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John Fisher, one of 272 convicts transported on the Perseus and Coromandel, January 1802
Name, Aliases & Gender
Birth, Occupation & Death
|Date of Birth:
|Date of Death:
||7th May, 1832
life span was 59 years*
* Median life span based on contributions
Conviction & Transportation
Sentenced to Life
||Australian Joint Copying Project. Microfilm Roll 87, Class and Piece Number HO11/1, Page Number 313 (156)
||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 25th April, 2019 wrote:
The business of the Assizes for the county of Wilts commenced at Salisbury on Monday last. ...
The trials of the prisoners were then proceeded on and sixteen were capitally convicted, viz.-
...John Fisher, and Robert Bolton, for sheep-stealing; ... Sentence of death was passed on them, also on James Rawlins, convicted of sheep stealing, at the last Summer Assizes, but whose judgement was then respited. Rawlins, Poore, Fisher, Bolton, Neale, Thomas Jones, Poticary, and Taylor, were, however, all reprieved before the judges left the city.
London Courier, 17 Mar 1801
Convict Hulk records:
John Fisher, age 47, convicted for Life, at New Sarum, 7 March 1801.
National Archives, HO 9-8-2, p. 48.
Beth Kebblewhite on 12th August, 2019 wrote:
Robert BOLTON & John Fisher were committed on 8th March 1801 by CW Cox, Esquire, charged on the oath of Robert Radway of Kemble with feloniously stealing a fat ewe sheep, his property. This is endorsed - Guilty, No Goods.
The Jurors of our Lord the King present that Robert Bolton, late of the parish of Kemble, County of Wilts., labourer, on the 4th day of March in the year of the Reign of our Sovereign Lord George III, with force & arms, at the parish aforesaid in the County aforesaid, one ewe sheep the price of 50 shillings, of the goods & chatels of Robert Radway, then & there being found feloniously, did steal, Take & drive away against the Peace of our said Lord the King his Crown & dignity.
“To be Severally Hanged”, later commuted to “Both to be Severally transported to the Eastern Coast of New South Wales or someone or other of the islands adjacent, for and during the term of their natural lives, pursuant to Seory, on the 16th of May 1801.”
(Source: Records of the Wiltshire Assize 1801)
Beth Kebblewhite on 24th August, 2019 wrote:
On April 20th, 1755, Steven and Mary Fisher of the village of Kemble, Wiltshire, some 150 km west of London, brought their infant son to the village church for baptism. It seems reasonable to assume that baby John had been born the same year, though there appears to be no record of his actual birth date. Over the next eighteen years four more Fisher children were similarly baptised — Steven in 1758, Dinah in 1766, Elizabeth in 1769, and Sarah in 1773.1 Kemble was a farming village and John Fisher became a farm labourer and shepherd. Nothing is known of his life until 1801, but it is not unlikely that in those forty-six years he married in the district and may have raised a family. Whatever life he had collapsed suddenly in March, 1801, when he was arrested, with another man, for sheep stealing. On March 11th, 1801, John Fisher was brought before the Wiltshire Assizes at New Sarum. The jury found that, on March 4th, he and his accomplice had stolen “one sheep to the value of fifty shillings, the property of Robert Radway.” Sheep stealing was a capital crime and he was sentenced to be hanged. The sentence was later commuted to “transportation to the Eastern Coast of New South Wales or some one other of the islands adjacent for and during the Term of his natural life.”2
If John Fisher had a wife and family he was never to see them again. On February 12th, 1802, he and 136 other male convicts sailed in the transport Perseus for Sydney, then a small struggling settlement founded only fourteen years earlier. The Perseus and its human cargo, most of whom had never before seen the ocean, arrived in August, 1802, after a voyage of six months. John Fisher, aged 47 and an experienced shepherd and farmhand, was soon assigned to a sheep farm near Castle Hill owned by Rev. Rowland Hassall. Fourteen months later, on January 1st, 1804, the convicted sheep stealer was placed in charge of all Hassall’s sheep, a nice irony.3 In time Hassall broadened his activities to embrace horse breeding, selling to many prominent settlers including D’Arcy Wentworth and Robert Campbell. John Fisher became an expert horse-breaker and doubtless met many of Hassall’s important customers. In 1810, the Sydney Racing Club was established and held its first meeting in October. Although the Sydney Gazette reported the event in detail, only one jockey was named, and then only because he met with an accident. The Gazette recorded that a dog running across the course frightened a horse which threw its rider, by the name of Fisher, who was fortunately not seriously hurt.4 As John Fisher later became a well-known jockey in Sydney, it seems reasonable to assume that it was he who was thrown from his horse at the inaugural race meeting and that he therefore deserves the distinction of being the first recorded professional jockey in Australia. While