Van Diemen’s Land

James Dyson served seven years as a convict in Van Diemen’s Land (now Tasmania) between 1834 and 1840. He arrived in Hobart Town on the convict ship Moffat on 9 May 1834. Until 1837 he worked on the road gang in that town, Then he was transferred to northern Tasmania around the Launceston district and was assigned to various masters in the area. He was never granted a ticket-of-leave or a conditional pardon and served his sentence until it expired on the 3 July 1840. He left the colony a year later for the free settlement (one without convict labour) of Western Australia.

He was not a model prisoner, although his long record of malfeasance while in bond should be seen in context over a seven year sentence. Below is an attempted translation of Dyson’s official record as a convict. It is hoped that some more flesh can be applied to these bare bones of history:

Hobart Town

20 Aug 1834  [assigned to] P[ublic Works] S[uperintendent] OH

26 Aug[ust] 1834
Drunk, to be worked on the Roads 6 Mo[nths] / P[olice] S[uperintendent]

9 Sep 1834 [assigned to] WW (name?) OH
?? July 1835
P[ublic] W[orks]
Absent from his Work, 25 Lashes
[Ordered by] A[lexander] Murray

24 July 1835
Disorderly Conduct in the Street,  T[read] Wheel for the next 6 Sat[urda]y[s] Afterwards

1 Aug 1835
P[ublic] W[orks]
Idleness to be confined in Barracks on Saturday & sleep in a Solitary Cell 3 nights
[Ordered by] Alex[ander] [Murray]

Oct 2 1835
P[ublic] W[orks]
Disorderly Conduct in absenting himself of work on the 2nd Oct. 12 lashes
[Ordered by] A[lexander] Murray

Aug 24th 1836
P[ublic] W[orks]
Absent from Barracks all night, 3 months hard labor in view of the Town Surveyors Gang
[Ordered by] W. Gunn

27/29 Aug 1836 [assigned to] P[ublic Works] S[uperintendent] OH

Febry 4th 1837
P[ublic] W[orks]
Having in his possession a Woman’s Case & some Lace without giving a satisfactory account of these, hard labor in chains 3 months
(P[ublic Works] S[uperintendant])/
at his trade, see Lieut Governor’s Decision, 4th Febry 1837

7 Feb 1837 [assigned to] Public Works] S[uperintendent]  OHD


14 July 1837 [assigned to] L (Launceston?)


4 Dec 1837 [assigned to] Morven
Dec 7 1837
Ab ?????? violence which ?? months hard labour in the street to Govt
[Ordered by] R[obert] Wales
King’s Meadows chain Gang after[wards] Laun[ceston] assign[ment], see Lieut Governor’s Decision.

King’s Meadows (Launceston)

2 Oct 1838 [assigned to] A Nems  (not deciphered)

October 5 1838
V D L Establishm[en]t /
Incorrigible idleness & using abusive language. 26 Lashes Liet. to Gov /
[Ordered by] TGS

Van Diemens Land Establishment

13 Oct 1838 [assigned to]  W.SS c/w (not deciphered)
20 Oct 1838 (date inferred) [assigned to] (assignee lost off fold of page)

[23 Nov 1838]
Foote? /
Idleness & neglect of duty. 6 Months hd labour
[Ordered by]
Snake Banks & ret[urne]d to his service
see after [after an entry dated] 23 November 1838

16 Sep 1839
J Williams
Retd / for ” his master not requiring his services.

Snake Banks (Powranna)

?? Oct 1839  [assigned to]  LS
11 December 1839  [assigned to] Town or Launc (not deciphered)

8 January 1840
Sw Kes[?]
Returned. Du.


Free Certificate No 524 1840s


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