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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Boothman, John Broadhurst (1779–1829)

by R. L. Wettenhall

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, (MUP), 1966

John Broadhurst Boothman (1779?-1829), convict and public servant, had humble origins in Lancashire, England. He worked as a servant to Thomas and Joseph Ridgeway, bleachers of Horwich, near Bolton. On 20 January 1802, at the age of 22, he was charged in the Lancashire Quarter Sessions at Manchester with embezzling £20 from his employers, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to transportation for seven years. He came to Australia with William Collins' expedition in 1803 and served as a subordinate of the night watch at the original Port Phillip settlement. Moving with Collins to the Derwent in 1804, he continued to perform minor administrative duties, notably as commissariat clerk, until his emancipation in 1809.

Thereafter, apart from a short break in the summer of 1817-18, he served the government of Van Diemen's Land for more than a decade, first as store-keeper at Hobart Town, then as clerk in the office of the governor's secretary and for six months in 1816-17 as acting secretary, then as one of the superintendents of convicts at Hobart, and finally in 1818 as principal superintendent at Port Dalrymple. In this capacity he moved first to Launceston, then in November to George Town. Here, in 1819 he had charge of the building of Government House and was also made chief district constable. Boothman was unable to avoid altogether that process of charge and counter-charge so common among early officialdom: thus, as friend and sometime assistant to Leonard Fosbrook he was implicated to some extent in the latter's trial in Sydney in 1814 for fraud and peculation. However, he remained relatively unscathed until April 1820, when a dispute with Lieutenant Vandermeulen, inspector of public works at George Town, led to his suspension and subsequent dismissal for insubordination, though in confirming this action Lachlan Macquarie noted that Vandermeulen was not entirely free from blame. Boothman later held two small land grants in the north of the island, but when he died at Hobart on 11 November 1829, he left his family wholly destitute.

In 1810 he had married Mary Westlake, daughter of a convict, who had come with his family to Hobart from Norfolk Island two years earlier. In 1844 Boothman's third daughter, Mary Ann, married Edward Terry of Askrigg, Macquarie Plains, a property which has remained in the hands of descendants to the present day. One son, John Broadhurst junior, was the original lessee of Hope Island in Port Esperance (a rabbit-breeding venture); other sons and several grandsons entered the public service.

Select Bibliography

  • Historical Records of Australia, series 1, vols 7-9, series 3, vols 1-3
  • correspondence file under Boothman (Archives Office of Tasmania).

Citation details

R. L. Wettenhall, 'Boothman, John Broadhurst (1779–1829)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 26 September 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, (MUP), 1966

View the front pages for Volume 1

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