Sent to the roads

A couple of days ago I shared a report I had found about my great-great-grandfather, Samuel Moses who travelled to Hobart in what was then Van Diemen’s Land to enter into business with his brother-in-law, Louis Nathan. he and his family went, no doubt in great comfort for commercial reasons, but many, many thousands did not. They were sent there to serve a custodial sentence in the penal colony, often under the hardest and most desperate conditions. Life was tough and hard, and even for people who were not convicts but free, if they committed any crime then the law was just as harsh.

I came across this court report while trying to find out more about my  family. Samuel later became a JP, the first Jewish JP in Australia:


Before Joseph Hone, Esq., Chairman; and Messrs. Moriarty, Seccombe, and Poynter.


  • Mary Ann Forrest was found guilty of stealing a bonnet and shawl, of the value of 10s., the property of Catherine M’Goy, and sentenced to six months’ imprisonment with hard labour.
  • Thomas Dolphin, charged with stealing a jacket, of the value of 15s., the property of James Dogherty, was acquitted.
  • Thomas Marsden, indicted for stealing on the 23rd June a handkerchief, of the value of 2s., the property of Alexander Mayne, was found guilty, and sentenced to two years’ imprisonment with hard labour – with an intimation that he would be sent to the roads.
  • Thomas Wright was found guilty of stealing some money (Is. 6d.) from his master, Mr; Samuel Moses, of Murray-street, and sentenced to twelve months’ imprisonment with hard labor.
  • Mary Burton was found guilty of stealing a shawl, of the value of 2s. 6d the property of Priscilla Clare, and sentenced to be transported for seven years.
  • James Dogherty was found guilty of stealing nine ducks, of the value of 20s., and three ducks, of the value of 9s., the property of Bernard Macintyre, and sentenced to two years imprisonment with hard labor.
  • William Villiers Lawrence indicted for stealing, on the 10th of April last, a watch, of the value of £20, the property of Mr. J. White, and William Sutherland charged with feloniously receiving the same knowing it to have been stolen, were found guilty – Lawrence was sentenced to be transported for seven years, and Sutherland for fourteen years, both to be sent as speedily as possible to Port Arthur.
  • Patrick Parkinson, who was out on bail, was ‘ charged with an assault upon Catherine Harvey, on the 16th June last. The Jury retired about eight o’clock, and had not returned into Court at half-past nine, when our Reporter left.

You may wonder how someone already in such a place could be ‘transported’, as Mary Burton was; she would have been sent to one of the actual prisons on the island. Poor Thomas Marsden, must have been in desperate circumstances and stole a handkerchief worth two shillings – about A$14 in today’s money – he was sentenced to two years hard-labour, working on the roads in a chain gang – and he would have worn the chains all the time, even at night.


  1. Val Mills

    While in Tasmania a couple of years ago I went past the old women’s prison in Hobart and spent several hours visiting and exploring the remains of the men’s penal colony at Port Arthur. The stories from that time are incredible.

    Liked by 1 person

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