Back at the court of our Aussie ancestor

BY CHRIS MURPHY WHEN mischievous John Naylor stood before magistrates in Ripon after pinching a bag of coal in 1836 he was warned another misdemeanour could result in his deportation down under.

But quick as a flash, Naylor informed the bench he wanted to go to Australia immediately – just to get away from his wife.

And his wish was granted when he was sentenced to a seven-year stint working as part of the Gold Rush. He went on to become a successful farmer and married again twice.

Now, 169 years later, two sisters who were born and raised in the Australian state of Victoria have visited the old Liberty Court in Ripon where their great, great, great, great grandfather had his day of reckoning.

He features as part of an exhibition at the courthouse museum called 'One Way - Botany Bay'.

Lisa Bell, 33, who flew over from Melbourne with her husband and her four children for the event, said: "It's wonderful. You can get a real sense for what it was like back then which is quite amazing.

"It's been very special to walk where he walked, especially with our kids with us too.

"Our mum does a lot of research on genealogy but we never thought we'd get a result like this with something that is still here.

"I'm not really sure what to make of John Naylor's demand to go to Australia. It doesn't sound like his marriage was very secure!"

Museum curator Bessie Chapman, a former magistrate in Ripon, helped to uncover the history of Mr Naylor and made a presentation to the sisters, which included a selection of local beer – a nod to Naylor's job as a brewer in Yorkshire.

Deborah Brown, 30, has been living in Surrey for the past 18 months. Her three children and husband made the trip to Ripon with her.

She said: "It's really exciting to be here. Our mum has done a lot of research on the family history and she found out that John Naylor was sentenced from here.

"She and Bessie have done a great job piecing the history together. It's funny to think things could have been so different, but we call Australia home and we've definitely all benefited from being there.

"As for his line about going to Australia, he either really wanted to get away from home or he had a wicked sense of humour!"

Mrs Chapman, 67, found valuable information for the exhibition, which runs until October, by contacting Australia's National Museum and the New South Wales State Museum.

She said: "Today the sort of minor offences which saw people sent to Botany Bay would receive no more than a conditional discharge. Research shows there were people sent to Australia for poaching or stealing a watch. When they arrived there was nothing at all. It was just horrendous for what were the first generations of Australians – many of them from Yorkshire."

Headingley Hill Congregational Church on Headingley Lane. . Picture Tony Johnson.

Flats plan will ‘preserve’ historic north Leeds church