his eyes, which were deep set and of a rich violet blue. I never saw eyes more “deeply, darkly, beautifully blue,” that is, in his ordinary and placid mood; but when roused to anger their mild soft violet hue wholly vanished, and in its place came something that flushed and glowed like two red coals. I first discovered this ocular transformation by coming one day unexpectedly to his cell in the new gaol at Norfolk Island when he was having a verbal altercation with the turnkeys who had annoyed him. I scarcely recognised him. The usual smile had given way to a frightful scowling frown, and his eyes seemed literally turned into two balls of fire, reminding me of Sir Walter Scott’s description in lvanhoe of Richard Coeur-de-lion’s eyes when that warrior king was pleased to lash himself up to a frenzy of rage. Our outlaw, however, was not of a peevish or quarrelsome temper, and took no delight in giving his officers trouble, as others often did, in neglecting his work, nor did he mix himself up with the common squabbles of the Lumber-yard. His demeanour at Norfolk Island was inoffensive until the unlucky morning of the July riot, in which several of the civil officers were injured and four constables killed — three of them by the hand of our outlaw, Westwood. A long series of disciplinary severities, and some vexatious alterations and reductions in the legal allowance of food, had produced extreme discontent amongst the prisoners, especially on the Settlement Station, where they numbered about 800. The Government store was sometimes nearly bankrupt in flour, meal, beef, sugar, and potatoes; and the dietary of “the men” was regulated according to the state of the store. Sundry refusals of the gangs to go to work half-fed were only succeeded by more stringent measures of coercion, until the prisoners were galled and exasperated beyond their bearing. The last ounce of sand that broke the camel’s back was laid on by an order to take away from the mess-sheds some 40 or 50 old kettles in which “the men” had for several years been permitted to boil water, and make maize corn coffee after coming in from the fields and quarries, A mutiny and a murderous attack on the constables resulted, in which our outlaw took the lead, and for this he was tried and sentenced to death at a special Norfolk Island assizes, held by a judge sent down from Hobart Town, assisted by five military officers of the garrison, who sat with the judge as assessors. This autobiography was chiefly written by our outlaw while awaiting trial; a page or two were added after his condemnation, and all of it, except in the spelling, remains as he penned it. I passed the last night of his mortal life with him in his cell, in which two other men, also under sentence, were present. It was a night to be remembered. Sleep came not to the eyelids which were so soon to close for ever; nor drowsiness to men whose wakeful hearts were pondering on the dread mysterious secrete which the grave would unfold to them upon the morrow. Yet, although subdued, they were not dejected. They were even cheerful, and disposed for conversation, and I think if any one had been with them who would have spoken to them of a plan for getting off the island they would have eagerly discussed it for half the night; for the first and last thought of a prison is liberty — escape. When the cell door was bolted on us, and the gaol-yard locked for the night, a painful stillness seemed to come down and gather round us with a stifling oppressiveness, and for a few minutes we all sat silent, as if listening for some sound or voice that might assure us of our proximity to living beings. We seemed as though entombed in a charnel-house. But the only sound that came was the booming roar of the South Pacific Ocean hurling its massy waves upon the coral reefs, over which they tumbled and fell with a foaming crash along the narrow beach close by the prison walls, which vibrated with the concussion. From this short stupor the chaplain gently recalled the men, inviting them to religious discourse and to acts of devotion until midnight. Free and friendly converse then ensued for a while, and the three doomed ones spoke of various passages in their penal life, mingling frequent, though not boisterous, laughter with many quaint and witty comments on their own and others’ doings or misdoings. About an hour after midnight our candles had burned low, and the task of lighting fresh ones was undertaken by Truelock, the oldest of the three men. In performing this task some burning wick fell on the back of his hand, and the grimaces he made in his hurried efforts to dislodge it were so comical his companions laughed merrily at them, and their laughter was increased by the grave tone and solemn shake of his head with which he reproved their mirth. “Men,” he said,” you should remember this is no time for grinning, at a fellow-creature’s sufferings, when you are to be hanged at 8 o’clock this very morning.” After this the chaplain, who was one of the highest of high church-men, addressed some words of exhortation to his small flock assembled in that cell on the duty of confessing their sins. Westwood, he found, was of the Church of England; another was a Wesleyan; and the third a Baptist; after half-an-hour’s explanation, the chaplain entreated of them to review their lives and confess all their sins penitently to God, and then he would “give them absolution.” The men then bowed their heads upon their knees as they sat in heavy chains, and in perfect silence so continued for a quarter of an hour. Then the chaplain rose up, and laying his hands on the head of the Baptist youth, Henry Whiting, he pronounced the absolution formula as given in the Anglican Prayer Book for the sick or dying; next he bestowed the same benefit on the Wesleyan, and, lastly, on Westwood, who seemed very devout. Another hour was then employed in prayers, and as these were ended Whiting, who was only 22 years of age, looked sharply up to the little grating over the cell door. We all turned our eyes in the same direction, and lo, the dull grey glimmer of the wintry dawn was faintly visible. It seemed to me as the eye of the angel of death grimly looking in upon his victims. They gazed upon it long and silently, and at last he whose quick eye first detected it turned to me, and with a smile so sad, so wistful, and so pensive that it has never left my mind, he said, “Mr. Peutetre, it is the last!” Our outlaw continued to watch the slowly growing light, as if his thoughts were faraway in his native home, among his kindred, beneath his father’s roof, with sisters and brothers who knew not that he was going forth that selfsame day to a death of infamy. While Westwood was still gazing upwards at the light, the garrison bugles sounded the reveille, which led the chaplain to speak of the judgment trumpet, and then engaged once more in prayer. As this prayer ended the bell of the prisoners’ barracks hard by began to ring. They all adverted to the well-known summons which had so often called them forth to their daily toil.

