Story of an ancestor

According to my dad’s files, there were some right crooks in my ancestry. Here is part of the story of one of his maternal ancestors.

ROBERT FORRESTER 1758 – 1827

  • Birth: 1758 Middlesex, England
  • Death: 14 Feb 1827 NSW.

Convict, “Scarborough” First Fleet

He was tried at Old Bailey, London on 30 April 1783 for stealing gold coins with a value of 126 shillings. He was sentenced to transportation for 7 years having been originally sentenced to death, and left England on the Scarborough aged about 28 at that time (May 1787). He had no occupation recorded. Guilty of return from transport following the Mercury mutiny. Report from Dunkirk hulk was “in general tolerably well behaved but troublesome at times”. On 16 January 1789 he received 100 lashes for striking one of the convicts called Catherine Smith. See below for details of trial.

TRIAL

ROBERT FORRESTER and RICHARD M’DALE were indicted for feloniously stealing on the 20th of April last, six pieces of gold coin of this realm, called guineas, value 6 l. 6 s. the property of Simon Hughes, in the dwelling house of Letitia Coleman, widow.

SIMON HUGHES sworn. I lay with these two prisoners the night I was robbed of my money, it was at the house of Letitia Coleman, in Jones’s-court, No. 3, I was brought there by a man I met with in the street, he said, he would recommend me to a lodging, the two prisoners was in bed when I came in the room, they asked me to drink, but I would not drink with them, there was a man in the room asked me to buy some waistcoats, the man that brought me, told me to go to bed along with the prisoners, he said, he could get a bed better than I, and so this man that had the waistcoats and the other that brought me up, went down stairs, and the two young men the prisoners who were in bed, would insist on my laying in the middle, I stripped myself, and laid my cloaths on the table, and my breeches I put under my head, one of the prisoners told me to lock the door, I turned in between them two; when I was in bed he asked me what ship I belonged to, and if I had locked the door, and he bade me put out the candle, which I did; I fell asleep after that, and when I awaked one of the prisoners was gone, about three in the morning, the other was then dressing himself, when he found me waking he said, where is your mate? says I, I have no mate, says he, he is gone, had you any money, if you had you are done; so I jumped out of bed and locked the door, and examined my cloaths, and found the money gone, in the mean while he unlocked See original the door and ran down stairs; I hallood, and made a noise in the room, which alarmed the landlady and her daughter, they came up stairs, and brought a light, and I dressed myself, and the two women went down to the houses where they thought to find the prisoners, but they could not find them then.

Court. How much was your money?

Six guineas, I am positive to the two men.

LETITIA COLEMAN sworn. I never saw the prosecutor, till I heard him calling out and saying he was robbed, I did not see him go to bed, I was very much frightened by his calling.

Court. You remember these two men sleeping in your house that night?

They were that afternoon, but I do not know whether they were in bed, one of them was in bed all day long, when I was called up the men was gone.

What time was it?

About three in the morning, on the 29th of April.

Prisoner. When he came in we were both fast asleep, he said, he had been robbed before by a woman in the street.

Prosecutor. That is false, I had the money when I went in there, it was so late in the morning I did not chuse to knock at my door, and I meant to pay for my lodging, I was at a publick house with friends that I staid all the evening with, I did not ask them to let me lodge there.

Prisoner. The prosecutor sent to us several times, to let us know, if we would give him four guineas he would make it up.

Prosecutor. No, my Lord, one of his friends proposed giving me four guineas, to get into a coach this afternoon, and go to Chelsea.

Court. How do you know he was his friend? – I do not know any otherwise, than he spoke in favour of him.

Court to Prosecutor. Now you are sure you did not say, that you were robbed in the street, or call out in the street, that you was robbed by some woman?

I did not, my Lord, upon my oath I had the money when I went in there.

THOMAS PATERSON sworn. All I know is, the prisoner M’Dale said, he would give the man two guineas, and make an end of it, he said, he had two guineas in the hands of Ann Hayes, and the fellow might take that if he would: I took M’Dale when he was asleep along with a soldier.

Court. Did you mention that to Hughes?

Yes.

Would he take it?

No, says he, I shall not take any.

Are you sure the prisoner offered the two guineas?

Yes.

PRISONER FORRESTER’S DEFENCE. I never saw this gentleman before, I saw him the day I was taken up, nor I do not know any thing of the matter; in the morning I arose to look for work, and this young man went out on the same occasion, and I asked him, where was the lad that lay in the bed, and we never spoke about any money whatever, I am a stranger in London.

PRISONER M’DALE’S DEFENCE. This man told us he had no money in the world.

DANIEL M’DANIEL sworn. Do you know Simon Hughes?

I do not know him.

Now tell me what you do know?

