James Sheers, Convict,
James, a Butcher by trade, was tried and
convicted at the Old Bailey on 7th July 1784 for highway
robery, assaulting Charles Wright on the King’s Highway,
on the 2nd of July, and putting him in fear and danger
of his life, and taking from his person and against his
will, one watch, with the outside case made of shagreen,
and an inside case made of base metal, value 40s. a
metal chain, value 5s. one ring, value 5s. one seal
value 1s. a metal key value 6d. and a metal hook value
6d. his property, he was sentenced to death.
Old Bailey Trial Transcription.
Reference Number: t17840707-12
672. JAMES SHIERS was indicted for
feloniously assaulting Charles Wright on the King’s
highway, on the 2nd of July, and putting him in fear and
danger of his life, and feloniously taking from his
person and against his will, one watch, with the outside
case made of shagreen, and an inside case made of base
metal, value 40 s. a metal chain, value 5 s. one ring,
value 5 s. one seal value 1 s. a metal key, value 6 d.
and a metal hook, value 6 d. his property .
CHARLES WRIGHT sworn.
I am clerk to a banker ; I was robbed on the morning of
the 2d of July, at past two o’clock, in the Strand ; I
was going from the city.
Court. To what place? - No determined place, on a walk.
What part of the Strand were you robbed? - About ten
yards beyond the pavement; I perceived the prisoner,
seemingly in company with another man, about two or
three yards before he came upon me, they were coming
towards the city, they met me, the prisoner came upon me
with force by a jostle, and applied his hand to my watch
pocket, and with a considerable degree of force tore it
out of my pocket; my pocket being tight made me scarcely
sensible of it.
Did he touch you otherwise than by jostling you? - He
came just upon me, face to face, with a view as I judged
to take away my recollection at the time.
Where did he hit you, or strike you? - He came quite
upon my breast and made me go back, he came suddenly
upon me, the force that he was obliged to apply to take
my watch from me, the pocket being tight, suspended his
arm above his head, I instantly catched him by the
collar, and with my other hand endeavoured to regain my
watch, at the same time one of the other witnesses came
up and catched him by the collar, and endeavoured to
regain my watch too, he still holding the watch at the
full extent of his arm; I was in company with five more,
four of which saw the watch in his possession; he
endeavoured to drop the watch, a parcel of men and women
came round him on the other side of me, by which means
he conveyed away the watch.
Did he drop it? - Not to my knowledge.
Did you ever see your watch afterwards? - Never after it
went out of his hand, but I saw it for some small space
of time in his hand; I apprehended him, and conveyed him
to custody with other assistance, I never lost my hold.
Prisoner. Ask him whether he was drunk or no? - I had
been drinking moderately.
Court. Was you disguised? - No.
HERBERT ORD sworn.
I was just behind the prosecutor, when I came up to him
I saw the watch in the prisoner’s hand, by some means he
conveyed it away; there were several girls of the town
about him, and we took him to the watch-house.
Did you see him run against the prosecutor? - I was just
behind, I could not distinguish, there was a kind of
jostle, but I could not distinguish.
Court. Was the prosecutor drunk? - Not in the least, he
had been drinking.
Prisoner. There was a mob all round, and they caught
hold of me and a woman, and stripped us both naked, and
said we had the watch. Please to look at this here.
(Holding out a paper.)
Court. You must read it yourself. - I cannot read, it is
the state of the case, and how it happened, and every
thing of the kind.
Court. You know your own story.
I was going to Smithfield market, about five o’clock,
and these gentlemen was coming along drunk, and had
three or four girls with them and two or three watchmen,
and I came up to see what was the matter, and they took
me; I had not so much as a stick to walk with.
Have you any witnesses to call to your character?
Prisoner. I was taken with such a disappointment, that
the man would not let me send for my friends, I do not
think I have a friend in the Court; it is a very hard
Court to Jury. Gentlemen, this is a robbery in its
nature somewhat similar to that committed by Richard
Edwards on Captain Elphinstone , which you tried very
GUILTY , Death .
Prosecutor. My Lord, if you consider him as a worthy
object, I would wish to recommend him to mercy.
