Convict Histories

Phillip Hackett, (c1816-1895) (Reg. No. 2257)

By Irma Walter, 2020.

It appears that Phillip Hacket(t) was born in the Cashel and Emly Diocese of Tipperary, to James Hacket(t) and Nancy Hull, and was baptised in 1816.[1] In 1847 he married Margaret Mara (Marra) at Gortnahoe, Cashel & Emly, Tipperary, Ireland.[2]

On 8 November 1850 Phillip was convicted of grievous bodily assault and was sentenced to seven years’ transportation. He was sent to Western Australia onboard the Robert Small, leaving London on 1 May 1853 and arriving in Fremantle on 19 August 1853.[3] Phillip was described as a herdsman, married with two children, height 5’8½”, dark brown hair, dark blue eyes, an oval face, a florid complexion, middling stout, with a burn scar on the back of his right hand.[4]

On the day of their arrival at Fremantle, convicts from the HMCS Robert Small were received into the Third Division of prisoners.[5] He was one of a large group of Probational Prisoners drafted to the Branch Establishment at F. W. Bay (Freshwater Bay) on 20 September 1853.[6] On 11 July 1854 he received his Ticket of Leave.

His wife Margaret followed Phillip to Western Australia, arriving on the Berkshire with two sons on 13 March 1855. Mrs Hackett and three (sic, two) children then sailed from Fremantle to Bunbury on the Zillah on 6 April 1855.[7]

Phillip Hackett was in the employ of Marshall Waller Clifton of Australind at that time. A few months after the arrival of his family, Phillip approached Clifton on 17 July 1855, seeking permission to take them out to live with him at Myarlup (Myalup), but Clifton objected, telling him in no uncertain terms that he would appoint someone else as shepherd if this occurred. On 21 September Clifton’s son Gervase became involved, speaking to his father about Mrs Hackett’s conduct. The following day a letter was delivered to MWC from Gervase, informing him that a determined Mrs Hackett had started off to join her husband. A few days later MWC wrote in his journal that he had ‘Met Hackett and refused his wife anything.’ This probably indicated that no extra supplies would be sent out to the remote sheep station. The standoff was finally resolved, however, when on 2 October that year Clifton recorded that ‘Gervase sent his cart to Mornington with Mrs Hackett in it, Hackett having taken the sheep there direct.’ Later that month Clifton sent Hassell to Mornington with rations for Hackett. Just when the Hacketts moved on from Clifton’s employ is not known, however the men remained on good terms, with Clifton recording on 3 and 4 of March 1859 that Hackett and another man from the Vasse had called in and stayed overnight.[8]

The couple went on to have more children, though few official records are available. In 1860 their youngest son William Hackett was registered to Phillip and Margaret at Gilorup (Gelorup), totalling five children, all boys:

James, born Ireland, 1849. Died 1901 in the North-West.

Edward, born Ireland, 1851. Death (?)

Patrick, born c1857. Died 12 September 1884 when murdered as a police officer at Beverley.

Robert, born 1859 at Ludlow. Death (?)

William, born 1860 at Gilorup (Gelorup). Died 1895 at Ludlow (?)

Down at the Vasse life for the Hacketts was always a struggle. Phillip remained a shepherd for the rest of his life and although he had his own small plot of land and a flock of sheep, he still needed outside employment. In 1862 when working for Charles Lesague, grazier of Yokanup, he was called as a witness against George Burgess, who was employed as a shepherd by Mr Bussell, over the ownership of some sheep:

Philip Hackett, shepherd to Mr. Lesague, resides at the Ludlow Bridge, 21 miles beyond Bunbury. Has been all his life a shepherd, and resided in the colony 9 or 10 years, and in the employ of last witness for six months. On the first April, at night, put his flock into the fold at Yokanup; it was a three-railed fence, closely interwoven with bushes, so that the sheep could not get out without assistance. He counted them into the fold, and found there were 804. He went to supper, and found that the meat had a strong bitter taste; felt very ill, and laid down on the bed; he got up and fell down from illness, and was very ill during the night. Could not take out the sheep the next morning (Wednesday), and went home. Left no one in charge of the sheep, but on his arrival home sent George Fenner[9] and his (witness’s) little boy to the station to take charge of the sheep until he got well. In consequence of what he heard the day following, went to Yokanup; searched and found that Fenner had not all the sheep….[10]

