Thomas Eccles: The Swine Connoisseur

By Michaela Ann Cameron

supported by a Parramatta City Council Community Grant – St. John’s First Fleeters
ordnance-survey-first-series-sheet-8

Ordnance Survey First Series, Sheet 8, Licence: CC BY-SA 4.0. This work is based on data provided through http://www.VisionofBritain.org.uk and uses historical material which is copyright of the Great Britain Historical GIS Project and the University of Portsmouth.

In the parish of Stoke Next Guildford, Surrey on the River Wey, an aged, handwritten book recalls the mid eighteenth-century baptisms, burials, and marriages of the parishioners of St. John the Evangelist Church. In the book’s final, well-worn pages one also finds recipes entitled ‘How to Make Tar Water,’ ‘A Remedy for Dropsy,’ ‘How to Make a Save,’ and a limewater recipe for ‘a breaking out in ye leggs.’[1] Amid these recipes there are a number of attempts to write the word ‘Guineas,’ random notes regarding the owner of a couple of churchyard burial plots, and now meaningless tidbits that seem like the eighteenth-century equivalent of post-it notes. Something else catches the eye: written in the same hand immediately above the limewater recipe and, rather peculiarly, straight across the book gutter is the following pearl of wisdom:

This World is a City full of Crooked Streets
And Death is the Markett place where all men most meett
If Life Cold be bought so that ye Rich Might Buy
the Rich would Live for Ever and none but poor would dye.[2]

It is not difficult to imagine why these well-known lines might have been called to the mind of the person who wrote them at the back of the parish records for the years 1727-1764.[3] Flicking through the same records, one sees the names of Sirs and Dames appearing alongside those of bookbinders, shoemakers, nameless travellers, foundlings, base born children, and others bearing the brief but sobering note ‘parish poor.’ In short, the whole social hierarchy was represented in the church of St. John the Evangelist’s eighteenth-century parishioners. It is hardly surprising, then, that our story of a First Fleet convict begins here in this parish where the ‘haves’ lived in close proximity to the ‘have nots.’

As a labourer of Stoke Next Guildford, Thomas Eccles was one of the ‘have nots.’[4] In 1780, the average labourer in Surrey earnt one shilling and four pence a day in winter and only two pence more in the summer months.[5] More laborious activities, such as reaping acres of wheat, hand-hoeing turnips, washing and shearing sheep, and ploughing land, could attract a higher income,[6] but at around 52 years of age Eccles had already exceeded the average life expectancy for someone born in England circa 1730 by almost two decades.[7] His longevity may have worked against him. Perhaps he worked a little slower than he had in days of yore; he might have suffered from illness, injury, or chronic pain after decades of physical labour; or maybe prospective employers, assuming that younger workers would automatically be more energetic and more productive, simply overlooked him. The problem was, according to eighteenth-century agricultural writer Arthur Young, ‘I never yet knew one instance of any poor man’s working diligently while young and in health to escape coming to the parish [for poor relief] when ill or old.’[8] Young’s judgment of the average labourer was rather harsh; after all, reaching old age was not a certainty—least of all in those days when the average life expectancy was approximately 36 years old—and making a surplus on such meagre wages was not as simple as Young’s critical stance implies.

st_john_the_evangelists_church_stoke_road_guildford_april_2014_from_north-northwest_1

St. John the Evangelist Church, Stoke Next Guildford, Surrey. Photo: Hassocks5489 (2014) Licence: CC-BY-SA-3.0

Labourers like Thomas, particularly those who indulged in the luxury of marrying and raising a family of their own, typically lived hand-to-mouth. While a labourer named George Barwell could be held up by one commentator in this period as a shining example of frugality for having raised ‘a family of five or six sons and daughters on a wage of 5 [shillings] to 7 [shillings] a week, and after they were out in the world saved enough to support him in his old age,’[9] this was seldom the case. In fact, it was all too common for a married labourer with dependents to discover that his annual expenditure was greater than his annual income. The reality staring the average labourer squarely in the face was, to adapt a Dickensian phrase,

Annual income nineteen pounds ten and nought, annual expenditure nineteen pounds ten and six, result misery.[10]

Finances were strained thus even if the family lived ‘very poorly’ on an insufficient diet of mostly wheaten bread, cheese, beer, and adulterated tea.[11] Pork and bacon, it should be emphasised, were not ‘ordinary’ fare for the likes of such as these but, rather, were deemed ‘the labourer’s delicacies’[12] and fresh meat was usually entirely beyond their reach. Nor was the adult’s basic daily ration of ‘a gallon of bread adequate in terms of nourishment; a ‘gallon of bread’ weighed just over a pound and provided around 1100 calories, but a labourer performing physical labour for eight to ten hours a day would easily require over 3000 calories.[13]

