James Scobie

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James Scobie's Tombstone, Ballaarat Old Cemetery, c1904 University of Ballarat Historical Collection.
"Official form on blue paper - evidence - Henry Wright, trooper, 27 October 1854, PROV, VPRS5527/P0 Unit 1, Item 70
Recognizance to give evidence.
Be it remembered, that on 27th day of October in the year of our Lord One thousand eight hundred and fifty four Henry Wright of Ballarat in the Colony of Victoria Trooper personally came before me one of Her Majesty's Justices of the Peace for the said Colony, and acknowledged himself to owe to our Sovereign Lady the Queen the sum of one hundred pounds, of good lawful money of Great Britain, to be made and levied of the goods and chattels, lands and tenements, in the use of our said Lady the Queen, her Heirs and Successors, if the said Henry Wright shall fail in the condition indorsed.
Taken and acknowledged the day and year of your first above mentioned at Ballarat in the said Colony before me
EPS Sturt JP

For Forms, Evidence and Depositions in relation to the James Scobie trial click the following link Public Record Office Victoria VPRS 5527 Official Forms, Evidence and Depositions, October 1854

Background

James Scobie and George Scobie were brothers. Both were born in Scotland.

James, who was murdered, was buried in the Ballarat Old Cemetery in 1854. There is a monument and broken column erected in the spot. Also his nephew James was buried with him - but in 1868. The burial instructions of James George Watson Scobie (son of George and Phoebe) indicates that the family was living at Raglan St and his dad was a miner. He was only 13 months old and was buried on 16 Jan 1868 Block C. He died from "teething". The grave was reopened for his burial. If this is the case he is the second burial. There is a question on the form. "If first or second interment"? "Reopened" is handwritten to the right of the question. A. L. Lynne the secretary of the cemetery signed the form as did R. Rattray the Sexton. (Adam Loftus Lynne was a solicitor and Robert Rattray sexton of the cemetery.)

Goldfields Involvement, 1854

On the night of 6 October 1854 James Scobie was killed near the Eureka Hotel.[1]The manner in which the authorities dealt with the administration of justice began a chain of events culminating in the Eureka Stockade.[2] The proprietor of the Eureka Hotel was James Bentley, who was said to have borrowed a spade, and to have returned it with a very course expression about the deceased man. an inquest was held on the body by Police Magistrate Dewes, who was thought to be in partnership with James Bentley in the Eureka Hotel.[3] The coroner took no steps towards arresting Bentley so the diggers, led by Russell Thompson, demanded an enquiry. An enquiry was held, but deemed to be a farce.[4]

Bentley and his accomplices were arrested and tried at the Melbourne Supreme Court on 25 November 1854. [5]

Scobie's Inquest

07 October 1854 On the afternoon of 7 October 1854 Coroner David John Williams held an inquest into the death of James Scobie. Twelve jurors (many of whom had known Scobie) heard evidence and depositions, including forensic evidence from Dr Carr. During the inquest the Coroner was observed interrupting the proceedings on a fairly regular basis, and many questioned his decision to allow the Eureka Hotel proprietor, James Bentley, to cross-examine ten year old witness Bernard Welch; Peter Lalor saw Bentley talking to the Coroner while the jurors were deciding on a verdict.[6]

Bentley and his staff Thomas Mooney, the hotel watchman; Thomas Farrell, a clerk; and barman William Duncan denied taking part in the murder but agreed that two men did come knocking after midnight.[7]

Ten year old Bernard Welch's eyewitness account contradicted Bentley, Mooney and Farrell. Mary Ann Welch, Bernard’s mother, had also heard noises outside her tent:

‘My son the last witness and I had some conversation last night when we were disturbed during which I said I wonder if those voices are the voices of Mr or Mrs Bentley.’ (PROV, VPRS 5527 Unit 1, Item 1).[8]

The jury found there was not enough evidence against Bentley so the matter was adjourned. Several were unsatisfied with the proceedings and the verdict. Peter Lalor and several others formed a committee to further investigate the proceedings of the inquest.[9]

12 October 1854

The pressure placed on the Ballarat authorities for a further investigation into the circumstances surrounding Scobie’s death resulted in a judicial inquiry presided over by Gold Fields Commissioner Robert Rede, Police Magistrate John Dewes and Assistant Commissioner Johnston on 12 October.[10]

