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Thomas Pamphlett (aka James Groom)

Updated: 2 days ago

James Groom (who is generally remembered as Thomas Pamphlett) was born in England in 1788. At age 12 years he became an apprentice in the brickyards at Manchester.

By 1810 he had qualified as a brickmaker, and in that year at the age of 22, he an a companion George Harris were charged with stealing five pieces of woollen cloth from the shop of George Gartside at Northwich.

When arrested James gave his name as Thomas Pamphlett. At the same time John Groom aged 56 ( who appears to have been his father) was charged with receiving the pieces of cloth, knowing them to have been stolen. Thomas Pamphlett was also charged with stealing a bay mare belonging to George Bennett of Bostock near Northwich. George Harris and John Groom snr. were found not guilty and Thomas Pamphlett was sentenced to death for having stolen the horse. His sentence was subsequently commuted to transportation to New South Wales for 14 years.

Thomas Pamphlett, in 1811 was picked up by the Guildford from the hulk Fortunee in Langstone Harbour next to Portsmouth, and was one of 200 convicts on the voyage to New South Wales. In August 1811 the ship sailed from the Thames to Portsmouth and on 3rd September set sail for Australia. On 26th October it called at Rio de Janiero and departed again on 13th November. It sailed into Sydney harbour on 18th January 1812 after a voyage of 137 days.

Brickfield Hill and village on the High Road to Parramatta c1797

Upon arrival in the colony, Thomas Pamphlett was assigned to the brickyards at Brickfield Hill near Sydney and was accommodated in a wooden hut in Brickfield Village.

In 1813 he was residing at The Rocks in Sydney when he was one of a group who appeared in court to answer the following charge:

"Thomas Pamphlett, otherwise known as James Groom, Abraham Braham and Thomas Moody (all prisoners) are charged with violently and unlawfully ripping out , taking and carrying away certain sash frames and glazed sashes affixed to a building at a place called Birch Grove aforesaid and William William Bradbury and John Brown (also prisoners) are charged with unlawfully receiving a quantity of panes of glass part of the said Goods and chattels knowing them to be unlawfully stolen".

For this offence Thomas was sentenced to 100 lashes and 6 months in the chain gang.

In September 1814 he and four others escaped and went bush. Recaptured he was separated from his companions and placed in the carpenters gang. In November be absconded again and upon recapture was sent to the penal settlement at Newcastle. Within a month he had gone bush with six others and upon recapture received 50 lashes. Thereafter he seems to have reformed. Mainly due to finding a wife amongst the 40 female convicts at Newcastle and had settled down to domesticity. He was still in Newcastle in November 1818 but sometime during the following year was sent back to Sydney and assigned as a labourer to the brickmaking gang. Soon afterwards he sent a petition to the Governor seeking communtation of his sentence. In the petition he stated that he has a "Wife and three children to support by industry with what assistance the said mother can do by her needlework" On 31st January 1820 Governor Macquarie perused the petition and wrote C.P (conditional pardon) on it. Thomas who was then 31, soon took his family to live in the Hawkesbury district. With a ticket-of-leave he was now able to work full time for wages.

In 1823 William Cox, a pastoralist at Clarendon near Windsor, wanted cedar for the interior of a house that he was erecting there. he sent four men - Richard Parsons, Thomas Pamphlett, John Finnegan and John Thompson - to go by boat to Illawarra to fetch the timber. All were ticket-of-leave men except Finnegan, who was still a convict assigned to William Cox. They sailed out of the Hawkesbury and called into Sydney briefly to pick up supplies before continuing their voyage south on their mission to buy cedar at Illawarra for William Cox.

When they were off Woolloongong, a gale blew up from the west and they were forced to lower the sail and soon they were blown out to sea beyond the sight of land. For five days they were tossed around the ocean before the wind abated. Then they steered in a north-westerly direction, thinking that this would take them to the five Islands district. With their water supply exhausted they were all suffering from thirst. After 16 days at sea a light shower of rain enabled them to collect some water in a bucket and this eased their thurst for a time. On April 11th after 22 days at sea, Thompson died and three days later his companions buried him at sea. On April 15th 1823 their boat was wrecked as Pamphlett, Finnegan and Parsons landed on the beach on the eastern side on Moreton Island.

