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Leopold Redpath

J.K. Hitchcock:
This clever criminal was one of the batch of compulsory sojourners in Western Australia who arrived by the Edwin Fox in 1858. He began life as a lawyer's clerk in London, but afterwards joined the staff of the P. and O. Co. Leaving that office he entered upon business as a broker, but his free and easy methods of dealing with his clients' money soon ended his career in that direction. We next find him as clerk in the Great Northern Railway Co., rising to the position of registrar, in which capacity he controlled the share register. This he did to such effect that for ten years he was able to pose as a social magnate, and lavish dispenser of charity. A trifling incident brought about an examination of his books, when it was found that the share registers had been manipulated and false stock issued to the value of nearly a quarter of a million. Redpath was arrested, and, after trial, sentenced to transportation for life. He was considered to have lived at the rate of £20,000 a year during the period of his magnificence, and possessed on his conviction property to the value of £50,000. Soon after his arrival here he received his ticketof-leave, and later, his conditional pardon. He was a tall man of good address, and always maintained a position above the ordinary class of "ticketers." Even in prison he never made his own bed, nor cleaned out his cell, obsequious convicts being always ready to perform those offices for him. His brother "ticketers" touched their hats to him in token of their respect, but by the free classes he was shunned as a dangerous man and social agitator. He wrote clever letters to the Press and founded a Working Men's Association. During his term in prison he was employed in the Commissariat Stores, and by his ability and industry effected considerable saving therein. In 1871 he left Fremantle for the Eastern States, and was afterwards understood to have secured a lucrative appointment in Sydney. When in Fremantle he lived in style at the "Crown and Thistle" hotel, which was then kept by Mr. J. J. Harwood, and occupied the site of the present Cleopatra. He spent money freely, but from what source it was derived no one seemed to know.

F. I. Bray:
Redpath's career would be considered a famous feat of imagination if written in story. It will be excusable to mention it shortly, as Kimberley gives it to us. He began life in a small way as a lawyer’s clerk, afterwards becoming a clerk in the P. and O. Company’s office until he set up as a broker on his own account. Of a charitable turn, he gave the money of creditors to the poor, and was soon bankrupt. Then he obtained a clerkship in the Great Northern Railway office, rose quickly, and became assistant registrar, and finally registrar, with control of the share transfers. Both as assistant registrar and registrar he developed colossal frauds and launched out into extravagant expenditures.
He set up in a princely residence, and was known as a patron of art. Leading social and artistic people gathered round his board; his dinners were costly, and attracted the attendance of peers of the realm. But his costly extravagance was in unbounded charity; he headed subscription lists, and, not content, even sought out deserving cases. At Weybridge, his country residence, his name was revered by the poor. He was a governor of hospitals and a patron of other charitable institutions. When the crash came, there were pensioners and other recipients of his bounty who would not believe that so good a man had been for some years a swindler and a rogue. His detection was dramatic. The chairman of the, railway company observing a peer shake Redpath warmly by the hand, asked, “Do you know our clerk?” to which his lordship replied, “Only that he is a capital fellow, and gives the best dinners and balls in town.” Redpath had to be believed that he had been successful in speculation, but the chairman immediately required an audit to be made of his books. Redpath fled to Paris, whither police officers followed him. He secretly returned to London, where he was arrested while at breakfast at an obscure house. For a period of ten years this clever rogue had appropriated by forgery vast sums of money; the exact amount was never exactly made out. The false stock issued by him was estimated to have brought £220,000. His assets at the time of his arrest, in lands, house, furniture, and works of art, were valued at £50,000, even though he had lived at the rate of £20,000 a year. The stock market was greatly affected when the arrest was announced; society was convulsed. He was sentenced to transportation for life, and heard the mandate without showing emotion or surprise.
Redpath was not in Western Australia a great while before he received a ticket-of-leave certificate. He was a tall man of good appearance and dress. Even in prison he never made his own bed or cleaned his own cell. These menial offices were obsequiously performed by some ignoble convict, anxious for the reward of the great man’s smile—a reward not frequently but judiciously bestowed. Among “ticketers” he preserved an equally elevated demeanour, and lived on the proceeds of sundry shipments of fancy goods consigned to him from English friends. His brother “ticketers” touched their hats to him; he wrote clever letters to the press under a nom-de-plume, and was the founder and honorary secretary of the Working Men’s Association, whose headquarters stood where Beaufort Street Bridge stands to-day. The leading settlers shunned him a “social agitator,” or a “complete scoundrel.” While in prison he did good service as a clerk in the Commissariat Stores. Governor Kennedy told Earl Grey’s Committee that a large saving was thus effected, and, of Redpath he said, “His conduct was exemplary, and he obtained his four marks which reduced his period of probation. On November 29, 1871, Redpath left Western Australia for Adelaide; he was afterwards understood to be thriving in Melbourne.

References and Links

Bray, F. I. 1936, 'George Clifton, 1829-1913', Early Days, Vol. 2, Part 20: 1-25.

Hitchcock, J.K. 1921d, 'Some notable convicts', Fremantle Times, Friday 18 February 1921: 2.

Garry Gillard | New: 23 October, 2020 | Now: 18 October, 2023