JOSEPH ELLIOTT ALIAS TRIMBY
Trimby’s Story begins in Horningsham, Wiltshire, England
in 1755 with a Richard Trimby and Christian Elliot. They
were married by special licence. Their children James,
Richard, Joseph and Benjamin (twins) and later another
Benjamin were baptized at Horningsham. Joseph’s twin
brother, Benjamin, must have died in infancy. Why he
took his mother’s maiden name is still a mystery.
The First Step of Trimby’s Travels.
At Bristol on 24 November 1784 twenty-year-old Joseph
Elliott, a gardener, was sentenced to seven years
transportation for stealing a pocket book (it was
empty!). A few days later he was received on Dunkirk
hulk described as “tolerably decent and orderly”. Two
years later he was transferred to Friendship to
set sail for Botany Bay in May 1787. Over eight months
later, in January 1788, Joseph Elliott stepped onto land
at Port Jackson.
The Second Step of Trimby’s Travels.
In May 1790 Joseph Elliott was accused of stealing 1¼
lbs potatoes worth two pence halfpenny from Mr Richard
Johnson. He pleaded guilty but said in defence he had
worked hard all day and was very hungry…punishment…300
lashes on his bare back with cat of nine tails, no flour
ration for 6 months and to be chained for the same 6
months to two public delinquents at work on the roads. A
few days later Captain Phillip allowed him his flour
ration. Sometime at end of 1790 Joseph set sail again.
He was sent to Norfolk Island.
The Third Step in Trimby’s Travels.
Jas Elliott is recorded in December 1790 as shirking his
duty —punishment 100 lashes (he could only take 73.)
Again in May 1791 Jas Elliott was seriously injured from
a falling tree. 1791 finds Joseph Elliott subsisting
with Elizabeth Seiney on a Phillipsburg lot with 95 rods
cleared, sharing a five-month-old sow. By 1793 they
were settled on 12 acres of Lot No 51. Elizabeth had
arrived at Port Jackson in June 1790 and two months
later was sent to Norfolk Island, so she was there
before Joseph. From June 1794 onwards Joseph Elliott
disappears and Joseph
possibly because he and Elizabeth then had
son James to carry on the rightful name. In December
1796 Joseph and Elizabeth were leasing 60 acres and had
2 sons, James and Joseph.
records show Joseph Trimby as a second class settler
with two sons without wife, 13 acres cleared owning 17
swine, signing with mark for grain sold to stores. A
more recently restored headstone reads Elizabeth Trumby
and her 1 or 4 yr old son William. This seems to be
Elizabeth Trimby who died aged 30 years. So Joseph had
fathered three sons on Norfolk Island to Elizabeth.
Years roll on. Joseph was on Norfolk Island for 22
years, 1790 to January 1813 (aged 26-48).
The Fourth Step of Trimby’s Travels.
Joseph was evacuated from Norfolk Island to Norfolk
Plains in Van Diemen’s Land Jan 1813. His two sons and
daughter-in-law travelled as adults on the same ship.
James had married Mary Egan the previous year.
were among the first settlers at Norfolk Plains in Van
Diemen’s Land with three farms on west bank of the South
Esk River. There is little doubt that in the 1800s Van
Diemen’s Land was correctly termed
a bandit society.
Even those in authority were often guilty of crimes.
Once again Joseph was a loser. James was given a
contract to supply fresh mutton to His Majesty’s Stores
at Launceston. During one six-month period he did supply
1100 lbs of mutton. But between them the Trimbys had
only 200 acres whereas others had much larger holdings
and could supply four times as much as Trimbys. James
did what others did — resorted to stealing sheep — but
he was caught, taken into custody, with his father and
brother as accomplices. Now recorded in historical
records in graphic detail, we read, “one
famous case, Joseph Trimby and his two sons….That
incorrigible family of sheep stealers, the Trimbys….
Their renowned sheep stealing activities.
Those who laid the charges were not above the law
themselves. However the Trimbys were guilty.
Joseph lost his freedom. All three Trimbys were accused
on 16 January 1818, and brought for trial in June to the
place now called Sydney.
The Fifth Step of Trimby’s Travels
began with the voyage from Van Diemen’s Land aboard
Lady Nelson to Sydney for trial. Others were
acquitted but the Trimbys were convicted and sentenced
to 14 years at Newcastle the major colonial prison, a
place for those who had transgressed, where convicts
were employed as cedar getters, miners, lime burners,
shingle splitters and carpenters.
The Sixth Step of Trimbys Travels
began on 30 June 1818 sailing up the coast on board
Lady Nelson from Sydney to Newcastle — that place
first called Coal River, then King’s Town and now
Newcastle. To the convicted it was no
— they called it “the
Hell of NSW’.
