March

1 March 1850 - A rare case of abduction in Maitland ends with John Irwin arriving at Maitland Gaol. He was tried at Maitland Circuit Court for the abduction of Margaret McGowan. Margaret was under the age of 16 and in the care of her father at Archerfield when she was abducted. Irwin was found guilty and sentenced to two years imprisonment and to pay a fine of 50 pounds. The Judge ordered that the prisoner shall remain confined to the prison, even after his sentence expired, until the fine was paid. 

2 March 1945 - Michael Saede started serving his sentence today after lying to police about 40 bottles of whiskey he had in his possession. Saede told police, when questioned, that he had obtained the liquor from a publican in Melbourne and was delivering it to a USA camp in Tenterfield. The police ran checks on both the USA. camp and the publican and discovered that the accused had swapped a car radio for the liquor with an ex-publican and that no U.S.A. camp. Saede was sentenced to six months hard labour and was forced to forfeit the whiskey.

3 March 1876 - An extraordinary post office robbery closed with the conviction of Francis McGuire - a handsome young man from Bundarra. It was revealed through the course of the trial that McGuire had been holding back mail, that he knew obtained money, and altering the letter before removing the money and substituting it for much less. The police found as many as 30 letters in McGuire’s possession; however the charge was only for altering two letters. The police also showed evidence of forged signatures. The judge took this conviction very seriously and made well known to the people in the courtroom that tampering with mail is a very serious offence. McGuire was sentenced to two years hard labour and arrived to begin his sentence today.

4 March 1909 - J.L Williams the Under Secretary at The Department of Justice notified Maitland Gaol and the police courts around the Hunter districts that prisoners receiving sentences up to six months inclusive are to be sent to Maitland Gaol. Mr Williams concluded in his correspondence that he understands at times prisoners doing short term sentences will need to be transferred and that will be at the discretion of the prisons administration. The department was aware that the accommodation for females at Maitland Gaol was often overcrowded and that they understood that female prisoners would need to be transferred on a regular basis.

5 March 1863 - Joseph Barnes Junior (14yrs old), arrived today after a long journey from Sydney. Barnes Jnr was caught, along with Joseph Barnes Snr and Samuel Jones, with meat stolen from a butcher in Penrith. All three were charged with break and enter into a premises and theft. Barnes Jnr was caught red handed in the bush not far from the shop cutting up the meat. In total one sheep carcass, 50 pounds of mutton, one ham, one piece of bacon and 20 pounds of salt where stolen from the shop. All three men were found guilty; unluckily Joseph Barnes Jnr was sentenced to six months imprisonment at Maitland Gaol, rather than Parramatta like the other two. The judge also ordered that the first day of every week of Barnes Jnr's sentence would be served in solitary confinement.

6 March 1918 - For failing to report to the nearest police station and declare himself an alien, Charles Henrich Hart wound up in Maitland Gaol. At first when questioned by police he claimed to be a native of Denmark however upon police searching his residence they found evidence that he was in fact German. He had not reported himself since the beginning of the war (WWI) and had falsely claimed he was a Dane on his nationality papers. Hart was sentenced to three months imprisonment for failing to declare him and a five pound fine or one extra month in prison for falsely declaring he was Danish.

7 March 1902 - Tried, sentenced and transported in the same day meant that John Powell, convicted of common assault with intent to rob, arrived at the gates of Maitland Gaol late afternoon. Powell and another man named Edward McKenzie assaulted Aziz Abdul when he was on his way home along Darby St, Newcastle in November 1901. McKenzie had been convicted previously but the whereabouts of Powell where unknown at the time. Eight previous convictions were read out in court after the jury had returned a verdict of guilty; it seems Powell's past was littered with assaults. The Judge pointed out that this made it much different from McKenzie’s hearing. He sentenced Powell to six months hard labour, McKenzie had only been sentenced to one month imprisonment. 

8 March 1965 - Three men’s bid for freedom from Maitland Gaol lasted less than 25 minutes. The men William Burney, Noel Harrison and Neville Lawson escaped from the Gaol at 11.20am, using a ladder they had made from dismantled beds, twine and bed sheets. They had overcome an officer in the wing prior to their escape, after gagging and binding him and locking him in a cell, they proceeded. Using their makeshift ladder they clambered over the wall and dropped to their freedom where they attempted to take a nearby car. A warder was crossing the street and alerted others to the men’s direction. Harrison kept running until he got to East Maitland railway station where he took a bike and pedalled to Melbourne Street where he was caught. Burney and Lawson ran across to William street where they came across two gentlemen in a car, Lawson hit one of the men in the head with a rock and attempted to drag him out of the car. In the meantime the other man had gotten out of the car and returned with a shotgun where he held the two men until the police arrived. They were taken straight to the courthouse where they were to be remanded until 5 April.

