Tag Archives: Elshender

Indictment: Glasgow, January 1841

INDICTMENT

Against

Robert xxxxxxxxxxx and James xxxxxxxxx

(Assault and Robbery.)

Image

Robert xxxxxxxxxxx, a labourer, sometime residing in or near the village of Forth, in the parish of Carnwath and shire of Lanark, and James xxxxxxxxx, a sawyer, lately residing in or near Forth aforesaid, present prisoners in the prison of Lanark, you are Indicted and Accused at the instance of ANDREW RUTHERFORD, Esquire, her Majesty’s Advocate, for her Majesty’s interest: THAT ALBEIT, by the laws of this and of every other well governed realm, ASSAULT, especially when committed to the effusion of blood and the serious injury of the person, and by a person who has been previously convicted of assault; as also ROBBERY, are crimes of a heinous nature, and severely punishable: YET TRUE IT IS OF VERITY, that you the said Robert xxxxxxxxxxx are guilty of the said crime of Assault, aggravated as aforesaid, and of the said crime of Robbery, actor, or art and part; and you the said James xxxxxxxxx are guilty of the said crime of Assault, aggravated by its being committed to the effusion of blood, and the serious injury of the person, and of the said crime of robbery, actor, or art and part: IN SO FAR AS,

Late on the evening of the 1st, or early on the morning of the (Wednesday or Thursday.) 2d day of July 1840, or on one or other of the days of that month, or of June immediately preceding, or of August immediately following, on the public road leading from the village of Forth aforesaid, to the town or village of Carnwath, and on or near that part of the said road which is 724 yards or thereby from the West Forth Toll-bar, and 287 Yards or thereby from the bridge on the said road across the water called the Mouse Water, and which part of the said road is situated in the parish of Carnwath and shire of Lanark aforesaid, you the said Robert xxxxxxxxxxx and James xxxxxxxxx did, both and each or one or other of you, violently, wickedly, and feloniously attack and assault Robert xxxxxx, then and now or lately a dealer in swine, and then and now or lately residing at or near Lockerbie, in the parish of Dryfesdale and shire of Dumfries, and did with a bludgeon or stick, or some other instrument or instruments to the Prosecutor unknown, strike him one or more severe blows on his head, and did seize him by the breast of his coat, and did pull him from off the tram of a cart which he was then driving, to the ground, and while he was lying on the ground did kick him repeatedly with your feet on his head, and other parts of his person, and did by kicking him on the head with the toes or points of your boots or shoes, or in some other manner and by some other means to the Prosecutor unknown, inflict several severe wounds on his head, and did otherwise maltreat and abuse him, to the great effusion of his blood and serious injury of his person, and did, both and each or one or other of you,

Time and place above libelled, by force and violence, take from the person or pockets of the said Robert xxxxxx, and rob him of

A dark coloured fustain purse,

Fourteen pounds, or thereby, in bank or banker’s notes,

Two pounds five shillings sterling, or thereby, in silver money,

2 ½d., or thereby, in copper money, and

A ready-reckoner, having a brown leather cover, the property or in the lawful possession of the said Robert xxxxxx: And you the said Robert xxxxxxxxxxx have been previously convicted of assault: And you the said Robert xxxxxxxxxxx and James xxxxxxxxx, being conscious of your guilt in the premises, did abscond and flee from justice: And you the said James xxxxxxxxx having been apprehended and taken before Daniel Vere, Esquire, sheriff-substitute of the shire of Lanark, did, in his presence at Lanark, on the 3rd and 29th days of July 1840,

Emit and subscribe two several declarations: And you the said Robert xxxxxxxxxxx having been apprehended and taken before Daniel Vere, Esquire, sheriff-substitute aforesaid, did, in his presence at Lanark, on the

12th day of November 1840

Emit and subscribe; and having again been taken before the said Daniel Vere, Esquire, sheriff-substitute aforesaid, you the said Robert xxxxxxxxxxx did, in his presence at Lanark, on the

