Thomas Dyball, Convict (1809-1905)

On the 30 July 1905 one of New South Wales’ longest lived transported convicts, Thomas Dyball, breathed his last at Port Macquarie having, it is believed, lived a full and healthy life of 96 years.

The Dyball name is most commonly associated with the Norfolk area of England. If his age at death is correct this Thomas Dyball was likely born on 30 January 1809 in the parish of Burgh St. Margaret (Yarmouth) in Norfolk to parents Robert Dyball and Ann Dyball (nee Copping). However, there were other Thomas Dyballs born in Norfolk around that time so we may never know the truth.

On 8 April 1829 the Bury and Norwich Post recorded the proceedings of the Norfolk Lent Assizes as follows:

… John Browne aged 17 and Thomas Dyball pleaded guilty to, and John Felmingham, aged 21, was charged with having feloniously broken into the dwelling-house of Thomas Willis, of Acle, shop-keeper, and stolen twenty yards of cotton cord, twelve pair of worstead stockings, and other articles, his property on the 21st of February last, and Thomas Benstead was charged with having received the same, knowing it to have been stolen. – Benstead was acquitted, and Felmingham found guilty, and judgment of Death recorded against him.

Thomas was sentenced to transportation for life in New South Wales. He arrived in Sydney on the “Sarah” on 6 December 1829 and was later transferred to the Port Macquarie convict establishment where he was granted a ticket of leave. There he met Catherine Calnan, another convict who had been sentenced to transportation for seven years for picking pockets. Catherine had arrived in Sydney of the “Elizabeth” on 17 December 1836.

Being convicts the couple had to seek permission to marry, and this was given by Rev. John Croos who married them on 18 July 1841. Catherine  received a certificate of freedom in 1845 and Thomas a conditional pardon two years later in early 1847, and at that time with three children and Catherine again pregnant the family decided to stay at Port Macquarie initially. The pardon coincided with the closure of the convict establishment at Port Macquarie as the free settler population in Hastings River grew.

In 1850 the Dyballs moved to the Manning River and became some of the earliest settlers in that area. Thomas took up a selection at Taree Estate and there the couple eventually had nine children before Catherine died at the age of 52 years on 22 November 1870.

Thomas lived on his property for more than fifty years. Only his last eighteen months were spent in ill health when he lived firstly with his sons at Taree and then with his daughter Prudence Grace (Dyball) Beattie on Rawdon island in the Hastings River a little upstream of Port Macquarie where he died. He was buried at the Wauchope Cross Roads Cemetery.

His obituary published in the Manning River Times and Advocate on Saturday 5 August 1905 stated how he could recount many interesting reminiscences of the early days of settlement in this district. It tells of his birth in Norfolk, England and his “immigration” to New South Wales in 1829, but neglects to mention his convict past.

3 thoughts on “Thomas Dyball, Convict (1809-1905)

  1. Rowan,
    Dyball seems such a rare name in Australia and I knew a Charles(Chas) Dyball when I was a child, who lived on the south coast of NSW near Sussex Inlet, he was probably born about 1900. Do you have any information on the names of the children?

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    • Geoff
      Dyball is not a very common surname, and apart from any possible free or assisted immigrants to Australia, there were six Dyball convicts five of whom came from the Norfolk area in England.
      Among the six was a Robert Dyball who was sentenced to 7 years transportation and arrived in Van Dieman’s Land in 1836. Whether he was related to the aforementioned Thomas Dyball or the other Norfolk Dyballs is not known.
      One of Robert’s grandsons was Charles Clifford Dyball who with his wife Phyllis had a camping area and holiday cabins at Sussex Inlet. This appears to be the Chas you knew (maybe on your holidays?).
      See more details at: https://sussexinlet.info/cbspa/history.html#HISTORY_OF_SWANHAVEN
      Cheers

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  2. Please note that I have updated this post to clarify the fact that the stated birth date and place of Thomas Dyball are based only on his age at death being 96 years (and this may not be accurate). The details stated (from Findmypast.co.uk) would then be my best guess for this Thomas Dyball.

    This illustrates the importance of how we, as family historians, present the facts and as well as our opinions/conclusions.

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