Thomas ARTHUR (1796 - 1882)
Born: Circa 1796 - Gloucestershire, England
Died: 21 Nov 1882 - Port Cygnet, Tasmania, Australia
Partner: Sarah WILLIAMS (1808 - 1891)
Trial: Gloucester, 4 April 1821
Departure: 21 June 1821
Arrival: November 1821
Thomas ARTHUR was born about 1796 in St George, Gloucestershire, England and died on 21 November 1882 in Port Cygnet, Tasmania, at age 86, and was buried in November 1882 in Port Cygnet, Tasmania.
Thomas Arthur and John Walker were both charged with stealing a copper furnace from the premises of Esther Buckingham of Stroud, England. The Gloucester Assizes show the following details:
On the 21 February 1821 Thomas Arthur, age 24 years, parish St George, committed to trial by Henry Cook, charged on the oath of Susannah Perrint.
A brief description is listed:
Dark brown hair, dark blue grey eyes, fresh complexion, bad countenance, long face, large cheek bones, short thick nose, a scar on the right side of his nose, a scar on his breast, his great toe right foot has been injured, breaking out about his thighs. He did not read, height, 5’6¼”. Occupation: Fireman at foundry.
On the 4 April 1821 at the Gloucester Assizes Thomas is sentenced to 7 years transportation and is transferred to gaol on the 16 April 1821. Thomas is listed on the penitentiary register and gave the following details;
Native place or residence: Kingswood,
Labourer to a foundry,
24 years of age,
5 feet 5¼ inches tall,
Blue eyes and dark brown hair.
The Malabar was docked at Woolwich and departed on the 21 June 1821. Aboard were 171 male prisoners, including Thomas Arthur and John Walker. The ship arrived at Hobart on the 21 October 1821. This was the Malabar’s second voyage as a convict transport but she was primarily used as a passenger ship between India and Australia. Her master was William Ascough and the surgeon for the voyage was Jn. Thompson. The vessel was built at Shields in 1804 weighing 525 ton.
Little information is known about Thomas’s early life in Van Diemen’s Land but his conduct was good enough for him to earn his ticket of leave, his subsequent convict record helps trace his later life in the colony.
By 1826 Thomas was renting a farm from Thomas Scott at Cocked Hat Hill (Breadalbane). While living in the district Thomas met Sarah Williams and the couple were soon to marry at the St John's Church in Launceston. Marriage banns were placed on the 22 January 1826. Thomas was listed as having a ticket of leave and Sarah was a free woman. During this time Sarah conceived a child and gave birth to a healthy son named Thomas Arthur.
William Saltmarsh arrived in April 1813 and taking up his land grant settled in Norfolk Plains, now known as Longford. William was a constable and the local pound keeper at Norfolk Plains in these early years. In 1826 a robbery was committed at his home, James Gurd was arrested for the crime and while he was awaiting trial, he absconded and sought food and provisions from Thomas Arthur. Thomas had no intentions of letting Gurd escape and in the ensuing struggle Gurd was shot. Thomas soon reported the incident to Corporal Morgan who was stationed at Cocked Hat Hill. Gurd managed to escape from Thomas and fearing for his life gave himself up. He implicated Thomas in the earlier robbery but after time in the cells Gurd was re-questioned and changed his story. Thomas was later acquitted of any involvement in the robbery. Life dealt Thomas a cruel blow and as a result of his earlier run in with James Gurd, he was charged with attempted murder. In January 1827 The Colonial Times reported the proceedings of the trial in the Launceston Supreme Court the sentence handed down was “Death - Thomas Arthur, for attempt to murder.” That same day six criminals including James Gurd were sentenced to death for their crimes. Thomas was sent to His Majesty's gaol in Hobart to await his fate. Thomas petitioned the Governor to show mercy.
Petition of Thomas Arthur
Most humbly and respectfully sheweth
That Your Excellency’s petitioner received Sentence of Transportation for Seven years at the City of Gloucester in April Eighteen hundred and twenty one and came to this colony on the ship ‘Malabar’ in the same year.
