James Screech

James was born in about 1831 in Colebrooke, a village about 5 miles West of Crediton. His father James was an agricultural labourer. When he was a few years old his parents moved to Crediton with him and his elder sister Sarah. His parents had two more children, Charlotte and John. In the 1841 census they were all shown living at Kiddicott in Crediton.


At some stage in the next few years the family moved down to the South coast in the Brixham/Plymouth area. It is possible that his father had relatives there. Around that time both parents died.

In January 1847 when he was thirteen, James was convicted of stealing a deal [wooden] box containing £5 5s 5d in Devonport. He was  sentenced to six months’ hard labour and to be “twice whipped”. Twelve months later he was back in court again, this time accused of stealing a telescope and a pistol, the property of Robert Granville in Devonport. This time he was sentenced to be transported for seven years. In February 1848 he was transferred to Millbank prison in London.

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From there he was transferred to Parkhurst on the Isle of Wight which had a young offenders unit. In 1851 he was exiled to Western Australia on the “Pyrenees”.


He was assigned to work in York, a town to the East of Perth that had only been founded twenty years earlier. There he was in frequent trouble with the authorities.


In 1857 he married Eliza Heyden who migrated there from Kent with her parents. James and Eliza had eight children; in around 1890 most of them adopted the surname “Screaigh”. James died aged 66 in 1899, in York.

Colebrooke Church, where James Screech was baptised in 1833

Feb 1899: OBITUARY.-WE have to record the death of one of the oldest residents of the district, in the person of Mr. Jas. Screaigh, senr., who died at his residence on Tuesday evening last. The deceased was formerly an old and trusted servant of the late firm of J. H. Monger & Co. and of late years has filled the post of town-crier, and was employed as sexton at the local cemetery. The deceased had been ailing for some short time prior to his demise.

In fact he had several run-ins with the courts in Australia.

Shortly after he arrived he was convicted of stealing a waistcoat from the shop of Mr. Turner, of Perth, and was sentenced to12 months' imprisonment with hard labour, and 50 lashes.

In June 1878, he was charged by Sergeant Waldock with making use of obscene and indecent language on the 29th instant, within the hearing of the public. Fined 5s. and 3s. 6d. costs. A month later James Screech was summoned by Mr. Pyke, the officer appointed under the Education Act to enforce the compulsory clauses, for neglecting to send his children to school. Mrs. Screech who appeared for her husband, had many excuses, but they were discovered to be very "rotten." It transpired that the School Board had made easy terms for Mrs. Screech by allowing her daughter to attend for three hours a day, but notwithstanding this offer Mrs. Screech had entirely neglected her daughter's education. After a few remarks from the Bench, Mr. Screech was mulcted in the sum of 5s., and cautioned as to a repetition.



In December 1878 he went missing and this announcement was published in the Police Gazette for Western Australia. 614 would have been his convict number. Cupping was the application of heated cups to the skin. As they cooled they would adhere to the skin as a vacuum formed, and if left in place for a long time circular scars would result.

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