Sentenced to Cross the Raging Sea: The Story of Sam Johnson, Victim of Oldham's Bankside Riot of 1834
In many North of England towns, like Manchester and Oldham, violence was never far below the surface during the disturbed times of the Industrial Revolution in the early 19th century, with cotton mill owners pitted against their operatives and worker against worker. Sam Johnson was a 17-year- old cotton spinner apprenticed to his father at Greenbank Mill when three over-zealous Oldham constables raided a union meeting and arrested two union men. The end result was a huge riot involving thousands of Oldham workers and a partly successful attempt to demolish the Bankside Mill on Manchester Street and adjacent workers' homes. One onlooker was shot dead. The subsequent random arrests when the militia arrived and regained control resulted in five of the rioters, including Sam Johnson, being sentenced to death by hanging at the Lancaster Assizes of 1834. These sentences were commuted to transportation for life. This thoroughly researched true story describes the life of Sam Johnson, convict no. 13841, from the Chatham hulks to the transport ship, to Botany Bay, the Hyde Park Barracks in Sydney, his later assignment to his Scottish master Archibald Macleod, his travels over the Australian Alps with his sheep and cattle to pioneer in Gippsland in 1844. It traces his emancipation, marriage and life in Gippsland following a successful petition and Queen's Pardon after he served his 20-year sentence. The book includes previously unpublished material from the handwritten notes of an Oldham reporter present at the riot reproduced by kind permission of Oldham Local Studies and Archives.
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