|Newspaper Title||Border Watch (Mount Gambier, SA : 1861 - 1954)|
|Trove Title||John, the Bishop: A Tale of the Dark Days of Tasmania|
JOHN, THE BISHOP.
A TALE OF THE DARK DAYS OF
BY JAMES GRASSIE,
I have, been a shepherd of men but I was once a shepherd of goats, and the sharer of my solitude was a very old hand, known as "Billy, the tailor, who acted' as hutkeeper and proveditor for me. He had left his country for his country's good, as they say, and had been so early in Van Dieman's Land that on his, passage thither he met Nelson's fleet returning from Trafalgar, in 1806 ; and on his arrival in Tasmania he found nearly all its inhabitants allied to his own patriotic class. Nevertheless, I daresay many of them could have raised their hands and exclaimed truthfully " these hands are spotless although we are
here and many cases would have re flected heavily on criminal jurisprudence.
Even how if the Tichborne Claimant establishes his identity with that of Sir Roger Tichborne his success will have a demoralising effect on society, pluck some feathers from tho chaplet of Themis, and make us cease to marvel at miscarriages of justice in the dark days of Billy, the Tailor.
It is natural for people to shudder when they hear or read of atrocities per petrated by escaped convicts in the dark olden time, and wish that the miscreants had been hunted by blood hounds, or blown away from guns like the Indian mutineers, because they cannot see be
hind the Themian screen. They cannot feel the exasperation consequent on inno cent men being torn by the law from fire side and family, and hurled in ignominy and chains to the furthest corner of the earth-their hopes destroyed, prospects for ever blighted, and the savings of long years of industry scattered at one fell
swoop to the warring winds of Heaven. Such cases are unfortunately not de- pendent on the veracity of Billy, the Tailor, and I would not require to travel very far back in the annals of criminal jurisprudence in Victoria to find a score
of instances wilder than the wildest un deserved ruin that Billy, or any of his congeners, ever depicted. We have heard Judge Stow wigging a jury missing it prey in the Geltwood cases; but who ever heard a judge upbraid a jury for convicting an unoffending man? or who ever heard a jury rebuke old Judge Williams for citing, as he was wont to do, probabilities in his summing up. But let
us to our tale.
JohnWycombe was known amongst his acquaintances as John, the Bishop, because he had been a groom in the stables of tho Bishop of London for some years. But we take cognisanee of him as a Smithfield drover - an occupation he followed on quitting the Bishop's service. He was a tall, stalwart, well-behaved man, and was getting on well in his own new occupation when a very sad blow befell him in his arrest for burglary under arms; and his arrest threw all Smithfield into consternation. " What !" the people said to each other, " John, the Bishop, a burglar impossible!" there must
be some mistake in the matter," and there
was, and a very sad one, as the sequel
It appeared that a spinster lady named Shaw, who admitted to the pressure of forty years-an admission,"which, doubt leas, gave weight to her evidence-re sided in affluent circumstances in a cot
tage on the Windsor road, in the suburbs, of London, attended by a maidservant, considerably her junior in age. But, although a policeman patrollod occasion ally past her door both night and day, the house was, nevertheless, forcibly entered one night by a man enveloped in a cloak, with a black crape over his face, who terrified Miss Shaw by presenting a pistol at her as she lay in bed, and on
observing that she was paralyzed with fear, he very leisurely rifled a drawer containing jewellery, and money, which he carried away. But although Miss Shaw lay speechless, there was a plucky person nearer her than she supposed, and that plucky person was the servant- maid, who, it seems, was up late sewing in her own room, when she saw the gleam of a light in Miss Shaw's apart- ment, and hoard a man cough there. At once, and very wisely concluding that there was a robber in the house, she ran noiselessly across the street to the bake- house, and alarmed the bakers, who were then at work ; and they at once rushed to the rescue and captured John, the Bishop opposite tho cottage door. John had no money in his possession when arrested on the high road, and his drover's badge
was still on his arm; but the master baker averred that at the time of John's arrest he distinctly heard the footsteps of
some person running away, and that per son, the police concluded, was John's ac complice decamping with the booty, an opinion which was somewhat strength ened by the police afterwards finding the cloak and crape near the spot where John was captured. John was duly con victed to Bow Street, where next day he was arrayed in the said clank and crape, and so disguised, was placed before Miss Shaw, who, without any hesitation, swore that he was the man who robbed her house. I have no doubt myself that if tho Bow-steet authorities had dressed John's former mastor, the Bishop of London, in tho same garb, Miss Shaw would have sworn us unhesitatingly
that he was the man.
However, the trial came on-the farce
of the disguise was done over again publicly, and the judge praised the maid servant for her resolution and presence of mind; and she doubtloss, within hor self, considered him a great ass for bis pains. John called. only, one witness for his defence, because he had no other to call. He cited another drover, who swore that he and the prisoner went out late on the night in question to meet mob of oxen consigned to Smithfield but as the cattle did not make their up pearanoe at 11 p.m., the prisoner re turned for London, and the witness went to his sister's house, on the Windsor
road, and he also deposed that the pri soner's return to London would necessi- tate his passing Miss Shaw's house, and that at or about the hour mentioned in the indictment. The judge proceeded to sum up the evidence, aud in doing so passed, as I have already said, a high eulogium on the servant maid, and trusted that other maids if they should ever be similarly situated would; inspired by her example,
imitate her action. But when he came to the witness for the defence-the drover's evidence-he assumed one of those, placid Onaitean smiles which sometimes do more injury to truth than a perjurer does in the witness box. " This witness," he said, " has not said much, and his evidence is of little importance to the defence; but it
ought to be considered that the man could not perhaps say more with safety to him self, and the law of England requires no man to criminate himself. As for the prisoner being captured with his drover's badge on his arm, the circumstance will not appear extraordinary when it is remem bered that if he was really the burglar the cloak he wore effectually concealed the badge-nay, be might even have worn it designedly to allay suspicion. The evi- jdence of Miss Shaw is, however, very pointed and important, as she saw the man who robbed her house and she has sworn that the prisoner is that man.''
The juny, without leaving the box, found
Johnj the Bishop, "guilty," und the Judge sentenced him to be transported beyond seas for the whole period of his natural life.
At first John was stupefied and could scarcely realise his position but when he at length found himself in a convict ship with the scum, the very dregs of'society for his associates, and every possible ignominy, heaped upon him, his stupor awoke into ferocity ; and quiet, laughing, good-natured John, the Bishop, was meta morphosed slowly into a Hycran tiger. The
sailors dreaded him, the prisoners shrunk from him, the soldiers quailed before him, and it was at length decided to chain him like a wild beast to the anchor on the fore castle, where he remained during the re mainder of the voyage. On reaching the penal estblishment in Van Dieman's Land
poor John found that his troubles were only beginning to begin. The authorities there thought that they could subdue any nature, however violent, and they tried con- clusions with John, the Bishop, and they tried them in vain. They gagged him, chained him, starved him in solitary confine, ment, ringed him up to a bolt by the heels, feet up and head down, and they cut the
very flesh from his back with the lash,and
all in vain. He was a hundredfold more dangerous than the Pentridge We- church, and every punishment increased his ferocity and rage, until at the end of. three years they considered him "untame- able and their severity towards him somewhat relaxed. But an important and to im most momentous discovery relating to his case was at that time made in London
and John knew not of it.
(To be Continued) .