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Judge John Jeffcott

Page history last edited by PBworks 13 years, 7 months ago



John Jeffcott's life was fraught with errors of personal judgment, an unhappy trait in a judge.  His decision in 1836 to come to South Australia would seem to have been his most ill advised decision.

            Being dreadfully in debt, he was willing to accept the position as South Australia's first judge even though this meant a severe drop in salary. It was a case of beggars not being able to choose.

            He left England very quietly. Apart from his debts he had recently marred his prospects of marriage by killing a doctor in a duel.

            His arrival in South Australia did not augur well. Sailing from Tasmania on the Isobella,which sank during the voyage, Jeffcott survived but lost all his furniture and library.

            Governor Hindmarsh was not ecstatic about his arrival, even though the colony needed a judge. He commented that “... a pauper has been placed on the Bench. He will probably be sued in his own courts by his English creditors”.

            The judge was concerned that he might have difficulty in finding sufficient "educated gentlemen to form a jury".

Unfortunately, this problem was to remain entirely academic. While in Tasmania, Judge Jeffcott had found sufficient time to acquire a new fiancée.

Now, with marriage in mind, he made his most ill-advised decision and journeyed down to Encounter Bay, where he planned to take ship back to Tasmania.

            On its way to Encounter Bay the ship was lost in a storm.

            While awaiting another berth, the judge decided to accompany Captain Blenkinsopp on a trip to the Murray Mouth in a whaleboat.

            It is difficult to be surprised by the fact that the boat overturned in the heavy surf. Judge Jeffcott, Captain Blenkinsopp and two sailors were drowned.

            The judge's body was never found

                                                                                                                               Vivienne A Causby

Published in SOUTH COAST TALES  1990


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