John certainly had a chequered record of petty theft – mostly, I suspect, through necessity rather than for any long term advantage. On 3rd May 1854 he was convicted of stealing a wheelbarrow and copper boiler, thought to have been a kettle, from the burn in Muirside of Aldbar near Brechin in February of that year. Aggravated by three other similar convictions he was sentence to 4 years penal servitude.
- from a wash house in Balmadity, Fearn : A gown, 5 caps, an apron, a shift, a petticoat and a towel.
- From an unnamed place : Two shirts and a pair of stockings.
It was obviously the clothes John was after in 1862 - probably so he could provide them for his family.
Four previous convictions for theft were taken into account - presumably the three prior ones taken into account plus the actual conviction in 1854.
This time he was sentenced to eight years penal servitude and, as it turned out, this involved being deported to Australia !
Prison records from 1864 (see below) show that he was indeed married to Ann McKissock and that they had these three children :
- Robert born about 1842
- Mary Ann born about 1844 (my 2 x great grandmother)
- Archibald born about 1857
I haven’t found anything at all about Robert or Archibald or any other child who might have been born and died in the unusually long gap for those years without being pregnant between 1845 and 1856.
John wouldn't have been sent down the mines to work due to his age but between September 1866 and May 1868 was sent on a 'ticket of leave' to Geraldton which was a crayfishing town on the edge of the desert. The winds which blew off the Indian Ocean were horrific and life would have been very hard for John.
A ticket of leave allowed convicts to work for themselves provided that they remained in a specified area, reported regularly to local authorities and attended divine worship every Sunday, if possible. They could not leave the colony. Its principal aim was to reduce the burden on the fledgling colonial government of providing food from the government's limited stores to these convicts. Convicts who seemed able to support themselves were awarded a ticket of leave. Tickets were given as a reward for good behaviour, which permitted the holders to seek employment within a specified district, but not leave it without the permission of the government or the district's resident magistrate. Each change of employer or district was recorded on the ticket.
John's worked for 10 different masters :
I haven't found out anything else about John or his family. He probably stayed out in Australia after serving his sentence and made a life for himself. There is evidence to suggest that in 1877, when he was 60 plus, he employed a 'ticket of leave' man at Champion Bay which is a bay facing the port and the northern part of the city of Geraldton.