9 March 1857 - Prisoner Michael Cummins, who was awaiting trial for highway robbery whilst armed, was finally brought to court after feigning insanity since July 1856. He was convicted of the highway robbery charge and a charge bought against him for faking insanity and sentenced to 10 years hard labour for both. The first 3 years of his sentence he would have to serve in leg irons, however the Judge suggested he shall serve the sentences concurrently.

10 March 1868 - Patrick Higgins was sent to Gaol on a charge of Lunacy. He would soon be transferred to a lunatic asylum however in the meantime he was to be kept at Maitland Gaol for the safety of himself and the public. Unfortunately he died at the Gaol before his transfer. He was reduced in strength upon his arrival and it was discovered he was suffering from dysentery. An inquest was held and the findings were that Higgins died a natural death from dysenteric affection accelerated by aberration of mind.

11 March 1857 -  George Swan and William Clay were transferred from the Gaol to be indicted at Maitland Circuit Court for assaulting Constable McCully. The two prisoners were taken to the Armidale Bench on a charge of horse stealing and had been transferred to Maitland to attend the Quarter Sessions. Both prisoners had been placed in irons, but not handcuffs, and were travelling in a cart in the custody of two constables. The prisoners overcame one of the constables between Muswellbrook and Singleton and took his pistol before knocking him out of the cart. In the struggle Clay was shot and the prisoners recaptured. Upon reaching Singleton a doctor examined Clay and cleared him of serious injury. The bullet had left a graze on his head but had not penetrated the flesh. During the court appearance the jury found Clay guilty of assault, recommending him to mercy as he had been shot, and he was subsequently sentenced to 18 months imprisonment at Darlinghurst Gaol. Swan was found not guilty of assault but guilty of horse stealing and sentenced to three years hard labour at Darlinghurst Gaol.

13 March 1875 - Mr Henry Noad had his first visit to Maitland Gaol after accepting the contract to make improvements to the gate keeper’s quarters. The building had been built originally with a V shaped roof and this was causing major leaks during rainy periods. Mr Noad’s job would be to replace the roof entirely with one of an ordinary shape. The alterations to the roof would eventually increase the height of the ceilings from seven feet (2.1meters) to 13 feet (3.9 meters).

14 March 1862 - Today a new Warder started, his name was Donald McLean. He was a local man from Morpeth and was very luckily posted to Maitland Gaol, by all reports it seems as though McLean was a very suitable person for the office of Warder.

15 March 1865 - John Wallace, a Gaoler took a leave of six weeks due to poor eyesight, during his leave Principle Warder Dalton acted as gaoler. The Gaol was unusually crowded upon Wallace's departure with 72 male and 22 female prisoners.  Before he left Wallace wrote to the Sheriff asking that some of the male prisoners be removed so that no difficulty should arise during his leave.

16 March 1935 - For the first time in Maitland Gaol's history a concert was enjoyed by all, male and female, prisoners. A party of artists led my Mr S. Howard made their way to Maitland Gaol where all prisoners took great delight in seeing a comedy show, a ventriloquist act, a magic show and a sing-a-long. Afternoon tea was arranged and provided by the prisoners of the Gaol and during this time the Chief Warder congratulated the artists for perking the spirits of many of the prisoners.

17 March 1857 - William Clay, found guilty of assaulting a constable and horse stealing, was transferred to Darlinghurst Gaol. Sadly he died there on 28 March from heart disease. His death was sudden but not unexpected as he had been in the hospital at Darlinghurst Gaol since the day after his arrival. The subsequent inquiry into his death found that he had died from natural causes, accelerated by neglect and lack of medical treatment before he left Maitland. The inquiry suggested that the deceased would not have been in a fit state for removal from Maitland Gaol. This report is believed to be the only in existence that directly criticises Dr Wilson at Maitland Gaol on his care for the inmates. 

19 March 1849 - George Waters Ward was today executed for murdering Richard Connolly in Muswellbrook. It is believed that this execution happened with in the walls of the Gaol with several hundred witness’ permitted entry, these witness’ included women and children. Upon mounting the scaffold the prisoner addressed the crowd urging them to keep from drink and that if they are ever called to give evidence in court that you speak the truth.  Waters Ward came to the colony as a free man from England in 1829, he was 40 years old at the time of his execution. 

20 March 1884 - A youth named William Wooten, aged 16 years, was convicted of indecent assault upon a little girl of nine years. The prisoner was sentenced to a shorter than normal sentence because of his youth but the judge decided he could not do away with whipping for this kind of crime. The boy was sentenced to 15 lashes and the whipping was privately conducted within the gaol walls on this day. The only people permitted to witness the event were Dr Spink the visiting surgeon, the Governor of the Gaol and Gaol officials. At a quarter past six in the morning the boy was strapped to the horse and yelled loudly at the first stroke, he continued to sob bitterly until the lashing was complete. He was then checked by Dr Spink before being returned to his cell to reflect on his conduct.

