Robert Thom – Seven Generations

SS Warrego

Robert Thom (5) came to Australia on it’s maiden voyage in 1883

One of Robert Thom’s (6) pianola rolls

Inside the black lid is a stamped inscription Northern Roll Library, R Thom, 22 Bent St, North Sydney. This roll was given to me by Ian Thom of Sydney, with thanks, see below

Robert Alexander Thom and wife Lillian Merle (Lane)

Taken July 1961, Mosman, Sydney

Robert Alexander Thom’s Trophies

North Sydney Leagues Club awards 1982 and 1984

Robert Thom – Seven generations

Usually the task of tracing your ancestors is made more easier when researching a surname as uncommon as Thom. But prior to civil registration, such as prior to 1855 in Scotland, the lack of details in parish registers makes searching difficult, especially when many residents in a parish have the same surname and even the same given name. Such was the case when looking for my Thom ancestors.

The surname Thom starts appearing in the Church of Scotland parochial registers of parishes east of Glasgow in the late 17th century. Did they emigrate from the traditional Clan MacThomas lands around Glenshee? Perhaps, but we will probably never know.

The following two baptisms were found in the old parochial register for New Monkland in Lanarkshire, Scotland. One is likely to be my ancestor, but which one?

Robert, 23 January 1743, James Thom and Janet Martin in Burnhead
Robert, 21 April 1745, Robert Thom and Mary Martin (1)

The registers for adjoining parishes of Old Monkland and Barony were also searched without finding a likely entry. There are other possible baptisms of a Robert Thom in other Scottish parishes.

In searching for the next generation in these parishes, the only possible entry found was
in the parochial registers for Old Monkland, as follows :-

Robert (2nd), 1 October 1775, son to Robert Thom (1st) in Whiflet (1)

It is reasonable to assume that the father Robert Thom is my great great great great great grandfather. The following baptisms recorded in the Old Monkland registers are likely to be siblings of Robert.

Agnes, 3 February 1765,
William, 29 March 1778,
William, 4 June 1781, father described as a tenant (1)

Disappointingly only the name of the father, Robert Thom, is recorded.

On 26 July 1800 Robert Thom (2nd) married Helen Dalziel at Old Monkland (2). Only four children of this couple were found to have been recorded in the parochial registers.

Helen, baptised 5 July 1801 (3)
Robert (3rd), 2 December 1803, son of Robert Thom, weaver, Eastern Langlone, and Helen Dalziel, baptised at Examine (sic) (1)
John, born 20 July 1805, baptised 11 August 1805 at Langlone (1)
Agnes, baptised 28 April 1811(3)

The 1841 Census for Lanarkshire lists the following persons in the same house in New Dundyvan :-

Robert Thom, age 60, occupation C Weaver, born in County
Hellen Thom age 60, born in County
Elizabeth Young age 10, female servant, born in County
Janet Young age 8, born in County
George Inglis age 20, mason, not born in County
Archibald McDougal age 35, mason, not born in County (4)

Perhaps Elizabeth and Janet are grandchildren and the two masons are borders.

Robert (3rd) married Agnes Whitelaw on 4 November 1832, at Old Monkland (1). Agnes had been christened on 23 March 1811 at Old Monkland, and was the daughter of William Whitelaw, shoemaker of Langloan, and Isobell Rankin, who were married on 7 February 1795 at Old Monkland (1). At the time of their marriage William was living in the parish of Old Monkland, and Isobel was from Bothwell, Lanarkshire.

Robert and Agnes had the following children :-

Isobel, born 26 September 1833, baptised 13 October 1833, Old Monkland, father a labourer
Robert (4th) born about 1834
Helen born about 1837
Mary born 6 July 1840, baptised 27 July 1840, Old Monkland, father a pitheadman at Gartsherrie
Agnes born 15 July 1842, baptised 31 July 1842, Old Monkland, father a furnace fillar
William born 10 December 1844, baptised 22 December 1844, Old Monkland
Janet and Elizabeth, born 21 June 1847, baptised 1 August 1847,
Old Monkland
John born 19 December 1849, baptised 30 December 1849, Old Monkland, father a pitheadman at Faskine
Andrew, born 5 April 1855 at New Dundyvan, Coatbridge (1)

Andrew’s birth was recorded in the first year of civil registration in Scotland and the new Act required the recording of much detail relating to the family. This caused such a burden on the system that the Act was amended during the year in order to reduce the amount of detail required from 1856. Andrew’s registration reveals that his father Robert Thom (3rd) was aged 51 years, a pitheadman, born in New Dundyvan, Old Monkland, married in Langloan, Old Monkland in 1832, to Agnes Whitelaw, aged 48 years, born in Langloan, Old Monkland, and that they had 3 boys and 6 girls living in addition to Andrew (1).

Robert (3rd) died on 11 November 1855 at New Dundyvan, Old Monkland. His son Robert (4th) provided the following information when his father’s death was registered. Robert was a pitheadman, aged 53 years, born in New Dundyvan, Old Monkland, married to Agnes Whitelaw, with issue, Isabella aged 22, Robert aged 20, Helen aged 18, Mary aged 15, Agnes aged 12, William aged 9, Janet aged 7, Elizabeth aged 7, John aged 5 and Andrew aged 7 months; he was the son of Robert Thom, weaver, and Helen Dalziell, both deceased (1).

