Australian Dictionary of Biography

  • Tip: searches only the name field
  • Tip: Use double quotes to search for a phrase

Cultural Advice

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website contains names, images, and voices of deceased persons.

In addition, some articles contain terms or views that were acceptable within mainstream Australian culture in the period in which they were written, but may no longer be considered appropriate.

These articles do not necessarily reflect the views of The Australian National University.

Older articles are being reviewed with a view to bringing them into line with contemporary values but the original text will remain available for historical context.

William James Maum (1780–1850)

by L. L. Robson

This article was published:

William James Maum (1780-1850), Irish political prisoner, was born on 6 January 1780. He arrived in New South Wales in the Minerva in January 1800. According to one account he was a native of Charleville, County Cork, Ireland, and educated at Trinity College, Dublin, where he was placed by his uncle, Counsellor Kellor. He left the university at 18 and there is no record of his graduation. When transported for life three years later for an unspecified political offence he was a teacher of Latin and Greek. He and Governor Philip Gidley King were bitter enemies and when Maum made allegations against the governor's honesty King had him removed to Norfolk Island, together with 'those Incendiaries who have for some Years past been employed in promoting discord and fermenting Litigations'. King observed that Maum's 'principles and Conduct have changed as little as the others, Nor can Time or place have any Effect on such depraved Characters'. From Norfolk Island Maum sought in 1806 to return to Port Jackson as a schoolmaster; he claimed that he had never received an official sentence of transportation, and renewed his attacks on King, accusing him of accepting bribes and referring to the governor's 'cruelty and torture … in consequence of his suspicion that I wrote to some persons in power relative to his conduct in this territory'.

Maum was not allowed to go to Sydney, but was sent to Van Diemen's Land in the Porpoise, arriving on 17 January 1808. He told Lieutenant-Governor David Collins that the character of delinquent given to him was very 'unmeritedly applied', and to a friend he wrote that it had been advisable to leave Norfolk Island after the way he was treated there. Collins had no post to offer Maum but promised him land at Herdsman's Cove. In 1810 he was made assistant in the commissariat at Hobart Town. After some difficulties he was granted a conditional pardon in 1813 by Governor Lachlan Macquarie and briefly visited New South Wales before returning to Hobart. He was government store-keeper there from 1814 until September 1816, when he was dismissed after becoming involved in the embezzlements in the commissariat. A year later he was farming at Clarence Plains, where his haystacks were destroyed by fire, and he signed a memorial in Hobart in June 1818. He gave evidence before Commissioner John Thomas Bigge there in 1820. In the Irish tradition he raced horses and had some success with his Galloway colt, Young Pompey, in 1841. He died at Clarence Plains on 26 September 1850; his wife Mary (b.1789) died there five years later.

Select Bibliography

  • Historical Records of Australia, series 1, vols 2, 5, 8, series 3, vols 1-4
  • Sydney Gazette, 27 July 1816, 25 Jan 1817
  • Critic (Hobart), 8 Apr 1921
  • Colonial Secretary, in letters, 4/1847-48 (State Records New South Wales)
  • CO 201/41
  • HO 10/21.

Citation details

L. L. Robson, 'Maum, William James (1780–1850)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 23 July 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

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


6 January, 1780


26 September, 1850 (aged 70)
Clarence Plains, Tasmania, Australia

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

Passenger Ship
Convict Record

Crime: insurrection
Sentence: life