[Editor: News items from Sydney, including an attempted escape by a convict. Published in The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser, 29 March 1807.]
Sitting Magistrate for the ensuing Week — Major Johnston.
On Wednesday His Honor Lieut. Governor Paterson and his Lady embarked on board the Lucy for Port Dalrymple, and was saluted on his departure.
A search for prisoners being made on board the Star on Monday last, Thomas Shirley was found secreted under planks laid for that purpose, and covered over with billet wood to avoid detection; and in consequence of the several persons employed on the search making oath that the delinquent could not, from the extraordinary means used for his concealment, have been so concealed without the privity, consent, and aid of some person or persons on board, the ship was laid under detention until an investigation should be made, and a warrant issued against the master of the ship as responsible for the offence.
On Thursday the affair was brought before a Court of Criminal Jurisdiction; when the indictment stated, after the usual forms, that Mr. John Wilkinson, master of the said ship, did wilfully and unlawfully use or permit such means to be taken by himself, or some or all of his officers and crew, as to allow one Thomas Shirley, a prisoner in lawful custody, to escape therefrom, he the said Thomas Shirley being found on board the said ship Star as aforesaid, and there the said Thomas Shirley to be secreted and stowed away with art and design under a quantity of billet wood in the hold of the said ship; and from which said billet wood he was defended from injury or danger, by a certain quantity of boards artfully contrived; whereby he obtained secrecy and air; and thereby the said John Wilkinson, his officers and crew, jointly or separately was or were aiding and abetting the said Thos. Shirley from his lawful confinement to escape, in contempt of Our Sovereign Lord the King and his Laws, to the evil example of all others in like cases offending against the form of the statute in that case made and provided, and against the peace of Our Sovereign Lord the King, His Crown and Dignity.
The charge of his having been found secreted as expressed in the indictment was fully proved; but the Court declared it to be their unanimous opinion that the prisoner was not aiding and assisting, nor in any manner was it with his privity that Thomas Shirley was got on board, and did therefore acquit him.
Several seamen and petty officers belonging to the Lucy appeared before the Judge Advocate the day before her departure to have investigated claims to a considerable amount set up against them, and acknowledged to be just. The Judge Advocate made enquiry whether credit to the seamen had been publicly forbidden on the Lucy’s arrival; which appearing to have been the case, the Colonial Regulations in that behalf were necessarily put in force, & the seamen sent on board, as no detention for debt could be admitted against them:— The petty officers were however, ordered to be committed to gaol by virtue of legal processes, but were released by their Commander, who satisfied the demands against them.
On Wednesday last Thomas Davey, a prisoner in the county gaol upon a charge of felony, cut one of his arms in a shocking manner, with an evident intention of suicide, by bleeding himself to death. The atrocious and abominable design was rendered abortive, however, by the discovery of his deplorable intention in time to rescue him from so horrible an end.
Thomas Prosser and William Blake, two of the persons who lately attempted to escape by taking away a boat, were put on board the Lucy for Port Dalrymple, the day before she sailed.
Last night a fine horse belonging to John White was killed with a bayonet or spear by some person unknown. How to account for such a circumstance is very difficult, as the act of barbarity, if perpetrated with a bayonet, must have proceeded from wantonness or malevolence, that has been attended with a very serious loss to the owner, who paid for the horse 136£ not more than three months ago.
Yesterday a Bench of Magistrates assembled, before whom appeared several settlers at and about the Northern Boundary, charged with having employed John Campbell, a bush ranger, in contempt of established local Regulations to the following effect, viz. “No person is to be employed unless he produce his certificate, if a freeman, or his ticket of leave if a prisoner: penalty to be levied on the employer 5£, and 2s. 6d. for each day the man has been employed.” The parties had nothing further to offer in extenuation than that the person whom they had so employed had imposed himself upon them as a free man; but as it was nevertheless their duty to have demanded his certificate or pass, wherein, by his own declaration, all the parties had failed, the penalty was exacted, and the prisoner John Campbell committed to close custody.
Shirley and anther prisoner found on board the Star when about to sail, were brought before the Bench with four others taken from on board the Lucy the morning of her departure, and severally charged with having attempted to escape the colony; and the charge being fully substantiated, they were ordered 200 lashes.
Since the public tanks have been cleared several horses have fallen into the cisterns in the night time, and saved with difficulty from being drowned. The poor animals being turned out of an evening, have been accustomed to repair thither to quench their thirst, and as the height of the sand before secured them from danger, they still tread with as little caution as before — and this renders it advisable, either that a palisade should inclose the place of danger, or that horses should be taken better care of.
The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (Sydney, NSW), 29 March 1807, pages 1-2
Spelling retained as in the original text:
[Editor: Corrected “Shirly was” to “Shirley was”.]