Gogan, John

Great Exhibition For Services Medal
Prince Albert’s Bronze Medal for Services at the 1851 Great Exhibition

John Gogan was born in Ireland c. 1829. He enlisted in the Royal Sappers and Miners c. 1847 (1); his initial unit may have been the 5th Company.

In 1851 John Gogan was quartered with many of his colleagues at Kensington Palace, Westminster, Middlesex while participating in the Great Exhibition at Crystal Palace (2). For his services at this event, he won a medal and a 4th class present (3).

Inquirer 4 February 1852
Arrival of Marion [Inquirer 4 February 1852]
Thirty Sappers and Miners boarded the convict ship Marion which left Portland on 2nd November 1851 bound for the Swan River Colony. Gogan was among them and arrived in Fremantle on 30th January 1852 (4). No enrolled pensioner guards were on this voyage and thus the men of the 20th Company would have helped keep order on board. This complement of thirty men made up the total Company of Sappers and Miners in Western Australia – seventy preceding them in June 1850 and December 1851. John Gogan and his fellow artisans would become Instructing Warders assigned to convict depots to instruct the convicts on public works projects. Gogan was a smith by trade. Gogan was stationed at Guildford Convict Hiring Depot from January 1853 to July 1855 when he returned to Fremantle (4).


St John the Evangelist Church, Perth
(later Pro-Cathedral)

John married Helen (Ellen) BRIEN* on 6th June 1853 in St John the Evangelist Church in Perth, in the Roman Catholic faith (5). The couple had already married before leaving England in St Nicholas Church, in the Parish of Plumstead on 26th December 1850 (6). Helen’s family were Protestant and it is likely that this fact, and under the terms of the Hardwicke Act 1754, it had been necessary to marry in the Church of England faith after Banns. The Gogans appear in Bishop Salvado’s Census of Catholics in WA 1854-1856 (7). John and his wife had seven children: Anne and Caroline born 1856 in Toodyay. Caroline died aged one year in 1857. John was born in Fremantle in 1858 and died aged 7 months. William James was born in Perth in 1859; Mary Ellen and Catherine were born in the Northam District in 1864 and 1866 respectively; Ellen also born in Northam District in 1868 (8).



Davies William Perth Gazette [1 Jul1859]
Sappers on Trial [Perth Gazette July 1859]
Gogan was part of a scandal about misappropriation of government property (9).

In April [1859], Thomas Dixon, a hardworking and trusted officer and Henderson’s right hand man, was suspended on suspicion of peculation. The Comptroller General [Henderson] and Governor Kennedy instituted rigorous inquiries. The anti-administration Press seized the opportunity to attack the Convict Establishment week after week. It took three months to bring all the accused to trial – and then Dixon was acquitted through the ineptitude of the prosecution, and six soldiers of the 20th Company were acquitted of charges of theft by sympathetic juries which considered them no more guilty than their supervisors and were inclined to discount the evidence of convicts. Some of the men acquitted through a failure of justice (as Governor Kennedy reported) were shipped back to the depot at Woolwich (10).

It is clear that the six men were NOT shipped anywhere as their names – John Cameron, William Davies, John Gogan, James McNicol, William Newton and Amos Scott – appear in subsequent Musters in Western Australia.

In the year prior to his discharge, John Gogan was stationed in Perth and on 30th December 1861 took his Army discharge in Western Australia (11).

On 28th April 1862 – the day after his comrades of the 20th Company sailed for England – John Gogan was working at George Vagg’s blacksmith shop. During the morning he and men at Vagg’s shop were drinking ale in the shop. At noon Gogan left work for his meal, had two pints of ale at Semple’s establishment and returned to the blacksmith shop. At around 3:30 p.m. Gogan arrived at the John Bull Inn public house on Howick Street in company of Joseph Lambert, a ticket-of-leave man, requesting more to drink. The publican Henry Dore was not in the pub, but his wife Maria served Gogan a pot of ale. After he left the John Bull, Gogan – by reputation quarrelsome – apparently got into an argument with Lambert and another TOL man, George Hallart. Both men were charged with felonius wounding after stabbing Gogan.

The characters in this tale were in the Police Court on two separate occasions during June 1862. In both instances H Wakeford Esq., JP, Police Magistrate was on the Bench (12).

In the first appearance Henry Arthur Dore, publican, was charged with having supplied or permitted to be supplied fermented liquors to John Gogan while in a state of intoxication. After many witness statements, including former Sapper John Aitcheson, “the Bench, considering that the charge was fully proven” fined Dore £2, and costs £4 11s.

Gogan StabbingWakeford, on the Bench a week later, heard the charge against Lambert and Hallart of feloniously wounding John Gogan. On having well considered the evidence before him, Wakeford revoked their tickets of leave and returned them to the Convict Establishment (Fremantle Prison).

On the same day as the stabbing charge was heard, Wakeford discharged George Vagg, the blacksmith, with a fine of £1 and costs of 4s. 6d. for beating up his wife; sureties for keeping the peace for 12 months were also imposed. Commenting on the beating, Wakeford said “such an outrage should be securely punished.” Thus Henry Dore was fined more than twice as much as Vagg for serving grog to Gogan when he, Dore, was not even in the pub that day!

Gogan Advt Northam


The only person to remain unscathed in these Police Court hearings in June 1862 seems to have been John Gogan, who – recovered from his felonious wounding we assume – set up as a blacksmith in Northam that month (12).


On 14 Apr 1862, a remission ticket was issued to the 26 men in the 20th Company discharged in Western Australia and handed by Frederick P Barlee, Colonial Secretary to Lieutenant Colonel Bruce, Commandant in Charge of Troops, Western Australia, in Executive Council the following day. The ticket entitled the men to a remission of ten pounds in the purchase of waste lands of the Crown in Western Australia, the title deeds of such land purchased not to be issued until a period of two years had elapsed since their discharge from the Royal Engineers, until which date they must have resided in the Colony of Western Australia (13).

On 18 Mar 1875, Grogan paid the £10 remission for 20 acres of land at Avon Location 426. Four years later (29 Mar 1879) he sold the land to Jesse Scott, a licensed victualler for the same sum (14).

Gogan [Daily News 19 Mar 1891]


John Gogan died in Roebourne, Western Australia on 16th June 1889 (15).



* Also recorded with spellings of Brian, Brient, Bryan, O’Brian and O’Brien.

No War Office series 97 Chelsea Pension documents were issued for John Gogan thus these other sources were accessed:
1. War Office Correspondence Inwards, WO1-437 p.220.
2. 1851 Census of England & Wales, HO107-1480.
3. History of the Royal Sapppers and Miners, T W J Connolly, Vol. II, 1857.
4. Muster Rolls & Pay Lists October 1851-July 1855, WO11-130, 134, 138, 142, 146.
5. Archives of the Catholic Archdiocese of Perth.
6. London Metropolitan Archives.
7. Bishop Rosendo Salvado’s Roman Catholic Census 1854-1856.
8. WA Birth, Marriage and Death Indexes.
9. Perth Gazette, 1 Jul 1859.
10. The Royal Australian Engineers 1835-1902, Maj. Gen. R R McNicoll, CBE.
11. Muster Rolls & Pay Lists December Quarter 1861 [WO-199].
12. Perth Gazette, 20 & 27 June 1862.
13. Colonial Secretary’s Inwards Correspondence 1862 [CSR 499-15].
14. Narrative relating to John Gogan by descendant Lorraine Bleazby, courtesy Tracey Miller.
15. Daily News, 19 Mar 1889.