The Murder of Peter Septon

Peter Septon illustrated by Aidan Phelan

On the evening of the 26th of August 1817, Tasmanian bushranger Peter Septon was killed by George Hillier, a recent addition to the gang.

Two members of Michael Howe’s gang, Peter Septon and Richard Collier, were sleeping in a hut at the back of Gordon’s Plains (Evandale) when George Hiller decided he would murder the two men for a chance at a pardon. Gathering up the gangs firearms, Hiller took out his razor and slashed Septon’s throat, causing the Lancashire native to die instantly. Collier awoke just as Hillier slashed at him with the razor, but managed to escape the hut with a gash on the side of his neck and a shattered hand, after Hillier had shot at him.

Peter Septon had been described by John Yorke as ‘a thick man’ in 1816 and was possibly given the nickname ‘fat Jack’ by Michael Howe and may also have been the ‘big man’ seen at McCarty’s farm in late 1814. Septon was transported to Van Diemen’s Land in 1811 at the age of 26 for ‘deserting to the enemy’ at Cadiz in Spain, when serving with the Rifle Brigade.

While awaiting transportation at Portsmouth, Septon was put aboard the Captivity, which, incidentally, was the same hulk Michael Howe was waiting on, along with future Howe gang members, Thomas Burrell and Matthew Keegan. After a hellish few months on the Captivity, Septon was placed on the Minstrel in preparation for the voyage to Sydney.

It is not known, at least not as yet, where Peter Septon was first assigned, but wherever it was, he absconded, and in 1814 was a member of Howe’s gang. Throughout his outlawry, Septon remained a gentleman to women and treated the men he robbed with respect, despite occasionally using the power of bluff, as all bushrangers did, he never resorted to violence. On one occasion, he risked his own safety to lead a woman’s horse across a river near Launceston called ‘Macquarie’s Crossing Place’. While on another, after noticing a servant of Governor Davey’s was sick, the bushranger mixed up a drink of milk and wine and offered it to the man.

Sourced from Historical Records Australia and the Hobart Town Gazette, 6 September, 1817.

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