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Free Settler or Felon

Hunter Valley Medical Practitioner

John Goodwin

Arrival in the Colony

John Goodwin was born in Glasgow in 1800. He was employed as surgeon on the Portland in 1837 departing Greenock on 24 July 1837.

Rev. John Dunmore Lang, Rev. John Gregor and Rev. George Anderson arrived as passengers on the Portland.


John Goodwin was employed as District Surgeon for Invermein in 1839, however resigned from this position at the end of September 1840. His twelve year old son McArthur Robert Goodwin was accidentally killed at Redbank in December 1840, by a fall from his horse.

Conviction for Libel

In September 1844, amid the usual pomp and ceremony afforded to visiting justices, Justice A'Beckett arrived in Maitland in readiness for the Quarter Sessions. Among the cases to be heard - assault, horse stealing and forgery was the trial of surgeon John Goodwin. After a lengthy trial, the jury found Dr. Goodwin guilty of libel after a letter written by Goodwin was read in evidence. It had been written to the Bench of Magistrates at Scone accusing Rev. John Morse of the theft of a writing desk belonging to Rev. Anderson and denouncing Magistrate Joseph Docker in a bitter invective. Justice A'Beckett stated that Goodwin had 'bestowed upon Rev. Morse the grossest epithets of abuse, ridicule and a strain of sarcasm of which the humour was completely overpowered by the scurrility.'

Newcastle Gaol

Petitions were made on behalf of Goodwin - one by Rev. Morse - in which Goodwin was spoken of as a member useful to society by his talents, the friend of the poor and the teacher of their children and the father of a large family in no thriving circumstances. Although Justice A'Beckett felt every desire to mitigate the sentence (perhaps due to Goodwin's 'fancied wrong in connection with his lost child'), the judge felt unable to yield to the benevolent wishes of the petitioners or his own feelings as' it would be an injustice to the public and to the miserable wretches who had received sentence at the bar.' Consequently he sentenced Dr. Goodwin to three months in Newcastle gaol and at the expiration of that time to enter into recognizances in the sum of £200 and two sureties of £100 each to keep the peace towards all her Majesty's subjects for one year. He was to be imprisoned until such recognizances were given.

This was not the last of the matter for John Goodwin. He complained very much of his incarceration and petitioned the Lord Bishop of Australia to no avail. Finally he appealed to the Legislative Council where his petition for redress was read. The Colonial Secretary however opposed its reception, thereby concluding the case.

Controversy and Disgrace

Later in the 1840's came more controversy and disgrace. An altercation with Rev. John Morse over land that had been granted for the erection of a church was the beginning of lengthy legal proceedings. The Church land had been taken for a burial ground by Rev. Morse who then exacted a fee of £2 for internment and an additional 10/6- for fencing. When John Goodwin refused to pay 10/6- (presumably for a fence around the grave of his son Robert James who was born 13 July 1844 and died 4 April 1845) he was sued for it, the decision going against him.

Dr. Goodwin was involved in another Court case in 1847 when a patient, Norah Hatherall of St. Aubin's died during her confinement. He was indicted for having feloniously injured her to such an extent as to cause her instant death and by attempting to deliver her while he was intoxicated. Although other witnesses testified to him being intoxicated at the time and Dr. Fowler that a dose of morphine had been excessive, both Dr. Andrew Liddell and Dr David Sloane gave their opinion that Norah Hatherall's death was caused by exhaustion from a long and difficult delivery. It was stated by the attorney for the defence that a man placed as Dr. Goodwin was, a medical man living in a district so scattered that possibilities for consulting seldom arose, must not have his actions or his practice scrutinized so severely as men living in large towns having ample time and opportunity for caution and advice before proceeding to act in difficult case, but must be protected. After retiring for a few minutes, the jury returned a verdict of not guilty and Goodwin was discharged.


In 1849 John Goodwin was undergoing insolvency proceedings. He appealed in the Supreme court against a refusal of his application for a Certificate and the following information was provided:

'He left Great Britain in 1838; after his marriage he entered into an agreement to execute a marriage settlement, giving his wife a separate estate in such property that one of her relations might or did give her. In 1844 he went to Scone, at the time, according to his own opinion, being insolvent. Whilst there, with the money which he obtained by means of a bill drawn on England by himself and wife, in respect of her separate property, he bought a piece of land, which had on it a skeleton of a house, for the sum of £20. The house and land he greatly improved as he said, with funds derived from his practice as a medical man. In 1846 he conveyed the same house and land to trustees, he himself being one, in favour of his son. This deed on conveyance remained in his possession unregistered, until about the day when his estate was sequestrated. The day before his estate was sequestrated, or on the very day, viz., the 10th February, 1849, he caused the deed to be registered. In the schedule the insolvent had not inserted either the property he took or might take under the settlement he made on his wife, or other property his wife took under the will of another of her relations.'

At the time of his insolvency he had not a shilling for the payment of his debts and his friends purchased his furniture at auction and returned it to him. The solicitor for the creditors thought the case a gross one worthy of the punishment that had been awarded to it but decision on the case was reserved.


John Goodwin died on 16 October 1859. His wife Elizabeth died at Scone on April 7th 1897 aged 87 years.