The Thomas Graham Story

Possibly Thomas Graham outside the Simpson Brewery Building in the buggy.



‘This story is a truth stranger than fiction’...

'from this point on, any reader should not plan on doing anything special and should be sitting down!!'



The Thomas Graham story is a one of curiosity and absolute fascination. When I started doing research into the Robert Burns Hotel at Craigieburn I had no idea that finding Thomas Graham as licensee of the hotel would lead me to such an amazing story.

I thank Keith Graham who is the great great grandson of Thomas Graham and has given me much information and help in this research and by whom this story is wholly written.




Thomas Graham (pictured left) was born in Keldgate, Beverley, East Yorkshire, England in 1802. He was Christened on the 8th April 1802 at Saint Mary and Saint Nicholas, Beverley, E Yorkshire, England and it is likely but not confirmed that his birth year was also 1802. At this stage only one sibling has been discovered; Hannah Graham was born in about 1793 and she married John Turner a mariner in 1824. On his birth record Thomas’s father was also called Thomas Graham and his mother Susana, though that could be a misspelling of Susannah/Susanna.
 

No record of his early education has yet been discovered, though apparently a prolific letter writer, his writing style, appearance and accuracy gives the impression of a poorly educated and semi -literate man; closer examination could easily see his writing style bearing all the hallmarks of a learning difficulty such as dyslexia.

In 1815 aged 13 he was apprenticed as a cabinet maker to a Richard Farrah when who is listed in the Directory of Trades & Professions for Beverley 1791 as working from ‘Kitchinlane’. (Kitchen Lane – off Keldgate, Beverley, very close to where Thomas was born). This apprenticeship is reported as lasting for only for 3 years instead of the usual 7, and it would appear that the apprenticeship was then transferred in 1818 to a James Watt in the nearby main city of Hull, East Yorkshire, where Thomas’s mother Susana still lived.

I think he must have completed his apprenticeship to become a master craftsman, as it is a profession he follows for a number of years in one form or another, e.g. he worked as builder/carpenter in Australia in the 1840’s. Thomas must have been a skilled cabinet maker as he won a prize for the best round table in an open exhibition in Manchester when he lived there in the late 1820’s early 1830’s.

Thomas married Jane Lancaster (born 1799) on 7th September 1820 the parish church of Saint John and Saint Martin in Beverley, otherwise known as Beverley Minister, E. Yorkshire, England and they were recorded as being a bachelor and a spinster. The marriage was witnessed by her parents John and Mary Lancaster, who made their mark rather than signing their names, but there is no record of Thomas’s parents, and certainly his mother Susana was still alive when they married. John Lancaster worked as a tinsmith in Back Street, Beverley which apparently was near the Black Bull Inn, where the Lancaster’s actually lived for a while. Jane was one of at least four children. William 1794 – transported to Hobart Town in 1829 for 7 years for stealing a kettle was reconvicted in 1837 and sent to the infamous harsh penal colony Norfolk Island and remained in Australia for the rest of his life. William was born in 1803 and could well have grown up and been initially educated with Thomas as they were of the same age and Mary was born in 1805. The Graham and Lancaster families lived very close to each other in Beverley.

Thomas was quite young to get married at about 18.5 years old and apparently not yet out of his apprenticeship as a cabinet maker. I think that his wife Jane could well have been pregnant as their first son John Lancaster Graham was born in late 1820 (which is the year when he himself said he was born) or early the following year in 1821 and he was Christened in June of that year; his brother William Graham was born two years later in 1823.

I have not been able to find any details of colleagues or friends but there may have been a friendship with William Lancaster (Jane Lancaster’s brother) as they were only born a year apart and there was a friendship with a wonderfully named man of the same age, Wilberforce Herdsman who worked as a cordwainer (shoemaker and someone who works articles in fine leather) in Beverley. In 1871 he gave a court witness statement to verify details of Thomas’s life up until he left Beverley, and it would appear that he knew him quite well, attended his wedding and even made his wedding shoes!

Thomas’s life up to this point could be described as being fairly ordinary or uneventful; it would have been quite usual at that time for him to have remained in Beverley or the East Yorkshire area, pursuing his profession locally as a cabinet maker. I think if Thomas had a crystal ball and could have seen how his future life would play out, I think even he would have found it hard to believe!

What actually happened in his life from this point onwards was so extraordinary that it would be hard to believe were it not so accurately evidenced and documented at key points, in contrast to the minimal historical trace that most people left at that time.

So ... from this point on, any reader should not plan on doing anything special and should be sitting down!!

It has taken many years of research to reveal and piece together Thomas’s life, and even in November 2008 I only had a couple of documents and some unproven biographical information. There are still many gaps in his biography and unanswered questions at this stage, but thankfully many of the subsequent events in his life were significant enough to have been documented in newspaper, court reports and legal documents and much of this biography has drawn from those sources, and of course we are wholly dependent on their accuracy, but I have I tried to double check the information.

It would appear that there were marital difficulties between Thomas and Jane from early in their marriage and I am unsure as to quite how long they actually lived together in their own home as husband and wife as it was reported that they soon lost their marital house and Thomas moved away to work in Huddersfield, Halifax and Manchester, sending money back to provide for his wife Jane and son John who was actually born in 1820 at his parents’ house, as was his brother William in 1823.

Thomas was part of the Beverley Militia from 1821 to about 1825, presumably a required part time reserve defence force in England at that time; it would appear that he had to regularly come back to Beverley to serve his time and to perform certain duties in this period.

It would appear that Thomas however also regularly visited his family in Beverley and his mother in Hull.

The second son William was born in 1823; he is recorded as being Thomas’s son, though it would appear that Thomas had already by that time left the marriage which had been marked by marital quarrels with both his wife and her parents. There was an especially serious argument over a legacy of £100 that had come into their possession via his wife Jane.

£100 for a family in their situation in the early 1820’s was actually a significant amount of money by current values. It is recorded in later court testimony that Jane’s father John believed that he was entitled to half of the money for raising her!! Other reports said that Jane also wanted to give her father half the legacy. That is itself probably did not make for harmonious relations with his in laws! However, such a legacy needs to be viewed in its historical context. It would appear to be the case in the early 19th century in England that all of a wife’s money and estate was actually determined to the husbands, including any inheritance, property and any of the wife’s earned income, which would be unusual back then.

The disagreement over this legacy money, and between the two families, was clearly serious and Thomas had apparently left his wife Jane and his son John before their second son William was born in 1823 and it would appear from reports that Thomas only saw his son William once very briefly during a difficult and acrimonious meeting with Jane.

Thomas could be easily accused of simply deserting Jane and his family, and indeed the Lancaster family believed that Thomas did just that with the father John Lancaster forbidding Thomas’s name ever to be mentioned or discussed within the family. As with most marital disputes, the reality was probably more complicated than that; even when initially separated from the family, Thomas sent back money and pictures of himself. There could well have been pressure for Thomas and Jane to marry because of the pregnancy, and the additional pressure over finances and the legacy may have put undue pressure on a young newly married couple and family. Equally, Thomas does give the impression of being a self seeking opportunist at that time; he did indeed sever his links and contact completely with Jane, the Lancaster family and his two sons almost for the rest of his life, despite attempts by his brother in law John Turner to re - establish contact with Thomas by writing to him; all attempts remained thwarted and unanswered.

By 1826 Thomas was already in a new relationship with a widow called Ann Hudson, with whom he had initially lodged with near Stockport, Cheshire, England when he was working away from Beverley. Whether this relationship began after or during his marriage to Jane Graham is not known. Ann had not long been widowed; her solicitor husband Thomas Hudson it was reported died of a stroke in 1826, leaving her and their four young children.

