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

R. v. Robertson [1842] NSWSupC 44 R. v. Nelson

passenger on ship - assault - insanity

Supreme Court of New South Wales

Stephen J, 15 April 1842

Source: Sydney Gazette, 19 April 1842

            Robert Robertson and Richard William Nelson, who were out on bail, were called upon and indicted for an assault upon the high seas on board the emigrant ship Carthagenian, on the 23rd or 24th of December last. The information contained two counts, to both of which the defendants pleaded not guilty.

            The Attorney General, after stating the case, called -

            Edward Farrell - I am a shoemaker; I was a passenger in the Carthagenian, which sailed from Liverpool in October last, and arrived in this colony in the month of January following: I knew an emigrant on board of the name of Margaret Ann Bolton; I recollect some water being thrown over her boat about six weeks before we came into the harbour; I saw the captain and doctor go forward, who ordered several women on deck, placed them on one side of the ship, and Mary Ann Bolton on the other; this was at ten o'clock at night; I saw them handcuff the prosecutor and other women, it was done jointly by the captain and doctor; Bolton said she had done nothing; she had on a dress resembling a night dress; saw the captain throw five, and the doctor two, buckets of water over the person of Bolton; she was handcuffed and standing up at the time; she was the only person that water was thrown upon; when she embarked on board the vessel, she appeared to be in good health, much better than she appears now; after the water had been thrown over her, the following day she was confined to her bed; I took medicine to her, and remarked that she was not in as good a state of health afterwards; when I went down below Bolton remained on deck in handcuffs.

            Cross-examined by Mr. Broadhurst. - I was sitting on the starboard side of the vessel when the captain and doctor went below; I did not hear any noise below; I did not see the other women released; I did not hear any insolent expressions escape Bolton; I was on one side of the vessel, and Bolton on the other, at the time of the water being thrown over her; Greaves, Mossley, and Blackford were also present when the water was thrown over Bolton; it was a fine night; I never had any quarrel with the captain; I never said that I would not have sworn against him as I did, if I had been given a bed and a pillow on leaving the ship; I never said any thing of the kind to persons named Lawson and Lawler.

            Re-examined by the Attorney General - I have no doubt that Margaret Ann Bolton was the person the water was thrown upon; I am married, my wife was on board the vessel at the time, but she was in bed.

            Margaret Ann Bolton - I am about 26 years of age; I was a passenger in the Carthagenian from Liverpool; on Sunday night, between four and five months since, about nine o'clock at night, there was some persons making a noise between decks, a young woman in a berth near mine screamed; the captain and the doctor asked who screamed, they were below at this time, it was quite dark, they ordered us out, swearing if we did not come out they would pull us out; the doctor took a bundle of handcuffs, a pair was put upon me by the captain; I cannot say where the doctor then was, but I conjecture he was near me, but cannot say whether he was present when the handcuffs were put on me; I was handcuffed with my hands behind my back, we were ordered to be kept separate, sitting on a wet deck, it had been raining; I expostulated with the doctor for this treatment to me, observing, do you mean to take our lives, what is this for ? The doctor said, fetch a bucket of water, he did not stop until he threw seven over me; several hours after the captain came to take the handcuffs off; a young woman said I should not be able to walk where the captain stood, who was opposite to me amongst the other women; I did not reply, when the captain said, I had not had them on long enough, and then walked into the cabin; I then sat down on the planks. The young women said, Bolton will not be able to stand this usage, we must take her down with the us. Some person threw a great coat over me; the young women went down to their berths, unable to stop on deck any longer; in about an hour afterwards the handcuffs were taken off me. Mr. Greaves assisted me part of the way down between decks; I did not want him there, he had been there too often; on my way to my berth I was obliged to sit down on the gangway; I could not find my keys, and that prevented me getting any dry clothing; I had a petticoat, a dress, and a shawl, but had not time to pin the shawl round me; I had on my nightcap; I had also stocking and shoes on; after the water had been thrown over me, I found the cold penetrate me to the heart; the captain or mate might have thrown part of the seven buckets of water over me, but I am of opinion that the doctor was the person who threw the water over me; at the time I was in a good state of health, but since that, I have been very ill, and am now incapable of procuring a living; the following day, (after the water had been thrown over me) I was confined to my bed; I was in a perfect state of health when I went on board the Carthagenian at Liverpool.  

