A Body for the Gibbet

On the 20th of May 1815, the headless body of James Whitehead was gibbeted on Hunter Island near Hobart Town, after being brought down in a boat from New Norfolk the previous night. In his diary, Reverend Robert Knopwood wrote, “the man that was shot was Whitehead, a very desperate bushranger. He was hung up in chains on Hunters Island.” When James’ severed head was recovered, it was driven onto a spike near the body, and no doubt brought a gawking crowd, as Michael’s would in three years-time.

Later, on the 7th of June, gang member Richard McGwire was captured and hanged on the island, with Knopwood stating he was “hung in chains by Whitehead”.

Illustration of Hunter Island is from ‘Our Tasmania. Hobart and Southern Tasmania.’

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