The 1841 Census for Old Monkland reveals

Address 1 Pit Row, Gartsherrie
Robert Thom (3rd) age 35, iron furnace fitter, born in Lanarkshire
Agnes aged 35, born in Lanarkshire
Isobel aged 7, born in Lanarkshire
Robert (4th) aged 5, born in Lanarkshire
Hellen, aged 3, born in Lanarkshire
Mary, aged 11 months. born in Lanarkshire (1)

The 1851 Census reveals

Address – Faskine, Parish of Old Monkland
Robert Thom, pit-head man age 46, born Longloen, Lanarkshire
Agnes Thom, wife, age 42, born Longloen
Robert age 15, born New Dundyvan, Lanarkshire
Helen age 13, born New Dundyvan
Agnes age 8, born Gartsherrie Lanarkshire
William age 6, born Gartsherrie
Janet age 3, born Gartsherrie
Elizabeth age 3, born Gartsherrie
John age 1, born Faskine (1a)

Also found in the 1851 Census was

Address Thom’s Land, Dundyvan Road
Helen Thom, head of house, widow, aged 69, spirit dealer, born in Old Monkland
Isobel, grand-daughter, aged 16, housemaid, born in Old Monkland (1)

Agnes died on 29 September 1881 at Dundyvan Road, Coatbridge. Her son Andrew, the informant, was living at Colt Terrace, Coatbridge (1).

Robert Thom (4th) aged 22 years, of Dundyvan, engine keeper, married Margaret Fleming, aged 21 years, of Bathgate, domestic servant, on 6 February 1857, at the Church of Scotland, Baillieston, Old Monkland (5). Margaret was the daughter of Alexander Fleming, plowman later brewer, and Janet Martin who married on 31 January 1835 at Barthgate, West Lothian (1).

Robert and Margaret had the following children :-

Janet born 22 March 1857, Dundyvan Road, Coatbridge, Old Monkland
Agnes born 29 December 1858, Dundyvan Road, Old Monkland
Robert (5th) born 28 December 1860, Thom’s Land, Dundyvan Road,
Old Monkland (6)
Alexander born 27 April 1863, Luggiebridge, Old Monkland
Margaret born 14 June 1865 at Brownshill, Old Monkland
Jeanie born 11 April 1867
William Fleming born 22 April 1869
John Whitelaw born 2 May 1871 (1)

Margaret died on 19 April 1875 at Newlands, Bothwell (1). Robert then married Catherine Devitt (details not known) and died on 25 July 1897 in No 10 Pit, Rosehall, Coatbridge. It would seem that Robert was probably a smoker or that working at the mines had caused emphysema. The immediate cause of death was cardio-syncope (1).

From the information given above, this means the Thom family has lived in the Monklands district for at least 150 years. During this time Monklands changed from being rural to industrial.

The history of this area dates back over 3000 years ago. 2000 years ago the Romans built a road north through the area and just to the north in 142-4 AD built the Antonine Wall as a way of restricting movement between the civilised south and the uncivilised north. Roman occupation did not last long.

Then in the twelfth century, King Malcolm IV granted the lands to the monks of Newbattle in 1162. This Cistercian order of monks were farmers and over the following centuries small hamlets were established at Old Monkland, Langloan, Whifflet, Dundyvan, Gartsherrie and Coatbridge. The area became known as Monklands and then was divided into the parishes of New and Old Monkland.

Looking at Old Monkland, the population in recent centuries has increased substantially.

1755 1813
1791 4000
1801 4006
1811 5469
1821 6983
1831 9580
1841 19675
1861 29543
1871 34073
1881 37323
1891 44616

The parish boundaries of Old Monkland are similar to a triangle, about 16 kilometres east to west and about 6 kilometres north to south, and just over 4000 hectares. Old Monklands is about 13 kilometres east of the centre of Glasgow. The land is flat and low lying with the Clyde River flowing along its western boundary. As the land is very fertile, in 1799 it was described as being like “an immense garden” with extensive woodlands, farms and orchards. Farmers grew many crops such as wheat, oats, potatoes and turnips. Also there are many hectares of flax. It is likely that Robert Thom (1st) worked as a labourer.

People in the parish generally lived in better conditions than elsewhere in Scotland, ranging from workers’ homes to gentlemen’s; residences. In 1791 there were 5 teachers in the parish but attendance was low as many children worked in the fields or in factories. That year there were about 400 weavers, and about ten years later Robert (2nd) had joined this group of workers. It seems he was a weaver for all his working life.

While coal was known to be in the area in the fourteenth century as the monks mined small open cut areas. But t was not until the 1790s that large scale mining commenced. At this time money was invested in building the Monkland Canal which on completion enabled mining output of coal, iron and steel, to be shipped to Glasgow and beyond, Change in Old Monkland had started to cause increasing wages and this attracted people to move into the parish.

Robert (3rd) was first a labourer, possibly helping to build new factories, or mines in the parish. In 1840 he was a pitheadman probably at the Gartsherrie mines, then a furnace fillar, then back to being a pithead man at Faskine. A pithead man is an employee who worked on top of the ground at the entrance to the pit. A hard life that probably resulted in his death at 51 years.

In 2019 I was checking various websites to see if any new information was available.   A new website came to my attention – Scottish Indexes. I did a simple search of this site and the result can be seen here.

By this time the Monklands had become the industrial centre of Scotland. The parish was now a mix of blazing furnaces and tall chimneys of iron and coal works, together with stretches of woods and farms, and small but quickly growing villages. The furnaces would light up the sky at night, which caused Old Monkland to be called “Land of Fire”. Also railway lines now criss-crossed the parish, built by the owners of the mines.

