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The Execution of Anthony Hitchcock and John Poole

1833

An extract of correspondence to the Archbishop of Canterbury by E.S. Hall, editor of the Sydney Monitor in which he describes the lead up to the execution of Anthony Hitchcock and John Poole in 1833..........

 

The two men in question Anthony Hitchcock and John Poole suffered death near to the road which bounds one side of the estate of Castle Forbes, the residence of Mr. Mudie, where one of the several outrages for which they suffered had been committed. It took place on Saturday the 21st December 1833.

The Reverend Chaplain of Newcastle, left that place on the Wednesday preceding; and such were the feelings of the Settlers on the solemn occasion, that some of them piously construed this departure, as the prelude to the Rev. gentleman's attendance on the unhappy men. The prisoners landed at the Port of Maitland, on the Friday after noon, and, escorted by an Officer and 16 files of soldiers, and one or two of the mounted police dragoons, proceeded towards Patrick Plains.

The men were conveyed in a cart; sitting on their coffins, and previously to the mournful procession setting out, all eyes were engaged looking out for the Chaplain. The time being come, and the Rev. gentleman not appearing the procession moved on. The prisoners, particularly Poole, a man of a bold and irascible temper, complained of this neglect with great emotion. His ardent feelings hitherto engaged in folly, had been, by the affectionate exhortations of the Rev. Mr. Cowper, and other good men in the Sydney Jail, (conjoined with the general humane treatment and sympathy of the officers of the Government, the soldiers and the people at large), wonderfully softened down; so that with equal candour and anxiety, he had devoted his mind of late, to the reading of the Scriptures, and of religious Tracts. The non attendance, of a Minister of the Gospel, was deeply felt by the unfortunate men.

A melancholy night was spent in the forest, when the prisoners again complained bitterly of spiritual neglect. Early in the morning, the procession resumed its journey and arrived at the place of execution about nine o'clock.

Hopes had been entertained by the cavalcade, that at the place of execution, the Reverend Chaplain of Maitland (he having slept the preceding night within eight miles of Castle Forbes), would be in attendance. In this they were once more disappointed and the unhappy men's expressions evinced much anguish.

The fatal hour at length arrived. An accident however occurred, which protracted their mental sufferings four long hours. No blacksmith was in attendance to knock off their irons. A blacksmith, a fellow servant of the prisoners, attempted to loosen the rivets, but for want of an anvil he could not accomplish the task. The unhappy men were therefore once more placed in the cart, and conveyed to Darlington, an obscure hamlet on the other side of the river; there, a blacksmith succeeded in disencumbering them of their chains. By the time the procession had returned to the place of execution, it was past twelve o'clock.

A Convict present who had been a schoolmaster (this was William McMackin), but dismissed for improper conduct, now charitably offered to read prayers for the men, which offer they accepted. After which Poole presented some religious Tracts to his fellow servant the blacksmith, marked with the names of other of his fellow servants and in his own handwriting, and with short scraps of advice; and in a private manner, he begged him to tell his comrades, to read them and to take no man's advice, contrary to what they would find in the Tracts. He also informed his comrade, that he attributed his ignominious end, to the violence of his own temper. Hitchcock was more reserved, but seemed equally devout and penitent, and under these feelings, the unhappy men were suspended from the jibbet temporarily erected for the purpose.