The WA Almanack lists P Hackett as a farmer in the Busselton area from 1867.[11]

In 1875, being located at a convenient stopping place near the Ludlow Bridge, Phillip Hackett applied for a publican’s licence for his property at Ludlow:

Application for a Colonial Wine License. To the Worshipful the Justices of the Peace, acting in and for the district of Sussex in the Colony of Western Australia. I, PHILIP HACKETT, married, now residing at Ludlow, in the District of Sussex, do hereby give notice, that it is my intention to apply at the next Licensing Meeting to be holden for this District, for a Colonial Wine License, in the shop or rooms which I now occupy, or intend to occupy, situated at Ludlow. I have never held a License under the Act. Given under my hand, this 14th day of August, one thousand eight hundred and seventy-five. PHILLIP HACKETT. August 18th, 1875.[12]

Hackett was still operating the wine shop in 1876.[13] His sons are said to have been employed by John Allnutt at Bridgetown.[14] One of them, Patrick, became a policeman and served in various districts. He married Mary Ann McCarty in York in 1882. Shortly before the birth of their child, Patrick was viciously attacked by two men, Carbury and Miller, arrested by him for drunkenness at Beverley in September 1884. He died as a result of his injuries:


HACKETT.—At Beverley, on the night of the 12th September, 1884, Patrick, the 3rd

son of Mr. Phillip Hackett, of the Ludlow, Vasse. Aged 26 years, Requiescat In Pace.[15]

Following the trial, the part played by an Aboriginal tracker in locating Patrick Hackett’s murderers was acknowledged as follows:

It has frequently occurred to us for what reason have the Government discontinued having those indispensible adjuncts to a country Police Station— black trackers. The services of these fellows cannot he too highly valued in cases where the great difficulty of tracking occurs. In the case of the murder of poor Hackett at Beverley, what a great help must have been the exertions of the cunning “dusky brother,” Tommy Glass, who is attached to the Youngedin Station, under P. G. Eaton. We are of opinion that at least one native should be attached to every police Station, as it is a well-known fact that these individuals are endowed with such a keen instinct for tracking that they have been known to detect footprints when they were altogether undiscernible to the unpractised eye of the white man.[16]

In 1880 the Hackett’s premises were burgled:

On or about the 28th ult., from a hut on Philip Hackett’s premises, Capel river, —13lbs. flour, l0lbs. fat, new calico pillow slip, knife and fork, and some tea and sugar, the property of Phillip Hackett. Thomas Conway, exp., late 8530 suspected.—C.L 121.[17]

In the summer of 1890 Phillip’s property was threatened by a bushfire. A newspaper report informs us that Hackett was away from home at the time and his wife was unable to do anything about it, presumably due to being incapacitated at the time:

I hear that Mr. P. Hackett, of the Ludlow, had a very narrow escape from being completely burnt out the other week. Hackett, who owns a small flock of sheep, was away looking after his flock when the fire came. His wife was in bed at the time and unable to do anything. Fortunately Mr. G. Dawson, with his two sons, was near at hand roadmaking, and by dint of hard work they managed to save the house, but I regret to state that the crop of pumpkins, together with a quantity of manure, and a lot of fencing were destroyed.[18]

It was in 1890 that Phillip’s wife Margaret passed away, aged 55.[19] Her obituary reads as follows:

A very old resident here — Mrs. Hackett— whose ill health I referred to on a previous

occasion, died on Monday, and was buried in the Roman Catholic cemetery. The

deceased had resided here for upwards of 40 years, and was always regarded as a

respectable, hard-working woman. She had a family of four sons, all of whom however,

save one, pre-deceased her. The surviving son is now at the North-west. She was the

mother of the unfortunate young police constable P. Hackett, who was murdered at

Beverley some few years ago. April 9.[20]

More bad luck came the following year:

Bush Fires.

