Norfolk Island convict mutinies

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Norfolk Island convict mutinies were a series of armed uprisings by convicts on the penal colony of Norfolk Island. All were unsuccessful.

1826 rebellion[edit]

1826 convict rebellion
Date25 September 1826
LocationNorfolk Island
Result Unsuccessful escape attempt
Belligerents
Convict insurgents United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland British Army
Commanders and leaders
"Black" John Goff Vance Young Donaldson
Strength
over 50
Casualties and losses
3 convicts hanged 1 soldier killed

The first convict rebellion took place in September 1826.

It was led by "Black" John Goff. He arranged for two convict decoys to make an escape attempt; they were followed by several soldiers. While this happened, fifty convicts seized and bound their overseers, robbed the stores for provisions and put three boats to sea. One soldier was killed, bayoneted to death, while others were wounded.

The convicts sailed to Phillip Island where they were eventually re-captured, although some eluded the authorities for up to six months.[1][2]

The ringleaders – Goff, William Moore and Edward Watson – were tried and hanged in Sydney in 1827. The Chief Justice said when passing sentence on John Goff:

You... have detailed to the Court a long complaint of the hardships you have undergone, of your love of liberty, and of the degree of violence which you thought yourself justified in using to obtain it. By your own statement your whole life has been one career of crime... It is within the recollection of this Court, how near you were, at no distant period, to have been consigned to the grave, and happy would it have been for you had your career then terminated without the additional crime of the blood of a fellow creature being added to the list... With respect to the general harsh treatment of which you complain on Norfolk Island, what are men sent there for? It is within the knowledge of the Court that they are never sent except for crimes of the deepest dye; and is it then to be supposed that they are sent there to be indulged, to be fed with the fruits of the earth and that they are not to work in chains? No, the object in sending men there is not only as a punishment for their past crimes, but to serve as a terror to others; and so far from it being a reproach, as you have stated it, it is a wise project of the Government in instituting that settlement for the punishment of the twice and thrice convicted felon, as a place of terror to evil doers, and in order to repress the mass of crime with which the Colony unhappily abounds.[3]

Capture of the Wellington[edit]

Capture of the Wellington
Date21 December 1826
LocationNorfolk Island
Result Mutiny successful though later captured
Belligerents
Convict insurgents United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
Commanders and leaders
John Walton
Strength
66 convicts
Casualties and losses
2 killed[4]
5 executed

On 21 December 1826, the ship Wellington was seized by the 66 convicts it was taking to Norfolk Island.[5] 20 of the ship's crew and soldiers were kept prisoners. Soldiers had kept firing through the bulk head into the hold until it became apparent that crew members were in danger of being injured.

The convict Walton appointed himself captain of the vessel, Douglas as first mate and "Flash Jack" Edwards as second mate and Clay as steward. A gale sprang up and the sailors were asked to help work on the ship. They refused at first but changed their mind with the consent of the captain.[6][7]

Re-capture[edit]

The Wellington then sailed to the Bay of Islands in New Zealand, where they were recaptured by a whaler, The Sisters under the command of Captain Duke.[8]

Due to their merciful treatment of the captured ship's guards and crew, only five of the prisoners were executed although 23 were condemned to hang.[9][10][11][12]

1827 uprising[edit]

1827 Uprising
DateOctober 1827
LocationNorfolk Island
Result Unsuccessful uprising
Belligerents
Convict insurgents United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland British Army
Commanders and leaders
Patrick Clynch Thomas Wright

There was an attempted uprising in 1827 with an attempt made on the life of new commandant Thomas Wright by Patrick Clynch.

Clynch was later captured and then shot.[13][14]

Wright was later arrested for ordering Clynch's murder and put on trial.[15][16][17] He was acquitted.

1830 escape[edit]

1830 Escape
Date19 June 1830
LocationNorfolk Island
Result Unsuccessful escape
Belligerents
Convict insurgents United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland British Army
Commanders and leaders
Lt Borough
Strength
11 convicts
Casualties and losses
11 convicts drowned (presumed)

In 1830 there was a successful escape of convicts from the island on a whaleboat. They went to Phillip Island, where they robbed a visiting botanist, Mr. Cunningham.[18]

The convicts then took to sea and were never heard of again – it is presumed they all drowned.[14]

1834 rebellion[edit]

1834 Convict Rebellion
Date15 January 1834
LocationNorfolk Island
Result Rebellion crushed
Belligerents
Convict insurgents United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland British Army
Commanders and leaders
Captain Foster Fyans
Strength
over 100
Casualties and losses
6 dead 1 soldier dead
1 guard dead

There was another rebellion in 1834. Over a hundred convicts rose up against the guards, aiming to take charge of a boat and sail to freedom.[19][20]

1846 rebellion[edit]

1846 Convict Rebellion
Date1 July 1846
LocationNorfolk Island
Result Rebellion crushed
Belligerents
Convict insurgents United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland British Army
Commanders and leaders
William "Jackey Jackey" Westwood Joseph Childs
Strength
1,600[21]
Casualties and losses
17 convicts executed[22] 4 officials killed

There was a final rebellion of convicts in 1846. It was led by William "Jackey Jackey" Westwood, a bushranger who had recently been sent to Norfolk Island. He was known as the "Gentleman Bushranger".[23]

Joseph Childs took over the running of Norfolk Island in 1844, ushering in a far harsher regime than his predecessor. He greatly reduced prisoners' privileges and in May 1846 made an order where prisoners had to hand in their tins and knives and other utensils. In response, Westwood led an uprising of convicts which resulted in an overseer and three constables being killed. However the guards were ultimately successful in suppressing the mutiny.[24][25]

