Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Convict Constables

Yesterday we visited the Justice and Police Museum at Circular Quay in Sydney.

Two items of interest were a "Convict Constable's Rattle" (above left) and a "Convict Constable's Lamp" (above right) from the early 1800's.

What then was a "Convict Constable"?

Although the Colony of New South Wales was established as a penal settlement under military guard, little was planning was made for its civil policing. A Provost Marshal was appointed and the Governor was empowered to create constables.

In 1789, due to the lack of any available free men, Governor Phillip appointed twelve of the best behaved convicts to serve on the Night Watch which was the colony's first civilian police unit.

History Services NSW has 1190 records of convicts who subsequently became constables at some time in the Colony of New South Wales. One of the more celebrated being William (Billy) Blue, ferryman, of Blues Point.

"Billy Blue" arrived in Sydney on 14 December 1801 in the convict ship Minorca. Our records show that on 17 August 1811 he was appointed a water bailiff - "Watchman of the Heaving Down Place in Sydney Cove".

In 1814, he is recorded as being a "Constable of Sydney, on government stores".

On 17 November 1818, he was "dismissed as constable and Watchman of the Heaving Down Place in Sydney for improper conduct" on suspicion of smuggling.

"Billy Blue" continued to run his ferry services on Port Jackson and wasone of the colourful characters in the early days of the Colony.

If you are researching a convict ancestor, you should go to our website at:http://www.historyservices.com.au/convicts.htm

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