Joseph Kay

Arrived 1834 on the Susan
Vaucluse House

In 1834 convicted forger Joseph Kay, an indoor servant and groom from Yorkshire, was assigned to the enviable job of butler in the Vaucluse household of William Charles Wentworth. But in 1835, after Wentworth had him punished for drunkenness, Kay sought a daring revenge. He broke open the kitchen store and equipped himself with silver spoons, sacks of flour, sugar and a keg of tobacco. He then led a band of convicts onto Wentworth’s cutter the Alice, anchored just off the shore at Vaucluse Bay, seized the ship, and sailed it out of the heads to escape the colony. Kay had told the ship’s master ‘to tell Mr. Wentworth that if he [Kay] had not got his revenge he would have settled him in another way’.1 But the prevailing winds foiled his plans; Kay and his fellow pirates were captured, and tried at the Supreme Court. After years labouring in irons on the hellish penal establishment of Norfolk Island, Kay was returned to the Hyde Park Barracks, before being transferred to the prison on Cockatoo Island to serve out his sentence.

  • 1. Sydney Gazette, 19 November 1835, p2.


Detail view of handcoloured engraving with boat in centre of bay.

‘Vaucluse Bay, Port Jackson, NSW’, engraving by Walter Preston (a convict) after a drawing by Captain James Wallis of 46th Regiment, 1820. Sydney Living Museums