Convict life on Norfolk Island was severe and often brutal. Below is a snapshot of one convict, John Walsh, who spent ten years on Norfolk Island from 1834 to 1844.
John Walsh was born in County Dublin in 1793 and convicted of cattle stealing in 1823. He received a seven year sentence and was transported to New South Wales on the Ann and Amelia. He received a Ticket of Leave in 1830 (30/345) for the Bathurst region and a Certificate of Freedom in 1831 (31/282).
The letter below, from the Bathurst Police Station is dated 10 May 1834. It is a request for a reward to be honoured for the arrest of John Walsh:
"A man named John Walsh, free by servitude was detected in the act of slaughtering a Bullock, the property of Major General Stewart."
Other items of stolen property were also found in the home of Walsh. The physical description of Walsh on the left hand side of the letter matches the description on the Convict Indent for the Ann and Amelia [4/4009 Reel 2662] and the Irish Indents [X30, Reel 2749]. Walsh was tried at the Supreme Court in Sydney on 27 August 1834 and sentenced to Life on Norfolk Island.
The petition below is from John Walsh to the Governor, Sir George Gipps and relates to the remission of part of his sentence. Walsh's colonial conviction was for life on Norfolk Island but on his arrival in September 1834 the sentence was commuted to 15 years. Following this petition the sentence was reduced by another five years to ten years. Walsh claimed in the second paragraph he was of advanced age (about 50 years old) and
"very much debilitated through the severity of Penal discipline"
The response (second image) to John Walsh's petition was added to the reverse of the previous page. It records that Walsh was considered to be
"truly pentient - he is well conducted and attentive to his religious duties."
The third image is the back page of Walsh's petition and provides a good snapshot of his convict history. It starts with his arrival in New South Wales on the Ann and Amelia in 1825. Walsh's time on Norfolk Island starts half way down the page. About every 18 months Walsh was in trouble for misdemeanours like conspiracy, neglect of work, false statement and going to the hospital on false pretences. Not only was he working long hours doing physical labour but much time was also spent in irons or double irons, living off bread and water and recovering from floggings. This is a convict previously described as well conducted and penitent.
Walsh had nearly completed his ten year sentence when he was returned to Sydney due to ill health (he suffered from chronic asthma). There is a note on his Certificate of Freedom (31/282) that Walsh obtained a pass dated 27 August 1844 in Windsor. The pass may refer to a pass gratas or free pass. No further reference to John Walsh could be found in the Colonial Secretary's Papers.