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Thomas Massey

Thomas Massey, one of 31 convicts transported on the Gorgon, February 1791

Name, Aliases & Gender

Name: Thomas Massey
Aliases: none
Gender: m

Birth, Occupation & Death

Date of Birth: 1758
Occupation: Soldier
Date of Death: 7th January, 1858
Age: 100 years

Life Span

Life span

Male median life span was 57 years*

* Median life span based on contributions

Conviction & Transportation

Sentence Severity

Sentence Severity

Sentenced to Life

Crime: Being in company of felons
Convicted at: Chester Great Sessions
Sentence term: Life
Ship: Gorgon
Departure date: February, 1791
Arrival date: 21st September, 1791
Place of arrival New South Wales
Passenger manifest Travelled with 30 other convicts


Primary source: Australian Joint Copying Project. Microfilm Roll 87, Class and Piece Number HO11/1, Page Number 153 (78)
Source description: This record is one of the entries in the British convict transportation registers 1787-1867 database compiled by State Library of Queensland from British Home Office (HO) records which are available on microfilm as part of the Australian Joint Copying Project.

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Community Contributions

Rutherford Browne on 29th January, 2012 wrote:

Thomas Massey born Cheshire, England, 1758
Thomas Massey was committed for desertion as a soldier in the 47th Regiment (given a life sentence for desertion) and then charged in company of two others with breaking and entering the house of Thom.Hammon near Knutsford in 1789.  Massey was not charged with the act of burglary, but with being in the company of two ‘felon’ burglars.  One stole a shirt, value 5/-, from Hammons house.  Massey was sentenced to death at Chester, England on 3rd Sept 1789.  Sentence was reprieved on the condition of transportation for life. 

Massey sailed, along with 29 other male convicts, from Spithead, the 15th March 1791 on board the Royal Navy Frigate ‘HMS Gorgon’.  The Gorgon was converted to bring out stores and provisions.  Her lower deck guns were left in England and her complement reduced to 100 men including officers.  No doubt Massey learned something about sailing – due to the reduced complement, the 30 male convicts assisted in working the ship. The Gorgon stopped at Teneriff, St.Jago, and the Cape of Good Hope.  At the Cape she took on extra cargo belonging to the ‘Guardian’, together with 3 bulls, 23 cows, 4 rams and 62 ewes; sailing for Sydney on 30th July.

Also passenger on the ‘Gorgon’ was Philip Gidley King (2nd Lt to Captain Arthur Phillip, HMS Sirius - First Fleet).  King who had been sent by Philip to establish a colony on Norfolk Island had returned to England to report on the difficulties of the settlements at New South Wales.  King was now returning on the ‘Gorgon’ to take up his post as Lieutenant-Governor of Norfolk Island.  King later became the third Governor of New South Wales on 28 September 1800, and was Governor from 1800-1806.  King considering that ex-convicts should not remain in disgrace forever, appointed emancipists to positions of responsibility, regulated the position of assigned servants, and laid the foundation of the ‘ticket of leave’ system for deserving prisoners.  In view of the rapid ‘preferment’ Massey received, starting with his conditional pardon in 1800, it is logical that King may have formed opinions as to his character on the voyage out.

The Gorgon arrived in Sydney on the 21st September 1791, at a time the colony was suffering extreme privation.  While 3 bulls, 6 cows, 3 rams and 9 ewes died on the passage it appears the crew, the convicts, the several passengers all arrived alive and well.  No doubt there was plenty of meat to boost rations.  This is in sharp contrast to other ships arriving at the time as Hunter reports;… “for though the number of sick convicts was not considerable when landed from the ships, they were, in general, greatly emaciated and appeared starved, and worn out with confinement.”

Massey formed a de facto relationship with Ann Simmons (b. London England 1768, Transported “Surprise”, d. .).  Ann had a prior child - Jane Ann was born in the colony on 19 June 1795 and baptised at Sydney 17 Jan 1796. The date of birth indicates that the child had been conceived on the voyage.  The father, John Bunn was almost certainly a crew member of the "Surprise".

Rutherford Browne on 21st May, 2018 wrote:

A fully documented 448 page biography of Thomas Massey was published in January 2018.
A website introducing this volume is available at:
https://www.thomasmasseylaunceston.brbsoft.com/ (Copy this link direct into the address line of your browser if your search engine fails to find it).

The biography “From Convict to Chief Constable” The story of Thomas Massey, and the first 50 years of Launceston by Rutherford J Browne is available from Amazon.com. The price US$28. 


greg petersen on 20th April, 2019 wrote:

1831 19th March,Hobart Town Courier entry,
We regret to learn from the Launceston Advertiser, that the blacks in the neighbourhood of Ben Lomond have renewed their sanguinary attacks upon the stock-keepers and others in exposed situations. Two sawyers, named John Taylor and
Edward Sharpe, in the employment of Mr. Massey, had been attacked by them while at work, and Sharpe was wounded so severely that his life was despaired of. After which they attacked a hut in which was a Mrs. Cunningham and child, whom they wounded so severely that little hopes were entertained of their recovery.. Same article appeared in Van Dieman’s Land News (From the Hobart Town courier) Tuesday 19th April 1831 Page 3

“On the 29th February, .1831, “as two
sawyers were at work near Mr. Massey’s:
in the vicinity of Ben Lomond, they were
attacked by the natives. The blacks took
from the place some blankets ‘and a gun,
but the men-John Taylor arid Edward
Sharpe-escaped, though severely wounded
by spears and bruised by waddles.”

Convict Changes History

Rutherford Browne on 29th January, 2012 made the following changes:

date of birth 1758-00-00, date of death 1858-01-07, gender m

This record was discovered and printed on ConvictRecords.com.au