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Peter Burns

** community contributed record **

Name, Aliases & Gender

Name: Peter Burns
Aliases: Peter Byrne
Gender: m

Birth, Occupation & Death

Date of Birth: 1797
Occupation: Gentleman's servant
Date of Death: -
Age: -

Life Span

Life span

Male median life span was 57 years*

* Median life span based on contributions

Conviction & Transportation

Sentence Severity

Sentence Severity

Sentenced to 7 years

Crime: Highway robbery
Convicted at: County Down
Sentence term: 7 years
Ship: Almorah
Departure date: 24th August, 1820
Arrival date: 22nd December, 1820
Place of arrival New South Wales
Passenger manifest Travelled with 160 other convicts


Primary source: State Archives NSW, Indents (NRS 12188, Item 4/4007, Microfiche 645)& TOL Butts (NRS 12202, Item 4/4069)& Pardon (Reel No. 775, Roll No.1250)& Muster HO10/19. Irish convicts to NSW (Mayberry website), Belfast Newsletter, Tuesday 28 March 1820, ‘Downpatrick Saturday 25 March’, p.4
Source description:

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Community Contributions

Robin Sharkey on 11th September, 2018 wrote:

Peter Burn was found guilty at Downpatrick Assizes on Saturday 25 March 1820, of highway robbery. He was transported to NSW on the “ALmorah” for life.

Belfast Newsletter, Tuesday 28 March 1820, ‘Downpatrick Saturday 25 March’, p.4
“Peter Burns, for highway robbery - sentenced to death, but recommended by the Prosecutor.”

Here the prosecutor is the person who was the victim of the crime. Peter Burns’ death sentence was reprieved and his sentence was instead commuted to transported for life. He was 23 years old (ship’s indent). He was a native of Fadom, Newry, County Down.

Iris Dunne on 15th September, 2019 wrote:

1825 Muster - Employed at Bringelly for Thomas Campbell

Ticket of Leave No.28/584 dated 26 December 1828, Peter Burns, Trade Labourer, Trial Lent 1820, Life, Year of Birth 1799, District of Liverpool, Granted in pursuance of the Govt. Order of the 1 Jan. 1827 & also in consideration of his having apprehended one Runaway

Conditional Pardon No.131 dated 1 July 1832, aged 35

Dianne Jones on 2nd July, 2020 wrote:

1820, 10 July: Peter BYRNE is admitted to Kilmainham Goal, Dublin; prisoner 5408; listed as a “Convict from the County Down”.

1820, 22 July: From Kilmainham, “sent on board the convict ship” (see Ireland, Prison Registers, 1790-1924, Dublin Kilmainham 1815-1910).

Maureen Withey on 4th November, 2020 wrote:

Colonial Secretary index.

BYRNE, Peter. Per “Almorah, 1820

1823 Jul 30 - On return of convicts discharged from the Establishment, Emu Plains; to Mr Murdoch’s clearing party (Reel 6028; 2/8283 p.147)

1823 Sep 1,3 - Re permission to marry at Castlereagh (Reel 6011; 4/3509 p.182)

1824 Aug 13 - On list of prisoners assigned (Fiche 3290; 4/4570D p.14)


1828 Census Index.
Peter Byrne, age 32, G.S. Almorah, 1821, Life, catholic, Overseer, John Thos. Campbell, Bringelly district.
Margt. Byrne, age 35, F.S. John Bull, 1821, catholic.
Peter Byrne, age 5, born in colony.
James Byrne, age 1, b.c.

Peter Byrne married Margaret or Mary Brennan, who arrived on John Bull, 1821.

Maureen Withey on 4th November, 2020 wrote:

HIS EXCELLENCY the GOVERNOR has been pleased to approve of the following Alterations in the Police of the Colony, viz.

Cooke - Peter Byrne, per Almorah (2), to be District Constable, in the Room of Edward Bath, dismissed for Neglect of Duty.
Sydney Gazette,22 Dec 1829.

Maureen Withey on 4th November, 2020 wrote:

The following letter appeared in the Monitor, 13 April 1829, and gives insight into the behaviour and character of Peter Byrne, during his time as overseer of Murdoch’s Falling Party in 1823, and the work of the convicts belonging to a Falling party.

