BILL WANNAN S
WHEN Major Joseph Childs took over the command of
the convict prison settlement at Norfolk Island in February, 1844, he began a regime of harsh, rigid discipline that ended in mutiny, massacre, and the execution of 12 men,
His predecessor, Captain Maconochie, had been of a more kindly disposition. He had looked on his prisoners as human beings and had given them some little interest in life by allowing them to have small farm plots in which they could grow sweet
potatoes and other vegetables.
He shortened hours of labor, holidays were granted to those convicts whose be-
havior was considered satis factory, and each prisoner was allowed to cook his own meals in saucepans and kettles specially provided.
.Major Childs decided to alter all this.
Gradually, over a period of two years, he withdrew the privileges
that had made the men relatively contented under Maconochie.
He abolished the private farm plots. He lengthened the daily hours of work. He withdrew holi
days for good behavior. He cut down the prisoners' rations.
And then, on the memorable first day of July, 1846, he announced the aboliton of the last little privi-
lege - the last vestige of privacy that had given the men a feeling that they were individuals.
Major Childs issued a proclama- tion that food was to be served in bulk, that no personal cooking was
to be permited, and that kettles and saucepans held by prisoners
were to be handed in.
That day in July, when the proclamation recalling utensils was posted up, everything seemed
outwardly calm on the Island. Some of the men were confined to their cells. Others were attending school.
Among the convict scholars sit- ting at their arithmetic was a young man of about 26, named William Westwood. His fellow prisoners called him Jacky Jacky.
Quiet, with a pleasant manner and a cultured voice, he was a gen- eral favorite among the hardened outcasts of the "Ocean Hell."
Was a legend
WESTWOOD has been
transported to New
South Wales at the age of
16 for a minor offence which nowa- days would earn him only a cau- tion from a magistrate.
Assigned to a gentleman farmer in 1837. the youth had taken to bushranging in the Goulburn dis- trict after three years as a farm boy. He joined forces with a no- torious outlaw, Paddy Curran, but strongly objected to his mate's treatment of the women he bailed up, and from then on worked strictly on his own.
He became a legend in Syd- ney. He often visited the city in
disguise and laughed at the at- tempts of police, and militia to capture him. lt was a girl who finally caught Jacky Jacky. He called in at Gray's Black Horse Inn near Berrima (N.S.W.) and was recognised by the lass who served him his drinks. She pounced on him and held him un- til he had been secured by a blow from a carpenter's hammer.
The "Gentleman Bushranger," as he was widely known, was taken to Cockatoo Island, Sydney. De- tected in an atempt to escape with other prisoners, he was trans- ported to Van Diemen's Land.
There, he once again took to the bush, was caught while visiting Hobart Town, and was sentenced to death. The sentence was com- muted to life imprisonment on Norfolk Island.
Jacky Jacky had never been a violent man. He had never been implicated in the remotest way in murder or brutal treatment of those he waylaid. Apart from his attempts to escape, he had been noted for his exemplary conduct as a prisoner.
But something snapped in his
brain as he sat working at sums in the school on Norfolk Island.
He could hear the military guards outside gathering up the men's pots and pans and kettles - taking away their last symbol of civilised living.
He pushed his slate from him, and thc other men in the class
room saw a strange look in his. eyes. He kept his thoughts to him-
Next day, after a compulsory prayers parade, the convicts went in a body to the lumber yard to read the new proclamation. There were indignant cries.
GATHERING in rough military formation they
marched to the Barrack Yard, stormed the store, and seized every utensil within reach.
Then the quiet young man they knew as Jacky Jacky hushed them.
"Now, men," he said, "I've made up my mind to bear this oppression no longer. But, remember, I'm go- ing to the gallows. If any man funks, let him stand out. Those who want to follow me - come on!"
So the mutiny began. Jacky Jacky, his face transformed with rage, struck at a contable who was watching the proceedings. He felled him, and his mates, their pent-up fury now finding a savage outlet, struck at him with knives, sticks, pitchforks - with any weapons they could find.
Then they hurried to the cook house. Here they found Stephen Smith, the mess overseer. Jacky Jacky attacked him.
"For God's sake don't hurt me, Jacky!" he cried out. "Remember my wife and children!"
"Damn your wife and children;" said the livid young convict, and knocked him senseless. When the others had finished with him he was a mutilated corpse.
The convicts moved on in a wildly rushing mass about 1,600-strong, to the Barrack Yard gate, where they pushed aside a sentry and an over- seer who tried, to halt them. Their one thought now was to get to
Government House, where the main target of their wrath was Mr. Bar- row, the Stipendiary Magistrate.
As they passed by the lime kilns Jacky Jacky, now wielding an axe, ran over to a hut, forced open the door, and killed two policemen, one of whom was asleep in his bed.
As they moved down the road
towards Government House, they were confronted by a line of soldiers, muskets at the ready. As though the force of their passion had suddenly been spent, the con- victs halted, and then began to retreat towards the .lumber yard, where their weapons were taken from them, and they were returned
to. their cells.
Jacky Jacky and 11 of the most prominent leaders of the mutiny were tried and sentenced to be hanged.
Writing, on the eve of his execu- tion, to the Rev. Thomas Watson, a chaplain he had known in Van Diemen's Land. Jacky, alias Wil- liam Westwood, poured out his heart and soul to one of the few officials who had ever befriended
"Reverend Sir," he said, among
many things, "you will shudder at my cruelty, but I only took life—those that I deprived of life though they did not in a moment send a man to his last ac- count inflicted on many a lingering death - for years they have tortured men's minds as well as their bodies, and after years of mental and bodily torture, sent them to a pre- mature grave.
". . . Will it be be- lieved here that this was allowed to be carried on in the 19th century?"