Sunday, 28 May 2017

The nineteen radicals

Only small numbers of convicts arrived from Scotland to the penal colony as Scotland's legal system had less capital offences and punishments in comparison to elsewhere. A number of convicts arrived in Sydney in 1821 as a result of discontent in Scotland and one of these went on to have a connection to the Hawkesbury.

Following the French Revolution, unemployment, cost of living and unjust working conditions in Scotland led to workers seeking reform. In 1820 a group of activists planned a rebellion during an industrial uprising at Bonnymuir however it was short-lived.

A number of men were captured, with 22 convicted and 19 of these charged with treason and sentenced to death. William Crawford was freed while John Baird and Andrew Hardie, were executed in September 1820, just a week after another rebel, James Wilson was hanged and beheaded. The nineteen had their sentences commuted to transportation and they became known as the Scottish Radicals. They were:


Name
Abode
Occupation
Sentence
1
John Anderson
Camelon
Weaver
Life
2
John Barr
Condorrat
Weaver
14 years
3
William Clackson
Glasgow
Shoemaker
14 years
4
James Clelland
Glasgow
Blacksmith
Life
5
Andrew Dawson
Camelon
Nailer
Life
6
Robert Gray
Glasgow
Weaver
Life
7
Alexander Hart
Glasgow
Cabinet-maker
14 years
8
Alexander Johnston
Glasgow
Weaver
14 years
9
Alexander Latimer
Glasgow
Weaver
14 years
10
Thomas McCulloch
Glasgow
Stocking-Weaver
14 years
11
Thomas McFarlane
Condorrat
Weaver
Life
12
John McMillan
Camelon
Nailer
Life
13
Benjamin Moir
Glasgow
Labourer
14 years
14
Allan Murchie
Glasgow
Blacksmith
Life
15
Thomas Pike or Pink
Glasgow
Muslin Slinger
14 years
16
William Smith
Glasgow
Weaver
14 years
17
David Thompson
Glasgow
Weaver
14 years
18
Andrew White
Glasgow
Bookbinder
14 years
19
James Wright
Glasgow
Tailor
14 years

One of the radicals sentenced at Stirling was weaver, John Anderson, the son of John Anderson and Janet Stean, born in the 1790s at Camelon near Falkirk in Stirling. His crime was pasting up political posters. He pleaded guilty and his sentence was Life.

The activists were taken to Edinburgh and were kept on a prison hulk until they departed on the ‘Speke’ arriving in Sydney in May 1821.

Ebenezer Chucrh and graveyard. Photo: M. Nichols


The indent describes John as short of stature, he stood 5’ 3½” high with brown hair and hazel eyes. Shortly after John's arrival he was employed by Simeon Lord (1771-1840), emancipated convict and entrepreneur. He was employed by Lord until 1823 when he found employment as a teacher at Ebenezer Church, on the Hawkesbury River. Whilst growing up, John had been given a reasonable education at the local parish school, he could read and wrote a refined copperplate. 

Classes were conducted for local children shortly after the sandstone church, constructed by the Coromandel settlers in 1809, opened. Lessons were conducted in one half of the church. A separate residence was built adjacent to the church, for the schoolmaster. 

Another of the radicals, Thomas McCulloch wrote a letter to his wife in 1821 encouraging her to apply as a free settler. He wrote, “This is a fine country, and will grow anything that will grow in any other country, and in general have three crops a year.” 

In the mid-1830s William IV granted absolute pardon to the rebels, John's pardon was published in the Sydney Gazette 3 November 1836.

Sydney Gazette 3 November 1836

In 1834 John’s sister, Mrs Christiana Stephenson arrived from Scotland and joined him at the Hawkesbury. With his sister acting as housekeeper, several students were able to board at the school. Apparently, the “chapel was partitioned and at one end had an upper floor where Mrs Stephenson and the girls were quartered.” . It was recorded that Anderson was a “burning and shining light of scholarship on the Hawkesbury for many years” and some of his pupils went on to fill important positions.


When he was in his early sixties, John married Lucy Watson at Ebenezer in 1854. Lucy was the daughter of shipwright James Watson and was apparently a much younger woman.

Anderson had a reasonable knowledge of music and acted as Ebenezer’s precentor, the person who led the congregation in its singing at the church.  After devoting himself to teaching at Ebenezer for over thirty years at Ebenezer, Anderson retired in July 1855. A well-liked member of the community, he was held in high regard and he was given a presentation and a purse of twenty-eight sovereigns as part of his retirement.

Family Notices from The Sydney Morning Herald 7 August 1858


John Anderson died at Ebenezer aged 65 years on 16 July 1858 and his death notice proudly states his participation in the Bonnymuir political uprising. John is buried in the churchyard where his wife erected a fitting headstone to his memory. More recently a monument was constructed at Bonnymuir in Scotland in memory of those who fought for their democratic right.

Anderson grave at Ebenezer. Photo: Jonathan Auld 2016

Sources:
Margaret & Alastair Macfarlane, The Scottish radicals : tried and transported to Australia for treason in 1820, p. 21 (Stevenage, Hertfordshire : Spa Books, 1981)
A. J. Gray, 'Anderson, John (1790–1858)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University 
NSW BDM - ANDERSON  JOHN 5763/1858 Parents listed as JOHN & JANET. Registered at WINDSOR  





1 comment:

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