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Bartholomew Boyle Thomas (1785–1831)

by H. R. Thomas

This article was published:

This is a shared entry with Jocelyn Henry Connor Thomas

Thomas Family: Jocelyn Henry Connor (1780-1862), public servant and landowner, and Bartholomew Boyle (1785?-1831), soldier and settler, were the sons of Rev. Bartholomew Thomas, D.D., rector of Cloydagh and squire of Everton, Queen's County, Ireland, and his wife Anna Jocelyn, née Davidson. Jocelyn was educated at Eton, and so probably was Bartholomew; both certainly went to Trinity College, Dublin.

Bartholomew entered the army as a cornet in the 17th Light Dragoons on 13 June 1805, transferred as a lieutenant to the 9th Light Dragoons on 26 May 1809, and was later in the 100th Regiment, the 4th Garrison Battalion, and finally the 18th Regiment, from which he resigned by sale of his commission in 1814. He later served under Bolivar in South America. He married in 1811; his wife's name was Louisa, and they had no children. When Bartholomew's youngest sister Marianne Burrell died, Louisa mothered her four young children.

Jocelyn was married on 11 April 1808 to Charlotte, daughter of Henry Partridge, chief justice of Ely. In Ireland he became agent for the estates of Lord Stanhope and Lady Portarlington. In 1813 Jocelyn in association with his brother and others leased 'the entire slobs in the harbour of Wexford' for the purpose of reclaiming 1100 acres (445 ha) from the sea, but 'on the eve of completion an unprecedented high tide destroyed in one hour the labour of more than seven years' with a loss of £40,000. He felt it better to be elsewhere while poor, so after a short time in France he emigrated to Van Diemen's Land with his wife and seven children, three servants and their two children; they arrived in the Derwent on 2 February 1824.

Jocelyn first accepted without inspection a grant of 1000 acres (405 ha) on the South Esk River south of Snake Banks (Powranna), but finding the clear land subject to flood he made a deal with Donald Campbell for 500 acres (202 ha) near Evandale with a house on it, and named it Everton. His son Bartholomew William was granted 500 acres (202 ha) on the South Esk. This became Milford. Jocelyn later acquired several blocks to the east of Milford till his holdings there totalled about 8000 acres (3238 ha) when sold in 1833.

Eight months after arrival Jocelyn was appointed acting colonial treasurer by Lieutenant-Governor (Sir) George Arthur, and the appointment was confirmed on 4 July 1825. The duties included receiving moneys once a quarter from the collector of customs, William Hamilton. The two new officers quickly increased the collections from customs, earning Arthur's praise but displeasing merchants and others who preferred 'the convenience' of Dr Edward Bromley's earlier methods. However, Earl Bathurst disallowed Arthur's selection of Hamilton, and instead appointed a quite unqualified man, Rolla O'Ferrall.

When Van Diemen's Land became independent of New South Wales and acquired an Executive Council Jocelyn became one of its five members. His experience as magistrate and agent in Ireland and his 'air of authority', combined with a pleasing manner of speech, doubtless contributed to his fitness for this position. His home was Roseway Lodge, a property of some ten acres (4 ha) on New Town Rivulet, three miles (4.8 km) out of Hobart Town. There two more daughters were born.

The two brothers met again when Bartholomew arrived at Hobart in the Albion on 3 May 1826. He brought with him men, livestock, machinery and stores for the New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land Establishment, a partnership formed in England in 1825 by Thomas and five others, with an initial capital of £24,000. On the voyage more than half the horses and many of the cattle and sheep died.

More loss soon followed. Bartholomew went on to Sydney in the Albion on 27 May, having accepted Arthur's location of land in Van Diemen's Land on the Ringarooma River, and arranged for his establishment, under Henry Widowson, to proceed there in the schooner Sally. The little ship was wrecked near its destination on the night of 30 June 1826 with the loss of thirteen lives and much of the company's machinery and stores, which were not insured.

He returned from Sydney eleven days later. The Ringarooma location was given up but a grant of 10,000 acres (4047 ha) was soon secured, with a reservation of a further similar area, and a farm with some buildings bought all together in one block on the west side of the Lake River. He named the place Cressy, after the battlefield where his ancestor had been created Knight Banneret. The partnership became known as the Cressy Co. or Horse Breeding Co.

