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Boon, Daniel Joseph (1837–1876)

There was a feeling of considerable gloom over the town of Wagga Wagga on Wednesday morning last. Despite the strongly marked divisions of opinion as to the justice of the sentence about to be carried into effect on the innkeeper, Daniel Boon, the people could not hide from themselves that one of their number, one who had taken a prominent part in most matters going on in the town, and who was related to a number of respectable people on the town and district, and who had at one time or other had business connections with hundreds of the inhabitants, was that day 'to be hung by the neck until dead.' And this man, who had in a mad drunken fit deprived a fellow being of his life, and a wife and large family of their protector and support, was to die, and leave a wife and seven young children behind him.

Daniel Boon was a native of the colony, and was one of a triplet, two other brothers having been born at the same time with him. He was a tall man, standing over six feet in height, and weighing about fourteen stone. He had the character of being a man of violent temper, and when drunk his passions were beyond control. Yet he had many good points about him, instances being on record of his having assisted many persons in need, including the victim of his revenge.

The crime for which he was executed was for having shot a man named Alexander McMillan, at Wagga Wagga, while the latter was kneeling at work under his dray. The cause of this violent action is stated to be that McMillan owed a sum of money to Boon and would not pay him. Boon's statement was that he had given shelter to McMillan, set him up in business, and lent him money, and notwithstanding this kindness McMillan had treated him badly, setting up in business of his own in opposition to, and refusing to pay what he owed his patron. Boon having found out this, and having, when under the influence of drink, brooded over this wrong, took his revenge in an hour of irritation, provoked by the calmness and coolness of McMillan when asked for the money.

The crime was committed on the 10th January last, and the prisoner was tried for the murder before his Honour Sir James Martin, Chief Justice, on the 5th April. He was found guilty and sentenced to death. Extraordinary efforts were made to obtain a reprieve, and among other things Boon's wife and young children obtained an audience of Sir James Martin, and hoped from the result of that interview that the appeal would not be in vain. Two memorials, influential signed, were presented to the Executive praying for a reprieve, and an appeal to the Judges of the Supreme Court was made on behalf of prisoner, when drunkenness was urged in palliation of the crime. Every point was considered, and all efforts failed and accordingly the execution took place this morning at 9 o'clock.

The conduct of the condemned man in prison, was not remarkable in any sense. From the beginning he was apparently very resigned, though he had the unnerving task of meeting his poor wife, and very young children almost daily as the time flew by, and the hour approached for his execution. He had received the ministrations of Archdeacon Pownall, of the Church of England, up to four days of his execution, but on Saturday morning his desire to see a Roman Catholic clergyman was complied with, and he was visited by the Rev. Dr. Birmingham, who received him into that Church. Up to the moment of his death he appeared very penitent and resigned. The afternoon before the execution his wife was taken up to the gaol and had a terribly solemn and farewell interview with her husband.

The preliminary arrangements were completed last week by the erection of the scaffold on the same spot within the gaol walls, where the only execution in Wagga Wagga had previously taken place viz, that of Campbell for the murder of Pohlman Brothers at Narrandera. As the scaffolding was not high enough to enable the execution to be sufficiently private, a deep well was dug underneath the drop.

Considerable indignation was caused by the conduct of the common hangman, William Tucker or Tuckett. The conduct of this individual at Gundagai in his way up, has already been described. On his arrival at Wagga Wagga it was stated and believed that he had been taken in charge by the police, and locked within the gaol walls. An individual neatly dressed in black, on the same day as the coach arrived, put up at one of the first-class hotels in town, dined with the gentlemen of the district and family of the host, and drank so much with so many people that his conduct came under the notice of the police, when it was discovered to the horror of those brought in contact with him that the obtrusive visitor was the public executioner of the colony.

The condemned man rose shortly after six o'clock, and ate his breakfast. After he had received the clergymen and praying with them, the Deputy Sheriff Mr. J. G. Thurlow entered his cell. This was shortly before nine o'clock. The executioner and his assistant then arrived. The irons were struck off Boon, and after being pinioned, the procession, consisting of Dr. Bermingham, Father Long, prisoner, sheriff, warders, and executioners was formed, and filed slowly from the prison door to the scaffold. On his way to the gallows, the condemned man passed close to his own coffin. He was deadly pale, but apparently calm, and his voice, as he responded to the prayers of the clergymen, indicated his being humbled and resigned. Upon being asked whether he wished to say anything, he answered, 'No! farewell! Farewell all my friends.' The white cap was then pulled over his face, the rope adjusted, and in a moment more the body of the wretched criminal was dangling from the gallows, while the clergymen prayed for the repose of his soul.

After the execution the friends of Boon claimed the body, and at two p.m. as previously announced, the funeral took place. The body was accompanied by gaol officials, and was followed by 12 or 14 vehicles and a number of horsemen. The funeral service, at the grave, was performed by the Rev. Father Long.

By one section of the community this action of having a public funeral was greatly condemned, for they regard it as an outrage on justice, 'honouring one, as a late worthy resident, who had been consigned to a felon's tomb.'

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Citation details

'Boon, Daniel Joseph (1837–1876)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/boon-daniel-joseph-25954/text34045, accessed 18 October 2018.

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