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Details for the convict Alexander O'Neil (1840)

Convict Name:Alexander O'Neil
Trial Place:Perth Court of Justiciary
Trial Date:23 April 1839
Sentence:10 years
Arrival Details
Ship:Runnymede I
Arrival Year:1840
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There is currently one researcher who has claimed Alexander O'Neil

  • Researcher (Kay Scott-Lanyon)
Claimed convict


Alexander O'Neil was my maternal Great, Great-Grandfather. He was born in Paisley (now part of Glasgow) on February 4th, 1828 and had 4 siblings: Elisabeth, John, Catherine & Thomas. His father John, was born in Ireland abt. 1787 and left for Scotland around 1807. There he met and married Katherine McGowan (born abt. 1787) at Neilston, a small textile village approximately 10kms from Glasgow. Alexander was the youngest of the five children and his mother died when he was around nine years old. His father re-married but also died shortly after. Alexander moved to Carnoustie near Dundee, to live with his older brother John. He ended up in court in Dundee at 10 years of age having confessed to stealing 6 one pound notes with which he bought clothes for himself. The following month he confessed to having taken a pair of leather shoes that had been left on a doorstep and sold them. Furthermore, he was convicted of also stealing clothing, a vest, two gowns, a neckcloth, a silk napkin and apron. The prosecutor said "He wickedly and feloniously stole and theftuously took and carried away a shawl and a petticoat. You, the said Alexander O'Neil, ought to be punished with the pain of the law to deter others from committing the like crimes in all times coming". The 'pain of the law' was transportation to Van Diemens Land. So 11 yr old Alexander, an illiterate labourer, just 130cm tall with blue eyes, light brown hair, red eyebrows and fair complexion was escorted to Perth in Scotland, then on to London for the voyage to Tasmania. He was sent to the floating hulk Justinia before being moved to the Euraylus, then to the Runnymede sailing from Sheerness, 40 kms east of London. Male children transported to Van Diemen's Land were sent to Point Puer at Port Arthur. It was a prison for children aged between 9 and 18. Point Puer was an isolated peninsular located atop 20 metre high cliffs and flanked by dangerous seas. By 1842 there were 700 boys at this dismal spot. Governor Arthur instructed that the boys were to be taught practical skills. They were worked hard in labour gangs. Alexander did not accept the confinement of his new home well and was often given lashes of the whip and put in solitary confinement without bread or water. They were worked 5 and a half days a week with church, prayers and schooling on Sundays. A typical days food ration consisted of bread, fresh or salted beef or pork, potatoes, cabbage or turnips and a little salt. While Alexander may not have 'enjoyed' his detention he did learn to be a sawyer which served him well in later years. On May 15 1849 aged 21, he was given his 'Certificate of Freedom'. He married Mary Ann McBride on November 29 1852, giving his occupation as 'labourer'. There is no further information on Mary Ann after the marriage and Alexander then meets and eventually marries, Elizabeth Wood, also a convict. Elizabeth had a son Henry (to a James Devine, no marriage record found) and Alexander accepted the baby as his own. Two years later when their own son Alexander was born and christened so too was Henry. They had a further 6 children: John, William, Robert, Albert, Catherine and Axton. The surname of the last 3 was spelt as O'Neal, for whatever reason, and the Australian side of the family use that spelling today. Alexander the son, moved to Dunedin in 1907 with his family. Alexander and Elizabeth had a few further 'scrapes' with the law, mainly for theft of clothing, but carried on with their respective professions of a sawyer/labourer and midwife. They bought 25 acres at 'Arm on Counts Creek' near Molesworth, around 1875 (where my grandmother was born in 1901). On 19 April 1883 they married in the Presbyterian Manse in Hobart. He was 54 and she 46. Alexander Snr. died on August 9th 1907 from 'senilis' and was buried in an unmarked grave in the Cornelian Bay cemetery. A plaque has since been placed on the grave by family, and is where Elizabeth is also buried, with Alexander.
Submitted by Researcher (Kay Scott-Lanyon) on 16 October 2017

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  • The National Archives (TNA) : HO 11/12, p.121

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