Who stole my cheese?

Three boys loitered around the door of a grocery shop on Flat Street, Sheffield. It was early on a cold and misty morning, 18 February 1835. While cheese factor, Mr Matthew Furniss, had his back to the door, one of the boys furtively entered the shop and lifted a twenty-pound wheel of cheese off the top of a cask. His accomplice stood in the doorway, holding a sack open, and the boy threw the cheese into it. The boys ran off, chased by witnesses. The boy’s accomplice dropped the sack in the street as he bolted towards Spring Wood. They didn’t get far before they were caught and turned over to the authorities.

Patrick Joyce was nicked.

Australian Convicts

Biography of Patrick Joyce

Conviction 

Patrick Joyce and his erstwhile getaway man, Isaac Saynor, were brought before a magistrate at the Yorkshire Quarter Sessions, held at Sheffield on the 26 March 1835. Charged with larceny, the justice made out the elements of the offence thus:

“That Patrick Joyce late of Wakefield in the West Riding of the County of York Labourer and Isaac Saynor late of the same place Labourer on the eighteenth day of February…at the Parish of Sheffield in the West Riding of the County of York one cheese of the value of ten shillings and twenty pounds weight of cheese of the value of ten shillings of the goods and Chattels of one Matthew Furniss then and there found and then and there feloniously did take and carry away aforesaid…”

The court found that earlier that same day, Joyce and Saynor had stolen another cheese from Joseph Green. Patrick was sentenced to transportation for a term of seven years. Isaac received a significantly lighter sentence – one month’s hard labour in the house of correction. There are no reasons stated in this record of the trial for the difference in sentence. Perhaps it was because Isaac didn’t actually enter the shop; Patrick was the one who lifted the cheese.  

"Clifford's Tower and the new entrance to York Castle" engraved by F. Mansel after a picture by N. Whittock, published in A New & Complete History of the County of York, 1829. Steel engraved print with recent hand colour. AncestryImages.com

"Clifford's Tower and the new entrance to York Castle" engraved by F. Mansel after a picture by N. Whittock, published in A New & Complete History of the County of York, 1829. Steel engraved print with recent hand colour. AncestryImages.com

Joyce’s convict life began at York Castle. He remained there about seven weeks, until 12 May 1835, when Joyce and other prisoners under sentence of transportation were moved from York Castle to the hulk Leviathan

Convict Hulk Leviathan

Once a proud ship that took part in the Battle of Trafalgar, HMS Leviathan was now at the end of its life, moored in Portsmouth Harbour.

“New prisoners are made to pass along the quarter deck every morning with their hats off, for a fortnight after their arrival, in the presence of the officers and guards, that their features, gait, etc, may be made familiar to them, in case of any attempting disguise to effect an escape.”

The officers and guards, watching Patrick Joyce parade along the quarter deck, would have seen a boy of fifteen, five feet three and a half inches tall. He had a short, pugged nose, and his complexion was ruddy. He had light brown hair and blue eyes. For a boy, he had a surprising number of distinguishing marks; mark of a burn near right elbow, woman and MN inside lower right arm, mark of a burn on upper arm, man, JJ inside lower left arm. Figures of men and women as tattoos sometimes referred to loved ones or family members. Did Patrick’s parents have the initials JJ and MN?

Patrick would not have been idle while housed on the Leviathan. A typical day began with a muster at quarter to six. After breakfast, the convicts proceeded to the dockyards. Their leg irons were checked as they went on shore to work, supervised by the non-convict dockyard workers and first and second mates from the Leviathan. The convicts returned to the ship for the midday meal, and then resumed their labours at the dockyards. At quarter to six the convicts returned to the ship. Patrick may have attended school and chapel before being locked up again for the night.

Prison-ship in Portsmouth Harbour, convicts going aboard, Edward William Cooke, 1828, hand-coloured etching. Rex Nan Kivell Collection, National Library of Australia: an9058453

Prison-ship in Portsmouth Harbour, convicts going aboard, Edward William Cooke, 1828, hand-coloured etching. Rex Nan Kivell Collection, National Library of Australia: an9058453

The Voyage

Some prisoners might remain on a convict hulk for many months, but for Patrick, by the time he’d finished his daily parade he was on the move again (‘disposed of’ 1 June 1835). The convict ship that transported Joyce to the colony of New South Wales was the England. A square-rigged sailing ship, this voyage was its second as a convict transport. Leaving Portsmouth on 8 June 1835, it had an uneventful voyage of 112 days – no deaths - arriving in the colony of New South Wales on 28 September 1835 with its main cargo of 230 male prisoners. Obediah Pineo was the ship's surgeon-superintendent. He recorded minor ailments and injuries of the prisoners and crew, but no significant outbreaks of infectious diseases or scurvy. On leaving England, Pineo noted in his journal the feelings of the convicts.

‘…strong excitement on leaving their native land, many of them forever. For all men however hardened must have experienced painful emotions on leaving their native land under such circumstances.’

Convict Life

William Henry Broughton was one of the earliest landowners and settlers of the Yass Plains. He had been part of an exploration party with Hamilton Hume that discovered the area in 1821. Broughton established a station “Broughtonsworth” near Boorawa (or Burrowa). Patrick Joyce was assigned to WH Broughton, near Yass. He possibly helped in the building of “Broughtonsworth.” His convict indent listed his trade as “plasterers boy,” so he may have been useful to Broughton establishing a new home for his family.

In 1837 the Yass Plains and Boorawa were on the very edge of the settled counties of the colony of New South Wales. It must have felt like the end of the earth to a boy from the bustling Manchester area. Its little wonder that Patrick Joyce absconded. He was missing from 9 October 1838 to 26 December 1838.

Family Life

From 1839 onwards, Patrick Joyce is strangely missing from the convict records. There is no ticket of leave, pardon, or certificate of freedom to be found for this Patrick Joyce who arrived on the England. He did not die in this period. He appears to have just dropped out of the convict system. Much later, 1867, he appears in Goulburn gaol records (his distinctive tattoos are a match), but is listed as a native of NSW. (I highly suspect he lied about his origins.) If the NSW police had cross-referenced databases in 1867, they might have discovered what happened to their convict, Patrick Joyce.

Patrick Joyce was not one of those convicts who sailed to the colonies and became an upstanding member of a new society. He married Charlotte Holmes, the daughter of another convict, in 1847. The marriage certificate describes Patrick Joyce as a native of Manchester. Over 28 years Patrick and Charlotte had 12 children and moved many times. He was fined for sly grog selling near Goulburn, hunted by police in Victoria for assault, and gaoled for burglary in Deniliquin.

He died in 1883, near Lake Bathurst, NSW. The coroner’s finding was that he died from “suffocation through lying on his face whilst drunk.” This short statement, while factually true, glosses over the truly tragic nature of Patrick’s death. His 12-year-old son, Richard Joyce, was with his father. Patrick tripped, fell, and hit his head when he tried to catch and beat Richard for being too slow getting his father’s tea.

Patrick Joyce is my great-great-great-grandfather. He is buried in Ryansvale, NSW.


This biography was originally written for the Convict Ancestors unit of the Diploma of Family History, University of Tasmania. If you would like a copy of the fully footnoted version of this biography, please contact me.