Contribute to this record
Charles Thomson, one of 267 convicts transported on the Isabella, 15 January 1842
Name, Aliases & Gender
Birth, Occupation & Death
|Date of Birth:
|Date of Death:
life span was 61 years*
* Median life span based on contributions
Conviction & Transportation
Sentenced to Life
||Australian Joint Copying Project. Microfilm Roll 91, Class and Piece Number HO11/13, Page Number 6
||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.
Did you find the person you were looking for?
If Charles Thomson was the person you were looking for, you may be able to discover more about them by looking at our resources page.
If you have more hunting to do, try a new search or browse the convict records.
Alison on 18th September, 2016 wrote:
In a letter dated 10th Oct 1842 Charles wrote, in detail, of his convict experience to Rev Richard Appleton the Chaplin of Kirkdale gaol.
The letter can be read in the British newspaper archive.
48. LETTER FROM A CONVICT.
The Sheffield & Rotherham Independent (Sheffield, England), Saturday, May 25, 1844; pg. 2; Issue 1267. (3033 words). British Library Newspapers, Part II: 1800-1900.
D Wong on 18th September, 2016 wrote:
Charles Thomson was 36 years old on arrival in VDL and was transported for ‘Forgery’.
“I was secretary to the shefield railway co; had power invested in me to advertise; I employed gower & co. to advertise; amount due to him was 447 pounds; i paid 347 pounds & gave the co. a receipt for amount 447 pounds having altered gower’s receipt.
Surgeons Report: Character good and anxious to be useful and trustworthy.
Charles was 5’8” tall, fair complexion, dark brown hair, light brown whiskers, blue eyes, reads and writes, protestant, married 4 children.
Wife: Miriam, near Manchester.
3 Brothers, 1 sister.
One brother, Richard at Hobart Town.
Jason Potts JP on 21st September, 2016 wrote:
LETTER FROM A CONVICT.
The following letter, “written by a man of liberal education who before the commission of the offence for which, he was transported, (embezzlement,) had bome an unblemished character, and occupied a highly respectable station in society,” is published by the Rev. Richard Appleton, in his annual report as chaplain of the Kirkdale House Of Correction. The letter is dated Van Dieman’s Land, Oct. 10, 1842, and is addressed to Mr. Appleton:-
“Our treatment at the hulks was dreadful, although the authorities behaved with kindness. We arose at half-past five, cleaned the wards, breakfasted on a biscuit and a pint skilly went out to work at seven; dined at twelve on horrid beef one day and cheese and bad beer the next; went to work at one, came in at dusk; had a pint of skilly at six and went to bed at eight. B-‘s employment was carrying timber, and mine in being harnessed to a cart, and with five others drawing canvass and stores from one end of the dock to the other. Our hair was cut quite short, our whiskers all shaved off, a course shirt with grey clothes and nee-breeches given us, and a chain weighing from six to eight pounds round one leg. The severity of the weather, the bad meat, the thin clothing, and the entire absence of fire, nearly killed me; and when I went on board the Isabella I was a skeleton.
During our stay at the hulks, we made no acquaintance, did our duty rigidly, and never had a harsh word spoken to us; and, on reaching the Isabella, we were taken to the surgeon-superintendent, and recommended as “two men who would never betray any trust that might be reposed in them”. The clerks‘ situations being ?lled at Woolwich, we were appointed to the next, namely boatswains’ mates; but in less than a fortnight the clerks misbehaved, and we were appointed to hold office all the way, and were strongly recommended. In a fortnight’s time, we got into warm weather; we were unfettered and allowed greater privileges than convicts ever had before.
There were four families on board, and we were permitted to talk with them; and the society of females took of a little of the misery of our situation. We could walk on deck at all times, arise at day-break to bathe, and enjoy the cool air of evening, and watch the multitudes of ?ying fish, dolphins, porpoises, &c., &c..
In this way two months passed away until one night B- and I were awoke by someone between our hammocks, quietly invoking us to tell us that mutiny was contemplated in the morning, and that thirty or forty were going to rush into the surgeon’s and captain’s cabins, murder them and then the sailors, and all in authority, including us, and take possession of the ship. We got up quietly, and sent for the surgeon, and immediate steps were taken to arm the sailors, &c.
About three o’clock in the morning, we saw the conspirators assembling and whispering, and it was a moment of anxiety you may be sure. One of them was feeling round the hatchway to secure the guard, and received a sabre cut across his hand. They imagined they were suspected, and postponed their attack; but in the morning an investigation took place, and six of the ringleaders were put in heavy irons, and kept so during the remainder of the voyage.
B- and I were suspected of giving the information, and the villains threatened to murder us; but we continued to hang our hammocks close to their berths, and kept watch alternate nights all the rest of the way, and the Almighty spared us from their vengeance.
They afterwards tried to ?re the ship, but our watch was too strong upon them. In consequence of this disturbance, many of our privileges were taken away, and we were obliged to go below at six o’clock, and not to go on deck till that hour in the morning.