Already we have had some sufferers. A man named S. Williams, living at Lockville,

was completely burnt out, nothing being saved except the clothes he and his wife were

wearing at the time. Last week, also, Mr. Hackett at the Ludlow shared a similar fate,

losing his all by a bush fire. Subscription lists were got out in each case, and were well

responded to by the neighbours, but of course the loss to the sufferers, as they were both

poor men, will be very great.[21]

Phillip’s health showed signs of deterioration. In 1894 he spent some time in Bunbury hospital.[22] He lived a lonely life at Ludlow, where his neighbours the Moriarty family kept an eye on him. He passed away in May 1895. Only one of his sons was said to outlive him. The local newspaper correspondent paid tribute to a hard-working old man:


Vasse. Monday.

After I has closed my last week’s letter I learned of the death of an old identity of the district in the person of Mr. P. Hackett, of the Ludlow. I sent on a brief account of his death to you, but it must have miscarried, as no account of it appeared in your last issue. The deceased had been a resident of the Vasse district over forty years, and had for many years followed the occupation of a shepherd. He had been married and had a family of four sons, all of whom, however, are, dead except the oldest, James, who is at present at the Nor’-West. His wife died several years ago. The old gentleman, who, it is stated, was over 80 years of age, had been in feeble health for some time, and it appears that on the Saturday before his death he complained to some of his neighbours that, he did not feel at all well. On the Monday afternoon some of Mr. W. Moriarty’s children were near his residence. Hackett spoke to the little girl and told her to ask her father to come over as he wished to speak to him. This was between 4 and 5p.m. The child told her father who went over about 7 o’clock to Hackett’s residence. On arriving there Moriarty went inside and spoke to Hackett, but got no answer. Thinking the old man had gone to sleep, he put the fire together and went over to his bedside to speak to him, but found that he was dead. He had apparently gone and lain down on the bed soon after speaking to the little girl and died without a struggle, for according to Mr Moriarty’s account he was lying on his side on the bed just as though he had lain down to rest. No inquest was deemed necessary, and he was buried on Wednesday afternoon in the Roman Catholic Cemetery. Hackett was a very quiet old man, and had a small flock of sheep of his own at one time and also some land, but unfortunately he became involved some time ago and lost his property and few remaining sheep.[23]

Phillip and Margaret’s last son James died prematurely in 1901, at the age of 53. He had also served time as a policeman:

An old Westralian identity in the person of James Hackett, died at Milgin Station, near Peak Hill, recently. He was an ex-corporal of police, and, attained some public celebrity by an encounter with Hughes the bushranger.[24]


[1] Ireland, Catholic Parish Registers 1855-1915, Cashel & Emly, Gortnahoe, 1805-1830, Entry No. 23.

[2] Ireland, Catholic Parish Registers 1855-1915, Cashel & Emly, Gortnahoe, 1844 – 1880.

[3] Convicts to Australia,

[4] Ibid.

[5] Convict Department, Superintendent Orders (SO1 – SO3)

[6] Ibid.

[7] Perth Gazette, 13 April 1855.

[8] Phyllis Barnes, JMR Cameron, HA Wills, et al, The Australind Journals of Marshall Waller Clifton 1840-1861, Hesperian Press, Victoria Park, WA, 2010.

[9] Note: See story of Hector (George) Fenner (Convict No. 4509) on this website.

[10] Inquirer, 9 July 1862.

[11] Carnamah Historical Society website,

[12] Herald, 21 August 1875.

[13] Inquirer, 12 April 1876.

[14] Rica Erickson, Bicentennial Dictionary of Western Australians, p.1304, at

[15] Eastern District Chronicle, 15 September 1884.

[16] Ibid, 31 January 1885.

[17] Police Gazette, 24 March 1880, p. 45.

[18] Daily News, 10 March 1890.

[19] Department of Justice,

[20] Daily News, 14 April 1890.

[21] West Australian, 29 December 1891

[22] Bunbury Herald, 28 March 1894.

[23] Bunbury Herald, 25 May 1895.

[24] Geraldton Advertiser, 30 July 1901.