Guide to the Papers of Robert Thomas (as filmed by AJCP)



National Library of Australia View Catalogue Record

Created: 2019

Collection Summary

Thomas, Robert (Llanfechain, Montgomeryshire)
Papers of Robert Thomas (as filmed by the AJCP)
Date Range
1863 - 1864
Collection Number
1 item
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

The manuscript of Robert Thomas of Llanfechain, Montgomeryshire, was written in 1863-1864. It covers Thomas's life from his birth in 1836 until 1854, when he was living in Australia. There is also a brief record of his return to Britain in 1862. The bulk of the manuscript deals with his first 18 months in Australia (1852-54) and his experiences on the Victorian goldfields.

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-23 September 1770, British Library Add. MS 27885 (AJCP ref:

Archival History

Filmed at the National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth, as part of the Australian Joint Copying Project, 1988 (AJCP Reel: M2090). Original microfilm digitised as part of the NLA AJCP Online Delivery Project, 2017-2020.

Existence and Location of Originals

National Library of Wales, Penglais Road, Aberystwyth.

Collection reference: MS 22103B.For further information see Robert Thomas at the National Library of Wales [].

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 Note

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 2019. 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.


Australia; Ballarat, Victoria; bushrangers; Great Britain; Victoria: immigration to; Victoria: gold and goldfields; Victoria; Liverpool, England; Llanfechain, Wales; Storekeeper; Thomas, Robert; Wales.


Originally cited in Australian Joint Copying Project Handbook. Part 8: Miscellaneous (M) Series, Third Edition, published 1998. Entry 458, p. 179.

Item Descriptions

Manuscript autobiography of Robert Thomas of Llanfechain, Montgomeryshire (151pp.), 1863 - 1864 (File)

The manuscript is divided into two rough sections.

The first part of the manuscript (pp. 1-51) describes Thomas's early years in Wales and Shropshire and his voyage to Australia in 1852. He was born on a farm near Llanfechain, Montgomeryshire, and grew up near Westbury, Shropshire. He writes of his childhood, schooling, the death of his father, his return to Wales, work on a cattle farm, the sale of his brother's farm and its repercussions, and news of the Australian goldfields. The voyage from Liverpool to Melbourne on the Sarah Sands (20 September–16 December 1852) is recorded in detail. Thomas describes the parting from his family, conditions in his cabin, fellow-passengers, his relations with his brother Thomas, impressions of Cork and the Cape Verde Islands, the crossing the Equator ceremonies, the death and funeral of a passenger, impressions of Cape Town, activities including a visit to a winery at Constantia and a mock duel, the voyage across the Indian Ocean, sightings of albatrosses and Cape pigeons, church services, the sighting of Cape Otway and the arrival at Port Phillip.

Inserted at pages 52-55 is a summary account of Thomas's voyage home from Melbourne to London on the Lincolnshire (28 May–18 August 1862).

The rest of the manuscript (pp. 57-151) gives an extremely detailed account of Thomas's early experiences and observations in Victoria. He records his first impressions of Melbourne, Port Phillip Bay and the canvas town of hopeful gold miners, the formation by his brother of a party to proceed to the goldfields, the serious illness (dysentery) which Thomas endured for several weeks, the journey to the Forest Creek diggings, impressions of the Australian bush and descriptions of various kinds of trees, Thomas's separation from the party and his brief employment by a Jewish storekeeper, his search for the party and his continued illness, his brother's meeting with acquaintances from Shropshire, and encounters with former convicts on the goldfields. He describes working with his brother at New Chum Gully, mining equipment, the techniques of discovering alluvial gold, their discovery of their first nugget, his slow recovery from illness, life on the goldfields, meals, encounters with the police, an incident involving a bolting horse, work herding cattle and the loneliness of the life, and meetings with Australian Aboriginals.

Thomas then moved to Castlemaine and worked as a storekeeper and cook. He gives details of his wages and refers to bushrangers, the widespread discontent over miner's licences, the development of Castlemaine and its hotels, stores and churches, employment as a waiter as a restaurant, and his employer's problems with his wife. Thomas re-joined his brother at the diggings and he describes Christmas (1853) on the goldfields, their journey to a new field between Creswick and Ballarat, the landscape, bushfires, the grand house built by Captain John Hepburn, kookaburras, mining at Creswick Creek and Sulky Gully, bushrangers disguised as diggers, Welsh acquaintances on the goldfields, a near-fatal accident in a shaft, his first encounter with emus, and his relations with the rest of the party. The memoir ends with Thomas's journey to Melbourne in May 1854, his visit to the Ballarat goldfields, Bacchus Marsh and the Pentland Hills, and his impressions of the changes in Melbourne since his arrival 18 months earlier.

Biographical / Historical

There is no information about the later life of Robert Thomas. His brother, the Reverend David Thomas (1833-1916) was the Archdeacon of Montgomery (1886-1916) and a noted local historian.