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8 Convict Notes

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This exhibition examined the lives of eight convicts, transported to WA from Britain between 1850 and 1868, who all found their way to Greenough.  

 8 Convict Notes was a fascinating insight into our local history told, in part, through the contemporary notes and letters left behind by those eight men. Those notes, from the museum’s archive, give us a glimpse into what life was like for these men.  

 Here is just a little of the stories told in this remarkable exhibition. 

Thomas Harrison

Charged with breaking and entering in 1862 and sentenced to 10 years, Thomas Harrison arrived in Fremantle just a few days before his twentieth birthday. It might not seem like a great start to adulthood but Harrison quickly became one of Greenough’s most upstanding and civic-minded citizens.

Note by Thomas Harrison

John Patience

Note by John Patience

When he was transported to Fremantle in 1848 after being sentenced to 14 years for a fairly substantial burglary, John Patience left a wife and two children behind in England. That didn’t stop him telling colony authorities he was a widower and marrying someone else.

Thomas Cole

Sentenced to 20 years for a house burglary in 1855 and eventually transported to Australia, Thomas Cole was a free man and living in Greenough by 1865. He married Isabella in 1882 and the pair lived in a small cottage on the banks of the Greenough River, about three kilometres from the museum. Tragically, both Thomas and Isabella drowned in the infamous flood of February 1888.

Note by Thomas Cole

Robert Kyme

Note by Robert Kyme

Kyme’s early crimes were poultry – stealing fowl – but he moved on to housebreaking (then attempted prison breaking) and eventually highway robbery. Sentenced to six years, he arrived in Fremantle in 1858 and worked in various mines around Northampton and Greenough.

John Knapp

A brewer before being convicted of larceny in 1849, John Knapp arrived in the colony in 1851 and soon took up farming in the Greenough area. In 1875 he sponsored his brother, William, and his family to migrate to the colony, too. He died in 1888 after being kicked by a horse, but his farm would stay in the family for almost another century. 

Portrait of John Knapp

Giovanni Marchetti

Note by Giovanni Marchetti

A drunken brawl involving two prostitutes in a Liverpool pub that resulted in the stabbing and death of a Scottish sailor saw Giovanni Marchetti convicted of manslaughter. The Venetian was transported in 1856 and eventually started a family and took up farming on the Back Flats of Greenough. He died in 1897 (but not before one more drunken brawl, that saw him imprisoned in Geraldton for 21 days). 

John Gear

Stealing a fustian coat would normally not lead to transportation but John Gear, an unmarried British seaman, already had a criminal record. So, when he was found guilty in 1852 he was sentenced to 15 years. Said to be “an extremely hardworking and industrious man”, we know from the notes in the museum archive that Gear shepherded for John S. Maley at one time. 

Note by John Gear

Charles Sims

Note by Charles Sims

A farm labourer in Britain, Charles Sims (and five others) were convicted of “firing a barn and shed” in 1853. Considered one of the ringleaders, he was sentenced to 15 years and was transported. By 1866 he’d started a family and found work in Greenough (on local farms, if you can believe anyone trusted him with their sheds).

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