Their relationship soon developed and in 1829 at St Mary's Church, Manchester they married and Thomas must have kept his first marriage secret from Ann; he was still legally married to Jane and remained so until her death some time later in 1860. The marriage had no legal status and was of course bigamous, and it would have significantly affected the legal status of the two children born to Thomas and Ann in this marriage, and to the other four children from Ann’s first marriage and would have compromised any claim from them on Thomas’s estate in later years if contested.

Ann had kept a grocers shop near Stockport which Thomas turned into a hotel, The Shakespeare Hotel, which was not successful. The family had moved to Manchester in the late 1820’s Thomas opened up a furniture shop which would have been in keeping with his professional training as a cabinetmaker, but this was also unsuccessful.

By 1833 Thomas had a further two children with Ann, named after his parents, Thomas born in 1829 and Susanna in 1831.

During 1832/3 Thomas and his wife Ann must have made a decision to emigrate to Australia; he had a professional trade status as a cabinet maker and this trade, and other related skilled trades were in great demand in Australia which was a young and rapidly developing country. There is a record of his applying for and receiving what would have been a loan for an assisted passage and each member of the family was awarded £20, with 8 members listed in their traveling party.

I think that this was the 1832 Emigration Scheme sponsored by the Colonies of New South Wales (a much bigger administrative area than it is now) and Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) on the condition that the husband was a competent workman in what were called the mechanical arts, of which a cabinet maker would qualify. They were listed to Tasmania or Van Diemen’s Land as it was known, which was one of the main areas where prisoners of both serious and extremely minor ‘crimes’ were transported to, but it was then a very underdeveloped area.

There is evidence that Ann already knew a family called Hartley, certainly whilst living in Manchester and it could well be that the two families decided to emigrate together as their applications to the Emigration Scheme and travel plans follow a parallel process. The son, William Hartley Budd (the Budd surname from the first marriage) played a significant role in Thomas’s future life and their lives were intertwined from then onwards.

Additionally, the social and health conditions in Manchester at that time were poor, especially where they lived, there had been a significant cholera epidemic in 1832 from which 674 people had died and both of Thomas’s business ventures had proved to have been unsuccessful.

So, the decision was made to emigrate to Australia. Thomas was recorded visiting his mother for the last time in Hull in late 1832 and saying his goodbyes to her, which must have been an emotional visit as there was little likelihood of them seeing each other again.

It needs to be remembered that all Australian towns were in their infancy at in this period; this was the beginning of Australian colonization, transportation of criminals from England was reaching its peak and it was just before the great gold rush in Victoria, and the so the opportunities for employment and a new beginning especially for a skilled cabinetmaker, must have been very attractive to Thomas and to many others, especially to Irish and Scottish families. It was also an opportunity for Thomas to put his past behind him.

The voyage and journey to Australia

Thomas along with Ann and his new family of 6 children emigrated to Australia in late 1832 and sailed from Liverpool on board the wooden sail boat the Hibernia bound for Hobart Town, Tasmania and Sydney.

Along with the other 209 passengers (settlers) bound for a new life, they must have left with a mixture of hope in their hearts and some trepidation as the potential voyage was both lengthy, the voyage would taken nearly three months, and quite dangerous given the types of vessels they were sailing in, and the intended route which would have taken them around the Cape of Good Hope.

There were 79 males, 80 females, 50 children as passengers and 4 of the crew were boy apprentices.

The wooden sail rigged ship Hibernia – 456 tons register - had a crew of 23 led by a Captain Brend and the intended route and the places it would stop off at en route is not known, other than it would have rounded the Cape.

It is not known for certain where Thomas and the family had intended to settle as the vessel was bound for both Tasmania and Sydney, but it would appear to have been Hobart Town through the assisted passage scheme.

Unfortunately it was not a legal requirement then for a passenger list to be taken at that time so it is not known what the all the Christian names of the six children were.

The Hibernia experienced problems from the start of the voyage, sailing on 27th November 1882 from Liverpool and it encountered immediate heavy weather and sustained some damage during a gale, so it had to put back to Liverpool, eventually sailing out again from there on 6th December 1832.

Tragically, after passing the Equator on the morning of 5th February 1833, the ship caught fire due to an accident and eventually sank north - west of Ascension Island, in an extremely isolated place.

Quite unbelievably by modern safety standards, there were insufficient lifeboats for all of the passengers, less than a third of what was needed, and the three boats that there were – a long boat, a pinnace and a gig – were far from being well maintained or seaworthy.

The Hibernia did not sink immediately, and amazingly some passengers appeared to be more concerned with getting their trunks and luggage ready for the lifeboats than being concerned for the survival of themselves or of their families. The lifeboats were lowered, and about another 30 people got on to a makeshift raft but were never seen again.

Faced with the most heartbreaking and unbelievable dilemma, those who had managed to take to the boats already had to make the decision to cast off from the burning and sinking Hibernia in order to save their own lives as any additional weight from added survivors would have caused the already overloaded boats to sink.

They did so leaving the remaining 153 passengers to be burned to death or to be drowned...

Thomas survived by clinging onto a hencoop before he was taken onto one of the lifeboats but sadly Ann and five of his family died; only his stepson Edward Hudson (but recorded as Edward/Edwin Graham, on the survivors list) survived, and was eventually separately rescued.

The lifeboats had managed to take some very limited supplies including some navigation equipment before the Hibernia sank, and had intended to try and reach the nearest land, the coast of Pernambuco, a State of Brazil, some 1180 miles away.

It would appear from accounts given that the boats were in a very bad seaworthy condition and leaked very badly, requiring 8 men to bail out water continuously around the clock. The depravations must have been dreadful, it would have been very hot, there was little water or food, there was overcrowding and fear; and the prospect of actually reaching land alive was probably minimal.

They endured these conditions for 6 days and nights before being spotted by the male convict ship the Lotus which had sailed from Portsmouth and the British Brig Isabella from Trieste, Guernsey and they were rescued, and conveyed to Rio de Janeiro, arriving there on 20th February. I calculate this as being another 9 days after being rescued, which showed the probable hopelessness of the situation that the survivors were in.

I think Thomas must have been on the main longboat and he was rescued by the Lotus along with William Hartley Budd and his brother Nathanial, the sons of the Hartley family who they knew in Manchester but sadly their parents Samuel and Hannah also perished.

Whilst they stayed in Rio, arrangements had to be made to raise money for both relief purposes and to enable the survivors to continue their journey to Australia. It is said that Thomas worked as a cabinetmaker for a short time whilst he was staying in Rio.

Thomas was reunited with his step son Edward Hudson in Rio de Janeiro after being separately rescued by the Isabella. Many of the survivors including Thomas, Edward Hudson as he was called and William Hartley Budd set sail again on 13th March 1833 and arrived in Hobart town Tasmania (Van Diemen’s Land) on 20th May 1833 aboard the Brig Adelaide.

It would appear that Thomas acted in a guardian role for Edward Hudson, and there are unconfirmed reports that he actually adopted him and whilst he was known to him as his step father, Thomas would have known that their relationship actually had no legal status.

To Thomas’s credit he did not abandon Edward as it would have been all too easy to have done in those tragic circumstances, and given that Edward actually had no legal relationship to him. They remained close for the rest of their lives and Thomas always made financial provision for Edward, even after his death.

Thomas of course would have lost everything he had, and apart from donations given to him, he would have effectively been penniless when he arrived in Hobart Town where he settled initially, in mid 1833.

It is said in reports that he lived and worked in Hobart Town as a cabinet maker but the duration of this stay varies; I think about two years may well be the more accurate figure given the subsequent chronology.

There is evidence that all those taken to Australia were assessed for their capabilities and means, and already Thomas had secured work as a cabinet maker at 8s a day, and it is recorded that this was sufficient to support both himself and his stepson Edward who was about twelve years old. It would appear that Edward was placed initially in one of the orphanages in Hobart Town but for how long it is not known.