Robert’s son, Robert (4th) followed in his father’s footsteps in becoming a pithead man. He worked and died at the Rosehall coal mine one of the largest in the Monklands with 157 employees including 2 pithead men in the 1850s.

One can imagine that Robert (5th) needed little excuse to leave home. The Monklands mines and factories continued to operate into the twentieth century but by the early years after World War II the mines had closed, the Monkland Canal had been filled in, and many railway lines had been pulled up; Old Monkland became a nice place to live once more (7).

Not long after his 21st birthday Robert Thom (5th) decided to emigrant to Australia and was successful in applying for an assisted passage. Robert left Glasgow on 5 September 1883 on the SS Warrego. The Warrego was a steam ship under the command of Captain McGrath. It arrived at Cooktown on 23 October, and stopped at Townsville, Bowen McKay, Rockhampton, and Brisbane. This meant Robert saw quite a bit of coastal Queensland before disembarking at Brisbane on 31 October after a voyage of 57 days (8).

The Warrego was built at Sunderland, England, and was on it’s maiden voyage for delivery to the Queensland Steam Shipping Company. The Warrego was then engaged in coastal cargo and passenger service until 1912 when she was sold to the Royal Australian Navy and converted into a storage hulk. She was destroyed during a Japanese bombing raid on Darwin in 1942 (9).

Perhaps the visit to Townsville during the voyage caused Robert to seek employment there. For Robert married Jane (Jeanie) Weir on 30 March 1886 at the office of the District Registrar in Townsville (10). Or is it likely that Robert and Jeanie were friends in Scotland and that after the Weir family left Glasgow, Robert took immediate steps to follow Jeanie to Queensland. Then on arrival in Brisbane maybe he became aware that Jeanie was in Townsville. Jeanie too came from Scotland, having been born on 8 December 1864 at Kirklee, Partick, Lanarkshire, the first born child of John Weir, ironstone minor, and Jane Kerr (11). John, Jane and their nine children had left Glasgow on 30 March 1883 on the sailing ship Oban Bay and arrived in Townsville on 19 September 1883 after a voyage by sail of 172 days (12).

Robert and Jeanie had three children

Robert John William (6th), born 13 May 1890, Townsville, father a
storeman (13)
Alexander Fleming, born 28 September 1893, Queensland (14), married Bertha Grace Leman in 1917 at Petersham, NSW (15), died 3 July 1970, Sydney, NSW (16)
Jean Margarette, born 13 July 1901 Leichhardt, NSW (17), married Harry F Dawson in 1925 at Petersham, NSW (18)

Australia was a very different place to live compared to Scotland. Townsville was in the tropics with an average minimum temperature of 20 degrees C and maximum of 29 degrees, and averaging 300 days of sunshine a year. The population in the 1880s was around 10,000 and the main industries were sugar and cattle. Compared to Glasgow, Townsville was an isolated place to live; Brisbane was 1300 kilometres away.

A year after Robert and Jeanie married they purchased a block of land in Estate Street, Townsville in March 1887 – 16 perches, Lot 6, Section 4 in the Parish of Coonambalah. After borrowing eighty pounds, they probably built a house typical of the time, a small two bedroom cottage with a closed in front, windows with wooden louvres and “green glass” casements. Just four years later they sold this property (18a). It appears they remained in Townsville for in 1893 their son Alexander was born there.

On 26 November 1896 Townsville suffered extensive damage from Cyclone Sigma. This may have prompted the Thom family to move to Sydney to live (19). It is reasonable to conclude that they rented various houses in Leichhardt for I found the following :-

In 1901 they were living at 17 MaCauley St. Leichhardt and Robert’s occupation was given as a labourer at the Government Dock, Cockatoo Island (17)
In 1903 at 17 MaCauley St, Leichhardt, occupation craneman(20)
In 1904 at 28 Carlisle Street, Leichhardt (21)
in 1905 to 1908 at William St, Leichhardt (22)
In 1908 “Kelvin Grove”. Leichhardt St, Leichhardt (23)
In 1910 and 1915 “Kelvin Grove”, Leichhardt St, Leichhardt (24)
In 1913 Leichhardt St, Leichhardt, occupation builder (25)
In 1922 30 Pigott St, Leichhardt, occupation lift attendant (26)

On 17 September 1922 a terrible tragedy happened. Robert and Jeanie were on their way home from Church on the northern side of Parramatta Road. They were waiting to catch a tram home near the intersection of Crystal St, Leichhardt on Parramatta Road when a car lost control and careered into the group of people standing at the tram stop. Robert died at the scene of the accident and Jeanie died the next day at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital at Camperdown.

Next day the Daily Telegraph reported on page 5 :-

“Crashes into Crowd – Two Killed, Five Injured

Parramatta Road, Pertersham was last night the scene of one of the most extraordinary motor tragedies yet recorded in Sydney.

Shortly after 9 o’clock a Hudson 7-seater touring car, travelling at about 40 miles an hour, came along Parramatta Road towards the city. Although a tram was standing at the Crystal Street stopping place, the driver of the car made no attempt to slacken his pace, and endeavoured to pass the tram.

Skidding on the slippery road the car crashed into the rear of the tram and then skidded towards the footpath, knocking down several persons who were about to board the tram.

Before the wild career of the car finished it broke a verandah post, and, turning completely round, came to rest half on the footpath.

There was a large crowd in the vicinity at the time, and they quickly proceeded to the assistance of the injured. It was during the commotion that the occupants of the car made good their escape, and inquiries by the police failed to elicit any tangible information regarding the number of the car or the identity of the passengers or driver.