The report of 13 August 1827 to the colonial secretary, John Burnett, of operations at Cressy for about ten months records impressive achievement in developing the holding, but financial matters and accountancy were neglected or ignored and became the subject of action by the Sheriff. 'Relying on information that later turned out to be inaccurate, the home directors dissolved their partnership with B. B. Thomas', by a press notice, 28 June 1828. Lieutenant Thomas Dutton, R.N., succeeded as manager.

Bartholomew became the 'first settler in Devon' by taking over from absentee owners two adjacent locations west of Port Sorell totalling 2200 acres (890 ha), with financial help from Jocelyn. In his three years there he achieved a notable success by establishing friendly relations with the local tribes, while over most of the island there were frequent killings of whites by the dispossessed blacks. In company with his 'faithful friend' and overseer, Parker, he was speared to death by a hostile tribe from the south on 31 August 1831. Jocelyn became the owner of North Down, his brother's property at Port Sorell. Bartholomew's widow died at Stoke Damerel, Devon, England, on 12 April 1862.

During the late 1820s Jocelyn had been worried about his financial position, having borrowed too deeply in order to buy land. The situation exploded when a snap audit on 23 October 1832 disclosed a serious shortage in the Treasury chest. It was first estimated at £7112 6s. 1d., but in 1834 the official finding was £10,627 10s. 5 1/4d., a figure which Jocelyn disputed, claiming that actual receipts were less than the warrants issued. He admitted a shortage but not misappropriation, and asserted that there had been frequent robberies, most of which he had not reported because he had found it was useless to do so unless he could name the suspects. This, understandably, was not accepted as a valid explanation. He was dismissed from office, as also was O'Ferrall, as evidence of collusion between them emerged. The event made Jocelyn Thomas, first colonial treasurer, a controversial figure in history. According to John West, 'It appeared that capital had been borrowed from the chest without authority to the amount of several thousand pounds. The money was, however, restored. No public care could restrain these funds from their tendency to escape'.

Among the many baffling features of the episode is the record of persistent but vain efforts by Jocelyn and his friends to have the circumstances of his dismissal re-examined judicially, and the confidence with which Jocelyn expected that such an inquiry would 'give me back my reputation', a reputation that had caused Lord Stanhope to declare: 'His character is irreproachable', and others to write in similar vein. There is also reason for conjecture as to the full extent of O'Ferrall's collusion, because of his later fraud in forging deeds to property. All Jocelyn's properties were sold to satisfy private creditors as well as the Crown, and he retired to his son's home, Milford, and later to North Down, which the sons had managed to buy.

Jocelyn's downfall arose from his passion for buying land, and earlier for reclaiming it, a passion probably based on a genuine love of the land. In Ireland he had been 'universally beloved'. Tradition has it that he was a good host and enjoyed company. Henry Savery, a contemporary chronicler, portrayed him with 'a hurried quickness in his manner, a sort of absentism … a little of the brogue in his style of language'. A granddaughter remembered him walking 'very erect' in the garden at North Down, where he and Charlotte ended their days, he on 7 April 1862, she on 13 November 1873; by then they had more than forty grandchildren.

The two brothers were alike in showing an unwise disregard for risk, one in Wexford Harbour, the other when he walked to his death; both were born and married to wealth, failed to conserve it, and again failed to cope with a strange colonial environment. Bartholomew was imaginative, impulsive and altruistic, and Savery and others indicate that he was generous and likeable in many ways. Physically he was 'uncommonly active'. He was one of those enterprising pioneers whose successors derive the benefit of their labours; his brain-child the Cressy Co. returned good capital gain to its shareholders in the 1850s and the bulk of his North Down property still remains in the hands of Jocelyn's descendants.

Select Bibliography

  • Historical Records of Australia, series 3, vols 5-6
  • J. West, The History of Tasmania, vols 1-2 (Launceston, 1852)
  • R. W. Giblin, The Early History of Tasmania, vol 2 (Melb, 1939)
  • H. Savery, The Hermit in Van Diemen's Land, eds C. Hadgraft and Margriet Roe (Brisb, 1964)
  • Hobart Town Gazette, 22 July 1826, 28 June 1828
  • CSO 1/282 (Archives Office of Tasmania)
  • Arthur papers (State Library of New South Wales)
  • family papers (privately held).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

H. R. Thomas, 'Thomas, Bartholomew Boyle (1785–1831)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 14 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

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]




31 August, 1831 (aged ~ 46)
Tasmania, Australia

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