17th December 1840

Emit a declaration, which declaration was subscribed by him in your presence, you having declined to sign the same: Which declarations being to be used in evidence against each of you the said James xxxxxxxxx and Robert xxxxxxxxxxx, by whom the same were emitted; as also an extract or certified copy of a conviction of the crime of assault, obtained against you the said Robert xxxxxxxxxxx, before the Circuit Court of Justiciary at Glasgow, bearing to be dated 8th January 1835, being to be used in evidence against you the said Robert xxxxxxxxxxx; as also a medical report or certificate, bearing to be dated ‘Carnwath, 2 July 1840,’ and to be signed by ‘Alexr. Gray, M.D. James Thomson, ‘surgeon;’ as also a medical report or certificate, bearing to be dated ‘Lanark, 3 July 1840,’ and to be signed ‘Alexr. Gray, M.D.;’ as also a bank note of the Bank of Scotland for one pound sterling; as also a light coloured fustain or moleskin coat; as also a shirt; as also a pair of ancle boots or shoes; as also a pair of fustain or moleskin trowsers, (to which bank note, coat, shirt, boots or shoes, and trowsers respectively sealed labels are now attached), being to be used in evidence against both and each of you the said Robert xxxxxxxxxxx and James xxxxxxxxx, at your trial, will, for that purpose, be in due time lodged in the hands of the clerk of the Circuit Court of Justiciary before which both and each of you the said Robert xxxxxxxxxxx and James xxxxxxxxx are to be tried, that you may respectively have an opportunity of seeing the same: ALL WHICH, or part thereof, being found proven by the verdict of an assize, or admitted by the respective judicial confessions of you the said Robert xxxxxxxxxxx and James xxxxxxxxx, before the Lord Justice-General, Lord Justice-Clerk, and Lords Commissioners of Justiciary, in a Circuit Court of Justiciary to be holden by them, or by any one or more of their number, within the burgh of Glasgow, in the month of January in the year 1841, you the said Robert xxxxxxxxxxx and James xxxxxxxxx OUGHT to be punished with the pains of law, to deter others from committing the like crimes in all time coming.

GEO. DEAS, A.D.

How convenient was it to have access to an almost endless supply of labour, free labour – slaves by any other name? How just was it to put a man to trial, when that man had no right to speak in defence of himself in court? Just how many of the countless ‘convicts’ sent to the ‘new world’ by the British legal system were actually guilty of the crimes they were accused of?

James “Elshender” Alexander was born poor and remained so for the duration of his life. His struggle was one of survival, beset on all sides by the ‘laws of the land’ which made such a task increasingly difficult. A man who found his way from the lowlands of Scotland to Lower Canada, in search of a life free from the interference of over-zealous authorities. On his return to Scotland, to aide his wife’s mental health problems, the authorities would not leave him be, and eventually fabricated a charge that would see Elshender transported for life to Tasmania, the largest penal colony of its time.

There has yet to be retribution for the indiscriminate wielding of tabula rasa. Elshender: A Tale of a Poor Man is one small step in this direction, linking the stories of Scotland’s poor with the Haudenosaunee of Lower Canada, and with the indigenous peoples of Tasmania.

Advertisements

A Brief History of Betsey Island

On 30 March 1825 the Colonial Office wrote to Governor Arthur stating that a James King had written enquiring about the possibility of obtaining the use of an island on which to breed silver grey rabbits for the China fur trade. Governor Arthur replied suggesting that Betsey Island would be very suitable although he claimed that there was no fresh water on the island. (HRA, 3, IV, pp.244-5, 384)

On 17 June 1826 the Hobart Town Gazette reported that a settler on his way to the Colony had obtained a reserve on Betsey Island and was bringing out rabbits to breed there. James King and his son arrived on the Adrian on 9 September 1826 and by late October it was reported that he had discovered two springs of water on the island and formed a safe landing place. (Hobart Town Gazette, 16 September 1826 supplement, 28 October 1826)