It is also recorded that Thomas became an inn keeper whilst he lived in Hobart Town but that is unconfirmed.

One of the other survivors William Hartley Budd (recorded as Hartley on the survivors list) kept in contact with Thomas throughout his life; William Budd later gave evidence at the Graham v Graham court case, held to settle Thomas’s contested estate following his death. (Hartley Budd later ran the Kinlochewe Inn not far from the Robert Burns Hotel at Kinlochewe).

It would be interesting to discover whether they had mutual business interests as William Budd was also quite an entrepreneur himself in Victoria in later years.

Both men followed the same biographical routes living for a time in Manchester, England, settling in Tasmania following the Hibernia tragedy; both were builders, they lived in Melbourne, and both became innkeepers outside Melbourne at a place known then as Kinlochewe, on the main Melbourne – Sydney route. William Budd purchased the Kinlochewe Inn and estate at auction in 1844 and between then and 1851, Kinlochewe was a thriving community as was the Inn as it was on one of the main traveller routes out of Melbourne. William Budd said that he kept in contact with Thomas for the rest of his life, last seeing him a few months before Thomas died.

As an aside, unbelievably William Budd was yet again the victim of a terrible fire 18 years on from the Hibernia sinking when the Black Thursday Bushfires of 1851 destroyed all of his estate, and he was fortunate that his family survived yet another tragedy. Having lost everything again, he once more recovered and built up his business interests and his fortune... such was the resilience of such men at that time!

His connection with Thomas Graham became stronger as Thomas took on the publicans licence of the Robert Burns Hotel on the main Melbourne – Sydney road also at Kinlochewe in September 1850.

The Kinlochewe Inn & Robert Burns Hotel

Webpage on William Hartley Budd



Life in Hobart Town Tasmania

It is at this stage in Thomas’s life that the next extraordinary phase begins, as if it had not been extraordinary enough up to this point!

Witness testimony at the Graham v Graham Equity Court case 1871/72 to determine Thomas’s estate said that during this period in Hobart Town Thomas met a hotel and inn keeper called James Crook, who ran the and more to the point actually began a relationship with his wife Mary Crook.

William Hartley Budd had initially lodged with the Crook family on his arrival in Hobart Town and it could well have been he who introduced Thomas Graham to the Crook family.

The relationship between Thomas and Mary Crook soon developed and they eloped together in about 1836/7 with Mary’s daughter Jane who was about 15 years old and they moved from Tasmania to what is now Melbourne and began living together, when they settled in Port Phillip 1837. The rest of the Crook family were left with their father in Hobart Town. In testimony Mary later accused James of badly ill - treating her in the relationship and if true, may well have been an additional factor in her wish to have a new relationship and to make a new life with Thomas.

The Crook’s were originally from England; they married in 1816 at St Giles in the Fields Middlesex and emigrated on the John Craig arriving in Hobart Town in 1832. They had five children aged between 6 and 14 years on their arrival; twin boys born in England in 1828 would appear to have died in infancy.

Thomas also had an extraordinary encounter during his time in Hobart Town. His brother – in – law William Lancaster had been transported there, arriving in 1830 so he had already served his sentence for about three and a half years when Thomas arrived. The circumstances or the date of the encounter are not known, whether a chance meeting on a work gang or whether William had somehow sought him out, as word had spread in Hobart Town about the Hibernia tragedy and the survivors living there. Apparently there must have been quite a scene as it was later reported with William accusing Thomas of deserting his sister Jane in England.

Thomas in return refused to recognize William saying that he did not know him, and probably saying instead that it was a case of mistaken identity!! Thomas’s heart must have sunk; having carefully concealed key parts of his English past, especially where he had grown up and details of his first marriage to Jane. William effectively publicly announced Thomas’s hidden past, I presume that his step son Edward was not present at this encounter as he had concealed these facts from him as well.

Two key issues come out of this encounter. Firstly, I wonder whether Thomas and Jane Crook’s leaving Hobart Town and arriving in Port Phillip in about 1837 was due in part to this encounter. Secondly, William’s sentence was due to end in 1837, it is not known whether he sought revenge or felt angered or spurned by the encounter, but Thomas may well have been at some degree of risk. He was actually reconvicted in 1837 and sent to Norfolk Island but Thomas may not have known that.  Additionally, William holding knowledge of Thomas’s past laid him wide open to potential blackmail from either William himself or anyone he told the facts to, especially as Thomas was to become quite well known in Victoria in the future through his business ventures and his in his office with the Oddfellows.

Life in Melbourne and Victoria 1837 – 1855.

From the information discovered in the records so far, it is not clear at this stage what the sequence of events were in the period from when Thomas and Mary left Hobart Town and eventually settled in Melbourne.

In her affidavit to the Equity Court in 1871, Mary said that she had moved to Sydney with three of her children and she denied running away with Thomas. She said that Thomas did not go with her but instead went to Sydney later, then went to Valparaiso in Chile, South America and only on his return did they marry in 1840.

However, as intriguing as these comments are – especially Thomas going for a period to live in South America! – it does not appear to square with the records that exist for Thomas and Mary’s recorded whereabouts during that period.

Thomas is recorded as arriving in Port Phillip (the old name and administrative area for what is now Victoria) in 1837 and is recorded in the census for 1837 as living in Queen Street and was already a publican. Registered at that address were two females, Mary and Jane Crook.

He is employed in 1838 by Robert Allan as a carpenter.

In 1848 Thomas is recorded on the electoral role as living in Elizabeth Street.

On 12.9.1849 he employed Catherine Laughlin aged 16 as a house servant for 12 months.

Also in living and working in as the baker was a man called Thomas Davis Weatherly (‘supplied best wheaten bread, at one months credit’ – The Story of Melbourne) who had emigrated from Scotland and had arrived in NSW in about 1826. Thomas must have formed both a friendship and business relationship with Thomas because two of the land purchases in 1838 and again in 1842 involved both he and Thomas. Additionally, Thomas Weatherly began a relationship with the young Jane Crook, and they married on 8/1/1838 in Melbourne with Jane being just over 16 years old, her mother Mary being recorded as being one of the witnesses. They had 3 children; sadly William, an infant and Thomas, a baby both died within days of each other in 1841, possibly of the same illness, their daughter Mary was born in 1844, but I think their marriage ended soon after she was born.

Thomas and Mary Crook themselves married in 1840 in Melbourne on 6.4.1840 at St James Church. Various allegations were raised that this marriage was one of business convenience. Thomas could only have been granted the license to The Edinburgh Castle/Tavern if he was a married man, and licenses were refused to unmarried men. It is said that they simply went off and got married to satisfy that condition, and Thomas was granted his first license on 24.4.1840!

Needless to say, Thomas’s third marriage did not have legal status either on two counts; Thomas’s first wife Jane was still alive until 1860 in England and James Crook, Mary’s 1st husband James did not die until 1845, and in fact he had been committed in his later years to the Hobart Town Lunatic Asylum as it was known then. The marriage was therefore knowingly bigamous for both parties, and would have known to have been so by all of Mary’s family which would be an important fact in later years.

It would appear that in the early 1840’s, the rest of the Crook family also left Hobart Town and came to settle in both Port Phillip and Victoria, there is a record that it was Thomas who encouraged the family to move from Hobart. Jane Crook is recorded as running the Bush Inn/Hotel, Saltwater River in 12/9/1843 with her younger brother William aged 22 as the licensee. It would appear that they jointly ran as the licensing authority thought that William looked too young to manage an Inn! The license was renewed in 27/4/1844.

Mary’s first son, James Elijah Crook (known as Elijah) – Thomas’s ‘step son’ – and his brother William arrived in Victoria with the intention of establishing a cattle station near Albury which had been abandoned, but their hopes were thwarted. Elijah instead moved to Bacchus Marsh and built the Woolpack Inn in 1849/50, had a large business as an auctioneer and had extensive farming properties in the Pentland Hills.

