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Depositions for Thomas McLean, c. 1 Nov 1836, Sydney Trial  1 


In the Seventh Year of the Reign of
Our Sovereign Lord William the Fourth,
by the Grace of God, of the United
Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland,
King, Defender of the Faith.

New South Wales
(TO WIT.)–         }
Be it Remembered, That John Hubert Plunkett Esquire, His Majesty’s Attorney General for the Colony of New South Wales, who prosecutes for His Majesty in this Behalf, being present in the Supreme Court of New South Wales, now here, on the first Day of November in the Year of Our Lord One Thousand Eight Hundred and Thirty six at Sydney, in the Colony aforesaid, informs the said Court, that Thomas McLean late of Newcastle in the Colony aforesaid Labourer –
on the thirty first Day of August in the Year of Our Lord One Thousand Eight Hundred and Thirty six with Force and Arms, at upon the High Sea within the Jurisdiction of the Admiralty of England in the Colony aforesaid, and within the Jurisdiction of this Court to wit in and board a certain Steam Vessel called the Sophia Jane in a certain place upon the High Sea between the Port of Newcastle and Port Jackson


in the Colony aforesaid in and upon one Michael Butler then and there being feloniously did make an Assault and then and there feloniously wickedly and against the order of nature, had a venereal affair with the said Michael Butler and then and there feloniously carnally knew him the said Michael Butler and then and there feloniously wickedly and against the order of nature with the said Michael Butler did commit and perpetrate that detestable and abominable crime of buggery (not to be named among Christians) against the form of the Statute in such case made and provided and against the peace of our said Lord the King his Crown and Dignity.
[Signed] John Hubert Plunkett, Attorney General.

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[On the reverse of the above (1-2) is the following]

In the Supreme Court
No. 18
The King against Thomas McLean B[onded]
Information for Sodomy
Witnesses: Michael Butler, Private 28th Regiment; James Devonport Walker F[ree].
1 November 1836 Judge Burton JCJ
plea Not Guilty verdict Not Guilty
[Signed] George Rogers.

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Justice WW Burton's Notebook  2


[1 November 1836] 4th Case

Thomas McLean
Buggery committed on board the Sophia Jane (Steam ?)Vessel with Michael Butler a private of the 28th Regiment.
Plea NG

    Michael Butler Private soldier of the 28th regiment – 30th August [1836] last I was on board the Sophia Jane proceeding from Newcastle to Parramatta – Prisoner was assistant Steward – we lay in the harbour that night – I went to bed between 7 & 9 o’clock amongst the steerage passengers – in my clothes: I was asleep, he awoke me, he told me to get up  3  my bed was (made ?) down.

    I did so & took off my (coat ?) he told me to take off my trousers which I refused in consequence of having to go on deck during the night – I went to bed & lay down – & fell asleep – I


did not awake until I found my (?) unfastened & my trousers (round ?) my backside  4  – I lay still till I caught him in the fact of sodomy – he was lying behind me he put his private parts into my backside about an inch or so – the light was out – I shouted out for a light, a sailor said what was the matter – I said it was a man wanted to commit sodomy, he tried to leave the berth but I would not let him go till the light came, the Head Steward with it – he got out of the berth, the Steward gave him in charge of the watch & Deck, he made a rush at me & tore my shirt.  5  In the course of the night he came down to me & said he would give me 3 or 4 £ if I would not say anything about it – I answered that in such a case as that I would not look over my brother –


    By prisoner: I had charge of the luggage – I had an altercation with the prisoner in the course of the day – about a knife & fork one of the soldiers was taking away.

    By the Jury: A soldier off guard sleeps very heavily – he had his shirt only on when the light came.

    I waited till he perpetrated the crime. I was not awake till my breeches were down – he awoke me by taking them down.

    Mr James Davenport Walker I reside at (William’s ?) (town ?) – I was on board the Sophia Jane on thenight in question – I remember the soldier & prisoner – I went to rest at dusk – the vessel had stopped at Newcastle. I was awakened by a scuffle between the soldier & prisoner – the soldier was crying out for a light. He said “bring a light, bring a light” – & there was a (?) voice – the man said “he’s going to commit -------”. When the light


came he struck him violently, & gave him two black eyes – & said if he had his will he would run him through. The soldier said “he was going to commit a great sin upon me” – I recollect hearing someone inducing another to go into another berth. The prisoner was undressed the soldier was dressed loosely – I believe his trousers off.

    I perceived nothing particular about the prisoner’s person. He seemed to me to pretend to be asleep.

    When the people had collected about him the prisoner said “a soldier is (comestible ?) at any time” –

    He dragged away the bed clothes & said they were his property – he was turned out of the cabin – but I saw him down again before morning – he was endeavouring to pick the lock of his locker – the steward (went ?) down – & found there some property he could not account for – I think the


soldier was sober when the light came but I thought he was drunk in the other berth.

    By the Prisoner: I recollect Prisoner being on shore that evening – I think he was away half an hour – he went about (?) 9 or 11 – I saw the soldier have rum in the galley: prisoner had been drinking but was not insensible.

    The soldier was at first lying in a lower berth without any covering, he had been lying there from 9 in the morning till he went to the prisoner’s berth to bed.

Verdict Not Guilty 


1  SRNSW: NRS880, [SC T44] Information No. 7, Supreme Court, Papers and depositions, 1836.

2  SRNSW: NRS5730, [2/2428], Judiciary, WW Burton, J, Notebooks Criminal Sessions, 1833-38, p. 26-30. Emphasis added.

3  Mn: out of that & go to my bed

4  Mn: I was sober

5  Mn: I then struck him