Charles Blake SKERRETT , – 1893
Charles was married with one daughter and another child on the way when he was convicted of a theft at the Bath Hotel in Piccadilly. He was tried at the Central Criminal Court in London on 26th November 1835 where he was indicted for stealing on 19th October at Saint George Hanover Square one tin box (value 2s) 1 watch (value 10s) one watch chain (value 12l) two watch keys (value 10s) 3 rings (value 22l) one scale (value 4l) one pair of bracelets (value 4l) two slides (value 1l) two combs (value 2l) and one waistcoat (value 30s). This property was stolen from the dwelling house of Leeds Pain.
Charles was sentenced to transportation for life and he then spent time in prison prior to his departure to Australia aboard "Elphinstone" on 30 January 1836. He arrived in Van Diemans Land (Tasmania) Australia on 24 May 1836. Reports stated that he was "uniformly good and useful as a teacher and in the boys ward". Charles's wife Maria was living with her parents and was to join Charles together with her two daughters just over 12 months later aboard the "Andromeda".
Whilst in Tasmania Charles committed several offences which incurred a prison sentences. Whilst in Tasmania Charles and Maria had 5 more children.
Sometime after 1847 Charles and Maria left Tasmania with their family and headed to the mainland. The family spent some time in Victoria before moving to Port Macquarie in NSW where 2 more daughters were born.
On 5 April 1855 Charles was tried before Sir Alfred Stephen for cattle stealing. This charge came from Miss Isabella Mary Kelly who was a prominent early pioneer of the Manning River area. Charles claimed that he had bought and paid for the cattle with the agent however despite this he was found guilty and sentenced to 10 years hard labour on the roads. He served 4 years at Cockatoo Island when a Bill of Sale for the cattle supposedly signed by Miss Kelly was produced and Charles was released with a full pardon. In an amazing twist Miss Kelly was then convicted of perjury found guilty and incarcerated in Darlinghurst prison where the prisoners were forced to sleep on the damp uncovered dirt floor. She was also fined 100 pounds. Dr John Dunmore Lang and several other influential people at the time instigated an enquiry where witnesses were brought forward proving without a doubt that the signature on the Bill of Sale was definitely not that of Miss Kelly. She was released from gaol in a very weak state of health and returned home to find her stock had been depleted and a large sum of money stolen from her.
Although a broken woman she engaged a solicitor to take up her case and sue the Crown for restitution of her property and stock. The Government was so moved by this apparent miscarriage of justice that special legislation was passed to pay Miss Kelly 1000 pounds compensation. Embittered she returned to England supposedly to persuade Charles Dickens to write her life story. She put together a manuscript relating her experiences in Australia including 26 years spent on the Manning. She later returned to Sydney in a poor state of health and without much money. She was again involved in a civil suit which she lost in a court case.
In 1871 the Member for Hunter proposed Miss Kelly receive more monetary compensation for the injustice of her incarceration in prison however the motion was defeated by 19 votes to 9. Just over a year later she died a pauper and she is buried in Rookwood Cemetery.
Not much is known of what happened after Charles received his full pardon. He may have returned north or remained in Sydney. He died from paralysis / senile atrophy at 30 Carrington Street Wynyard Square on 14th September 1893 and was buried at Rookwood Cemetery (Church of England section) alongside his wife Maria who had died from valvular disease of the heart on 20th December 1891.