He bought the Manor House in 1849 previously owned by Captain Bacchus, the founder of Bacchus Marsh. Elijah became a prominent member of the community holding several public offices. He was also famous for engaging a tutor for his boys called Andrew George Scott, a lay reader at the church, later to become the infamous bushranger Captain Moonlight who was eventually hanged in Sydney.

Elijah Crook and Thomas Graham had a complex relationship, they were connected in business, Elijah leased Boggy Farm near Bacchus Marsh from Thomas, and I think in difficult periods of their marriage, Mary lived at Bacchus Marsh with Elijah, and did so following Thomas’s death in 1871. Towards the end of Thomas’s life their relationship was strained and acrimonious, Thomas believed that Elijah and the Crooks expected to inherit his estate, and was determined not to let that happen, for whatever reasons.

The next period of Thomas’s life from settling in Melbourne in 1837 to 1850 is when Thomas developed his business interests and accumulated his wealth, which he would appear to have already substantially done by 1850, when it was reported that he was a rich man. Thomas was involved in property buying/selling and land speculation, he was involved from the beginning in the Government land sales; he built Inns and had licences to operate punts across the River Yarra.

Thomas was also extremely interested throughout his Australian life in both farming and agriculture. There are references in his estate papers to his having owned farms and there was a particular farm at Boggy Creek, near Bacchus Marsh outside Melbourne, which was leased to Elijah Crook and there are further references to his having owned horses, cattle and sheep.

He also owned property in Melbourne and land in various parts of Melbourne and Victoria and invested heavily in shares, including gold mines.

His main employment in the 1840’s was as a builder and carpenter in Melbourne and significantly as an Inn and hotel keeper in Melbourne with additional land and property speculation.

Exploring the publican licenses granted in Victoria and Melbourne in that period shows that it was a major business activity, and from the granting of the license dates in his name, the chronology appears to be that he was the innkeeper of the following Inns:


· 24.4.1840 – Edinburgh Castle/Tavern, Melbourne (Robert Fleming was Thomas’s predecessor at the Edinburgh Tavern 17.4.1839).


· 1.1.1841 & 20.4.1841 & renewed 1842 – Edinburgh Castle/Tavern, Collins Street, Melbourne.


· 28.4.1843 – but there is also a ref. to association as early as 1842 - Bush Inn, Elizabeth Street Melbourne. There is an interim period when the licence is transferred to his step daughter/son Jane and William Crook with licences issued on 12.9.1843 and again on 27.4.1844. Between April & July 1844 Thomas Sheehan aged 28 was employed by Thomas as a labourer; likewise Matthew Adam Sept 1844 – March 1845.


· 6.9.1844 – Bush Inn, Saltwater River (also referenced as Saltwater Punt and Punt Inn – a punt being the Australian name for a cable/chain ferry which I guess must have crossed the Saltwater River). I think the original Bush Inn (N.W. corner 153 Elizabeth Street & Little Bourke Street) was established by Ben Levien in 1840 who is in the records of emigration for Port Phillip, Melbourne as establishing the Punt and Inn at Saltwater River.


· 24.4.1845 – Bush Inn, Saltwater River granted a wine and beer licence and this runs through to 1846, when the licence was transferred to a Mr. Henry Kellott. Thomas also held 3 licences to operate punts across the Saltwater River and these also were sold to Kellott along with the Bush Inn – ‘at a handsome profit’.


· 26.7.1846 / 22.1.1847 / 8.5.1847 / 18.4.1848 / 17.4.1849 – British Hotel Queen’s Street Melbourne through to 4.9.1849 when the licence was transferred to John McCormick. Thomas was fined £20 & his night licence withdrawn on 6.8.1849 for breaches of the Licensed Victuallers’ Act for neglecting to preserve order in his house – he actually encouraged a fight which took place instead of preserving order. In March 1848 a case between William Athorn (Thomas’s daughter in laws father) and Thomas was dismissed by the Bench – Thomas was alleged to have assaulted him in a fight in the Hotel.


· 4.9.1850/ 16.4.1851 – Robert Burns Inn (Hotel) Kinlochewe through until 1855 when it was taken on by the firm of MacKay Brothers. Thomas owned the hotel and surrounding 158 acres of farm land, and there are connections with the Crook family in the early 1860’s with a Crook taking charge in 1862 and Thomas Watson – Mary Graham’s grandson- employed for farm work and to help a John Cuzner who was Thomas’s general caretaker/handyman there. Thomas therefore owned both the hotel and surrounding farmland until it was put up for auction in 1865.

· 1858 – Gardeners Creek Hotel, Toorak, S. Yarra – which is the area where Thomas had his stables.

The 1850 date is very significant, in 1851 gold was discovered in Clunes, Ballarat and later Bendigo. If well positioned, some of the country inns and hotels saw incredible trade and profits with the movement of people involved in the gold rush and the subsequent spending of earnings!

I do not know at this stage to what extent he directly ran and managed these inns or whether he oversaw the running of them, but certainly at the Robert Burns Hotel it appears that he was directly involved in the running of the business.

If Thomas’s business interests were diverse and complicated in this period, they were equally matched by his personal relationships....

Thomas and Mary married in 1840 and began living in Melbourne, but never had any children. It appears from court testimony that for whatever reason, there was an estrangement later on between them and she left Thomas, only to be replaced in the home and relationship, by her daughter, now Jane Weatherly from her first marriage which had then ended. They lived together but never married, and though as yet unconfirmed, they probably lived and worked together at the Robert Burns Hotel at Kinlochewe – licences were issued to him in his name, and was later the owner of the Hotel and surrounding farm land up to 1864. In 1850 he is also recorded as being appointed as the postmaster at Kinlochewe on 1/11/1850, where William Hartley Budd had lived and been associated with, and still held the position of postmaster in 1851.

A son was born to them in 1853 but baptised with the surname Weatherly, John Alfred Graham Weatherly, the Graham as a Christian name being particularly significant! Given that Thomas and Jane were unmarried, it would appear that it was more socially acceptable to give him the Weatherly surname on the birth certificate.

The relationship with Jane ended extremely acrimoniously in early in 1856; Thomas appeared in court accused of assaulting Jane and stealing £18 from her. It appears that it was her intention to go north to the goldfields and if she intended to take the son John from their relationship, that would have become a very contentious issue I would imagine. Within weeks she had quickly remarried a Charles Cozens in May 1856 at Beechworth Victoria. It would appear that the son John Weatherly was then brought up with the Cozens surname, which given on his later death certificate in 1908. Jane and Charles followed the gold trail and lived close to the gold bearing towns; Jane herself became an innkeeper and postmistress at Bontherambo in the Chiltern District, Victoria and died in 1876.

(see Robert Burns Hotel)

After Thomas and Jane separated, there was reconciliation between Mary and Thomas after he wrote to her, and Mary did so thinking that Thomas would ‘change his ways...’ and they began living together again as a married couple for the rest of Thomas’s life until 1871.

The next ten years from about 1854 - 1864 are still somewhat unclear as to his exact business interests, but I think this always included farming, land and property speculation.

It would appear that Thomas and Mary decided to move back to Melbourne and he bought plot 62 on the banks of the River Yarra in E. Collingwood between 17/19 March 1857 where their eventual home Ferry Lodge was already situated. This was one of the most desirable and fashionable areas of Melbourne to live, and with other successful businesses along the banks of the River Yarra at that time, sufficient land on the plot to both live and to establish a business.

Thomas was an entrepreneur, speculator and something of a visionary as well but he also gave the impression of being a restless businessman and following his involvement at the Robert Burns Hotel at Kinlochewe it would appear that he was already looking for a new investment and project.

