Distance: 207 km Approx. Travel Time: 5.5 hours
Travelling circuit judge Sir William Erle heard several cases for burglary and petty theft in Chepstow, Wales, on March 23 1849. The sentences he gave varied from three weeks to three months. On the count of burglary and the stealing of three loaves of bread, one piece of bacon, several cheeses and other goods, Joseph Bolitho Johns and his friend John Williams were sentenced to ten years.
Newspaper reports say the pair gave an 'unexpectedly spirited defence' in court. It seems that, even back then, Moondyne Joe might have had a bit of a chip on his shoulder towards authority.
Following the six months mandatory solitary confinement that began every jail sentence at the time, Johns was transferred to Dartmoor Prison. He only lasted a few weeks before he was moved to a prison hulk. The explanation for this transfer to what must have been the 19th century's version of a living hell was 'disciplinary reasons'.
In 1853 he was transported to the penal colony of Western Australia to serve-out his sentence. Sharing a disease-ridden prison ship with rats, fleas and hundreds of other inmates seemed to correct Johns' attitude though. By the time he arrived in Fremantle he received a ticket of leave for good behaviour.
Johns had started working in the Cornwall copper mines before he was ten years old. He was mining iron ore in Wales when he was arrested. He then spent five years shackled and confined in depravity that can barely be imagined. So with his first taste of freedom under the big skies of his new home, his next move was understandable - he went bush. Settling in the Avon Valley in the area the Whadjuk Nyoongars called 'Moondyne'.