Inquest Jurors

Arthur Anderson; John Gillott; Henry Green; John Fletcher; John Phelan; Walter Davis; David Richards; Duncan Henderson; John Campbell; John Haig; Hugh Meikle; James Hasseltop

Judicial Inquiry

Dewes’s nefarious association with James Bentley was well known among the locals. The Police Magistrate’s financial association with Bentley had ensured that Bentley obtained the liquor licence for the Eureka Hotel without the usual red tape. Dewes’s biased attitude was demonstrated throughout the proceedings. Any witness who appeared to display an unfavourable view of Bentley was subjected to regular cross-examinations, a fact that did not fail to attract the attention of those present in the courtroom.

The same deponents who had been present during the inquest now related their account of the chain of events of 6 October. According to Peter Martin’s deposition for the coroner’s inquest, he and Scobie had made their way to the hotel after noticing that the lights were still on:

Deceased went up to one of the windows and asked to get in and a blow was struck at the head of the Deceased through the window as if by a man’s hand. I was knocked down… before I could distinguish who struck me… my eyes were attracted towards him [Bentley] because he was the only person I saw with a weapon in his hand’ (PROV, VPRS 5527 Unit 1, Item 1).[11]

After Martin was knocked he quickly ran thirty to forty yards from the scene of the attack. Upon his return he found Scobie unconscious and after examining his friend rushed towards the nearby butcher store owned by Archibald Carmichael, then went to summon Dr Carr. Upon his arrival Carr recommended the body be removed for a more thorough examination to Bentley’s Eureka Hotel, where scobiewas pronounced dead.[12]

During the adjournment Police Constable John Dougherty and Constable Michael Costello observed Bentley entering Magistrate Dewes’s office where he remained for approximately ten minutes. Once the hearing had reconvened, Dewes and Rede announced that the accused were to be discharged. Assistant Commissioner Johnston, however, did not share this view, nor did the multitude of diggers who were expecting a finding of guilty.[13]

Charles A. Doudiet, watercolour on paper, 1854, watercolour, on paper.
Courtesy Art Gallery of Ballarat, purchased by the Ballarat Fine Art Gallery with the assistance of many donors, 1996.

The Petition

A meeting to discuss the events was organised for 17 October 1854 outside James Bentley's Eureka Hotel. The aim was to demand for a more thorough investigation take place in front of a jury. .[14] The meeting got out of hand, and a riot occurred at Bentley’s Eureka Hotel that afternoon, and acted as a catalyst in bringing the case of Scobie’s murder to trial. The formation of the Committee for the Prosecution of the Investigation into the Death of James Scobie had sent a petition to Lieutenant Governor Sir Charles Hotham in Melbourne:

‘That your petitioners, feeling dissatisfied with the manner in which justice has been administered in regard to the death of one James Scobie who was brutally murdered near Bentley’s Hotel’ (PROV, VPRS 5527/P Unit 1, Item 6).[15]

Two days after the riot a reward of £500 was offered to any individual with information that could lead to the arrest and conviction of any persons involved in the death of James Scobie. Thomas Mooney was taken into custody and Detective Senior Sergeant Cummings travelled to Melbourne to apprehend Mr and Mrs Bentley.[16]

On 22 October the government was advised that new evidence had been brought to its attention. Thomas Mooney, a witness to the murder, conceded to the authorities the circumstances surrounding Scobie’s death, and provided a detailed account of the events, implicating both the Bentleys and Thomas Farrell:

‘I did not see Bentley strike the man but he had a spade in his hand he got the spade from near a tent … Mr Bentley said that is the right way to serve the vagabonds for breaking our windows they all went back to the House and I think they went to bed as the lights were put out’ (PROV, VPRS 5527/P Unit 1, Item 5).[17]

New depositions were collected for the upcoming trial, including the additional depositions by Mary Ann Welch and her son Bernard Welch. Michael Welsh, a waiter at the Eureka Hotel, was also able to provide a deposition incriminating not only the Bentleys but also two of their staff members, barman William Duncan and former Chief Constable Thomas Farrell, the hotel clerk. Evidence implicating a man named William Hance was also brought forward and he too was apprehended.