Tried by the first Middlesex Jury before Mr. Justice
James was sent to Newgate Prison to await
his hanging at Tyburn, the prosecutor had recommended
him for mercy, and on 19th March 1785 the sentence was
remitted on condition of transportation to Africa for
life. On 5th April 1785, he was sent to the hulk
‘Ceres’, a former East Indiaman that was moored at
Woolwich on the Thames, it had been established as a
prison hulk in March 1785 to hold convicts from Newgate,
pending transportation to Africa. The accommodation was
basic and overcrowded, the convicts were shackled
together and slept two to a plank bed with a single
blanket to cover them. The expense of maintaining them
was offset by putting them to work dredging the Thames
and building embankments. Problems with transportation
to the African continent meant that James would be sent
on the first fleet to the new Penal Colony of New South
Wales. James remained on the ‘Ceres’ until ordered to
Portsmouth on 24th February1787 to board his
Left England on 13th May 1787.
Ship:- the ‘Scarborough’ sailed with 208 male
convicts on board, there were no reported deaths during
Arrived on 26th January 1788.
There are variants of his name in the
records – Shiers, Shears or Sheers; the only record of
his actual signature is that on his marriage record1
where he used the spelling ‘Sheers’.
James married convict Mary Smith (‘Lady
Penrhyn’ 1788) on 21st February 1788 at Sydney
Cove.at St Phillips Sydney by permission of His
Excellency Arthur Phillip.
On 4th March 1790 James & Mary were sent
to Norfolk Island on the ‘Sirius’, embarking on 5 March
1790, disembarking at Cascade Norfolk Island on 14 March
James was a butcher on Norfolk Island.
Mary and James separated before 1791, and Mary Sheers
died 9 December 1792, and marked as dead 27 December
1792 Norfolk Island, leaving James to care for their
infant daughter Mary (Ann)
James went on to have 2 children with
convict Elizabeth Wishaw,(Convict Lady Juliana)
on Norfolk Island who had arrived aboard the Surprize
in August 1790.Elizabeth adopted James’s first child
Mary (Ann) as her own. Elizabeth Wishaw had two children
with James Sheers on Norfolk Island, James(1794) and
On 23 March 1796 James received an
Absolute Pardon from the Governor of New South Wales and
in 1797 he was granted 60 acres of land.
Elizabeth Wishaw died on Norfolk Island
sometime between 1800 and 1802
James Sheers is listed as the landholder
of 60 acres of land being Lot 12 which was originally
granted in procession by Edward Abbott (Marine
Lieutenant Scarborough 2) who transferred this to
John Howell (Marine, Charlotte) in February 1792
and granted in March 1796. James Sheers sold this land
to Thomas Fowles(Convict Atlantic)on 14 January
1800. He remained on Norfolk Island as he was recorded
living there in 1811.
James lived with Mary Wilson, (Convict
Prince of Wales ), she arrived on Norfolk Island
aboard HMS Sirius in March 1790. Mary was the
widow of John Owles (Convict Alexander),
who died on Norfolk Island in 1806 also ex HMS Sirius
March 1790. James Sheers and Mary Wilson remained on
Norfolk Island returning to Sydney abroad the
Kangaroo in February 1814
Mary Sheers nee Wilson, died 15th August
1816 Sydney, aged 85 years, buried 17th August 1816 Old
Sydney Burial Ground Sydney
In 1821 the New South Wales Muster shows
James working at Bringelly for Captain Piper(Free
Settler Pitt 1792). Piper was the husband of James’
daughter Mary Ann.
James died 17 December 1838 ‘Alloway
Bank’, the home of his
son-in-law Capt Piper at Bathurst, buried Holy Trinity
His death notice appeared in the
Sydney Herald, 28 December 1838
stating an age of 103 years and five
months:Death: At Allowaybank, on the 17th instant, Mr.
James Sheers, at the advanced age of one hundred and
three years and five months; he retained all his
faculties till within three days of his decease.
The Fellowship of First Fleeters
installed a FFF Plaque on James Sheers/Shiers’s Grave on
7th June 1992.
Refer FFF Web Site:http://www.fellowshipfirstfleeters.org.au/graves.html
Plaque 86 – Installed 7th June 1992for
Written By Phil Hands on 6th August, 2017
Founders of Australia by Mollie Gillen p253
Down Under by Ron Withington p284 to 287
Second Fleet by Michael Flynn p236
-The Proceedings of the Old Bailey
Ref: Reference Number: t17840707-12