Real Lives - A Stable Lad c1822

Early in 1999 Craig, an aircraft engineer in Melbourne, Australia, made contact through the internet with Stony Stratford. Craig was researching information on John Hooton, his great great great grandfather, a stable lad at The Bull, who had been transported to Australia in 1822. 

The catalogue of John Hooton's misdemeanours started with his conviction for stealing £40 from a dwelling house. We know that John was18, with grey eyes and brown hair, the son of William and Alice Hooton of Stony Stratford. He was tried at Bucks Assizes, condemned to death (a sentence which was commuuted) and transported on the convict ship Caledonia. Its Master was Robert Carns and John embarked on either 10 or 12 June 1822 at Woolwich. His conduct on board was orderly.  

The Caledonia sailed from Portsmouth via Rio to Hobart, a voyage of 140 days. In Hobart John was assigned to various people and received various forms of punishment: 1823 Public Works, ie. building roads and bridge, probably wearing chains. In 1825 he was given 25 lashes for neglect of duty and disobedience. Found drunk and disorderly in 1828 John was put on the treadwheel for 7 days. The same year for being absent from his master, John was sent to the Penitentiary Block. In 1829 he was sent to Maria Island, a Penal Station where, for being disorderly after hours, he was sent to the Penitentiary Block. After absconding from Maria Island in 1831 John was imprisoned and given hard labour for a year. In 1832 he was working for the Survey Department but was given 10 days on the treadwheel in 1833 for being drunk and out after hours. A further 25 lashes followed in 1834 for the crime of insubordination, and a further 6 months hard labour on Public Works for disobedience in 1834. 

However in that year he received his 'ticket of leave' and in 1840 he gained a Conditional pardon which meant he was free but could never return to England. That same year he married another convict, Sarah Ferguson and they had at least three children. 

Much of the research done by Craig was made possible by the internet. As a result the Ballad of John Hooton was written for the Stony Live! festival. Its first performance was at The Vaults Bar, part of The Bull and beside the alleyway down which John would have walked the horses, on 7 June 1999 - just a few days before the 177th anniversary of the start of John Hooton's journey to Australia.  

THE BALLAD OF JOHN HOOTON

Bound for Australia, not for ten or twenty years 
Bound for Australia, John Hooton's gone forever 

Born in Stony Stratford town 
John Hooton he stole forty pounds 
Now for Australia he is bound 
Now he has gone forever  


An ostler lad John Hooton was 
At the sign of the Bull he kept the horse 
At just eighteen his life was cursed 
Now he has gone forever  

To Bucks Assizes brought in chains  
The judge he said for this you'll pay 
For you will hang the very next day
Now he has gone forever 

Unto the judge John made his plea
And begged him then for clemency
Forever send him o’er the sea
Now he has gone forever 

So they sent him off to London town 
From Woolwich then to Plymouth Sound 
His convict ship via Rio bound 
Now he has gone forever

His father William cursed the day 
That sent young John so far away
His mother Alice knelt to pray 
Now he has gone forever  

Carns he was the ship's master 
Aboard the Caledonia 
For 20 long weeks sailing there 
Now he has gone forever   

At Hobart town he came to the shore 
But punishment they gave him more 
And cruel lashes by the score 
Now he has gone forever   

Upon the treadwheel for ten days 
To try and make him change his ways 
And with hard labour made him pay 
Now he has gone forever 

In eighteen hundred and thirty four 
John Hooton's freedom gained once more 
With no return to England's shore 
Now he has gone forever 

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