In the late 1850’s it would appear that he invested heavily, both emotionally and financially in a plan which would combine all of his business interests and ideas, Norwich Township; I believe it was to have been his grand plan, his big idea.

Life in Melbourne and Victoria 1855 to 1864

Norwich Township

This initiative was situated in the Parish of Nunawading, County of Bourke and is the area of Melbourne now known as Vermont South. In the 1850’s this area was a rural and underdeveloped area; the land had seen some buying and selling already and a Dr L.L. Smith, a fashionable doctor and member of Parliament had already turned one area nearby into a model farm, vineyard and winery.

On May 25th 1858, Thomas purchased the whole of Lot 35, west of the Dandenong Creek, some 475 acres in a land sale conveyance from John Lobb of Brunswick. This was to have been the site of a new township Norwich and there is a land sale sketch and map in the La Trobe Collection of Vale Maps of what the grand design would be.

Though crude, the proposed land sale map illustrates Thomas’s visionary new project; the area was sub - divided into neat lots ready to be sold based around a central market square, four churches strategically placed at each corner of the town, with the surrounding land devoted to vineyards, grazing, market gardens and agricultural land. Thomas of course was himself particularly interested in farming and agricultural initiatives and innovations, already owing farms and land elsewhere in Victoria.

However, key to Norwich’s development and success, and presumably at the heart of the land speculation, was to have been a railway station, on the main proposed railway line extension to Lillydale which was being developed, and indeed one of the proposed road names in Norwich was Railway Road. The proposed railway was not a pipe dream, the line had already been surveyed to run alongside Burwood Road (now Highway) and whether Thomas had gained inside knowledge of this proposal is not known, but sadly his dreams and visionary plan were dashed when it was decided to move the route of the railway line north, and away from Norwich, the nearest station being eventually established at Box Hill nearly five miles away.

With that one key change, the visionary plan and investment in Norwich remained but a dream; had it succeeded it is likely that the value of the land would have increased considerably and Norwich could well have eventually become a flourishing named suburb of Melbourne.

As a humorous aside, the real cul de sac filming location for the T.V. soap Neighbours is situated in Pin Oak Court in Vermont South so the fictitious suburb of Erinsborough where the programme is played out would roughly cover in size the original area of Norwich! So Thomas’s vision for a unique neighbourhood and community, which was only ever a virtual reality in 1860 was in a playful way replaced by another virtual reality community some 100 years later...!!

The land eventually became used for fruit production on an extensive scale with orchards and vineyards particularly suited to the fertile land. Though complete speculation, I wonder whether Thomas through this initiative wanted to become involved in vineyards and wine production, the area would have been ideal, as an experienced Innkeeper and entrepreneur he would have seen the potential market for developing wines and it would have satisfied his agricultural and entrepreneurial interests.

Later life 1864 to 1871



The next evidenced reference to Thomas is found in 1864 when he was living in what is listed as a substantial brick built house in E. Collingwood in Melbourne on the banks of the River Yarra called Ferry Lodge.

This information comes from the first Collingwood Rate Book for 1864, listing the annual rateable value of the property, the value was considerable compared with the average houses nearby, it being brick built and having eight rooms.

Thomas Graham was listed as a merchant and owner occupier and had a gross annual value of £200 compared with the average properties nearby of around £25 – 40.

The most interesting fact is the neighbouring property on the west side, unoccupied but owned by James Brown with a GAV of £25, a property described as ‘old brewery’.

The Collingwood Rate Book in 1865 lists this property as Thomas’s, he himself is listed as a brewer and occupier of brewery and plant GAV now £180.

To Thomas’s east was his neighbour Edward Osbourne, the ferryman across the Yarra at that point where I think the Walmer Street footbridge now stands.

Along this stretch of the River Yarra there was a mixture of businesses – to his east was a neighbour Peter Nettleton who owned a stone built house and wool washing works also with a high GAV value of £250 in the rate books for 1864.

Parts of the land on the banks of the River Yarra at that time were still very rural, but there was also a lot of industry and businesses which used the river to either dispose of their by-products or as part of the manufacturing processes with few if any pollution controls, which was an on-going tension at that time.

There were breweries, tanning, wool washing and candle making businesses and one social commentator coined the phrase ‘Smellbourne’ to describe perhaps what more the reality was at that time...!

It is no co- incidence that just over three years on from the collapse of the Norwich Township initiative that Thomas wanted to involve himself in a new business project, and with his extensive background and experience as an Innkeeper, at the age of 63 he entered into the world of brewing.

Thomas established Graham's Brewery in 1865 on the Ferry Lodge plot site on the banks of the River Yarra E. Collingwood, Melbourne in the same district as many of the emerging and now well known breweries were also setting up e.g. Yorkshire Brewery 1858; Victoria Parade Brewery 1864; Carlton Brewery 1865; Castlemaine Brewery 1871; and later Fosters 1887.

It is not know as to whether Thomas built the plant from scratch or whether he took over and extended what had been an adjoining disused old brewery owned by James Brown.

The Graham's brewery was renamed Murcutt’s Brewery for a short time when he leased the business in late 1865 /early 1866 to a Robert Murcutt, so it would appear that it only operated as Graham’s Brewery for a matter of months. Murcutt had been an innkeeper himself running the Imperial Inn from 1849 – 50 and the Duke of Sussex in 1851 both in Melbourne. Murcutt’s Brewery was not successful however and Thomas attempted to sell off the whole business at auction, but it did not attract a buyer. I can almost hear Thomas saying in true entrepreneurial style: “well I’ll run it myself then!!” and he became the owner/manager and renamed it as Simpson’s Road Brewery, the nearby road until it was renamed Victoria Street, and he traded under that name, whilst keeping a strong proprietors image of Thomas Graham on the advertising.

Details from the analytical chemists report – William Sydney Gibbons – confirms the production of what he determined to be a variety of fine beers of varying types and strength, the No 1 XXXX being 7.8% and the lighter ale XXX No 2 - 7.7%.

He concluded: ‘Among the very many beers which I have examined, both English and Colonial these are entitled to a high place.’

(see the marvelous lithograph of the Simpson’s Road Brewery – the man wearing the top hat in the carriage in the insert photo could well be Thomas).

Following Thomas’s death in 1871 the business continued to be run and when the business was put up for sale, the site and brewery was bought by Messrs Boyd & Head in 1874 who renamed it as the Shamrock Brewery (later to become the Shamrock Brewing and Malting Company Ltd) one of the big 9 breweries who combined to form Carlton and United Breweries (CUB) in 1907 - one of Australia’s most successful multi -national companies.

Henry Collis Boyd was born in Ireland in 1841 in Limerick and emigrated to Australia had been Thomas’s head brewer, and was clearly an experienced and talented brewer, the range and quality of the beers were assessed as being exceptional. The same recipe was perhaps used by Boyd for some of the later Shamrock Brewery beers which were also highly regarded.

Whilst this business would have increased the value of his estate overall, I think by comparison to other breweries in Melbourne, the Simpson’s Road Brewery was perhaps not a major player, and the market place for brewing was not at all easy in that period; competition for business was tight and there were 126 breweries by 1871 in Victoria alone. It could well have been that Thomas pursued his other business interests alongside running the brewery until his death.

However, that is a speculative viewpoint; in 1900, 30 years on from Thomas’s death, the Shamrock Brewery – see photo – occupied an enormous site where the Simpson’s Road Brewery stood. Whether the Shamrock Brewery incorporated the Simpson’s Road brewery into the site, demolished it, or whether Thomas actually developed the site himself before his death and after the Simpson’s Road Brewery photo was taken, it not yet known.

The brewery was demolished in 1968 and the site was used for a number of purposes and became very polluted, a controversial issue when it came to building the Metropolitan Fire Training College which now stands on the site.