Dr Nixon, of Fort Street, who was in the vicinity, rendered first aid in conjunction with the Civil Ambulance.

Two persons, a man and a woman, were killed, three were dangerously injured, and two others less seriously injured.

The dead women was Jean Thom, aged 53, of 30 Piggott Street, Dulwich Hill.

The identity of the man killed has not yet been established. He was about 60 years of age, 5ft 6in high, grey hair and moustache, and was clad in a grey suit and sweater, A wallet bore the name Rowell scratched upon it. In one of his pockets was a list of religious meetings, and on the back of the paper the name Miss Dooker, Camp Hill.

Death was due to a crushed chest and ribs, probable fracture of the skull and fractured right leg. Death was instantaneous.”

On 16 November 1922 the City Coroner, John Jamieson, decided that both had died from the “Effects of injuries through being knocked down by a motor car then being negligently driven by some person to me unknown”. They were buried in the Independent Section of Rookwood Cemetery, Sydney; there is no headstone (26).

When I was living in Canberra, in 1974 I wrote to their daughter Jean who had married Harry Dawson in 1925 at Petersham, and was later a baker in Brisbane. In 1975 they unexpectantly visited us and I wrote down some notes about their visit. Mr Dawson vividly remembered the deaths of his wife’s parents as he was present at the site only an hour later. He remembers picking up the family bible from the street. He said Robert was very musical and dedicated to the study of the bible and was very active in his church; the Christian Brethren. He had fair hair and fair complexion like his children. Robert and Jeanie were very upset over their son’s relationship with Maggie Bullivant. They were only told of the birth of Laurel in 1912 just before they married and somehow Mavis’s birth in 1910 was kept a secret from all. The Dawsons only knew of Mavis after the accident. Mr Dawson commented that Bill had been a “gay blade” with the girls and at one stage he had conducted a music shop for a short time at Marrickville. Although I wrote again to the Dawsons, I had no further contact with them. They were also members of the Brethren and it would seem that the two sons, Bill and Alexander had become disillusioned with their parents’ Church and became Methodists. The Dawsons had one daughter who died unmarried.

The family bible is held by a descendant of Alexander Fleming Thom and in 1974 I saw the bible and took photocopies of a number of pages. A majority of the pages are heavily noted in the margins indicating that the text had been extensively read and assessed.

Jean Dawson also mentioned the name “Kelvin Grove” and said that was where the Thoms came from in Scotland. The only use of this name relates to a park, Kelvingrove Park in Glasgow where the City Industrial Museum was opened in 1870 in the former Kelvingrove Mansion and the present building is Glasgow’s Art Gallery and Museum. Perhaps this is where Robert worked and met Jeanie, although the name of the house in Sydney may be a coincident and have been given by a previous occupier.

Robert (6th), known as Bill, and Maggie (Margaret Adelaide Bullivant) both lived in Leichhardt before they were married. Bill, a coach painter, lived with his parents in Leichhardt Street, and Maggie, a paperbag maker, lived at the home of George and Elizabeth Peek, at 27 Prospect Street, Leichhardt (21). They were married on 21 May 1912 at the Methodist Parsonage, 22 Bourke Street, Redfern (27). Bill gave his occupation as a signwriter. They had four children

Mavis Estelle born c 1910, Sydney, married Charles Ross, North Sydney, 1926, died 1969, Burwood, NSW (28)
Laurel Elaine born c 1912, Sydney, married Ernest John Bates, North Sydney, 1933 (29) died 18 September 1994, Wahroonga, NSW (30)
Robert Alexander (7th) born 9 June 1916, Amy Street, Campsie, NSW (31)
Unnamed twin to Robert born dead

When their son Robert was born, Bill gave his occupation as a painter and they were living in Amy Street, Campsie. Interestingly, in the space to list previous issue on the birth certificate, only Laurel is listed aged 3 years. This appears to confirm the Dawson’s story that the grandparents, Robert and Jeanie died not knowing they had a granddaughter Mavis. They called their son Robert, Robbie, while later everyone else called him Bob.

I do not know much about the lives of my grandparents Bill and Maggie Thom. Except for early in his working life, when he was a sign writer and operated a music shop, I understand Bill was a painter working for companies in Sydney painting buildings. I can remember seeing him with overalls spotted with paint.

I understand they moved house regularly. This indicated they rented houses. The Commonwealth Electoral Roll for 1930 states they were living at 133 Arthur Street, North Sydney, then in the 1933 Roll at 181 Miller Street and in the 1937 Roll at 22 Bent Street. In 1939 they lived in Mount Street, North Sydney. Later that year they moved to Burlington St, Crows Nest. Then in 1941 they lived for a short period at 145 West Street, Crows Nest with Bob and his family. Then in late 1941 they moved to a brick semi-detached house, at 37 Ernest St, Crows Nest. I can remember staying there when I was a youngster. Grandfather was a calm, quiet, pleasant man, while nanna was more outgoing. They had a pianola, which we played. Grandfather had a large collection of pianola rolls and he had a regular small home business renting or selling rolls to local people. He would visit various houses nearby by walking and carrying a suitcase full of rolls. I can recall nanna working in a toothbrush factory on the southern corner of the Pacific Highway and Albany Street, St Leonards. But I do not know for how long.