            Cross-examined by Mr. Windeyer. - I was living upwards of nine years in Manchester, in different capacities; I had brothers also residing there, with whom I occasionally resided; I cannot speak positively how many different families I lived in during the time I was at Manchester; I only remained three days in Liverpool prior to my embarking on board the Carthagenian.

            John Keating, immigrant by the ship Carthagenian, knows Margaret Ann Bolton; she appeared to be in good health at the time she came on board; he knew of other transactions previous to that, but he knew nothing of that day; he had known her in Liverpool three or four weeks before coming on board, and she appeared to be in good health during that time.

            Robert greaves, third mate of the Carthagenian, knows Margaret Ann Bolton; he recollects a bucket of water being thrown upon her some time in December last; there was a great noise below, and seven women were brought on deck by the captain and doctor, and handcuffed; the doctor threw a bucket of water on Bolton; I did not notice the captain at the time; there was nobody there at the time the water was ordered but the captain and doctor; witness is still third mate of the ship; there might have been more water thrown, but he did not see it; I am a relative of the defendant Robertson, he is my nephew; I heard some improper language used by Bolton to the captain.

            By a Juror - I was standing by the capstan about four feet from Bolton, when the water was thrown upon her.

            Cross-examined by Mr. Broadhurst - Bolton was famous for using her tongue on board, and said she would not hold her tongue for such a - master as the doctor; the other women were quiet and went down to their berths.

            Re-examined by the Attorney General - When I went off duty at 12 o'clock, Bolton was still in handcuffs, and remained upon the deck. I do not know what time she was released; more water than one bucket might have been thrown over her without my seeing it.

            By a Juror - The whole seven women were brought up together; I did not assist in throwing the water over Bolton; it was a fine night; I did not observe the captain or doctor go down for any more women.

            William Kennedy - I arrived in this Colony in the Carthagenian; I knew Bolton, and recollect the doctor calling out for handcuffs; I went on deck, and saw the captain, the doctor, and some others about the capstan; there was one woman, disturbing and talkative; she gave some impudence to the captain or doctor, when some water was called for by the doctor; there was more called for after that, but I cannot say how much, as I was requested to go into my cabin by Mr. M'Evey; I saw one bucket of water thrown upon her by the doctor; I heard water called for more than once; she had a night wrapper on, or something white.                                                 

R. v. Robertson 

R. v. Nelson

Supreme Court of New South Wales

Stephen J, 15 April 1842

Source: Sydney Gazette, 19 April 1842

( continued  from last publication )

            Trial of Robert Robertson and Richard William Nelson for an assault on the high seas.

            The Rev. Nicholas Coffay, examined by Mr. Broadhurst. - I was a passenger on board the Carthagenian; I know Ann Bolton; I recollect her being brought up with some other women near the cabin one night, owing to her having given some insolence to the captain; I never saw any water thrown over Bolton, nor did I hear of it until I came on shore in this colony; Bolton never told me that any had been thrown over her; the captain's conduct was gentlemanly, humane, and kind to the immigrants, so far as came under my observation; I was examined at the Post Office on the part of the Crown.

            Cross-examined by the Attorney General.- I was a cabin passenger; we fared very well; other individuals were treated differently; I think Mary Ann Bolton was a very moral character; I cannot swear she was handcuffed; she was brought in and refused to make an apology; I don't recollect the substance of the apology she was required to make; her language was insolent to the captain, but I do not recollect what the nature of the language was; I do not recollect what was said to induce her to make the apology; Bolton was of retired reserved habits.

            Robert Lawlor. - I recollect being on board the Carthagenian;   I was a cabin passenger; I recollect six or seven women being brought up; Bolton was very insolent; I remember a bucket of water being called for, and thrown upon her; I heard her say (previous to the water being thrown upon her) that she would not be quiet, it is possible that other water might have been thrown upon her; I was standing by the capstan at the time; we were then near the Cape; I know Edward Farrell; I have spoken to him more than once since I landed in this colony; he said to me that if the captain had given him a bed and pillow he would not have gone against him; this was said in addition to the shoe matter; the bucket of water I saw thrown over Bolton was by the doctor; Bolton's conduct was abusive to every one on board.

            The Attorney General observed that the examination was at this stage of the proceedings rather inconsistent and singular.

