In 1988, to commemorate the Bi-centenary, the Irish government presented the Australian people with a set of microfilmed records of Irish convicts transported to Australia, together with a computer database index. The set, prepared by the National Archives of Ireland (NAI), comprises the series Prisoner Petitions and Cases (PPC), Convict Reference Files (CRF), Free Settlers' Papers (FS) and Transportation Registers (TR). The set, known as the Irish Transportation Papers, or the "Irish Gift", is in most major libraries and the index is now on the NAI website.
Selected extracts of the records, pertaining to John Sharpe's conviction and transportation in 1838, are transcribed here from the microfilm copies held by the National Library of Australia.
NAI, Convict Reference Files CRF 1838/H31
To His Excellency the Earl of Mulgrave
General Governor of Ireland &c &c
The Petition of Wm Hughes now a prisoner in the vessel at Kingstown
Most Humbly Sheweth
That on the 11th of March Petitioner with three others (John Burke, John Sharpe and Andrew Redmonds) was tried in Maryboro' for the alleged murder of James Conway when the Jury returned a verdict of manslaughter and Petitioner was sentenced to be transported.
Your Petitioner further sheweth that had it not been for an unfortunate blow given by John Sharpe Petitioner would only be tried for a common assault. Petitioner can get the best of characters from the neighbouring gentry and magistrates but in consequence of a Horse the property of deceased's friends having been gored by a cow they declined giving such characters until they investigated the circumstances to ascertain whether it was done maliciously or not.
Petitioner most humbly prays your Excellency not to allow Petitioner to be sent out until he ascertains the result of a full enquiry into the case and obtaining the characters sought to enable Petitioner to have his own case fully investigated by your Excellency when Petitioner most humbly assures your Excellency that it will appear that Petitioner's case is one of great hardship your Petitioner will as in duty bound ever pray &c &c
I have made strict inquiry into the character of William Hughes and find it much superior to any of his fellow convicts convicted of the same offence. A memorial in his behalf was laid before the Bench of Magistrates at Ballickmoyler Petty Sessions but they declined entertaining it until an investigation shall take place into an alleged subsequent outrage upon a Horse in the same Neighbourhood.
Ashfield Hall, Carlow 16th April 1838
Peter Gale JP
[Note across top corner:] Received Normanby Lodge 18 April 1838.
Mr Connor, A.M. Ap.19
Rec'd 20th April. Warrant dated 18th. The Prisoner's name is included in List. HT Connor, Ap.21
To His Excellency the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland &c &c
The humble Memorial of Wm Hughes now a prisoner in the Gaol of Maryboro' under sentence of transportation
Most Humbly Sheweth
That your Memorialist together with Andrew Redmonds, John Burke and John Sharpe were tried at the last Assizes at Maryborough before the Honorable Chief Justice Dogherty for the alleged murder of James Conway of the Rushes and a verdict of manslaughter found by the Jury. Memorialist further sheweth that several witnesses were examined on the part of the Crown but it will appear from the notes of the said Chief Justice who tried your Memorialist that no evidence was given to shew that your Memorialist struck any blow or did any acts by which the deceased lost his life nor does it appear that any malice or ill will existed between deceased and Memorialist. On the contrary thereof it appeared on said trial that Memorialist's Father was assisting deceased and that deceased was on the very best of terms with Memorialist and his Father.
The only evidence affecting your Memorialist was that your Memorialist had a stick flourishing in his hand, and that he was in company with the three other persons. Memorialist further states that it appeared from the medical man who attended deceased that he died in consequence of a blow received on the head and which blow it appeared by the evidence was given by the prisoner John Sharpe. And Memorialist solemnly declares he did not give said blow.
Your Memorialist most humbly assure your Excellency that he never was before Judge Barrister Petty court or Magistrates previous to this trial as appears from the annexed certificate to which your Memorialist humbly refers. Memorialist further sheweth that he has a wife and child depending solely on him for support and if the sentence so passed on him shall be carried into effect she will be totally deprived of support.
Your Memorialist humbly prays your Excellency to take his case into your Excellency's consideration &c &c and he will as in duty bound ever pray &c &c &c
April 24th 1838
We whose names are hereunto annexed certify that we have known the prisoner William Hughes for a long time and that we never knew him to be brought before a Judge Assistant Barrister Petty Sessions court or magistrate (nor heard of it) previous to the present.
I certify I have known the Memorialist since his Infancy and considered him
to be a sober honest and well conducted man and never heard of him being
charged with any offence whatever till the present.
Ballylehane Queens County April 2nd 38. Moore Hovenden.
I have known William Hughes the Memorialist since 1831. I have had many?
opportunity of judging of his character and my firm belief is that he was
during the foregoing period a quiet sober industrious man. I have known
Memorialist's father for the same period he has a good character and (without
co..ting the slightest inpr...tation on the Jury who tried Memorialist) I
believe the above Memorial to be true.
Heron Dale Queens County James Ludson? Marshall
22 Molesworth St Dublin
Having no personal knowledge of William Hughes' character further than the
report of some respectable persons in the neighbourhood which fully
collaborated the above statement & I can confidently state I never (except
on the charge stated in the foregoing Memorial) heard of his character having
Gurteen Queens County Thos Hovenden
I certify that Wm Hughes has borne a fair unblemished character from his
Infancy, and was always on the best of terms with our family, we never had any
altercation or quarrel previous to this unfortunate transaction.
