Reminiscences of James Dunlop Tom (1853-1948)

Reminiscences of Mr. J.D.Tom, 1941

Jim Tom & Amy

"Uncle Jim Tom", then 81, and Mrs Thomas Roadknight (née Amy Kathleen Tom, 1890-1965), daughter of his cousin Arthur Sebastopol Tom, at New Farm, Brisbane, 1934.

Jim Tom was dux of the King's School, Parramatta, where he was sent apparently at his grandfather Tom's expense. He never married. He died in Brisbane at 95 years of age.

[Photograph by Milton Crawshaw.]

I was born in old Springfield House, Cornish Settlement, on 28th September, 1853, and am now 87 years old. My father, John Tom, was the eldest son of William Tom, generally called Parson Tom.

Father often told me that he came to Springfield when he was nine years of age, mentioning the year 1829, so I feel sure Will Webb made a mistake in his book. Referring to the "saw" incident, Father showed me the standing stump of the tree under which he camped. It was situated on the Bathurst side of Evans Plains Creek, and about a mile from the Creek. I don't think it could have been a spreading gum at that time for he spoke of setting fire to it (using flint and timber - no matches then) and how, on his return, he found it had fallen across the place where he slept the pevious night.

Father was the best bushman I have ever met or heard of. It was impossible to put him wrong, either by day or night. He could not explain his gift. Said he always knew he was going straight to his object. He was the first man to take a mob of cattle from N.S.W. to Victoria, Gippsland, through virgin country all the way: this was in the forties, I think. [According to A.K. Macdougall's history of Australia: "In 1836 Joseph Hawdon, a Durham man, drove a mob of sheep from Sydney to Port Phillip and two years later, accompanied by Charles Bonney, took sheep and cattle from near Albury to Adelaide in the first of the epics of overlanding." JCC] Years later, he explored the country between the Lachlan and the Darling Rivers, taking up Gilgunza and Noothumbil, which he sold to Messrs. Peake and Reid about 1860.

In my boyhood, I was taught to reverence two things, John Wesley and Cornwall. All our relations and neighbours were Cornish, many being local preachers, class leaders and Sunday School teachers - good earnest men and yeomen. Some of them, I feel sure, believed there was no place in heaven except for the Wesleyans.


I knew my Grandfather very intimately and was very fond of the old gentleman. As a boy I used to think of him as a second Abraham, generally termed the friend of God. Grandfather always spoke of God as his greatest friend, considered Him in all his actions of life, and really believed his prayers were answered. He was also a bit of a Patriarch in his way, spoke of himself as the head of the family, and liked to be consulted by his children and grandchildren.

My first recollection of him was when, as a little chap of five or six, he used to take me with him to catch one of his two horses, Dark the gig horse (no buggies then) or Grey, the one he generally rode. He would put me up and tell me to hold on to the whiskers (mane) and give me a ride back to the house. Grandfather enjoyed the company of children and was full of fun. When I was older and could ride properly, I had many a race with him, generally winning, as I was much the lighter weight. At this he used a roan horse, given him by Uncle William, a great trotter and could gallop a bit.

He often spoke of Cornwall, and told me he had been in the Excise Service there, and he was fond of giving one sums to do, all dealing with the contents of barrels, etc. He was a dab at mental calculations and I a duffer, so I used to try and sheer him away from figures.

He could be very stern with wrong-doers, but generally wound up by saying "poor creature, weak as water", a favourite expression of his. He was very Cornish in his conversation - always spoke of a pretty girl as a brave lass and a handsome lad as a brave boy.

As a rule he preached from the Old Testatment, generally about the laws and customs of the Hebrews. Services in those days often went over the hour, and Parson Tom talked the full time.

He was a man of great determination, for he told me that on three occasions after coming to Springfield he was broke and yet he managed to pull through. He attributed this to the mercy and help of God. After the Gold Discovery, when prosperity came his way, he helped not only his own relations, but many others to get on their feet.

