execution of notorious bushrangers
Cuffe (Coffee) and John Toole
in front of the stockade men at
1838 had little
effect on three young men residing in that town. Just two weeks after
the execution, Henry Allen, William Bell and John Smith began their
short-lived careers as bushrangers themselves.
Henry Allen arrived
in Australia on the
August 1834 under a sentence of transportation for
seven years, having been tried in Shropshire the previous year.
By 1837 he was assigned to
James Reid in Newcastle where he worked as a labourer.
James Reid resided at
the corner of Church and Watt Street, Newcastle. Henry Allen was punished twelve months previous to
his short reign as a bushranger. In March 1837 he was sentenced to 14 days in the cells
for drunk and disorderly conduct and fighting with a servant of Mr.
William John (Southerwood)
Bell was 17 years old in
1832 when arrived on the
Captain Cook having
been tried in county Antrim in 1831.
John Smith arrived on the
Florentia in 1830. He was 30 years old
and had been employed as a carter in Dublin. He was tried in Lancaster
on 6th March 1830 and sentenced to transportation for Life for highway
On the evening of
the 9th April 1838, Allen, Bell and Smith perpetrated a vicious
attack and robbery on Neil Penny (Tierney/Tinny/Finny) a 52 year old
labourer who was walking along the Newcastle - Maitland road. Penny
arrived on the
in 1826 and had held a ticket of leave for the
district of Newcastle for the last six years. As there were only about
1200 people residing in Newcastle at this time, Penny would most likely
have been known to the three who had probably also been residing in the
area for a number of years. They disguised their faces with black
handkerchiefs and Bell first grabbed Penny from behind before the others
appeared to assist. William Bell's disguise was torn from his face in the
scuffle. Between them they threw Penny to the ground and viciously
kicked and ill treated him before robbing him of 15 shillings and an
three were apprehended and lodged in
Newcastle gaol on 14th April 1838.
They were sent to Sydney soon after to stand trial for highway robbery
and received sentences of 'death recorded' for their crime.
They were then transported to Norfolk Island for life.
Henry Allen received a Ticket of leave in 1847. William John Bell
received a Certificate of Freedom in 1847. Neil Penny (Tierney)
was possibly still residing in Newcastle in 1847
Newcastle Bench Books 14 March 1837
Newcastle Gaol Entrance books 14
Sydney Gazette 12 May
SAG Tickets of Leave
Sydney Herald 14 May 1838
The Monitor 9 May 1838
Sydney Herald 15 March 1838
*Death recorded meant a formal sentence
of death, without an intention that the sentence would be carried out