FF WILLIAM BUTLER Convict ‘Scarborough’ (c1767-1837)

William BUTLER was born c1767 London


At age 17 in 1784, as a former seaman, together with Andrew Goodwin (Convict Scarborough) cut 200 pounds of lead, to the value of twenty shillings in June 1784, from a building in Gray’s Inn Lane London.

William said he had been offered a pot of beer and sixpence by ‘a tall man’ if he and Goodwin would help him with the load, ‘he asked us to give him a spell’. The pair was captured in Theobald’s Road. William claimed that he had a sick mother to provide for and ‘I have been long out of work’ He well might have been part of a large number of seamen who were unemployed at the end of the war with America. A witness, Thomas Warton, saw them carrying their load on their shoulders, thought this activity was suspicious and reported them to a watchman on duty. After a struggle the young men were taken into custody.


On Wednesday 7 July 1784, William and Andrew appeared in the Justice Hall of the Old Bailey Courthouse, and at their trial were found guilty and sentenced to 7 years transportation. They were transferred to the Censor hulk at Woolwich on 6 September 1784, giving his age as 17 and Andrew as 19 years old. They were employed labouring on the Thames docks for the next three years. They were transferred in early 1787 to Portsmouth for embarkation on Scarborough on 27th February 1787


At Port Jackson on 30th April 1788, William was one of four men , the others were William Abbott, Rob Bails (Convict Alexander) and William Hubbard (Convict Scarborough), accused of theft of provisions from James McDonaugh (Convict Alexander). The latter said ‘he did not know why suspicion had fallen on the prisoners’ who said they had been busy all evening bringing shingles. William Aires/Ayres (Convict Friendship), and Davis Richard (Convict Scarborough) also gave evidence. Ayres said that he heard noises during the night ten days earlier, and found that a week’s ration of beef and pork for the three men was missing from the tent, although no one was seen. They were nevertheless found guilty and ordered to pay for the missing food


On 22nd May, Butler and William Power/Poore (Convict Charlotte) gave evidence to Captain David Collins in the examination of James Bryan Cullen (Convict Scarborough), who was charged with being insolent to Sergeant Thomas Smith/Smyth (Marine Scarborough). Smith and the prisoner Cullen also gave evidence. On Monday the 19thMay, an argument occurred between Smith and Cullen over the felling of a tree, with Smith claiming that the tree had been marked for Captain Tench for building barracks, and Cullen that it had been marked for making shingles. Collins remanded Cullen for further examination.


Five days later on 27th May, the bench of magistrates met, with Judge Advocate (Captain David Collins), Captain Hunter and Mr Alt sitting. James Bryan Cullen was charged with behaving in a very insolent and threatening manner to Sergeant Thomas of the marines on the morning of Tuesday 22nd May. Again Sergeant Thomas, Private John Wilkins (Marine Lady Penrhyn), Private James McManus (Marine Charlotte), William Butler and the prisoner Cullen gave evidence.Cullen was found guilty and sentenced to receive five and twenty lashes for having made use of some improper words to Sergeant Smith.


On Sunday 13th March 1791 there were two weddings at Rosehill- Matthew James Everingham (Convict Scarborough) married Elizabeth Rymes (Convict Neptune 1790)and William Butler now aged 24 married Jane Ann Forbes (Convict Lady Juliana-1790)- noted as only being 14 y/o upon embarkation in 1789. The witnesses to both ceremonies were Thomas Barnsley (Convict Neptune-1790) and Peter Stewart (Marine Private Friendship)

They settled at Prospect Hill, 4 miles to the westward of Parramatta, on a 50 acre grant on 18th July 1791, where William farmed in partnership with 32 y/o George Lisk (Convict Scarborough)-30 acres. Others who gained land grants were John Silverhorn (Convict Alexander)-30 acres, Thomas Martin (Convict Charlotte)-30 acres, John Nicolls (Convict Scarborough)-30 acres, William Parish (Convict Alexander)-60 acres, William Kilby (Convict Alexander)-60 acres and Edward Pugh (Convict Friendship)-70 acres.


Watkin Tench noted when he visited them on 5th December that they had four acres cultivated, and that Butler had been allowed to settle, though not out of his time, so he could work his farm in his leisure hours. As his term would have been expired in July 1791 perhaps he was allowed to take up the grant a few weeks early.

A daughter Ann was born on 11th February and baptised on Sunday 4th March 1792 at Parramatta. A son William was born on 3rd October 1793, and baptised on 10th November at Parramatta.

In July 1795, William’s wife Jane, now aged 20 years, ‘fell into the fire while preparing their breakfast, and received such injuries that she shortly after expired’. Jane was buried at Parramatta on 20th July 1795.

In September 1799, seven affidavits were sworn before Richard Atkins in his capacity as magistrate on 24th and 25th September in the matter of two missing natives and the charge being prepared against Edward Powell ( Convict Lady Juliana), Simon Freebody (Convict Surprize), James Metcalf (Convict Royal Admiral), William Timms (Convict Admiral Barrington ) and William Butler. All signatories of the affidavits entered into 30 pounds recognisances to appear in court to give evidence.


The case was heard on 17th October where, Powell, Freebody, Metcalf, Timms and William Butler for wantonly killing two natives began, and continued until the court dissolved on 18th. The court was unanimous that the accused were guilty but there was a difference of opinion about the sentence. The case was therefore reserved ‘until the sense of His Majesty’s Ministers at home is known on the subject’

William continued farming at Prospect Hill with Lisk in 1800 and looking after his two young children but by 1806 he was a self-employed carpenter. In 1814 he was listed as a shipwright.

William married Elizabeth Higgins on 22nd May 1815 at St Phillips Sydney

In the 1822 and 1825 Musters William is shown as a landholder in the Parramatta district. In the 1822 Muster he is recorded as ‘Butter’ with 17 acres sown in grain and 9 in orchard, vegetables and garden. He also owned 30 hogs and held 4 bushels of wheat and 40 of maize


William, noted as aged 66 years and a shipwright, died in January 1837 at Sydney Hospital and was buried 4th January1837 from St Phillips, probably in the Old Sydney Burial Ground


Complied by John Boyd 2020


-The Founders of Australia by Mollie Gillen p61

-Sydney Cove 1788 to 1800in 5 Volumes by John Cobley



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