First Convict to be Freed

On this day ………… 28th February 1790

John Irving, was born around 1760. He came to the penal colony of New South Wales with the First Fleet in 1788, after being sentenced in 1784 to seven years for stealing a silver cup. Irving proved an able surgeon’s assistant, both on the voyage to New South Wales, and once the settlement was established. His hard work and “unremitting good conduct and meritorious behaviour” earned him an early reprieve from his sentence. Governor Phillip signed his Warrant of Emancipation on 28 February 1790, making Irving the first convict to be freed. He accompanied surgeon Dennis Considen to Norfolk Island, where he remained as surgeon’s assistant for over a year before returning to Port Jackson in May 1791. He was then awarded 30 acres of land at Parramatta.

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