Mark Jeffrey

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For the author, see Mark Jeffrey (author).
Mark Jeffrey

Mark Jeffrey (1825-1903) Mark Jeffery (or “Big Mark”) was an English convict who departed England on the 12th of December 1849 and arrived in Australia on the 30th of April 1850. Mark Jeffery was described as “A terror to those in authority. He always fought against injustice…”. Mark’s father, John, worked for a doctor and when the doctor died John was left with nowhere to live and no money which compelled him to become an alcoholic. Mark and his younger brother Luke then took to burglary to escape their father who severely beat them. Mark and Luke made a fairly good sum out of burglary but it was at their fifteenth burglary that they were caught and convicted to fifteen years transportation to a penal colony despite conflicting evidence which was resolved by a man named John Hart. Mark then attempted to attack Hart in the courtroom before being restrained. While awaiting transportation, Mark and his brother were sent to Millbank Prison where he again met John Hart. It was then that Jeffery’s temper arose and he spoke to Hart in such a manner that caused him to die of a heart attack without Jeffery physically touching him. Jeffery was charged with manslaughter but the charges were then dropped because of his arguments that Hart brought it upon himself.While in Millbank Prison, Jeffery was in many disputes over his rights to food and rations but it was while awaiting transportation working in dockyards that Jeffery found himself being severely punished after his lack of rations resulted in his violent attacks. Jeffery became so depressed that he pleaded with the authorities to be executed but they had a different punishment in mind. After a long and stormy voyage on the ship “Elisa”, Jeffery worked torturously on Norfolk Island (and island off NSW between Australia, NZ and New Caledonia) before being sent to Separate Prison in Port Arthur for six months over more controversy over provisions. In 1866 Jeffery was a free man but was unable to work because of an injury in his legs so Jeffery was sentenced back to Separate Prison as an “Invalid”. In 1870, Jeffery was freed again but shortly after he was involved in fight in a pub and convicted of manslaughter sentencing him back into the prison in Port Arthur for Life.Jeffery spent extensive periods at a time in solitary imprisonment wearing leg-irons giving shooting pain and ulcers all over his legs. Jeffery saw this as an injustice so he wrecked and smashed his prison cell and attempted to murder the doctor looking after him. The authorities at the time were exhausted by his violent outbursts and sent him to the Isle of the Dead as a grave digger. It was there that it is thought Jeffery dug his own grave which he tended, carefully patting down the sides to stop worms from invading the grave. While living on the Isle of the Dead Mark encountered a terrifying experience. Jeffery was in his hut when The Devil (or “His Satanic Majesty” as Jeffery referred to him as) supposedly appeared and spoke to him. Jeffery was so disturbed by the experience that he immediately requested to be removed from the island. Jeffery was then sent to Hobart in 1877 where he continually fell victim to injustice and found himself several more convictions of assault. Jeffery was then transferred to the Invalid Depot at Launceston, Tasmania where he again earned his freedom. Jeffery became deeply religious and self-aware of his temper. Mark Jeffery wrote an autobiography titled “A Burglar’s Life”, where he talked about a deep humiliation about his wasted life and hoped to “…Enter thou into the joy of the Lord.” Mark Jeffery died in 1903 at the approximate age of 78.

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