Thomas Hand

Thomas Hand
Born in 1792 at St Ives, details of Thomas' early life are uncertain. Well educated for the times, able to read and write, he was a butcher by trade. Thomas was 5ft 6ins tall with a fresh complexion, dark brown/grey hair and a large nose. He had a scar on his left hand forefinger, and 'Mary Walls' or 'Mary Wallson' tattooed on his left arm.

At some point Thomas moved to Cambridge and married. The first record of him is in June 1833, when he was committed to the Cambridge gaol for wilful and malicious trespass upon the property of Rev Charles Simeon, breaking his carriage windows as reported 15 June 1833 in the Huntingdon, Bedford & Peterborough Gazette.

He was again in trouble in February 1834, committed to Cambridge gaol on suspicion of felony, found with a long carving knife with silver ferrule and top and white cambric and cotton pocket handkerchiefs. Details were reported 21 February 1834 in the Cambridge Chronicle & Huntingdonshire Gazette.

Cambridge Town Gaol
Cambridge Town Gaol, on Parker's Piece from 1827 to 1878.
There were another two appearances in March 1834 and July 1838, for stealing money from a house in Cambridge (reported 8 March 1834), and theft of a jacket and pocket handkerchief (reported 4 August 1838). For the latter offence Thomas got 18 months hard labour. He was recorded as 45 years old.

In October 1840 he appeared at Cambridge Borough Sessions, with George White and John Edwards, on a charge of 'uttering counterfeit coin'. Although his associates got 6 and 12 months respectively, Thomas' verdict was 'no prosecution'. Described as a 'notorious thief' and clearly guilty, Thomas was let free for giving the police the address of the counterfeiter. Details were reported 15 August 1840 in the Cambridge Independent Press.

His final appearance was on 20 July 1841 at the Cambridge County Assizes, charged with larceny. Thomas had stolen a leg of beef and neck of mutton from Edward Feaks' butcher's stall. By the time he offered the meat for sale at the Earl of Warwick pub later in the day it was unfit to eat, being maggoty. Thomas was convicted and given 7 years transportation. Details were reported 24 July 1841 in the Cambridge Independent Press.

Knowing there was a good chance of transportation for multiple offences, what drove Thomas to take the risk? His family situation may give a clue. Described as a widower with three children, possibly he was desperate to support his family. However, earlier in 1841 his children were not with him when Thomas was living in a boarding house in the centre of Cambridge. Possibly they were with relatives, or boarded out by the local poor house. Possibly Thomas was merely a recidivist.

Kept in Cambridge gaol until 2 August 1841, Thomas was moved to a prison hulk. After almost a year in atrocious conditions, he embarked from Sheerness aboard the Emily on 25 June 1842, one of a cargo of 240 male convicts. The Master, John Humble, was described by Surgeon Andrew Henderson in his journal as being an habitual drunkard. Nevertheless they arrived at Van Dieman's Land (Tasmania) on 24 November 1842, only two convicts having died on the trip.

Described as well behaved and industrious during the voyage, Thomas was assigned to a work gang or to work for one of the free settlers. It wasn't long before he was again in trouble.

In October 1843 he was found guilty of misconduct for losing or making away with his knife and given four days solitary confinement. In December 1843 he was again found guilty of misconduct with another four days solitary confinement for throwing a stone at a fellow prisoner. More misconduct in April 1844 for which he was given seven days solitary, having been found with a shirt in his possession for which he had no explanation.

Thomas was released from his first stage of probation on 24 July 1844, giving him the right to paid labour. In spite of this he continued to offend. In August 1844 he was up for misconduct and given seven days solitary, having sold a tin pot to a fellow prisoner for bread.

Thomas gained his Ticket of Leave on 7 July 1846 giving him extra privileges, such as the right to marry. There were further misconduct convictions. In August 1846 he was caught trespassing on premises to communicate with female servants and given a period of hard labour. A month later he was given six days solitary for neglecting his work. Thomas was in trouble again as soon as he was released, given fourteen days solitary for again trespassing on premises to communicate with female servants, making them neglect their work.

Thomas gained his Certificate of Freedom on 22 July 1848 and became a free settler. What happened thereafter is unclear. It's likely Thomas died in Hobart on 8 May 1856 of pneumonia, aged 66 years.

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