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John Labbett (his mother’s maiden name) Sanders was born about 1856 in the English village of Northam. After marrying Elizabeth Puncher there in August 1877, they had one daughter, Mildred, before he departed for Queensland in about 1879. 

John Labbett Sanders (photo courtesy Paul Seto)

In this year, 1879, the prison workshops had been relocated to St Helena Island following the demise of Brisbane Gaol on Petrie Terrace. From the 1880s, then, prisoner rehabilitation through trade instruction became the focus of the Government of the day.1 It is recorded that John Sanders was employed on St. Helena Island between 1879c – 1895c, as a masonry tutor for the prisoners. (A trade instructor was in charge of each workshop on the island. In addition, a warder, called a shop walker, whose duty it was to see that no prisoner misbehaved during working hours, patrolled each shop. Other workshops run on the island included bookmakers, saddlers, brush makers, bookbinders, tailors, tinsmiths, blacksmiths, and carpenters.) 1

Stone ruins at St Helena Island in Moreton Bay

His wife, daughter Mildred, and another daughter, Florence (born later in 1879) did not leave Northam until 1887, arriving on June 1st on the Waroonga in Moreton Bay, Queensland. After her arrival, she went straight to St Helena Island. John Labbett Sanders, junior, was born on St Helena Island on July 1st 1888, and was followed by that of Charles Philip Sanders on January 19th 1890. This would make this family quite unusual with two children born on St Helena Penal Settlement. 

There were also two other children: Gladys born 1891 and died November 27th 1891 from cholera, and Montague died November 1892 from cholera. The Sanders’ family address on these death certificates is listed as corner of Ernest and Hope Streets, South Brisbane, so by 1891, John and the family are off St Helena Island, assumedly when the schoolhouse was closed on the island. John is then listed as a bricklayer.

John Labbett Sanders died on October 19th 1910 at the age of 54 and is buried in with his wife Elizabeth in the South Brisbane Cemetery.

Paul Seto

Moffat Beach

September 2011 

Reference: 1. “The St Helena Story” by Jarvis Finger.

(Extract from Peter Ludlow’s book ‘Moreton Bay People 2012’ (now out of print)