King’s venture was apparently quite successful but in December 1831 the island and rabbit stock, part of the estate of the late James King, was advertised for sale. (Hobart Town Courier, 10 December 1831; Examiner, 20 June 1868)

It was purchased by a Captain Bell and Mr Crombie for £470 but was again advertised for sale in September 1840, complete with rabbits from which the advertisement stated: ‘a good income could be obtained.’ This advertisement also claimed the suitability of the island as a ‘fortress.’ (Hobart Town Courier, 7 January 1832; Colonial Times, 22 September 1840).

It was purchased in November 1840 by Sir John and Lady Jane Franklin for £910 but after they left the colony it was advertised for lease by their trustees, Edward Bedford and Ronald Gunn. (Hobart Town Courier, 26 October 1841)

The island was apparently quite deserted during the later 1840s and J. E. Calder, writing of a visit there in February 1848 stated that it was only occasionally visited by fishermen although he had found four deserters from the American ship Cicero hiding there until their ship left port. He also records that King’s stone house was ‘still good, although very dilapidated’ and that there were ‘still remains of some agriculture but very few rabbits. (Tasmania Tribune, 26 January 1876)

The island appears to have remained deserted but in June 1867 the Tasmanian Acclimatisation Society sent four pairs of rabbits from there to their counterparts in Victoria. (Mercury, 27 June 1867)

In November 1868 Jane Franklin granted the island back to the people of Tasmania to be used as a game preserve. It was to be held in trust for the Tasmanian Acclimatisation Society as long as this Society continued to perform work considered by the trustees to be beneficial to the general public. The trustees were the Colonial Treasurer, the Surveyor-General, the President of the Royal Society, Robert Officer, R. C. Gunn, Morton Allport, and John Woodcock Graves. (House of Assembly Papers No. 87/1868)

It appears that a game keeper may have been appointed in 1869 although it is not possible to confirm this. (CSD9/1)

IMG_0543

In January 1890 enquiries were made of the Chief Secretary as to what was happening to the island, and the executors of R. C. Gunn’s estate were asked if they would be willing to convey the island to the trustees of the Tasmanian Museum. This they were willing to do if they were not put to any expense, and the Crown Solicitor was instructed to prepare the necessary papers. (CSD17/1/113)

For some reason, which is not recorded, this was not proceeded with until November 1903 and the island was then finally conveyed to the Museum trustees. A file note states that there was someone living on the island at this time. (CSD22/71/141/13)


Edinburgh Advertiser, 13th November 1840

How convenient was it to have access to an almost endless supply of labour, free labour – slaves by any other name? How just was it to put a man to trial, when that man had no right to speak in defence of himself in court? Just how many of the countless ‘convicts’ sent to the ‘new world’ by the British legal system were actually guilty of the crimes they were accused of?

James “Elshender” Alexander was born poor and remained so for the duration of his life. His struggle was one of survival, beset on all sides by the ‘laws of the land’ which made such a task increasingly difficult. A man who found his way from the lowlands of Scotland to Lower Canada, in search of a life free from the interference of over-zealous authorities. On his return to Scotland, to aide his wife’s mental health problems, the authorities would not leave him be, and eventually fabricated a charge that would see Elshender transported for life to Tasmania, the largest penal colony of its time.

There has yet to be retribution for the indiscriminate wielding of tabula rasa. Elshender: A Tale of a Poor Man is one small step in this direction, linking the stories of Scotland’s poor with the Haudenosaunee of Lower Canada, and with the indigenous peoples of Tasmania.

