Guide to the letters and papers of Thomas Fyshe Palmer (as filmed by the AJCP)



National Library of Australia View Catalogue Record

Created: 2018

Collection Summary

Palmer, Thomas Fyshe, Reverend
Letters of Reverend Thomas Fyshe Palmer (as filmed by the AJCP)
Date Range
1794 - 1862
Collection Number
5 items
Language of Materials
Australian Joint Copying Project
The Australian Joint Copying Project (AJCP) online portal was created with the assistance of the Australian Public Service Modernisation Fund, 2017-2020. The National Library of Australia gratefully acknowledges the contribution of the other foundation AJCP partners, the State Library of New South Wales and The National Archives of the UK, and all other organisations which supported the work of the AJCP, the world's most extensive collaborative copying project, operating from 1948 to 1997.


Scope and Contents

1. Handwritten notes concerning the life of Palmer compiled by Mrs Ridyard from official records and published sources.

2. Copies of letters and extracts of letters by Palmer 1794-96, referring to his fellow Scottish martyrs, describing conditions on board the Surprise, his health, the climate, minerals and agriculture of Sydney, and enclosing a copy of the inscription for the tomb of Joseph Gerrald.

Conditions Governing Access

Available for Access.

Conditions Governing Use

Many of the records digitised as part of the AJCP are still in copyright. Readers wishing to publish or reproduce documents should seek permission, in the first instance, from the owner of the original material.

Preferred Citation

Acknowledgement of use of this material should refer to the location of the original material and to the Australian Joint Copying Project.

Items from this collection should include references to the location of the original material and to the AJCP nla.obj number, which serves as the online identifier for the digital copy.

Example: M Series: Journal of Capt. James Cook, 18 February 1770, British Library Add. MS 27885 (AJCP ref:

Archival History

Filmed as part of the Australian Joint Copying Project, (AJCP Reel: M391). Original microfilm digitised as part of the NLA AJCP Online Delivery Project, 2017-2020.

Existence and Location of Originals

The originals of this collection are located at Harris Manchester College, Oxford. For more information see Harris Manchester College (

Existence and Location of Copies

The original AJCP microfilm of the records filmed from this collection is available at the National Library of Australia [] as well as other institutions holding AJCP microfilm.

Finding-aid Notes

This finding aid is a revised online version of the original finding aid prepared by the Australian Joint Copying Project (AJCP), published by the National Library of Australia in 2018. The original AJCP finding aids were unpublished typescripts or photocopies available from libraries that held copies of the original microfilm.

Dates used in this finding aid refer to the date range of the records selected for filming rather than to the date range of the Series or Files.


Convict ships; Convicts: New South Wales; Farms and farming: New South Wales; Gerrald, Joseph; Margaret, Maurice; Minerals; Muir, Thomas; Palmer, Thomas F.; Scottish Martyrs; Skirving, William; Surprize, convict ship; Sydney, New South Wales ; Transportation of convicts


Originally cited in Australian Joint Copying Project Handbook. Part 8: Miscellaneous (M) Series. Third Edition, published 1998. Entry 363, p139.

Biographical / Historical

Thomas Fyshe Palmer (1747-1802) was born in Bedfordshire and was educated at Eton and Queen's College, Cambridge. He was ordained in 1771 but became dissatisfied with Anglican doctrines and in 1883 became a Unitarian minister. He preached in Dundee and other Scottish towns. He became acquainted with Joseph Priestley and other Birmingham radicals and was closely associated with a Dundee group, 'The Friends of Liberty'. In 1793 he was tried at Perth for assisting to print and distribute a pamphlet on parliamentary reform written by a Dundee weaver. He was convicted of seditious practices and sentenced to seven years transportation. At about the same time, the political reformers Thomas Muir, William Skirving, Joseph Gerrald and Maurice Margarot were tried and convicted in Edinburgh and transported to New South Wales. They were known as 'the Scottish Martyrs'.

Palmer, Skirving and Margarot sailed on the transport Surprize, which arrived in Sydney in October 1794. Palmer's account of the ill-treatment that he suffered on this voyage was published in London in 1797. In the colony he enjoyed a large measure of freedom and was able to engage in a trading concern with two free settlers, John Boston and James Ellis. They built a vessel, the Martha, which sailed to Norfolk Island and the islands of Bass Strait. Palmer was a close friend of George Bass and took a strong interest in maritime exploration. In 1801, after his sentence had expired, Palmer sailed for England on a decrepit vessel that had been bought by Boston and Ellis. Weakened by the privations, dangers and long delays that he experienced on this voyage, Palmer died on the Spanish island of Guam.

William Shepherd (1768-1847) was the Unitarian minister and schoolmaster at the Gateacre Chapel in Liverpool from 1791 until his death. He was a leader of the reform movement in Liverpool and was closely associated with many reformers, such as William Roscoe, William Rathbone, Gilbert Wakefield, Lord Brougham, Thomas Fyshe Palmer and the Unitarian minister Jeremiah Joyce. After Joyce died in 1816, Shepherd adopted his daughter, Hannah Joyce. Hannah, who was to marry William Ridyard, was responsible for assembling and sorting the manuscripts and papers of Shepherd. The collection, which was eventually presented to Manchester College, includes many of her own papers.

Item Descriptions

Series. Shepherd MS, Volume 10 (Select), 1794 - 1862

5 items

Hannah Ridyard. Manuscript copy, abridged, of 'Account of the late Mr Thomas Fyshe Palmer', Monthly Magazine, February 1804 (File 1)

Pages 83-85, with a note added on the legality of the sentence passed on Palmer.

Letters from Thomas Fyshe Palmer, 1794 - 1796 (File 2-6)

Palmer (Surprize) to Unknown, 23 April 1794. His last letter from the northern hemisphere; illness; the damp and unwholesome prison; thanks for Cambridge Intelligencer; imminent departure.

Palmer (Sydney) to Unknown, 16 Sep 1795. Packet of letters given to surgeon John White; defence of Palmer's character against most atrocious accusations; depletion of stores in colony; fine climate; colony might immediately support itself if cattle were imported and military monopoly ended; novelty of flora; natural resources; cost to Government of maintaining a den of thieves; arrival of HMS Providence. (extract)

Palmer (Sydney) to Unknown, 23 April 1796. His drastic change of circumstances in three years; personal attacks by the monopoly of officers; Joseph Gerrald the victim of ministerial malignity and medical neglect, with exception of George Bass; escape of Thomas Muir; no contact with Maurice Margarot.

Palmer to Rev. Theophilus Lyndesay, 16 Sep 1796. Distressing condition of so many of his countrymen; Palmer requires nothing but newspapers and reviews; climatic extremes in colony.

Palmer to Unknown, 22 Nov 1796. Lack of letters. (fragment)

Contains copies of the following letters:

Palmer to Rev. Jeremiah Joyce, 5 May 1796 (File 7)

Political persecution extends to Britain's remotest connections; John Boston and James Ellis; death of Joseph Gerrald; his great virtues and talents; arrival of parcels; wishes to acquire copy of James Hutton's Theory of the earth; sends opinion of G. Bass on Gerrald's death; neglect by surgeon William Balmain. Includes a copy of inscription on brass plate on Gerrald's tomb.

Notes written by Hannah Ridyard, 1862 (File 8)

Quoting from memory a passage in the last letter of Joseph Gerrald before leaving England. The notes refer to the misappropriation by Sir James McIntosh of a letter from Gerrald to Dr Samuel Parr and of money intended to assist Gerrald in his exile.

Extract from the farewell letter of Joseph Gerrald to Newnham Collingwood (File)