Westwood was sentenced to death with 12 others and was executed on 13 October 1846.[21][26][27][28]

The governance of Joseph Childs was blamed for causing the mutiny. He was replaced by John Price.[29]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Robert Macklin, Dark Paradise: Norfolk Island – isolation, savagery, mystery and murder Hachette UK, 30 Jul 2013 accessed 3 July 2014
  2. ^ "INSURRECTION AT NORFOLK ISLAND". The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser. National Library of Australia. 6 April 1827. p. 2. Retrieved 4 July 2014. 
  3. ^ "Supreme Court". The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser. National Library of Australia. 24 September 1827. p. 2. Retrieved 3 July 2014. 
  4. ^ "POSTSCRIPT EXTRAORDINARY". The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser. National Library of Australia. 10 February 1827. p. 2. Retrieved 4 July 2014. 
  5. ^ "PIRATICAL SEIZURE OF THE BRIG WELLINGTON". The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser. NSW: National Library of Australia. 16 February 1827. p. 2. Retrieved 30 June 2014. 
  6. ^ "Further Particulars of the Piratical Seizure and re-capture of the Brig Wellington". The Monitor. Sydney: National Library of Australia. 17 February 1827. p. 5. Retrieved 4 July 2014. 
  7. ^ "Supreme Criminal Court". The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser. NSW: National Library of Australia. 21 February 1827. p. 2. Retrieved 4 July 2014. 
  8. ^ "PIRACY BY PRISONERS AND RE-CAPTURE". The Australian. Sydney: National Library of Australia. 10 February 1827. p. 3. Retrieved 4 July 2014. 
  9. ^ R. v. Walton et al. 1827 NSWSupC 7 accessed 30 June 2014
  10. ^ R. v. Flanagan et al. 1827 NSWKR 1; 1827 NSWSupC 8 accessed 30 June 2014
  11. ^ Liberty or Life!: The Convict Pirates of the Wellington by Erin Ihde, Dark Matter 101 20 Dec 2009 accessed 30 June 2014
  12. ^ "CRIMINAL COURT.—(Monday.)". The Australian. Sydney: National Library of Australia. 1 March 1827. p. 3. Retrieved 4 July 2014. 
  13. ^ "DOMESTIC INTELLIGENCE". The Sydney Monitor. National Library of Australia. 8 June 1829. p. 2. Retrieved 3 July 2014. 
  14. ^ a b "Early Australian History". Bathurst Free Press and Mining Journal. NSW: National Library of Australia. 20 April 1889. p. 4. Retrieved 4 July 2014. 
  15. ^ "IMPORTANT TRIAL". The Sydney Monitor. National Library of Australia. 17 October 1829. p. 1 Edition: AFTERNOON. Retrieved 3 July 2014. 
  16. ^ "THE SYDNEY MONITOR". The Sydney Monitor. National Library of Australia. 17 October 1829. p. 2 Edition: AFTERNOON. Retrieved 3 July 2014. 
  17. ^ "THE RIGHT HONOURABLE SIR GEORGE MURRAY, K. C. B. G. C. B. HIS MAJESTY'S PRINCIPAL SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES, &C. &C. &C." The Sydney Monitor. NSW: National Library of Australia. 24 April 1830. p. 4 Edition: AFTERNOON. Retrieved 3 July 2014. 
  18. ^ "NORFOLK ISLAND". The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser. NSW: National Library of Australia. 30 October 1830. p. 2. Retrieved 3 July 2014. 
  19. ^ R. v. Douglas and others [1834] NSWSupC 81 at Decisions of the Superior Courts of New South Wales, 1788-1899 at Macquarie Uni Faculty of Law accessed 30 June 2014
  20. ^ "MUTINY AND SERIOUS LOSS OF LIFE AT NORFOLK ISLAND". The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser. National Library of Australia. 4 March 1834. p. 2. Retrieved 30 June 2014. 
  21. ^ a b "The Norfolk Island mutiny was led by The GENTILEMAN BUSHRANGER". The Argus. Melbourne: National Library of Australia. 19 January 1957. p. 14. Retrieved 3 July 2014. 
  22. ^ John V. Barry, 'Price, John Giles (1808–1857)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published in hardcopy 1967 accessed online 30 June 2014.
  23. ^ ""JACKEY-JACKEY."". Bathurst Free Press and Mining Journal. NSW: National Library of Australia. 20 October 1891. p. 4. Retrieved 3 July 2014. 
  24. ^ "NORFOLK ISLAND". The South Australian. Adelaide: National Library of Australia. 4 December 1846. p. 7. Retrieved 30 June 2014. 
  25. ^ "NORFOLK ISLAND". The Moreton Bay Courier. Brisbane: National Library of Australia. 14 November 1846. p. 4. Retrieved 3 July 2014. 
  26. ^ Martha Rutledge, 'Westwood, William (1820–1846)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University published in hardcopy 2005, accessed online 3 July 2014.
  27. ^ "NORFOLK ISLAND". The Courier. Hobart, Tas.: National Library of Australia. 28 October 1846. p. 3. Retrieved 3 July 2014. 
  28. ^ "NORFOLK ISLAND". The Australian. Sydney: National Library of Australia. 14 November 1846. p. 3. Retrieved 3 July 2014. 
  29. ^ John V. Barry, 'Childs, Joseph (1787–1870)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University published in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 3 July 2014.