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James Sheers (c. 1746–1838)

James Sheers (c.1746-1838), indicted as Shiers, was found guilty on 7 July 1784 at the Old Bailey, London, of highway robbery: after assaulting the man he took his shagreen watch with accessories, and a ring. Sheers' death sentence was commuted to 7 years transportation on 3 March 1785. He was sent to the Ceres hulk on 5 April 1785, where he remained until he embarked for New South Wales on the Scarborough in February 1787, arriving in Sydney in January 1788 as part of the First Fleet.

Sheers married Mary Smith on 21 February 1788; they had one daughter Mary Ann (b.1789). The couple and their daughter were sent to Norfolk Island on the Sirius in March 1790. By July 1791 Sheers was subsisting his family on a Queenborough lot, with 134 rods cleared and 4 rods of timber felled.

Following his wife's death in December 1792, Sheers lived with Mary Wishaw; they had two children James (b.1794) and Mary (b.1795). Wishaw died on Norfolk Island sometime between 1800-1802.

Sheers was granted a conditional pardon in July 1795 and was emancipated in February 1796. In October 1797 he bought 70 acres from Joseph Lewis which he sold in two lots for £50. Over the years he seems to have acquired a lot of land. By 1810 he was living with Mary Wilson, the widow of John Owles. The couple left Norfolk Island on the Kangaroo in 1814 for Sydney.

In 1823, Sheers, a widower once again (Wilson died in Sydney in 1816), was living with his eldest daughter Mary Ann Piper at Bathurst. He died there on 17 December 1838 and was buried at Holy Trinity cemetery, Bathurst. A newspaper notice gave his age as 103 years but it was more probably about 92.

information from

  • Mollie Gillen, The Founders of Australia: A Biographical Dictionary of the First Fleet (1989), pp 326-27
  • HMS Sirius 1786-1790 — accessed 11 September 2020

Original Publication

Other Entries for James Sheers

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Citation details

'Sheers, James (c. 1746–1838)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 25 July 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Shiers, James
  • Shears, James
  • Sheens, James

c. 1746
London, Middlesex, England


17 December, 1838 (aged ~ 92)
Bathurst, New South Wales, Australia

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

Passenger Ship
Key Events
Key Places
Convict Record

Crime: assault and robbery
Sentence: life