Thinking Sydney was to the north, they set off along the beach in this direction with two sacks of flour and a few other items.

Passing Cape Moreton, they followed the shore until they reached the South Passage, when they realized that they were on an island. They crossed the passage in a native canoe and were cared for by the indigenous at Amity Point. There they built a canoe of their own and paddled to Peel Island and finally to the mainland near Cleveland, where they abandoned their canoe.

Now able to walk northwards again, they reached the mouth of the Brisbane River but were unable to cross it.

They walked upstream in search of a canoe and eventually found one at

Oxley Creek on the 23rd June 1823.

After returning to the mouth of the river, they followed the shore of Moreton Bay to Clontarf Point on the Redcliffe Peninsula which they reached on 30th June.

After staying with the indigenous for a month or so, they resumed their journey northwards, arriving in Noosa on Nov 13th.

Pamphlett and Finnegan each returned separately to Bribie, where they were found on 29th and 30th November, respectively, by John Oxley in the Mermaid.

An original lithograph from the Picturesque Atlas of Australasia published in 1886 by Andrew Garran Volume 2, p.316.

On 29th November 1823, Pamphlett was with some of his indigenous friends on the beach at Bribie Island cooking the day's catch when he saw small government cutter Mermaid in the bay. It was explorer John Oxley who had been searching up and down the coast for a new convict settlement. Only then did Pamphlett learn that Sydney was over 500 miles (800 km) to the south rather than to the north. Next day they picked up Finnegan who was returning from a tribal fight.

Finnegan accompanied Oxley on his exploration of the Brisbane River, while Pamphlett assisted Uniacke and others with aspects of Aboriginal culture and remained on the Mermaid in Pumicestone Channel.

All returned to Sydney on the Mermaid. Parsons had last been seen (by Finnegan) at Noosa. He had continued to travel north, but eventually he also returned to Bribie, where he was found by Oxley in the Amity in September 1824.

Complete map of route taken by castaways in 1823 added to Robert Dixon's map of 1842:

A complete transcript narrative of Thomas Pamphlet - by John Uniacke is available to download at the following link:

In 1823, Oxley took Pamphlett and Finnegan back to Sydney. A year and a half later, as a labourer at Portland Head west of Sydney, Pamphlett committed another crime. He stole two bags of flour, the very food that had initially kept him alive at Moreton Bay. In a further irony, he was sentenced to seven years’ transportation to the new Moreton Bay penal colony, which had been set up after a favourable report on the area by Oxley, thanks to Pamphlett and Finnegan. The Moreton Bay settlement became Brisbane, the capital of Queensland, Australia.

Pamphlett's behaviour during his term of imprisonment was exemplary except for one day's escape in January 1833, all the more surprising as his sentence had almost expired. He left Moreton Bay in April 1833 and Thomas Pamphlett finally received his ticket of Freedom in November 1833.

He lived uneventfully until his death on 1st December 1838 at Penrith aged 50 years.

Interesting footnote:

While Thomas Pamphlett (aka James Groom) was interred at the Moreton Bay Penal settlement from 1825 to 1833, there was a soldier stationed there also with the name of James Groom (b.1789 - d.1839) who was in the 7th Co 57th Regiment (West Middlesex) who was initially sent to Moreton Bay in 1828, where his wife Albertine Dupont gave birth to his daughter Christina Groom in 1828. In 1830 James was sent to Parramatta, and in 1831 he was transferred to the Leicestershire Regiment and sent back to Moreton Bay.

On the 31st May 1833 he was discharged, possibly on grounds of ill-health as he died on 27th Feb 1839 age 50. James was a Private soldier with over 14 yrs army service, his discharge pay for 18 months at 8d per day was 18 pounds 4 shillings and 8 pence ($36.47).

A Bridge on Graceville Ave is named after Thomas Pamphlett

A complete transcript narrative of Thomas Pamphlett and John Finnegan - by John Uniacke is available as a 16 page downloadable pdf file at:

A complete transcript narrative of Thomas Pamphlett and John Finnegan - by John Uniacke is available as a 16 page downloadable pdf file at:



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