It is not known whether Thomas raised a family of his own at some stage in the five decades he had already lived, although there is some evidence suggesting that he might have.[14] If so, it is clear he would have had little or no chance to accumulate any surplus during the peak years of his working life to use as the years wore on.[15] In such circumstances, as Young noted, many ‘habitually looked to the parish to maintain them in sickness and old age.’[16] This, then, is just one of numerous likely scenarios that could have motivated the long-living Eccles to resort to acquiring the basic necessities of life along with ‘the labourer’s delicacy’ of bacon by means that were even more disagreeable than seeking parish poor relief.[17]

A Flitch Hunt

At the flitching hour of midnight on Monday 6 May 1782 Thomas Eccles burglariously entered the home of Mr. Thomas Hind, a fellow parishioner, and made off with one flitch of bacon valued at 20 shillings as well as two half-peck loaves of wheaten bread valued at two shillings.[18] This was no midnight snack. A flitch of bacon was one side of a whole pig that had been cured but not yet sliced, while a wheaten half-peck or ‘gallon loaf,’ which was ‘universal among the peasant class’ in the Home Counties, weighed in at 8 pounds and 11 ounces, or 8.6875 pounds.[19] With the daily allowance of bread being just over a pound a day, Thomas had lifted a two-week supply of bread and around ten weeks’ worth of bacon in one fell swoop. In pure monetary terms, the total value of the property Thomas stole was the equivalent of up to three weeks’ worth of his wages.

It is unknown whether Thomas and any dependents he might have been trying to support got to partake of the stolen goods. All that is certain is that his criminal activity was discovered and he was duly arrested. Nearly three months would pass, though, before he faced the consequences of his midnight flitch hunt.

The Flitch Trial

A Flitch Trial in England was usually a festive occasion. The tradition, which stretched back as far as the days of Chaucer and perhaps much farther, involved a married couple being put on a public trial one year and one day after their wedding.[20] The couple took an oath swearing that ‘neither of them in a year and a day, neither sleeping or waking, repented of their marriage.’[21] They were subsequently put through a rigorous cross-examination with overly inquisitive neighbours appearing as witnesses to confirm or deny whether the couple’s claim to unwavering devotion was true. In the rare event that a couple believed they could withstand such a trial after the tribulations a year of marriage inevitably presented to them and the even rarer event that they were actually deemed worthy, a flitch of bacon was their handsome and valuable reward. At Dunmow Essex, where the tradition was still practiced in the eighteenth century, the blissfully wedded couple ‘were afterwards taken upon men’s shoulders, and carried, first about the priory churchyard, and after through the town, with all the friars and brethren, and all the townsfolk, young and old, following them with shouts and acclamations, with their bacon before them.’[22]

Thomas Eccles’s own version of a flitch trial, however, was a cause for sorrow. When he appeared before the judge on 29 July 1782 at the Surrey Summer Assizes he was found guilty of housebreaking and stealing Mr. Hind’s flitch of bacon and two loaves of his bread. His sentence was death.[23] Nevertheless, at the time it was thought that even good-for-nothing surplus Englishmen like Thomas could actually be good for at least one thing after all; serving with the British forces to protect the valuable human ‘merchandise’ (African slaves) held in Britain’s slave-trading forts on the Gold Coast of West Africa. Thus in August 1782, days after Thomas received his death sentence, the judge recommended mercy on the condition that he would instead serve in the forces in Africa for life.[24] Superficially, this may appear to have been a considerably lighter punishment—as they say, where there is life there is hope—but Africa was a certain death sentence, too. ‘Up to seventy-five per cent of Europeans were consigned to the earth within twelve months of stepping ashore,’ writes historian Emma Christopher.[25] Only three years earlier, in 1779, there had been just ten white soldiers on the coast in total because mortality was so high and recruitment among the non-criminal class of Englishmen was low. Ever resourceful, the British figured the condemned might as well die of some mysterious African malady ‘in the place of better citizens’[26] after a few hours, days, weeks, or months of service in the British slave forts whilst being an ‘advantage to the Publick’[27] than to die immediately at the end of a rope on their native soil.[28]

Like John Martin, James Wright, and other convicts under sentence of transportation to Africa at the time, though, Thomas Eccles never actually got there. England’s attempt to establish a penal colony in Africa had proven disastrous.[29] The subsequently high level of convict mutiny on board the transport ships Swift and Mercury when convicts including David Killpack and Richard Partridge learnt that Africa was their possible destination provided another incentive for an alternative penal colony location to be identified. The proposed location was Botany Bay, but the voyage to what would become the colony of New South Wales was still years away. In 1785, therefore, Thomas was sent to a hulk; a floating prison where felons awaiting transportation were put to good use and, it was hoped, potentially reformed by hard labour, which included raising sand and gravel from the riverbed.[30] In the meantime, a probable relative of Thomas’s named James Eccles had been buried in the parish of St. John the Evangelist at Stoke Next Guildford. Written alongside James’s name in the burial register was ‘son of Charles Eccles’ followed by the small but poignant word: ‘poor.’[31]