At one time he and his sons owned the following stations: Tom & Bill, Huntawong, Tom's Lake and Belangarambke, all on the Lachlan, and two stations in Gippsland. These are sold to Jimmy Tyson. Uncle Bill accompanied Father, either on his first or second trip to Victoria. Father returned by water, but Uncle Bill and men came overland. By some mischance, they lost all their horses and outfits, and had to foot it most of the way back, living on what they could catch.

William Lane Mrs. William Tom Snr, my grandmother, was a sister to Mr. W. Lane and must have been a splendid type of woman and wife. Assisted by convict women, she made the whole of the cloth used by her family and servants, from the wool of the sheep on Springfield. She made cheese, butter and cured bacon and hams for the family. In appearance she was quite pretty, with rosy cheeks, and English looking. She loved her Native Land much more than Australia, and once when speaking of the foliage of trees remarked, "You call your trees evergreen, I call them NEVERGREEN."

She used to teach us children hymns, and if we made a success of our task, would break a peppermint in small portions and give it to us, a little piece each. She could sing nicely, and had a good ear for music, while Grandfather had no idea of tune or time in singing, but possessed a loud voice. Often at family worship, Grandfather would be singing at the top of his voice, and ahead of everyone else. Grandmother would say "William, you are putting us all out, don't go so fast," to which he would reply "Well dear, I must praise the Lord," and start off again. We kids used to enjoy this.

Grandmother came over the Blue Mountains in a bullock dray, and to Springfield in a similar vehicle. She died in 1870, and was buried in the vault. I was at her funeral.


All I can recall of the place is that it was surrounded by English trees: acacias, and oaks, and perhaps others. At the back was a little mill, where the convicts ground their corn, and nearby a milking yard, and gallows. At the front there was a small garden, with fruit trees, but I don't remember much about the old place.

[When he received his original grant of land in 1830, Parson Tom built a wattle-and-daub dwelling. The new stone "Springfield" homestead was not completed until 1854, though it is said that the family started living in it from 1847. The "old Springfield" dwelling, no longer extant, must have been used by John Tom and his family, perhaps from 1847. JCC]


James Tom

Uncle James: I only met at intervals, as upon the sale of the Lachlan stations he bought a property in Victoria and lived there until his death. He was considered by his father and brothers to be the best businessman of the family and did all the financial part of their affairs. He married a Scotch lady, Marion McGaw.
Wm Tom Jr

Uncle William: He was born at sea during a great storm, and was badly afflicted with St. Vitus's Dance. He was perhaps the cleverest man of the family - a genius with tools, dabbled in Science, and was one of the Gold Discoverers. He had a liking for writing to the Newspapers, and was a well-read entertaining man. He married a Miss Lister.

Henry Tom Uncle Thomas: He was a dear old fellow, a typical squatter, and very musical. He married Miss Elder.

Uncle Nicholas: He was a quiet retiring man, but was well liked by everyone. He married Miss E. McGaw.

Uncle Henry: I did not know at all well, as after the sale of the Lachlan Stations, he came to Queensland, and lived here until his death. He married a Miss Coleman.

Uncle Charles: Also came to Queensland, but returned to N.S.W., where he died. He married Miss L. Coleman.

Uncle Wesley: I did not know at all.

Grandfather's daughters all married young. Emma and Selina married two brothers, Edward and Thomas Webb. Mary married John Smith of Gamboola; Helen, George Tempest; Annie, Gustavus Glasson. They were dear women, great home lovers, fond of children and were very hospitable.

Selina Tom

Selina and Annie were very pretty, and the latter was full of fun and mischief, a real Australian girl. Once when ordered to return thanks at her boarding school, she did it in the following manner - "All we had was very rough. very hard and very tough, but thank the Lord, we had enough."

Aunt Emma and Annie died young, but Aunt Mary and Selina lived over 94 years and Aunt Helen must have exceeded 80 years.

Selina Jane Tom (1835-1929) married notable Bathurst merchant Edmund Webb in 1854.
Photograph circa 1875.