John Bourke was born around 1816 in Crough, County Limerick Ireland. His parents William Bourke and Mary Anne Dee were farmers. John's siblings were Michael born about 1822 Edward, Eliza and Hannah, of whom nothing is known, it is thought that Edward, Eliza and Hannah may have emigrated to the United States of America. John Bourke was tried on the 5th of March 1839 for administering an unlawful oath
The following excerpt was taken from the Limerick Chronicle dated March 6th 1839
John Burke and Patrick Crofts were indicted for
administering an unlawful oath to Dorah Piper, on 23rd
October last, while searching for firearms , and in another
count for stealing a bayonet, the property of John Piper,
Mary Raleigh sworn, examined by Mr. McDermott, stated she
lived with her uncle, John Piper on the day of last
October, between 12 and one o'clock in the day, some persons
came to her uncle's house, knew the prisoners to be among
them - identified them,
Burke came into the house first, and asked if Mr. Piper
lived there, Crofts came in after him, remained smoking
awhile, Burke whispered to Crofts, he then said, "come
Mistress, have you got any arms?"She said not, Crofts then
drew out a pistol and
cocked it, he had a pair of pistols in each pocket, he then
went into the bedroom and found a bayonet, he went into the
loft and was looking for a gun, noticed his dress
particularly, and described it.
He swore he would have murder of a gun, she said she had
not one, Crofts bid Burke to swear her, Burke went to
Crofts for the pistol when she refused to take to oath, he
then put the bayonet to her side and swore he would run her
through if she did not
take it, she was then obliged to swear there were no
firearms in the house, Burke asked her, on her oath, were
there any arms at Mr. Delmege's, she did not to the best of
Dorah Piper sworn - This witness deposed to the facts
exactly as stated by the former witness.
Michael Slattery, policeman, sworn - knows the prisoners,
searched for them on the night of 23 October, found them in
company with three others playing cards at widow Beston's
house, found four shillings in Burkes's pocket, he wore the
same dress as
described bye Mrs. Piper and Mary Raleigh. It was produced
in court and agreed with their description.
John Shear sworn - Recollects the 23 October last, had
Crofts employed digging potatoes that day, he came to work
in the morning and remained until 3 o'clock in the day.
Edward Donohue was sworn to prove an alibi for Burke. Mr.
Michael Potter, gave the prisoner Crofts an excellent
character, he said he lived with him for 15 years and found
him very well conducted.
John Boyse, Esq. Swore he knew Crofts for 25 years and knew
him to be a quiet and well behaved man.
His Lordship said there was positive evidence that the
prisoners having administered an unlawful oath, and stolen
a bayonet, the defence of the prisoners was an alibi, and
that was the line of defence, which to render it effective,
should be accurate
as to the, minute as to circumstances, and perfectly
The Jury retired for a few minutes, and returned with a
verdict of guilty against both prisoners.
John was transported on board the Augusta Jessie, from Dublin to Norfolk Island in 1839. On his transportation records it states that he was 5ft 71/2 inches tall, was 26 yrs of age, Catholic, Single and could read and write. He was sentenced to 7 years. After serving his sentence John travelled to Tasmania on board the Maitland On his permission to marriage request, he states his convict number as 11863
John Bourke married Maria Frances Little (born about 1828 in Sligo Town Sligo Ireland) on the 23rd September 1845 in St Josephs Catholic Church Hobart Tasmania, Australia.
John and Maria moved to the Bellarine Peninsula where they had 14 children. William 1 47 - 1896, Anne 1848 - 1932, James 1851 - 1883, Thomas 1852 - 1931, Mary Anne 1855 - 1875, John Thomas 1856 - ?, Robert James 1858 - 1942, Hugh 1860 - 1931, Stephen 1862 - 1936,Elizabeth Ada 1864 -1938, Michael 1867 - ?, unnamed female 1868 - 1868, Edmund 1870 - 1870, Maria Alice 1872 - 1959
John Bourke, his father in-law Thomas Little and a man by the surname of Lynch (connected to the Bourke's and Littles through marriage) had quite a bit of land according to the Bellarine Rate Book
After leaving the Geelong area John Bourke and his family settled in the Burramine/Boosey area. William Bourke (Johns eldest son) stayed behind in Geelong. The Bourke family held quite a bit of land in the Boosey and Burramine district.
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