Bill and Maggie purchased a house at Umina, near Gosford with the intention of Bill retiring in a couple of years. They moved to 40 Alexander Street, Umina around 1950. Bill worked for a couple of years before retiring, by catching the train to work in a Sydney suburb somewhere near Parramatta. Other than music, their garden and attending local senior citizen functions, the Thoms had no recreational interests. They did not own a motor car and moved around using public transport, such as buses and trains. They were not regular church goers.

Bill had a coronary occlusion in April 1955 and was admitted to Liverpool State Hospital where he died on 15 April 1955 (32). He was cremated at Rookwood Crematorium.

Soon after Maggie met Zacharia (Bill) Williams, a 73 year old widower living in Swansea and they married on 19 May 1956 at the Methodist Church, Umina (33). He was a retired miner who could neither read nor write, but a very nice chap. They had a happy few years together living in Maggie’s house in Alexander Street. Maggie became ill in late June 1962 and was rushed to the Royal Newcastle Hospital where she died from a sub-arachnoid haemorrhage on 3 July 1962. She was cremated at the Northern Suburbs Crematorium (34).

I started researching my family history in 1968 when living in Canberra. I would ask my father, Bob (7th), questions about his family but he was very reluctant to provide information. He did not see why anyone would want to look at their family history. This made it difficult to put together his story. I did manage to get the occasional piece of information. Hence I am somewhat disappointed at the limited information I can write about my father.

As mentioned above, he was born in 1916 at Campsie. I do not know which primary school Bob attended. I dont know when the Thom family moved from the southern suburbs of Sydney to the North Sydney area,. The 1930 Commonwealth Electoral Roll lists Bill and Maggie living at 133 Arthur Street, North Sydney so Bob may have attended the North Sydney Public School prior to being a student at the North Sydney Intermediate High School in 1930 to 1932.

He told me that the well known actor, Peter Finch, was in his class. This possibility appears to be confirmed by the information in Finch’s entry in the Australian Dictionary of Bibliography (35). Bob was an average student with strengths in mathematics and book keeping. The Intermediate Examination results for 1932 appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald on 11 January 1933 and Bob’s results were listed under North Sydney Intermediate High School as English B pass, History B pass, Geography B pass, Mathematics B pass, French B pass, Business Principles A pass.

Later the North Sydney Intermediate High School became the North Sydney Technical High School, so dad and I both attended the same school. He did not mention this to me. Bob left school at the end of 1932 and took a job assisting in delivering groceries door to door. He continued in this type of work until 1941 as evidenced by the 1937 Electoral Roll, where he was listed as a fruitier living with his parents at 22 Bent Street, North Sydney.

Bob liked to play cricket and became a grade player for North Sydney. In junior cricket he played for Lavender Bay in the B Grade Northern Suburbs competition; he was a leg spin bowler. I searched the Sydney papers and found the following :-

Junior Cricket

Sydney Morning Herald, Tuesday 17 January 1933, page 13
Northern Suburbs 191 (Thom 71) beat Western Suburbs 1129 and 3-7
(Thom 0-0)

Sydney Morning Herald, Friday 20 January 1933, page 13
Public Schools Amateur Athletic Association – Cush-Herford Shield cricket
Northern Suburbs v Central S at Jubilee Oval won by Central S 144, Northern Suburbs 72 (Thom run out 2) and 4-60 (Thom not out 9)

Sydney Morning Herald, Friday 22 December 1933, page 15
Selected for Northern Suburbs to play Mosman District on Boxing Day

Sydney Morning Herald, Friday 30 March 1934, page 11
Selected for Northern Suburbs in the semi-final of the Telegraph Shield

Sydney Morning Herald, Wednesday 21 November 1934, page 18
Sydney Morning Herald, Monday 31 December 1934, page 12
Selected in the Northern Suburbs team to play in Daily Telegraph Shield

Sydney Morning Herald, Monday 21 September 1936
N S Druids 219 (Thom 5-54) and 3-64 beat Lavender Bay 119 (Thom 25) and 163 (Thom 20)

Sydney Morning Herald, Tuesday 6 October 1936, page 17
Lavender Bay 100 (Thom 25) and 115 (Thom 34) lost to N H Gas Co 415

Sydney Morning Herald, Thursday 15 October 1936, page 16
Lavender Bay 138 (Thom 65) Mosman Juniors 4-96

Sydney Morning Herald, Tuesday 4 January 1937, page 15
Lavender Bay 234 (Thom 37) beat Shirley 163

Sydney Morning Herald, Monday 1 February 1937, page 15
Warringah 284 beat Lavender Bay 233 (Thom 51)

Sydney Morning Herald, Tuesday 1 March 1937, page 16
Shirley 311 beat Lavender Bay 160 (Thom 43) and 154 (Thom 49)

Sydney Morning Herald, Saturday 2 October and Monday 4 October 1937, page 15 – B Grade, Mosman Untied 178 (Thom 4-45) and 164 (Thom 5-42) beat Lavender Bay 142 and 173

Sydney Morning Herald, Wednesday 13 October 1937, page 23
B Grade, Artarmon 60 v Lavender Bay 122 (Thom 51)

Sydney Morning Herald, Monday 21 February 1938, page 18
Lavender Bay 359 (Thom 102) beat Old Maristonians 112 and 154

Sydney Morning Herald, Monday 7 March 1938, page 17
Lavender Bay 271 beat Lane Cove Central 116 and 138 (Thom 5-41)

“Daily Telegraph” Shield

Sydney Morning Herald, Wednesday 22 December 1937, page 18
Selected Junior Cricket – Daily Telegraph Shield Team for Northern Suburbs

