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John Burk, one of 180 convicts transported on the Chapman, 06 April 1824
Name, Aliases & Gender
Birth, Occupation & Death
|Date of Birth:
|Date of Death:
||13th February, 1835
life span was 56 years*
* Median life span based on contributions
Conviction & Transportation
Sentenced to 7 years
||London Gaol Delivery
6th April, 1824
27th July, 1824
|Place of arrival
||Van Diemen's Land
Travelled with 179 other convicts
||Australian Joint Copying Project. Microfilm Roll 88, Class and Piece Number HO11/5, Page Number 140
||This record is one of the entries in the British convict transportation registers 1787-1867 database compiled by State Library of Queensland from British Home Office (HO) records which are available on microfilm as part of the Australian Joint Copying Project.
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Maureen Withey on 7th August, 2019 wrote:
John Burk was executed 13 February 1835 at Hobart Town.
Thomas Kirkham, John Ashton, John Burke, Charles Nosworthy, and William Weston, for stealing a quantity of property from Mr. James Hamilton’s store at Ross, and putting Mr. James Hope in bodily fear (Nosworthy and Weston as accessories before the fact), were then put upon their trial.
It appeared that the five prisoners with M. Rice concerted the robbery two days previous to the commission of it, at the hut of Nosworthy and Weston, and that in consequence Kirkham, Ashton, Burke (who was the Captain), and the approver, Rice, went armed to Mr. Hamilton’s house on the night of the 24th November last. Ashton blacked his own and comrades’ faces with a box of blacking which he had brought with him. The dogs in the neighbourhood having set up a great barking the inmates of the house were disturbed, and a boy opened the street door, when the four men rushed in. While Rice kept guard with a gun, the other three tied Mr. Hope and two boys, and then proceeded to plunder the store of an immense quantity of goods, some of which were afterwards taken from each of the prisoners.
The approver Rice was apprehended near New Norfolk by district-constable Peel upon another charge, and during the time he was in gaol he confessed all the facts of the robbery, and upon his statement, Mr. Peel with other constables went up the country to the hut of Nosworthy and Weston, where they found all the five in bed together. They secured the prisoners’ arms, and then took them into custody; first taking Kirkham, Burke, and Ashton, upon the pretence of their being runaways, to Mr. O’Connor’s, where they were secured, and then returning for the prisoners Nosworthy and Weston, whom they had left in the hut, not daring to apprehend the whole at the same time; by which scheme they contrived to secure the whole five without exercising violence.
The Judge explained to the Jury the law upon the case, and after his summing up at some length the evidence, the Jury retired, and returned in a few minutes with a verdict of guilty against all the prisoners. His Honor in passing sentence of death upon each of them, told the prisoners Burke, Ashton, and Kirkham, that he could hold out no hopes of mercy to them. Burke displayed throughout his trial a violence of temper which was quite indecorous, even in a man so situated.
Hobart Town Courier, 6 Feb 1835.
Execution of Burke, Weston, Ashton, and Kirkham.
This destruction of human life took place on the scaffold of Hobart Town gaol yesterday morning. The spectators were numerous, as were the military commanded by the Adjutant of the 21st. Who appeared to be drilling a young officer. At five minutes past eight, four javelin men ascended the scaffold — a novel procedure.
Burke ascended the fatal ladder, accompanied by the Rev. Mr. Connolly, with a firm and undaunted step. His countenance had undergone no change since we saw him in the dock. He addressed the multitude in a low voice, requesting them as far as we could learn, to take warning by his fate, and soliciting their prayers. He appeared extremely anxious to address the assembly more at large, but Mr. Conolly with a Christian feeling kept him reading a prayer hook which he held in his hand. Ashton, a youth of about twenty-two, and of a prepossessing appearance, next ascended the scaffold. The Rev. Mr. Bedford approached him; he calmly raised his pinioned right hand, and said, ’ Keep away from me; the whole of you stick to perjurers, even to those who have murdered us, and you are as bad as the rest. I’ll have nothing to do with you.’
Weston was the next, who appeared to be an aged man. (This was one of the men that was supposed to be recommended to mercy.) On ascending the platform, he declared he was a murdered man. We may as well give his dying words — ’ Good, morning, lads,’ said the old ’ man in a stentorian voice, ’ I’m come here to die ; not to die but to be murdered through the perjury of Rice, Lamp, and Peel. I die innocent. May the Almighty judge you, Lamp and Peel ! At the conclusion of the old man’s address, a thrill of horror and indignation burst from the assembled multitude, which no language of our’s can do justice to.
While Weston was addressing the multitude, Burk turned abruptly from Mr. Connolly, and kicking one of his shoes over the gaol wall, exclaimed ’ There, they have robbed me of all I had in the world, they are now taking my life— let them take them with the rest.’ In the act of taking off the second shoe, he was prevented by Mr. Connolly, to whose religious instructions he attended till he made his final exit. Kirkham reached the platform with a hurried step, and having taken his place under the fatal beam, viewed the surrounding multitude. There was no ’ bravado’ in his demeanour, any more than in any of the other three who were in the same unhappy situation. To those whom he had known in the surrounding multitude, he spoke calmly and freely. He declared, that on the evidence of those persons, whose names it is needless to repeat, that he was a murdered man. ‘I am not,’ says Kirkham, ‘afraid of death ; neither was I ever ashamed or afraid to look any man in the face ; I am now going to die—God bless you — ’ I am going to see another Governor— but your Governor did sign my death warrant; as he would my ticket-of-leave ! ! ! ‘
Having declined Doherty’s cap, having got one of his own, Burke went round the fatal platform — they all shook hands and kissed each other. They then dropped into the hands of a Judge, with whom all things rest !
