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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Taber, Thomas (1763–1842)

by V. W. E. Goodin

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

Thomas Taber (1763-1842), convict, teacher and parish clerk, was born on 10 May 1763 in London, where he later married Frances Sarah Medhurst. He arrived in Sydney on 2 June 1797 with his wife and three children, Deborah, Frances Sarah and Thomas. Two other children, James and George, were born in the colony.

Although a watch-finisher by trade he was immediately employed as a teacher at the school established in his church by Richard Johnson, and was an instant success. His consistent and satisfactory work won the appreciation of Johnson and an award of £10 a year from the Society for Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts. After the church was burned down in October 1798, the school was conducted under very unsatisfactory conditions, first in the Court House and then in 'an old Store House, very cold and damp'. Taber carried on steadfastly and was rewarded with the additional position of parish clerk in 1800. In 1802 he was transferred to Parramatta, but was back in Sydney in 1805. Taber reopened the school in rented premises; it was given some government assistance, but in every other way was a private school. Governor Lachlan Macquarie gave teachers the full status of government employees; this enabled Governor Sir Thomas Brisbane to grant Taber's request in 1824 to retire and to fix a pension for 'your unremitting attention to your duty as Schoolmaster in this colony upwards of twenty-five years' at £50 with an additional £20 for services as parish clerk. As the schools passed out of government control soon afterwards, Taber was one of the very few teachers to draw a pension. He did so till he died on 1 May 1842.

Thomas junior assisted his father and then was in charge of St Philip's Infant School for many years. Thomas senior and his sons James and George received grants of land near Liverpool and successfully pioneered the Menangle district.

Select Bibliography

  • J. J. Moloney, Early Menangle (Newcastle, 1929)
  • manuscript catalogue under Thomas Taber (State Library of New South Wales).

Citation details

V. W. E. Goodin, 'Taber, Thomas (1763–1842)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 23 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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