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John Townsend

** community contributed record **

Name, Aliases & Gender

Name: John Townsend
Aliases: none
Gender: m

Birth, Occupation & Death

Date of Birth: 1784
Occupation: Shoemaker
Date of Death: 14th January, 1813
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: Forgery
Convicted at: Ireland, Wicklow
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: eg. Australian Joint Copying Project. Microfilm Roll 87, Boyd convict indetns 1809; NSW Col Sec correspondence, incoming, AOReel 6043; Sydney gazettes of 23/3/1811; 23/1/1813
Source description:

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Community Contributions

Robin Sharkey on 5th February, 2015 wrote:

* John Townsend was aged 25 departing on the “Boyd” convict ship from Ireland in 1809.
* Shoemaker by trade (from statement in Sydney Gazette on his execution)
* Crime - Robbed post bills out of the mail at Wicklow and forged an endorsement on one.
* In NSW he was sent, by the year 1811, to Tasmania where he ran off from government employ and committed a robbery in the house of William Parish well outside Hobart. 
* He was charged with robbery of Wm Parish’s house but escaped and ran off into the Tasmanian bush with his co-accused, fellow irishman John McCabe (per Tellicherry on 1806)
* Living off the bush. they then had a price put on their heads for capture. This encouraged a small group of bushrangers to track them down so as to earn their own pardons. 
Executed on 14 january 1813 in Hobart.

PROVING IDENTITY - No document referred below ties the “Boyd” John Townsend specifically to the executed Tasmanian convict; however the other two men of the same name, one per “Anne” in 1806 and one per ‘Scarborough” in 1790 are accounted for alive in the 1814 muster. Further, the Boyd’s John Townsend disappears from the records after his execution date.

Freemans Journal, March 1807
WICKLOW ASSIZES - March 17. The assizes ended here this day.  John Townsend was indicted and found guilty of uttering a forged endorsement on a post bill which was robbed out of the mail, and ordered to be executed on [Saturday] the 4th April next. This man was acquitted upon several indictments for robbing the mail - he was recommended by the Jury as an object of Mercy.

Departed Ireland March 1809, arrived August 1809 NSW

Possibly he was the NSW runaway John Townsend in the notice below, this being the reason why he was sent to Tasmania:

Sydney Gazette, 23 March 1811 page 1
ALL Persons are hereby cautioned against harbouring, encouraging, secreting, employing John Townsend, my indented Servant, he having absented himself from my service, as any Person so doing after this Public Notice will be regorously prosecuted, by me JOHN RAMSAY Field of Mars, March 22 1811  
(NOTE: Could be John Townsned per Anne in 1810)

1811 Muster -Transported from NSW to Hobart
No record in tasmanian Convict records.

September1812 - robbed the house of a settler outside Hobart Town named William Parrish

AO Reel 6043
Peter Gorrie’s (Convict) Handwritten letter Dated 25 September 1812:

[written as spelled]
“This is what I, Peter Gorrie, have got to declare as being guilty of robery of Willim Parish on the 25th September 1812. [illegible] the innocence of Thomas Courne (?) & Joseph Coney as not being in the robery no more than the child unborn as for Joseph Poncy I Did not see that night the robbery was conneted as for john McCabe & John Townsend finding me intoxicated took the opertunety of makeing me go with them an they told me that they intended to have thomas Connor also only he being too drunk as for Tho Parish Deposing too fSix men Being in the Robery the way only then is to declare before god and the [illegible] before I depart this life as I have nearly made up my mind with god almighty I declare the truth.
Peter Gorrie
(he was sometime called Geary)

Next letter in series states:
Parish’s house is 3/4 mile from Hobart Town was attacked between 9 & 10 o’clock at night on 25th Sept 1812 Parish saw Thos Conor & Joseph Poney once before the 25th of Sept (illegible) Parish swears to Thos Conor being one of those who broke into his home but cannot swear to the persons of the other two soldiers.
loldress __
Mrs Parish swears to the persons of the three soldiers having been in the house in the night of 25th September and robbing and assaulting her . Conor (illegible)
James Parish swears to the person of Joseph Poney as one of the robbers who attacked his father’s house on 25 Sept 1812. Chas Parish cannot identify any of the Prisoners.
Chas Clark cannot swear to the persons of the men who committed the robbery excepting McCabe. The clothes from Parish’s house are found in the Barracks occupied by Conor & Gorrie,
BY Sargt, Toome
(NSW Col Sec records - Main Series of Letters Received)


Whereas Two notorious and desperate Offenders, John McCabe and John Townsend, Convicts, lately fully committed for trial by a Bench of Magistrates, for Robbery n the Dwelling House of William Parish gave broke from the place of their confinement and effected their escape.

THIS is to give NOTICE that Government hereby offers Reward of FITY GUINEAS and Free passage to Port Jackson in one of the vessels now lying in the Harbour (and if a Prosoner a strong recommendation to His Excellency the Governor in Chief, for a Free Pardon) to any Person or Persons who shall secure the said two Villains, or give such information as may lead to their Apprehension.

And Further, that all persons who shall be found harbouring, aiding, or assisting them will be prosecuted with the utmost rigour of the Law.

Government House,)
Hobart-town )  by Order of the Commandant
Oct 17, 1812 )


Petition dated December 20th 1812 from : Thomas tombs, James Carrett and Wiliam Thompson
“TO: Major Geils, the 73rd Regiment Commandant of Van Diemens Land
The humble Petition of Thomas Tombs, James Carrett and William Thompson, Prisoners for Life,  Most humbly sheweth
“That your Petitioners are of that unfortunate description of person named bushrangers who never were guilty of any outrage since their arrival in this country, and whose crime arises in deserting from their Government employ - preferring a life of quiet in the bush to that of Governmentemply.