That petitioner enjoyed the privilege of a Ticket of Leave in consequence of the strong
Recommendations of Lieutenant Hill, Doctor Pearson, Mr William Robinson, Mr John Robinson, and Mr Jellicoe given to him as to his character; and at the same time he shot at the said James Gurd resided at Cocked Hat Hill and rented a farm of Thomas Scott Esquire, the Assistant Surveyor.
That being aware the said James Gurd was a Bushranger when he applied to him for provisions he refused to render him any assistance and endeavoured to apprehend him and bring him to Justice when the said James Gurd threatened to stab your petitioner with a knife, in consequence thereof petitioner considered himself justifiable as well in self preservation a protection under Your Excellency’s proclamation concerning Bushrangers to fire at him as aforesaid.
That petitioner immediately reported the circumstances to Corporal Morgan who was stationed at the Cocked Hat Hill.
That petitioner never saw the said James Gurd from the time of his breaking out of Gaol until the Seventeenth day of August last when the petitioner fired at him.
That previous to the said James Gurd being Executed at Launceston he confessed to the Reverend Youll (who has since that time unfortunately for petitioners case departed this life) ‘that the principal part of what he and one Daniel McGee swore against petitioner was false, that McGee knew nothing whatever of the affair except what he had persuaded him to swear, and that he, (Gurd), had never been at petitioner’s house, except on the night when petitioner fired at him.”
That McGee was a notorious Bushranger and was with the said James Gurd, and as is usual in such cases, would swear anything for his partner in Guilt to gain his ends or get favour- and has recently been sent to Macquarie Harbour for Offences.
Petitioner has always borne a good character as will appear by the Police Books in Hobart town and Launceston and has been in Confinement since the nineteenth day of August last, a period of nearly eleven months and has experienced many hardships and privations during that time.
Petitioner therefore with the most humble submission begs leave to throw himself at the feet of Your Excellency and humbly prays.
That Your Excellency will be graciously pleased to consider his case and in your wisdom and humanity will act therein and extend your Gracious clemency towards him as to your Excellency may seem meet.
And as in Duty bound Your humble petitioner will ever pray
Hobart Town 6th July 1827
Thomas Arthur; Memorial for remission of sentence, CSO 1/254/6078
In March 1832 we pick up the threads of Thomas's life, he is residing in the Richmond District. Thomas continues to have brushes with the law, he was arrested for being drunk and disorderly and fighting with the constable. He is later fined ₤1 and released. He spent time in solitary confinement on bread and water, and had a stint at Port Arthur on the No. 3 chain gang.
In 1842 Thomas is living at Prosser Plains (Buckland) in a wooden house rented from Mr Olding. Thomas is recommended for a conditional pardon on the 11 March 1845. On the 15 January 1846 Thomas received a conditional pardon. Tuesday January 27 1846 the Hobart Town Gazette published Government notices from the Colonial Secretary’s Office.
GOVERNMENT NOTICE No.18
Colonial Secretary’s Office-26th January 1846, The Lieutenant-Governor having received instructions from Her Majesty's Secretary of State for the Colonies, signifying Her Majesty’s approval of Pardons-being granted to the under-mentioned Convicts, upon condition of their remaining in the island of Van Diemen’s Land, or some or one of Her Majesty’s Australian Colonies or New Zealand.
113 Thomas Arthur, Malabar
Hobart Town Gazette, 27 January 1846
Thomas formed a union with Henrietta Elizabeth WEST, about 1842 in Prosser Plains, Tasmania. Henrietta was born about 1804 and died on 4 March 1887 in Port Cygnet, Tasmania, aged 83.
1. Elizabeth West
2. Thomas Oliver
3. Emma Selina.
The 1851 census confirms Thomas and his family were living at Bushy Plains. Thomas is described as the householder employing two servants, one male and one female child aged between 2 to 7 and 1 female child aged between 7 and 14 along with one married female were residing on the property.
In 1858 Thomas was living at Petcheys Bay (Cygnet) on 5 acres of land owned by Matthew Fitzpatrick.