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Thomas Prior (1752–1836)

Thomas Prior and William Kilby were found guilty, on 16 January 1784 at the Abingdon Quarter Sessions, Berkshire, of stealing 10 turkeys, 13 fowls, 5 ducks and 2 geese in a linen bag. The pair were sent to the Censor hulk on the Thames River. They arrived in Sydney in January 1788 aboard the Alexander as part of the First Fleet.

On 23 January 1789 Prior was sentenced to 300 lashes for buying from William Radford a shirt, trousers and pair of shoes. He was sent to Norfolk Island on the Sirius on 4 March 1790. Within a year he was subsisting on a Sydney Town lot, with 50 rods cleared and 30 rods of timber felled. By March 1794 he was working as a shoemaker. He left Norfolk Island aboard the Daedalus in November; Rebecca Holmes was also on the ship. The couple married at Sydney on 14 August 1795. 

In 1798 Prior received a liquor licence. In June 1803 he worked as a shoemaker at his Sydney town lot; he was still working there as a shoemaker in 1814, employing one convict. In the 1828 Census he was listed as a gardener, living in Gloucester Street, aged 79. Following his wife's death in 1805 Prior began a relationship with Mary Shakeshaft; they do not appear to have married. Shakeshaft is described in musters at various times as his 'concubine', wife and housekeeper.

Prior died at Princes Street, Sydney on 24 July 1836. His headstone recorded his age as 88. He left all his property to his executor William Cairns, a licenced victualler of Sydney.

* information from Mollie Gillen, The Founders of Australia: A Biographical Dictionary of the First Fleet (1989), pp 293-94

Citation details

'Prior, Thomas (1752–1836)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 31 May 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Pryor, Thomas

Berkshire, England


24 July, 1836 (aged ~ 84)
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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Convict Record

Crime: theft
Sentence: 7 years