“It is tolling for our funeral,” said Truelock. “Aye,” responded Whiting; “it’s our death knell!”

Shortly after the barrack bell had ceased its harsh jangle the footsteps of the turnkey were heard approaching. The bolt of our cell door was withdrawn, and a welcome sea breeze came whirling in upon us with its saline odours and refreshing dullness. But something still more welcome soon entered. The chaplain’s wife and other ladies had sent down a basket well filled with cold fowl and ham and eggs, and well-buttered bread, and a can of coffee for the dying men’s last breakfast. Plates and mugs were soon filled and handed round to those for whom they were provided. Did not the thought of the ropes dangling from the gallows erected within 20 yards of them spoil their appetite? Apparently it did not. In spite of rope, and heavy chains, and coarse white cap, they ate with seeming relish, and even with jocularity. While I was handing an additional slice of ham to Whiting, whose pathetic exclamation, “it is the last,” had so touched me, he said, What a pity it is, men, that we arn’t to be hanged every morning, if the ladies would only send us such jolly fine breakfasts,” at which the “men” laughed heartily, as they did at one or two other ludicrous trifles that occurred while eating their last meal on earth. Shortly after the repast was finished the sheriff came and ordered their chains to the struck off, so that they might ascend the ladder to the platform. Whiting and then Truelock had been led out for this purpose, and as I stood alone with Westwood in the cell, who was waiting for his turn, he drew a roll of paper from his breast, and said “Mr. Peutetre, I give you this — all I have to give. If ever you go back to old England, give the letters and the hair inside to my father and mother. God bless you and farewell.” He was then called to have his chains struck off. This was how I came by his autobiography; and this is why I think it no fiction. Almost every statement made in it was proved on his trials; and many persons must still be living who will remember Jacky Jacky, which, perhaps, is a corruption of Jika Jika. I forgot to ask him how and why he got or took his bushranger title.