Most of the
700 people were convicts with inadequate diet, shortage
of clothes, and 10 hours daily work, 5 to 6 in summer
and 4 to 8 in winter. They were made attend divine
service, which was conducted by the military until a
chaplain came in 1820. Joseph was now 54 years and
labelled “reoffender”. His two sons were now also
convicts. The Trimbys worked as shingle splitters and
spent his first six months of Newcastle convict life
under Captain James Wallis who had improved things a
little — starting building programs, exploring the
valley, finding fertile land, starting farming programs,
and allowing well-behaved prisoners to live in barracks
and on farms. That farm area now called Wallis Plains
was named after him. Ticket-of-Leave convicts were even
allowed some farming land of their own. His humane rule
earned personal commendation from Governor Macquarie.
Captain Wallis left in December 1818, the year Governor
Macquarie requested the name “Australia” be used. It was
officially adopted in 1820.
Captain Wallis left, the Trimbys
years under the notorious Major Morisset, the longest
serving commandant of Newcastle. Yes, he did continue
building and farming programs, but used strict rule and
harsh punishment. He thought Captain Wallis too lenient
and Morisset’s own religious beliefs and personal
behavior upset the Chaplain.
Morisset, the Trimbys
experienced some life
under Captain Allman. He had been born in Ireland
(later died in Yass NSW) and was a sound, kindly
considerate man, who respected people. He was given some
land in Hunter Valley and bought more at Wallis Plains
which he called “Rathluba”. But he was a failure both as
farmer and family financier.
convicts, Joseph would have worn ordinary clothes at
first, then calico ”slops”, black & yellow for chain
gangs— then around 1820 the broad arrow that English
“owned by the Government”.
In summary, Joseph and his sons had six months in
Newcastle under Captain Wallis, five years under Major
Morisset and some time under Captain Allman. They were
Early Novocastrians indeed!
In 1823 the
Trimbys requested permission to return to their VDL
property. The request was ignored – no reply. In that
year Tasmania became a separate colony so had interest
in the Trimbys’ request.
records show two Josephs as part of a group farming 11
farms in Wallis Plains.
The Seventh Step of Trimby’s Travels
was from Newcastle to Wallis Plains. The road wasn’t
built until 1824 and a regular boat service didn’t start
until 1824 so presumably it was dray/walking all the
way. In 1825 Joseph, now 60, is recorded farming on 10
acres with two sons employed by Captain Allman. Dated
January 1825, a document sent by the Commandant to the
Governor describes Joseph as “well behaved”.
On 12 April
1825 a certificate of Good Conduct was transmitted by
the Commandant to Colonial Secretary re the Trimbys and
supported by the Chaplain. Joseph is described as an
honest, industrious, sober character not guilty of any
crime or misdemeanor since coming to Newcastle. A few
weeks later a Ticket of Leave was granted.
Finally some reward for Joseph. Register of Ticket of
Leave describes him as … a native of Wiltshire,
carpenter by trade, 5' 4½" tall, sallow complexion,
brown to grey hair, dark eyes. – Joseph Junior a shingle
splitter, 5' 7" height, dark brown hair, dark eyes. No
personal description for James.
Plains became “home” for Joseph. 1828 census shows
Joseph Trimby farmer TOL under Captain Allman, with 2
sons, 30 acres, 10 cleared, 10 cultivated and horses,
cattle, sheep and other. In March that same year, James
the eldest son died. His father Joseph buried him in
their family land at “Lochend” as there was no cemetery
land at that time. Seven years later November 1835
Joseph applied for warrant to have his son’s body moved
to consecrated land –“the Glebe cemetery”– on 28
November 1835. The headstone still exists and shows the
original death date, 10 March 1828. Who paid for and
worded the headstone which still survives? Was it
Trimbys were granted Pardon through Allman’s
influence. Allman must have been “Friend to Joseph
Trimby”. Because of the Pardon Joseph Jnr and Hannah
now permitted to legally marry. They did so in the
Schoolhouse at Maitland and register reads ..both free..
Joseph and Hannah already had 2 children James and Mary
Ann, and after their legal marriage another son, John.
Seven months after his son’s reburial, having completed
72 years of life existence and travelling many
journeys mostly by ship. First Fleeter Joseph died, was
buried 25 June 1836 at Maitland. St Peter’s Burial
Joseph Free/ Arrived in one of the first ships.
We now close the saga of “ Trimby’s Travels” regretting
the seven years unjust conviction that became 47 years
punishment from 1784-1831 (plus 5 years pardon) all
because of an empty pouch/wallet. Joseph served his
full time in every way.
Sr Andrea Myers