We felt this much in crossing the line, as the weather was so extremely sultry. I wore nothing but my shirt and white trousers, and no shoes and stockings, and my health became restored. The voyage continued one of great anxiety, and one of my comrades, the surgeon’s assistant, a young doctor named D-, from Sheffield, drowned himself in a fit of despondency; and the surgeon requested me to fill his place, as well as my other duties, which now became very arduous; and through not getting my proper rest, and cold weather coming on, I got into delicate health again.
We lived well on board, and had half a. pint of wine every day. We arrived at Hobart Town Bay on the 19th May, and landed on the 30th; the intervening time being taken up in quarantine and examination by the magistrates. The old plan of assigning men is abolished, and in its stead a rigorous measure adopted, which obliges a man to live in probation for a certain time, according to his sentence and character. These probation gangs are distributed through the country, and are employed in making roads through the ‘Bush,’ as the wild forests are employed as above.
On the 30th of May we landed, and were addressed by the Governor. He sentenced the conspirators, already alluded to, to four years’ hard labour in chains at Port Arthur, a penal settlement; and, although he did not mention our names, he said, ‘Let not those good men who stopped this dreadful mutiny despair; when their probation is finished they will not be forgotten.’ There is, therefore, hope for us; but neither former character nor any interest can do away this primary punishment. When it is completed, I anticipate obtaining a comfortable situation, if my health is spared.
But to return to my narrative. After the Governor’s address, the whole ship’s company was divided into different parties, and sent to various parts of the island. B- and I, with nine others, received our marching orders; but he had to go forty-?ve miles, and I had to go one hundred and twenty on foot. We walked eleven miles the first night, and slept in a chapel, on the stones, with only a rug to cover us. The next day we walked twenty-one miles, and again slept in a chapel, on the ground.
The next day deprived me of my true friend B-, whom I left at a place called Jericho, from its strong resemblance, in point of scenery, to the original. I wept like a child to leave him, as all connection with England seemed now lost to me. I had no one to talk to of home, of friends parted with perhaps for ever; and no one to sympathise with on our sufferings, or hope with for the future; the last link in the chain was broken. He is a manly, noble fellow, brought to a. sense of sin, and a thorough convinced Christian.
From the time of leaving Kirkdale, we were never separated more than an hour, and had every thought in common; and on the last Sunday of our being in England, we took the sacrament, and I trust we may be altered men in every respect, and that our probation may fit us both for time and for eternity.
After leaving B-, I had to walk seventy-seven miles, accompanied by a lad from Liverpool, who gave me information of the conspiracy; and I suppose for that reason we were separated from all the ship’s company, as B- and one other were left behind at Jericho together.
Our journey was for the most part through wild forests and in many parts where the foot of man had rarely trod; and when we rested at night it was in some rude hut or chapel, with no covering but a rug, and nothing to keep the damp from our bodies, unless we could make a wood fire. My constitution, already impaired, could not bear up against it, and I was seized with inflammation of the lungs, and a swelling of the joints, so that I was obliged to proceed by short stages, and to rest a day or two at different places; but having no warm bed, and only my rations of mutton and bread, which I got at stated places, I got worse instead of better.
My last day’s journey was only three miles, and I was as many hours in doing it. On arriving at this station, I was immediately received into the hospital, and put into a clean soft bed, between sheets for the time since leaving my happy home. My complaint was pronounced to be dropsy, and little hopes were entertained for my recovery, as the inflammation on my lungs had also gained strength, and I lay in a pitiable condition for some weeks; but with kind care and attention I rallied, and in two months I left the hospital.
The superintendent acted towards me with great kindness and sympathy; and although he was obliged to send me out to work on the roads, he gave his assistants instructions to put me to easy tasks, such as being watchman or levelling the road. I was, however, only thus employed ten days, and then received into the office as clerk for a fortnight, the longest time any man can hold a billet.
At the end of that time I was again to go on the roads; but I had made myself so necessary to the superintendent, that he determined to keep me on at all hazards, and would have done so through my probation had he not been cautioned by a magistrate that he would get into trouble by doing so. No man can hold a permanent billet until he has done two-thirds of his time, except the schoolmaster; consequently, the person who held that office was made clerk, and I was installed in his place, and I have now plenty of time to improve my mind and take beautiful walks, as my pupils only attend in an evening after the working hours.
I do not hesitate to tell you all about myself, although running the risk of being called egotistical; and I know you will take an interest in what I am telling you, particularly now that the worst seems past.
When I left the ship, my written character was, “Conduct good; anxious to be useful; trustworthy.” This character goes with me where I go and a monthly report is made from here of the conduct and disposition of the men, and mine goes down as ‘trustworthy and good.’ It is a satisfaction to know that these reports are transmitted every half-year to the Home Office, and may be seen by Lord Wharncliffe and others.
