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Tocal's convicts 1822-1840

Tocal's convict bushrangers

capture of Thomas Smith

Australians are well aware of high profile bushrangers such as Ben Hall, Ned Kelly, and even Tocal's own Captain Thunderbolt, who operated later in the 19th century. However, bushranging in NSW was commonplace many decades earlier, as runaway convicts frequently preyed on travellers and settlers, stealing horses, food and valuables to support their life in the bush. At least two convicts became notorious bushrangers after a brief assignment to Tocal.

William Halfpenny was an Irishman with a life sentence for stealing bagpipes and a flute when he was assigned to Tocal on arrival in NSW in 1825. He lasted only a few months before being reassigned, and in the next few years was frequently in trouble. In May 1832 he absconded from Parramatta Gaol and began a three month bushranging spree. He was caught, sentenced to death, reprieved and sentenced to hard labour in irons on Norfolk Island.

Thomas Smith was one of Tocal's first four convicts, He had been court marshalled and given a life sentence for desertion in Trinidad. He lasted slightly longer than Halfpenny at Tocal and was returned to the Government for disorderly conduct after nine months. Over the following years he received a range of punishments and served in at least four different iron gangs. In 1831 he was captured after months of armed robberies and bushranging with two others. He was sentenced to death, reprieved and sent to work in irons for 14 years on Norfolk Island.

Above right: the capture of Thomas Smith, a Tocal convict turned bushranger(Sydney Gazette 3 January 1832).