IMG_0543

 

Edinburgh Advertiser newspaper report, 13th November 1840:

Apprehension of a Desperate Robber

‘Our readers will recollect, that on the 23rd of last month, James Alexander, or Elshender, a notorious robber who had earned himself the sobriquet of “The Modern Rob Roy,” had broken out of Lanark jail, where he was incarcerated, charged with a desperate act of highway robbery; and that £20 was offered by the authorities there for his apprehension. Since then the police have been on the alert, to discover the daring freebooter; and having got a hint that he was likely to visit Hallow Fair, Sergeant-Major Colquhoun traced Elshender on Wednesday afternoon to a house in Bruntsfield Links, where, assisted by the criminal officers of the Establishment, and Mr Currie, Chief Officer of Police at Lanark, they pounced upon him and a confederate named Somerville. Both Elshender and Somerville are strong and desperate men, and they made a powerful resistance, but Colquhoun and his party succeeded in overpowering them both, and in dragging, or almost carrying them bodily, to the cells of the Police Office, where they were safely lodged, to be dealt with according to the law. The farmers in the west of Edinburghshire, as well as those of Lanark and Linlithgowshires, will, we believe, feel relieved by the knowledge that Elshender is at length in safekeeping.’


Edinburgh Courant, 29th October 1840

How convenient was it to have access to an almost endless supply of labour, free labour – slaves by any other name? How just was it to put a man to trial, when that man had no right to speak in defence of himself in court? Just how many of the countless ‘convicts’ sent to the ‘new world’ by the British legal system were actually guilty of the crimes they were accused of?

James “Elshender” Alexander was born poor and remained so for the duration of his life. His struggle was one of survival, beset on all sides by the ‘laws of the land’ which made such a task increasingly difficult. A man who found his way from the lowlands of Scotland to Lower Canada, in search of a life free from the interference of over-zealous authorities. On his return to Scotland, to aide his wife’s mental health problems, the authorities would not leave him be, and eventually fabricated a charge that would see Elshender transported for life to Tasmania, the largest penal colony of its time.

There has yet to be retribution for the indiscriminate wielding of tabula rasa. Elshender: A Tale of a Poor Man is one small step in this direction, linking the stories of Scotland’s poor with the Haudenosaunee of Lower Canada, and with the indigenous peoples of Tasmania.

Image

Edinburgh Courant newspaper report, 29th October 1840:

Ingenious Mode of Escape from Prison

‘On Friday morning, an untried prisoner of the name of Alexander, better known by that of the “notorious Elshender,” made his escape from Lanark jail, in which he was incarcerated on a criminal charge. He was permitted to go into the court for some article, when, finding a rope, he tied it to the handle of a spade, which he also got hold of in the court. He then threw the spade over the wall, twenty feet in height, and it fastened to the cope-stone, when he easily ascended to the top, fixed the spade to the other side of the cope, and swung himself down to the bottom, which having gained, he made a good run for it, and has not since been seen or heard of. He is described as a dangerous character, and is charged with a great many crimes, the conviction of any one of which would infer the punishment of transportation. He broke out of the old jail, and was captured only a short while ago at Carnwath, where he was put into a school room, his hands tied behind his back, and a couple of sentinels placed over him. By rubbing the cord against the chimney-piece, he succeeded in disengaging his hands, and immediately dashed through a window, and would have effected his escape; but a troop of yeomanry, who happened to be ready mounted, immediately started in pursuit. He held out even then, until he became alarmed on seeing an officer belonging to the corps marching forward with a pistol, and another with his sword drawn, when he surrendered.’


A Last Ditch Attempt to Post Before April

How convenient was it to have access to an almost endless supply of labour, free labour – slaves by any other name? How just was it to put a man to trial, when that man had no right to speak in defence of himself in court? Just how many of the countless ‘convicts’ sent to the ‘new world’ by the British legal system were actually guilty of the crimes they were accused of? 

