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:—
Transcription updated 13 September 2022
Transcription updated 5 May 2023
26 August 1834 P[ublic]W[orks]./ Drunk to be worked on the Roads 6 months /[ordered by] P[rincipal]. S[uperintendent of Convict Department]/
26 August 1834 [Assigned to] P[rincipal] S[Superintendent of Convict Department’s] office
9 September 1834 [Assigned to] W[harf] W[orks] Off[ice]
? July 1835 P[ublic]W[orks,] Absent from his Work, 25 lashes / [ordered by] A[lexander] Murray
24 July 1835 P[ublic] W[orks,] Disorderly Conduct in the Street, Tread Wheel for the next 6 Saturday Afternoons / [ordered by] J[osiah]. S[pode].
1 August 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
21 September 1835 Hobart Town P.O [sentence?] ex[tende]d 71 [by 1 year?]
2 October 1835 Disorderly Conduct in Absenting himself from work on the 2nd Oct / 12 lashes/ [ordered by] A[lexander] Murray
24 August 1836 P[ublic]W[orks,] Absent from Barracks all night, 3 Months hard labour in view of the Town Surveyors Gang / [ordered by] W[illiam] Gunn
29 August 1836 [Assigned to] P[rincipal] S[Superintendent of Convict Department’s] Off[ice]
4 February 1837 Having in his possession a Woman’s cap & some Lace without giving a satisfactory account of them / Hard labour in chains 3 Months / [ordered by] P[rincipal] S[uperintendent of Convict Department] / at his trade Vide [see] Liut Governors decision 4/2/1837
7 February 1837 [Assigned to] P[rincipal] S[Superintendent of Convict Department’s] Off[ice]
14 July 1837 [assigned to] L[aunceston]
16 September 1837 D[avid] Williams / Returned to Govt his master not requiring his services [date may be in 1839]
Corra Linn, Evandale
4 December 1837 [assigned to] Morven [Evandale District]
7 December 1837 [Master is Henry] Nickolls/ Assaulting (and threatening)?? Violence to his master 6 months hard labour in the Street & ret to Government ([ordered by] R[ichard]. Wales) [to] Kings Meadows Chain Gang, after[wards to] Laun[ceston] assignable. Vide [see] Lieutenant Governor’s Decision
King’s Meadows, Launceston
16 December 1837 [assigned to] C[hief]. P[olice]. M[agistrate]. [then either ink blot or obscure word]
?1 December 1837 L[aunceston] [date obscured -either 21 or 31]
2 October 1838 N[orfolk] Plains [thank you Lenore!]
5 October 1838 VDL Establishment / Incorrigible idleness and using abusive language. 26 lashes & returned to Government / [ordered by] J[ames]. C[ubbiston]. S[utherland].
13 October 1838 [Assigned to] C[ampbell] t[own] of[fice]
Calstock Estate, Deloraine
20 October 1838 ? [Assignment lost off fold of page] Possibly Calstock Estate near Deloraine
Snake Banks (Powranna)
23 November 1838 [Lt Pearson] Foote/ Idleness & neglect of duty. 6 months hard labour / [magistrate] W[illiam]. M[oriarty]/ Snake Banks & Returned to his Service vide Ltd Gov Decision 23 Nov 1838
Calstock Estate, Deloraine?
23 May 1839 Theoreticaly the date returned to the service of Pearson Foote, RN.
? October 1839 L[auncesto]n
11 November 1839 G[eorge] Town off[ice] [Assigned to Samuel McKee (implied)] [thank you Ned!]
8 January 1840 Sm Mc’Kee / Returned Depot Do [his master not requiring his services]
3 July 1840 Free [by Servitude] Certificate No 524/1840