THOMAS GEORGE SHORTLAND 1771 - 1827
Thomas George Shortland, the younger son of Lt
John Shortland Senior was born at,
Portsea, Hampshire on the 10 May 17711,
however this is at variance with the parish records of
St. Mary, Portsea, Hampshire. He entered the navy as a
midshipman on the HMS Irresistible in January
1785 then as an able seaman aboard the HMS Good
Intent at Ramsgate. During March 1787 at his
father’s solicitation Thomas moved to the Alexander, transport
as 2nd Mate for the First Fleet to Botany
Bay. After arrival Thomas remained at Port Jackson until
14 July 1788 when he sailed back to England in the
On 19 November 1790 Thomas received promotion to
Lieutenant on the Speedy sloop after being
employed in duties as a midshipman and master’s mate in
the Channel and North Sea. In January 1793 he was
appointed to the Nemesis frigate which
accompanied the fleet under Lord Hood to the
Mediterranean. In September 1794 he was moved to the
Romney, with Sir Charles Hamilton, and
followed him to
the Melpomene frigate in April 1795. On the night
of the 3 August 1798, he commanded the boats of the
frigate in cutting out the armed brig Adventurier
from under the batteries in the bay of
the north coast of Brittany. It was a
gallant exploit for which he was promoted to the rank of
commander on 20 April 1799 and appointed to the
Voltigeur sloop on the Newfoundland station.
On 16 December 1799 Shortland married Elizabeth Tonkin of
Plymouth. Elizabeth, born 16 August 1771 was the
daughter of Elizabeth Savery whose family had links to
royalty back to the Plantagenet King Edward I (Longshanks).
A son, George Tonkin Shortland, was born in 1800.
In 1801 Shortland was temporarily appointed to outfit
the 80-gun ship Donegal then in dock at Plymouth.
For his extraordinary effort in fitting her for sea he
was made Captain of the
frigate, a command which was confirmed
on 1 March 1802. He took this ship out to the East
Indies but due to ill health was compelled to return to
England in the spring of 1803. A daughter Elizabeth was
born in 1802.
For a short time as captain of Britannia and of
Caesar bearing the flag of Sir Richard John
Strachan a son Willoughby was born in1804 and a daughter
Margaret Amelia in 1806 after which he joined the
Canopus as flag- captain to Sir Thomas Lewis and
commanded that ship to lead the squadron of Sir Thomas
Duckworth through the Dardanelles in February 1807.
After the death of Sir Thomas Louis, Shortland continued
to command the Canopis and in September 1807
moved to the Queen stationed in
until the end of 1808.
In 1809 he commanded the Valiant in the
expedition to the Scheldt and in 1810-11 the Iris
frigate off Cadiz and in the West Indies. In 1812-1813
he served aboard the Royal Oak as flag-captain to
Lord Amelius Beauclerk.
Thomas and Elizabeth had six more children; Catherine
Inman in 1809, Edward in 1812, John Rutherford in 1814,
Peter Frederick in 1815, Cordelia Augustine in 1818 and
Caroline in 1819.
In November 1813 Shortland was appointed as agent for
prisoners - of - war at Dartmoor, then from April 1816
to April 1819 he was captain superintendent of the
ordinary at Plymouth, and for the next three years was
comptroller-general of the preventive boat service.
On 14 July 1825 Shortland was appointed resident
commissioner at Jamaica, where he served until his death
on 23 November 1827. He died of yellow fever aged 56 and
is buried in a tomb located beneath the floor of St
Andrew Parish Church, Halfway Tree Road, Kingston,
Jamaica. The tomb is positioned partially under pews and
is covered by an 8ft by 4ft slab of marble. Also buried
with Thomas is his daughter Elizabeth who died on the 25
November of the same year.
It is of note that four of Thomas and Elizabeth
Shortland’s sons made major contributions to life in
Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere.
Willoughby Shortland, the second son, joined the
Royal Navy at 14 in 1818 and after 21 years’ service he
accompanied Lieutenant-Governor William Hobson to
New Zealand as colonial secretary. In 1842 he became
acting Governor of New Zealand until 1843. He then took
up the position of President of the Island of Nevis in
the Leeward Islands and after that as Governor of nearby
Tobago from 1854 to 1856.
The third son, Edward Shortland, studied medicine
in London and at his brother Willoughby’s request went
to New Zealand as Private Secretary to Governor Hobson
in 1841. In August the following year, as Dr Shortland,
he was appointed as Protector of Natives. He studied the
native languages and became a profound Maori scholar. He
settled finally in Auckland where he practised medicine.
He returned to England in 1889 and lived at Plymouth
where he died in 1893, aged 81. The third son of Edward,
Thomas Willoughby Shortland ventured to Sydney in
1880, marrying at Newtown in 1887 and lived and raised
his children in Sydney.
John Rutherford Shortland the fourth son was born and
educated in Princetown Devonshire during his father’s
employment as agent- for- prisoners of war at Dartmoor.
His education led to him being ordained in the Church of
England and serving as a curate at St. Mary’s Church in
Penzance. After his conversion at the Oratory in
Birmingham, he went on to become a Catholic priest and
was ordained in1855 and appointed to St Marys Cathedral
in Plymouth to give help to the missions of the diocese.
After the establishment of the Cathedral Chapter, Father
Shortland was made a Canon in 1856 and was entrusted
during 1858 to the recovery of the mission in Penzance.
Being a man of some means Canon Shortland guided the
mission back to good health to the point that Penzance
was one of only four missions in the diocese to be given
the title of Missionary Rectory and the Canon as
Missionary Rector. His funeral was a memorable occasion
in Penzance, attended by numerous priests of the diocese
and leaders of the town churches. Crowds of town folk
lined the streets on the way to the cemetery and over
his grave a large crucifix was erected as his memorial.
He was the author of several books including “The
Corean Martyrs” (1869), “The Persecutions of
Annum” (1875) and “The Granted Wish”.
Thomas George Shortland’s fifth son, Peter Frederick
Shortland also chose a naval career. He joined
the Royal Navy in 1827 aged 12, and from 1836 to 1837 he
was serving in Australian waters on HMS Rattlesnake.
The first settlement of Melbourne was taking place at
this time and Peter Shortland and Thomas Symonds charted
Port Phillip Bay. Symonds named the entrance to the bay
Shortland Bluff, but this was changed to Queenscliff in
1853 in honour of Queen Victoria. Peter took leave of
absence on his return to England in 1838 to study for a
Mathematics degree at Cambridge. This assisted him in
his many years as a Royal Navy marine surveyor charting
Canadian waters. Later he was involved in surveys of the
Indian Ocean coastlines. On his retirement from active
service in 1870 he returned to Cambridge and took out a
law degree, later being called to the bar. In the last
seven years of his life, he had reached the rank of
1. Dictionary of National Biography 1855-1900 V52.
2. J.W. Shortland, “The Shortland Family of the
Royal Navy and Australasia with Particular Reference to
the First Fleet”,
State Library of New South Wales, Australian
National Library, FFF First Fleet House Library 16.6Bs
#6292 John W Shortland