Shamrock Brewery c. 1900 – 1910



Oddfellows (MUIOOF)

Manchester Unity Independent Order of Oddfellows (MUIOOF) was rooted in the Friendly Societies which were established in England and later Australia in the 19th century. They were based on the principles of mutual self help and financial support for its membership in hard times as well as engaging in social and fraternal activities. MUIOOF was established in Australia in Melbourne in 1840 when Dr Augustus Greeves a member of the MUIOOF in England emigrated to Australia and with others committed himself to establish a Lodge.

On 25th June 1840 Thomas Graham was in the chair at a meeting which resolved to establish a Lodge in Melbourne. Thomas is listed as P.V. Graham which may be a spelling mistake but it suggests that Thomas had already had involvement and held high office as perhaps a Past Vice Grand Master within the Oddfellows, perhaps even back in England.

Very few records are held on his involvement with the Oddfellows either in England or Australia but it came as a surprise to me to discover the extent of his involvement. In 1845 he was appointed Deputy Grand Master to Dr. A F A Greeves of the Port Phillip District; a Provincial Grand Master of the Port Phillip District in 1847 and he became a Grand Master of the Order in 1861 and served on committees and visited other areas such as Geelong in an Oddfellows role.

Many key business people, innkeepers and colonists were connected with and held office with such organizations such as the Oddfellows, especially for mutual self help and business associations, and Thomas clearly understood the advantages and benefits of belonging to such an organization.

1871/2 Graham v Graham Equity Court Case Melbourne

Though he had been very unwell at Christmas 1870, and also at times in the couple of years proceeding but he made a good recovery.

Whether this brush with his mortality prompted the following decision we shall never know, but on 1st January 1871 and perhaps as quite a New Year’s resolution, unknown to anyone else he wrote a short letter to his sons John and William in Beverley E Yorkshire England. There had been no contact between them or with his now deceased wife Jane for over 46 years.

The letter was written with a view to them inheriting his whole fortune and estate.

However Thomas died unexpectedly at his home at Ferry Lodge on 31st January 1871.

An article in the Brisbane Courier reported on the circumstances of his death; a grand finale in a life of sometimes impetuous acts!

‘He was an aged man and died somewhat suddenly of congestion of the lungs, occasioned by incautiously bathing in the sea on 31st January last’ (1871); rather impressive for a man of 69!

The Port Phillip Herald on 3rd February 1871 reported details of the funeral held the previous day:

‘Thomas Graham, proprietor of the Simpson’s Road Brewery, a colonist of 30 years standing...... the funeral cortege was fully a mile in length. At the Manchester Unity Hall, Swanston St it was joined by a large number of members of the MUIOOF of which Mr Graham was the Past Grand Master. The members were headed by Dr Greeves, the founder of the Order in Victoria.’

The controversial life to his life which Thomas had attempted to keep secret was about to be revealed to both Australia and the world with the administration and disposal of his estate, made complicated by his not having left a will. It would appear that thoughts on both his own mortality and the importance of writing a will had been forefront in his mind in the months preceding his death. However, his decisiveness as a businessman was in sharp contrast to his reluctance and procrastination in writing a will. There is clear evidence that he kept changing his mind on the issue as to who should benefit from his estate in the event of his death, and he had some conversations on the issue with both his solicitor and some close friends.

His deliberations on the issue are only recorded as snippets of information, but in themselves are surprising and perhaps say much about Thomas himself. At one point he intended leaving it all to a hospital, at others to one of his favourite Crook granddaughters Mary Charlotte Francis, or to his only legal heirs, his English sons John and William. It would also appear that he wished to make a lifetime provision on his death to his step son Edward Hudson. For whatever reasons however, he was reluctant to leave any of his estate to his immediate Crook family, and had to be reluctantly be persuaded by his solicitor to consider, and then increase, a lifetime annual financial provision to his wife Mary, but there is no evidence that he intended to leave his whole estate to her.

Even in death mystery continued to surround Thomas. His age was given on his death certificate as 76, and perhaps it had been genuinely reported as being so by his wife Mary. In actual fact he was 68 possibly just 69 years old, depending on his date of birth. It may well have been the case that Thomas increased his age on meeting Mary so as to appear older than her, or maybe to lay a false trail should anyone attempt to trace his origins through record searches.

Additionally, on his headstone in Melbourne General Cemetery, despite the apparent antagonisms with the Crook family, later interments include six Crook family members, including two grandchildren in their 20’s and their parents, a great grandchild not quite two years, but not his wife Mary.

Dying intestate made the difference to the controversial life of Thomas Graham being propelled into the media spotlight instead of fading to relative obscurity. If he had decided not to write to his two sons in England and instead written a will and named only a single beneficiary, it is unlikely that any news of the administration and disposal of his estate would have reached his sons in England for them to contest the will. Additionally, if Thomas had chosen not to name key Crook family members as beneficiaries such as his wife Mary or step son Elijah Crook, their contesting the will could well have drawn undue attention to the legal pack of cards which Thomas had created, and specifically the bigamous marriage to Mary which in reality had no legitimate legal status.

With this in mind, Mary Graham and other members of the Crook family must have been in something of a serious dilemma following Thomas’s death. Whatever the discussions, and whether of her own volition or with poor advice from family members, Mary as the apparent widow decided to quickly proceed with the sale and disposal of the whole estate.

In taking this risk, Mary neither paid sufficient heed to what she already knew or suspected; to the potential inevitable estate disputes and potential time bombs which were ticking away in the background, as ever in these circumstances can be motivated by greed, unfinished business, unfairness, moral standpoints etc. In this saga to come, the potential players in the known group had already lit their fuses! These included her own daughter Jane, now remarried as Jane Cozens who had lived in a relationship with Thomas for some years and with whom had a son John; Henry Boyd, head brewer at the Brewery who stood to lose or gain all through Thomas’s untimely death; Edward Hudson, ‘step son’ from Thomas’s second marriage with whom Thomas had remained extremely close throughout their lives.

However, unknown to Mary, there was a second unknown group of players whose time bombs were potentially far bigger than any of those who were known or suspected. Within this group I would firstly place all those, and importantly unknown to Mary, who knew something of the secrets of Thomas’s past life in England, including those who he had had conversation with or had confided in. Many came forward to make affidavit statements for the court case.

Thomas had either directly told, or inferred that he had two sons still alive in England to at least four people and they later testified to that knowledge for the court proceedings. Whether through taking a moral standpoint or otherwise, these people could have used this knowledge in a variety of ways....

Thomas’s brother in law William Lancaster with whom he had the encounter in Hobart Town always held the knowledge and truth of Thomas’s English life, as could well many of his fellow convicts depending on who he told the injustice to. This fact could have always laid Thomas open to potential blackmail whilst he was alive or more importantly in the administration of his estate.

However, the biggest of all the time bombs, completely unknown to Mary, was primed some 12000 miles away in England when John Lancaster Graham and his brother William received the letter written by their father on 1st January 1871 from his home at Ferry Lodge....

Mary proceeded to dispose of the estate and it was suggested by some that she may have even begun to do so before the court actually appointed her as the administratix. Whether after over 30 years of being married to Thomas, Mary had convinced herself of the moral, if not legal, rightness of her actions we will never know, but her actions completely depended on the legal process being uncontested.

However, some of the time bombs which had been quietly ticking away in the background were about to go off.....

Outside of the formal court process, her own daughter Jane, now remarried as Jane Cozens, detonated first; she objected to her mother being appointed as the estate administratix. Jane raised the truth of her mother’s bigamous marriage to Thomas, whilst Mary made counter accusations that she was equally guilty of bigamy, her first husband Thomas Weatherly still being alive when she remarried, instead of being dead as Jane had claimed. Both mother and daughter were in fact correct, and in the knowledge that this could have completely destroy her claim to the estate, Mary took the elegant solution of offering Jane £5000 to possibly reconsider her position...! In 1871 that would have been a significant amount of money, but for whatever reasons the offer fell through and the accusations instead were considered by the court, which the press gleefully reported!

