Johnny Dinn

Johnny Dinn

Last Name

Dinn

Given Name:

Johnny

Alternative Name:

Johnny Din, Johnny (a Chinaman)

Arrival in Queensland

1848

Date of Birth

1830

Place of Birth

China

Place of residence in Queensland

Corella Station

Occupation
Cook
Gardener
Labourer

Johnny Dinn was born in China in 1830. He arrived in Australia in 1848 aged about 18. On 4 October 1875 he was convicted at the Rockhampton Assizes of 'unlawfully wounding' and sentenced to three years' penal servitude. Brisbane gaol admission records include a photograph of Dinn and describe him as 5 feet 2 inches tall with black hair and brown eyes. His occupation was given in the gaol register as labourer but newspaper reports referred to Dinn as a cook and gardener.

Dinn was indicted on 27 July 1875 for wounding William Tighe at Corella Downs on the Thompson River. At the hearing at the Rockhampton Assizes in October, evidence was given that Tighe was suffering from dysentery and had declined to eat any meals containing meat. However, Dinn refused to believe this explanation and stated that Tighe was refusing to eat the meat because he knew it had been poisoned. Dinn was concerned that if anyone ate the meat and died, he would be executed. An argument ensued and Dinn stabbed Tighe twice in the arm with a butcher's knife.

Tighe testified in court that Dinn took large quantities of opium each night and walked around talking about "shooting, poisoning, and sticking". He also said that Dinn believed that people were constantly talking about him and "conspiring to kill him".

Thomas Ang Wong served as interpreter, though the 'Daily Northern Argus' reported that:

"Dispensing with the interpreter's aid, the prisoner [Dinn] cross-questioned Tighe in good broken English, and afterwards addressed the jury in a fluent speech, embellished with oratorical flourishes. He manifested great good humor [sic], and seemed to enjoy the situation."

Johnny Dinn also told the court that God had told him he was a Chinese king and that he wanted to return to China. In summing up for the jury, the judge stated that he had the impression that Dinn was "mad" and referred to Dinn's habit of "eating quantities of opium" which caused him to talk of poisoning and so on.

After a fifteen-minute deliberation, the jury found Dinn guilty of unlawful wounding and sentenced him to three years' imprisonment. No further trace of Dinn's life in Queensland has yet been found.

Researcher and author: Jan Richardson, Harry Gentle Resource Centre.
Date of publication: 6 May 2022.

Image (above): Photographic record, description and criminal history of Johnny Dinn, c 1875, No. 243 (Queensland State Archives, Item Representation ID DR18526).

Archival Resources

QSA, Item ID ITM654069.

Photographic records, descriptions and criminal histories of male and female prisoners - HM Gaol, Brisbane.

QSA, Item Representation ID DR18526.

Photographic record, description and criminal history of Johnny Dinn, c. 1875, No. 243.

Newspapers

Rockhampton Assizes

Daily Northern Argus [Rockhampton]
5 Oct 1875

Supreme Court sittings

Rockhampton Bulletin
5 Oct 1875

Online Resources

Griffith University, Prosecution Project, Trial ID 128627.