William Westwood aka Jackey Jackey (1820-1846) Bushranger


William Westwood's death mask

William Westwood was often referred to as a "gentleman bushranger" because of his dress and respect for his victims. He got the name 'Jackey Jackey' from the aboriginal people. That was his nickname from them.

Westood was the eldest child of James and Ann Westwood and was born on 7 August 1820, in Manuden, Essex, England. He was baptised on the 27 August 1820 in the Church of St Mary the Virgin. On 10 March 1835 William and Benjamin Jackson, both aged fourteen appeared at the Essex Lent Assizes in Chelmsford charged with highway robbery. They were accused of stealing a bundle of clothes from Ann Saunders on the road near Manuden. William was found guilty and sentenced to twelve months imprisonment with hard labour in Chelmsford Gaol. His accomplice, Benjamin Jackson was sentenced to be whipped and discharged.

Released from gaol in 1836 William soon fell into bad company. On 3 January 1837 William aged 15 together with James Bird aged 21 appeared at the Essex Quarter Sessions in Chelmsford. The two were charged with stealing a great coat belonging to John Rickett that he had left in a stables in Manuden overnight. Westwood and Bird took the stolen coat to a clothes shop owned by John Warner in Hare Street, Hertfordshire where they sold it for 6 shillings.

In need of a replacement coat Rickett called at John Warner's shop the following day where his stolen coat was offered to him. Westwood and Bird were quickly identified as the culprits and arrested by Constable Charles Moss. At their trial Bird was acquitted but William was found guilty and, because this was his second offence, sentenced to transportation for 14 years.

On 2 February 1837 William was delivered to the prison hulk 'Leviathan' in Portsmouth Harbour where he was held before being transferred to the convict transport, Mangles, which sailed for NSW on 18 March 1837. He arrived in Sydney on 9 July 1837. He had several tattoos on his arms and a scar on his face.



Gidleigh station, Bungendore

Upon arrival in Sydney, Westwood was assigned to Phillip Parker King at his property,'Dunheved' in Rooty Hill (near Penrith in western Sydney). In late December 1837 he was sent to the family property, 'Gidleigh' near Bungendore, NSW. The overseer of this location mistreated Westwood, not providing sufficient food and clothing.

He tried to run away from his employer on more than one occasion, but each time was recaptured, beaten, and then put back to work. After stealing wheat, Westwood was sentenced to six months working on the roads in a chain gang on 19 April 1838. Once again escaping and being caught, Westwood publicly received 50 lashes on 4 February 1839.

In September 1840 he escaped with Paddy Curran. For seven months he evaded capture by hiding in the mountains of the NSW Southern Highlands. As a result of blackening his face during robberies to avoid being identified, he was given the nickname Jackey Jackey. The name Jackey was used as a complimentary reference to an Aboriginal in much the same way that Paddy is an Irishman and Taffy is a Welshman. It had its origins with the faithful and excellent Aboriginal companion of explorer Edward Kennedy, whose name was Jacky Jacky.

He stole horses, money, clothes, provisions and arms, but never hurt his victims and was courteous towards women. On one occasion he held up the mail, took £200 and spent a month in Sydney, staying at a hotel in George Street.

Curran did not have the same beliefs and views on robbery as Westwood. When they robbed Phillip Parker King's house, Curran, seeking revenge, raped King's wife. Westwood did not approve of this at all so beat Curran up, stole his horse, guns, and ammunition, and declared that if they ever met again, he would kill Curran.

Jackey Jackey was a very courteous robber, never actually hurting any of his victims. He mainly stole racing horses (to ensure a quick getaway), clothing, guns, ammunition, money, and necessities of living. Along with not hurting his victims, he would never dare to be rude to women which is why he had threatened to kill Curran.

Jackey Jackey often showed up in a suit to a robbery, being declared the "gentleman bushranger." In total he was captured only twice, but escaped both times. A sign was posted across Australia calling for him to be caught, dead or alive, but even the promise of reward did not seem to tempt anyone to attempt to capture Jackey Jackey.

Early in January 1841, Jackey Jackey was captured by a party of five civilians which included the priest of Bungendore at an inn near Berrima. While waiting to be transferred, he escaped from the lock-up at Bargo, taking the firearms and ammunition of one of the police. A day or two after his escape he held up Mr. Francis McArthur, and took from the carrage a valuable horse. He then proceeded to Gray's Inn, about two miles from Berrima, when he was set upon by Mr. Gray, who was assisted by his wife and daughter, Miss Gray displaying remarkable bravery, in the encounter. A carpenter named Waters also joined in the attack, and felled the bushranger by a blow on the head with a shingling hammer, and then captured him.

