Convict Details for William Davis per Scarborough 1790

Convict: Davis, William
Ship: Scarborough 1790
Tried at : Old Bailey on 28 October 1789
Crime: Highway Robbery
Sentence: Death commuted to Life

Notes: Prior to conviction William, from a relatively respectable lower middle class family, had completed three years of a seven year apprenticeship with William BOWDLER an enameller of Brook Street, Holborn.

On 26 October 1786 William Davis, a 23 year old from Kilburnie, Kirkcudbright Scotland, was brought before the Second Middlesex Jury. He was charged with highway robbery in the company of William Rayner. The robbery was committed at Islington, along the city road where Davis and Rayner held a couple at bay. The victims wife ran away screaming and the men rifled their victims pockets and got away with a metal watch and two pence. Davis and Rayner shared a room in Vine Street, near St Martin's in the Field church and a broken case knife and pistol shaped stick were found when the rooms were searched. The two men, who were under surveillance by constables, were arrested when they tried to pawn a watch, and committed to the new prison at Clerkenwell. Both men were sentenced to death on 26 October 1786, with a recommendation for mercy.
William Davis languished in Newgate Gaol for nearly three years before again being brought before the bench, in September 1789. Appearing at the Old Bailey, William was offered the King’s Pardon on the condition that he accept transportation for life to the colony of New South Wales. He refused the pardon, stating that ‘death is more welcome to me than this pardon’. William was brought before the bench a second time that day and was again offered the King’s Pardon, being told that, should he refuse the clemency of the crown, he would be ordered for immediate execution upon the closing of the Sessions. He again refused to accept the Pardon and was ordered back to the cells. On 28 October 1789 William Davis was, for the third and final time, presented to the bench of the Old Bailey. He was once again offered the King’s Pardon on condition of transportation to the colonies, but this time he accepted the pardon. Barely three months later William departed England from Portsmouth harbour, never to return to his homeland. William Davis’ journey to Australia was the most harrowing time of his life. The Scarborough, on which he sailed, was a part of the infamous Second Fleet to New South Wales. The ship's contractors- Camden, Calvert and King - had previously been involved in the transportation of slaves to the America’s, and the treatment the convicts received on the voyage was barbaric. The convicts on these ships had to endure overcrowding as a result of the contractors making room for profitable cargo. They had been underfed to save money and they had been too closely confined because of fears of misbehaviour. The conditions aboard these ships were gloomy, dank and unsanitary, with diseases such as scurvy and dysentery running unchecked. Starvation, abuse and neglect, however, were to take the heaviest toll of the prisoners chained below decks. Due to a reported mutiny attempt the convicts on the Scarborough were mostly confined, being chained together below decks for almost the entire 160 day voyage. This ship had recorded 85 convict deaths during the first leg of the journey, between Portsmouth and the Cape of Good Hope. For the entire journey the Scarborough recorded a convict death ratio of one death for every 3.5 embarked. The conditions William Davis had endured on the Second Fleet had a lasting effect on his health.

Upon their arrival at Port Jackson the majority of the convicts on the Second Fleet were that ill they were unable to speak, walk or even get to their feet. Those that were not carried ashore were barely able to crawl. Instead of receiving 1017 able-bodied persons, the numbers despatched from Portsmouth, the colony was now faced with caring for 759 starved, abused and near to death individuals at a time when famine was prevailing. Arthur Phillip, the Governor of New South Wales, made the decision to spread the burden between Port Jackson and the Norfolk Island settlement. Two Hundred and Four convicts were despatched to Norfolk Island on the Surprize and the Justinian, arriving there on 7 August 1790. William Davis was one of these convicts sent on to Norfolk Island and, whilst en route to the island from Port Jackson, he married Jane Reed on 30 July 1790.
Jane Reed arrived in NSW on the Lady Juliana in 1790. William Davis, and his spouse Jane, next came to notice when, on 16 November 1792, Jane gave birth to a daughter, Mary, and again when their second child, Euphemia, was born on 12 December 1795. It would appear that William served most of his convict time in relative obscurity, because the next time he is mentioned in the records is when he is recruited, on 1 May 1800, into the New South Wales Corp by Captain Thomas Rowley, Acting Commandant of Norfolk Island.

