New Hawkesbury Book Release


Book Launch: Annegret Hall’s Andrew Thompson: From Boy Convict to Wealthiest Settler in Colonial Australia.

Annegret Hall is an author whose name is becoming well-known in the Hawkesbury. Her second book is a good read for us here in the district for the subject of her biography is Andrew Thompson. A special event to launch the book is to be held at Hawkesbury Regional Museum on Saturday, 25 June 2022 at 1.30 p.m. (for booking details see below). Annegret is an accomplished speaker and writer and her discussion of the book is to be looked forward to.

Thompson’s story as Annegret tells it, is not historical fiction despite the fact that she describes Thompson’s life as ‘full of hardship, heroism, industry, fortune, determination and redemption’, a story she points out to be ‘a tale that William Thackeray would have loved to tell’. She also shares her thoughts that Charles Dickens himself ‘may have been inspired by Andrew Thompson’s life’ when he wrote Great Expectations.

The Book is called Andrew Thompson: From Boy Convict to Wealthiest Settler in Colonial Australia, and its subject, Andrew Thompson, despite his convict background is a weighty subject as the sub-title suggests. Annegret has succeeded in not only getting a thorough understanding of the times over two hundred years ago but also of early colonial New South Wales. Her interests in the topic are far-reaching: from Thompson’s birth-place in Yetholm, in the border regions of Scotland in the 1700s, to the early settlements of Sydney, Toongabbie and Hawkesbury in the late 1700s and the first decade of the nineteenth century. These are the places to which Thompson came as an 18-year old son of a respected leaseholder of a town property in rural Scotland removed by transportation to the other side of the globe as he gradually grew in wisdom and civic spirit.

Painstakingly researched facts ground this book and prove the facts are often more startling and powerful than any concocted narrative. Annegret researched her material from primary sources held in archives from Kew in London and the National Records Office in Edinburgh to the Mitchell Library and NSW State Archives in Sydney as well as from well-informed secondary sources and digitised material. She travelled to Yetholm and explored the area of Thompson’s boyhood as well as familiarising herself thoroughly with the Hawkesbury area, as she herself lives in Western Australia.

Annegret refers to Thompson as ‘one of the most remarkable men in New South Wales’. This is particularly true in this case as Thompson’s life was a spectacular rise by good conduct from prisoner to the prestigious elevation to the first ex-convict Justice of the Peace and Magistrate dispensing and supervising justice, a position of trust. As Macquarie wrote on Thompson’s grave stone, the way he lived his colonial life ‘restored him to that rank in Society which he had lost’ by his youthful transgressions. We can only imagine Thompson’s pride had he lived to see Thompson Square, Windsor named after himself by Governor Lachlan Macquarie, personally in attendance when a sign post was nailed to the civic square in 1811, giving the 15-year-old square a name for the first time.

The event starts at 1.30 pm at the 8 Baker Street entrance to Hawkesbury Regional Museum with a brief walk in Thompson Square, led by Jan Barkley-Jack, who will point out the locations of the buildings that made up the square in the earliest days of European settlement; including Thompson’s own cottage and lease which he occupied probably from as early as 1796. Annegret will then give her illustrated talk in the Museum meeting room, followed by an opportunity for questions and purchase of the book if desired and then afternoon tea. The cost of the event is $5. Bookings can be made online at www.hawkesburymuseum.eventbrite.com before 20 June.

Jan Barkley-Jack

President Hawkesbury Historical Society

Windsor

June 2022.

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