John Jenkins and Dr. Wardell

"shoot every tyrant you come across"

The Sydney Herald Thursday 13 November 1834 p.2 

EXECUTION.—The extraordinary and reckless conduct of the culprit Jenkins on his trial made, such an impression on the minds of the Public, that, on Monday morning last the time appointed for his execution, the neighbourhood of the goal was crowded to a degree never before observed on any similar occasion, to witness the last scene of one of the most depraved of the human species. At the usual time, the culprits were led into the yard, to the foot of the scaffold, attended by their respective Clergymen.

Tattersdale entered first, accompanied by the Rev W. Cowper, and testified the most sincere repentance and devotion through the melancholy scene; Jenkins followed, staring wildly around on the spectators, and seeming perfectly indifferent to the ignominous fate that awaited him. McCormack appeared penitent, but his demeanour on the whole, seemed to indicate extreme despair and dejection.

The prayers being ended, the Under Sheriff read the warrant which consigned them to their fate ; when Jenkins ascended the ladder with the greatest expedition, and on arriving on the scaffold went over to one of the ropes suspended from the fatal beam, and struck it with his hand in a playful manner ; the dreadful preliminaries being adjusted, Jenkins addressed thc felons in the yard to the following effect,

" Well, good bye my lads, I have not time to say much to you ; I acknowledge I shot the Doctor, but it was not for gain, it was for the sake of my fellow prisoners because he was a tyrant, and I have one thing to recommend you as a friend, if any of you take the bush, shoot every tyrant you come across, and there are several now in the yard who ought to be served so. I have done several robberies, and for fear that any innocent man should suffer on my account, I have made a confession to the gaoler and given such marks and tokens as will prove it was I that committed the acts. I robbed a man named Mills at Kissing Point, and also a man on the Liverpool road, named Farrell, and a man at Liverpool whom I stabbed ; he may be since dead for aught I know ; I have heard that he was missing since that time, and it is most probable he has been eaten by the native dogs, I have told where the property is, in order to shew that I have told the truth. I have not time to say any more lads, but I hope you will all pray for me."

This address being ended, the rope was secured round his neck, and the other culprits shook hands, but Jenkins turned away from Tattersdale with disdain, and said something like, " let every villain shake hands with himself," at the solicitation of the Rev. Mr. McEncroe, he consented to shake hands with him, and as he approached his unhappy companion in crime, who appeared to be absorbed in prayer, and making pious ejaculations, he said come, come my lad, none of that crying, its no use crying now ; we'll be all right in ten minutes time, be then gave him a hearty shake of the hand, and took his hand.

The clergymen having retired and the arrangements being complete, the platform fell, and the world closed on on of the most ruthless assassins that over in fated the Colony. The case of these Convicts show in a striking point of view, the absolute necessity for an unrelaxing system of restraint on the Convict population.


Such was the prominence of Dr. Wardell in legal circles that Jenkins' trial was reported at length in the the Sydney Gazette Saturday 13 September 1834 with the comment that:

'We never recollect to have seen a greater appearance of Magistrates upon the bench than upon this occasion, and the continued influx there of the Civil Officers, and persons of the highest respectability was so rapid and successive, that in a short time after the examination began, there was scarcely standing room left for the Magistrates themselves.'

The article records 'John Jenkins, per ship Asia, under sentence for seven years, attached to the iron-gang stationed at George's River.'  Convict records show that he arrived in NSW on 4 February 1833, one of 230 convicts transported on the Asia. He was 'Convicted at Northumberland. Newcastle upon Tyne Quarter Session for a term of 7 years on 4 April 1832.' He was a sailor from London and was convicted of theft.

Transportation records also show that Thomas Tattersdale, like Jenkins, was one of 230 convicts transported on the Asia. He was 'Convicted at Lincoln Assizes for a term of 14 years on 03 March 1832.' 

Francis MacNamara's epic poem 'A Convict's Tour to Hell' written five years after this trial seems to have a quite special place for Jenkins and Wardell, first of all Dr. Wardell is amongst the "grandees of the land" in Hell, while the poet responding to St Peter's query "who in Heaven do you know?" implies that Jenkins is one of the bushrangers who have made their way to Heaven

     "Well I know Brave Donohue / Young Troy and Jenkins too"

Doctor Robert Wardell has been favoured by history with an impressive likeness of him, a marble plaque in St James Church in Sydney and an entry in the Australian Dictionary of Biography.

The Sydney Herald article above about John Jenkins has recently been added to Obituaries Australia with a drawing of him by John Austen courtesy the National Library of Australia.

At the time of his death Wardell owned a large slice of what is today the Sydney suburb of Petersham.