You will be surprised to hear, and will agree with me that it is not the work of chance, that our old companion G- is at this station, and has been here since he arrived. He was the schoolmaster, and I have succeeded him. With very few exceptions, all the other men are labourers and mechanics and we do not associate with them. We have a cottage or wood but of our own, and my dear little M- will show you a picture of it when you call, as I have forwarded one to her.
I trust you do call upon my dear family; I shall feel such an interest in your description of them. G- was very comfortable on board ship; but instead of getting his ticket of leave on landing, he had to come under this new system; but he has only a few months more to do, and he has held the situation of schoolmaster almost all the time. His prospects are very good, and he has ‘a rich relation at Sydney, who has promised to befriend him when his probation is over.
I was for more than two months before I had any communication with my brother. He is residing at Hobart Town, and keeps a large inn, and is also a butcher and grazier. The trade of butcher does not sound very well, but in a new colony it thought nothing of, as many of the wealthiest colonists kill and sell meat upon their estates.
My brother writes to me in the most affectionate manner, and sent me up a large parcel of wearing apparel, tea, sugar, &c., as my boxes have not yet arrived. He had heard of my misfortunes, and had kept watch on every prison-ship, in hopes of seeing me as I passed through; but I had done so before he had heard from England respecting me.
He regrets the delay occasioned by my probation, as he would have had me assigned to him at once; but he desires me to keep up my spirits and have patience, ‘and then,’ he says, ‘get out your dear wife and family, and you will be sure to do well ’
My business habits are already known, and I have received two offers already at the completion of my probation; one to a builder, and the other to be steward and book-keeper on an estate. If I live I should take the latter, as I shall have a pretty cottage on the estate, and plenty of. land to cultivate ; and in the country districts a man may live for a mere tri?e, for mutton is 2 ½ d. per pound, flour 2 ½ d, vegetables you may grow, and goats supply plenty of milk and feed on the woodlands.
If I live to accept this latter situation, I am to be tutor also to two young gentlemen. This would enable me to educate my own dear boy at the same time; and I trust, that having drunk so deeply of misery myself from sin, I may be able to warn him of its quicksands, and bring him up an honest and upright man. It is no palliation of guilt, at the same time that it is a comfort here, to know that when a man is established and people are satis?ed of his honesty and honour his former transgressions are entirely forgotten, and his family visited and intermarried as if he had always been free.
Although the day is a distant one, I look forward to it with an anxiety and pleasure, and with God’s mercy I hope to see it; and I trust to be able to ful?l my duty as a husband and a father, which I so fatally have blasted by misconduct.
The principal beverage in all families in the island is tea, which is taken at every meal. Beer and spirits are very dear; but tea is only about 2s. 6d. per pound, and sugar 2d. to 5d., accordion to quality. Wine is very reasonable, good quality being got for 4s.or 5s. per gallon.
I cannot give you an adequate description of this country; it is a Paradise in many respects. The climate resembles the south of France, being never very cold. The seasons are reversed, Christmas day being the same as Midsummer day at home. This is the Spring, and beautiful weather it is; the mornings are sometimes cold, but in the middle of the day it is as hot as an English summer, only there is always a breeze. The trees are all evergreen, and a stranger on landing would not believe it was winter, as the snow never falls except on the mountains, and ice is never thicker than a sixpence, and melts by ten o’clock. There are plenty of kangaroos, emus, parrots, cockatoos, &c., &c., but no wild beasts. The native race is extinct.
We live in the middle of a wood, extending sixty miles every way, and our cottage is on the banks of a beautiful river, on a plain covered with lofty and wide- spreading trees. Such a park in England would be above price. It only wants a happy mind to make a man fancy himself in a second Garden of Eden, so incomparable are all the beauties of nature.
Thank God, I am now as strong and as well ever, and being unaccustomed to drinking spirits, which I shall never drink again but as a medicine, I feel active, energetic, and as young in animal spirits as ever. I only want my dear wife and family around me, to make me bless God that I was removed from M-, where I was, before my constitution was quite ruined by baneful drink.
Tell Mrs. T- to write every month, and to keep up her spirits. All will yet be well, and many days of peace may be ours. Write often yourself, and tell me of your wife, children, farm, occupations, amusements, and everything English that you know.
I send this under cover to the Rev. Richard Appleton, as l have not time to write to him at present, and the same history will do for both. Lose no time in telling Mrs. T. that you have heard from me, and that my prospects are bright, though in prospective only. There is an over-ruling Providence to dispense mercies, and to afflict; it is for us to pro?t by both.
And now, my dear old friend, farewell. May you prosper and all who belong to you; and hoping that you will not forget me, believe me your sincere friend, C.T.”
Convict Changes History
Alison on 18th September, 2016 made the following changes:
D Wong on 18th September, 2016 made the following changes:
date of birth: 1805 (prev. 0000), gender: m, occupation, crime