“That your petitioners at the time of their desertion fled to the western mountains from thence towards Cape Barren and to the straits far from either settlements where, one hundred and eighty miles from this and one hundred from Port Dalrymple and there lived upon the casual supply furnished by their dogs, sooner than interfere with the peaceable and well disposed part of the community.

“That your petitioners returning from the Straits towards Oyster Bay fell in with two men collecting seal skins who informed them that they had now a fair opportunity of availing themselves of a Pardon, as there was a proclamation issued by Your Honor for the detention of John McCabe andJohn Townsend, two most notorious offenders as specified in it. being tree of a life which afforded nothing but Emue and Kangaroo and that sometimes a precarious supply, and afraid to return knowing the punishment we deserved, we determined however desperate the attempt to hunt them all over the Island been 9??) our lives bringing them in to obtain that blessing offer (of a pardon) we enquired of the two men, who gave us the information, what part of the country we might go in quest of them - the men replied the last time they were head of, they were at New Norfolk where they were seen by a Government Stock Keeper named King in the act of firing among the Government men.

“The step we had before us was a desperate one - how to avoid the soldiers and fall in with them, We however travelled forty miles from the lower part of Oyster Bay towards New Norfolk as necessity required we should keep as clear as possible of the district and at Peopers (?) Plains being after a morning hunt and returning with two kangaroos to when rekindled a fire one of your petitioners (Graved Thompson) fortunately fell in with them - he knew McCabe at Sidney - and after some conversation sought to prevail upon him to join petitioner’s companions which both of them positively refused.  The next day however, your petitioners contrived to fall in with them and found they were well prepared with muskets and ammunition and knowing them to be desperate men and we only three ill provided, it was xx your petitioners should act causiously [sic] we remained with them a few days and found means to divide them when we secured both with kangaroo cord and conducted them to town.

Petitioners relying on Your Honour’s proclamation most humbly beg that you will condescend to tend your influence on their behalf with his Excellency the Goveror in Chief of New South Wales for which Your Petitioners will ever pray in Duty Bound.
Hobart Town
December 20th 1812.

Signed by Thomas Tombs and the marks of James Carrett and William Thompson


The prisoners would have had to be taken by ship from Tasmania back up to Sydney as there was no judge in Hobart to try them on a criminal matter.
* Judge Ellis Bent write to Governor Macquarie as follows (undated, but would be January 1813):

“After two days of severe labour I have closed the proceedings of the Criminal Court at its present sittings, adjourned since Dec.  The Minutes of the proceedings will be sent for Your perusal tomorrow morning ad I will do my self the pleasure of waiting upon you at the same time before I get to the Civil Court.  I have been under the necessity of passing sentence of death on McCabe and Townshend [sic] who both conducted themselves with much propriety and showed masks of contrition, & admitted its [cannot decipher].
I have the honor to remain, my dear sir, Very humbly Yours,
Ellis Bent”

Sydney Gazette, Saturday 23 January 1813
“On Thursday morning last [i.e. 14 January 1813] John McCabe, John Townsend, and Peter Gory, three of the five criminals convicted of the robbery at arms of William Parish, near Hobart Town, were executed pursuant to their sentence. The unhappy three were taken from the gaol a little after seven o’clock, accompanied by the other two who also received sentence of death upon the same charge, and appeared to entertain a deep sense of their condition. McCabe and Gory acknowledged the justice of their sentence at the place of execution, the former adding at the same time that he had committed many previous offences for      
which he deserved most awfully to atone, then hoped his miserable end would warn others from falling into lawless courses, and supplicated the spectators to pray for his departing soul.

“Townsend remained silent, and appeared to endure much mental agony. Regardless of surrounding objects, his thoughts seemed buried within himself, and now and then a gleam of horror saddened his pale cheek!  About a quarter before nine they ascended the vehicle from which they were to be ushered into an everlasting state, and in a few seconds afterwards they were left suspended.

” Thus, have three unhappy fellow-creatures in the prime of life been cut short of their existence by their crimes, which in the instance of Gory were brought on by an incautious use of spirituous liquors, which soon became habitual, and leading him into a course of extravagance which his circumstances were altogether unable to support, accelerated his ruin by introducing him into bad company, with whose manners and vices he became familiarized, and quite the altered man. Of Townshend we know little more that that he was by trade a shoemaker, and once esteemed an industrious sober man.

” With the character of McCabe few persons in Sydney are altogether unacquainted. He was certainly considered by the Officers of Police one of the most hardened and determined depredators that have ever distinguished themselves in crime. Before he was sent from hence to the Derwent he was supposed and frequently known to be the secret spring and guide of nearly every offence that was committed, and a participator in the   general spoil. Although his maturer life had been an uninterrupted career of sin, yet he met his death with resignation, and it is most fervently to be desired, with a hope of mercy in the world to come.

Conditional Pardons were indeed given to Thoams (alias James) Carrett and Thomas Tombs both (per “Calcutta”), Conditional Pardon on 31st January 1813. Carrett was known to have treated the Aborigines at Tasmania’s Oyster Bay appallingly (evidence of Hobbs to Tasmanian Aboriginal Commission in March 1830) yet was given a land grant in 1823.

Convict Changes History

Robin Sharkey on 5th February, 2015 made the following changes:

convicted at, term: 99 years, voyage, source: eg. Australian Joint Copying Project. Microfilm Roll 87, Boyd convict indetns 1809; NSW Col Sec correspondence, incoming, AOReel 6043; Sydney gazettes of 23/3/1811; 23/1/1813 (prev. ), firstname: John, surname

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