James Jordans Trial 1789

James Jordan’s Trial 1789

© Irene Schaffer



My research into James Jordan began when I discovered that my stepfather, Charles Jordan, was a descendant of James Jordan alias Sheridan who had left Cork in Ireland on the 380 tons merchantman Queen in April 1791 (Third Fleet) and Mary Butler Lady Juliana (Second Fleet) in 1790 and sailed for New South Wales.


James Jordan aged 25 years was tried in Dublin in March 1789, but as no trial papers survived, it was not known what his crime had been.  It was thought that like many other records it had been burnt in the 1922 fire in Dublin. Not knowing these facts somewhat spoilt the story I was writing in 1983, and it was published in 1991 with this vital piece of information missing.


Now after 25 years it has been discovered what he was tried for, thanks to a fellow author who is researching the convicts who were transported on the Queen in 1791, in her coming book.


The information was discovered in the Irish newspaper the Freeman’s Journal dated 26-28 March 1789. James it seems was known as James Sheridan and was tried:


‘At an adjournment of the quarter Sessions, which was held before the Recorder of the city of Dublin at the Tholsel, on the following days, the under-named persons were put on their trials, viz Tuesday March 24: James Sheridan, Jane Sheridan his wife and Dominick Gaffney were put to the bar charged with robbing the house of Mr Parker of Rosslene and feloniously taking from him a number of notes, some candlesticks and other articles of value. Jane Sheridan and Dominick Gaffney were both acquitted and discharged; and James Sheridan, being found guilty, was sentenced to be transported’


Not only do we now know his crime was stealing goods and money and the myth that he was thought to be a political prisoner, has been put to rest. We also know he was married and that his wife’s name was Jane. What we don’t know was if they had any children, and what happened to them after James was transported across the seas.


James Jordan, alias Sheridan, sailed on board the Queen, departing Cork in April 1792, and arriving in NSW on 26 September. The following year he was sent to Norfolk Island on the Atlantic. Here he appears to have become a respected settler. Before settling on his 12acre grant of land in 1810, he was appointed a pilot and coxswain on ships between Sydney Cove and Norfolk Island.  He is recorded as being on the Porpoise in 1802 for 8 days, earning 2 pounds.


Mary Butler aged 15 was tried for stealing and sentenced to 7 years transportation at Middlesex on the 12 December 1787. Arriving on the Lady Juliana she was sent with other women from that ship to Norfolk Island on the Surprise in August 1790. Soon after she arrival on Norfolk Island Mary’s son William was born 13 August 1792. He was the son of William Saltmarsh (First Fleeter) The father left the island on the Pitt, without seeing his son and was never seen again.


James it seems took Mary and her son into his home and they later had 4 sons and a daughter of their own. Mary died a short time before James and the family boarded the Minstrel and sailed to Port Dalrymple in 1813. The youngest son John was only 4 years old.


James took up land at Norfolk Plains (Longford) along the banks of the Esk River. Three of his sons Richard, James and Thomas were also granted land in the same area.  Their daughter Catherine married James Davey (Calcutta 1803) in 1819. Catherine died having their sixteenth child in 1839 aged 39.  John the youngest son of James and Mary became a publican.


The name Jordan is still known in the northern part of Tasmania today and at last, the full story can be told of how the lives of a man and a woman with different backgrounds, one English the other Irish. Like many of their fellow convicts their descendants settled in many parts of Australia and New Zealand.  Their occupations cover a wide area, teachers, dentistry, drovers, nuns and priests to this day.


I still would like to know where James acquired his sailing skills. No man could sail the waters around Norfolk Island without having experience on ships in simular dangerous seas.


If we could go back far enough like those who have taken part in ‘Who do you think you are’ series, what would we find?


James Jordan died at Talisker, White Hills, on 6 February 1840 and was buried with his daughter Catherine, at Christ Church Longford.


 James Jordan's story can be found in my book James Jordan's Last Journey Nofolk Island to Norfolk Plains (see book list)