Ceres

It is fanciful yet tempting to imagine that the person responsible for assigning Thomas to one of five prison hulks in operation at the time was acquainted with Roman mythology. For it is as though the individual in question took one glance at Thomas’s crime and concluded that it was obvious to send the wheaten bread and bacon thief to Ceres; a fifth-rate warship-turned-prison hulk named after the Roman goddess of agriculture and grain crops.[32]

The fertility goddess Ceres, whose name meant ‘to grow, to satiate, to feed, create, increase,’ was inextricably linked in the Roman mind with grain and bread, as they believed it was she who first discovered spelt wheat and gifted humanity with agriculture. Incredibly, wheaten bread was not all Thomas had in common with Ceres; she, too, was partial to porcus.[33] In fact, Ceres was so enamoured with pigs that the Romans could do her no greater honour than to offer her a sacrificial pig when trying to invoke her fertility powers at agricultural and matrimonial events. The ritual was recorded by the Roman senator and historian Cato the Elder in De Agri Cultura [c.160 BCE]: ‘[B]efore harvesting spelt, wheat, barley, beans, and rape seed,’ Cato writes, a pregnant sow known as the porca praecidanea was offered as a sacrifice to Ceres in the hopes that she would protect and nourish the grain.[34] During this rite, Janus, Jupiter, and Juno were also offered incense, wine, and cakes and humble prayers begging these divine beings to ‘be gracious and merciful to [the petitioner], [his] children, [his] house and [his] household.’[35] Come harvest time, the same Roman farmers showed Ceres their appreciation by offering her the first sample of the grain they had sown and reaped with her blessing.

The two years Thomas served between 1785 and February 1787 imprisoned on the hulk named in Ceres’s honour were apparently also an acceptable sacrifice. For, judging by what was in store for Thomas when he did finally get to the colony of New South Wales, unlike the British justice system, Ceres was ‘merciful’ on the poor, hungry labourer of Surrey who had stolen bread and bacon to survive.

The Garden of Temptation

On 24 February 1787, Thomas bid Ceres adieu and began a three-day wagon ride to Portsmouth where he boarded the First Fleet transport ship Scarborough.[36] The actual journey to Botany Bay would not commence until the early hours of Sunday 13 May 1787 and lasted just over eight months, with Scarborough arriving on 19 January 1788.[37] When it was discovered that the sandy soil at Botany Bay would not be suited to the brand new colony’s agricultural needs, the First Fleet sailed to the more appropriate location of Port Jackson, arriving on 26 January 1788.[38]

Food was scarce. The already limited flour ration was constantly being reduced because the colonists could only live in hope that more ships would come from England to replenish their supply. ‘It had been imagined in England, that some, if not considerable savings of provisions might be made, by the quantities of fish that it was supposed would be taken,’ wrote Judge Advocate David Collins in 1788, ‘but nothing like an equivalent for the ration that was issued to the colony for a single day had ever been brought up.’[39] Furthermore, convicts took their lives into their hands gathering vegetables. One convict who ‘straggled’ from the armed party on his vegetable quest was found ‘killed by the natives…lying dead in the path, his head beat to a Jelly, a spear driven through it, another through his body, and one arm broken’ — and this was not an isolated event.[40] In these conditions, Thomas—never one to cope with hunger pains—soon reverted to his old ways.

Thomas’s previous work experience and maybe a little of Ceres’s divine intervention ensured he was assigned to work in the garden of Captain John Shea where he could gain easy access to vegetables. On 21 October 1788, Thomas was before the Criminal Court, charged with being ‘in liquor’ and stealing vegetables from the Captain’s garden.[41] Thomas had a very different view of the situation; the Captain had actually given him ‘a tumbler of rum and water’ for the work he had completed. As for the stolen vegetables, Thomas ‘did not think there was any harm in giving away a few radishes.’[42] Thomas was found guilty and expelled from the garden of temptation to toil in the less appetising environment of the brickfields instead.[43] Only a few months later Captain Shea became the first officer to die in the colony, passing away on 2 February 1789 after a long battle with tuberculosis.[44] The memory of Thomas’s vegetable theft appears to have been buried with the Captain, because a mere fifteen days after the funeral Thomas, by then in his late fifties, was one of 21 male and six female convicts on board Supply sailing for Norfolk Island where his valuable knowledge and experience as a labourer saw him go from strength to strength.[45]