Sydney Morning Herald, Tuesday 28 December 1937, page 13
Played at Beauchamp Park, Northern Suburbs 248 (Thom 7) beat Willoughby 117 and 8-131 (Thom 5-57)

Sydney Morning Herald, Monday 3 January 1938, page 15
Played at North Sydney Oval No 2, Northern Suburbs 8-261 (Thom 1) beat Hornsby 165 (Thom 7-51) In the summary “There were some good bowling performances, notably those of R Thom, seven for 51, for Northern Suburbs”

Sydney Morning Herald, Tuesday 4 January 1938, page 12
Played at North Sydney Oval No 2, City Houses 211 (Thom 2-72) beat Northern Suburbs 117 (Thom not out 6) and 9-109 (Thom not out 6)

Senior Competition, 3rd Grade

Sydney Morning Herald, Monday 3 October 1938, page 4
North Sydney 104 and 218 beat Northern Districts 100 and 45 (Thom 5-18)

Sydney Morning Herald, Monday 10 October 1938, page 17
Western Suburbs 172 and 0-33 beat North Sydney 122 (Thom 34 not out) and 82

Later Bob played cricket for the Tramways team.

Sydney Morning Herald, Thursday 7 December 1944, page 6
Waverley (R Thom 4-72) beat North Sydney

Sydney Morning Herald, Wednesday 13 December 1944, page 8
Newcastle Tramways 221 beat Metropolitan Tramways 108 at North Sydney Oval yesterday, R Thom took 7-77 for Metropolitan

Sydney Morning Herald, Wednesday 10 January 1945, page 8
North Sydney 303 beat Rozelle 115 and 63 (R Thom 6-34 and 7-25)

Bob also played tennis and the Sydney Morning Herald on Monday 9 August 1937 on page 15 reported that in the Men’s C Grade Doubles W and K Morrison defeated C Ross and R Thom 4-6, 6-1, 6-1. C Ross could be Bob’s brother-in-law Charles Ross.

It was at a tennis club in North Sydney during the 1938/39 season that Bob met my mother Lillian Merle Lane (known as Merle). They were married on 6 January 1940 at the Methodist Parsonage, Crows Nest. The witnesses were Merle’s father Alfred Oram Lane and Bob’s brother-in-law Charles Ross. Bob gave his occupation as greengrocer and Merle, dressmaker (36).

They first lived with Bob’s parents in Burlington Street, Crows Nest, but soon moved to 145 West Street, Crows Nest. Bob and Merle had two children, Grahame and Carole. Soon after Grahame was born Bob became a milkman. As he did not have a licence to drive, deliveries were made using a horse and cart. This he had to do twice a day; the first run started at four in the morning and the second during the afternoon.

Bob did not volunteer for war service and was later called up, but was declared medically unfit as he was an epileptic (inactive). From time to time people would make adverse comments to him for not enlisting. On several occasions he received white feathers in the mail. While at West Street, Bob purchased an electric steel guitar. He could also play the piano accordion. But I cannot recall him ever playing an instrument. He did enjoy listening to classical music and having a good tenor voice he especially liked listening to tenors.

Bob liked to bet on horse racing and this started to impact on the family finances. He was very much an introvert and left all the decision making to his wife Merle. She insisted that he cease betting and find a better paid job and so Bob applied for and in 1946 was accepted as a tram conductor on the northern suburbs line based at Neutral Bay. However his like of betting on horses continued for the rest of his life.

Also they decided to move to a smaller house in order to pay less rent. So in late 1946 the Thom family moved to 70 Holt Avenue, Cremorne, a semi-detached, three bedroom brick house. With both Bob and Merle working they were able to increase their savings and in the early 1950s they purchased 68 and 70 Holt Avenue. Merle’s mother then lived in No. 68 and later the back part of No 68 was rented.

Bob would work on special days, such as Christmas and Easter to get extra pay or to build up his recreation leave credits by working on a public holiday for no pay. Each year the Tramways put on a family picnic. The Thom family would travel by tram to the Waverley Tram Depot and then walk to the picnic grounds at Bronte Park, Nelson’s Bay. There was all kinds of entertainment including running races and novelty events such as the egg and spoon race and the sack race.

In 1952 Bob and Merle went by sea in the Westralia to Adelaide to watch the Davis Cup between Australia and the USA. Merle was very sea sick and stayed in the hotel while Bob went to the tennis. They returned home by train.

As was available to all NSW public transport employees, Bob was given a free family pass on any public transport in NSW for the period of his annual leave. For a number of years in the 1950s in the winter months the Thom family travelled by train to Murwillumbah as a first stage, then by bus to Coolangatta (five times). We also had holidays at Brisbane, Noosa Heads and in 1957 at Ballina.

Bob went on Bob Dyer’s Pick a Box radio quiz show and was successful in answering some sports questions and won a Chenille package of bedspreads, one double and two single. We were all very excited by this win. Contestants chose what subject they wanted to be questioned on; Bob chose sport.

In the early 1950s Bob fell off a tram when working on the outside running board type tram. It appears he had an epileptic fit (which rarely happened). He ended up in hospital for a short stay. As a result of this fall Bob could only work on the inside trams, and this ruled out any possibility of working on the buses.

Bob was a keen supporter of the North Sydney Ruby League team and with Grahame, travelled to games all over Sydney. They also attended many Sheffield Shield and Test cricket matches at the Sydney Cricket Ground. Bob became a member of the Sydney Cricket Ground Trust. This allowed him to sit in the members stand at the SCG.