As an instance of the perils to which peaceful households were exposed, and also as a sample of the highly melodramatic situations to which the inburst of bushrangers sometimes gave rise, I would mention the following:— Jacky Jacky (Westwood) states that he and Gilling and Allom bailed up a station a few miles above New Norfolk, in Tasmania. After I left Norfolk Island I was on duty for some time at New Norfolk. One day riding with the police magistrate, we were invited to luncheon at Mr. H.’s, J.P., when his wife asked me about Jacky Jacky, saying she had once had the pleasure of being bailed up by him. It was in the Christmas holidays and her brother, Mr. Stanley J., of Hobart Town, and two other gentlemen, had come to stay a few days with her husband. On the first day of their visit, after dinner, some of the gentlemen went upstairs to have a nap until tea-time. She had retired to the drawingroom, and was employing herself at her workbox. By and bye her brother came into the room, and sat down in the rocking — “the chair you are now sitting in, Mr. Peutetre,” said the lady. Leaning back in the chair, he said to her, “Well, I declare to you, Bessy, I never spent a happier day than this. I really never was so happy in all my life; nev—.” Here he paused abruptly, and Mrs. H. turned her head to see what had cut his rocking and his enthusiastic speech so short, and found him staring in mute amazement towards the drawingroom door. Glancing in the same direction, to her astonishment and terror she beheld a tall young man, with sunburnt face, standing in the doorway with a double-barrelled gun in his hands, levelled point blank at the body of the happy brother, Mr. S. J., in the happiest moment of his whole life; the said tall sunburnt young man (Westwood) being prepared to fire on the happy gentleman, if he attempted to stand up. No sensational play could arrange a more theatrical scene than this startling impromptu reality in Mrs. H’s drawingroom.


Melbourne. Jan. 25.

[The commencement of the autobiography will appear in our next issue.]

Spotlight: Westwood and Kavanagh

Stamped bricks line the pavement in Campbell Town, Tasmania, detailing the identities of convict transportees that were sent to Van Diemen’s Land.

Two of the most infamous bushrangers to have graced Tasmania’s shores, William Westwood (alias Jackey Jackey) and Lawrence Kavanagh, were both executed for their role in a deadly riot on Norfolk Island in 1846.

These two were convict transportees who had a number of escapes under their belts. Westwood in particular was known for repeatedly escaping custody and fleeing to the bush.

Westwood was mostly known for his crimes around Bungendore, which is near modern day Canberra. He had been transported for stealing a coat and pawning it, and poor treatment at the hands of his master and overseers saw him abscond from his assignment whenever possible. He developed a reputation as a “gentleman bushranger” for his quiet, polite temperament. Eventually, after multiple escapes, Westwood was shipped off to Van Diemen’s Land, where he was interred at Port Arthur – otherwise known as Hell on earth. The authorities believed it would straighten him out.

Port Arthur could barely contain Westwood, who repeatedly escaped, but typically found himself recaptured in a matter of days. On one occasion he essentially surrendered, having no food, no other supplies, and being completely naked as his clothes had been washed away when he crossed Eaglehawk Neck.

Eventually he was assigned to a station at Glenorchy, from which he escaped again with two others. They planned to escape on a boat. One abandoned them at Kempton (then known as Green Ponds), while the other stayed until they reached New Norfolk.

This incorrigible behaviour saw Westwood sent to an even worse gaol – Norfolk Island, also known as the Isle of Despair. This is where his path crossed with Kavanagh’s.

Kavanagh had been transported for burglary and spent most of his youth as a convict, transported to New South Wales in 1828 at the age of 17. Like Westwood, Kavanagh was known to escape custody and go bushranging, which saw him sent to Norfolk Island for nine years. When this didn’t straighten him out, demonstrated by another escape from Hyde Park Barracks after a transfer, he was sent to Port Arthur.

At Port Arthur he teamed up with Martin Cash and George Jones, and the trio escaped from the prison on foot. After surviving the hazardous swim across Eaglehawk Neck and the subsequent journey through the bush, they began a career of bushranging. The trio built a log fortress on Mount Dromedary and were joined by Martin Cash’s common law wife Eliza. Kavanagh’s time with the gang ended when he accidentally shot himself in the left arm while attempting to walk over uneven terrain near Bothwell. He turned himself in, but devised a bogus story about having killed the others so the authorities would stop searching for them – it didn’t work.