Flitchcraft

By July 1791, Thomas had cleared 29 rods and felled 40 rods of timber on a one-acre lot at Sydney Town, Norfolk Island where he cohabited with fellow First Fleeter Elizabeth ‘Winifred’ Bird. Affectionately known as ‘Betty,’ the 61-year-old was, like Thomas, one of riper years. Their age, however, did not make their situation less sinful in the eyes of Reverend Richard Johnson who was appalled that so many people were living in sin on Norfolk Island due to the want of a clergyman to officiate marriage ceremonies. In November 1791 Reverend Johnson made a brief visit to the island to marry nearly 100 couples; among them were Jane Poole and her marine James McManus (I) and, of course, Thomas and Betty.[46]

The month after marrying BettyThomas was recorded as being a member of the night watch under Samuel Hussey.[47] In February 1792, Thomas was ‘off government stores’ and working to clear and cultivate twelve of the sixty acres First Fleet seaman James Proctor had been granted at Norfolk Island in 1791.[48] Sixty-three year old Thomas was showing no signs of slowing down; by January 1793, he was selling his own maize to the government for £4 — approximately four times the value of the property he had stolen in his original hangable offence. Ceres the agricultural goddess of grain herself would have been proud of such a fine harvest, but the pork-loving Ceres still had more blessings in store for the reformed bacon thief.

Thomas’s work ethic and talent for farming earnt him an absolute pardon at the recommendation of Governor King in 1794.[49] In placing his request, the Governor stated that Thomas ‘has been of the utmost service to himself and the publick [sic] as a gardener and has behaved well.’[50] As a free man, Thomas leased a 10-acre lot located near the intersection of present-day Country Road and Taylor Road on Norfolk Island.[51] Best of all, the once hungry bacon thief became a pig farmer and even regularly supplied government with pork in 1796.[52]

All My Trials Soon Be Over…

In early 1801 Thomas and Betty, now in their 70s, boarded the Porpoise and sailed for Port Jackson from whence they made their way to Parramatta. There Thomas leased a one-acre lot[53] and the elderly couple lived on stores, which they supplemented with vegetables they grew themselves. Even then, though, the bacon thief could not be parted from his pigs; he and Betty kept two hogs.[54]

At the beginning of 1806, another lot measuring ‘1 Acre, 2 Roods, and 25 Rods’ ‘on the N[orth] side of the [Parramatta] river’ was leased to Thomas ‘for 14 years or so long as he may live when the said Land is to revert to the Crown after the said term shall expire or on his demise.’[55] Thomas was of even riper years by this stage, nevertheless his unceasing vitality continued to transfer into everything he cultivated. In March 1809, for example, 79-year-old Thomas advertised the sale of ‘choice lemon trees’[56] that were, yet again, worth more than the bread and bacon that had once almost cost him his life:

1809-choice-lemon-trees

Classified Advertising,” The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW: 1803 – 1842), Sunday 26 March 1809. p.2

Meanwhile, Mr. Hind, the man from whom Thomas had stolen the bread and bacon, had been laid to rest in the old parish of St. John the Evangelist in Stoke Next Guildford on 9 March 1806, at the age of 61.[57]

Against all odds, the poor, undernourished, mature-age First Fleet convict who had been condemned to death as a ‘good-for-nothing’ surplus Englishman had not only outlived his more financially comfortable victim, he survived what many younger men and women did not. In fact, he and his wife Betty did not just survive in the colony — they thrived. Betty reportedly lived to the grand old age of 105 while Thomas’s headstone, which has ironically proven less hardy than the man it memorialises, once stated that Thomas was 97 years old at the time of his death on Saturday 2 April 1814; more modest estimates suggest he was in his eighties.[58] Either way, the story of Thomas Eccles reveals that this long-living, agriculturally-blessed man well and truly did his part in creating and sustaining new life in the colony of New South Wales.

thomas-eccless-grave

Thomas Eccles is buried in Section 2, Row P, No.8 of St. John’s Cemetery, Parramatta. His wife Betty’s grave is unmarked but it is likely that she is buried in the same plot.

CITE THIS

Michaela Ann Cameron, “Thomas Eccles: The Swine Connoisseur,” St. John’s Cemetery Project, (2016) https://stjohnscemeteryparramatta.org/bio/thomas-eccles/, accessed [insert current date]

References

Anglican Parish Registers, Woking, Surrey, England: Surrey History Centre.

