By Irma Walter, 2021.
It seems likely that John Fisher was older than records show. The 1861 census has him aged 35, born at Redmarley d’Abitot, in the Forest of Dean District in Worcestershire (now Gloucestershire). A John Fisher was baptised on 12 January 1817 at that place, son of George Fisher, a farmer, and his wife Elizabeth.
John Fisher, son of George Fisher, farmer, married Ruth Selman, daughter of Hannah and Solomon Selman, farmer, of Sandhurst, Gloucestershire in the Established Church at Sandhurst in 1848. Their son George Selman Fisher was born in 1849, then a daughter Julia Ruth Fisher in 1850, and another son Solomon Selman Fisher in 1852.
John was an innkeeper, proprietor of the Pheasant Inn on Gloucester Road at Staverton in Gloucestershire. He was there as early as 1848, when a death notice appeared for an Elizabeth Fisher, daughter of George Fisher of Redding’s Farm, Badgeworth, and sister of John Fisher of Pheasant Inn, Staverton. In 1856 John’s name was on the Staverton Traders’ List as innkeeper of the Pheasant and a grocer at Golden Valley, Staverton.
The Pheasant Inn, situated on the Gloucester-Cheltenham Road at the Golden Valley, was opened in the early 19th century.
Staff was not treated well at the inn. In 1854 John Fisher of Pheasant Inn was fined when found guilty of assaulting a servant named Charlotte Phelps, following an argument over her striking one of the children. Fisher was fined 2/6d with 7/6d costs, which at first he refused to pay, but thought better of it when the Magistrate offered him the alternative of seven days in Longleach Prison. In 1857 Mrs Fisher assaulted a servant girl named Elizabeth Watkins at the Pheasant Inn and John Fisher pushed the girl’s face. The assault was prolonged and of a cruel nature, with the girl at one stage being struck over the head with a frying pan. Ruth Fisher was fined 8/6d with costs.
By the time of the 1861 census the family was living at the King’s Head Inn at Littledean in Gloucestershire, with the occupants listed as John Fisher, a 35-year-old innkeeper, his wife Ruth aged 32, their three children George, Solomon and Julia, and one servant.
Fisher had also taken over part of a property known as Mutlow’s Farm at Newnham, a few miles away, sharing the lease with another innkeeper named James Karn. Fisher was in serious financial difficulties when charged with arson in December 1861. The evidence provided during his trial the following year outlines the desperate and erratic actions taken by Fisher in the days leading up to the fire –
Essex Standard, 23 April 1862.
John Fisher was found guilty of arson and was sentenced to eight years’ transportation. In the Gloucester County Gaol he was described as aged 35, a farmer and innkeeper, 5’9”, with brown hair, grey eyes, a long face and dark complexion. He had a birthmark on his upper left eyelid, a scar on his left cheek and a blue mark on his right collar. He was taken onboard the convict ship Clyde from Chatham Prison, and on 11 March 1863 sailed from Portland for Fremantle Western Australia, arriving on 29 May 1863.
[At the time of the 1871 census his wife Ruth Fisher, aged 42, annuitant, ‘widow’, was back in Golden Valley, Staverton, living next to the Pheasant Inn with her daughter Julia, aged 20, and her son Solomon, both assistants.
Ruth’s son Solomon was described as a butcher in the 1881 census, living in Garston, Lancashire with his wife and sister Julia.
In the 1891 census Ruth Fisher, aged 60, ‘widow’, (born Ashleworth, Gloucestershire), was living on her own means, residing with daughter Julia, a butcher, aged 30, and daughter Lillie Fisher, aged 15, (both born at Cheltenham), at 1 Belle Vale Road, Butcher’s Shop, in Childwall Parish, Lancashire. Note: It is not known whether Lillie’s mother was Ruth Fisher or her daughter Julia Fisher.]
John Fisher in Western Australia
In WA John Fisher was described as aged 35, married, reads & writes imperfectly. He had gained 100 points on the voyage, and earned more points after arrival. He was eligible for his Ticket of Leave on 29 March 1865. He received his Conditional Pardon on 31 December 1872.
Fisher lived a mostly crime-free life in Western Australia, working most of the time for various masters around the Champion Bay district. From May 1876 he was leasing a property known as Redcliffe Farm, about 11 miles from Geraldton, part of the extensive land-holding owned by an elderly citizen named John Nicol Drummond. Fisher is said to have employed five ticket-of-leave men between 1868 and 1879.
[John Nicol Drummond was the son of WA pioneer James Drummond, a botanist and gardener. The family arrived on the Parmelia in 1839, when John was aged 13. He led a colourful life, spending much of his childhood in the Toodyay area, where he and his brothers spent a lot of time out in the bush with the local Aboriginal tribe, learning their customs and becoming fluent in their language. In 1839 John Drummond was appointed the colony’s first ‘Inspector of Native Police’ at York, patrolling the district on horseback and earning a reputation for dealing swiftly with offences such as the stealing of livestock and other crimes. He was a fine horseman and tracker. He had a forceful personality and his authority was respected by the local Aboriginal people.
