John Gavin play at the Blue Room

Gerard Foley Monday, April 23, 2012 - 15:38

In 1844 John Gavin was the first European to be executed in Western Australia for the murder of George Pollard. At 15 he is also one of the yougest people ever to be executed in Australia. 

In recent years there has been renewed interest in the case and it has been the subject of a book by respected historian David Hutchison. Titled Many Years a Thief  this book, described by Hutchison as his own interpretation of the events surrounding the crime, also explores the harshness of life in the early years of settlement in Western Australia and the social mores prevalent at the time. John Gavin was a 'Parkhurst Boy', the name given to reformatory apprentices who were transported from Parkhurst Prison on the Isle of Wight to Australia and New Zealand in the 1840s and 1850s. Essentially teenaged convicts they were used as a supply of labour in Western Australia, being apprenticed to settlers upon arrival in the struggling colony. The State Records Office holds the original record of John Gavin's trial (Series 122, Cons 3472, Item 051).

A rather gruesome case and outcome by today's standards, Gavin was executed 3 days after his trial on 6 April 1844 at the Round House in Fremantle.

The play John Gavin, created and performed by Nick Candy, Dawn Pascoe and Steve Finnegan, is on at the Blue Room in the Perth Cultural Centre from 19 April to 5 May 2012.

Gerard Foley

Senior Archivist