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Decisions of the Superior Courts of New South Wales, 1788-1899

R. v. Clay and Bevidge [1839] NSWSupC 31

murder - manslaughter - religious quarrel - Arden Hall

Supreme Court of New South Wales

Dowling C.J., 13 May 1839

Source: Sydney Herald, 15 May 1839[1] 

Monday -- Before the Chief Justice and a Military Jury.

William Clay, assigned to Mr. Dow, and George Bevidge, free by servitude, were indicted for the wilful murder of James Irwin, by beating him, at Arden Hall, on the 17th March.

On St. Patrick's day, which this year was on a Sunday, there was a great deal of wine drunk by the servants of Mr. Dow, who were joined by Bevidge, who resided near the farm.  The men got disputing about religion, and about an hour before sun-down a man named Irwin, who was an Irishman, walked up and down in the front of the hut, and said he did not care a damn for either Englishmen or Scotchmen; the prisoner Bevidge went out and wanted to fight him, but he declined; the prisoner Clay then left the hut, when Irwin ran away, followed by both prisoners; he got to his own hut and the prisoners returned; in a minute or two afterwards, Irwin left his hut for the purpose of picking up his hat which had fallen from his head as he was running; Clay went up to him, and they had a conversation which no one was near enough to hear; Bevidge said he would go and hear what they were talking about, but before he got to them Clay closed with Irwin, and was immediately thrown down, when Irwin ran away, followed by the prisoners.  They went out of sight of the hut, and in a minute or two afterwards a person, who resided in another hut, was attracted by hearing some one cry out Oh! he went towards the spot and saw Bevidge kick the deceased in the side, and immediately afterwards Clay jumped upon him and kicked him, and they then returned to their huts.  Mr. Goodwin, a surgeon, residing at Invermein, who examined the body two days afterwards, said that death proceeded [f]rom extravasation of blood on the brain, caused by external violence.

His Honor summed up for a verdict of manslaughter, on the ground of there being no proof of intent to cause death, or of malice on the part of the prisoners; while it appeared that the deceased had challenged any Englishman or Scotchman to fight, and there had been hot blood in the course of the day from a quarrel about religion.

The Jury retired about-five minutes, and returned a verdict of guilty of manslaughter.  To be worked in irons for twelve months.



[1]  See also Sydney Gazette, 16 May 1839; Australian, 16 May 1839.

Published by the Division of Law, Macquarie University