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Alexander Laing

Alexander Laing, one of 200 convicts transported on the Marquis of Wellington, August 1814

Name, Aliases & Gender

Name: Alexander Laing
Aliases: none
Gender: m

Birth, Occupation & Death

Date of Birth: 1791
Occupation: Music fiddler
Date of Death: 1868
Age: 77 years

Life Span

Life span

Male median life span was 55 years*

* Median life span based on contributions

Conviction & Transportation

Sentence Severity

Sentence Severity

Sentenced to 7 years

Crime: Stealing
Convicted at: Perth Court of Justiciary
Sentence term: 7 years
Ship: Marquis of Wellington
Departure date: August, 1814
Arrival date: 27th January, 1815
Place of arrival New South Wales
Passenger manifest Travelled with 201 other convicts


Primary source: Australian Joint Copying Project. Microfilm Roll 87, Class and Piece Number HO11/2, Page Number 174; Archives Office of Tasmania correspondence file on 'Alexander Laing'; ; NS1332/1/12 (Alexander Laing's diary); "The Scots Magazine" friday 1 October 1813 page 75
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

Robin Sharkey on 26th January, 2016 wrote:

Alexander Laing was Scottish, a soldier and later in Tasmania a District Police Constable in the Sorell district, but also. importantly, a musician (fiddler) and composer.

From Tasmanian Archives webpage on Alexander Laing
Alexander Laing appears to have been born in Forfarshire, Scotland in 1792 to John and Ann. His siblings were probably Elizabeth, Ann, Jannet, Isabel and Mary. He joined the army in 1810, was charged with stealing and transported to Van Diemen’s Land. He claims to have served 7 years as a soldier in the 22nd Gordon Highlanders and been present at the Battle of Salamanca in Spain in 1812.

He was tried on 29 September 1813 and sentenced to seven years and transported at the age of 23 on the ‘Marquis of Wellington’ to NSW and then on the ‘Emu’ to VDL arriving there in 1815..

On 19 March 1816 he married Esther Robertson.

In Tasmania in his later years, he kept a diary, and in 1867 he wrote some memoirs, which covered over his convict past.  Instead, as described in the book “Tasmania’s Convicts: How Felons Built a Free Society ” by Alison Alexander, at page 250, Laing recorded “... that he had signed up for 7 years with the Gordon Highlanders and received and honourable discharge in 1813; that he had then ‘engaged with a gentleman in Edinburgh to go out with him to Van Diemen’s Land as his gardener and overseer.’ However the true story was that he did enlist with Gordon Highlanders, but in 1813 was found guilty of theft and transported for seven years.  As well, he recorded that he worked for various employers in the Sorell District - which was true to some extent, but in reality he was an assigned servant. He was a constable in the 1820’s (still under sentence)  but not a Chief Constable as he claimed.

As Alison Alexander writes, in fact “he was employed as a constable and gaoler in various areas, married twice, fathered twelve children and composed musical pieces for the piano.  In his memoirs he told only of activities creditable to himself, and manufactured the rest based vaguely on reality.”

He was first assigned at “Nonesuch” at Wattle Hill, Tas. He got his Ticket of Leave and then in 1821 was appointed a Constable for Sorell, then later at Rcihmond and New Norfolk; and was also a warder at Port Arthur for a short time.

Laing described how he he chased a bushranger called Bumpy Jones. Laing’s group killed Jones, and then had to cut off his head to prove to the authorities that he was dead. Laing asked a stockkeeper to do the job, offering him a pound of tobacco as payment. ‘By Je—s says he I would cut off half a dozen heads for the tobacco.’ Laing carried Bumpy Jones’ head back to Hobart in a kangaroo-skin bag, and gained part of the reward. Rum was the currency, wrote Laing, and almost everyone ‘caught the Derwent fever’—drinking.

