George Barrington

Life
1755-[1804; prop. George Waldron, son of Henry Waldron, silversmith and his wife, a mantua maker; b. June [var. Oct.], Maynooth; ed. Dublin with support of local Anglican clergyman; stabbed another boy in retaliation, 1771; stole £10 from his headmaster and his sister’s watch; left home [reputedly with his parents savings]; became strolling player in Drogheda, and learned to steal with encouragement of his new companions; adopted the name of the Army Officer who made his mother pregnant while she was engaged to Waldron, whom she married; became London pickpocket;
 
apprehending stealing the snuffbox from a visiting Russian count, 1775; serves three-year sentence at Woolwich, 1777; after subsequent arrests and an attempted suicide he was pardoned on the intercession of a benefactor and returned to Dublin, shortly moving on to Edinburgh and afterwards to London; rearrested and tried at Old Bailey, Sept. 1790; transported to New South Wales, following a defence conducted by himself, which was issued in pamphlet form; given ticket of leave, having betrayed a mutiny on board the convict ship, 1792;
 
afterwards appt. superintendent of convicts at Parramatta and later High Constable; d. 27 Dec. 1804; author of A Voyage to Botany Bay (1801) and A Sequel to Barrington's Voyage to New South Wales (1801); possibly also A History of New South Wales (1802) and A History of New Holland (1808), though several works on Van Deman’s Land [New Holland] are misattributed to him; there is a life by R. S. Lambert (The Prince of Pickpockets: A Study of George Barrington, 1930). ODNB DIB ODQ OCIL

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Works
  • The Genuine Life and Trial of George Barrington from his birth [ ] to the time of his Conviction at the Old Bailey, Sept. 1790 (London: Robert Barker MDCCXC [1790]);
  • The Life of George Barrington, containing every remarkable circumstance from his birth [...] with the whole of his celebrated Speeches [...] to which is added a copy of a letter from him at Cape of Good-Hope to a gent. in the County of York 1st July 1791 [1791];
  • The Life and Extraordinary Adventures of George Barrington, now transported to Botany Bay (London: W. A. Darlington [1795]);
  • Life and Adventures of George Barrington, celebrated thief & pickpocket embellished with engravings [2nd edn.] (London: John Wilson [1820]);
  • The Memoirs of George Barrington [ ] celebrated speeches [ … &c.] (London: J Bird [1790]), 40pp.;
  • A Voyage to Botany Bay, with a description of the country, manners, customs, religion, and manners of the natives, by the celebrated [ ...] George Barrington. To which is added his life and trial (London: [1795]; new edns. 1803; 1810), and Do., traduit de l’anglais, sur la 3ième edn. (Paris [1798]);

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References
Henry Boylan, A Dictionary of Irish Biography [rev. edn.] (Gill & Macmillan 1988) notes that Rev. Dr. Westropp placed him at a free grammar-school in Dublin, and that in 1771 he ran away having been flogged, joining strolling players as George Barrington; three years ballast-heaving at Woolwich, 1777; released after 12 months; sentence to 7 years transportation in 1790, he was the first to receive a warrant of emancipation, in 1792; high constable; earned regard of governor; lived to very old age.

Note: The entry by James Geoghegan in the RIA Dictionary of Irish Biography (Cambridge 2009) was reprinted in The Irish Times (23 Jan. 2010), Weekend, p.7.

British Library holds Richard S. Lambert, The Prince of Pickpockets, a Study of George Barrington (1930), with port.; The Frauds and Cheats of London detected (1802) [note MS Cat. note ‘wrongly attributed’]; Barrington’s New London Spy for 1805 [also wrongly attrib.]; History of New Holland from its first discovery, 1616, to the present time ... With a particular account of its produce and inhabitants; a description of Botany Bay ... to which is prefixed an introductory Discourse on Banishment, by the Right Hon. William Eden [2nd ed., with maps] (London: John Stockdale 1808), xxxv, 254pp. [rep. from his [?Eden’s] Principles of Penal Laws; wrongly attrib. to Barrington; first ed. and real second ed. publ. 1787, of which this is an anon. reissued; History of New South Wales, including Botany Bay, Port Jackson, Pamaratta [sic on titlepage], Sydney, and all its dependencies [...] enriched with colour prints, 2nd. ed. (1810), 505pp. [wrongly attrib.]; A Voyage to Botany Bay, with a description of the country, manners, customs, religion, and manners of the natives, by the celebrated ... George Barrington. To which is added his life and trial ([1795]; eds. 1803; 1810); Do., traduit de l’anglais, sur la 3ième ed. (Paris [1798]); The Genuine Life and Trial of George Barrington from his birth, Jun. 1755, to the time of his Conviction at the Old Bailey, Sept. 1790 MDCCXC (London: Robert Barker 1790); The Life and Extraordinary Adventures of George Barrington, now transported to Botany Bay (London: W. A. Darlington [1795]); The Life of George Barrington, containing every remarkable circumstance from his birth [...] with the whole of his celebrated Speeches [...] to which is added a copy of a letter from him at Cape of Good-Hope to a gent. in the County of York 1st July 1[971]; Life and Adventures of George Barrington, celebrated thief & pickpocket embellished with engravings [2nd ed.] (London: John Wilson [1820]); The Memoirs of George Barrington […] celebrated speeches (London: J Bird [1790]), 40pp.

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Notes
True Patriots: “True patriots we; for be it understood, / We left our country for our country’s good’, ascribed to Barrington in the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations (1953 & edns.), but misattributed according to his biographer - though the details relating to the opening of the Sydney theatre (with The Recruiting Officer) fit well enough. But vide George Farquhar, The Beaux’ Stratagem: ‘’Twas for the good of my country that I should be abroad - Anything for the good of one’s country - I’m a Roman for that’ (Act 3, sc. 2); and note, ‘left their country … &c.’, quoted by D. P. Conyngham [q.v.]

Chief Justice: Barrington is cited by Sir Terence O’Fay in Maria Edgeworth’s novel The Absentee (1812) as ‘chief justice at Botany Bay’ and hence an instance of the wisdom of the proverb, ‘set a thief to catch a thief.’

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