            Cross-examined by the Attorney General.-   I am clerk to the coroner; I dined with the captain on Sunday last, and have had many glasses of grog with him, and found him as hospitable on shore as I did on board; the immigrants (females) were generally well conducted; the doctor likewise keeps a good table; generally speaking, the conduct of the captain and doctor was good; when I left the deck the girls were all there; I did not see any water thrown over any person but Bolton; I heard water called for twice, no doubt to be thrown over Bolton; I know nothing of her moral conduct; she was abusive; I know that she was called "an old maid," which I think must have annoyed her; I have nothing to say against her conduct; Farrell told me he had sued the captain for a pair of boots; he would not have gone against the captain if he had given him his bed and pillow in the first instance; I might have been in the cabin half a minute after the first bucket of water was thrown: the bucket was emptied; when Farrell and I had the conversation together, Bolton's name was mentioned.

            By the Court. - I never knew Margaret Ann Bolton before she came on board; I came to join the ship from Dublin; I am a scrivener; I was examined at the Post Office, and gave the same testimony as I have given this day; I am as ingle man at present.

            It being at this stage of the proceedings past five o'clock, p.m., after some conversation between the Attorney General and the counsel for the defence (Messrs. Windeyer and Broadhurst ), His Honor adjourned the Court until 10 o'clock on Saturday morning.                        

R. v. Robertson 

R. v. Nelson

Supreme Court of New South Wales

Stephen J, 16 April 1842

Source: Sydney Gazette, 19 April 1842

            In the case of Robert Robertson and Richard William Nelson, for assault - (adjourned proceedings.)

            The Attorney general, on the opening of the court, stated to His Honor, that he was desirous that the prosecutrix Margaret Ann Bolton, should be questioned regarding the state of health she was in at the time she was taken out of her berth. She was therefore-called, and questioned by His Honor, when the witness stated she was very hot when brought on deck, and that she considered it very dangerous to have cold water thrown upon her; and from that time she had been suffering under sever illness.

            Edward Farrell re-called, at the request of Mr. Windeyer, stated to the court - before the women came on deck, he heard the captain say, that he knew the women's voices.

            This closed the case for the prosecution.

            Mr. Windeyer addressed the court and jury in behalf of the prisoners, animadverting at great length, on the discrepancy of the evidence, which had been adduced, and proceeded to call the following witnesses for the defence.    

Robert Lawson, examined by Mr. Broadhurst - I arrived in this colony, as a cabin passenger, on board the Carthagenian; I knew Margaret Ann Bolton; I recollect her, with others, having been brought on deck, some time in December last.   I heard the doctor desire Bolton to be quiet, she said she would not do any master like him; I saw the doctor throw some water over Bolton; it was thrown over her after she had been requested to be quiet: her manner was very insulting: it was examined at the Police Office after the arrival of the ship; Bolan's conduct.   In his opinion, was quarrelsome; she used expressions of defiance to the doctor when he threatened to throw water over her; I do not remember the words she made use of; there was noise below near the cabin, loud talking, and a quarrelsome altercation; there was 243 immigrants on board, exclusive of the cabin passengers; the captain and doctor were both cool; the conduct of the Captain and doctor, were humane and attentive; the captain used to go down below, and swap the decks after the emigrants had been sick; I did not see more than one bucket of water throw on over her; it might have been so but I do not think it possible.

Cross-examined by the Attorney General.  - I am still residing on board the vessel, and living there, and do not pay anything for my board; the captain is very kind, too much so in my opinion, if he had been less kind, I think you would have been more thought of; more water might have been strong upon the woman, Bolton, whilst I was in the Roundhouse; I knew Mr. Coffay on board; I did not see all that took place; I did not hear them call for the water at all; I was in the cabin at the time when the first bucket of water was called for; I am waiting for my brother coming down the country, and remaining on board until he arrives in Sydney.

By the court. - I saw handcuffs on Bolton; her hands were fastened behind her back.

Frances Alexander Dubois, examined by Mr. Windeyer. - I am an emigrant by the Carthagenian; I was overseer on board; I recollect Margaret and Bolton; she was very unmanageable, while on board, so obstinate that no person could do anything with her; she had a very abusive time; I remember her being called upon deck with six others, about 10 o'clock at night, are making a noise below; it disturbed the whole ship; Bolton was the person who commenced the noise; she was put on one side of the vessel, the other woman on the other; the six were released shortly after; I recollect Bolton saying, that she had great difficulty in obtaining a certificate from the surgeon, from having had for a considerable time, a complicated number of disorders; it was refused by the medical men in Liverpool, but subsequently, she said that she got one from a gentleman in Manchester; she was idle on board, and would not take her share of clearing the berths; I did not observe that the ducking had any effect upon her; she told me that she had been afflicted with asthma and cough for five years, and appeared to me livelier when on board, and when she embarked at Liverpool; I did not see any water throw on upon her; I was sufficiently close to see if seven buckets of water had been drawn over her; it could have been done without my seeing it.

