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After being convicted under the alias Francis Melville, McCallum was transported to Tasmania (then known as Van Diemen's Land) as a convict in 1838, aged 15, and left for Melbourne about October 1851.
During 1852 as Captain Melville he was alleged to have led a large band of bushrangers on the roads in the Black Forest between Melbourne and Ballarat, and gained a folkloric reputation through the boldness of his outrages and the chivalry he showed to many, especially women. His name was associated with the Nelson robbery and St Kilda Road robberies, probably without foundation as in reality he seems to have spent most of his time bailing up diggers around Mount Macedon, either on his own or with one or two mates.
On Christmas Eve 1852, when under the alias of Thomas Smith, he and fellow bushranger William Robert Roberts were arrested at a brothel in Corio Street, Geelong, and eventually faced Judge Redmond Barry at the Geelong Circuit Court on 3 February 1853 on three counts of robbery. Barry sentenced both men to twelve, ten and ten years on each count, respectively – in Melville’s case to be served consecutively.
Although employed in chains on the roads of Victoria by the time of the Melbourne Private Escort Robbery of 20 July 1853, Captain Melville’s name has become associated with it over the years because of the coincidence of one of the Escort robbers, George Melville, using the same surname as his alias.
In 1854 he was one of a party of prisoners based on the prison hulk Success in Port Phillip Bay who attempted to seize and escape in a boat, during which a warder was killed. Sentenced to death but reprieved, he was then sent to Old Melbourne Gaol, where he was found hanged in his cell on 10 August 1857.
- Frank Clune, author of Captain Melville (1945)