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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Laycock, Thomas (1786–1823)

by G. H. Stancombe

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (MUP), 1967

Thomas Laycock (1786?-1823), soldier and explorer, was the son of Thomas Laycock and his wife Hannah, and came to Sydney with his mother in 1791. He entered the New South Wales Corps, was commissioned ensign in December 1795 and promoted lieutenant in 1802. After serving in turn at Sydney and Norfolk Island, he was sent to Port Dalrymple in 1806 under Captain Anthony Fenn Kemp. He was entrusted with dispatches for Lieutenant-Governor David Collins in Hobart Town, and made the first journey across the island, with the object of obtaining relief for the famine stricken northern settlement. With a party of four men and three weeks provisions, Laycock went by way of the Lake River on 3 February 1807 and reached Hobart on 11 February, after penetrating the mountains past Wood's Lake (first known as Laycock's Lake) and descending the valley of the Clyde to the Derwent. After four days rest they made the return journey in less than a week but without help for the northern famine, as Hobart was equally short of food. For this service Laycock was rewarded with a cow, then greatly prized because of the shortages of food and livestock.

He returned to Sydney and in January 1808 was a member of the Criminal Court assembled to try John Macarthur whose behaviour led to the arrest and deposition of Governor William Bligh. Laycock was the only casualty in the Rum Rebellion; while searching Government House he fell through a manhole on to his 'principal joint'. Partly because of his support for the new administration and partly as a reward for his exploration, he was granted 500 acres (202 ha) of land at Cabramatta by Lieutenant-Governor Joseph Foveaux, but like all the rebels' grants it had to be surrendered when Governor Lachlan Macquarie assumed office.

Laycock, newly married to Isabella, daughter of Eber Bunker, returned to England with the corps in 1810, was promoted captain in the 98th Regiment in September 1811 and served in the American war. When his regiment returned to Britain Laycock sold his commission and in March 1817 reached Sydney in the Fame with his wife and two children. His wife died in May, and in July at St Philip's Church he married Margaret, daughter of John Connell, merchant, who bore him two more children. He set up a store, opened a hotel and was soon a large supplier of meat to the commissariat. In 1819 he was one of the leading citizens applying for trial by jury in the colony. He died on his estate at Bringelly on 7 November 1823, aged 37.

Select Bibliography

  • Historical Records of Australia, series 1, vols 6-7, 9-10, series 3, vol 1
  • Sydney Gazette, 17 Oct 1812, 30 July 1814, 4 July 1818.

Citation details

G. H. Stancombe, 'Laycock, Thomas (1786–1823)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 30 September 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (MUP), 1967

View the front pages for Volume 2

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