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The Story of John Petchey  1792 -1850 ch1 (Written and embellished for my grandchildren)


This is the story of John Petchey who was the nephew of your great, great, great, great, grandparents James and Ann. He was born a long time ago (about 1788) when Australia had just been discovered, America was ruled by England and Mars bars had not been invented.

  John was born to a poor family who worked on the farms in Essex. There were no tractors in those days so horses were used to pull ploughs and wagons. Now when John was a young man many things were happening in the world that made it very hard to feed his horses, especially in winter.

First there had been a revolution in France, when poor people chopped the heads of the rich, powerful people and a man called Napoleon became the Emperor. Napoleon was greedy and wanted to rule England as well as France so there was a war for many years until the Duke of Wellington defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo. Before battles were fought with tanks and planes everything was pulled by horses, and posh soldiers fought riding on horses. Horses had to be fed and war horses had the best of the oats, which is important in our story.

The second big thing that happened was that in 1809 a big volcano exploded which meant ash blocked out the sun and started ten years of terrible winters. It was in the icy winter of 1810, when John was desperate to feed his farm horse. Then one night he met a friend who whispered in his year,

“Hey John, could you use a big bag of oats?”

“Oats? Yeh, of course I could, my old mare is starving. But how’d you come by it? I can’t pay for it, neither.”

“Ask no questions, I'll tell ye no lies. Do you want it or not?”

John thought hard about it, he was desperate, but where did it come from? In the end he gave in.

“Yeh, okay, I’ll take it.”

He picked up the sack of oats and took it home; he was so relieved he could now feed his horse. 

two labourers

But a few days later there was a knock at his cottage door, it was the local constable.

“Are you John Petchey?” he asked sternly.

“Yes sir.”

“May I have a look in your stable?”

John did not argue with him and showed him the way. The constable was soon poking around with his staff when he found it, the sack of oats. After examining it closely he found what he was looking for.”

“Mr Petchey, do you know what these letters mean?” showing him the markings on the sack.

“No sir, I can’t read.”

These marks tell me this sack and what’s in it is the property of the Essex Regiment. This bag of oats was stolen from the barracks a month ago so you are in possession stolen property. John Petchey, you are under arrest!”



On 14th March 1810 poor John stood in the dock at the Chelmsford magistrate’s court. There was no long trial. His crime was read out, he was guilty and his sentence was given. Fourteen years transportation! He was to be sent to the far side of the world, to a place he had never heard of, to a place with an evil sounding name, to an island south of Australia call - Van Diemen’s Land.

But before the ship to take him set sail he was locked up in awful places that were old, worn out warships called prison hulks. The first one was called the Portland the second was called Captivity. It was only after two years, on 4th June 1812, when the ship Indefatigable at last set sail with 200 convicts on board. The voyage lasted over four months arriving in Hobart on 19th October 1812.

prison hulk
england to vdl
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Rebels Lane

Adventures of the Mind

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