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Thursday, 7 August 2014

Whose mug is that?





As far as I know, none of my ancestors found themselves on the wrong side of the law, but I've selected a few photos here that look a bit like mug shots to me. They come from an old album of cartes de visites that originally belonged to my great grandmother's brother Frederick William Young, who won the album as a prize in the 1880s. None of the photos are named, and we've only been able to tentatively identify a small number of them.While they're mostly not staring straight at the camera, they look none too happy to be posing for their photographs and a couple have rather a spaced out look about them.







This last photograph above, and possibly one of the others also, is believed to be of Alexander John Paterson, a half brother of my great grandfather Charles Forbes. After her first husband died leaving her with five children, my 2x great grandmother Mary Forbes nee Anderson married again and had a further seven children with her second husband Charles Paterson. Alexander was their fifth child, born in Ballater Aberdeenshire in 1858. The family emigrated to Canterbury New Zealand when he was aged about two. It appears that Alexander was mentally disabled and possibly physically impaired to some degree also and couldn't take care of himself. In 1898 after his father died he was admitted to what was known as the Sunnyside Lunatic Asylum, where he died the following year, aged 40. Apparently he had once tied himself to the railway tracks waiting for a train to come. I was given this information about Alexander by a descendant of Mary Paterson through one of her daughters, who has viewed Alexander's Sunnyside file. 
 Sunnyside was the first asylum built  in Christchurch and you can read more about its history here. I imagine it was anything but sunny!  One famous inmate who spent some years there was the well-known NZ writer Janet Frame, who has written about her experiences there in her autobiography 'An Angel at my Table" and also in a novel called "Faces in the Water". I remember reading that story many years ago and being appalled by the treatment that was described by the author in graphic detail. 

I don't think there are any true criminals or convicts in my tree, but I do feel sort of responsible for one William Hollingsworth Butler, because it was as a result of the evidence given by my 3x great grandfather Thomas Key that William aged 16 was convicted of the felony of stealing, for which he was given a ten year sentence and transported to Australia in 1840. The case is detailed below in the proceedings of the Old Bailey of 2 March 1840:

"THOMAS KEY - A VICTIM OF THEFT 
PROCEEDINGS OF THE OLD BAILEY 
2 MARCH 1840 
 William Hollingsworth Butler was indicted for stealing, on the 14th of February, 1 oz. weight of cotton, value 3d.; 4 oz. weight of thread, value 9d.; 18 yards of tape, value 9d.; and 12 balls of cotton, value 6d., the goods of Thomas Key; and that he had been before convicted of felony.
THOMAS KEY. I live at Praed-street, Paddington, and am a labourer - my wife [Jane Key] keeps a toy-shop, and sells cottons. I recollect about the 1st of February, hearing some glass falling in the street, (that was the first time the glass was cut) - I saw some boys in the street, and the prisoner was one of them - in consequence of that, I put some pasteboard up against the window. On the 14th of February I was in the shop, and saw the prisoner in the street - he plunged his hand into the broken pane, and I saw him extract sundry articles from the window - I ran out, and saw him drop the cotton just by the window - I pursued him, and in about half a minute he was taken in Market-street - when I stopped him, he fell on his knees and said, "Pray let me go; I have taken nothing, but I will discover to you the other parties who have taken your goods away" - I took him back to my shop, and gave him in charge - I know this cotton which I picked up to be mine - I bought it in Coventry-street - I lost other cotton from the window, which I had bought at the same place - I lost some thread also - the prisoner dropped this cotton, that I should stop and take it up, but I did not, and when I came back, Mrs. Starling gave me the cotton which she had picked up - I am sure it is mine, and that the prisoner dropped it - I had been serving some of it not two minutes before.
GEORGE MERRETT (police-constable D198) - I was on duty in Praed-street on the 14th of February - I went up to the prosecutor's shop, and the prisoner was given to me - the prosecutor gave me this cotton - I found on the prisoner this knife, the point of which is ground into the shape of a putty knife, and this piece of wire, which is made into a hook to hook things out.
Prisoner. I was walking home - this gentleman came and took me - my father used this knife to put up putty with. Witness. He told me it was for cleaning bricks, and he said at the station it was for cleaning tools.
ALFRED BLUNDELL (police-sergeant T 9.) I produce a certificate of the prisoner's former conviction, which I got at Mr. Clark's office (read) - the prisoner is the person who was tried.
GUILTY. Aged 16. - Transported for Ten Years"

