John Aitcheson

John Aitcheson
Convict Ship: Prince Regent
At the age of 30, John Aitcheson, a Scottish domestic servant, was transported for stealing a waistcoat. Tried in Dumfries in 1830, John was 5 foot 4 with brown hair and grey eyes and stated that he could not read or write. In 1847, he was found guilty of housebreaking, and sentenced to twelve months hard labour. He was one of the many convicts employed by George Gellibrand of South Arm. His record is long and tenuous. John just could not toe the line but perhaps there was a reason for this. At the time of his transportation, John was employed as a ‘Gentleman’s Servant’, a trade for which there was not much call in colonial Van Diemen’s Land. He could have desired the respectability of higher position and the status that went with it, as he had a penchant for fancy attire! Somehow it all went pear shaped for John, he went from valet to road worker. He never managed to retrieve that lost ground and psychologically this must have been a harsh blow. His record sheet shows repeated charges of drunkenness, disobedience of orders and neglect of duties.

In January 1835 he was up for stealing 2 shirts and 2 silk handkerchiefs, the property of David Morley. John received 25 lashes for drunkenness, six months hard labour for neglect of duty and insubordination and not allowed to work again in that district. He was working on the Bagdad road party. This must have been extremely difficult for a man like John, he would have found it humiliating and a type of work he had been ill accustomed to at home in Scotland. John received another six months hard labour in chains for absconding. At Christmas 1839 he copped six days in the cells for misconduct being out after hours on Christmas Eve and disorderly conduct. On another occasion in 1842 he was given one month’s hard labour for misconduct when he was found in a taproom after 11 o’clock at night. The list goes on and on with yet another charge of misconduct in remaining on the township all night. In 1843 he neglected to turn up for muster. Clearly this is a man who the system could not reform, and for whom no amount of punishment would mend his ways. He was now a broken man. John received a conditional pardon on 22 May 1846 and a ticket of leave August 1851 but this was revoked on 4 October 1853. He was assigned to George Gellibrand in 1851. He finally received a ticket of leave on 5 August 1857, after which he seems to disappear from the historical record.

Tasmanian Archives & Heritage Office - Convict Records: CON31/1/1 Image 96, CON37/1/3p.900 Image 299,
CON27/1/4 Image59-60, CON18/1/10p.388. Image201. CON23/1/1