George Barrington (1755–1804)

GEORGE BARRINGTON was the Prince of Pickpockets, an Irish-born “genteel thief” who stole from the rich and then defended himself with aplomb at the Old Bailey to such a degree he became a Georgian celebrity. Despite his high profile crimes, he evaded a sentence of transportation for the better part of two decades. In the colony, the authorities were quick to divest him of his convict status and he was made the Chief Constable of Parramatta. He died at a very young age; reports varied as to the cause of his death: some said he died a lunatic as a result of excessive drinking to drown his sorrows, while others said he had suffered a blow to the head that made him lose his wits and ultimately proved fatal.


  • Birth name: GEORGE WALDRON
  • Colloquial: BEAU BARRINGTON
  • Colloquial: The Prince of Pickpockets

Burial Location

  • Parish of St. John’s, Parramatta, exact location unknown

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Abstract: George Barrington, one of the biggest celebrities of the Georgian era, experienced fame that was, according to one biographer, ‘without precedent.’ He was a celebrity cutpurse, ‘well known throughout the three kingdoms’ for his exquisitely artful dodging, as well as for his much admired eloquence and theatricality during regular appearances at London’s Central Criminal Court ‘The Old Bailey,’ which ensured his ‘polite legerdemain’ had not resulted in a trip beyond the seas as an ‘involuntary passenger’ for the better part of two decades. Yet, having finally caught, tried and successfully sentenced this undisputed ‘genius,’ it seems the authorities could hardly wait to let him go. Just seven months after he embarked for the penal colony as a convict, he was appointed the subordinate to the Superintendent of Convicts at Toongabbie, and was soon made Principal Watchman, earning him a conditional pardon and a Parramatta land grant before the end of the following year. By September 1796, he had another Parramatta land grant, a full pardon, and was promoted to, of all things, the Chief Constable of Parramatta! Read more>>


By Michaela Ann Cameron

Abstract: There had been plenty of killings in the months and years since the newcomers arrived in January 1788. But they did not apparently count as ‘murder’—at least, not to Judge Advocate David Collins. In the main, they had been cross-cultural killings and, for the Judge Advocate, they occurred beyond the borders of the British settlement where the convicts were forbidden to go and, thus, beyond the law. Killing became bona fide ‘murder’ only when it involved a British perpetrator; someone who knew enough of the British laws to be subject to them. As for the remaining cases, out of a total of fourteen British men and women (free and bond) who went ‘missing’ presumed dead in the first year of the colony alone, foul play was suspected on the part of convicts in a few of those instances. Collins would look back at this period one day, ignoring the blood and brains that had littered the landscape following fatal cross-cultural encounters, to see this as a rather halcyon era of the penal colony; for, even as numbers had increased, ‘and the inhabitants’ had begun ‘to possess those comforts or necessaries which might prove temptations to the idle and the vicious,’ he insisted ‘that high and horrid offence’ of murder did not then exist—‘at that moment all thought their person secure, though their property was frequently invaded.’ Thus, it was not until early January 1794—six whole years after the British arrived and established themselves at Warrane (Sydney Cove) in Cadigal Country—that Collins acknowledged the so-called ‘first’ murder had at last splattered blood all over the annals of the colony. Read more>>


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Abstract: This murder tale takes us back to a time when the sounds of Gaeilge (Irish) were a common part of the soundscape of Old Parramatta in Burramattagal Country. But it was not just the Irish language that was heard here. Other Irish sounds were imported into the colony, too. When the emancipated First Fleet convict Simon Burn was murdered in October 1794, haunting death wails enveloped him as they lowered his body into the earth. These eerie, unbridled sounds, “an caoineadh” (the keening), came from a part of his widow’s soul that was far older than her corporeal self: they were the cries of the bean chaointe (keening woman), who had been singing her sorrow in lamentation for the departed, betwixt and between the worlds of the living and the dead, since time immemorial. Hers was the voice of the goddess Brigit, the Bean Sí (Banshee), and all the women who had ever mourned. Read more>>


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# Convict

# Third Fleet

# Irish

# Trial Place: Old Bailey

# Punishment: Seven Years Transportation

# Ship: Active (1791)

# Convict Constable

# Burial Year: 1804

# Grave: unmarked