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

R v Patient, Morrison, Roberts and Mac'Cullum [1826] NSWSupC 17

robbery - capital punishment, public - bushrangers - South Creek - receiving stolen goods - Norfolk Island - sentencing discretion

Execution, 7 March 1826

Source: Australian, 9 March 1826


On Tuesday morning, four more criminals paid the forfeit of their lives---their names were Patient, Morrison, Roberts and Mac'Cullum.[1 ]  Those men had formed a part, probably a principal part of the desperate gang of marauders who have lately been a pest to the interior---who have been spreading terror and desolation among the unoffending settlers.  The circumstance of their apprehension at Haslem's, with the determined resistance offered to the constables, cannot yet have escaped our reader's recollection.  It was for the lately so much talked of robbery at the South Creek those men were now condemned to suffer.  A more than usual solemnity was observed on this occasion.  Military parties were called into requisition.  In that part of George-street nearly opposite Mr. James Underwood's, from whence the scaffold may be discerned peering above the surrounding gaol wall, one detachment was stationed --- another was drawn up fronting the fatal stage, under the command of an officer --- some of the crown prisoners under different sentences, and government gangs, were ordered to be present, under the charge of a strong body of the police.  At nine o'clock precisely the criminals left their cells, their countenances did not just then apparently, betray any symptoms of dismay at their fast approaching end.  Having been disencumbered of their irons, the Sheriff and Under-Sheriff preceded the culprits; on one side walked the Rev. William Cowper, who attended Patient, and Dr. Lang, theother [sic] three, then followed the gaoler and his assistants.  On reaching the platform, they gazed around on the assembled throng who, with their heads uncovered, observed a most strict and imposing silence---they all joined in prayer with the reverend Clergymen, and when the preparations for their fate were nearly completed, chaunted [sic] a portion of the 51st Psalm.  They one and all implored the spectators to take warning by their untimely end --- they were now ignominiously, but justly, cut off in the very prime of their youth, the oldest of them being only 24 years of age.  A man named Dickinson was called by one from amongst the crowd, and admonished to amend his life, for he was a very guilty sinner.  They shook hands with the Clergyman and executioner, and after kissing each other, resigned themselves to their fate.  Until the moment of being launched into eternity they never ceasing murmuring "Lord have mercy on us."  "Good Lord deliver us," which was responded with "amen," by the surrounding crowd.



[1 ] The trial was reported by the Australian on 2 March 1826. On these executions, see also Sydney Gazette, 8 March 1826, which claimed that there were thousands of spectators.  Other cases concerning these events were reported in the Australian, 2 and 9 March 1826; and see  Sydney Gazette, 1, 4  and 8 March 1826, and 26 April 1826; R. v. Burke and Donahu, March 1826; R. v. Hogarty, How, Bailey and Laragy, March 1826.

Governor Darling was determined to use this case to deter others from becoming bushrangers.  He told Earl Bathurst that he had ordered the execution of all but two of the bushrangers; those two were to be sent to Norfolk Island, "there appearing to be much doubt as to their having been concerned in the fact, of which they have been found guilty."  The convicted receivers were sentenced to seven years transportation, the men at Norfolk Island "knowing how generally it is dreaded as a place of punishment."  The receivers were forced to watch the execution, as were all men at the convict barracks and those allowed to sleep out.  The governor also offered rewards for the capture of receivers, and warned that they would be sent to Norfolk Island, without hope of remission from him.  Source: Darling to Bathurst, Historical Records of Australia, Series 1, Vol. 12, pp 208-209.  See also pp 264-266 on the organisation of troops to suppress bushranging.

Published by the Division of Law, Macquarie University