Meet some of the people whose lives and stories are woven into Port Arthur’s history. From commandants to convicts, soldiers, servants, and shipwrights, these are the people whose footsteps you will walk in when you visit Port Arthur Historic Site.
Private, 51st King's Own Light InfantryRead Robert's full story
In 1840, twenty year-old Robert Young was serving at Port Arthur with the King’s Own Light Infantry. Robert’s task was to provide security whenever convicts were at work or moving from place to place within the settlement. One night in March, he accompanied a whaleboat containing four convict crew and a coxswain, to take the doctor across to Point Puer to see a sick boy. Robert stayed with the boat that night. It was the last thing he would ever do.
Convict ShoemakerRead William's full story
William Thompson was a young shoemaker, transported for life in 1841 for burglary. He was sent to the Coal Mines, where he served a dreadful year in the underground cells. There, he worked in appalling conditions and witnessed two shocking accidental deaths, all of which made a deep impression on him. But things brightened for William when he was removed to the shoemaking shop – which offered a chance or two to make a little profit…
ConvictRead Henry's Full Story
Henry Singleton arrived on Norfolk Island in 1851 to serve 14 years for the crime of stealing shirts. He was ‘a bad character’, constantly in trouble for refusing to work, being dirty and disobedient, talking, having money improperly in his possession, insubordination, and using threatening language. Henry was sent to Port Arthur in 1853, where his refusal to work, disobedience and insolence earned him more than one spell in solitary confinement.
Convict ServantRead Margaret's full story
Margaret Dalziel arrived in Van Diemen’s Land in 1851 – a Protestant housemaid from Glasgow who could read. She was only five feet tall, with a ruddy complexion, brown hair, blue eyes and several tattoos. She also had a record for highway robbery, stealing, and housebreaking. On board ship, the Surgeon’s report about her simply said, ‘bad’. And as a servant in the colony, Margaret proved to be a little more trouble that she was worth…
CommandantRead William's full story
Commandant William Champ was a green thumb. In the unlikely setting of the prison at Port Arthur Commandant Champ set about creating a lush pleasure garden, filled with the ‘the plants of Old England’ that his mother sent to him. William ordered a profitable hop field in front of Government House to be pulled up and transformed it into a private refuge for the ladies of the settlement – complete with a fountain and canal, shady arbour and a summer house, with views of the cove.
ConvictRead William's full story
William Riley was just 14 when he was transported for seven years in 1821. He was described ‘inoffensive and orderly’. But from the time he arrived in the colony, he seemed determine to escape his fate any way he could – he refused to work, absconded, was disobedient, and he drank. But what made William suddenly murder Joseph Shuttleworth with a pickaxe, as they worked side-by-side digging the foundations for Port Arthur’s church?
Master ShipwrightRead David's full story
David Hoy was a Scotsman, a ship’s carpenter and a boat builder when he arrived in Van Diemen’s Land in 1824. By the time he retired in 1848, his passion for ships had seen him become Master Shipwright at Port Arthur, where he achieved wonders – transforming unskilled convicts into ‘fair tradesmen’, who would build some of the best ships in the colony.
Convict Grave DiggerRead Mark's full story
Mark Jeffrey was a man of anger. His determination to stand up for his rights earned him constant punishment, including more than one stint in Port Arthur’s Separate Prison. Eventually, his outbursts led to him being made gravedigger on the Isle of the Dead, where one night, Jeffrey claimed, the Devil appeared in his hut and spoke to him, terrifying him so much that he begged to be allowed to leave the island and never return.