In 1845 Drummond’s brother Thompson Drummond was tragically speared by an Aboriginal warrior after being found with his woman. John Drummond hunted down his brother’s killer and shot him. Governor Hutt was concerned over Drummond’s cavalier attitude to policing and suspended him. After Hutt returned to England, Drummond was re-appointed as a policeman at Toodyay, but did not respond well to authority. He was transferred to Champion Bay where he was made First Constable of the new police force there. His reputation went before him and he was welcomed by settlers, due to his reputation of being able to sort out problems with troublesome Aborigines. By the time John Fisher came to the district Drummond was a prosperous land-owner, with 3000 acres in the area now known as Drummond’s Cove, just north of the Geraldton townsite, as well as several large leasehold blocks.]
In 1877 John Fisher had a major falling-out with land-owner John Drummond, who rode over to the property one day and approached Fisher in a paddock where he was hoeing out some weeds. Drummond told Fisher that he was ending his lease and wanted him off the property immediately. Fisher tried to reason with him, saying that he had no intention of quitting the property, since he had signed a three-year lease just a year before and would be paying his annual fee when it fell due. Drummond was furious and took a pistol out of his coat and fired twice at Fisher. One bullet entered his mouth and exited through his cheek, leaving his face in a bloody mess. He staggered over to his house and managed to get the attention of his worker Robert Haynes and was eventually taken to Geraldton by cart for treatment. The incident was reported as follows –
SHOOTING.- From Champion Bay we hear that a man named John Fisher was brought into Geraldton on the 17th inst., suffering from a wound caused by a pistol shot through his mouth, coming out at his cheek. It is stated that while Fisher was at his work Mr. John Drummond went up to him and fired a pistol at him which, however, missed its aim; a second shot was more effective. Mr. Drummond has since been arrested, he denies the charge, but a doubled barrelled pistol was found upon him. The wound is not of a serious nature.
When he was arrested Drummond told the police that he had been nowhere near Fisher’s place for more than a week. He was charged with wounding with intent. The trial three months later in the Supreme Court attracted a lot of attention, since John Nicol Drummond was a member of a well-known WA family.
Former convict John Fisher gave evidence that since his arrival in WA on the convict ship Clyde in 1863, he had been in the district about thirteen years, and had worked for Mr Drummond at one stage. He then found employment with other land-owners including Mr. Roe, before taking over the lease on Redcliffe Farm. He admitted that since then there had been disputes with Drummond over the farm, and he had several times been told to quit the property. Drummond lived about three miles away and was often seen riding about and watering his cattle on Fisher’s lease. Fisher knew that Drummond often carried a pistol, he didn’t know why, although Drummond had once told him something about shooting natives. Fisher told the Court how Drummond demanded that he give up the lease, and on his refusal to do so, took out his double-barrelled pistol and fired two shots. He tried to raise his grub-hoe in self-defence, but failed. He said that the lease document had been removed from his house sometime after the shooting.
Fisher’s employee Haynes was one of those who gave evidence. He said that he had not witnessed the incident, but had later seen a figure that looked like Drummond entering Fisher’s house while he was still in hospital. He stated that Fisher has once told him that he had poisoned Drummond’s dog and took his saddle.
Justice Burt summed up the case as follows –
… The jury retired for deliberation shortly after four o’clock, and, after an absence of an hour,
found the prisoner guilty on the second count, that of wounding with intent to do grievous bodily harm. Mr. Burt reminded the Court that the prisoner had already been in custody for three months, awaiting his trial.
His Honor, in passing sentence, said: Mr. Drummond, you have been indicted for wounding a fellow-creature with the intent to do him grievous bodily harm, and the jury who have had you in charge have found you guilty. I must say that the Court quite coincides with the verdict. It appears to me that if you harbored any intent at all, that must have been your intent. You are said to be a very good shot, and you deliberately aimed at that man, who was close to you at the time, and you must have intended, if not to kill him, at all events to do him grievous bodily harm. I have little doubt in my own mind that the man provoked you, but that is no justification for your act. You were on horseback and armed with a deadly weapon; he, also, it is true, was armed with a weapon that certainly might have been deadly in its effect had he assaulted you with it; but then you were on horseback and could have re-treated beyond his reach. I regret very much Mr. Drummond, to find you circumstanced as you are, you who ought to have set a much better example. I take it that a poor man – when I say a poor man I mean an uneducated man; an ignorant man; a man who has not had your advantages of birth, and education, and who does not hold the exalted position you do in the colony – would be much more excusable than you can be held to be, had he acted in the manner which you did; and, if I had such a man before me now, under the oath I have taken to administer the law without fear or favor, it would be towards that man rather than towards a man situated as you are that I would be disposed to act clemently. The judgment of the Court is that you be kept to penal servitude for the term of 3 years. The prisoner was then removed.
