General Category > Ulster Scots

Thompsons in Australia


I have traced my forebears back to Ireland circa 1800. References to Coleraine and Derry in Ulster and Milford in Donegal. They arrived in the Colony of New South Wales in the midst of a financial depression in January 1844 having sailed from Greenoch, Scotland in the previous October. Robert and Ann (Nee Waters) Thompson and two daughters Catherine and Ann aged 2 years and 6 months respectively. Robert and Ann married in 1840 at the Covenantors Church in Milford, Donegal and I believe Catherine was born in 1842 at Milford. Daughter, Ann was born 1843 in Coleraine as was Robert's sister Mary in 1800.

Roberts sister, Mary, together with her children, came to Oz to be with her transported convict (Oz Royalty) husband Samuel Hanna. This is well documented and relative correspondence is held in the Australian Archives being part of the Bicentenial Gift made by Ireland in 1988. Mary and her children traveled at the expence of the Crown and her sister Margaret, who had also gained approval to travel with Mary declined at the last moment and remained in Ireland. Sam Hanna had received a sentence of fourteen years for stealing a sheep.

That explains, to me, why Mary Hanna (Nee T) came to Oz. Did Robert and Ann (Nee Waters) T follow Mary ?
Australia was settled (by the British) in 1788 with the express purpose of being utilised as a penal resort replacing the previous facilities in the Americas following eviction by that Irish son of Donegal, George Washington . Fifty six years latter the Colony of New South Wales was still a desparate place populated by serving convicts, released convicts, retired British soldiers (Waterloo veterans were eligable to Land Grants of eighty acres) together with a number of Scottish Presbyterians who had been starved out of the homeland by nineteenth centuary 'Thatcherism' converts.  Add to this mix an administration of English, failed public servants, who could not hold a position in London and some noted Military figures appointed as Governors. Naval Officers Phillip, Hunter, King, capable men. Then who do we get ? None other than William Bligh. Lucky Oz. And what happened ? You guessed it , Mutiny. And worse, following Bligh (who by this time was just about globaly unemployable) we get a rogue Army Captain named MacArthur who managed the economy so well the currency became 'Rum'. MacArthur's private army , The New South Wales Corps administered Oz with all the skill of a Club Rugby team on the end of season tour. With one exception as MacArthur did import some Spanish, Merino Sheep. MacArthur granted himself large parcels of grazing lands and told his sheep to 'go forth and multiply'.  There is no doubting Australia became wealthy on the back of the Merino over the latter half of the nineteenth century.

Why did Robert and Ann Thompson come to Australia ? Why not America ?  I can understand the reasons for leaving their homelands. Famine, Loss of work opportunity with the coming of mechanised farming, Englishmen , Martial Law in Ireland.  I am at a loss to understand this Why ?

I suspect it may have been because the Colonial Office was offering free passage and a good deal of dodgy spin doctoring.  Can anyone offer any ideas ?  I have already ruled out personal choise as this was a luxury the poor of Ireland and Scotland could not afford.

Many thanks

rus t

Hi Rus......

Maybe you would find these articles interesting -

And a schoolroom fact sheet overview of Scots/Irish and immigration/emigration



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