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Thomas Ransom (1757–1829)

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Thomas Ransom (1757-1829), boat builder and publican, was born on 9 December 1757 in London, son of Thomas Ranson and his wife Mary. He married Elizabeth Dur(r)ell on 8 June 1778 at St Leonards, Shoreditch; she died in 1836. On 25 October 1786 at the Old Bailey, London, he was convicted of burglary and was sentenced to death. His sentence was commuted to transportation for life on 9 September 1789. He arrived in Sydney in the Salamander in August 1791. In September he was transferred to Norfolk Island, where he was employed on the repair of boats. He received a full pardon in September 1810. After the military commandant was withdrawn in 1814 Ransom and William Hutchinson supervised the evacuation of the remaining inhabitants in the Kangaroo to the River Derwent.

At Hobart Town Ransom was appointed superintendent of boatbuilders and continued in that position until ill health forced him to retire. About 1817 he built the Joiners' Arms in Murray Street. Although his reputation was unimpeached and he was universally esteemed, his licence was revoked in June 1825 because 'it was discovered that the faithful and valuable female, who had for years borne his name … was unhappily unable to enter into the legal state of matrimony, in consequence of circumstances … which she could neither alter nor recur to, and which, until the prying eye of some persecuting hypocrite ferretted out, were before generally unknown'.

Ransom moved to Green Ponds where he had been granted 400 acres (162 ha) by Governor Lachlan Macquarie in 1817. He spent some £1500 improving this property and in building the Royal Oak Inn. The land commissioners reported that he kept the best inn in Van Diemen's Land: 'nothing can exceed the civility and attention that the Traveller meets with here, an excellent larder, good beds, and capital stabling'. Ransom had also cleared and cultivated some of his land and was depasturing about 300 sheep and some cattle. In July 1828 Lieutenant-Governor (Sir) George Arthur granted him an additional 600 acres (243 ha).

Ransom died at his inn on 6 February 1829 and was buried at Green Ponds. His property was bequeathed to his friend, Catherine Christiana McNally, who married Frederick von Stieglitz on 22 January 1830 and died in 1857 at Killymoon.

Select Bibliography

  • Historical Records of Australia, series 1, vols 7-8, 10, series 3, vol 3
  • A. McKay (ed), Journals of the Land Commissioners for Van Diemen's Land 1826-28 (Hob, 1962)
  • Hobart Town Gazette, 3 June 1825
  • CSO 1/10/159, 1/88/1947 (Archives Office of Tasmania)
  • manuscript catalogue under Thomas Ransom (State Library of New South Wales).

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Citation details

'Ransom, Thomas (1757–1829)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 21 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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