As a fiddler and musician, the book “On The Fiddle from Scotland to Tasmania 1815 - 1863 - the Life and Music of Tasmanian colonial fiddler Alexander Laing” records information about his music, It states “His vast repertoire featured over 60 original compositions including, Jigs, Strathspeys, Hornpipes, marches, Reels and waltzes. Many of these were dedicated to local personalities and their titles recall both the historical characters of early Tasmania and trace with their dates, the movement of Laing from one township to another over his career as a constable.”

Prior to his death in the 1868, Laing’s had assembled a manuscript of his original music, now located at the Tasmanian archives (TAHO NS548/1/1).

Robin Sharkey on 26th January, 2016 wrote:


From newspaper “The Scots Magazine Friday 1 September 1813

“Circuit Court, Perth
“Wednesday Sept 29th
” David Ritchie and Alexander Laing were brought to the bar on a charge of stealing, by means of pick-locks and false keys, from the house of Thomas Robb, vintner in Lirriemuir, £4 1s on the 15th August last.  The prisoners pleaded guilty to the charge, and after the usual forms, are sentenced to transportation for seven years.”

1st January 1841, Esther Laing, of Sorell, buried from Catholic Church, Richmond, Tasmania

30 June 1848 to widow Susan Giles BOUCHER.
Susan and married to Henry Boucher on 20 July 1833 under her maiden name of Susan Giles CROCKER. She was probably Susan Giles Crocker baptised 9 September 1817 at Ermington, Devon to John and Mary Crocker. Mary was formerly Mary Giles.
Susan and Henry Boucher had four children (Elenora Caroline, Arthur Robert Crocker Boucher, Henry Edward Boucher, and
and Charles Boucher) before Henry died on 23 October, 1843 Spring Bay.  This left Susan widowed, Alexander Laing being already a widower. They married five years later in 1848.

Robin Sharkey on 26th January, 2016 wrote:

Susan Giles Crocker had arrived in Tasmania as a girl of about 12 years with her parents John and Mary Crocker - they brought their seven children with them on the “Mary Anne” in October 1829.  John Crocker ascribed his name with other passengers of the ’ Mary Anne’  to a letter published in the Hobart Courier on 14/11/1829 p. 3, supporting the good management and gentlemanly conduct of the Captain towards him and his family “consisting of nine persons”.

The Crockers were farmers from Stroud, Ermington, Devon in England.  Several of the Crocker daughters besides Susan married in Tasmania. John Crocker Snr and some sons went on to New Zealand.

Robin Sharkey on 26th January, 2016 wrote:

His son Alexander Laing Junior was convicted of stealing four bullocks belonging to Henry Wade of Pittwater and sent to Port Arthur for seven years. Timothy Connors who was tied with him was acquitted. (Per Colonial Times Tues 5 April 1842, page 3).  His father Alexander, transported himself to Tasmanaia, must have wept.
Alex Jnr got 7 years transportation -  in Port Arthur. His Conduct Record (AOT 37/1 at page 136) says he was aged 25, a baker by trade, of Pittwater VDL, 5ft 9”, grey eyes & brown hair.  His 18 months o probation was to expire on 10 Nov 1843 but he was given an extra six months on his term of probation for misconduct. to expire on 10 April 1844.  On 13 May 1843 he’d been sent to Port Arthur. Ticket of Leave 18 July 1845 - must the have been made a constable like his father, and on
But 31 Oct 1845 attempting to defraud “another constable” of his share of a reward; to be dismissed from the police. Recommended for a Conditional Pardon 20 July 1847; Cond Pardon granted 9 January 1849 - when his sentence was only three months off expiring anyway.

Robin Sharkey on 26th January, 2016 wrote:


Alexander Laing originally went to Van Diemens Land on the ship “Emu” as the servant of John Drummond, accompanying him to Hobart. So did Esther “Roberts” who was in fact Esther Robertson who had arrived on “Northampton” in 1815 and was the female servant to the Drummond family, and who was the woman Alexander Laing married in 1816.
PER:  letter dated 12 July 1815 [Colonial Secretary’s Correpondence] from John Drummond to Governor Macquarie seeking permission for him, his wife, their child and Miss Mackellar [i.e. Lilias Mackellar] and Miss Isabella Mackellar to proceed to Hobart.

