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Skeyhill, Thomas

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Fast Facts
Type of person Individual
Date of birth c. 1833
Place of birth Loughrea, Galway, Ireland
Date of arrival 1858
Principal occupation Farmer and labourer
Date of death 1901
Place of decease Dingabledinga

Thomas Skeyhill is believed to have been born in about 1833 at Loughrea, Galway, Ireland, possibly the son of Thomas Skeyhill and Bridget Burke. The spelling of his surname has proved to be very variable in the records with at least thirteen different surname variants: Skeyhill, Skehill, Skehil, Skehan, Skean, Skeen, Skain, Skein, Schean, Schaen, Shean, Sheehan and Scales. His Irish accent and illiteracy probably contributed to these spellings. Thomas did have at least one sister, Bridget Brannelly (née Skehill) who settled at Camperdown, Victoria with her husband Patrick.

Thomas probably arrived in South Australia aboard Stamboul on 1 February 1858. However, the passenger list does not show a Thomas Skeyhill, but a Thomas Skeen aged 25. Thomas (as Thomas Schean) married Margaret Ryan on 25 May 1862 at Willunga. They had at least six children, all baptised at St Joseph’s Catholic Church, Willunga:

  • James Percy was born on 10 March 1863 at Willunga, married Annie Donnelly in Victoria in 1888 and died on 25 May 1932 at Warrnambool, Victoria.
  • Mary Ann was born on 22 May 1865 at Willunga, married William Regan on 26 February 1884 at St Josephs, Willunga, and died at Camperdown, Victoria in 1927.
  • Daniel was born on 4 October 1872, Willunga, married Martha Nellie Hailstone on 27 February 1901 at Willunga, died on 30 Aug 1928 in hospital at Adelaide.
  • Michael was born 9 September 1867 in Willunga, married Annie Matthews in Victoria in 1894, and died in 1946 at Camperdown, Victoria.
  • John was born 27 April 1870 in Willunga and died 4 November 1898 in Kalgoorlie, Western Australia.
  • Margaret Elizabeth was born 6 July 1875 in Willunga and died on 23 December 1895 in Willunga.

Thomas farmed Section 73 in the Hundred of Kuitpo, Dingabledinga, known as Brown’s Flat. The original Land Grant was held by William Putland, farmer of Yankalilla, 15 April 1862. Thomas was already farming this section prior to purchasing on 31 May 1871 as he is listed in the Willunga Council Rates for 1869.

In 1868 Thomas went to the Jupiter Creek gold diggings near Echunga. In January 1874 his property was threatened by a fire, but while he lost his fences, his house and contents were saved. In March 1880 his tender to build Paddy’s Bridge was accepted. On 4 August 1883, he advertised that he had lost a bullock between Willunga and Port Elliot and offered 10 shillings reward for its recovery. In August 1884, the Council reported that ‘ruts [were] filled and saplings grubbed near Skeyhill’s’. In April 1888, his tender for a log culvert ‘near Smalls’ was accepted, as was his later tender in July 1889 for 130 fencing posts.

By the 1890s Thomas may have been having mental health issues, perhaps some form of dementia, as in April 1895, his property was transferred to his wife Margaret but then she died in February 1899. Margaret left her estate, which was valued at less than £100, mostly to her son Daniel, £7 for Masses, and made provision for her husband, instructing that ‘ample support’ be given to him, and requested her executors to ensure that this provision ‘is faithfully carried out’. A few months after his wife’s death, Thomas gave an interview to the Express & Telegraph newspaper in which he claimed to be over 100 years old (see Skeyhill family).

When Thomas Skeyhill died at his residence in January 1901 his age was reported (erroneously) in the Southern Cross newspaper as 108 years old thus suggesting his birth was circa 1793. He is buried in St Joseph’s Catholic Cemetery, Willunga with his wife and daughter Margaret in unmarked graves.

Sources

  • Willunga National Trust records including: Ratepayer List
  • Willunga and Aldinga Councils 1850-1888
  • St Joseph’s Catholic Church births database
  • State Records of South Australia Passenger list for the Stamboul 58/1
  • SAILIS CT29/88
  • SAGHS births deaths and marriages indexes
  • ‘Local Courts’ Adelaide Observer 28 November 1868:6
  • ‘Serious Fires at Willunga’ Evening Journal 5 January 1874:3
  • ‘Willunga’ South Australian Chronicle and Weekly Mail 13 March 1880:24
  • ‘Advertising’ Adelaide Observer 4 August 1883:21
  • ‘District Councils’ South Australian Register 9 April 1884:7
  • ‘Willunga June 9’ South Australian Register 20 June 1884:3
  • ‘District Councils’ South Australian Register 26 April 1888:3
  • ‘Willunga’ South Australian Chronicle 27 July 1889:13
  • ‘Family Notices’ Advertiser 1 December 1898:4
  • ‘Willunga February 13’ Chronicle 18 February 1899:15
  • ‘A Living Centenarian’ Express and Telegraph 1 November 1899:2
  • ‘Death of a Centenarian’ Southern Cross 18 January 1901 page 11
  • State Records of South Australia Probate Index. Will 5903 available Family Search
  • Victoria Births
  • Deaths and Marriages indexes
  • Ancestry
  • Findmypast



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