I’m a bit shocked to realise that it’s been six years since that I first posted a transcription of James Dyson’s conduct record as a convict in Van Diemen’s Land. For the past year I’ve been writing up the story of his time on the island. I think I understand now most of what happened between 1834-1840, and in the process I’ve revised that initial transcription quite considerably. As is always the case, the solutions only seem obvious with hindsight.

There is now only a single entry in the record that I have not been able to find a convincing explanation for. The context is this: At the bottom of the Convict record is a row of dates and abbreviations that indicate when, and to which authority a convict has been assigned. For example: C.P.M. would be the local Chief Police Magistrate the prisoner has been sent to. In the case of James Dyson, The Snake Banks road gang was the actual place this authority sent him to.

The place or authority our recalcitrant miscreant was sent to on 2 October 1838 probably is somewhere or someone related to the Cressy Estate around the Norfolk Plains District west of Campbelltown.

Update 15 September 2022: I think the mystery is now solved! See below…

It is something to do with the Van Diemen’s Land Establishment (also known as the Cressy Company to distinguish it from the Van Diemen’s Land Company of north western Tasmania). This we can deduce from the next record of Dyson’s misbehaviour dated only three days after he was sent there:

5/10/1838 VDL Establishment / Incorrigible idleness and using abusive language. 26 lashes & returned to Government / [ordered by] J[ames]. C[ubbiston]. S[utherland].

Sutherland was a land occupier on the Isis River who acted as a JP for those who could not get into town to see the Police Magistrate.

When he first arrived in VDL in 1834, one of Dyson’s first assignments was the completion of this wharf — these days part of Salamanca Markets

If I’ve been able to confirm nothing else about his time in Tasmania (and this is by no means an original observation) James Dyson was someone who seriously did not like authority.

James Dyson’s conduct record in Van Diemen’s Land 1834-1840