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Thomas Massey (1759–1858)

by C. G. Billing

This article was published:

Thomas Massey (1759?-1858), police constable and settler, was a soldier in the 47th Regiment when committed for desertion and then convicted of burglary and sentenced to death at Chester, England, on 3 September 1789; reprieved on condition of transportation for life he came to Sydney in the Gorgon in 1791. Conditionally pardoned in 1800 on the ground of 'diligence and care exemplified in his conduct as a principal overseer and to enable him to become a settler', he received an absolute pardon in 1802 for good conduct. In 1804 he was a corporal in the Sydney Loyal Association, in October sailed with Colonel William Paterson when the settlement at Port Dalrymple was established, and was appointed principal overseer and district constable there. Paterson commended his work, but in April 1809 he was dismissed. He took up farming and was granted 150 acres (61 ha), but next year after a brief visit to Sydney, where he married Ann Simmonds and appealed to Governor Lachlan Macquarie, he was reinstated, appointed superintendent of stock, and difficulties over his grant were settled. In January 1816 he was reprimanded for disrespect and disobedience, but apologized to the commandant, and next year was made superintendent of works at George Town and promoted chief constable of the district. In 1818 he was in trouble with the commandant again, and Macquarie ordered him to be dismissed entirely from the services of the government. After another apology he was restored, though described by Lieutenant-Governor William Sorell as a 'turbulent and troublesome man'. He was granted 300 acres (121 ha) at the ford of the South Esk River in 1816 and in 1820 gave evidence to Commissioner John Thomas Bigge about conditions at Launceston. That year he acquired a grazing licence, and during the 1820s supplied meat to the government. By 1829 he held, in association with his son who had been born in 1807, more than 4000 acres (1619 ha) of land at Ellerslie, near Ben Lomond, five miles (8 km) from Cleveland.

On 21 April 1830 Massey was committed for trial for attempting to shoot one of his servants, Bennett, with whom he had apparently been drinking before the fracas. In evidence it was said that he frequently quarrelled with his servants, and Mrs Bennett stated that he had tried to stab her as a result of an argument. As there is no record of the trial, the case was probably withdrawn and Massey returned to his property on the South Esk. He died in January 1858, allegedly aged 99.

Select Bibliography

  • Historical Records of Australia, series 1, vols 4-5, 7-8, series 3, vols 1-3
  • L. S. Bethell, The Story of Port Dalrymple (Hob, 1957)
  • Colonial Times (Hobart), 30 Apr 1830
  • Examiner (Launceston), 7 Jan 1858.

Citation details

C. G. Billing, 'Massey, Thomas (1759–1858)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 24 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (Melbourne University Press), 1967

View the front pages for Volume 2

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