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Dennis Donovan

** community contributed record **

Name, Aliases & Gender

Name: Dennis Donovan
Aliases: none
Gender: m

Birth, Occupation & Death

Date of Birth: 1785
Occupation: -
Date of Death: 12th July, 1814
Age: 29 years

Life Span

Life span

Male median life span was 59 years*

* Median life span based on contributions

Conviction & Transportation

Sentence Severity

Sentence Severity

Sentenced to Life

Crime: Burglary
Convicted at: Limerick
Sentence term: Life
Ship: Boyd
Departure date: 10th March, 1809
Arrival date: 14th August, 1809
Place of arrival New South Wales
Passenger manifest Travelled with 63 other convicts


Primary source: Australian Joint Copying Project. Microfilm Roll 87 Freemans Journal Monday 18 August 1806, Sydney gazetttes - various, NSW Colonial Secretary records
Source description:

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Community Contributions

Robin Sharkey on 4th February, 2015 wrote:

Dennis Donovan was transported on “Boyd” aged 24 arriving NSW August 1809


Freemans Journal, Monday 18 August 1806
LIMERICK ASSIZES - Dennis Donovan for a burglary and felony in the dwelling house of Richard Casey at Clarina, to be hanged on Saturday the 23rd [August 1806].

RESPITED to Transportation for LIfe to NSW.

it was not until February 1813 that Donovan was first reported as having absconded from his employment at Lane Cove {Gazette, 27/2/1813). The “absconded” advertisement continued each week for months right through to September. While escaped he had committed a burglary in the house of George Gambling at Long Point and stole bedding and clothing. He was captured in October and tried in Nov 1813 and given a death sentence. (Sydney Gazette, 20/11/13). Someone was paid £5 for apprehending & convicting him (payments to the Police Fund to qtr ended Dec 1813) ... but it was shortly to start all over again.

Gov Macquarie commuted his death sentence on 30 October 1813 to internal transportation for Life to a penal settlement - his former sentence - and in 1814 he was transported to Newcastle aboard “Estramina” on 2nd February 1814 for the length of “his former sentence”, by order of the Governor on 1st February.

Also on board was Patrick Collins, similar age, arr per the “Providence in 1811, had already done a year’s stint in Newcastle once before.  His second sentence to Newcastle was for an unspecified offence, also ordered by the Governor, “for the remainder of his sentence”. Therefore both men are going to Newcastle to serve out the rest of their life sentences in NSW. Both were fairly hardened now having committed second offences, and Donovan with a reputation of being a ‘bushranger” in the sense then of living off the bush.  They had nothing to lose.

The two escaped from Newcastle together within a short time of their arrival in late February 1814.

The newspaper reports noted that travellers by land to/from the Hunter’s River area were forced to cross the Hawkesbury River at “Croppy’s” Beach.  William Alder lived at the Upper Branch of the Hawkesbury, and part-owned a boat.  On the 15th March 1814 he and his boat assistant, Thomas White, together with Hannah Sculler who lived with White, had arrived at Mahar Creek (also called ‘Mother Mahar’s Crrek’) near the First Branch of the Hawkesbury and about 15 miles from Croppys Beach.  Bad timing ... Collins and Donovan were about….

The newcastle escapees murdered the three people on the boat, probably on 16th March 1814. The mens’ bodies were found on the boat 17th March by a limeburner named Stokes; Alder had his head beaten to pieces with an axe, White’s throat had been cut, and Hannah’s body was on the shore at the low water mark having been killed with blows to the back of the head.

On 16th March Donovan and Collins stayed in the hut of a stock-keeper at Lane Cove named Magrath (probably known to Donovan from his time working there) and they sold and gave him some items (watch, compass, canvas bag and clothing) that had belonged to the three murdered people. This was critical evidence in linking them to the murder.

Sydney Gazette, 28/5 and 4/6/1814 - “WHEREAS divers Highway Robberies and other Offences have been recently committed in the Vicinity of Sydney, and its contiguous Districts, some or most of which one Dennis Donovan, a Fugitive Convict from the Settlement at Hunter’s River, is vehemently suspected to have been concerned:—This is to give Notice, that any Person or
Persons apprehending the said Dennis Donovan, or giving Information that may cause him to be apprehended, will receive a Reward of Ten Pounds Sterling from D. WENTWORTH, Esq. 
Superintendant of Police.

Donovan was inevitably captured,  Syd gazette 11/6/1814:
” Dennis Donovan, the fugitive repeatedly advertised, was on Tuesday night last apprehended at a house in York-street, and has since undergone several examinations before the Police Magistrate on suspicion of divers felonies, William Farrell,    an alleged companion and accomplice of Donovan in his most recent crimes, was a few days since also apprehended ; and from some extraordinary circumstances attending a watch found, a probability arises that the perpetrators of the murder of the two men and woman belonging to a Hawkesbury boat some weeks ago, will be brought to condign punishment.”

Syd Gazette, Sat 2 July1814 - Dennis Donovan was indicted for a burglary in the house of John Cowley, of Surrey Hills, on the night of the 24th of April, and stealing therefrom various articles of bedding and apparel. Guilty - Death.   
WEDNESDAY. The above Dennis Donovan was indicted for a rape. Guilty - Death.

It came to light through a coincidence that Donovan was also responsible, with one White, for two murders committed, since he; escaped, at the Parramatta turnpike house for which two innocent men had been found guilty due to circumstance of having similar clothing, and were to die. At his execution for the earlier house breaking and rape he refused to admit that he had been guilty of the Parramatta turnpike murders as well.

Executed on Tuesday 12th July 1814.

His accomplice Patrick Collins was captured eventually in September 1814 ( a reward of £18 being paid to those involved). He was tried and found guilty on 12 December of all these crimes, and executed by hanging as well.

Convict Changes History

Robin Sharkey on 4th February, 2015 made the following changes:

convicted at, term: 99 years, voyage, source: Australian Joint Copying Project. Microfilm Roll 87 Freemans Journal Monday 18 August 1806, Sydney gazetttes - various, NSW Colonial Secretary records (prev. ), firstname: Dennis, surname: Donovan, alias1: ,

Robin Sharkey on 4th February, 2015 made the following changes:

date of birth: 1785 (prev. 0000), date of death: 12th July, 1814 (prev. 0000)

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