South Australia, It's Time To Accept The Fact That You Had Convicts Too

05/02/2016 12:18 PM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
Find My Past

South Australians have always prided themselves on having a "better" history than other colonies. The brag-worthy reasons were these:

1. SA was settled on rational economic principles;

2. SA was more progressive in terms of social and political development;

3. SA was settled by free people and no convicts.

But…hold on! That last fact is actually fiction. Just because there were no transported convicts to SA, doesn’t mean there weren’t any convicts there.

Sadly, the good people of SA can no longer brag about being the only state in Australia settled by free people -- with the discovery that two police constables and a Lord Mayor were escaped convicts.

convicts sa

. No Convicts There. But there was! Picture Supplied

Records obtained by Findmypast reveal the two police officers, Josiah James Rogers and Thomas Jones, had rather deviously scored themselves positions in South Australia's first paid police force in 1838.

The men were both listed as "1840s Police Constable [in] Adelaide" when they were actually escaped convicts.

South Australia was founded in 1836 and was incredibly proud of its status as "the first colony to be populated by free settlers" -- setting it apart from states like NSW settled by convicts.

The discovery that two police constables were tainted by the convict label was not a joyful moment for the Acting Governor who expressed his "surprise and displeasure" upon their eventual discovery.

Yet, according to the book Turning Points: Chapters in South Australian History, edited by Robert Foster and Paul Sendziuk, the two police constables did not lose their jobs. Because "the work was so poorly-paid and replacements hard to find, the two men were allowed to remain in the force".


Another colourful SA character with a convict past is Daniel Fisher, a former convict who became mayor of Kensington and Norwood in 1863 and later served as Member of the South Australian Parliament.

Fisher had been sentenced to transportation to Van Diemen's Land after committing a minor offence. However, as his South Australia Ex-convict record on findmypast reveals, Daniel Fisher was vindicated of the allegations some 33 years after he'd received his sentence.

Thankfully, when his accuser "confessed to falsehoods on his deathbed". Fisher went on to receive a full pardon from the Queen.

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