John Fisher was building a new life for himself as a trusted convict in Sydney, another court case took place in England which was soon to affect his life. On May 27th, 1809, a 33-year-old household servant, Jemima Bolton of the village of Southoe, Huntingdonshire, some 90 km north of London, was arrested on a charge of grand larceny. Tried before the Huntingdon Assizes on July 22nd, 1809, she was found guilty of stealing “two pieces of satin of the value of twelve shillings, one pair of thread stockings of the value of twelve pence, and one hempen cloth of the value of six pence”, the property of the Rev. Robert Pointer, vicar of St. Leonards. She was sentenced to transportation for seven years and arrived in Sydney on the Canada in September, 1810, with 120 other female convicts.5 Nine days after her arrival, Jemima Bolton was assigned as Government housekeeper at Parramatta, probably because of her previous training as a servant. Within a few months of her arrival at Parramatta in September, 1810, Jemima Bolton, aged 34, met John Fisher, aged 55. The details are not known, but it can be deduced from the date of birth of their first child
that they were certainly on intimate terms by early 1811. They were married by the Rev. Samuel Marsden at St. John’s Church, Parramatta, on October 28th, 1811,6 and their first child, Jemima, was born two months later, on Christmas Eve, 1811.7 A second daughter, Mary Ann, was born on October 31st, 1813. John Fisher’s horse racing skills had brought him into contact with many of the leaders of Sydney society as owners and spectators, including Colonel Maurice O’Connell of the 73rd Highlanders Regiment and Lieutenant Governor of the colony. O’Connell was a leading figure in the Sydney Racing Club and Fisher often rode his horses to victory. In 1814, the 73rd Regiment was recalled to England, and it seems likely that, as a parting gesture, O’Connell recommended that Fisher be granted a free pardon. Governor Macquarie complied, and on January 17th, 1814, almost thirteen years after being sentenced to death, John Fisher found himself a free man. As an added bonus he was granted fifty acres of land at Appin, near Campbelltown. Jemima’s sentence still had more than two years to run, but John, as a free man and landholder, could be responsible for her. By mid-1814, the family was settled on their farm and a third daughter, Sarah, was born there on June 25th, 1816. Life was hard; an unprecedented drought had virtually wiped out the pastoral industry, aborigines made frequent attacks on settlers in this isolated district, and severe floods in 1817 devastated those who had bravely stayed on. In 1818, the Fishers admitted defeat and moved to Sydney, where they occupied a house on Brickfield Hill at the southern approach to the city. By this time John was 62, and although he could still earn money as a jockey, he needed respite from the arduous work of farming in a hostile and unforgiving environment. Brickfield Hill was a busy thoroughfare thronged with travellers to and from the interior of the colony, and John Fisher applied unsuccessfully to operate a tavern from his premises.8 He continued to ride at the Hyde Park racecourse9 and appears to have retired from being a jockey about 1820, when he would have been 65. In this year Jemima bore him a last child and first son, whom they named Thomas. Thomas Fisher Thomas Fisher was born at Brickfield Hill, Sydney, on January 23rd, 1820, and was baptised at St. Phillip’s Church of England on May 7th.10Shortly thereafter the family moved to a cottage at the south-east corner of Clarence and Market Streets, Sydney. The census of 1828 shows the occupants of the Clarence Street house as John and Jemima Fisher, their
two youngest children, Sarah and Thomas, and two lodgers, John White, 29, described as a “Government servant”, and Susannah White, 19. Fisher’s two eldest daughters lived at their places of employment nearby, Jemima being a servant in the “King’s Arms” hotel at the corner of Castlereagh and Hunter Streets, which was owned by her father’s friend William Henry Roberts, and Mary Ann a housemaid in the Castlereagh Street home of Henry and Elizabeth Marr.11 John Fisher died on May 7th, 1832, aged 7712 and was buried in the Devonshire Street cemetery. His Will, made the year before, stipulated that whatever rents and profits might accrue from the Clarence Street property, were to go to his widow “for the support of herself and the maintenance and education of my son Thomas Fisher until he shall attain the age of twenty-one years or day of marriage”, after which the estate was to be divided between Thomas and his three sisters.13 Six months later, on November 25th, 1832, his wife Jemima died at the age of 56 and was buried beside him.
(Source: Re Fisher Library Sydney University, “In Establishing and Maintaining A Library” http://setis.library.usyd.edu.au/ozlit/pdf/p00121.pdf)
Convict Changes History
Beth Kebblewhite on 12th August, 2019 made the following changes:
gender: m, crime
Beth Kebblewhite on 24th August, 2019 made the following changes:
date of birth: 1755 (prev. 0000), date of death: 7th May, 1832 (prev. 0000)