On 27 October 1854 a letter was sent to the Governor:

:27/10/54 Ballarat 23rd Oct 1854 :To His Excellency Sir Charles Hotham K.C.B. Lieutenant Governor of the Colony of Victoria :We the committee for the prosecution of the investigation into the death of the late James Scobie, duly appointed at a public meeting, held here on the 17th inst do beg to forward to your Excellency the enclosed Petition.

Your Excellency having anticipated the object of the Petition, we desiring as much as possible to allay the excitement at present existing on these diggings have thought it unnecessary and impolitic to have signatures attached to the Petition.
We beg to tender our sincere thanks to your Excellency for the promptitude and vigour with which the case has been taken up by your Excellency’s Government, and which is rapidly restoring the confidence of this community in that due administration of the law, which is necessary to the preservation of society.
In any investigation which your Excellency may be pleased to institute into this matter, we feel confident that the conduct of the magistrates, and especially that of the coroner, will appear to your Excellency in its true light.
We beg to subscribe ourselves your Excellency’s most devoted and obedient servants-
James R. Thomson Chairman Peter Lalor Secretary Thomas P. Wanliss Treasurer John Weightman Gray William Cork Alexander McP. Grant, Archibald Carmichael.[18]
Redmond Barry, c1875. State Library of Victoria (H4706)

The Trial

William Stawell from Supreme Court Bench Victoria 1852-1894. Chuck Photorgrapher. State Library of Victoria Collection( H34675)

The case of Queen v. James Francis Bentley, Catherine Bentley, William Henry Hance and Thomas Farrell in the murder of James Scobie commenced on Saturday 18 November, in Melbourne’s Supreme Court. Judge Redmond Barry presided over the case, Richard Ireland acted as Counsel for the Bentleys, while Mr A. Michie and Mr Whipman represented Thomas Farrell and William Hance respectively. Crown Prosecutor, Attorney General W.F. Stawell, presented evidence that had been previously used in the inquests and magisterial hearings, but on this occasion called two new witnesses, who would alter the fate of the accused. The waiter, Michael Welsh, who resided at the Eureka Hotel, testified that on the night of Scobie’s murder he saw the victim arguing with the accused William Hance through the broken window of the hotel. This evidence was supported by the testimony given by Mooney.

In his sworn statement to the court Thomas Mooney gave a detailed account of his direct involvement in the murder of James Scobie:

‘Farrell struck Scobie and knocked him down I collared Martin and he was drunk and stumbled and fell, the Clerk and Farrell both kicked Scobie while he was down…I did not strike Martin but took him by the collar and he was so drunk he fell’ (VPRS 5527/P Unit 1, Item 5).

Mooney’s testimony also revealed Bentley and Farrell’s mendacious attempts to conceal the nature of what had transpired in the early hours of that morning:

‘he told me not to say anything about it except that 2 men were in the front of the house and he was in bed himself and that the 2 men went away, when Bentley said this Farrell was present the Clerk told me the day following not to say anything about it when Bentley returned from the Camp with the police he called me in again and again told me not to say anything more than he previously directed’ (PROV, VPRS 5527/P Unit 1, Item 5).[19]

The jury took only fifteen minutes of deliberation. James Bentley, William Hance and Thomas Farrell were all found guilty of manslaughter. The following Monday, 20 November, the three prisoners were each sentenced to three years hard labour on the roads. Catherine Bentley, heavily pregnant at the time, was found not guilty. That very same afternoon Judge Redmond Barry was to preside over the trial of the Eureka hotel Rioters.[20]


Forms, Evidence and Depositions in relation to the James Scobie trial - Public Record Office Victoria VPRS 5527 Official Forms, Evidence and Depositions, October 1854

In the News

A very handsome monument has lately been erected in the Cemetery at the Swamp, to the memory of James Scobie, who was killed near Bentley's Hotel on the 7th October, 1854, under peculiar and well-known circumstances. It consists of a well dressed column of bluestone, standing on a massive pedestal, The column is broken off at a height of about 12 or 14 feet from the ground, as symbolica of the untimely fate of the man in whose commemoration it has been erected. A marble slab set in the pedestal, states that the monument has been "erected by his brother George, in memory of James Scobie, who met with an untimely end at Eureka, on the 7th of October, 1854."[21]