David Collins, An Account of the English Colony in New South Wales, Vol. I (London: The Strand, 1798)

Emma Christopher, A Merciless Place: The Lost Story of Britain’s Convict Disaster in Africa, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011)

Cathy Dunn, Australian History Research, http://www.australianhistoryresearch.info/

Judith Dunn, The Parramatta Cemeteries: St. John’s, (Parramatta, NSW: Parramatta and District Historical Society, 1991)

Mollie Gillen, The Founders of Australia: a biographical dictionary of the First Fleet, (Sydney: Library of Australian History, 1989)

Robert L. Nelson, “The Price of Bread: Poverty, Purchasing Power, and The Victorian Laborer’s Standard of Living,” (2005), The Victorian Web: Literature, History, & Culture in the Age of Victoria, http://www.victorianweb.org/history/work/nelson1.html accessed 5 October 2016

Trove

NOTES

[1] Anglican Parish Registers, Woking, Surrey, England: Surrey History Centre.

[2] Anglican Parish Registers, Woking, Surrey, England: Surrey History Centre.

[3] The inscription has been found on the headstone belonging to a man named John Boon buried at Walpole St. Andrews, who died aged 56 years: “This world is a city full of crooked streets, / Death is the market-place were all men meets; / If life was merchandize that men could buy, / Rich men would ever live and poor men die.” The New Monthly Magazine, Vol. 6, No.3, (London: Hanover Square, 1 January 1817): 490. The last two lines of the St John the Evangelist version also appear as a verse in a spiritual-lullaby of America’s antebellum South called All My Trials: “If living were a thing that money could buy / You know the rich would live and the poor would die / All my trials, Lord, soon be over.” The song was reportedly transported from America to the West Indies. “It appears to have died out in [America] only to be discovered in the Bahamas. From there it was reintroduced to [America and became] one of the standards of the popular folk song movement.” Maynard Solomon (ed.), The Joan Baez Songbook, (New York: Amsco Publications, 1989) p.126.

[4] Mollie Gillen, The Founders of Australia: a biographical dictionary of the First Fleet, (Sydney: Library of Australian History, 1989), p.115. The Eccles family was associated with the parish of St. John the Evangelist, Stoke Next Guildford, Surrey, England since at least the 1600s, with a John Eccles marrying a woman named Elizabeth Easted from the neighbouring village Worplesdon on 25 July 1679. There were a lot of Eccles family members in both Worplesdon and Stoke Next Guildford at the time of Thomas Eccles’s crime and they were all likely to have been related one way or another. Thomas Eccles’s exact age cannot be confirmed, as his baptism record has not been found in the parish records. However, he was probably the son of Thomas Eccles senior, whose other children were baptised in the parish in the same period; Elizabeth Eccles baptised 12 May 1734, Mary Eccles baptised 13 May 1741, John Eccles baptised 11 April 1744, and Martha Eccles baptised 20 May 1747. Often the surname was misspelt in the records, too, for example Eggles / Egles, which has potentially contributed to Thomas Eccles’s own baptism being untraceable.

[5] “Prices of Labour in Surrey in 1780,” W. H. R. Curtler, A Short History of English Agriculture, (London: Clarendon Press, 1909), pp.767-768 accessed online 5 October 2016

Day labourer, per day, in winter = 1 shilling, 4 pence.

Day labourer, per day, in summer = 1 shilling 6 pence.

Reaping wheat, per acre = 7 shillings.

Reaping, according to the crop, up to, per acre = 12 shillings.

Mowing barley, per acre = 2 shillings, 6 pence.

Mowing oats, per acre = 1 shilling and 6 pence to 2 shillings.

Mowing grass, per acre = 2 shillings and 6 pence.

Hand-hoeing turnips, per acre, first time = 6 shillings

Hand-hoeing turnips, per acre, second time = 4 shillings.

Thatching hayricks, per square of 100ft. = 1 shilling

Washing and shearing sheep, per score = 3 shillings

Ploughing light land, per acre = 5 shillings

Ploughing stiff land, per acre = 7 shillings to 10 shillings

Common hurdles, each = 5 pence.

[6] “Prices of Labour in Surrey in 1780,” W. H. R. Curtler, A Short History of English Agriculture (London: Clarendon Press, 1909), pp.767-768 accessed online 5 October 2016

[7] Richard Zijdeman, “Life expectancy at birth (both genders), 1543 to 2011: UK,” Clio Infra, via Our World In Data,  accessed online 5 October 2016. According to this data, the life expectancy of a person, male or female, born around 1730, was on average 36.3 years old. Thomas Eccles’s age is a matter of debate. Mollie Gillen records his birth year as c.1730, which is a good approximation given the baptism dates of the individuals who seem to be his siblings [see footnote 4]. However, the records from the prison hulk Ceres record various ages for him ranging from 43 to 55. His headstone in 1814 recorded his age as 97 years, which would have made his birth year c.1717, while the burial register of St. John’s Cemetery, Parramatta records his age as 96. Gillen herself reached the following conclusion: “At most he could not have been more than 90, and was probably nearer 80.” Mollie Gillen, The Founders of Australia: a biographical dictionary of the First Fleet, (Sydney: Library of Australian History, 1989), pp.115-6