For his bushranging, Kavanagh was sentenced to death, but at the last minute it was commuted to Imprisonment on Norfolk Island for life. He was joined by Cash, who had miraculously cheated the hangman despite being convicted for murder. Their companion Jones unfortunately didn’t get the same leniency and was hanged.

Throughout 1846, anger had been rising among the convicts on Norfolk Island as the new administration had begun to repeal many practices introduced by the former, ousted administration, which encouraged compliance and hard work through rewards. Instead, they were punished with longer work hours, smaller rations, less privacy and more frequent floggings among other cruel and unusual punishments. In January their garden plots, with which they were permitted to grow their own vegetables, were taken away. Floggings were so frequent and so severe that the ground around the triangle was soaked with blood. Rations reduced when supplies free scarce. Promises to improve the situation were not honoured.

The breaking point was when the convicts’ utensils were confiscated by the authorities. This was the last sliver of civility the men had been permitted, and the guards were sent into the cells, while the prisoners were otherwise engaged, and removed the tin pots (from which the subsequent riot gets its name), kettles and any other implements.

When the convicts discovered the treachery, they secretly began to communicate and, the following day, William Westwood armed himself with an axe handle and incited the others to riot.

“Now my men,” said he, “I’ve made up my mind to bear this oppression no longer; but remember, I’m going to the gallows; if any man, therefore, funks, let him stand out of the way. Come on!”

Citizen (Sydney, NSW : 1846 – 1847), Saturday 31 October 1846, page 4

Westwood led on a heaving mass of furious convicts, similarly armed, as he attacked and killed four police and attempted to kill the commandant.

Soldiers soon arrived and suppressed the rioters. Fourteen were charged with the murders, twelve were convicted, including Lawrence Kavanagh and Westwood. As he awaited death, Westwood was adamant none of the other condemned men were guilty, only himself, but the execution went ahead on 13 October 1846. The bodies were dumped in a mass grave dubbed, Murderers Mound, where they remain.

Spotlight: Execution of the Norfolk Island Rioters (1846)

Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), Saturday 14 November 1846, page 2


(From late Australasian Papers.)

Twelve of the desperadoes at Norfolk Island had been hung, among whom were the notorious Jackey Jackey, and Lawrence Kavanagh, the Van Diemen’s Land bushranger.


Jackey Jackey was twenty-six years of age only when he suffered. On the scaffold he solemnly protested his belief in the innocence of four of the men who suffered with him. He left behind him, in the possession of the clergyman who attended him, a long written history of his career in guilt, of which the following is the last paragraph : “Sir the strong tyes of earth will soon be wrentched and the burning fever of this life will soon be quentched and my grave will be a heavens – a resten place for me Wm. Westwood. Sir out of the bitter cup of misery – I have drank from my sixteenth year 10 long years, and the sweetest draught is that which takes away the misery of living death – it is the friend that deceives no man – all will then be quiet no tyrant will disturb my repose I hope – Wm. Westwood. Sir I know bid the world adiue and all it contains. Wm. Westwood his wrighting.”

South Australian Gazette and Colonial Register (Adelaide, SA : 1845 – 1847), Saturday 14 November 1846, page 3


NORFOLK ISLAND. — The Lady Franklin arrived yesterday morning, bringing intelligence of considerable interest. She had as passengers, Mr Gilbert Robertson, Superintendent of the Agricultural Department, and others, who have been suspended by Mr Price the Civil Commandant. The criminal sessions had not closed when the Franklin sailed. As principals in the riots, and the murders of Smith, Morris, and others, fourteen prisoners were tried. Of these twelve were found guilty and two acquitted. Of the twelve found guilty, and sentenced to die, were William Westwood (the well-known bushranger in New South Wales, and in this colony by the name of ” Jackey Jackey,”) and Lawrence Kavanagh, the associate of Cash and Jones in this colony. The twelve men found guilty were executed on the morning of Tuesday, Oct. 13. Six of them at eight in the morning, and the other six at ten o’clock on the same day. The scene has been described to us, by eye-witnesses, as one of most awful solemnity. All the men died penitent. — Courier, 28th Oct.