Mr. Gray received the £30 reward which had been offered by the Government for Jackey-Jackey's capture, and Waters, who was a convict, received a free pardon. Curran was captured later that year and hung at Berrima. On 8 April 1841, he appeared at Berrima Circuit Court charged with stealing in a dwelling house and putting in bodily fear; robbing with firearms, and horse stealing. Jackey Jackey was taken to Darlinghurt Geol and sentenced to life imprisonment. Escaping for a short period he succeeded in evading the police and was not heard of again till he called at the toll gate on the Parramatta road, about three miles out of Sydney.

He asked the tollkeeper if he had ever heard of Jackey Jackey. "Oh, yes," replied the man, "but he is a long way off; he ain't game to come to Sydney, they would catch him if he did." Westwood then drew his pistol from his waist, and told the scared toll keeper that he was Jackey Jackey, and that he had spent the past three days in Sydney. The incident ended by Jackey Jackey giving the old man a bottle of rum. He was caught shortly after and he was sent to Cockatoo Island, Port Jackson.

Cockatoo Island convicts quarters

While at Cockatoo Island, he and twenty-five other convicts, attempted to escape by swimming to the mainland, but the gang were followed by the police in their boat and all captured. As a result, he was shipped to Port Arthur on the "Governor Phillip". On route, Jackey Jackey once again tried to escape from the ship's hold and take over the ship on the way to the port.

Shortly after arriving at Port Arthur he escaped, but after nine days' starvation, he was captured as one of the convicts who had escaped with him, Frank Bailey, had been shot. Westwood again tried to escape from Port Arthur and again received 100 lashes for the attempt. He successfully escaped in 1843 by swimming the channel north from Lime Bay; two other convicts who accompanied him were eaten by sharks. His new bushranging career ended that November when he was captured and sentenced to twelve months hard labour and solitary confinement.

Lime Bay foreshore and channel

The following year, William Champ, Port Arthur's new commandant, promoted Westwood to his boat crew, and approved his removal to Glenorchy on probation in May 1845 after the convict rescued two drowning men. Temptation got the better of him, though, and Jackey Jackey stole guns and ammunition. He captured outside Hobart in Septrmber 1845 and was tried on 4 September 1845, in the Hobart Supreme Court. He was sentenced to life in prison on Norfolk Island.

in February 1844, Major Joseph Childs took over the command of the convict prison settlement at Norfolk Island where he began a regime of harsh, rigid discipline that ended with 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. Maconochie also shortened hours of labor, holidays were granted to those convicts whose behaviour was considered satisfactory, and each prisoner was allowed to cook his own meals in saucepans and kettles specially provided.

Major Childs altered 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 and he withdrew holidays for good behavior. He cut down the prisoners' rations. And then, on 1st July 1846, he announced the aboliton of the last little privilege - the last vestige of privacy that had given the men a feeling that they were individuals.

Major Childs issued a proclamation that food was to be served in bulk, that no personal cooking was to be permitted, and that kettles and saucepans held by prisoners were to be handed in. The 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. Westwood hushed them. "Now, men," he said, "I've made up my mind to bear this oppression no longer. But, remember, I'm going lo the gallows. If any man funks, let him stand out. Those who want to follow me - come on!"

So the 1846 Cooking Pot Uprising began. Westwood, his face transformed with rage, struck at a constable 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, Jackey!" 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 overseer who tried to halt them. Their one thought now was to get to Government House, where the main target of their wrath was Mr. Barrow, the Stipendiary Magistrate. As they passed by the lime kiln Jackey Jackey, 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 convicts halted, and then began to retreat towards the lumber yard, where their weapons were taken from them, and they were returned to their cells. Jackey Jackey was finally tried with 11 of the and most prominent leaders of the mutiny.

In the condemned cell he was befriended by the religious instructor Thomas Rogers who encouraged him to write (or dictate) an account of his life - Rogers, as 'Peutetre', published it in The Australasian in 1879. After another attempted escape was eventually ringbolted to the wall of his cell by his hands, with his feet fixed to the floor by chains. The door of his cell was left open so that guards could watch him.

Jackey Jackey and 13 other mutineers were hanged on 13 October 1846. Then only 27 years old, he was buried in unhallowed ground. Opinions vary on whether he was a ‘Robin Hood’ or just a ‘born loser’. A farewell written by the bushranger only days before his execution provides a poignant end to this summary: “The strong tyes of earth will soon be wrentched, the burning fever of this life will be quentched, and my grave will be a haven a resten place for me Wm Westwood.”