In the late 1950s, with the likelihood of the trams ceasing operation in Sydney, Bob and Merle decided to move to a new venture by selling No 70, and transferring title of No 68 to Merle’s mother. Bob was keen to re-associate himself with the grocery scene, so they looked around for a shop and found a mixed business and attached home at 250 Falcon Street and the Thom family moved there in June 1958.

As the running of the shop required the picking up of stores and making deliveries, Bob and Merle obtained their driving licences and purchased a green Hillman Minx station wagon. Merle was a very good driver but Bob was below average.

The shop was hard work but provided a good living. However rumours were circulating that the shop would soon be resumed by the NSW Government together with other close-by properties, for the construction of a new freeway approach to the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Rather than wait and receive compensation, they moved quickly to sell the business. After moving out of the shop in early 1960, and while looking for another business, they stayed first in a hotel at Crows Nest then rented a home in Narrabeen.

Bob and Merle then purchased a three storied private hotel, “Strathaird” at 10 East Crescent Street, McMahons Point in about May 1960 for 23,000 pounds, with a deposit of 5,000 pounds. They also purchased a new two tone green Austin Freeway station wagon.

Again work was hard and there was little time for recreation and holidays. Together with Grahame and Carole the Thom family occupied three bedrooms on the ground floor but had to share other rooms and facilities. Carole married Fred Mackinney in 1962 and in March 1963 Grahame moved to Canberra to work in the public service. Bob and Merle’s marriage had had its ups and downs, but the situation became worse in the mid 1960s. Merle left Strathaird in July 1967 and the hotel was sold soon after.

Bob found rooms to live at nearby Gore Hill and purchased a sandwich shop in Naremburn, where most trade was from deliveries to factories nearby. He got into financial difficulties and asked Merle for money. Instead of giving Bob money Merle worked for him and soon realised that the girl on the till was taking money. After six weeks, with Bob’s agreement, Merle arranged for the business to be sold.

After Bob and Merle’s separation (37), Grahame and Carole lost contact with their father until around 1973. Bob operated a soft drinks delivery business around the northern suburbs of Sydney for several years. He then joined Phillips Industries at North Sydney as a clerk in their mail room. Also he had moved to flat 10 at 89 Ridge Street, North Sydney. In late 1975 Bob had a car accident but was not injured. However the car was a write-off and he did not drive again.

For recreation Bob continued to attend sporting events. He maintained his membership of the Sydney Cricket Ground Trust and the Sydney Turf Club. He took up bowling quite successfully and represented North Sydney at Championship events at State level and played in the 1975 National Bowls Championships held in Sydney. Bob was a member of the team that won the major pairs title in 1972 for the Northern Suburbs Bowling Group. He was also a member of the North Sydney League’s Club (member 8438) and the North Sydney Anzac Memorial Club (member 10604) (38). Bob had always been a keen card player and took part in competition games at his Clubs. He was echure champion on several occasions. In the picture above are two mugs Bob received and the inscriptions state :-

. NSLC – Euchre Club – Champion 1982 – R Thom

. Tooth LA – North Syd Leagues Club – Sports Star – 1984

In relation to medical matters, in the 1970s Bob had high blood pressure. He took medication for the rest of his life. This meant he needed to watch his weight which he maintained around 72 kilograms. He was also conscious of the need to exercise but did not do enough. Then in 1979 he became a diabetic, again needing to take medication.

In 1976 Bob decided to take an overseas trip and applied for a passport and obtained the required vaccinations (39). He flew to Paris, arriving on 18 July 1976, undertook tours around Europe before taking a boat trip across the Channel to Sheerness on 1 August. With a group of travellers he toured England, Scotland and Wales and returned home by air via Singapore in mid August. He brought home momentos of Germany, Scotland and Great Britain. I can recall him saying Edinburgh was the nicest place he visited and Athens the dirtiest. Then in July and August 1978 Bob had a holiday in Canada and USA. He also took train or plane trips to Canberra to visit Grahame and his family, and to Brisbane to attend the horse races and to visit Carole and her family.

On his 65th birthday in 1981 Bob retired from Phillips and successfully applied for the aged pension. The standard pension was reduced slightly as he had about $7000 in a St George Building Society account. Also in order to pay less rent Bob rented flat 12 on the second floor of 185 Falcon Street, North Sydney on the south eastern corner of Merlin Street.

On the afternoon of 25 September 1981 Bob walked from home along Falcon Street to get a newspaper. While crossing Bent Street he was hit by a car and ended up in the Royal North Shore Hospital for 27 days. He sustained a serious injuries to his right leg, and right shoulder, together with shock and bruising. His costs were covered by third party compensation and he took action for damages which were finally settled in July 1984 when Bob received a net payment of $16,510. His injuries continued to cause him trouble for the rest of his life.

In late 1983 Bob decided to share a flat with a lady friend, Dot, who lived in flat 7, 137 Belmont Road, Mosman. This arrangement was platonic and agreed to as a way of sharing the costs as it was cheaper for two to live together than be by yourself.

In July 1985 he had a holiday in Brisbane to see Carole and family, and to attend the horse races. On the morning of 23 August 1985, while sitting in a chair at home after breakfast, he suffered a heart attack and died immediately. His son Grahame arranged the funeral and Bob was crem




ated at the Northern Suburbs Crematorium on 26 August (40). As his estate came to just under $15,000 there was no need for probate.

So ends the story of seven generations named Robert Thom who lived in Scotland and Australia.