Spotlight: The Last Declaration of Jackey Jackey (1846)

Britannia and Trades’ Advocate (Hobart Town, Tas. : 1846 – 1851), Thursday 5 November 1846, page 2

Jackey Jackey. — Having inserted the letter of this man in our last page, we here give his dying, declaration, which appeared in the Spectator of Tuesday last:


The dying Declaration of William Westwood, alias “Jackey Jackey.”

“I, William Westwood, wish to die in the Communion of Christ’s Holy Church, seeking mercy of God through Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour. — Amen.

“I wish to say, as a dying man, that I believe four men now going to suffer are innocent of the crime laid to their charge, viz :— Lawrence Kavenagh, Henry Whiting, William Pickthorne, and William Scrimshaw. I declare that I never spoke to Kavenagh on the morning or the riots; and these other three men had no part in the killing of John Morris as far as I know of. I have never spoke a disrespectful word of any man since my confinement. I die in charity with all men, and now I ask your prayers for my soul!

William Westwood, Aged 26 years.”

Spotlight: NORFOLK ISLAND RIOTS —Slaughter of Human Beings

Citizen (Sydney, NSW : 1846 – 1847), Saturday 31 October 1846, page 4



We have been recently favoured with important intelligence from this Island, and as it is but rarely any of the doings of that unhappy spot reach the public ear or eye, we are glad to have it in our power to communicate an account of the late proceedings, upon which our readers may rely; and a more melancholy one can scarcely be imagined. The following is a correct account of the late transactions, and of the incentives, which terminated in so frightful and fatal a tragedy:

From a state of really quiet obedience, the island from the time the prisoners (who are not slow to appreciate character) began to perceive the weakness of the Superintendent, fell into a gradually increasing state of insubordination. Some of the prisoners cringed, others plotted, and more bullied him. It would occupy too much time to tell of the progressive steps by which the total insubordination of the convicts, and the disorganization of all system were brought about.

Mutinous disturbances began towards the close of last year. The ration of the prisoners has always been notoriously bad at Norfolk Island — throughout the year they have salt beef and maize meal only; so that but for the indulgence (always allowed them) of growing a few sweet potatoes in plots of ground marked out for their use, and cultivated by them on Saturday afternoons, their fare would have been positively destructive of life (as it often proved to newly-arrived prisoners.) On the 1st January a public order was posted stating that all their garden plots were to be taken from them. Then the prisoners refused to work unless some equivalent were given them; and to appease them half a pint of peas was promised to each man daily. At the end of four days the peas were said to be all issued, and there was another row. The Superintendent next promised they should have 8 oz. of 12-per-cent. flour served out in lieu of the peas. To add to this unhappy state of things the resident Police Magistrate was appointed from Van Diemen’s Land, who soon rendered himself an object of vengeance: flogging became general and furious — from 500 to nearly 2000 lashes would be inflicted of a morning, until the ground about the triangles was literally soaked with human blood. Matters daily grew worse.

