Sunday, July 31, 2016

Thomas Grayson Fisher - b 1837

Thomas Fisher -  Sailor, Rouge and Country Station Overseer.

Thomas Grayson Fisher stood at the bar of the Hero of Waterloo at Sydney Cove in 1857 and studied the people there. The life of a sailor might be good enough for his father Captain George Fisher, but this was his moment to leave it behind him.

He ordered a pint and a room and looked around at the unfamiliar rough sandstone walls and wooden furniture.   He knew that captain Harmsworth would report his jumping ship to the Constables soon enough and then the pearl over his right eye would be a dead giveaway.

It wasn’t long before he was talking to a couple of rough spivs who told him about work out at South Creek, where there were some sheep stations being set up, and not much law around.  That sounded like what he needed, out of sight and easy work.

He had better keep out of the way of the night watch in the meantime, and keep sharp around him.  He knew sailors disappeared into the cellar of this pub, and he wasn’t going to be one of them.  Over in the corner a couple of soldiers were celebrating something, but mostly everyone seemed to be drowning their sorrows.  An early night in a bed that did not move, then get a few provisions and head west – that was his plan anyway.

I wonder what made Australia so attractive that Thomas Fisher jumped ship in Sydney and stayed.  Was it the lovely Susan Ann Stanway?   Maybe Thomas just liked the adventure.  He lived at a time when Australia was being explored, Burke and Wills began their crossing of Australia from Melbourne to the Gulf of Carpentaria in 1860,  just a few years after Thomas arrived.

Maybe the opportunity for gold attracted him, after all he was on a ship that carried gold from Australia to England.   There are not a lot of records about Thomas, but what I have found show him in various parts of the country, he was not a city boy, that's for certain.

From The Daily News, London, 30th January 1857


Thomas was the son of a seafaring Captain, George Fisher, and his wife Jane Grayson. Thomas was born on 3rd August, 1837 at Workington Cumberland England.  He was Christened at St Micheals Church, Workington, a church that still stands today.

St Micheals, Workington
 The family has been traced back to at least 1700 in Workington, to my GGGGGGG Grandfather, John Fisher.  

In 1851 Jane and two of her children are listed in the census, living in Griffin Street, Workington, including Thomas aged 13, who was employed as a pipe maker.   Presumably her husband is at sea at the time.  By the census, three of George and Jane Fisher's children had died in 1847, possibly from a Typhoid or Cholera which were common around this time.



Thomas Fisher arrived in Australia aboard the Heather Bell on 30th May, 1857.  The ship was transporting gold from Australia to London during this period. 

He jumped ship and headed to the country, as in 1858 he is in the Government Gazette for absconding, and included in his description, he had the "appearance of a sailor".  

Seven years later, in 1865 Thomas married Susan Ann Stanway, who already had a daughter named Isabella Agnes Stanway, born 3 years before the marriage. It is unclear if Isabella is Thomas Fisher's daughter, as no father is listed on the death index, she always used the surname Fisher however.   In the same year, there are two unclaimed letters (ships letters) from overseas presumably, for Thomas being held undelivered at the GPO in Sydney.  it does make me wonder if Thomas' family was trying to get in touch with him, and whether or not they knew he had jumped ship.

Susan was just 12 when her father died, 18 when she had Isabella, and 21 years old when she married Thomas Fisher.  It is unclear if they ever lived together however.

Twenty Years later, in 1885,  Thomas is listed as having passed through Albury on his way to Sydney by express train.

SMH. November 1885

When his daughter Isabella married, in 1887 he is listed on the marriage certificate as her father and a Station Overseer.  This fits with his death, aged 56,  in 1893 at Brewarrina, NSW, AUS.  This is a tiny country town near the border of NSW and Queesland.

Brewarrina Railway station C1901

Thomas Grayson Fisher is burred at Goodooga Cemetary, Brewarrina, NSW, AUS.  Also buried at the cemetery is Ester Mary Fisher, who died in 1953 aged 83.  She would have been born around 1870  so could she be another wife?  (no marriage registration has been found).  It is a very remote location, so Susan would not have known if Thomas married someone else.

Goodooga Cemetary (arial shot)

Susan lived at Auburn, where her daughter med my great grandfather, and died in 1925.  She is burried at the Catholic Cemetery, at Rookwood, NSW.

More Information? If you are researching Thomas Grayson Fisher or Susan Stanway and would like the sources for this story, please contact me or comment below.  I would be happy to collaborate with you.


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