The True Colonist, 14 Feb 1835. (Trove)
All four men continued to proclaim their innocence up to the end. They accused Rice, Lamp and Peel, of purjery. Rice was a conspirator with them, who confessed, and John Lamph, and Peel were constables.
In July 1835, after the men were executed, Lamph was involved in another case, wher it was proved he had committed purjery:
Supreme Court. On Wednesday.
Charles Howley, James Vallely, George Halloran, and Christopher Welsh, were acquitted of a charge of assaulting John Lamph, with intent, &c.; and also on a second charge of assaulting Obadiah Bolton.
John Lamph and Obadiah Bolton were committed to gaol by the court for wilful and corrupt perjury in the foregoing case.
The Hobart Town Courier, 10 July 1835
This prompted the following editorial:
We never witnessed such universal satisfaction evinced on the result of any proceeding in the Supreme Court, as was depicted in every countenance on Thursday evening, when it became generally known that Mr. Justice Montagu had committed the two celebrated Janissaries, Lamph and Bolter, for wilful and corrupt perjury, on the prosecution of Rowley, Valladay, Halloran, and Welsh, on a charge of assaulting John Lamph, with intent to murder, or do him some grievous bodily harm. Mr. John Lamph is a character of some notoriety, and obtained his Pardon for the conviction of Weston, Burke, and the other two men, that were executed for the burglaries at Ross Bridge — who all died declaring their innocence, and showering imprecations on the heads of Lamph, Rice the approver, and another.; They are gone to answer before that Judge who cannot err. Lamph is now while we are writing this sitting under the Gallows, on which they expiated their crime of which they were convicted on his evidence, and that of Rice an accomplice; and on that Gallows where four innocent men might in all probability, been sent out of this world by the misguided hand of Justice, had not the Judge under the direction of a superior power, detected the- perjury and sent the perjurers to answer to offended justice, for a crime which we consider is in its consequences, the most dangerous to society of any that can be committed, as it is certainly the most common; in this Colony, and therefore calls for punishment most loudly.
There is something in this case which gives rise to very serious consideration with respect to the constitution of Juries in this Colony. All who heard the evidence, on the trial of Halloran and others, concurred in expressing their astonishment that the Attorney General in performing the, functions of a Grand Jury, should ever have sent these men to trial, particularly on a capital charge— it appearing clearly to every man in Court, from the evidence for the prosecution, that the whole was a drunken row at the “Brian Boru,” a house which is the property of the said Mr. Lamph. Every man censures the quasi Grand Jury and public prosecutor for this bit of “experimental” Justice, in keeping those men in Prison so long, and then sending them to be tried for their lives on such a frivolous offence, where in fact the complainer was the first aggressor. It is considered very lucky that they were not sent before the Quarter Sessions, as the result might have been different there. The case altogether affords another proof, that a Grand Jury would be a better protection for the liberties of Englishmen than an Attorney General, who in all his Public Functions, appears to place the essence of justice in the severest administration of law. This case produced another very unprecedented proceeding on the part of the Military Jury, which though new in itself was productive of an excellent result, by shewing the perjury of Lamph and Bolter. The Judge stopped the proceedings, when the Solicitor-General had examined all his witnesses, except young Mr. Crowther, the surgeon, who had dressed Lamph’s wounds. His Honor, having asked the Solicitor-General if he had any more evidence, and being answered in the negative, stated that there was no case to go the Jury—and asking the Jury if they were satisfied, directed them to retire. After they had retired for about half an hour, they returned into the Court; and said that they wished to have some more evidence. Mr. Crowther was then examined, and proved that the wound was a mere scratch on the forehead. The witnesses for the defence proved that the assault was commenced by Lamph, who without any authority; apprehended Welch as a runaway from Sydney, and being resisted, ran into Peel’s house, and brought out a log of she-oak, with which he commenced beating the men at the bar, who were then acquitted. The Attorney- General coming into Court at this time, put them on their trial for a common assault on Bolter, on which they were again acquitted. The Judge then called the two Janissaries to the bar, and committed them to take their trial for perjury. There was a general burst of applause in the Court, which spread in a loud hurrah! amongst the crowd outside— every man in town rejoiced at this act of justice, and hailed it as a commencement of putting down the dreadful organized system of perjury by which the People have been robbed by the Janissaries under the infamous Algerine Laws.
Lamph and Bolter, particularly the latter, have been famous for their prosecutions against the inhabitants under the fining acts— and we have no doubt but some of his victims are now in this prison. We hope this is but a beginning of the fall of the perjury system.
The True Colonist Van Dieman’s Land Political Despatch, 3 July 1835 (Trove)
Convict Changes History
Maureen Withey on 7th August, 2019 made the following changes:
date of death: 13th February, 1835 (prev. 0000), gender: m