THOMAS ECCLES was a labourer from Surrey, England and a convict transported for life on the First Fleet ship Scarborough (1788).
In the colony of New South Wales, THOMAS ECCLES lived at Sydney, Norfolk Island, and finally Parramatta. THOMAS and his First Fleeter wife BETTY were both of riper years than their fellow First Fleet convicts, yet both also distinguished themselves by their extreme longevity; an achievement that is even more incredible considering the hardships they would have experienced as convicts.
He is one of seventeen First Fleeters with memorials buried in St. John’s Cemetery, Parramatta and one of fifty buried in the parish overall (including unmarked burials).
- Alternate: THOMAS EGGLES
- Alternate: THOMAS EGLES
- Alternate: THOMES HECLES (c.f. parish burials)
- Alternate: THOMAS EXELES (c.f. headstone inscription)
- Born (likely) at Stoke Next Guildford, Surrey, England: c.1730
- Married (possibly) HANNAH WHITE: St. John the Evangelist Church, Stoke Next Guildford, Surrey, England, 23 November 1762
- Committed Crime: Stoke Next Guildford, Surrey, England (6 May 1782)
- On Trial: Surrey Summer Assizes, 29 July 1782
- Sentenced to Death: Surrey Summer Assizes, 29 July 1782
- Death Sentence Commuted to life in forces in Africa: August 1782
- Transferred to Ceres hulk: 1785
- Dispatched to Portsmouth by wagon: 24 February 1787
- Embarked on Scarborough: 27 February 1787
- Sailed with the First Fleet per Scarborough: 13 May 1787
- Arrived at Botany Bay per Scarborough: 19 January 1788
- Arrived at Port Jackson per Scarborough: 26 January 1788
- Became the first person tried in the colony, for drunkenness: 11 February 1788, Sydney Cove, Port Jackson, Colony of New South Wales
- On Trial for stealing vegetables from Captain Shea and being ‘in liquor’: Port Jackson, 21 October 1788
- Sails for Norfolk Island per Supply: 17 February 1789
- Maintained a one-acre lot at Sydney Town, Norfolk Island: 1 July 1791
- Married First Fleet convict ELIZABETH “WINIFRED” BIRD: Norfolk Island, November 1791
- Member of the Night Watch: Norfolk Island, December 1791
- Worked for First Fleet seaman and settler JAMES PROCTOR: Norfolk Island, 19 February 1792
- Off Government Stores: Norfolk Island, 19 February 1792
- Sold maize to Government: Sydney Town, Norfolk Island, 30 January 1793
- Governor PHILIP GIDLEY KING requested pardon for THOMAS ECCLES: 20 July 1793
- Pardoned (absolute): Sydney Town, Norfolk Island, 12 December 1794
- Supplied Government with pork: Sydney Town, Norfolk Island, 30 July 1796
- Supplied Government with pork: Sydney Town, Norfolk Island, 6 August 1796
- Victualled as a “settler”: Norfolk Island, 10 September 1796
- Leased a 10-acre lot: Norfolk Island, 20 October 1796
- Supplied Government with pork: Sydney Town, Norfolk Island, 17 November 1796
- Returned with wife BETTY to Port Jackson per Porpoise: 14 March 1801
- Leased one-acre lot: April 1801, Parramatta.
- Possessed 1 gun: 10 April 1802, Parramatta.
- Leased one-acre lot: 1 January 1806, Parramatta.
- Received issues of beer: June 1806, Parramatta.
- Advertised the sale of his ‘choice lemon trees’ in Sydney Gazette: 26 March 1809, Parramatta
- Died: 1 April 1814, Parramatta
- Buried: 3 April 1814, as “Thomas Hecles” (burial record) and “Thomas Exeles” (headstone) in Section 2, Row P, No. 8, St. John’s Cemetery, Parramatta.
- Section 2, Row P, No.8, St. John’s Cemetery, Parramatta
- Spouse of ELIZABETH BIRD, November 1791–2 April 1814
- Labourer: Stoke Next Guildford, Surrey, England, c.1750–1782
- Convict, 1782–1794
- Gardener: Norfolk Island, 1789–1794
- Farmer: Norfolk Island, 1789–March 1801
- Night watch member: Norfolk Island, 1791
- Pig Farmer: Norfolk Island, c.1796–c.March 1801
- Settler: Norfolk Island, December 1794–March 1801 and Parramatta, March 1801–April 1814.
Abstract: Thomas Eccles was a man who loved his bacon; so much so, he was willing to risk his life to steal some. Initially given the death sentence for his crime, Eccles was spared and given a sentence of transportation for life instead; a decision which led to him sailing with the First Fleet on board the convict ship Scarborough. Through his skill and industry Eccles soon distinguished himself as a gardener on Norfolk Island and earnt himself an absolute pardon. Though already in his sixties by then, Thomas, the reformed bacon thief subsequently became a successful pig farmer. He and his wife spent their remaining years in Parramatta, where they grew ‘choice lemon trees,’ vegetables, and (of course) kept two hogs. Thomas Eccles is one of 17 First Fleeters with memorials buried at St. John’s Cemetery, Parramatta. more>>
Abstract: Countless times the dairy maid’s ‘footsteps shuffled on the stair’ leading down into the sunken milk room of the Governor’s Dairy. Anyone who casually observed her churning butter and making buttermilk and cheese destined for the Governor’s table and the nearby Government institutions over the years might have assumed she was one of the ‘ordinary people’ that the historical record would not even try to remember let alone soon forget. In truth, the widow Betty Eccles was something of a marvel. more>>
- Anglican Parish Registers, Woking, Surrey, England: Surrey History Centre.
- “Classified Advertising,” The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW: 1803 – 1842), Sunday 26 March 1809. p. 2.
- Parish Burial Registers, Textual Records, St. John’s Anglican Church Parramatta, New South Wales, Australia.
- John Cobley, The Crimes of the First Fleet Convicts, (North Ryde, N.S.W.: Halstead Press, 1970), p. 85.
- Judith Dunn, The Parramatta Cemeteries: St. John’s, (Parramatta, NSW: Parramatta and District Historical Society, 1991).
- “BIRD, Elizabeth/Winifred (c1742–1838),” in Mollie Gillen, The Founders of Australia: A Biographical Dictionary of the First Fleet, (Sydney: Library of Australian History, 1989), pp. 34–35.
- “ECCLES, Thomas (c1730–1814),” in Mollie Gillen, The Founders of Australia: A Biographical Dictionary of the First Fleet, (Sydney: Library of Australian History, 1989), pp. 115–16.
- Steve Samuelson and Ray Mason, A History of Australian True Crime (North Sydney: Ebury Press, 2008), p. 12.
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