[8] W. H. R. Curtler, A Short History of English Agriculture, (London: Clarendon Press, 1909), p.433 accessed online 5 October 2016

[9] W. H. R. Curtler, A Short History of English Agriculture, (London: Clarendon Press, 1909), p.434 accessed online 5 October 2016

[10] The full original quotation is “Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen [pounds] nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds nought and six, result misery.” See Chapter XII. “Liking Life on My Own Account No Better, I Form a Great Resolution,” in Charles Dickens, David Copperfield, (originally published 1849-1850). I have adapted the original quotation to accommodate the actual annual income of a 1780s labourer of Surrey with reference to W. H. R. Curtler, A Short History of English Agriculture, (London: Clarendon Press, 1909), p.437 accessed online 5 October 2016

[11] W. H. R. Curtler, A Short History of English Agriculture, (London: Clarendon Press, 1909), p.434 accessed online 5 October 2016

[12] W. H. R. Curtler citing Cullum History of Hawstead in A Short History of English Agriculture, (London: Clarendon Press, 1909), pp.439-440 accessed online 5 October 2016

[13] Robert L. Nelson, “The Price of Bread: Poverty, Purchasing Power, and The Victorian Laborer’s Standard of Living,” (2005) The Victorian Web: Literature, History, & Culture in the Age of Victoria, http://www.victorianweb.org/history/work/nelson1.html accessed 5 October 2016

[14] A woman of “St, Mary’s Guildford, Surrey” named “Elizabeth Eccles” and noted to be the “wife of Thomas Eccles” died a little over a year before Thomas committed his crime and was buried at the parish of St. John the Evangelist at Stoke Next Guildford, on 9 March 1781. She may have been the wife of our bacon thief; on the other hand, she could have been his mother, as his father’s name was also Thomas Eccles. The only reason we might suppose it was more likely to be our bacon thief’s wife is the fact that the burial record for 9 March 1781 identified her as “the wife of Thomas Eccles,” which means the Thomas Eccles they referred to was still living at the time of her burial. Thomas’s father, Thomas Eccles senior, appears to have already passed away 18 years earlier on 5 February 1763 in the parish of St John the Evangelist at Stoke, long before this Elizabeth Eccles’s demise; if she had been Thomas Eccles senior’s wife, therefore, her burial record would have stated “the widow of Thomas Eccles.” It is possible that the bacon thief had more than one wife, too, as a marriage record for Thomas Eccles and a second woman by the name of Hannah White has also been located at St. John’s the Evangelist at Stoke on 23 November 1762. Anglican Parish Registers, Woking, Surrey, England: Surrey History Centre; England, Marriages, 1538–1973. Salt Lake City, Utah: FamilySearch, 2013.

[15] W. H. R. Curtler, A Short History of English Agriculture, (London: Clarendon Press, 1909), pp.433-4 accessed online 5 October 2016

[16] W. H. R. Curtler, A Short History of English Agriculture, (London: Clarendon Press, 1909), pp.433-4 accessed online 5 October 2016

[17] Other members of the Eccles family were recorded as “parish poor” and were likely relying on the poor relief supplied by the parish of St. John the Evangelist at Stoke in the early 1780s, which adds further weight to the scenario suggested above for Thomas the bacon thief. For example, a potential relative of Thomas Eccles, named Charles Eccles, had married at Stoke Next Guildford and had a number of children baptised there. One child of Charles Eccles, named James, died 2 September 1784 and was noted in the parish register as “poor.” The entry for another individual directly above his burial record provides even greater clarity to this note, as it contains the slightly fuller note “parish poor.” Anglican Parish Registers, Woking, Surrey, England: Surrey History Centre.

[18] Mollie Gillen, The Founders of Australia: a biographical dictionary of the First Fleet, (Sydney: Library of Australian History, 1989), p.115

[19] The Home Counties were those surrounding (thought not necessarily bordering) London, including Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Kent, Surrey, and Sussex. W. H. R. Curtler, A Short History of English Agriculture, (London: Clarendon Press, 1909), p.439 accessed online 5 October 2016

[20] The tradition probably stretched back even farther, as historian Hélène Adeline Guerber argued that it probably had deep links to the Freyr-honouring Nordic Yule feast. See H. A. Guerber, Myths of the Norsemen: from the eddas and the sagas, (New York: Courier Dover Publications, 1992), pp.146-7.