At this stage the court case could have gone into meltdown over these issues were they not utterly eclipsed by the legal bombshell which was about to hit the court process from England.

From that point on, what should have been a straightforward administrative process though the court to dispose of the estate became a major, famous and widely reported Equity Court Case called Graham v Graham and was heard between 1871/2. It made international news, and was described as 'the Colonial Titchborne Case', after another sensational contemporary court case.

Changing the status of the case also hastened the priming of the final bombshells, as the court was required to elicit evidence outside the formal court process in the form of taking sworn written affidavits in Beverley, England and in Melbourne from key parties in order to establish evidence to confirm Thomas’s identity and his background life when he lived in England which would be deliberated in court the following year. In doing so, the evidence gathered was to raise serious questions for both the defence and plaintiff legal teams. More importantly, when heard and considered by the presiding Judge Robert Molesworth, his eyebrows must have been more than raised when these additional evidential time bombs detonated.

The power of the pen was never more potent than in Thomas’s letter to England.

For whatever reasons, shortly before his death on 1st January 1871, Thomas had written to his two sons, John Lancaster Graham and William Graham, in England, with whom he had not had contact for 46 years. There was later speculation that Thomas fearing his mortality had been driven by his conscience to make amends for his desertion to his only English sons. I think in reality only Thomas himself knew of the legal implications of the pack of cards which he had created during his life, his three marriages and effectively fourth in his long term relationship to Jane. I think it was his genuine intention, knowing that only they were his rightful legal heirs, to invite them to Australia, judge their worthiness and character and if proven sufficiently sound to have formally written them into his will in some way, hopefully along with specified arrangements for his wife Mary.

However from both procrastination and indecisiveness he had at another stage even considered bequeathing his whole estate to a favourite granddaughter, then married as Mary Charlotte Francis.

Had he lived, goodness knows how Thomas would have begun to explain the existence of John and William Graham to his wife Mary, had they had actually sailed to Australia to be reunited with him after all those years and after having kept their existence and his first marriage to Jane secret from her. However, it had clearly been on his mind in his later years, in 1870 he had asked two hotel brokers Carter and Denyer to privately sell the brewery and he had thought of going to England to find and see John and William if he could have sold it.

Thomas was a shrewd businessman, and despite his procrastination in preparing a will with his solicitors, I think it was his serious intention to eventually leave his estate primarily to his sons. Only he knew that if he were to die unexpectedly or if his will was contested and the truth revealed that the whole estate could well have gone to the State of Victoria instead. Mary and the Crook family, his step son Edward Hudson would have had no legal claim to the estate, though would of course have had some strong moral arguments and justification for believing they did!

In the letter he urged his sons to travel to Australia with the appropriate documentation in order to evidence and prove both his identity, his marriage to his first wife Jane, and their own status as his legitimate sons. John and William must have received the letter with a roller coaster of emotion, and to men living in very modest, if poor circumstances, an estate valued by their father at ‘not less than £50000...’, must have been the equivalent of being given access to the winning National Lottery ticket.

There were also ominous final concluding sentences in his letter:

‘You must hurry on, for life is very precarious, and lately I have been ill, but I am a very great deal better a present. All other information you will be able to get when we meet, if ever we do.’

Thomas was not terminally ill and at 69 years old he had probably hoped to live for many years and perhaps put his past life and mind at rest.

Amazingly the letter, though just addressed John and William Graham, Beverley, England actually reached them fairly quickly and John wrote an emotional, genuine and heartfelt reply to his long lost father:

‘I assure you the letter was to me as if I had received the communication from heaven... The news came to me as of one recovered from the dead.’

‘I earnestly hope your health may be restored, and that you may be spared to see your sons, and it is my earnest prayer to have the great blessing of embracing my father in this world. It would be to me, indeed, as a great gift from Heaven.’

Sadly, Thomas had already died, just 30 days after writing his letter to them.

John Lancaster Graham’s solicitors were successful in obtaining an injunction which suspended Mary Graham’s status the Administratrix, and so prevented her from disposing of estate assets.

The case was transferred to the Equity Court whilst their claim to be Thomas’s sons and rightful heirs were scrutinised through the court process, and considerable evidence was taken both through taking affidavits in both England and Australia to help verify Thomas’s real identity and origins along with the claims of his sons during mid 1871 to early 1872.

John travelled to Australia, armed with certificates and papers and a solicitor, Appleton Watson, in late 1871, to contest his father’s estate, and give evidence leaving behind a wife and seven children, at their house in Dog and Duck Lane, Beverley.

The Equity Court Case, Graham v Graham was overseen, heard and the verdict decided on by Chief Justice Robert Molesworth, and was a protracted and contentious affair with both sides attempting to prove or disprove Thomas’s past identity and whether or not the letter written by Thomas was in fact a forgery. Deliberations were not helped of course by the false trail which he had laid himself!

Key witnesses such as Mary and Jane knowingly gave some false information to the court, but other parts of their testimony, and from other witnesses making sworn affidavits, though incorrect were given in good faith and was the truth as they knew it and had been led to believe by Thomas himself. It is clear that Thomas in covering up aspects of his past English life had laid a false trail in telling his story, particularly over birth, education and marriage details. Perversely, to other confidants he had been surprisingly honest, actually telling them that he had been born in Beverley and that he had two sons!

On a technical level some aspects of the case were fascinating in themselves, handwriting samples were meticulously examined by experts as the defence team believed the letter to England to be a forgery from Australia, some of the earliest examples of what was then called photolithography were used on some documents in court.

The outcome of the case decided on by Judge Molesworth on 8th August 1872 was to award the whole of the considerable estate, to his two sons, John Lancaster Graham and the late William Graham; the correct legal decision as they were indeed the only rightful and legal heirs and no-one else involved had any legal status. Mary Graham was not entitled to any of the estate; the case was dismissed on appeal and she had to pay substantial legal costs. Of course now the same events and case might well be determined in court quite differently, and Mary’s status after 30 years of marriage to Thomas, albeit bigamous, would be very differently and far more sympathetically regarded.

Sadly, William Graham died in England about a month before the outcome of the court case from a heart condition aged just 49 years old, having remarried just less than a year before in bizarre circumstances, apparently an overnight romance and marrying the woman the following day!

The details of Thomas’s colourful, extraordinary and controversial life were laid bare in court in an 18 month period and the press had a field day, it had all the major ingredients of a sensational story and it was reported as a ‘cause celebre’, in Australian, New Zealand, British and New York papers... ‘Truth stranger than fiction’ as one reported the case in its headline...

Following the outcome of the case, the Court took over the responsibility for the administration of the estate, the valuation and sale of assets and there were lengthy hearings and deliberations from parties who had both a legitimate or otherwise claim to the estate because they were owed money, e.g. suppliers to the brewery and the number of creditors were considerable.

It took a further two years for the estate to be settled and for the legal processes to be completed in 1874 and with a considerable inheritance, Thomas’s son and heir, John Lancaster Graham’s own extraordinary biography was to continue....

and what happened to....??

Jane Graham Thomas’s 1st and only legal English wife. From the records Jane would appear to have led an increasingly impoverished life. In the 1841 English census she was living with her mother and sister Mary and her two sons John and William. She never remarried and she is recorded in 1851 working as a charwoman, latterly needing to seek Poor Relief from the Parish; her sister was recorded as being a pauper. She died in 1860 in Beverley East Yorkshire where she had spent all of her life.

