Patrick Cuffe was one of the two fifteen
year olds, the youngest of the 199 men who arrived on the convict ship
in 1826. He had been sentenced to 7 years transportation for stealing tinware in
Kilkenny. On arrival he was probably sent to the
Carter's Barracks with the
other boys who arrived on the Boyne.
early 1830's he was being punished for absconding
Hyde Park Barracks. He was sent to work in an
ironed gang on at least two occasions. By 1837 he
was assigned to No. 3 Stockade which was situated
at Newcastle. Many of the prisoners at this
stockade were employed building the
Breakwater at Nobbys. Here he met up with
John Toole who arrived on the
in 1835 and had also been sent to the Stockade for
a colonial transgression.
conditions at the stockade were harsh. Food supply
was meagre, clothing inadequate and punishment
brutal. Work at the breakwater was arduous and
dangerous as well. In August 1837 two
prisoners from the stockade who were working at
blasting rock for the breakwater were dreadfully
injured in an explosion. Patrick Cuffe and John
Toole absconded together just three months later.
The two made their way up the valley to the Jerrys Plains district where
in January they robbed the house of
William Vivers at Greig's Creek 14 miles from Jerry's Plains.
recounted the robbery when giving evidence in court - 'the man asked if he had
any prisoners on the farm; Vivers replied, there were some, on which he was told
to order them up from the stockyard; Vivers refused; the man replied “I suppose
you know who we are, if you stir I will shoot you; it’s death for what
we have already done, whatever we may do hereafter.”
One of the
men went down to the stockyard, carrying a pistol in each
hand, and brought up the assigned servants, three in number.
They put the men and witness in a row a short distance from
the verandah of the house, and told the men if they stirred, they would
They then demanded the
keys of the house, which Vivers refused to give them, they repeated their
threats, until at length he was induced to give them up when Cuffy said “put
a ball through him if he hesitates.” The keys were given up to Toole.
The other two went into the house, Toole ordering witness and his men
into the kitchen. A double-barrelled fowling piece was brought out of the house
and handed to Toole, who loaded. When they
were ordered into the kitchen, witness at first refused to go, on which
one of the bushrangers took him by the shoulder and pushed him in;
another said “put a ball through him if he hesitates a moment.”
After terrorising Vivers and his servants,
Cuffe and Toole departed with clothing, hats and silk handkerchiefs.
William Vivers rode to Jerrys Plains himself to alert the authorities of the
robbery and three mounted policemen and a native black returned with
him. That same night the native found the bushrangers' track about half a mile from Vivers'
The pursuit party continued the next day and at last came upon Cuffe and Toole near some rocks about ten miles distant from Viver's dwelling.
The pair eventually surrendered although they must have known the fate that
Justice Burton took time to consider before he
'passed that awful sentence which it would be out of his power afterwards to
recall', however as the robbery was committed with considerable violence and the
prisoners had fire arms in their possession which they presented, it was
impossible for him to avoid passing a sentence of death.
On Saturday 19th March 1838 Cuffe and Toole were removed from the Sydney gaol on a
dray, seated on the shells intended for the deposit of their remains, and taken
steamer bound for Newcastle where they were to be executed in
front of the
on Tuesday 20th March.
Captain Richard Furlong was engineer and superintendent at the Stockade
at this time.
The Sydney Gazette reported that during
their progress to the steamer, they manifested the most perfect indifference to
the awful doom awaiting them.