This research traced individual offenders as far forwards and backwards in their life as records allowed. These offenders were sampled from the Old Bailey between 1816-1850. Of those transported to Van Diemen’s Land, what is perhaps unsurprising is the sheer variety of life paths. This blog will outline 2 opposing examples to highlight the uniqueness of these paths.
This blog is about the lives and criminal careers of James McAllister and James Hudson.
If you are looking at criminal desistance, by anyone’s standards, James McAllister was not successful. He was executed in Australia. James Hudson on the other hand fared better – he died surrounded by family aged 91.
Born in 1827 James McAllister was brought to trial in 1842 for sealing 60 pence in money, aged 14. He was sentenced to 7 years transportation while his accomplice, aged 16, was sentenced to 2 months imprisonment. There were no former convictions mention in his trial, however his conduct record states that he stole loaves for which he received 3 weeks, and a waistcoat for which he spent another 14 days in the house of correction. Also of note is that he was admitted to the Workhouse twice in the couple of years prior to his Old Bailey appearance and was described as having “no home”.
His conduct records confirm what this phrase suggests – while he did have 2 brothers and 2 aunts in London – he had no parents at this time. He did have employment as a mariner and/or labourer at some point too.
But clearly he had a difficult start and as such he could neither read nor write – he was also hesitant in his speech. Even at the time of his death he was described as being able to read and write very imperfectly. With regards to behaviour he was described as “orderly” on board the Euryalus and “good” by the ships surgeon during the voyage.
Born at the earlier date of 1819, James Hudson was convicted when he was 13 years of age also of theft – he stole a soldering iron worth 18 pence – resulting in a sentence of 7 years transportation. Both Hudson and McAllister pleaded guilty but Hudson was actually prosecuted by his father Joseph Hudson. His father was a whitesmith, but his mother had died by this point and he has at least one younger sibling.
Hudson waited 21 months on the Euryalus before his transportation following his trial. This may have been because while on the hulk he suffered from an acute, bacterial skin infection. He also suffered from icterus during the voyage – but was soon discharged. Conversely, McAllister only waited 5 months until he sailed on the Asiatic. But like McAllister, Hudson was reportedly ordered and good while in confinement. I could however find no previous convictions for Hudson. In fact, 69% of those prosecuted by their families, who were sentenced to transportation, were actually sent.
Arriving in Hobart in 1843, McAllister was put on probation for 2 years at Point Puer. While some juveniles have filled pages and pages of offences while under sentence – the most I have is 84 separate offences – McAllister committed one offence (there were only 2 others who committed one offence). His offence was “Misconduct in being concealed in the enclosed yard of Mr. Johnson for some unlawful purpose” in 1849 while a Ticket of Leave man. This was 6 years after his arrival. This ticket of leave he had only just received that year. He was given 3 months hard labour and ordered not to reside in Hobart Town. He finally received his Certificate of Freedom in 1850 after 76 months in the colony. It would seem to be a great start but just 5 years later he found himself in Melbourne Gaol awaiting Execution for the murder of Jane Jones.
Arriving in 1833 on the Isabella Hudson similarly only notched up 2 very minor offences while under sentence the first being “neglecting to deliver his pass and with making a false statement” for which he got 1 months hard labour and removed from his service to Port Arthur, and the second was insolence for which he was admonished. He committed no non-regulatory offences and received a ticket of leave in 1837 after 48 months in the colony.
I cannot find a certificate of freedom – but of course he was freed and made his way to Adelaide. There he married Mercy Abbot at the Native School Encounter Bay in 1846 after 147 months in the colony. He was 27 while Mercy was just 17. He worked for some time as a whaler but after his marriage he settled down to a trade of shoemaker at Encounter bay. He later turned his hand to farming.