Cross-examined by the Attorney General, my wife was present when she told me of her sickness (previous to her coming on board); she also told it to other persons on board; I saw her teased; I have heard her called the old maid, on the Cheshire lady; I could have seen what took place; I saw no water thrown, or any called for; I was in the main batch way; I heard of some water being droll and; seven buckets could not have been thrown   without my seeing it; she said she ought to have begged.   The captain's pardon as the rest had done, but that her temper, would not allow her.

By a juror.  - I heard the splash of some water.

Re-examined by Mr. Windeyer.  - the doctor did not throw any lime in the emigrants eyes; lime was used to cleanse the ship; I never heard any complaint made.

By the court. - I saw the women handcuffed; Bolton 's hands were handcuffed before her.

By a juror. - When lime was throw on the deck, it has on many occasions made me sneeze; Bolton has abused me; I am now in a situation; it was light night, when the women were brought on deck; there was no light below; I was never taken out of bed myself; lights were ordered to be extinguished between eight and nine o'clock.

Re-examined by Mr Windeyer.  - I did not see Bolton handcuffed myself; I cannot say whether she could ship her hands through the irons.

Susan Dubois, examined by Mr. Broadhurst -

I am the wife of the last witness, and know Margaret and Bolton; I recollect a disturbance between deck; Bolton was one of the persons making the noise; I did not go on deck; I remained below; shortly after the girls were taken on deck they were allowed to return to their berths; Bolton would not apologize to the captain; she told me so herself; she told me that she had been in bad health for several years, and that she could not obtain a certificate in Liverpool; afterwards, she got a certificate signed; I expressed my surprise at her venturing coming to sea; she said that as she could not obtain the situation in England, she might as well die on Sea, as on land; she told me after her arrival in this colony, that she had procured a situation in Sydney, and afterwards feigned illness, in order to get away from her place; she never assisted to clean on board, always saying that she was sick.

Cross-examined by the Attorney General.  -

I could particularly distinguish Bolton's voice, when the noise occurred; I have been on board, the Carthagenian once, since my arrival in Sydney; she in the lead so often at night, that frequently the captain had been requested to keep her quiet.

Dr. Alexander Cuthill.   - I know Margaret Ann Bolton; she was received into the Asylum, on the 11th of April, and placed in the quietest room in the institution; I am decidedly of opinion, that while she was in the house she was sane, and capable of being responsible in any court of law; but I believe that ill usage or continued excitement would produce insanity; she was of sound mind when she came into the Asylum; I never gave Dr. Nelson, to understand that I thought Bolton insane; I am of opinion that she is an intriguing, artful, woman.

And Chapman, examined by Mr. Broadhurst. - I was an emigrant on board the Carthagenian; I knew Bolton, and remember the night that she and six others were ordered on deck, for making a noise; and on board, she was very abusive; she never took any share in cleaning the berth; the captain and doctor were very attentive to the passengers; the captain gave up his Cabinet and to steerage passenger, during a fit of illness, for three weeks; I never saw the doctor throw lime in the women's eyes, nor did I hear any complaints to that effect.

Cross-examined by the Attorney General.   -

I did not go on deck, but I could distinguish Bolton 's voice: I heard her voice before the captain and doctor came down below, where the noise was: I cannot say I could recognize the voices of any of the others.

Betsey Smith, examined by Mr. Windeyer.  -

I arrived in this colony, a passenger in the Carthagenian; I was one of the women taken on deck; Bolton was also of the number; she was very noisy; the doctor and captain, what kind to the emigrants; Bolton often made a noise by night, as well as by day; I knew a woman named Cook; the captain allowed her the use of his cabin during the whole time she was sick.

By the court. -, I am married, and came to this colony to join my husband; I told them in the office, I was married, in Liverpool : I also told them that my husband was in this colony.

