John Sellenger or Salinger 1832 – 1906 Convict No. 2400

John Sellenger (variants: Salinger, Sallinger, Sallenger) arrived in Fremantle on 31st. August 1853 on the ship Phoebe Dunbar, which had sailed non-stop from Kingstown, Ireland, taking 89 days. He was fortunate not to have been one of the 16 convicts and passengers who died during the journey, supposedly of Typhus but more likely of advanced Scurvy. 3 others died a few days later once in Fremantle.1

Phoebe Dunbar

The Phoebe Dunbar. Source: The Maritime Heritage Association

John had been convicted of robbery on 24th July 1850 and sentenced in Kilkenny, Ireland to 10 years for his crime. He was 18 years old and his occupation listed as a tailor, semi-literate and of Roman Catholic faith.2

His physical description was 5’5” tall, black hair, grey eyes, long face, pale complexion, much pock-pitted, middling stout, single and with no children.3

John spent three years incarcerated in Mountjoy Prison, Dublin, prior to being transported to Fremantle.He would have been one of the first prisoners to be housed in this establishment of 500 single cells, built in 1850. The Phoebe Dunbar departed Kingstown on 2nd June 1853.

It was a year after he arrived in Western Australia that he gained his Ticket of Leave, which enabled him to seek employment outside the confines of prison. On 13th December 1858 he was granted a Conditional Pardon. He became a carter, who would employ 64 Ticket of Leave men on occasions from 1858-1874 including 15 brick makers, 9 woodcutters & 2 boatmen.5

 John married Mary Cunningham in Perth on 19th September 1858.Mary and her sister Catherine had left Mount Bellew in Galway, Ireland on the ship Palestine in November 1852.7

John and Mary had seven children. Mary Louisa Salenger born Abt 1859; Catherine Sallinger born 1861; William Charles Sellenger born 14 Feb 1863 (adopted into the family); Ellen Sellenger born 30 Jun 1865; Margaret Mary Sellenger born 12 Jun 1867; Frances Sellenger born 1869; John Sellenger born 25  September 1871.

It is somewhat ironic that both of John’s sons became policemen and one of his daughters married a policeman. The eldest son, William Charles had risen to the ranks of Chief Inspector before retiring after 44 years of service.

Although John appeared before the courts on various occasions, they were for minor offences, except in 1871 when he was jailed for 1 month for assaulting his wife Mary.8 There is no record of him re-offending after that time. His business prospered.

On 7th December 1894, John’s wife Mary died of dysentery at their home in Howick Street, Perth, aged 65 years.She was buried in the Catholic section (plot 98) at East Perth Cemeteries.

By 1903, John had retired and he and his son John and daughter Ellen were living at 279 Hay St, Perth.

John died on 4th August 1906 of kidney inflammation, cystitis and exhaustion. He was 74 years old. 9 An article in the Western Mail newspaper stated “… his funeral was very largely attended.”10  He was buried in the Catholic section of East Perth cemeteries in the same plot as his wife. ©Maggie Speak 2019

I have volunteered to write this biography for East Perth Cemeteries https://www.eastperthcemeteries.com.au


1. The National Archives Surgeon’s journal https://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C11542199

2. State Records Office Western Australia (SROWA); Convict Department Registers; Character Book for Nos 2373 – 3639; ACC 1156/R18 https://ancestry.com.au

3. SROWA; Convict Department Registers, ACC 128/40-43, Reel No FCN42; https://ancestry.com.au

4. SROWA; Convict Department Registers; Character Book for Nos 2373 – 3639; ACC 1156/R18 https://ancestry.com.au

5. State Library of Western Australia (SLWA); Employers of ticket of leave men, 1850-1890 microfilm reels 3&4 (Private Archives – yellow labelled drawer in microfilm room, Battye Library)

6. SLWA; Battye Library; MN 812, Catholic Church records, ACC 4363A. http://slwa.wa.gov.au/pdf/mn/mn501_1000/mn812.pdf

7. SROWA; Albany Passenger list of Assisted Emigrants; Accession: 115; Roll: 214; https://ancestry.com.au

8. The Perth Gazette and West Australian Times (WA : 1864 – 1874) Friday 24 March 1871 page 3. http://trove.nla.gov.au

9. Australia Death Index; Western Australia; Dept. of Justice; Registration No. 531. https://bdm.justice.wa.gov.au

10. Western Mail (Perth, WA : 1885 – 1954); Sat 11 Aug 1906; Page 15; MR. JOHN SELLENGER, SEN. https://trove.nla.gov.au/

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