Short extract from Elshender: A Tale of a Poor Man

To aid understanding of the following events, events that led up to James being transported for life, I will now refer to James’ friend Robert (eleven crosses) as Rab, a well-known shortened version commonly used between friends (he will continue to be Robert eleven crosses in newspaper articles though). Robert six crosses, the alleged victim and case for the prosecution against James, will continue to be referred to as Robert. I do this because I tread on factual grounds in my fictional story of James’ life. An amateur detective (mentioned just before), now deceased, uncovered the ‘facts’ I am about to share with you sometime at the end of the twentieth century (sometime between 1984-8-ish but my memory of this is somewhat hazy so I may be out by a couple of years but no more than that). During his investigation of the facts surrounding James’ arrest, trial, and sentencing, this amateur detective took it upon himself to talk to people still living in the area where James’ crimes are alleged to have taken place (the crimes I refer to as alleged are the ones involving Robert (six crosses) but there are others that are not alleged, if you get my meaning). Some confusion still exists today where James is believed, by some, to have committed murder and robbery in the summer of 1840. James did not commit murder. He was a rogue. He survived as he saw fit in a hard country. He was affectionately known, by some, in the area as a ‘modern day Rob Roy.’ Here now is a re-telling of the events as they were told by Robert (six crosses), leading to James’ and Rab’s arrests, along with the findings of the amateur detective investigating James’ ‘crimes.’

Image

Robert stated that he was a pig-dealer, or dealer in swine, and that he travelled all over Scotland selling young pigs. He claimed to have been assaulted and robbed after leaving Forth on the evening of 30th June 1840. On 29th June he had left Lockerbie, Dumfriesshire with four shillings in his pocket and a cart loaded with thirty-eight young pigs for sale. He travelled through Beattock, Crawford, Abington, Douglas Mill, Ponfeigh and Kirkfieldbank, selling said pigs along the way. The final leg of his journey this day saw him pass through Lanark on the morning of 30th June, and on to Carstairs, where he had made provisions to spend the night at Walter Alexander’s Inn, before arriving in Forth at 7pm where he called on Orrick (sometimes also referred to as Orrock), a baker with whom he was acquainted, and the two went for drinks at the Inn at Forth. In the four hours that he admitted staying in this establishment, Robert spent over two shillings on alcoholic drinks, a considerable amount as beer was around 2d a pint (although this information is based on London prices, as the amateur detective could not find evidence of ale prices in the area for this period, and so one can assume that the drinks at Forth would have been much cheaper – much like today). If we assume that Orrick drank roughly half the amount bought by Robert, we may also assume that Orrick bought his fair share and that the amount consumed by both men was indeed considerable but even if Orrick did not buy any drinks that night, each man would have been suitably drunk, regardless. Robert’s intention from here was to travel to the Carnwath Fair that was due to be held on Thursday 2nd July. What he actually said he did at around 11pm on the evening of 30th June was to leave the Inn at Forth, with his horse and cart, and make for Carnwath, heading south at the West Forth Toll Bar before turning left onto a track road that would lead him to the Carnwath road. Robert later made a statement that he was assaulted and robbed of £16 by two men whilst attempting to make this journey.

The amateur detective has walked the route that Robert stated he used that night and has uncovered some glaring inconsistencies in the evidence that eventually led to James’ conviction. Said amateur detective did this in a period of the late twentieth century prior to the advent of such devices as 3G (4G, 5G, 6G – and so on) mobile phones, laptops, tablets and GPS. This means, for those of you young enough not to have experienced life prior to such wondrous stuff, that he actually had to go to lots of different places to find out lots of different things in order to allege that there was a miscarriage of justice in this instance. Some of the places he visited and things he found there: Lanark and District Library, The Tasmanian State Archives in Hobart, the Scottish Records Office in Edinburgh, the Public Records Office at Kew, libraries in Edinburgh, Lockerbie, Dumfries and Airdrie, the Hobart Mercury newspaper offices, H. M. Stationery Office, the Keeper of the Records of Scotland, graveyards, church registers, and testimonials from all sorts of professionals and lay-people – ‘interfacing’ if you like.


%d bloggers like this: