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William Fortune

William Fortune, one of 230 convicts transported on the Dudbrook, 17 November 1852

Name, Aliases & Gender

Name: William Fortune
Aliases: none
Gender: m

Birth, Occupation & Death

Date of Birth: 1832
Occupation: Saddler
Date of Death: -
Age: -

Life Span

Life span

Male median life span was 56 years*

* Median life span based on contributions

Conviction & Transportation

Sentence Severity

Sentence Severity

Sentenced to 7 years

Crime: Stealing
Convicted at: Central Criminal Court
Sentence term: 7 years
Ship: Dudbrook
Departure date: 17th November, 1852
Arrival date: 7th February, 1853
Place of arrival Western Australia
Passenger manifest Travelled with 234 other convicts


Primary source: Australian Joint Copying Project. Microfilm Roll 92, Class and Piece Number HO11/17, Page Number 560. Own family history research, Ancestry.
Source description: 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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Community Contributions

Maureen Goldenstein on 18th February, 2018 wrote:

William married Annie O’Donnell in Perth in April 1860.He was allowed to leave Western Australia in 1862, at which time he moved to New South Wales with his wife and son. In 1865 an arrest warrant was issued, for his desertion of his wife and children, he was believed to be in Victoria. In 1868 he is in Queensland but no further record of him can be found.

tonycocks1 on 18th February, 2018 wrote:

William Fortune was born c1830 probably in London.

Nothing is known of his childhood and early life until he was summoned to appear at the Central Criminal Court (Old Bailey) on 20/09/1847 accused of ‘Larceny in a Dwelling House”, found guilty and sentenced to 7 years transportation.  Then aged 17 he had been employed as a Harness Maker He was initially received at Millbank Prison as part of the standard interim holding arrangements and subsequently on 19/08/1847 transferred to Parkhurst Prison.  The Goaler’s admission report commented that he had been “Before convicted”, was single and could read and write imperfectly.  He was discharged from the prison on 16/08/1850 and “Delivered to the County Police”.
The reason behind this discharge was explained in a report by The Times published on 15/08/1850:

                                                COWES, August 15

      Yesterday five juvenile convicts, named William Saunderson, William Fortune,
    William Pearce, Thomas Knott, and Frederick Grimes, underwent a lengthened
    examination , before the Rev. R.W. White, Captain Swinburn, R.N., and several
    other magistrates, at Parkhurst Prison, charged with having wilfully set fire to the
    convict establishment on the night of the 30th July last, whereby one of the wings
    of the prison was totally destroyed.
    The main evidence against the prisoners was adduced by Mr. Shirlaw, the
    deputy-governor of the prison.  He stated that, after the fire was extinguished
    information was brought to him, on which he ordered the prisoners into
    confinement in separate dark cells.  On the following morning the prisoner
    Grimes sent for witness, saying he wished to see him.  Witness went, in company
    with the chaplain of the prison, and told the prisoner to be careful what he had to
    say, as he was charged, with others, on suspicion of having set the gaol on fire. 
    The prisoner made no reply, and witness and the chaplain went away, but the next
    day the prisoner again requested their attendance, when he made the following
    confession to them:-  He said, on the Tuesday preceding the fire he was at work
    on the land, when Knott showed him a flint and steel, and told him they were
    going to set fire to the C dormitory.  They had previously talked about it, as it
    would enable themto get out, and it was arranged that he was to do it.  Pearce and
    Fortune (the other prisoners) were there; they gave him some leaves which they had torn out of the Chapel bibles, prayers, and hymn books.  These he was to place in the ventilator of his cell, together with some shirts and sheets which they had got concealed, and at 12 o’clock that night the job was to be done.  He attempted to fire the prison that night, but illness prevented him.  The next day they again all met, when they drew lots who was to do it.  Several pieces of straw were got and the one that drew the shortest straw was to do it.  Knott drew the shortest, but said it was not a fair draw.  When they got back to the ward they drew lots again, when it fell to his (Grimes’) lot.  This was on the evening of the 30th July.  He (the prisoner) laid quietly in bed in his cell till 12 o’clock; he then got up and climbed up the ventilator, and having laid in it the sheets and shirts he   ignited some prepared tinder and laid it in them and they instantly blazed up.  He had no difficulty getting out of the cell, having a night or two previously taken one of the batons off the door.  He ran out immediately, and went downstairs to one of the warder’s rooms, calling fire as he went along.  Finding the iron gates locked he made his escape from the building by dropping out of the officer’s window, and held a light of Mr. Naldred’s while he let the boys out.  Mr. Shirlaw added that the other prisoners had also made voluntary confessions, and all of them confirmed Grimes in his statement.  Several convicts were examined.  They were aware of the prisoners’ plan to fire the prison, but never thought they would have carried it into execution.  Some of them were dragged out of the cells by he warders, and appeared to have had a truly miraculous escape from being burnt to death.  At the close of evidence the magistrates committed the whole of the prisoners to   Winchester Gaol for trial at the next assizes.

William Fortune and the other prisoners appeared at the Hampshire Lent Assizes on 01/03/1851 and the trial proceedings were reported in The Hampshire and Southampton County Paper published on 08/03/1851:

      Frederick Grimes, Thomas Knott, Wm. Fortune, William Saunderson and William Pearce, were indicted for having on the 31st July, at the parish of Carisbroke, in the Isle of Wight, set fire to a certain building, the property of   Her Majesty.  Mr. Crowder and Mr. Phinn were counsel for the prosecution: and Mr. C. Smith appeared for Knott.
      The prisoners were convicts in Parkhurst Prison.  On the night of the 31st July,
in consequence of loud knocking in one of the cells of the prison, and cries of “Fire”, one of the warders got up, and then discovered a fire raging in the roof of one of the cells.  The warder unlocked several of the cell doors as fast as possible, and called upon the prisoners generally to break open their cell doors, which many of them did.  Some suspicion having been excited Grimes was placed in a dark cell.  On the following day he sent a message to Mr. Shirlaw, the deputy governor, who went to him and Grimes then asked Mr. Shirlaw to let him out, which was refused.  He then said he did not deny that he was concerned in setting fire to the prison, and if he was taken out of the dark cell
he would tell all about it.  Mr. Shirlaw refused to let him out, but told him if he had anything to say it would be taken down, and used against him.  He then said that on the Thursday he was employed on the land with some other   convicts; that one of them Saunderson saw a piece of flint, and said that would do, and that they were going to set C Ward on fire; that he(Grimes) was to do it; he went downstairs to get a dirty shirt from Pearce, and got some other shirts which had been placed where he could get them.  He put these in the ventilator, and tried to set them on fire, but the current of air was too strong, and he was glad of it.  The other convicts wished him to set it on fire on Monday night, but he was not well, and could not do it.  On the Thursday when at work they drew lots with straw as to which of them should do it. 
The lot fell on Pearce, but it was not considered by them to be a fair draw, and therefore they drew again, and the lot fell on Grimes.  Knott gave him a match with some tinder.  He remained quietly in his cell till half-past eleven o’clock, when he wrapped the tinder round the match, and tied it with some thread.  He got on top of the cells, the struck the light, and all was in a blaze in a minute.  He then gave an alarm of fire, and ran downstairs, but afterwards got out of the officer’s window.  Knott had also made a statement that Pearce had asked him to get a match for him, and he had procured one off another convict.  He gave it to Pearce, who then told him they were going to set the prison on fire.  They drew lots.  Fortune said he would place some dirty shirts in a cell, where Grimes might get them.  Saunderson procured some leaves from their Bibles and Prayer-books and Knott got the match.  Grimes got out of his cell by
removing a batten.  They got six sheets from one of the officer’s rooms.  The match had been taken from one of the officer’s rooms.  This story was corroborated by several of the convicts.  The whole of the interior of the
dormitory was burnt.  The learned Chief Baron told the jury that the statements of the prisoners who made them could only have an effect as regarded themselves, and were not evidence against the other parties. The Jury found Grimes guilty, but acquitted the other prisoners.  He was sentenced to 15 years transportation.

There is no indication in which prison William Fortune continued to serve his sentence, but certainly there is no record of his returning to Parkhurst Prison.  He was eventually transported aboard the “Dudbrook”, which sailed from Plymouth on 22/11/1852 for the Swan River Colony, Western Australia, and he finally disembarked at the port of Fremantle on 02/02/1853.  He was granted a Ticket of Leave immediately upon arrival and a Conditional Pardon 18 months later on 19/09/1854, although this date is coincidental with completion of his servitude. 

Less than four months later he is alleged to have re-offended, according to a report in
The Perth Gazette and Independent Journal of Politics and News published on 05/01/1855:

      William Fortune, charged with stealing 2 ½ yards of serge, the property of Charles von Bibra.  Charles von Bibra is a saddler in Perth; the prisoner has been in my employ for some months.  In consequence of suspecting his honesty I one day searched his bedroom; upwards of twelve months ago I had a large piece of double twilled serge sent out from England through Mr. Dyett.  On searching the bed I found
the serge shirt produced underneath the mattress, which I can swear to the best of my belief is part of the serge I received from Mr. Dyett.  I left the shirt there and fetched Sergeant Throssell who searched prisoner’s room; the shirt was not where I left it, but on breaking open his box we found it in it.  I asked prisoner where he had bought the serge, and with some hesitation he replied at Mr. Dyett’s at 2s.4d. a yard.  I missed serge of the same kind on other occasions while prisoner was in my employ.
      Cross-examined by prisoner -  I never saw in this colony such serge as that produced before I received the piece from Mr. Dyett.
      By the Jury -  I never sold any of the serge except manufactured in my trade.
      Sergeant Throssell confirmed Mr.Bibra’s evidence as to finding the shirt; the other shirt produced was upon the prisoner.
      Edward Newman -  I carry on Mr. Dyett’s business.  With the exception of
the piece of serge delivered to Mr. Bibra, Mr. Dyett has never had any double milled serge; such serge would have been retailed at least 3s.4d. a yard.  Mr. Dyett has common kinds of serge on sale.
      Louise Bignell made the shirt produced for the prisoner who gave me the piece that was left for my trouble.
      In his defence the prisoner said he bought the serge at Mr. Dyett’s at 2s.6d. a yard.
      The prisoner was acquitted.

Exactly twelve months afterwards William Fortune was once again on trial at the Perth Quarter Sessions as reported by The Perth Gazette and Independent Journal of Politics and News on 04/01/1856:

      William Fortune, charged with stealing a seal, the property of William Coupland, at Toodyay -  Verdict -  Guilty.  Sentence -  7 years transportation.

He gained his Ticket of Leave on 29/03/1859 and in 1860 was given permission to marry 28 year old Anna Maria O’Donnell, who had been born in Middlesex.  The marriage took place that year in Perth and the following year their first child, John Joseph, was born in Perth.  On 23/06/1862 the couple were allowed to leave the colony.

D Wong on 18th February, 2018 wrote:

William Fortune was 21 years old on arrival, he was single, 5’3” tall, sandy hair, hazel eyes, fair complexion, proportionate build, cut on left wrist and on left thumb.

There is a death listed on:http://austcemindex.com/inscription?id=5584395#images
William Fortune - adult - died 18.2.1878 at Forbes, NSW.

Convict Changes History

Maureen Goldenstein on 18th February, 2018 made the following changes:

source: Australian Joint Copying Project. Microfilm Roll 92, Class and Piece Number HO11/17, Page Number 560. Own family history research, Ancestry. (prev. Australian Joint Copying Project. Microfilm Roll 92, Class and Piece Number HO11/17, Page Number 56

D Wong on 18th February, 2018 made the following changes:

date of birth: 1832 (prev. 0000)

This record was discovered and printed on ConvictRecords.com.au