THE EXECUTION of notorious bushrangers Patrick Cuffe (Coffee) and John Toole in front of the stockade men at Newcastle in March 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 Surry in August 1834 having been tried in Shropshire the previous year and sentenced to 7 years transportation 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. Henderson.
William John (Southerwood) Bell was 17 years old in 1832 when he arrived on the Captain Cook. He had been convicted of larceny in county Antrim in 1831 and sentenced to 7 years transportation
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 robbery.
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 Phoenix 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 order for £3.
All three were apprehended and lodged in Newcastle gaol on 14th April 1838. They were sent to Sydney soon afterwards to stand trial for highway robbery.
They received sentences of 'death recorded' for their crime and were 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