By Irma Walter 2020
Solomon Burkett (aged 41) and Samuel Brakes (31) were convicted of burglary at Peterborough, Northampton Quarter Sessions on 6 April 1848. It was quite a serious robbery, with Burkett and Brakes, accompanied by two others, breaking into a house at night and waking the elderly residents, waving weapons and demanding ‘money or blood!’ Burkett and Brakes were sentenced to 15 years’ transportation, while the other two received lesser sentences of ten years.
Burkett and Brakes arrived in Western Australia on the Scindian on 27 February 1850. Solomon Burkett’s description was – ‘aged 46, 5’4¼”, brown hair, light hazel eyes, oval face, fresh, fair complexion, stout, marked with small-pox, a shepherd, married, with four children’.
On 20 November 1832 a marriage had taken place between a Solomon Birkett and Elizabeth Smith, at Baston in Lincolnshire. A child Joseph Birket born to these parents was christened at Spalding, Lincoln, on 27 December 1833.
Four more children were born to Solomon and Elizabeth –
William Birkett, chr. 3 September 1836 at Fleet, Lincolnshire.
Sarah Jane Birkett, birth registered 1840 at Sleaford and christened 13 April 1841 at Spalding, Lincolnshire.
Elizabeth Birkett, born 1844 at Spalding, Lincolnshire.
John Thomas Burkett, born in the April Quarter of 1847 at Spalding, Lincolnshire.
After Solomon landed in Western Australia the 1851 census shows Elizabeth living at 183 Holbeach Road in the Deanery of South Holland, Spalding, with four children –
Elizabeth Burkitt, Head, widow, 43, charwoman, born at Langrough (Laugrough?) Ferry, Lincolnshire.
William Burkitt, son, 15, ag. lab., born at Fleet, Lincolnshire.
Sarah Burkitt, daughter, 11, born at Spalding, Lincolnshire.
Elizabeth Burkitt, daughter, 6, school, born at Spalding, Lincolnshire.
John Burkitt, son, 4, born at Spalding, Lincolnshire.
Surgeon Superintendent Gibson onboard the Scindian recorded in his Character Book that Solomon Burkett was a labourer charged with burglary and stealing money. He was a Protestant with poor reading and writing skills. He was received from Wakefield Prison where he had spent fourteen months in separate confinement. Solomon’s character during the voyage was very good. Further details state that he was received onboard the Scindian from Portland Prison on 1 June 1850. His age was recorded as 46 on New Year’s Day, 1851. His nearest relatives were described as two half-brothers – Joseph Smith, of Bourne in Lincolnshire, and Thomas Smith, of Spalding, Lincolnshire. The prisoner’s own information was that he attended Church regularly with his wife and had received Sacrament at Portland Prison, but not before. He was considered sober and industrious, of sound mind and intended to be industrious and orderly. His secular and religious knowledge was limited. He gave sickness and distress of the family as the reason for his offending. He gave his character referee as a Mr Williams, ploughwright, farmer and publican, of Spalding in Lincolnshire.
After receiving his Ticket of Leave in June 1851, Solomon travelled to Bunbury on the Typo and was immediately employed by Marshall Waller Clifton. Clifton’s journal records make it evident that Burkett was a valued employee, due to his experience as an agricultural worker, with skills that were highly sought after by the settlers. He was employed by Clifton at a variety of jobs, ranging from digging potatoes and caring for sheep to thatching roofs. He must have been a reliable worker because both Clifton’s son Robert and Thomas Little competed to hire him next, with Robert Clifton succeeding in engaging Burkitt on 15 March 1852.
Clifton’s final record of Burkett was on 20 November 1852, when he wrote that ‘Chaloner brought up Birkett’s Wife and family’. Burkett’s wife and four children were brought to WA as assisted migrants in the Anne Mclean. The cost of their passages amounted to £11.5.0 of Government money, with a further £15.0.0 to be recovered from the convict.
Elizabeth Burkitt, (aged 44)
[Note: A shipping record, possibly in error, shows only three children accompanied Mrs Birkett on the ship, which arrived on 6 November 1852. Another newspaper noted that – ‘A few of the convicts’ wives arrived in the ‘Ann Maclean,’ and will, we trust, settle down, and, with their families, become industrious and well-behaved members of the community.’]
Just a few years after arriving in Western Australia, Solomon’s wife Elizabeth passed away in 1856. It appears that Solomon’s life also had a tragic ending:
An inquest was held yesterday on the remains of an unfortunate man named Birkett, who has for many years past been stone-blind, and recently shown signs of mental aberration. His sons missed him on the evening previous to his death, and searched for some hours in vain. On the following morning, to their horror, they found he had committed suicide by hanging himself in the stable, which he must have affected after midnight. A sincere feeling of sympathy is felt for the sons and daughter of deceased, who have ever treated their unfortunate relative with the utmost kindness and attention. The jury returned a verdict that the deceased committed suicide while in a state of temporary insanity.
Solomon Birkett (Burkett), aged 64 years, was buried in the Picton Cemetery at Bunbury, alongside his wife Elizabeth.
 England and Wales Criminal Registers, 1791 – 1892, Northamptonshire, 1848.
 Lincolnshire Chronicle, 14 April 1848.
 Australian Convict Transportation Registers, Other Fleets and Ships, 1791-1868 (1848-1850).
 Convict Department, Estimates and Convict Lists, 128 (1-32).
 Family Search at https://www.familysearch.org
 Family Search at https://www.familysearch.org
 UK Census Collection, at https://www.ancestry.com.au
 Convict Department, Character Book 1850 – 1857 (R17).
 Convict Department Registers, General Register (R21A).
 Barnes, Cameron et al, The Australind Journals of Marshall Waller Clifton 1840 – 1861, Hesperian Press, Victoria Park, WA, 2010.
 Ibid, p.415.
 WA Convict Records, Miscellaneous, Passenger Lists of Assisted Emigrants, 1851 – 1868.
 Perth Gazette, 12 November 1852.
 Inquirer, 7 November 1852.
 Convict Department Registers, General Register (R21B).
 Rica Erickson, Bicentennial Dictionary of Western Australia, p.398, at http://www.friendsofbattyelibrary.org.au/the-bicentennial-dictionary-of-western-australians.html
 WA Department of Justice, at https://www.bdm.justice.wa.gov.au
 Inquirer, 4 March 1868.
 Lorraine’s Cemetery Records at http://www.ozburials.com/CemsWA/Bunbury/picton.htm