On his enlistment papers William Davis is shown as being Conditionally Pardoned by Governor Hunter, this civil status is also given in the 1800-02 Muster. He was described as being aged 39.9 years, five foot seven and a half inches in height from Kirkcudbright, Scotland, of a fair complexion with grey eyes, dark hair and a round visage. In the ten years William was a member of the NSW Corps he served with five companies.
His initial posting was in Captain George Johnston’s Company, from May to September 1800. He then transferred to the Company of Captain John Macarthur, where he served until 24 March 1801. His next transfer was to the command of Captain Thomas Rowley, his recruiting officer, where he served until May 1802. William was, by this time serving in Sydney, having left Norfolk Island shortly after his enlistment. The Colonial Secretary’s Papers refer to 10 acres of land at Norfolk Island that, on 27 October 1800, were turned over by Wm Moulton, from William Davis to Samuel Hussey - it would appear that William had no intention of returning to the Island. It was also at this time that the process of closing down Norfolk Island colony had begun although it would take another 13 years before all the residents had been relocated to either Port Jackson or Van Diemens Land.The fate of William’s spouse Jane, and his daughter Mary is unknown (Mary has now been identified as being fostered by a Maria NEWMAN), both disappear from the records after the birth of Euphemia, who appears to have remained on Norfolk Island after William had gone to Sydney. Euphemia is listed in the February 1805 Victualling Muster of Norfolk Island with her mother’s maiden name. In these records a wife was recognised by her name on arrival in the Colony, and a child also took the mother’s name, so Euphemia was listed as Reid rather than Davis in the 1805 Muster. The next record of Euphemia is when, in June 1813, she married a Samuel Franklin at Parramatta. Her father and his second spouse, Emma Bourke, were present at the wedding. William entered a relationship with Emma Amelia (Amy) Vernon (nee Berks) in either 1805 or 1806. The General Muster for these years show Amy Burkes (one of her aliases) as being with William Davis at Parramatta. Amy is described as holding a Ticket of Leave and having arrived on the Nile. Amy is listed on the Alphabetical List of Convicts on Transports: 1788-1800 as Emma Burks alias Vernon, convicted at Stafford on 13 August 1800 and sentenced to Transportation for Life. William and Emma’s first child, William was born on 27 November 1806 and baptised at St. Luke’s Church at Liverpool, their second child, Jane (my Great-Great-Great Grandmother) was born on 4 February 1810 - just under three months before William’s discharge from the New South Wales Corps. William was discharged from the New South Wales Corps on 24 April 1810, on the casualty list, after having served in five companies, under seven different Captains. During his time in the New South Wales Corps William had been involved in one of the pivotal Irish events in the Colony, the Castle Hill uprising, which was an armed revolt of up to 300 rebellious Irish convicts. At the time of the uprising, 5 March 1804, he was stationed at Castle Hill and there is a strong likelihood that he was one of the Corps members imprisoned by the convicts shortly after their breakout.

The first indication that William Davis’ health had been permanently affected by the conditions on the Second Fleet was when, in December 1801, he was listed on the Corps pay books as having been off duty due to illness. His military records show that he had regular bouts of ill health including September 1804, February to June in 1807, 184 days sick in quarters between June and December 1807, December 1807 to March 1808 sick as well as having 31 days leave up to 24 January 1809. William was granted a Service pension on 25 May 1810.In March of 1811 William was on the list of men discharged from the 102nd Regiment who were to receive land at Airds. There is no record, however, of him taking up land at this time, although he and his wife were listed as Landholders at Liverpool in the 1814 Colonial Muster. William married Emma Bourke at St. John’s Parramatta on 6 September 1811, after five or six years in a common-law relationship. William and Emma’s third and final child, Sarah was born on 4 February 1814. William took up a grant of 80 acres of land at Airds in June 1816, the first of two identified Land Grants. It is possible that this was the grant referred to in the Colonial Secretary’s Papers of 1811. William’s second grant of Land was received in 1818. He was on the list of persons for whom Land Grants were ready that was issued by the Colonial Secretary’s Office on 24 January 1818. This grant was for 120 acres at Airds, although some distance from his original 80 acre grant, approximately two and a half kilometers to the North-East. Davis overcame the difficulty of tending two separate acreages by renting out most of his original grant . In 1822 an Edmund Burke and John Voyle were renting 50 acres from William. Emma Davis, William’s second wife, died on 1 July 1818, less than seven months after the couple had received their second grant of Land. He married for a third time to Ann DANIELS (convict per 'Wanstead') at Liverpool, NSW on 24 July 1819. William and Ann had no children and William died in 1823.


Husband: William Davis
Born: 15 September 1765 at: Kilbirnie, Ayr, Scotland Married: 30 July 1790 at: St John's CofE, Parramatta, NSW Died: 18 May 1823 at: Airds, New South Wales Father: John Davi(e)s Mother: Janet Allen Other Spouses: Emma Amelia Vernon nee Burke?, Ann Daniels?