When Quaker forger John Tawell disembarked in Sydney in 1815, none could have imagined that he would become the most historically 'influential' - albeit unwittingly - of Australia's 160,000 convict transportees. Tawell established Australia's first retail pharmacy and built the first Quaker meeting house in New South Wales. He became a rich convict nabob like his colleague Samuel Terry, the Botany Bay Rothschild, however unlike Terry he eventually decided to take his fortune home to England.

Shunned by the Quakers and ridiculed by the broader community, he was a deeply troubled man when he caught the 7.42pm train from Slough station near Windsor Castle on New Years' Day 1845, leaving a dying woman sprawled on a nearby cottage floor. Had he murdered her or hadn't he?

Between Slough and London's Paddington railway station ran the only electric telegraph operation in the entire world that was capable of sending a random message at a moment's notice. 'A murder has just been committed,' began the message that pursued Tawell. The consequences were extraordinary. Tawell's trial was a sensation, the struggling electric telegraph industry became a phenomenal success, the electricity industry was launched, and the Communication Revolution began.


Carol Baxter

Carol Baxter is a Fellow of the Society of Australian Genealogists and one of the country's leading genealogical researchers. She has published widely in the area of Australian colonial history and is author of the critically acclaimed An Irresistible Temptation: The true story of Jane New and a colonial scandal.

Country of Origin
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