"My GGG Grandfather, Thomas Hepburn, was born in Forgandenny,
Perthshire in 1791. He was a weaver and sawyer in
Newburgh, Fife. The domestic weaving industry i.e that carried
out in the home, was going sharply into decline with the
introduction of factory powerlooms."
"I assume Thomas was beginning to feel the pinch especially with
his burgeoning family of 8 daughters. So he forged a bill of
exchange to the value of £68. I have seen a copy of it and it
was a pretty poor attempt.
He tried to pass the bill in a bank in Auchtermuchty but was
"The crime of forgery relating to bills of exchange was a
capital offence until the early 1830s. I think this was based
on the fact that the British economy relied on this way of
buying and selling goods. So Thomas was actually quite
lucky. He could have been hung a few years earlier.
Thomas compounded his offence, I believe, by lying to the Court
(High Court of Justiciary in Edinburgh) and by bringing forth a
witness who gave him a false alibi.
He was sentenced to transportation across the seas for the rest
of his natural life."
"While he was in Calton Jail he got his solicitor to write to
the Home Secretary asking him to commute his sentence, either by
letting him serve a shorter sentence in Scotland or by allowing
him to be accompanied by his wife and daughters, at no cost to
Home Secretary turned down his appeal."
Van Damien's Land
"Thomas arrived in Van Diemen’s Land in December 1836. He
obtained a Conditional Pardon around 1850 which gave him the
freedom of Australia but forbade him to return to the UK. (This
was normal practice for those transported for Life). "
Life in Australia
"I don’t know what became of him after that. He appears on the
passenger lists of a couple of ships going from Hobart to Port
Phillip (Melbourne) in the early 1850s but that is the last
sighting I have of him.
I know it was him because convicts were known by the ship that
transported them to Australia. He was ‘Thomas Hepburn, Eden 1’
(‘1’ being the first voyage of the Eden).
He was now in his 6th decade and I imagine he died during that
decade, perhaps looking for gold in the Australian gold fields."
Rhoda Overson, Greater London,
England (since 1969): 30 August 2016