William Coombe (1807-1878)

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Simon Dunne and David Coombe have been very helpful in unravelling the clues at the Australian end of this story.

William Coombe was baptised in South Tawton in 1808. John, his father, was born in Sampford Courtenay although his ancestors came from Belstone. William's mother Mary (nee Mortimore) came from South Tawton.


In 1828 he married Grace Manning in Winkleigh. He was able to sign his name in the register, Grace could only make a X mark. They had four children: Mary and William (baptised in Winkleigh) and Jane and Betsey (baptised in North Tawton). It is likely that they were living at Broadnymett or Greenslade when the 2 younger ones were baptised.


When convicted in 1835 he was aged 28.

Description: 5’ 5¾“ Ruddy complexion, dark brown hair, hazel eyes. Lost canine teeth upper jaw, scar right jaw, small mole upper right arm, five small moles below left elbow, three scars back of forefinger left hand, three slight scars ball of left thumb. With Alexander Croote, he was first taken to the hulk Justitia at Woolwich, then transported on the "John Barry" which left Torbay on 20 Sep 1835 with 320 male convicts. She arrived at Port Jackson on 17 January 1836.

First he was sent to Muswellbrook, North of Sydney. By 1846 he was in Moreton Bay, where he bought several acres of farmland which became known as Coombe’s swamp, now “Hill End” in Brisbane. He was granted a Conditional Pardon on 1 May 1849.


The same year on 2 July he married Johanna Murphy, aged about 20, who had arrived in Brisbane that May with Mr and Mrs Joseph Rogerson Cotter Butler (1825-1882) from Cork on board the "Chaseley". They were colonists, but the authorities in Brisbane were not expecting them.