19 June 1861: Remembering Frédéric Surget, a convict of French origin from Isingy-sur-Mer, Calvados, #4841, known as ‘grand Surget’, who was a friend of my French GGF Aimable Ciril Dupérouzel, from Saint Aubin-du-Perron, near Coutances, Manche, convict #4840. Both men were sentenced in the Royal Court, St. Peter Port, Guernsey in the Channel Islands to 10 years transportation to Fremantle, Western Australia in 1856. Whilst Aimable made a new life for himself as a pioneer of York, Western Australia the fate of his friend Frédéric was very sad indeed.
An entry in the archives of the Guernsey Connétable dated Tuesday, August 5th 1856 shows that Frédéric Surget together with Aimable Dupérouzel and his wife Elizabeth Ferry were arrested and put in Guernsey Prison for stealing food and a large quantity of grocery items such as cheeses, tea, candles, sugar, wine, gin and Maraschino liqueur and other items from the general store, Cadic and Sheppard. The charges also included the entering and stealing of a vast quantity of merchandise from London House, a drapery shop in the High Street belonging to Messrs. Dumaresq and Turner i.e. a quantity of cotton material, dresses, shawls, silk handkerchiefs, scarves, umbrellas, caret bag, doeskin cloth, Norwich-stuff dresses, a counterpane, twilled calico, a small mahogany box containing needles and much more. There was a remarkable similarity between the burglaries so much so that the Connétable thought the men were both involved in the thefts from the two stores given Frédéric and Aimable used false keys and entered the premises by night to commit their crimes over an extended period before being detected.
Ten days later the charges against Elizabeth Ferry were dismissed and she was discharged from Prison. However, within 3 days Elizabeth was arrested and put in prison: “…for attempting to introduce a quantity of Tobacco and Matches and sentenced to 3 days imprisonment the last 24 hours solitary on bread and water…”. Whilst Elizabeth was in prison Frédéric and Aimable made two ineffectual attempts to escape from Guernsey Prison before their individual Trials were held in early September 1856. Frédéric was sentenced to 10 years transportation to Western Australia on 16 September for the thefts from Cadic & Sheppard and Aimable received an identical transportation sentence on 6 September for the thefts from the London House.
In November 1856 a few days before both men were due to leave the island, The Comet newspaper reported: “…Last week during the house clearance of the house formerly occupied by Frédérick Surget, the convict, a total of 49 false keys were discovered”. On 13 November 1856 the men departed Guernsey for Millbank and Pentonville Prisons in England before leaving Portsmouth Prison in February 1858 when they boarded the convict ship, ‘Lord Raglan’, arriving in Fremantle on 1st June. On leaving Guernsey, Frédéric, aged 41, said goodbye to his wife Virginie Louise, also aged 41 years and 7 children – Adelaїde 15; Clement and Elizabeth 13; Charles 12; Nescrich 11; Honorée 7 and Marie, a baby less than a year old. Aimable also said farewell to his wife Elizabeth Ferry. Their son John Aimable Dupérouzel, born in the Parish of St. John, Jersey in 1851 died in Guernsey in 1854, aged 3 years.
By the time both men arrived at Pentonville Prison I wonder if these words of Sir James Graham, the Home Secretary, were ever shared with Frédéric and Aimable:
“…I propose, therefore, that no prisoner shall be admitted into Pentonville without the knowledge that it is the portal for the penal colony, and without the certainty that he bids adieu to his connections in England, and that he must henceforth look forward to a life of labour in another hemisphere. But from the day of his entrance into the prison, while I extinguish the hope of returning to his family and friends, I would open to him, fully and distinctly, the fate which awaits him, and the degree of influence which his own conduct will infallibly have over his future fortunes…”
Both men received their Ticket-of-Leave in Western Australia in 1859, Frédéric on 14 April and Aimable on 9 May. At the very end of 1859 Frédéric formally applied for his wife and 7 children to join him in Western Australia. Frédéric’s application was approved in early 1861 and his family were able to make preparations.
On 15 June 1861 Aimable was granted a Conditional Pardon but sadly Frédéric Surget was never to be granted a Conditional Pardon for he died from tuberculosis on 19 June 1861 and the family never undertook the journey. Frédéric is buried in the East Perth Cemetery in a pauper’s grave. A very sad story indeed.
Aimable recorded his status as ‘widower’ in 1863 when he married Julia Neagle from Tipperary, Ireland in the Church of St Peter, Gilgering. Aimable and Julia went on to make a new life for themselves and their seven children as pioneers of York, Western Australia, before he died in 1901 and Julia passed away in 1926.
What became of Virginie Louise Surget and her children and Elizabeth Ferry is unknown.