My Great Uncle the criminal!!

Researching into any family will turn up the good and the bad in people, one of the bad in my case was my Great Uncle x 5 Robert Scattergood.

He was tried at Stafford Assizes, on 6 October 1785 for stealing livestock (two geese) with a value of 1 shilling for this crime he was sentenced to transportation to Australia for 7 years.

Searching for information about him in the National Archives, I came across a petition for “clemency”, the details a reproduced below

Report of John Williamson, Chairman of the Staffordshire Quarter Sessions, on 1 collective petition (18 people, from Horninglow and Burton upon Trent) and 4 individual petitions (Elizabeth Scattergutt, the prisoner’s wife; William Sketchley, former master of the prisoner; Isaac Hawkins, a neighbour and Isaac Hawkins Browne) on behalf of Robert Scattergutt/Scattergood, labourer (currently employed in haymaking), convicted at the ‘last’ Michaelmas Staffordshire Quarter Sessions, for stealing 2 geese, property of John Bacon, on 24 September ‘last’.

The prosecution was undertaken by the ‘Association of Tutbury’. Hawkin’s note states that ‘Mercy sometimes works a better Reformation than Severe punishment’ and queries complaints against emigration when banishing ‘useful Subjects for petty offences’.

Grounds for clemency: has a pregnant wife and 5 children to support who will become chargeable to the parish, has an aged (widowed) mother, innocent of the crime, the geese killed by accident by the prisoner’s dog (a small dog not bred for gaming), previous good character, driven to the crime by poverty, first offence and was drunk at the time of the crime.

Initial sentence: 7 years transportation (petitions claim sentence refers to Africa; Williamson states it was ‘to parts beyond the Seas’). Recommendation: none made (one of the petitions annotated ‘nothing to be done’).

Citation National Archives Ref: HO 47/5/68

Clearly a number of people in his village, including his former employer, felt that his crime was petty and that he should not be parted from his pregnant wife. The petition was heard, but this did not change the punishment and Robert was dye to be transported to Australia aboard the convict ship Alexander in May 1787, sadly he never made it to Australia dying of fever on board the ship in Portsmouth 7 days before it sailed.

This is an example of what researching into your family history can turn up, and you need to be prepared to for both the good and the bad revelations.