[21] John Brand, Sir Henry Ellis (ed.), Observations on the popular antiquities of Great Britain: chiefly illustrating the origin of our vulgar and provincial customs, ceremonies, and superstitions, Vol. 2 (London: Bohn, 1853), p.177, accessed 7 October 2016

[22] John Brand, Sir Henry Ellis (ed.), Observations on the popular antiquities of Great Britain: chiefly illustrating the origin of our vulgar and provincial customs, ceremonies, and superstitions, Vol. 2 (London: Bohn, 1853), pp.178-9.

[23] Mollie Gillen, The Founders of Australia: a biographical dictionary of the First Fleet, (Sydney: Library of Australian History, 1989), p.115

[24] Mollie Gillen, The Founders of Australia: a biographical dictionary of the First Fleet, (Sydney: Library of Australian History, 1989), p.115

[25] Emma Christopher, A Merciless Place: The Lost Story of Britain’s Convict Disaster in Africa, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011), p.101.

[26] Emma Christopher, A Merciless Place: The Lost Story of Britain’s Convict Disaster in Africa, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011), p.95

[27] James Eyre cited in Emma Christopher, A Merciless Place: The Lost Story of Britain’s Convict Disaster in Africa, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011), p.89

[28] Emma Christopher, A Merciless Place: The Lost Story of Britain’s Convict Disaster in Africa, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011), pp.101-2

[29] See Emma Christopher, A Merciless Place: The Lost Story of Britain’s Convict Disaster in Africa, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011) and Cassandra Pybus, Black Founders: The unknown story of Australia’s first black settlers, (Sydney: UNSW Press, 2006), pp.56-73

[30] Mollie Gillen, The Founders of Australia: a biographical dictionary of the First Fleet, (Sydney: Library of Australian History, 1989), p.115; Cassandra Pybus, Black Founders: The unknown story of Australia’s first black settlers, (Sydney: UNSW Press, 2006), pp.57-8.

[31] Anglican Parish Registers, Woking, Surrey, England: Surrey History Centre.

[32] After being repurposed as a prison hulk, HMS Ceres saw active duty again in Egypt in 1801 as a fifth-rate warship during Anglo-French hostilities associated with the French Revolution.

[33] porcus is the Latin word for pig.

[34] Cato the Elder, De Agri Cultura, 134 in W.D. Hooper and H. B. Ash (tr.), On Agriculture, (New York: Loeb Classical Library, 1934), accessed online 9 October 2016

[35] Cato the Elder, De Agri Cultura, 134 in W.D. Hooper and H. B. Ash (tr.), On Agriculture, (New York: Loeb Classical Library, 1934), accessed online 9 October 2016

[36] Home Office, Convict Transportation Registers, The National Archives Microfilm Publication HO11; Piece 1, (The National Archives of the UK (TNA), Kew, Surrey, England); Home Office, Settlers and Convicts, New South Wales and Tasmania, The National Archives Microfilm Publication HO10, Piece 5, (The National Archives of the UK (TNA), Kew, Surrey, England); Mollie Gillen, The Founders of Australia: a biographical dictionary of the First Fleet, (Sydney: Library of Australian History, 1989), p.115

[37] Michaela Ann Cameron, “Scarborough,” Dictionary of Sydney, (2016), http://dictionaryofsydney.org/entry/scarborough accessed 10 October 2016

[38] Michaela Ann Cameron, “Scarborough,” Dictionary of Sydney, (2016), http://dictionaryofsydney.org/entry/scarborough accessed 10 October 2016

[39] David Collins, “Chapter IV,” An Account of the English Colony in New South Wales, Vol. I.,(London: The Strand, 1798), accessed online 9 October 2016

[40] David Collins, “Chapter IV,” An Account of the English Colony in New South Wales, Vol. I.,(London: The Strand, 1798), accessed online 9 October 2016

[41] Mollie Gillen, The Founders of Australia: a biographical dictionary of the First Fleet, (Sydney: Library of Australian History, 1989), p.115. One website claims that this was the first charge of ‘drunkenness’ in the colony but, as of the time of this biography’s publication, the author has not confirmed this point with reference to primary sources; see http://www.visitsydneyaustralia.com.au/sydney-firsts.html accessed 10 October 2016

[42] Mollie Gillen, The Founders of Australia: a biographical dictionary of the First Fleet, (Sydney: Library of Australian History, 1989), p.115

[43] Mollie Gillen, The Founders of Australia: a biographical dictionary of the First Fleet, (Sydney: Library of Australian History, 1989), p.115

[44] David Collins, “Chapter VI,” An Account of the English Colony in New South Wales, Vol. I., (London: The Strand, 1798), accessed online 9 October 2016; Ron Ringer, “From Sheas Creek to Alexandra Canal,” Dictionary of Sydney (2013), http://dictionaryofsydney.org/entry/from_sheas_creek_to_alexandra_canal accessed 10 October 2016