Like McAllister, Hudson made the papers on numerous occasions but for very different reasons. In 1855, when McAllister was awaiting his execution, Hudson was converted under exceptional circumstances. The only religious service in the place was conducted by a young Congregational minister in a barn. An intelligent lad of 4 years attended the Sunday school with other members of Mr. Hudson’s family and he often entertained his parents by mimicking the teacher and preacher. A sudden illness over took the lad and he felt that he would not recover, and in his childish way he gave evidence of a knowledge of spiritual things as only one taught of God could do. This converted him and then he went on to help many by god working through him. After a strenuous life he secured a modest competency and settled in Whitwarta. The writer of the newspaper article wrote that from the letters he had revived from Hudson he knew he was of pure Christian sentiment and had extensive knowledge of God’s work.
McAllister had made his way to Melbourne in this time had worked as a labourer and is also described as a carpenter. The papers stating he had adopted the most disreputable means of getting a living since he has been in this colony. Eventually he began to run a lodging hose. He was not married and had no children known of. He had, however, cohabited for 2 years with Jane Jones prior to shooting her. Jane was shot at the Exchange Hotel on 21st of March last and died in hospital on a later date of her injuries. The deceased made a disposition before she died and it said among other things that the prisoner was not the father of the child that the prisoner had asked her to go back and live with him, she refused as he had formerly kept a brothel. In fact, a month prior to the evening of the shooting Jane had left James to live with another man named Thomas Chisholm, an article clerk. Jane had informed Chisholm that James had ill-used and threatened her. Jane and Thomas Chisholm had to move lodgings because they saw James watching Jane. On one occasion he stopped her in the street and took her child from her and struck her. Consequently, James was summoned before the City Police Court and he was ordered to give the child back to the mother.
On the night of the incident Chisholm was out and on returning he saw James who levelled a pistol at him – and fired. Fortunately for him the bullet merely grazed his temple, sending him falling backwards. At this point Thomas begun to get up when he heard the retort of another pistol. James had shot Jane. James at first tried to run, but a waiter stopped him and he then surrendered himself declaring “I am the murderer”. It was noted that Jane was shot in her shoulder, but what was missed was that she also had a bullet lodged in her spinal cord which caused paralysis and death. Jane was only 22 years old and described as “of plain appearance” while James was described as “respectable looking”. At trial the defence admitted the act but stated it was only manslaughter because he could not be held responsible for his actions because he was provoked. The provocation being that he was made furious because the deceased Jane was in all intents and purposes his wife and had eloped. And in seeing the man who had taken her, he was not able to control his actions. The judge disagreed – pointing out that he could see no provocation for manslaughter and nothing to suppose they were as good as married. The jury returned a verdict of wilful murder against James McAllister. He was executed at Melbourne Gaol.
About 500 persons were present outside the gaol to witness the execution. No body but the officials were allowed to be present in the walls at the time of the execution. He apparently approached his death with resignation, in consonance with his general behaviour since his condemnation. Said to have conducted himself with, humility and apparent penitence, he expressed no hope of pardon in this world. There was reported to have been a cast of his head after death taken by an artist – Mr. Pardoe.
Hudson and his wife Mercy on the other hand went on to have 12 children. He died in Whitwarta, Gilbert, South Australia in 1910 at the grand age of 91– presumably of old age. James Hudson’s death also resulted in what was described as a “large assemblage” at his burial at Balaklava Cemetery. By special request of the deceased the funeral service was read by James Sampson who was an old and intimate friend. Mr. Hudson was described in the papers as one of the oldest residences of Whitwarta, and was widely known and esteemed. He left behind his wife, who was several years younger. Having been married for 64 years he left behind at 5 living sons and 1 daughter, 40 grandchildren and 18 great grandchildren. One son sadly only survived his father by 4 days – leaving his ageing mother having to rush from the burial of her husband to the death bed of her son. Nevertheless, the life Hudson led left him repeatedly in the papers because of the legacy he left in his children and later grand children who mentioned him every time they got married or had children.
While James Hudson and James McAllister are, I believe, very interesting case studies they mean little in isolation. In order to make sense of these diverging pathways, they need to be analysed in aggregate. So while contextualising these offenders is important, so to is investigating trends quantitatively.