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Thomas, James Francis (1861 - 1942)

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Born: 25 July 1861  St. Marys, New South Wales, Australia.  Died: 11 November 1942  Boonoo Boonoo, New South Wales, Australia.
James was the eldest of six sons to dairy farmers James and Sarah Thomas. He attended the King's School, Parramatta, then became articled to a law firm.

He arrived in Tenterfield in January 1890 to practise law and became a volunteer in the NSW Mounted Rifles. He purchased the local newspaper, The Tenterfield Star, in 1894 and wrote editorials in support of Federation in1898 and voluntary enlistment of youth in overseas service in1915. He was president of the Tenterfield Brass Band in 1899 and a member of the Agricultural Society.

James was among the first contingent of the Tenterfield Riflemen to respond to the call for men to enlist in the Boar War on 3 November 1899 as the officer commanding A Squadron in the NSW Bushman's Contingent. He reported regularly on the war to The Tenterfield Star. In South Africa he was called upon as advocate for the defendants in the 'Breaker Morant' trial in 1902, which resulted in the execution of Morant and Peter Handcock. The trial and its aftermath affected James for the rest of his life.

In July 1915 he sold the newspaper to concentrate on his law practice which he sold in 1919. He settled in Sydney from where he wrote a 'Historical Sketch' of Tenterfield, the first attempt to record the origins of the town. In 1923 James was the victim of a trusted client and lost a great deal of money. He returned to Tenterfield in 1925 but became involved in litigation. In 1926 he was sent to Long Bay Penitentiary for contempt of court and spent 20 months in gaol, after which he was made bankrupt. He was struck off the Solicitors' Roll for misconduct.

He became reclusive and shunned society, dying of malnutrition and related disorders on his property.

[Brief Biography compiled by Robin Hammond, January/February 2004]


Structure based on ISAAR(CPF) - click here for an explanation of the fields.Prepared by: Sophie Patrick
Created: 26 June 2002
Modified: 7 November 2005

Published by The Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre, 5 April 2004
Prepared by: Acknowledgements
Updated: 23 February 2010

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