DEATH OF AN OLD RESIDENT OF BALLARAT, May 20.
Mr J. Russell Thomson died at his residence, Ballarat West, to night, of liver complaint. He was 64 years old Mr Thomson was always greatly liked and esteemed here, his courteous bearing and his integrity commanding for him the respect of all who knew him. He will be remembered by old residents as a member of the firm of Thomson, Walsh and Moore, sharebrokers. He was in Ballarat before the Eureka Affair, and was in the police court when Bentley was charged with the murder of the digger James Scobie, and acquitted by the magistrate Mr Dewes. On that occasion Mr Thompson narrowly escaped committal for daring to urge that Bentley's was a case which should be sent to a jury; but his expression of opinion was popular. At an indignation meeting close to where Scobie was killed, 'Mr.Thomson, with Messrs T.D. Wanliss, P. Lalor, J.W. Gray, W. Corkhill, A.McP. Grant, and Archd. Carmichael were appointed to collect money to defray the cost of a further prosecution of Bentley. In the early days here Mr Thomson amassed a fortune, and has of late lived retired, He still supported mining, but latterly with little success. He has, no relatives in the colony. [22]

See also

Eureka Hotel

Peter Lalor

Adam Loftus Lynn

Peter Martin

Scobie's Murder

George Scobie

James Stewart

David Williams

For Forms, Evidence and Depositions in relation to the James Scobie trial click the following link Public Record Office Victoria VPRS 5527 Official Forms, Evidence and Depositions, October 1854]]

Further Reading

Corfield, J.,Wickham, D., & Gervasoni, C. The Eureka Encyclopaedia, Ballarat Heritage Services, 2004.


References

  1. From Tent To Parliament, Berry Anderson & Co., Ballarat.
  2. http://prov.vic.gov.au/whats-on/exhibitions/eureka-on-trial/murder-of-james-scobie, downloaded 18 March 2013.
  3. From Tent To Parliament, Berry Anderson & Co., Ballarat.
  4. From Tent To Parliament, Berry Anderson & Co., Ballarat.
  5. From Tent To Parliament, Berry Anderson & Co., Ballarat.
  6. http://prov.vic.gov.au/whats-on/exhibitions/eureka-on-trial/murder-of-james-scobie, downloaded 18 March 2013.
  7. http://prov.vic.gov.au/whats-on/exhibitions/eureka-on-trial/murder-of-james-scobie, downloaded 18 March 2013.
  8. http://prov.vic.gov.au/whats-on/exhibitions/eureka-on-trial/murder-of-james-scobie, downloaded 18 March 2013.
  9. http://prov.vic.gov.au/whats-on/exhibitions/eureka-on-trial/murder-of-james-scobie, downloaded 18 March 2013.
  10. http://prov.vic.gov.au/whats-on/exhibitions/eureka-on-trial/murder-of-james-scobie, downloaded 18 March 2013.
  11. http://prov.vic.gov.au/whats-on/exhibitions/eureka-on-trial/murder-of-james-scobie, downloaded 18 March 2013.
  12. http://prov.vic.gov.au/whats-on/exhibitions/eureka-on-trial/murder-of-james-scobie, downloaded 18 March 2013.
  13. http://prov.vic.gov.au/whats-on/exhibitions/eureka-on-trial/murder-of-james-scobie, downloaded 18 March 2013.
  14. http://prov.vic.gov.au/whats-on/exhibitions/eureka-on-trial/murder-of-james-scobie, downloaded 18 March 2013.
  15. http://prov.vic.gov.au/whats-on/exhibitions/eureka-on-trial/murder-of-james-scobie, downloaded 18 March 2013.
  16. http://prov.vic.gov.au/whats-on/exhibitions/eureka-on-trial/murder-of-james-scobie, downloaded 18 March 2013.
  17. http://prov.vic.gov.au/whats-on/exhibitions/eureka-on-trial/murder-of-james-scobie, downloaded 18 March 2013.
  18. PROV, VPRS 5527 Eureka Stockade - Historical Collection P0, Unit 1.
  19. http://prov.vic.gov.au/whats-on/exhibitions/eureka-on-trial/murder-of-james-scobie, downloaded 18 March 2013.
  20. http://prov.vic.gov.au/whats-on/exhibitions/eureka-on-trial/murder-of-james-scobie, downloaded 18 March 2013.
  21. Ballarat Star. 20 May 1859.
  22. Hobart Mercury, 29 May 1886.

External links

http://prov.vic.gov.au/whats-on/exhibitions/eureka-on-trial/murder-of-james-scobie


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