Mary Graham Thomas’s 3rd and Australian wife. Following the outcome of the Equity Court case and appeal, Mary had to pay substantial court costs, though this might have been settled by her son Elijah Crook. She went to live with him at The Manor House at Bacchus Marsh and is photographed there in about 1883 in a wheelchair, living there until she was over 90.

Sadly and strangely she is buried in Melbourne General Cemetery in an unmarked grave, neither with Thomas Graham nor with her son Elijah Crook at the family burial plot at Bacchus Marsh.

Edward Hudson Step – son and possibly even adopted son from Thomas’s 2nd marriage to Ann Hudson in England prior to their emigrating.

Edward it would appear remained in Hobart Town and was still working there in his early 20’s, before moving to Melbourne. He worked with boats as an occupation all of his life; on his move to Melbourne he was the ferryman at Kew and lived very close to Thomas in Studley Park. He had two marriages, a lengthy first marriage lasting 27 years to Anna Stagg with whom he had two sons, Charles and Edward and the second to Sarah Osborn who outlived him by 29 years; He died unexpectedly to would seem in 1887 aged 66, having been married to his second wife for less than 3 years.

John Lancaster Graham It is yet to be established whether John inherited half or the whole of his father’s Australian estate as his brother William had died in 1871. By the time of the settlement in 1874, he had a family of 11 but by the 1891 English census he was recorded as living in very modest financial circumstances in England, the fortune apparently having been either spent or lost.

John Alfred Cozens Thomas and Jane’s ‘illegitimate’ son. As yet little has been found of John’s life; he is recorded in later life working as a fisherman in the Corowa area of NSW in Australia and died aged 56 from what would appear to have been an accident. There is no record of his having married or had children.

Jane Crook/Weatherly/Cozens Following the relationship ending with Thomas, Jane married Charles Cozens in 1856, itself a bigamous marriage as her first husband Thomas Weatherly was still alive at the time of the marriage. She used her experience with Thomas at the Robert Burns Hotel to become an Innkeeper and postmistress herself in later life.

And what of the man?

Even though I am the direct descendent of Thomas Graham, throughout the research I have attempted to remain objective in assessing the man’s life, even though at times it has been an emotional roller coaster of a journey, fuelled in part by the contemporary and at times sensational news reporting of his life. It is true to say that he led an extraordinary life and it would not be an exaggeration to say that it was something of a ‘rags to riches’ story; born in a poor family in England, arriving in Australia bereaved and penniless in 1833 but dying a very rich man. In common with other entrepreneurial colonists of the time, he was driven, opportunistic, astute and probably quite ruthless in business. Had he written a will, his life would probably have faded into obscurity, but instead the Graham v Graham Equity Court Case thrust his personal life and relationships into the media spotlight.

Every reader will form their own judgment of both Thomas and those with whom he had a relationship, but I would encourage their lives to be viewed through historical lenses. Their lives were rooted in, and shaped by, the 19th century context in which they lived, not the 21st, and this applies to legal issues, divorce, attitudes towards marriage and gender roles within those marriages, as well as the social and cultural context in which they lived. Thomas’s history of bigamy was extraordinary, but it needs to be also matched against the general prevalence of bigamy in England and Australia in the 19th century, given that divorce was exceptionally unusual and difficult to obtain. As with other colonists, the opportunities for acquiring fortunes in a developing country were high, but were probably not for the feint hearted and the men who succeeded such as Thomas probably needed to be larger than life figures, especially those who were landlords in the gold rush days.

He was clearly an exceptionally complex man when it came to his personal life and relationships, he was described as being secretive and did indeed keep much of his past life secret from even his Australian wife Mary and his step son Edward Hudson.

It was a life also marked by tragedy, sadness, courage and determination.

I have often speculated as to what thoughts he had of his sons John and William over the years, and his motivation to make contact with them after over 40 years of separation. It is also interesting to speculate how life could have been in Australia with his second English wife Ann and family had the Hibernia tragedy not occurred in 1833 and instead how Thomas, with his dreams shattered and barely escaping death himself, had to rebuild his life from scratch.

Finally, his entrepreneurial spirit and successes cannot be doubted, he was a shrewd decision maker, knew when to buy and sell and invest and knew how to cultivate and use business contacts and relationships, sufficient to become one of the 700 people selected by the photographer T.F. Chuck between 1869 – 1872 for the famous photo mosaic ‘The Explorers and Early Colonists of Victoria’ now held by the State Library of Victoria in their collection.

Acknowledgements

Researching and writing this biography would not have been possible without the tireless dedication, enthusiasm and generous support of Australian amateur family historians and librarians; their kindness has been simply amazing.

My thanks in particular must go to Dee Peart (g.g.g.g. granddaughter of James and Mary Crook), Christine Keitel, Karen Cummings and Hartley Budd (descendent of William Hartley Budd) who enthusiastically set about the research task with their genealogical trowels and with minimal information; it has been a joy working with them and I hope that the collaboration has significantly enhanced their own particular areas of research in both family and local history.

I am currently writing a book on both the lives of Thomas Graham and his son John Lancaster Graham and their relationship; hopefully this biography gives both a taste and preview of two previously forgotten but amazing life stories from the 19th century.

Keith Graham June 2009




William Hartley Budd testified at the Graham versus Graham Equity Court Case 1871/72.

Supreme Court, Melbourne, in 1872.
He stated (Argus 31 May 1872 p.3).

I shall be 63 on the 1st June. I am a native of Kent, but I came to this colony from Lancashire on the 6th December, 1832. I came by the Hibernia. We sailed from Liverpool.
Thomas Graham was a passenger. I had many conversations with him on board as to where he came from. He said he came from Beverley, in Yorkshire; he had a wife and six children on board. He was from 33 to 35 years of age then.


Some of the children were called Graham and some the Hudsons. The eldest was a daughter about 18. There was a boy named Edward Hudson, of the age of nine or ten.
My parents, who were on board, knew the Mrs. Graham who was with him. She was previously married to Mr. Hudson, solicitor, of Stockport. The Hibernia was burnt at sea, on 5th February, 1833. Thomas Graham was in the same boat as me.


None of family were in the boat. Edward Hudson was in another boat. Mrs. Graham and the rest did not get into any boat. They perished. Our boat was picked up by the Lotus, a prison ship bound to Tasmania. We were taken to Rio Janeiro; and we arrived there on the 22nd February, 1833.


On the following morning the Isabella came in with the boat which contained the other passengers which were saved. Edward Hudson was in it. Thomas Graham and I lived together in the naval boarding-house at Rio for about 14 days. Graham worked at his trade there as a cabinetmaker. We left Rio by the ship Adelaide, for Hobart Town. Thomas Graham and Edward Hudson were with us. We all landed at Hobart Town in May, 1833. I remained at Hobart Town until October, 1833. Graham left 12 or 15 months after we arrived. So long as he was there he and I kept up our acquaintance.


The first house I was invited into in Tasmania was the house of Mr. and Mrs. Crooke. Mr. Crooke was an officer in the Customs. They had five or six children. The names of two sons were James Elijah and William John. The former is now at Bacchus Marsh. Two days after I landed in Melbourne in 1838 I met Thomas Graham. He was living where the Bush Inn now stands. He bought the inn afterwards. He was a builder. Mrs. Crooke was living with him. I don't think any of the family, except the youngest daughter, were with them.


I keep up my acquaintance with Graham until April 27, 1870, which was the last time I saw him. I have not the slightest doubt that he is the same man who died at Ferry lodge in January, 1871. The Mrs. Crooke who lived with Graham in 1838 is the same person who now calls herself Mrs. Graham.


Graham was always a fine good-looking man. He was about 5ft.7 and 1/2in. in height. I am use to measuring. His complexion was fair, florid. He was always stout. In May, 1871, I received a letter from the defendants solicitor, Mr. Windsor, asking for information. I told him that I could give the evidence I have given to-day.


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