21 March 1885 - A 17 year old prisoner was convicted of indecent assault on the male person and arrived on a light sentence of two months. The judge had pronounced in court that this case had caused him a great deal of anxiety as he didn't believe that this assault had been aggravated and in fact wondered if it had been an assault at all. The jury found Paul Nord guilty but recommended him to mercy. When handing down his sentence the Judge said there was to be no whipping, as was usual in these types of cases, and that the prisoner should be kept away from the other hardened criminals.

22 March 1890 - Mr Brooks, the coroner, conducted inquiries at the Gaol regarding the death of two inmates. John Canham was charged with having attempted to commit suicide, he had not yet appeared in court but was remanded to the Gaol for medical treatment. Unfortunately he died whilst in Gaol and the verdict was returned that death was caused by bronchitis, accelerated by drink and exposure. The other death was a prisoner whose name was unknown; he'd been bought down from Murrurundi as a vagrant who'd been sentenced to two months hard labour. The prisoner was filthy and scarcely able to walk when he arrived at Maitland Gaol and the doctor thought he was suffering from cancer. It was concluded that he died of cancer and want of proper nourishment.

23 March 1871 - Mary Ann Brown, an industrial school girl, was convicted of wilful destruction of Government property in that institution and was ordered to pay a fine of two pounds or to be imprisoned for one month. The fine was not paid and Gaol records indicate that Mary, who arrived in New South Wales in 1867 from Tasmania where she was born, spent one month in Maitland Gaol. The training she was undertaking at the industrial school was to become a servant; she was 16 years of age with a fresh complexion, brown hair and brown eyes and a tiny five feet tall. Her and four other girls where convicted of the same crime, however Mary’s sentence was the longest.

24 March 1855 - Major Crummer wrote to the Superintendent of Convicts asking that the prisoners Henry Hughes and Peter Gallagher be transferred from Maitland Gaol to another prison that had a hospital. It seemed that both convicts had arrived from Cockatoo Island as invalids, but now their health was deteriorating and Dr Wilson (Maitland Gaol's Doctor) reported that Hughes specifically needed constant medical attention. It appears at this stage that the lack of progress on building the rest of the Gaol was beginning to cause major issues.

25 March 1911 - Amelia Sidebottom (alias White, Beckett or Mashon) arrived today after being convicted at Cessnock police court of having no visible lawful means of support. The police senior constable told the court that complaints had been made against Miss Sidebottom previously and he had told her to leave the district and find lawful means of work. The defendant was found drinking in Lane's and Hampton's hotels on Monday and was under the influence of drink when arrested. Miss Sidebottom was sentenced to three months hard labour.

26 March 1892 - Annie Lee pleaded guilty of being a common prostitute on 24 March in Singleton police court and arrived after being convicted of the crime. Lee also pleaded guilty to having made use of obscene language in public and was fined 10 shillings- or in default one month extra imprisonment. Ms Lee was sentenced to one month’s imprisonment for prostitution and opted to serve the other month as she couldn't afford to pay the fine. The bench ordered that the sentenced may be served concurrently.

27 March 1874 - John Henderson (alias John Janeen) arrived at the gates of Maitland Gaol today after being found guilty at the Muswellbrook Bench of stealing a blanket and a pair of trousers. The items had been the property of Jonathan Barber, of Anvil Creek (near Branxton), whom Henderson had been lodging with for some time before the theft took place. Henderson pleaded guilty and was sentenced to three months imprisonment.

28 March 1888 - Bridget Devine is charged and convicted of vagrancy. Joseph Smith appeared in court to say that the accused always had a home at his place but lately had been in hospital, this concluded the evidence for Ms Devine's defence. Mr D Ludlow J.P. said he knew the accused as a disgraceful character who was often drunk in the streets and with a crowd of boys. Ms Devine was sentenced to three months hard labour and was told by the presiding Judge to use this time to contemplate her lifestyle.

29 March 1852 -  Patrick McNamara was finally executed today after killing his wife in March 1851. Whilst awaiting trail McNamara and another prisoner named Patrick Welsh escaped, he was recaptured on 10 December 1851 and finally sent to trail on 3 March 1852. Found guilty he handed over custody of his daughter to his wife’s family and finally acknowledged his guilt as he stood on the scaffold. After a short delay the bolt was drawn and McNamara ceased to exist.

30 March 1857 - Great excitement was brewing in the district generally, as Sir William Denison the Governor General was coming to East Maitland via train from Newcastle. He arrived to officially open the Great Northern Railway finally joining the two centres. It was very significant for the Gaol as now the prisoners and lunatics being transported to Sydney could be sent by rail to Newcastle and hence by steamer to Sydney.

31 March 1885 - A serious assault on a constable with a stone led to Edward Flaher arriving today. The assault occurred in Wickham in December of the previous year and the assailant managed to escape custody. Today Flaher was finally brought before the courts and sentenced to three months imprisonment. The Magistrate described the assault as a most cowardly one.