Personalising the Immigrants: A Convict

In my talk at the Conference mentioned previously, I provided some statistics and followed up with a short series of stories. As time was short some of these didn’t get quite the coverage I’d planned, so I’ll include them in full here. I’m also able to include some of the images I’d found which couldn’t be included in the presentation.

My first example was A CONVICT: James Boland



First up, a member of Australian royalty which is what we call our convicts.  James Boland was convicted of the attack on a house, or Whiteboyism, at the Galway courts on 28 March 1832 and was sentenced to life. The National Archives of Ireland hold a petition from James’ father Francis which includes a letter from John Lopdell Co Galway stating that James and his brother Michael had been tenants on his estate since 1 May 1831 (NAI Convict transportation database). There were also character references from inhabitants of Feakle parish, Co Clare, where the convict was born and where his parents were residing.


Cooke, Edward William. 1829, Prison-ship in Portsmouth Harbour, convicts going aboard , [London viewed 16 November 2016

James was held at Cork on a prison hulk before being transported on the ship Roslin Castle (450 tons) under the guard of the 21st Regiment of the Royal Scottish Fusiliers. James and 194 other prisoners sailed from Cork on 8 October 1832, arriving in Sydney on 5 February 1833 after 120 days at sea. James was allocated to Mr TWM Winder of Windermere, near Maitland in the Hunter Valley, where he was employed as an agricultural labourer. It would be many years before James’s name would cease to linked with that of the Roslin Castle as this was how they identified one convict from another.



Grosse, Frederick 1864, THE SHEPHERD’S HUT, Ebenezer and David Syme, Melbourne, State Library of Victoria.

His son’s obituary suggests he worked as a shepherd for Wentworth but this would have to be verified by detailed research. Shepherding was a challenge in those early days setting the shepherd against the depredations of dingoes (wild dogs), wild blacks and wild whites.[i] It could be a very lonely life.


As a convict James had to apply for permission to marry and in 1844, aged 33, he married Bridget Savage in Maitland. Bridget was a 29-year old free settler. James was already living at Luskintyre where he would remain for the rest of his life.


boland-james-pardon-1849James’s life sentence was essentially commuted by gaining first a Ticket of Leave on 11 May 1842, enabling him to move freely around the Maitland area.

In 1849 James gained a conditional pardon meaning he was now a free man, though he could not return to the British Isles. This would have been a great moment for him. He was about 37 and had been a convict for nearly 16 years – not quite life, but not an easy path for a man who was barely an adult when convicted.

1849 ‘Government Gazette.’, The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser (NSW : 1843 – 1893), 31 March, p. 4. ,

James Boland died in a riding accident on 16 October 1876.


1876 ‘Death of James Boland, Esq.’, The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser (NSW : 1843 – 1893), 21 October, p. 10. ,

boland-james-maitland-mercury-27-mar-1877-p8James left an extensive estate which was auctioned:

  • 600 very superior cattle
  • 64 acres of highly improved farm with frontage on the Hunter River
  • a dwelling house with 8 rooms, kitchen, stable, coach-house, hay-shed, barn, corn-shed, figgeries
  • 560 acres of 1st class grazing and agricultural land of which 40 acres are under cultivation and a large area ring-barked.
  • Improvements including three houses, stockyards etc together with good will of the lease for a term of years of 7700 acres of 1st class grazing land which is permanently watered and well grassed.

Quite an achievement for this Clare convict.

[i] DEATH OF A PIONEER. (1929, July 13). The Maitland Weekly Mercury (NSW : 1894 – 1931), , p. 8. Retrieved July 27, 2016, from

[2] list of property 1877 ‘Advertising’, The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser (NSW : 1843 – 1893), 24 March, p. 12. ,