First cousin to deceased
I certify that Wm Hughes has borne the best of a character and was always a
Friend to our Family by every means in his power.
First cousin to deceased
I don't know the bearer on sight. I am told he was always a well conducted
man until this last occurrence
Rahenshole 24 Apr 38 John Dunne
We the undersigned Magistrates have enquired into the character of William
Hughes which we find to be correct previous to the transaction in question and
if His Excellency should be disposed to commute the sentence, we would
recommend the Memorialist.
Wm Butler JP Queens Co
Peter Gale JP Queens Co
I certify that William Hughes was never charged with any crime to my
knowledge previous to the one for which he is now convicted.
William Fishbourne JP
[Note across top corner]
Mr Connor A.M. Ap.25
Mr Butler answered 30th
Ballylian 7th May 1838
Having sometime ago presented a petition to your Excellency at Ballyfair on behalf of Wm Hughes under sentence of transportation on a Trial had a Maryboro at the last assizes, your Excellency then directed me to have a Memorial immediately present, which was accordingly done on the 25th April last signed on behalf of said Hughes by the most independent Characters in the Queens County, and particularly by three magistrates of that Queens County, since which time no answer has been given by your Excellency and it being feared on the part of Hughes that the transport vessel might sail without your Excellency's answer and the friends of Hughes has suspected me, who was commissioned to present the petition to your Excellency of not having forward it, I therefore humbly implore your Excellency will extricate me from imputation by an answer thro' your Excellencies secretary.
I am with great respect,
Most obedient humble servant
[Note on bottom] Former Petitions gone to Civil Office 20th & 26th
[Note across top] Mr Connor. A.M. 9 May
Answered 10 May directed to Ballylian, Kildysart[?]. HTC
NAI, Free Settlers' Papers FS 1839/150
To His Excellency Lord Elrington, Lord Lieutenant General and General Governor of Ireland &c &c &c
The humble Petition of Bridget Redmond and Jane Hughes of Moderbay, parish of Killabin and Queens County, humbly sheweth
That your Petitioners' Husbands Andrew Redmond and Wm Hughes were on the 11th of March 1838, tried in Maryboro' with two others for the alleged murder of James Conway and a verdict of manslaughter was returned by the Jury, whereby Petitioners' Husbands (with two others aforesaid) were sentenced to be transported for life which has since been carried into effect.
Your Petitioners further sheweth that in consequence of said sentence they are bereaved of their Husbands whose labour was their only support, and your Petitioners are left, the former with three small children and the latter with one, in a state of destitution and misery without a single person on earth to assist Petitioners themselves and their helpless children, for having neither ways nor means of doing so any longer.
Your Petitioners therefore must humbly implore your Excellency from their poor and unfortunate [state?] to take their case into your kind and humane consideration and most humbly hope that your Excellency will send Petitioners to New South Wales after their Husbands who would strain every nerve and use every exertion to support Petitioners and children otherwise they will eventually starve and see their unfortunate children perishing from famine cold and nakedness.
Your Petitioners put forward the annexed.certificates and signatures most humbly imploring that your Excellency will give their case a favourable consideration and Petitioners will as in duty bound pray etc etc
June 21st 1839.
The Petitioners reside in my immediate neighbourhood and I believe are in a state of destitution as described. The offence for which the convicts were sentenced arose from a drunken affray and not for the precious system of outrages this particular part of the country is at present in a state of the greatest tranquillity; this being the only offence for trial at the assizes for the last two years, tho was much disturbed in 1832.
Ashfield Hall, Carlow
21st June 1839
P Gale, JP
Maurice Hibert PP Ballyadams?
James Kilbride CC do
Richd? Revd? Buggy CC Lurgan?
These women have come before me and declared as on their oaths that if they are sent to their husbands they will endeavour as far as women can do, to prevent them from falling into any act of outrage again or of committing them never again?
P Hickey P Priest of Killabbin
We beg leave to recommend the foregoing Petition to the favourable consideration of His Excellency the Lord Lieutenant.
CL Sanders JP QC
......... JP & DL
I believe the petitioners objects worthy of the clemency of his Excellency the Lord Lieutenant
Catholic Curate of the
parish of Kilabbin
CW Coote Bart & JP
WH Tichbourne JP
[Decision by Lord Lieutenant illegible]
To His Excellency Lord Elrington Lord Lieutenant General and General Governor of Ireland
The humble petition of Bridget Redmond and Jane Hughes of Moderbay near Ballylinan, Parish of Killabin and Queens County,
That on the 5th day of July last Petitioners went to Dublin with a memorial which Petitioners presented for Your Excellency's consideration, praying that Petitioners might be sent after their Husbands to New South Wales. Petitioners beg leave to state that their memorial was signed and recommended in its prayer by Sir Charles Coote Bart, Anthony Holden Esq High Sheriff Peter Gale JP ..... William Cooper and William Fishbourne Esquires and Justices of the Peace, the Revd Hubert Buggy Kilbride and Doran, Moore Hovenden Esq and other resident Gentlemen of the neighbourhood. Petitioners beg further to state that they got no answer since then to the aforesaid Memorial, and Petitioners most humbly implore your Excellency, to take their case into consideration and let them have an answer, and Petitioners will as in duty bound ever pray etc
Athy August 22nd 1839.
[Note across top]
Profey[?]. A.M 23 Aug
Transport? Life? of the .... sent on the 11th.
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