John Nicol Drummond (Colonial Prisoner No. 10205)
On the 4 April 1877 John Nicol Drummond was found guilty of wounding with intent and was taken to Fremantle Prison. He was described as a married man with no children, a stock-owner, aged 60, 5’7” tall, with grey hair, almost bald, a round face, a fresh complexion and middling stout in build. He could read and write, and had a scar from a native weapon on his forehead and a spear mark on his left breast. His next of kin was his wife Mary, of White Peak Gully, Champion Bay.
His prison record shows that he was given two months’ remission on 29 April 1878, then on 21 July 1878 he was reprimanded for emptying excrement into the urinal trough. He earned further remission on 5 August 1878 for assistance given when P/C Hall was assaulted. On 7 September 1878 Drummond was reprimanded for smoking in his cell.
Otherwise he appears to have been treated quite leniently. On 14 January 1879 John Drummond received his Ticket of Leave. On 21 January that year it was decided that he was to be released from 24 January to Champion Bay, into the employ of his brother-in-law RC Shaw as a general servant at White Peak, wages 40/- per month. From 30 June 1879 he was in the same employ for another six months as a general labourer at £2 per month.
Another Charge Against Drummond.
In 1895 John Nicol Drummond was charged with stealing sheep belonging to E & F Wittenoom of White Peak. Although Drummond had no sheep of his own, he had no explanation of how he had mutton in his house, nor of why the skins of 21 sheep bearing the Wittenoom brand had been found within 200 yards of his house. Tracks of boots with false soles matched a pair found at Drummond’s residence. Drummond was found not guilty of the offence of sheep-stealing at his trial in Geraldton on 24 April 1895, due to insufficient evidence. The decision was met with approval by those present.
Note: John Nicol Drummond died aged 90 in July 1906, at his residence near Geraldton, following months of pain from a broken hip.
Death of former convict John Fisher, 1884
John Fisher had a lonely death at his property near Geraldton. Whether it was the same property owned by Drummond is not known –
An old resident of the Chapman named John Fisher was found dead in his own well on the 14th inst.- his body in a perfectly nude state. The Medical evidence at the inquest went to show, that death was caused by the neck being broken.
Fisher’s clothes were found in his house where everything was in a most disordered state. The scanty evidence produced suggested that the poor fellow had committed suicide while in a state of temporary insanity, the Jury, however, returned the following verdict: “That the deceased John Fisher was found dead in his own well, but how or in what manner he came by his death there is not sufficient evidence to show.”
An inquest was held and evidence was given that the well, about 20 feet deep, was in a dangerous condition.
Death of Mrs Mary Drummond, widow of JN Drummond, 1918.
Further details of the family can be found in this extract from the obituary of early settler Mrs Drummond, who passed away in 1918 aged 93. She was the daughter of Captain William Shaw, of the 91st Foot Regiment –
In 1852 the late Mrs. J. N. Drummond accompanied her husband, then inspector of police, to Redcliffe, on the Buller River, 10 miles north of where Geraldton now stands, being then the first and only white woman in the district. Her child was the first white child born in the Victoria district. In those days, the site where Geraldton now stands was occupied by a small guard of Imperial pensioners, the port of the district being Port Gregory or Boat Harbour, near the mouth of the Murchison. Geraldton as a sea port was an afterthought. The duties of Inspector Drummond took him far afield, with the result that his wife was alone for long periods, her sole protector being a native constable. Few ladies could have withstood such an ordeal. When Governor Fitzgerald made his memorable trip overland to inspect the Murchison lead mines, and in an endeavour to establish the entente cordiale with savage blacks, received a spear wound in the leg, Mr. Inspector Drummond was in charge of the police escort. Inspector Drummond was an intrepid bushman, fine horseman, and a dead shot, and his tales of the efforts of the police to “disperse” the natives in the Victoria district in the early days would fill a volume. In later years he founded the well-known White Peak station, near Geraldton.
 England Births & Christenings, 1538-1975, https://www.familysearch.org/
 UK Marriage Index, Vol. 11, Line 3, https://www.familysearch.org/
 Gloucester Journal, 18 November 1848.
 British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/
 Cheltenham Chronicle, 4 May 1854.
 Cheltenham Mercury, 24 October 1857.
 Gloucestershire Prison Records, Register of Prisoners, County Gaol, 1860 – 1865.
 Australian Convict Records, https://convictrecords.com.au/ships/clyde/1863
 Convict Department, General Registers for Nos 7000 – 7326 (R26)
 Fremantle Prison Database, https://fremantleprison.com.au/history-heritage/history/convict-database/
 Note: Details of his employers can be found on the Mid-west Convict Register.
 Rica Erickson, The Bicentennial Dictionary of Western Australians, University of Western Australia Press, Nedlands, WA, 1987, p.1054.
 John Drummond (Australian Settler), at Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Drummond_(Australian_settler)
 Herald, 20 Jan 1877.
 WA Times, 10 April 1877.
 Convict Department, General Register (R23)
 Convict Department, General Register (R23)
 Daily News, 20 February 1895.
 Western Mail, 27 April 1895.
 Geraldton Express, 9 July 1906.
 Herald, 6 September 1884.
 West Australian, 25 October 1918.