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Thomas Dowse, convict Queenslander

About the convict

The writer's recollections of the days of Auld Lang Syne, dates back to the year 1827 – when a boy in his teens, he landed upon the shores of Port Jackson, in the despised colony of New South Wales – more familiarly known in the Old Country as Botany Bay.
Thomas Dowse's memoirs OM79-68/17
Portrait of Thomas Dowse, a caucasian man with a large whispy beard and cropped hair with a cowlick at the front. He is wearing an 1800's suit.
Role: Town Clerk of Brisbane
Born: 1809, Hackney, England
Convicted: 16 September 1824 in Middlesex
Sentence: Transportation for life (originally sentenced to death)
Ship: Florentia
Transported: Arrived in New South Wales on 3 January 1828
Died: 9 November 1885 in Milton, Brisbane. Buried in Toowong Cemetery.
Notes: Ticket of Leave issued on 6 April 1836
Conditional Pardon issued in 1839
When the present Queensland was Moreton Bay, he was always in the front of every political movement, and indefatigable in co-operating to achieve our separation from New South Wales.
The Telegraph (Brisbane), 10 November 1885

Further reading

Transcribed from the newspaper Telegraph (Brisbane), 10 November 1885, p.4

Title header for the newspaper "The Telegraph" (Brisbane) ca.1905


By An Old Friend

Yesterday, in early morning, at his residence, Milton, there quietly passed away from amongst us, at the ripe age of 75, Mr. Thomas Dowse.  When the present Queensland was Moreton Bay, he was always in the front of every political movement, and indefatigable in co-operating to achieve our separation from New South Wales.  With very scanty advantages of education, his natural intelligence stood him in good stead.  For some years he was the unknown correspondent in Brisbane to the Sydney Morning Herald, and was a free and fluent writer on passing topics, while his energy never failed him in his efforts to promote the general good.  For a long time he has lived privately, but there are many who will hear of his decease with regret.  With him passes into oblivion a rich store of colonial experiences and reminiscences, which it could be wished could have been published.  Latterly his eyesight almost completely failed, and this was the sorest privation possible, for his interest in current events never lost its edge.  Many who never knew him are unaware of the labour, toilsome and unacknowledged, which Mr. Dowse cheerfully endured when in the prime of life, with no other aim than the progress and welfare of this colony.  He was singularly disinterested, in fact, far too much so for the advancement of his own personal interests.  Though he has gone, the work he helped to do abides, and we daily enjoy social, municipal, and political privileges and advantages, which, if we searched into their origin, we should find associated with the name of Thomas Dowse.  His private character was unblemished, and he bequeaths to a widow and family – not much money, certainly – but the memory of a husband and father which they may worthily and truthfully cherish and revere.

Disclaimer: This has been transcribed directly from the original document.  Any mistakes are from the original document.

Transcribed from the newspaper The Queenslander, 7 August 1909, p.19

Title header for the newspaper "The Queenslander" ca.1904



Mr. Dowse arrived in Brisbane six years before the introduction of Dr. Lang's immigrants, having come from Sydney in 1843. Perhaps no one in Brisbane had a greater horror of the degrading convict system than Mr. Dowse, and he worked to obtain the complete cessation of the inhuman trade. Many of the public meetings held to protest against transportation took part in his little auction mart in Queen-street. Under the nom de plume of "Old Tom," he was a frequent contributor to the "Courier," in the Sixties, and he has described in graphic terms the demoralising scenes that took place in the archway of the old convict barracks, in Queen-street, where men were strapped to the triangles and publicly flogged. He had heard the shrieks and groans, and the horrible curses of the victims, as the lash cut pieces of flesh from quivering backs, and has told us how he protested to the authorities against public flagellations, but without avail. Mr. Dowse, on one occasion was reported to have been bailed up in a hut in Sandgate, by a number of blacks belonging to the notorious Joondoobarrie tribe, from Bribie Island. This was before the days of glass windows in the pretty little seaside township; the opening that served as a window was covered by a thick wooden shutter, which fitted into the slab wall like a hatchway. The hut was therefore spear proof, and he escaped. Mr. Dowse was the first town clerk of Brisbane Municipal Council.

Disclaimer: This has been transcribed directly from the original document. Any mistakes are from the original document.

This memorial was written by Thomas Dowse to Governor Gipps on 15 September 1838 requesting the mitigation of his sentence.

To His Excellency Sir
George Gipps C.B.
Governor in Chief &c &c

The respectful memorial of Thomas Dowse

I humbly maketh known,

That Fourteen years has this day elapsed since memorialist was at the early age of 14 years, sentenced to Transportation for Life, and pursuant to sentence was sent to this Colony where he arrived on the 2nd of January 1828, by the Ship Florentia (1), and was immediately after arrival placed in the Office of the Harbour Master where memorialist still remains.

That memorialist after serving the usual probationary period of Eight years, received a Ticket of Leave, and has married a young woman a native of the Colony by whom he has Two Children, both Boys, his mother an aged woman has also joined him in this Colony and is depending upon him for support.

Memorialist is induced to hope that after Fourteen years, continued good conduct without one single fault being charged against him, and the ernest desire memorialist has always evinced to atone for his one youthful error, that altho' the specified time has not elapsed since obtaining his Ticket of Leave, to entitle memo' to a Conditional Pardon, yet he humbly prays your Excellency to take into consideration the fact of his having been detained on board the Hulk in England; for Three years, and his having been Eleven years in the one situation, with every satisfaction to the Head of the Department (John Nicholson Esq) to whom he begs to refer, That your Excellency will consider him deserving of being recommended to Her Most gracious Majesty for a mitigation of sentence, which will be a source of joy to an aged mother, and an inestimable blessing to Memorialist and family

And for which your Memorialist will for ever pray

     Thomas Dowse
     Assistant Clerk in the Office
     of the Harbour Master

Sydney 15 Sept 1838

Letter 38/9729

This transcription has been published with the kind permission of Museums of History New South Wales State Archives Collection who are the custodians of the original documents. A copy of the original can be viewed online through State Library of Queensland's website or at State Library on microfilm.