Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Ticket-of-Leave Men Behaving Badly

The “Ticket of Leave” system in the colony allowed convicts who had served part of their sentence to take up paid work with allocated employers.  The practice was rigorously regulated and misbehaving Ticket of Leave men often found themselves before the courts.

Ticket of Leave

Some Ticket of Leave men found it difficult to discard old habits when given even limited freedom.

TICKET-OF-LEAVE SUSPENDED.-At-the Police office, yesterday, John Wilkinson, holding a ticket-of-leave, was placed at the bar, and underwent an examination before the Magistrates touching a charge that had been brought against him for having attempted to break into the premises of Mr. Thornton, on Thursday week last. -After a severe reprimand from the Police Magistrate, his ticket-of-leave was taken from him, and he was informed it would be recommended that it should be cancelled.[1]

Others found it difficult to suffer the yoke of regular employment.

BREACH OF THE MASTERS AND SERVANTS' ACT. -At the Police-office, yesterday, a man named Matthew Hatton, holding a ticket-of-leave, and employed as an Innkeeper at Mr. Barker's station on the Logan River, appeared before the Bench to answer the charge preferred against him of disobedience of orders, neglect of duty, and threatening the life of the overseer, on the 22nd instant. The Bench ordered the defendant to be mulcted of the wages due to him, and, at the request of Mr. Barker, his agreement was cancelled.[2]

In June 1847, strange goings-on were afoot at a house in Kangaroo Point in Brisbane.

Early View of Kangaroo Point, Brisbane

A Skulk[3]. - At the Police-office, on Tuesday, a man named Owen Malkin, a ticket-of-leave holder, was placed at the bar, charged with being unlawfully on the premises of Mr. Edward Lord, at Kangaroo Point, on the night of the 14th inst.

Mr. Lord stated that about ten o'clock, Mrs. Fletcher, who with her family were at present residing in his house, were about retiring to rest, and had gone to her bedroom, when she immediately returned in a state of great excitement, and informed him that one of her daughters had discovered a man under the bed.

He immediately went into Mrs. Fletcher's room, and found the prisoner doubled up under the bed. Mr. Lord then pulled him out, and pushed him off the premises. A constable was sent for, and directed to search the Point for the prisoner, who was shortly afterwards found standing by the fire at the brick-kiln, about a mile distant from Mr. Lord's house. [4]

The motive behind this bedroom outrage was soon made known by the interloper himself.  It seems he was previously an employee of the widow’s late husband, and he meant to seek revenge for his mistreatment.

He was immediately taken into custody, and on his way to the lock-up made allusion to the late Mr. Fletcher, saying that "he triumphed over him." He also said that Mr. Fletcher had caused him to be flogged, and that he had told him he would come to poverty himself, and that now his words were verified. The prisoner, moreover, was heard to say that he would "triumph" over this night, and would have his revenge. The prisoner was perfectly sober at the time.[5]

The Death Notice of Mr. Fletcher (The Moreton Bay Courier 2 January 1847)

Apparently the convict had been frequenting the house for some time, ingratiating himself with the dog so that he could skulk about the house without the canine alerting the household.

Mr. Lord also informed the Magistrates that about ten days ago the prisoner applied to him to rent a farm, and that he went with him to the Rev. Mr. Hanly, who was to be his witness to the agreement.   He was constantly coming to his house under the plea of getting the lease signed, until at length he was obliged to tell him that he did not like his coming about the house so frequently, and he was desired to keep away.

His object in visiting the house, in the opinion of Mr. Lord, was that he might become acquainted with the dog. The room, in which the prisoner was found, is at the extreme end of the verandah, up one pair of stairs, and when pulled out from under the bed, he had a heavy stock whip in his hand.

Unable to offer any defence to the court, the skulk was soon on his way back to Sydney Gaol, minus his Ticket of Leave.

The prisoner made no defence, but stated that he was totally ignorant of the transaction. The Bench deeming him to be a rogue and a vagabond, sentenced him to six months' imprisonment, with hard labour, in the Sydney Goal, and stated that his ticket-of-leave would be recommended to be cancelled.[6]

© K. C. Sbeghen, 2012.

[1] The Moreton Bay Courier 1.5.1847
[2] The Moreton Bay Courier 30.1.1847
[3] One who moves in a stealthy or sneaking fashion, so as to escape notice. OED
[4] The Moreton Bay Courier 19.6.1847
[5] The Moreton Bay Courier 19.6.1847
[6] The Moreton Bay Courier 19.6.1847

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