1. The Scots Ancestry Research Society conducted research into my Scottish ancestors from 1972 to 1975, and this information has been extracted from their reports.
Note – I have used the spelling of place names as found in the records.
1a. Web site – (6 Oct 2010) England and Wales 1851 Census, ref ED 23, page 11, household 33
2. International Genealogical Index,, 5 September 2006
3. International Genealogical Index,, 11 September 2006
4. 1841 Census of Scotland, a copy of the original return obtained from on 27 May 2006, note that the instructions for recording information required that the age of an adult be rounded down to the nearest multiple of 5 or 10
5. General Registry Office, Scotland, Marriage Certificate No 3/1857
6. General Registry Office, Scotland, Birth Certificate No 24/1860
7. The following references were used to include general background information about the parishes of New and Old Monkland.
Muir, Helen. Images of Scotland : Coatbridge, Tempus, 2001
Groome, Patrick H. Ordinance Gazetteer of Scotland, Volume 5, William McKenzie, 1892-96, pages 46-48,, October 2006
Statistical Accounts of Scotland,, October 2006, 1791-99, Volume 7, pages 375-387, and 1834-45, Volume 6, pages 635-652
8. Queensland State Archives IMM/118, page 409, Brisbane Courier Mail, 1 October 1883, page 4
9. Information provided by the Queensland Maritime Museum to the author in 1981
10. General Registry Office, Brisbane, Marriage Certificate No 1695/1886
11. General Registry Office, Scotland, Birth Certificate No 26/1864
12. Queensland State Archives IMM/118, page 64
13. General Registry Office, Brisbane, Birth Certificate No 12180/1890
14. Queensland Births Index, No 93/011482
15. NSW Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages, online marriage index,, October 2006
16. NSW Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages, online death index,, October 2006, headstone, Woronora Cemetery, Sutherland, NSW, Bertha died 15 May 1963
17. NSW Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages, birth certificate No 23181/1901
18. NSW Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages, online marriage index,, October 2006
18a. Certificate of Title 98619, obtained from present owner in September 2011
19. Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia web site at,_Queensland, November 2006, and Gibson-Wilde, Dorothy M. and Dalton B J, Townsville 1888, Townsville 1990, and Townsville – 1770 & after, Townsville Museum Bulletin No 1, 1997
20. 1903 Commonwealth Electoral Roll, Division of Dalley, Leichhardt Polling Place. Note that personal details were provided at the time of registration and may have changed by the time the Roll was published. The comment also applies to Directories.
21. New South Wales Post Office Directory (Wises) 1904, page 1132/6
22. 1905, 1907, 1908 Sands Directory
23. NSW Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages, death certificate, John Weir brother of Jeanie, died 17 September 1908 at Robert and Jeanie’s home, “Kelvin Grove”
24. 1910, 1915 Sands Directory
25. 1913 Commonwealth Electoral Roll, Division of Dalley, Sub-division of Leichhardt
26. NSW Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages, death certificates No 15880/1922 and No. 17171/1922
27. NSW Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages, marriage certificate No. 7833/1912
Its interesting that Maggie’s birth certificate states her second name as Adeline, this spelling is also recorded on her second marriage certificate, and on her death certificate her given names are reversed as Adeline Margaret.
28. Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriage NSW, online marriage and death indexes,, October 2006
29. Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriage NSW, online marriage index,, October 2006
30. The Ryerson Index,, October 2006
31. NSW Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages, birth certificate No 168/1916
32. NSW Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages, death certificate No 9978/1955
33. NSW Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages, marriage certificate No 11881/1956, Zacharia Phillip Williams, age 73 years, of 39 Swansea St, Swansea, NSW
34. NSW Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages, death certificate No 27239/1962
35. Australian Dictionary of Bibliography online,, October 2996, states that Peter Finch attended this school in 1930-1932
36. Original Certificate of Marriage No C 500918 held by the author
37. Marriage dissolved 4 September 1969, certificate held by author
38. Badges held by the author
39. Commonwealth of Australia Passport K344545 and Vaccination certificate held by the author
40. NSW Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages, death certificate


Robert Thom’s Northern Roll Library

My sister and I, as youngsters, lived at 70 Holt Avenue, Cremorne, on the northern side of Sydney Harbour, from 1946 to 1958. 

We would spend time with our grandparents Robert – aka Bill (1890-1955) and Maggie Thom (1890-1962), who lived in Earnest Street, Crows Nest in the early 1950s. One of the attractions was their pianola. We would spend hours playing the many rolls they had, so our memories of these times are strong.

In 1956/57 I attended North Sydney Technical High School.

We now move along to 1974 when I joined the Clan MacThomas Society based in the UK. I have remained a member and a fellow member was Ian Thom of Sydney (not related). Ian also had attended North Sydney Technical High School a year later than I. This School closed in 1969. Later Ian became active in the Old Lions, a group of former teachers and ex-students of my our High School. 

In 2005 I joined the Old Lions and attended several functions. In 2012 Ian mentioned that he had a collection of old pianola rolls and he remembered that there were several marked Robert Thom, so he said he would look through his collection. The outcome was Ian gave me one of his Robert Thom rolls.

Unknown to me, my grandfather had operated a small business, besides his occupation as a painter, called the Northern Roll Library. He would buy new rolls and then hire them out to local customers. At the time he obtained the roll I now hold, he was living at 22 Bent Street, North Sydney. 

This roll is a Broadway Word Roll, number 2250, sold for four shillings and was probably available soon after World War II. The song “There’s Something in the Air” (foxtrot), was first performed in the film Banjo On My Knee in 19


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