About the first June the store of flour was reported to be nearly exhausted, and the 8 oz. was discontinued. The men became more clamorous than ever. By an order published in May, ’45, it was announced that, the gardens being no longer allowed, 2 lbs. of sweet potatoes should form part of the daily ration to each prisoner. During 14 months this order was hanging up before all eyes at every part of the island; the men read it, and repeatedly demanded their allowance of vegetables, which was still promised but withheld from them. When at last they became clamorous and furious, they were told it had been determined by a board that 2 oz. of salt pork was equivalent to 8 oz. of flour! (the ration issued instead of peas), and that this would be given to them instead of the potatoes, to which they were entitled. It is impossible to conceive the state of mind in which the men were described to be in at this time — goaded to the point of madness, they were fit for any desperate deed, and the deed was soon effected. Ever since the time of Major Anderson the prisoners were allowed a tin vessel to each mess, to cook their vegetables in; these, at the suggestion of the stipendary magsitrate, were to be taken away from them; and at the same time with an order announcing that the long-expected 2 lb. of potatoes would be issued, it was added that on the evening before the 1st July all their kettles would be seized. When all the prisoners were shut up in their wards, except the few attending school, the police went into the lumber-yard and took away all the obnoxious kettles, and everything belonging to the prisoners which they could find. At this time “Jackey Jackey” (William Westwood, notorious in this colony) was sitting in school, about seven o’clock, when a hand-cart came rattling into the barrack-yard, and a crash of tin vessels was heard. Jackey was busy in the intricacies of a sum at the moment, when he suddenly paused — lifted up his hand, held it elevated for a few seconds, as if list-ning and hesitating — then dashed down the pencil — pushed the slate off the table violently, and deliberately folding his arms, as if he had made up his mind, remained in deep thought the rest of the evening. Every man done likewise, and sat whispering until the school broke up. The following morning the men were all mustered for prayers, and during the service a murmuring sound was heard passing from bench to bench. It has since been thought that this was a signal for the slaughter of the officers present, but nothing of the kind was attempted then. After prayers all hands went to the lumber-yard, and finding the tins gone, they paused a moment, and marched back again, five or six deep to the barrack-yard in perfect silence, broke into the store, took out every vessel in it, and returned in the same manner to the lumber-yard. As they approached Jackey Jackey addressed his followers in a speech. “Now my men,” said he, “I’ve made up my mind to bear this oppression no longer; but remember, I’m going to the gallows; if any man, therefore, funks, let him stand out of the way. Come on!” — A loud cheer was here raised by his desperate followers. Morris, a policeman, was in the archway, Jackey Jackey with an immense bludgeon, others with sticks, one man with a reaping-hook, another with a pitchfork, rushed upon the uphappy man and knocked him down; he struggled and got into the room behind him; Jackey followed him, and beat his head to pieces. The men, made furious by the taste of blood, then proceeded to the cook house, where Stephen Smith, the police runner, was; the murderous villain rushed on him also, when poor Smith, who was formerly much liked by the prisoners, cried piteously, “for God’s sake, don’t hurt me, Jackey! Remember my poor wife and children !” “D — n your wife and children” was the horrible reply, accompanied by a blow which beat in poor Smith’s eye and the side of his face. The poor fellow’s shrieks for help were terrific, but in a second or two his cries were over for ever! From the cook-house, they proceeded towards the police-house at the barrack gate. At the corner of the road, Price, overseer of work, and a man named Ingram, were standing. Jackey made a furious rush at Price, aiming a deadly blow at him, but Price stooped and the blow fell upon Ingram, nearly killing him. The mob came rushing on with such violence that Jackey was pushed forward, and Price escaped, he knows not how, and ran for the police. The great object of the mob at this time seems to have been to seize the stipendary magistrate, Mr. Barrow, who sat at six in the morning to try cases; but on this morning he was on a board of survey, and so escaped. The beach guard, seeing the mob approaching, advanced, and forming near the gaol drove the rioters back. They then ran towards Government House, and on their way there, Westwood (Jackey) stopped at the lime-kiln, and entered the hut there with an axe which he had by this time obtained. Two policemen, Dinon and Saxton, were in bed; the former was actually asleep, when the cowardly villain smashed his skull by a blow of the axe, and Saxton only opened his eyes to see his death-blow fall from the hand of the same monster; the wounds were most appalling ones: the walls of the room were spattered with blood and brains. Westwood, after this atrocity, coolly lighted his pipe, and after a few puffs, shouted out “Now for the Christ-killer” and a cry was immediately raised — “To Barrow’s, to Barrow’s.” Happily the alarm given by Price had roused the military who were now under arms, and came running down the Water-road, when the rioters instantly retreated to the Lumber-yard, Westwood loudly denouncing their cowardice. The place was surrounded, and after much difficulty all the ringleaders were seized, and ahout sixty left to be tried by a Special Court of Criminal Sessions. So rests for the present this fearful tragedy — unparalleled heartless atrocity. — ‘Herald.’