Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

Hunter Valley Bushranger

Thomas Desmond

Thomas Desmond was tried in Tipperary and sentenced to transportation for life. He arrived in the colony on the Atlas on 30th October 1802.

His first offence reported in the Sydney Gazette was just eight months after arrival when he was sent to the Gaol Gang in Sydney for drunkenness and insolence.

He later kept company with some of the most degenerate and callous prisoners in the colony and became a notorious runaway. Some of his exploits were reported in the Sydney Gazette over the next few years. After absconding from Newcastle with Richard Parsons in 1816 he seems to have disappeared. Richard Parsons later achieved fame as one of the men who discovered the Brisbane River

1803 - A complaint was exhibited before the Magistrates against Thomas Desmond, for drunkenness and insolence to his master, and he was in consequence ordered into the Gaol Gang. - Sydney Gazette 10 July 1803

1804 - Mr. Thomson has succeeded in getting off the Speedwell, formerly Grono. This was effected on Wednesday and on Thursday she sailed for Hawkesbury from Broken Bay, the spot of her misfortune and recovery; the damage sustained to the vessel comparatively trifling. Mr. T. at some distance from the assistance of any of his people perceived among a body of natives a white man, nearly if not entirely naked, in whose person he soon recognized that of Thomas Desmond, now a fugitive from King's Town. Had it not been that the natives were aware that upon calling aloud the people employed in getting off the boat would come immediately to his aid, the rash adventurer would certainly have perished beneath their merciless hands, after encountering all the inconceivable distresses consequent on an improvident travel through the uncultivated country. So far from resisting Mr. T's command to surrender himself, he appeared happy in the occasion that presented itself of escaping the barbarity of his first captors and was in consequence sent round to Hawkesbury by the Speedwell, under charge. Sydney Gazette 9 December 1804

1804 - Thomas Desmond mentioned last week to have escaped from King's Town, and picked up by Mr. A. Thompson near Broken Bay, was ordered to work in the gaol gang until an opportunity offers of returning him to the above settlement. The offender once before fled from thence, and endured excessive hardship before by happy accident relief was offered to him. He was then ordered to be returned, as was the case; and what he endured in his distressing travel operating in his favour, his punishment was lenient. Repeated offence, however, forfeits every claim to humanity, and Justice will a length assert her own prerogative. Sydney Gazette 16 December 1804

1805 - Thomas Desmond, a prisoner that has repeatedly absented himself from the settlement at Newcastle, and under all the vicissitudes consequent upon so dangerous and precarious an enterprise thrice made his way into this settlement, is at the present moment in close custody in order once more to be returned to the place from whence he fled. The turpitude of this inflexible and audacious fugitive obstinately determines him to oppose every authority that may be exercised in the lenient punishment of his offences, which by a perverse conduct still aggravated, the necessary retribution is of course proportionally augmented. Having thus frequently braved the rigours unfortunately indispensable to the security of society and the maintenance of a mild subordination, the sanguine hope of his reformation cannot be entertained; yet the measure judiciously adhered to of remaining so refractory a character, will, it may be hoped, have its desired operation upon the less callous mind, and by the efficacy of example inform the unfortunate who may labour under the immediate displeasure of the law, that the participation of indulgence is attainable by those alone who by amendment endeavour to deserve it. - Sydney Gazette 21 April 1805

1806 - On Wednesday Thomas Desmond was brought in after his long absence from Government Labour at Newcastle. By his own account he appears to have been for some considerable length of time in the employ of a settler in the district of Hawkesbury, respecting which His Excellency has directed an enquiry to be made.Sydney Gazette 2 February 1806

1806 - At a Bench of Magistrates convened on Wednesday the 5th instant several settlers were brought forward to answer to a charge of giving employment to Thomas Desmond, a prisoner absconded from public labour and repeatedly advertised. Three were fined in the sum of £5 each to the Orphans; and Joseph Wright in the sum of £20; but from lenient motives the Bench were pleased to remit the one half the latter penalty. It is needless to remark on the consequences of an indiscretion to which the Magistrates have on all occasion s testified a just aversion. The plea in such cases let up in extenuation by the defaulter cannot possibly obtain; for although it may be supposed natural that the fugitive should attempt by imposture to obtain assistance and employment, yet no evasion whatever can surmount the act of disobedience to a salutary Regulation, which requires that no person shall be employed until he has produced his certificate of pass, if a freeman, or his ticket of permission if a prisoner off the store. Sydney Gazette 16 February 1806

1813 - Whereas Thomas Desmond, my hired servant, under an indenture the tenor of which is unfulfilled, has absconded, and is now absent from My Farm: I do therefore desire that no person will give employment or maintenance to the said Thomas Desmond, on pain of rigid Prosecution,.. Thomas McKenna, Hawkesbury. Sydney Gazette 23 January 1813

1813 - Public Notice - The undermentioned prisoner having absented himself from his employment, all constables and others to use their utmost exertions in apprehending and lodging in safe custody - Thomas Desmond from the gaol gang. (Sydney) Sydney Gazette 14 August 1813

1814 - Public Notice - The persons under named being convicts who absconded from Newcastle, all persons are hereby cautioned against harbouring, employing encouraging or in anywise maintaining any or either of the said persons on pain of Prosecution: Francis Parcello and Walter Preston, both of whom arrived on the Guildford; John Bricks per Archduke Charles; Isaac Walker by the
Admiral Gambier; John Lee by the Admiral Gambier 1811 and Thomas Desmond by the Atlas; all of whom absented themselves from the lime burning gang, on the 25th of November ultimo. All constables and others are hereby required to do their utmost Endeavour in apprehending or causing to be apprehended all or any of the said Fugitives. Sydney Gazette10 December 1814

1816 - Public Notice - Absented himself from employment at Newcastle. All Constables strictly required to use their utmost exertions in apprehending and lodging in custody. 20 April 1816

1816 - Public Notice - The under mentioned prisoners having absented themselves from Employment - Absconded from Newcastle - Joseph Burridge, Edward Scarr, Herbert Styles, John Pearce, Joseph Brooks, Richard Parsons and Thomas Desmond - Sydney Gazette 28 September 1816.