So what happened to young William Hollingsworth Butler, son of James Butler, bricklayer, and his wife Sarah, who was baptised at St James, Paddington on 6 March 1825? He was transported to Van Diemen's Land, now better known as Tasmania, aboard the Hindostan, arriving there on 5 June 1841, together with 208 other convicts,  under what  must have been horrific conditions. No mug shot, but here is what is effectively his mug sheet, extracted from the Tasmanian convict records:


William would not have been much older or bigger than the boys pictured in the photographs above. The record says that he was born in Sale St, Paddington, London. He is described as being 4 ft 9 1/4 inches in height, of dark complexion, with a round head, brown hair with no whiskers, and having a high broad forehead, dark brown eyebrows, black eyes, a rather large nose and medium mouth and chin. There were  marks of some kind on his arms and chest. Under the heading Trade it says plasterer and bricklayer's labourer, and that of stonecutter seems to have been added as well. He received his certificate of freedom on 4 March 1850.
I haven't found out very much about the life of William Hollingsworth Butler after he was released, but it's possible he married someone called Ann Lee and moved to Melbourne. William and Ann had eight or nine children, but sadly the first six all died as infants, including two sons who were successively named William Hollingsworth Butler. One other son married but I can't find any offspring.  If there were any surviving descendants, I suppose they might not be keen to meet someone descended from a witness whose evidence helped convict their ancestor!

 That witness, Thomas Key, was a civilian in 1840, but had been a member of the armed forces in his earlier life, beginning as a drummer boy at the age of 14. In 1825 his regiment the 57th Foot was employed as the guard aboard the Hooghley, one of the ships that departed from Cork Ireland and brought convicted felons to Sydney. The commander of the Guard aboard the Hoogley was the infamous Captain Patrick Logan, who went on to command the penal colony at Moreton Bay in Queensland and was hated for his cruelty. Here is an account of the voyage aboard the Hooghley.  Thomas Key then served some six years with his regiment in New South Wales followed by seven months in India before being discharged back in England, where he subsequently married and had a large family. Thomas and Jane Key emigrated to Wellington New Zealand in 1856.

Click here to see drawings of both the Hooghley and the Hindostan.

I'm including the classic Australian ballad 'Moreton Bay' sung here by Ted Egan, because it refers to Patrick Logan, mentioned above. I certainly hope my ancestor Thomas Key did not treat the convicts the way Logan did.



To check out more mug shots, mug sheets and other connected matters, take a good look at Sepia Saturday #240

13 comments:

  1. I wanted to laugh at the "spaced out" expressions, but the story of Alexander is much too sad. Sunnyside, indeed! I often wonder about the designation "idiotic" that I've seen in census records -- such a broad term. Were they Downs Syndrome kids, low intelligence, brain-damaged, schizophrenic, just what?

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  2. I can't help but wonder why a boy would steal cotton & thread? To make himself a shirt? If he was planning on theft, why not just steal a shirt?

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  3. Talk about the punishment fitting the crime - ten years!! Actually it probably turned out to be the best thing that could have happened to him. I really enjoyed the post.

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  4. I was totally absorbed in this story. Although I know of these convict stories, hearing the details like this always makes it more real. Poor lad - ten years!

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  5. All of those faces look like they have the same mouth.

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  6. Great research and super pictures. The convict record is an amazing document!

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  7. Thanks for your thoughtful post about relations, enduring all kinds of trials. (No pun intended, but it just fell out of my fingers).

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  8. Poor Alexander. His story is so sad.

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  9. Great stories and photos. The history and story you've worked out on William Hollingsworth Butler reveals an astonishing application of law from the perspective of modern times.

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  10. I think that stealing things back then for so many were for survival! Not such an evil crime. The photos as so many back in those days do appear like mug shots!

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  11. Having been to Tassie recently on holiday and seeing Port Arthur makes this story so much more real to me now, Thanks for sharing.

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  12. It's been a sad week in Sepia Satirday with all these unhappy stories lumped together under one theme. But an excellent piece of research.

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  13. The photographs are excellent, although such formal portraits always seem to have had all the character and personality rolled out of people. And as a bonus we get a fascinating piece of historical research. Thanks,

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