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Andrew Thompson


A remarkable journey from boy convict to
first emancipist magistrate & Lachlan Macquarie’s friend

The opening chapter narrates Thompson’s childhood in the Scottish village of Yetholm. Born in 1773 to a merchant family, he and his brothers were educated to become successful merchants. Apprenticed as a weaver, at age 16 he and another weaver were charged with stealing pistols and textiles from his brother William and from another merchant. To avoid capital punishment he pleads guilty and is sentenced to 14 years transportation. Andrew is outcaste from his proud disgraced family. After an eventful voyage on the Pitt Thompson arrives in NSW in 1792 and sent to Parramatta as a stonemason. Later he is made a Constable at the infamous Toongabbie prison farm, and in 1796 moves to the Hawkesbury as an elected Constable. Thompson acquires his first farm in 1799, and becomes Chief Constable in 1801. By 1802 he is the colony’s 2nd largest grain grower employing 32 men. Popular leader with settlers, and despite opposition by the NSW Corps and John Macarthur, who becomes his arch-enemy, he builds a vast business empire of farms, cargo ships, tannery, saltworks, brewery, shop, granary, warehouses and a toll bridge, employing 124 men. In 1807 Thompson becomes bailiff of Bligh’s farm Blighton and supports him during the rebellion. Following Bligh’s arrest, Thompson is interrogated by rebels about Bligh’s corruption. He later acquires central land in Sydney and builds a grand house, and shares it with his de facto partner, an Irish emancipist. Reverend Marsden accuses him of immoral cohabitation. In a series of devastating Hawkesbury floods, he bravely rescues many settlers. In early 1810 Thompson is made Chief Magistrate; first ex-convict in the Empire to be awarded this honor. His health is badly affected in flood rescues, he dies in October of respiratory failure. Given a hero’s burial, Governor Macquarie names the central park in Windsor Thompson Square. Hugely wealthy, he leaves half his estate to his Scottish family and a quarter to Governor Macquarie. His estate takes 15 years to settle because the Scottish family refuses to take money from a convict, and believes the inheritance to be dishonorable. Macquarie intercedes and the family eventually accepts the bequest (£1m today) in 1825. A benefactor’s son would later become the Archbishop of York.

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