John Drummond had been appointed from London to the position of Naval Officer in Hobart and travelled from England to NSW with his family on the ship “Marquis of Wellington”, the same ship that Alexander Laing arrived on as a convict. Perhaps Drummond, who was the descendant of famed Scottish poet William Drummond of Hawthornden, Midlothian, and took over his own father’s interests there in Scotland. (per Australian Dictionary of Biography). Perhaps John Drummond noticed or met Alexander Laing, fellow Scotsman, educated and able to play the violin, on the voyage out. 
As well as Naval Officer at Hobart Town, he was appointed in July 1816 was appointed as Treasurer of the Police Fund, (Hobart Gazette 27/7/1816), with an office near Government House, Hobart. The Mackellar women who he referred to as moving to Hobart with the family were his wife’s sisters. Drummond had an affair with one of them, Lilias, who gave birth to his child in August 1817 (his wife having had a son on 2 July 1816 - see Hobart Gazette dated 6/7/1816 p 2. Lilias allegedly murdered the babe then, with John Drummond’s assistance and that of a female servant called Mary Evans (or Evers?) buried it at the burial ground in a box. Details in Hobart Gazette dated 30 Augsst 1817 page 2. All were committed for trial in Sydney. This servant was not Esther Roberts/Robertson, and Hobart Gazette 20 Sept 1817 page 1 reported their departure for Sydney for trial.  Drummond was dismissed by Governor Macquarie in December 1817, although he had been found not guilty at his December trial (per Hobart Gazette, 13 Dec 1817 page 1).  He remained in Sydney.  Alexander Laing and Esther Roberts had married in March 1816 and would by the time of these goings-on in the Drummond household, have needed to be re-assigned to new employers.

Maureen Withey on 19th February, 2021 wrote:

Tasmanian Record:  https://stors.tas.gov.au/CON13-1-1$init=CON13-1-1p44
List of Names of male and Female convicts, proceeding to the Derwent in H.M. Colonial Brig Emu.  Sydney 17 July 1815.

18 male convicts were listed as Government Artificers, (with a skilled trade) and 10 men and women were listed as servants, etc.

Listed under heading of “Servants &”
Alexander Laing, Servant to Mr Drummond, per Marquis of Wellington, 1815. Tried at Perth, 29 Sept 1813,  seven years.There is the number 1820/53,  which has been added to the record later, by his name.
Hester Roberts, Servant to Mr Drummond, per Northampton, 1815; tried at Warwick Aug 1814, Life or seven years.

Maureen Withey on 19th February, 2021 wrote:

Any persons haying lost the undermentioned Horses, may have them on application to the undersigned:— One light bay Horse about 14 hands high, white on the face, a white spot under the saddle, and short tail.
One dark bay Horse, white on the face, about 13½ hands high, near hind foot white, and a white spot under the saddle, short tail. The above, with a quantity of wearing apparel and provisions, were taken from Pearson a runaway yesterday, two and a half miles of this township.
ALEXANDER LAING, Chief District Constable.
Sorell-town, November 29, 1827.
Hobart Town Courier, 8 Dec 1827.

Convict Changes History

Robin Sharkey on 26th January, 2016 made the following changes:

source: Australian Joint Copying Project. Microfilm Roll 87, Class and Piece Number HO11/2, Page Number 174; Archives Office of Tasmania correspondence file on 'Alexander Laing'; ; NS1332/1/12 (Alexander Laing's diary); (prev. Australian Joint Copying Pro

Robin Sharkey on 26th January, 2016 made the following changes:

source: Australian Joint Copying Project. Microfilm Roll 87, Class and Piece Number HO11/2, Page Number 174; Archives Office of Tasmania correspondence file on 'Alexander Laing'; ; NS1332/1/12 (Alexander Laing's diary); "The Scots Magazine" friday 1 Octob

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