Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

Hunter Valley Bushranger

John Jones alias Gibber Jack

John Jones (also known as John Gibben and Gibber Jack) was tried in Lancashire in 1788 and sentenced to transportation for seven years.

He was transported to New South Wales on the convict ship Gorgon which departed Spithead on 15 March 1791 and arrived in Port Jackson on 22 September 1791.

In 1811 John Jones was free and resided in a hut at North Harbour, employing a servant to assist with candle making and soap boiling. While his circumstances might not have comfortable, they were far better than what he was about to endure.

Newcastle Penal Settlement

In 1812, twenty-one years after his arrival in the colony, John Jones (Gibber Jack) was arrested and sentenced to three years incarceration at Newcastle, then a notoriously harsh penal settlement where hardened convicts were sent for committing colonial offences. Lieutenant Skottowe was Commandant at the settlement at this time and soldiers of the 73rd regiment formed the guard.

Prisoners at Newcastle were often employed in the Coal mines, Lime burner's gang or sent far up the river in search of red cedar. Edward Scarr, William Harrison Craig, Garrett Armstrong, John Fitzgerald, Richard Boots and Ann Malkins were a few of the convicts resident at Newcastle when John Jones arrived. Select here to find out more about Newcastle in 1812.

The Sydney Gazette reported the circumstances of Gibber Jack's downfall on the 29th August 1812:

John Jones, commonly called Gibber Jack, was charged with the distillation of spirits in the Colony, contrary to His Excellency the Governor's Proclamation prohibiting that baneful practice, and was convicted thereof on the evidence of two witnesses; by information given by one of whom, the still made use of by the prisoner was found secreted in the vicinity of North Harbour, two miles distant from a hut inhabited by the prisoner, with whom he lived in the capacity of a servant and assistant in candle making and soap boiling. This witness stated at length, that he had resided and lived with the prisoner in North Harbour for the term of eight weeks, immediately prior to the information, which was lodged on Thursday night the 19th instant:

That the various parts of the still were found secreted among the brush wood on the Friday morning following, together with 14 or 15 casks or wash; that he saw the still worked by the prisoners at a place called Little Cabbagetree, about 6 weeks ago, and at his request assisted him to removed the apparatus from thence to a boat at the waterside, in which it was conveyed to Manly Beach, near the place where it was found, and from thence brought to Sydney:

That on Monday the 15th instant, he accompanied the prisoner from North Harbour with three kegs of spirits in the boat, containing about five gallons each; and had been grossly ill treated by him shortly before he lodged the information, which it was nevertheless his intention to have done, if no such circumstance had taken place. The still was produced to the Bench and proved to be the property of the prisoner; who was convicted of the offence with which he stood charged, and sentenced to pay a fine of £20 to the King, and be sent to the Settlement of Newcastle, there to be kept three years to hard labour. Patrick Partland was convicted of a similar offence and received a like sentence.

Escape and Capture

Gibber Jack absconded from Newcastle after only about eight weeks and a notice to apprehend was placed in the Sydney Gazette, however he remained at large until April 1813.........

NOTICE - whereas John Jones, better known by the Name of Gibber Jack, who was lately convicted and sentenced to Newcastle by a Bench of Magistrates, for distilling, has effected his escape from that Settlement ; This is therefore to Caution all Settlers and others against harbouring, employing, or otherwise encouraging or concealing the said Absentee, on pain of rigid Prosecution. - Sydney Gazette 31 October 1812

On 17 April 1813 he was again charged with having a quantity of illegal spirits - This day John Jones alias Gibber Jack and Elijah Morris, were convicted before a Bench of Magistrates of having in their possession a quantity of spirits distilled in the Colony. The prisoner Jones had been convicted of a like offence about six months before and was then sentenced to pay a fine of £20 and be kept three years to hard labour at Newcastle; whither he was in consequence conveyed, but effected his escape from that Settlement, and after being several months at large was a fortnight since apprehended in the Brickfields for a repetition of his former offence: He was therefore now sentenced to be kept to hard labour for the Crown for the space of three years, to commence when his first sentence shall have expired, and pay a fine of £20.

Once again he absconded -

On 29th May 1813 the Sydney Gazette published a Public Notice for his apprehension and he remained out for the next few weeks, however in October constable Ambrose McGwigen (McGuiggan) of the Sydney Police was rewarded with a payment of £10 for his apprehension.

Van Diemen's Land

Gibber Jack was forwarded to Van Diemen's Land the following March.