All I know is, that I saw Richard M’Dale receive three guineas and a half at Chelsea, that was last Wednesday was a week, to the best of my recollection. What did he receive it for?

I suppose Sir, it was his pension money, he was an out pensioner.

When was it?

last Wednesday was a week.

VERDY GOLLIFER sworn. I saw this gentleman passing by on Monday night, he was oursing a woman for robbing him of his money, it was by the Hampshire Hog, in St. Giles’s; I never saw the gentleman before, it was between eleven and twelve.

Court. How came you to take such particular notice of a man that you never saw See original before?

I took notice of him when he was cursing the woman, I looked very earnest at him.

And are you sure it was on a Monday night?

It was.

How long have you known the prisoners?

I have known them this two or three years.

Both of them?

Yes.

What are they?

I do not know what trade they are.

What are you?

I am a seafaring man.

And you are sure it was on a Monday night?

Yes.

JAMES DUFFEL sworn. What are you?

A soldier, I have been in the King’s service twenty-four years, I know that I saw this Richard M’Dale receive three guineas and a half for himself, that was on Wednesday was a week, he is an out pensioner out of Chelsea hospital.

DENNIS CLARY sworn. I knew the prisoner M’Dale, in Ireland, I have known him four years, I happened to call at his lodgings, and he and that young man was in bed.

What night was that?

That was on Monday night, he sent for a quart of ale to give me to drink, and the prosecutor was looking for lodgings, and the other man brought him in; and I asked him to buy a pair of waistcoats or handkerchiefs; he said he had no money to buy them of me.

Was this on the Monday night?

It was.

Prosecutor. If I had had an inclination to have gone with a woman, there were plenty, I might have gone and had a bed with one, I told this man I did not want any waistcoats, but I never told him I had no money.

CATHERINE GREEN sworn. I was standing at my own door where I lodge, on Monday night, and this gentleman came up to me, and asked me where he could get a bed, I told him I was only a lodger myself, he offered to give me a handkerchief to let him lay there that night, and I told him it would not be convenient, because my husband was at home; and I gave him two-pence to get him a bed.

Court to Prosecutor. Is that true?

No, it is all false.

Court. Did you ask her to let you go home with her?

No, my Lord, I never saw her before, I do not remember it; if there was any such conversation passed, I must undoubtedly remember it, it is a particular matter.

PATTERSON sworn. This woman said she would give any thing in the world, if I would have the bill of indictment thrown out; that good woman said, if you will get the bill of indictment thrown out, I will give you any thing in the world; I say no more.

Catherine Green. I never opened my lips to him in my life.

Patterson. You have not, why the very first night I took him, you run after me.

Green. I never saw him, my Lord, till this day.

Prisoner. Here is the landlady that had the two guineas, which he says, I told him to go for to make an end of the affair.

ANN HAYES sworn. Had the prisoner left two guineas in your hands?

Yes, he did.

Are you a relation of the prisoner’s?

I have been a long time out of the country, and he was very young, if he is the son of the man he mentioned; he was a relation to me, I saw him several times at my place with plenty of money and he behaved civil and decent went away again.

Did he owe you any thing?

He never owed me a farthing.

You did not want to stop that money?

No, Sir, he freely desired me to keep it for him.

Court to Prosecutor. Did you hear this woman, or her husband examined before the Justice of peace?

I heard her husband examined, I heard no mention of a debt, he mentioned that the prisoner was a relation of his wife’s.

ROBERT FORRESTER, GUILTY, RICHARD M’DALE, GUILTY, Death. Tried by the second Middlesex Jury before Mr. Justice NARES. – Notes: Partner in the original crime was Richard McDale. On 29 December 1790 he was ordered to work in a gang because of insolence.

Arrived: 26 January 1788 “Scarborough” Married Mary Frost at St Philips Church, Sydney by Rev Richard Jackson. Sent to Norfolk Island 26 October 1791 “Atlantic”. Left Norfolk Island 9 March 1793 on “Kitty” to Port Jackson. Bench of Magistrates 1788-1820 NSW State Records 17/10/1794 Page 375 bdl 60 Reel 654 Charge: Murder of native boy at the Hawkesbury. Item ID [SZ765] COD 17 February 1795: Aborigines attacked 2 settlers mistaking them for Robert Forrester and another man who had mistreated the Natives. Buried St Matthews, Windsor, NSW. 1800-02 Muster pages 11, 82, 107 and 129. 14805006 Muster page 138 1811 Muster page 47. 1822 Muster The New Holland Morning Post, 18th October, 1791, also reports on the 86 settlers who have been granted land at Parramatta and Norfolk Island, comprising 31 marines, 11 seamen and 44 convicts whose sentences had expired.

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