Robert Blackford, examined Mr. Broadhurst. - I came out in the Carthagenian; I recollect some girls have been put in irons near the cabin; Margaret Bolton was amongst the number; I saw one bucket of water thrown over her; I mean, the last of the number that was thrown over her; I heard some water thrown before that; I was talking to the other girls who were in irons; I continued to converse with five who were in handcuffs; those that I saw, were handcuffed by the doctor; I heard the captain talking to Bolton, desiring her to be quiet; I heard water throw on, but did not see over whom; Bolton's conduct to the captain was insolent; the doctor through the water; the captain was standing at the capstan, assorting the handcuffs; the captain was kind and attentive, and I consider him a person of a humane and kind disposition; I was and overseer a part of the time; I was dismissed by the doctor.

Cross-examined by the Attorney General. -

I heard persons talking about water, amongst them was Farrell; several were speaking about water; Farrell, was there knows better than I did.

By the juror. - It was a fine night; I do not recollect if it had been raining; I cannot say whether the morning was up; I do not think it was spread on the night in question.

Frederick Cline. - I recollect Margaret and Bolton, on board the ship Carthagenian; I remember some time in December last, have been brought on deck; she was insolent to the captain; it was about 11 o'clock at night; she was several times desired to be quiet; she still continued speaking, and abuse you; I saw water thrown; I can swear to a bucket, but I cannot say whether it was full or not; I was on deck, the greater part of the time; when the water was thrown I was in front of the captain: seven buckets of water could not have been brought without my seeing it; the conduct of both the defendants was kind to the passengers.

Cross-examined by the Attorney General.  -

There might be a possibility of other water being thrown; there might have been a splash of water; I could not say I heard a splash.

Re-examined. - After the water was thrown, she was not quiet; we were not passed the cape at the time of the occurrence; it was warm, and did not rain; it was about three weeks after we passed the line; I cannot say whether the awning was up or not; it was about 11 o'clock at night; I recollect, when we passed the Cape of Hope.

Elizabeth Sircuit examined by Mr. Broadhurst. - I was an emigrant on board the Carthagenian; I knew Margaret Ann Bolton; I recollect anomalies on board one night; Bolton made a noise; she was a disagreeable character on board; she said all the women were prostitutes except herself; the captain was particularly kind, as was also the doctor.

Cross-examined by the Attorney General.   -

There was other girls making a noise; I am married and my berth was within five or six, of Bolton 's; she appeared to be generally in good health.

Thomas Sircuit examined by Mr. Broadhurst.  - I know Margaret Ann Bolton; she came out in the Carthagenian; I recollect the disturbance on board the vessel, but I cannot say particularly who they were except Bolton; I could distinguish Bolton's voice; I did not see her after she was taken on deck; I saw her a day or two after, she appeared as usual; her general character was quarrelsome on board, I have heard her called names.

Cross-examined by the Attorney General. -

There were some persons of bad repute on board; Bolton was very cross on board; it seemed to me to be her natural disposition; she had a good appetite; I understand that persons afflicted with consumption have generally a tolerable appetite.

James Hastings examined by Mr. Windeyer.

- I am steward on board the Carthagenian; I have noticed the conduct of the captain and doctor; I have sailed with many captains, but never noticed one is so kind before.

Cross-examined by the Attorney General.  -

My time was principally employed in the cuddy; I recollect, a woman occupying the captain's cabin during that time she was ill; we were to the southward of the Cape of Good Hope at the time we passed by; it was very warm.

William Alexander Purefoy, Eq., barrister.

- I knew Dr. Nelson in Dublin about six years ago; from my personal acquaintance, I consider Dr Nelson, a very humane and kind person, and incapable of behaving unkind to any one.

The Attorney General, in a most eloquent and powerful address, pointed out the enormity of the offence the defendants were charged with, observing that it was of the most vital importance that the case should be fully investigated for the furtherance of justice, and the great importance of the character of this community.

His Honor explained the law of the case to the Jury, who retired at 10 minutes past five o'clock, and after an absence of nearly an hour, returned a verdict of guilty against both the prisoners on the first count, and acquitted them on the second count in the information.

The prisoners were remanded to the custody of the Sheriff, and ordered by His Honor to be brought up for sentence on Thursday next at 12 o'clock.

The prisoner, Robertson was the master, and the other (Nelson), the surgeon superintendent of the emigrant ship Carthagenian, which arrived in this harbor some time ago from the Port of Liverpool.

The trial lasted two days, the Court being crowded to excess during the proceedings, and it was manifested that the spectators took a great interest, and commiserated the sufferings of the unfortunate prosecutrix Margaret Ann Bolton.

Published by the Division of Law, Macquarie University