Hunters Hill, 30 March 1829.
Sir, I was present in St. Phillips’ Church when Archdeacon Scott preached the Funeral sermon on the death of Major Ovens, late of the 48th Regt., and late Engineer of New South Wales. Mr. Scott represented the Major as a virtuous character, and as having gone to Heaven. I do not say he is not gone there, because I trust that during his illness, he repented of his severities and follies, but I certainly could not understand why he should be praised in a spiritual point of view, by the Venerable Archdeacon.
I am, now Sir, a freed man, and many years having elapsed since I endured the sufferings I am about to narrate, and the Major having gone to the bar of God, I feel no longer that resentment I once felt; but rather desire to learn the great art of forgiving injuries; and I assure you therefore, my only motive for relating the following facts is, to shew the fallacy of common and fashionable opinions, and that with all General Darling’s faults, certain cruelties have not been practised in his reign which distinguished the administration of his nevertheless justly esteemed predecessor. But in his time there was no Sydney Monitor to tell tales.
In January 1823, I was selected as one of the steady men to go on a falling party. There were 21 of us, and an Overseer making 22. We were most of us volunteers, being informed by the Deputy Superintendent, that the newly projected failing gangs were to have some special indulgencies, not only in regard to provision and clothing, but also, that after the allotted task of work was finished, we should be allowed to work for the Settlers, and earn extra tea, sugar, and tobacco. I, with 20 others, accordingly were mustered in one gang, called Murdoch’s falling party; we were all directed to proceed to that gentleman’s farm. The first Overseer was a good man; he was in fact too good a man, because the rogues in our gang imposed upon him; he was soon broke; the next Overseer was a very bad man; the prisoner Overseers are generally rogues; free Overseers are much fairer; they feel independent; they do not want to obtain their freedom by cruelty to their fellow prisoners, like Convict Overseers; Convict Overseers generally attain this office by cunning, bribery, and all sorts of villainy; being generally idle men and dreading work; the timber on Mr. Murdock’s farm was not only very thick, but being rich land, the trees were full of sap, and most difficult to burn off. Sixteen acres a month to burn off and stump, was the complement.  This complement was very easy to perform on some farms ; on poorish land, where the timber was thin and dry, this complement was easy, we subsequently went to Mr. Chipping Wood’s farm which was easy timber, and we did 25 acres readily.  Mr. Wood said, a better set of men he never saw in his life; but on Mr. Murdoch’s farm, we could not do ten acres; in August, five of the gang had run into the bush from a sense of ill-treatment, and a consciousness that 16 acres were more than we could perform.  Our overseer wanted us to work all Saturday; Saturday was allowed to falling gangs to wash their clothes &c.  Thirteen of us refused to work after 11 o’clock on one Saturday, but promised to keep up the fires at night. Our convict Overseer, Peter Byrne. now a ticket-of leave man, took us to the Court.  Five of us out of thirteen were sentenced to 50 lashes, and five to 75. Three only escaped punishment. The ten received their punishment on a Monday.  This was in August 1823, On the Friday following, we were alarmed by the sound of the horn at an unusual hour. Dinner was out of the question, it being Friday, and our rations were always finished by Wednesday, or at the furthest Thursday morning; and the messengers were then gone for the next week’s rations. On venturing to the hut, we found Major Ovens, the Engineer, in attendance, with a constable and logger, a cats being in a handkerchief under his arm.) The Major enquired into our character. Byrne, replied, we were the greatest scoundrels is the Colony; in proof of which, he observed, ten of us had been flogged only four days back. The Major replied, “let them stand as they are, and I’ll flog them from right to left, and then one “can’t laugh at the other.” He then said to the flogger, ” tie him up,” pointing to the man nearest him. (Mind Mr. Monitor, no trial – no evidence-no sentence.) The poor fellow obeyed and stept up to a crooked tree close by, and the flogger tied him to the tree. No stripping was required, as there was not a shirt among us except in the hut. The flogger gave the culprit fifty lashes on the back, sore as it was, and covered with scabs from the previous Monday’s flogging. After the fifty had been administered, the Major, said to the flogger, ” let down Mr small clothes.” The flogger unbuckled the leathern strap which the prisoners of the Colony use in lieu of braces to support their trowsers and the latter fell to the ground, leaving the half starved man, naked as he was born, save his shoes. Shoes? I am mistaken; he had no shoes. (The man was a lad of some genius. He had taken a character in a play at Emu Plains, when Sir Thomas Brisbane and Chief Justice Forbes visited the Convict Theatre there.) “Go on”, said the Major.  The flogger proceeded till twenty-five lashes had been given ” Take him down” said the Major. ” Send the next.” Thus 3 of us out of 16 were punished both on the back and breech. The third man being extremely sensitive, called for mercy in a voice of screams:  It so happened that Mr. Murdoch, the proprietor of the farm, who was in his cottage at a moderate distance, heard the man, and so (providentially) I and the rest escaped the torture of the scourge, as I will quickly relate. On seeing Mr. M., the Major left the plan of execution to join him. When they returned the culprit had got all his punishment, as well as the breech as on the back. The Major ceased flogging our gang, but a man whom he had brought along with him was next tied up and punished.  He was a man belonging to Dr. Douglas’s falling gang. Another man, together with his Overseer, were next punished.  Our Overseer married after this, and his wife being a good woman, we were never punished any more; for soon afterwards, we went to Mr. Chipping Woods’ estate, where the work was lighter, and where there resided a real gentleman, I mean Mr. Chipping Wood.
Mr. Editor, I send you this to shew you, that if Convicts commit outrages sometimes without cause, they do not always revenge themselves where natural justice would palliate revenge I am, Sir,
yours &e.
An Escape

Convict Changes History

Robin Sharkey on 11th September, 2018 made the following changes:

convicted at, term: 7 years, voyage, source: Irish convicts to NSW (Mayberry website), Belfast Newsletter, Tuesday 28 March 1820, ‘Downpatrick Saturday 25 March’, p.4 (prev. ), firstname: Peter, surname: Burns, alias1: , alias2: , alias3: , alias4: , dat

Robin Sharkey on 11th September, 2018 made the following changes:


Iris Dunne on 15th September, 2019 made the following changes:

source: State Archives NSW, Indents (NRS 12188, Item 4/4007, Microfiche 645)& TOL Butts (NRS 12202, Item 4/4069)& Pardon (Reel No. 775, Roll No.1250)& Muster HO10/19. Irish convicts to NSW (Mayberry website), Belfast Newsletter, Tuesday 28 March 1820, ‘Do

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