[45] David Collins, “Chapter VI,” An Account of the English Colony in New South Wales, Vol. I., (London: The Strand, 1798), accessed online 9 October 2016; Mollie Gillen, The Founders of Australia: a biographical dictionary of the First Fleet, (Sydney: Library of Australian History, 1989), p.115

[46] Cathy Dunn, “Marriage List of November 1791, Norfolk Island,” Australian History Research, http://www.australianhistoryresearch.info/marriage-list-of-november-1791-norfolk-island/ accessed 10 October 2016

[47] Mollie Gillen, The Founders of Australia: a biographical dictionary of the First Fleet, (Sydney: Library of Australian History, 1989), p.115. Samuel was himself a convict transported per Friendship, but he must have been one of those who had distinguished himself from the majority to be entrusted with a position that Judge Advocate David Collins no doubt would have considered one ‘which free people alone should have been appointed in this colony.’ According to Collins, those convicts who had ‘the best characters,…who had merited by the propriety of their conduct the good report of the officers on board the ships in which they were embarked,…who were qualified to instruct and direct others in the exercise of professions in which they had superior knowledge and experience,’ were typically given positions of authority. Sadly, Samuel Hussey later hanged himself soon after reaching the Van Diemen’s Land settlement, aged 52. See David Collins, “Chapter VI,” An Account of the English Colony in New South Wales, Vol. I., (London: The Strand, 1798), accessed online 10 October 2016

[48] Cathy Dunn, “Some Land Grants of 1791 Parramatta NSW and Norfolk Island,” Australian History Research, http://www.australianhistoryresearch.info/some-land-grants-of-1791/ accessed 10 October 1791

[49] New South Wales Government, Card Index to Letters Received, Colonial Secretary, Reel 1250, (State Records Authority of New South Wales, Kingswood, New South Wales, Australia).

[50] Mollie Gillen, The Founders of Australia: a biographical dictionary of the First Fleet, (Sydney: Library of Australian History, 1989), p.115

[51] Mollie Gillen, The Founders of Australia: a biographical dictionary of the First Fleet, (Sydney: Library of Australian History, 1989), p.115; Cathy Dunn, “Thomas Eccles and Elizabeth Bird, Convicts of the First Fleet,” Australian History Research, http://www.australianhistoryresearch.info/thomas-eccles-and-elizabeth-bird-convicts-of-the-first-fleet/, accessed 11 October 2016

[52] Fellowship of First Fleeters, “Thomas Eccles,” Fellowship of First Fleeters, (n.d) http://www.fellowshipfirstfleeters.org.au/thomaseccles.htm accessed 11 October 2016

[53] Mollie Gillen, The Founders of Australia: a biographical dictionary of the First Fleet, (Sydney: Library of Australian History, 1989), p.115

[54] Mollie Gillen, The Founders of Australia: a biographical dictionary of the First Fleet, (Sydney: Library of Australian History, 1989), p.115

[55] State Records Authority of New South Wales, Colonial Secretary: List of all Grants and Leases 1788-1809, Archive Reel: 1999; Series: NRS 1213, (Kingswood, NSW, Australia); State Records Authority of New South Wales, Registers of Land Grants and Leases, Series: NRS 13836; Item: 7/445; Reel: 2560, (Kingswood, New South Wales, Australia).

[56] “Classified Advertising,” The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW: 1803 – 1842), Sunday 26 March 1809, p.2

[57] Anglican Parish Registers, Woking, Surrey, England: Surrey History Centre.

[58] Before the front of Thomas’s headstone deteriorated, it read: “To the Mem— —-/ THOMAS EXELES [sic] / Who died Aprel [sic] the 1 1814 Aged / 97 years.” Judith Dunn, The Parramatta Cemeteries: St. John’s, (Parramatta, NSW: Parramatta and District Historical Society, 1991), p.134. The burial register of St. John’s Cemetery, Parramatta records his age as 96; “Thomas Hecles [sic] aged 96 of the Parish St. John Parramatta, Free, was buried April 3, 1814. Registered April 5, 1814 by me John Eyre Clarke.” Parish Burial Registers, Textual records, St. John’s Anglican Church Parramatta, New South Wales, Australia. See footnote 7 for further details. Mollie Gillen also questions the validity of the claim that Betty Eccles, (née Elizabeth Bird) lived to the age of 105. SeeMollie Gillen, The Founders of Australia: a biographical dictionary of the First Fleet, (Sydney: Library of Australian History, 1989), pp.34-5. However, a baptism record seems to confirm that she was indeed baptised in 1730 at that location.

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