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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Walker, Thomas (1791–1861)

by Ida McAulay

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

Thomas Walker (1791-1861), commissary and settler, was born on 3 December 1791 in Yorkshire, England, the third son of John Walker, barrister-at-law, of Headingley near Leeds, and Mary, née Rogerson, whose mother had been Elizabeth Brooke of Rhodes Hall near Leeds. He entered the army before 18 and was attached to Wellington's staff. He served in the commissariat in the Peninsular war, in France, in the Netherlands and at Waterloo. He was appointed assistant deputy commissary general in December 1814 and as a passenger in the convict transport Friendship arrived at Port Jackson on 13 January 1818. He served in the Sydney stores until October when he was sent to take charge at Port Dalrymple. On taking up his duty he applied successfully for a grant of 800 acres (324 ha) at Port Dalrymple. He also received other 'indulgencies', among them an allotment on which to build a government house at George Town. With the intention of settling permanently he improved his land and stocked it.

During his time in the commissariat at Port Dalrymple he was often at loggerheads with the commandant, Lieutenant-Colonel Gilbert Cimitiere, whom he accused of trying to make personal profit from supplying the stores. After mutual recrimination he refused to have personal dealings with the commandant and communicated with him through his clerk who sent messages to Cimitiere's clerk. This earned him Lieutenant-Governor William Sorell's severe condemnation, but as Walker was on the point of returning to Sydney nothing was done about it.

He sailed early in October 1819 in the schooner Sinbad, and after some time in Sydney was put in charge at Parramatta and Windsor. He built a house on the Parramatta River at Concord which he called Rhodes. On 4 January 1823 at St John's Church, Parramatta, he married Anna Elizabeth, second daughter of John Blaxland. They had four sons and nine daughters.

In 1825 Walker retired on half-pay through ill health which he attributed to his strenuous work in the service. In 1832 he left Sydney, took his family to Van Diemen's Land, and built another Rhodes on his grant at South Esk near Longford. Made a magistrate in October 1837, he lived at Rhodes in Tasmania until he died on 12 April 1861, when his family returned to Rhodes in New South Wales.

Walker was ambitious and had hoped to be made commissary-general; he felt that after eight years service he deserved something better than retirement at the same rank with which he had come to the colony. However, he was more successful as a pioneer, and besides building two fine homes he became the owner, through grants and purchases, of valuable properties in New South Wales, Tasmania and at Port Phillip.

Select Bibliography

  • Hobart Town Courier, 20 May 1836
  • Cornwall Chronicle (Launceston), 29 Sept 1838.

Citation details

Ida McAulay, 'Walker, Thomas (1791–1861)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 22 October 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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