With acknowledgement to J. V. Byrnes, ‘Andrew Thompson 1773-1810’, The Australian Dictionary of Biography, Vol. 2, 1967.
Andrew Thompson arrived at Port Jackson on 14 February, 1792 aboard the convict transport, Pitt, with a fourteen-year sentence.
Emancipist, Businessman, Magistrate
Born in Scotland in 1773, at seventeen, Thompson was convicted of the theft of cloth worth £10 and transported to the new colony to serve out his sentence.
In 1793, Thompson joined the police, serving with distinction as a Constable at Toongabbie. During 1796, Thompson was appointed to the settlement at Green Hills (Windsor) by Governor John Hunter and, in 1798, was pardoned. He built a home on an acre of land, leased from the government, that overlooked the Hawkesbury River. He was quickly promoted to the position of Chief Constable, a rank he held until 1808. During this time, he distinguished himself to his colonial superiors through investigation of local crime, the capture of escaped convicts and liaison between European settlers and the Boorooberongal, as well as rescuing stranded settlers during major floods.
Ever the businessman, in 1802, Thompson built the first toll bridge on South Creek with the approval of Governor Philip Gidley King. In addition, he established a salt manufacturing plant in Broken Bay, a brewery on South Creek and a tannery and, after the relaxing of rules that permitted colonial ship building, he controlled a barge that ferried people and stock across the Hawkesbury. In the period to 1808, he built four cargo ships: Nancy, Hope, Hawkesbury, and the Governor Bligh and purchased the Speedwell. As well as servicing the Hawkesbury and Green Hills settlements, these ships delivered supplies and convicts from Sydney to the Hunter River, returning with coal and cedar, undertook sealing voyages to Bass Strait and New Zealand and traded for pork in Tahiti.
From 1806, Thompson worked closely with Governor William Bligh. By that time, Thompson was the largest grain grower in the colony and one of its wealthiest men. After Bligh purchased two farms on the Hawkesbury, Thompson was appointed to develop them as model farms. With the overthrow of Bligh, he was dismissed as the area’s Chief Constable by the rebel administration.
The Boorooberongal, who lived in the area, did not view Thompson as a hero or friend. In April 1805, in response to renewed hostilities between European and Darug, the Sydney Gazette reported on 12 May, that a “… successful assault…upon the Branch natives by a party of Richmond Hill and adjacent settlers’ was made, with Thompson’s active involvement.
Because of such events, the Darug, to this day, do not celebrate his memory. Instead, they believe him to be a part of the colonial establishment that dispossessed the traditional Hawkesbury peoples from their lands, causing much suffering.
When Governor Lachlan Macquarie arrived in the colony in 1810, he quickly found Thompson to be invaluable in regard to Hawkesbury affairs. On 14 January 1810, he appointed Thompson to the magistracy, the first emancipated convict appointed to such a position in the colony.
However, in poor health after prolonged exposure to damp and cold during successive floods in the winter of 1809, Thompson died in October 1810, enjoying less than a year in the position. His obituary in the Sydney Gazette of 27 October 1810 memorialised him as:
“… active, intelligent and industrious; of manners mild and conciliatory, with a heart generous and humane…”
Macquarie’s epitaph, located on Andrew Thompson’s grave, reads:
“SACRED to the memory of ANDREW THOMPSON ESQUIRE Justice of the Peace and chief Magistrate of the District of the Hawkesbury, a Native of Scotland, Who at the age of 17 Years; was sent to this Country where from the time of his arrival he distinguished himself by the most persevering industry and diligent attention to the commands of his Superiors. By these means he raised himself to a state of respectability and affluence which enabled him to indulge the generosity of his nature in assisting his Fellow Creatures in distress more particularly in the Calamitous Floods of the river Hawkesbury in the Years 1806, and 1809 where at the immediate risque [sic] of his life and perminant [sic] injury, of his health he exerted himself each time (unremittingly) during three successive Days and Nights in saving the lives and Properties of numbers who but for him must have Perished. In-consequence of Mr. Thompson’s good Conduct, governor Macquarie appointed him a Justice of the Peace. This act, which restored him to that rank in Society which he had lost, made so deep an impression on his grateful Heart as to induce him to bequeath to the governor one-fourth of his Fortune. This most useful and valuable Man closed his Earthly career on the 22nd Day of October 1810, at His House at Windsor of which he was the principal Founder in the 37th Year of, his age, with (in) the Hope of Eternal Life. ‘ From respect and esteem for the Memory of the deceased, this Monument is erected by LACHLAN MACQUARIE, GOVERNOR of New South Wales.'”
NAME: ANDREW THOMPSON
DEATH: 22ND OCTOVER 1810 (37 YEARS)
CONVICTED AT: JEDBURGH COURT OF JUSTICIARY
SENTENCE: 14 YEARS
SHIP TRANSPORT: THE PITT
OTHER NOTABLE PASSENGERS: MAJOR FRANCIS GROSE & THOMAS WATLING
ARRIVAL: 14TH FEBRUARY 1792