George Gregory - Rags to Riches

George Gregory was born in Crediton in 1834, his parents then living in St Martin’s Lane. His father, a farm worker, died when he was ten.


On 22nd July 1848 at the County Assizes in Exeter, - George Gregory, 14. (Imp.) was charged with stealing a sovereign from Thomas Wills, master of the "Rapid" trawling sloop, from the cabin, whilst at sea, off Berry Head, near Brixham, on the 7th of July. Mr. Coles prosecuted. The prosecutor had missed a sovereign from a drawer of a table in the cabin, and having called his crew together, (which consisted of two men and three boys), and stated his loss to them, they all protested innocence, the prisoner amongst the rest.


The prisoner, was however, searched, and the sovereign found in one of his boots. The lad had only been on board a week, and the captain could not speak either “good or bad” of him. Prisoner said another boy on board gave it to him, and that his parents were living at Crediton. The Recorder said he would pass the sentence of seven years' transportation upon the prisoner, in order that he might be placed in the Penitentiary, where he would be properly instructed.

He was taken to a youth training centre at Parkhurst on the Isle of Wight before being taken to Hobart, Tasmania on the “Nile II” with 29 other youths, so called Parkhurst Boys, in 1850.

 

His convict records show that he was 5’ 3¼” with a large scar in the centre of his forehead. He left behind in Crediton his widowed mother Elizabeth, and his brothers and sisters Sarah, Elizabeth, Samuel and Robert.

 

In Tasmania he was set to work as an agricultural labourer. In November 1851 he was sentenced to 3 months’ hard labour in chains for mistreating his master’s horse.

He was to spend most of his working life in and around Hagley, about 30 km west of Launceston. Initially he worked for the Cornish family, who farmed at “Watery Plains”.

 

Later (around 1865) he farmed at Quamby and gradually built up an immense fortune.


In 1880 he bought land at Talina, Hagley for almost £5000.

 

In 1887 the estate of Quamby was divided up and sold and George Gregory bought 1500 acres including the homestead. He farmed there for another 20 years before retiring to Launceston.

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The Quamby Estate today





In 1855 George Gregory married Emma Pearce (probably the daughter of female convict); they had five children. She died in 1914. Shortly afterwards he married Florence Victoria Horsfall (nee Powell) who was 40 years younger than him. George died in 1919 in Launceston, his second wife died in 1947.

 

His family back in Crediton:


George must have suggested that some of his family should join him in Tasmania as in 1855 his younger brother Samuel, then a farm labourer aged 18, and his elder sister Sarah, her husband James Blackmore and their baby son emigrated to Tasmania. Samuel initially lived on a farm neighbouring George’s. He later became insolvent. He married and had one daughter. The Blackmore’s later moved to Victoria.


George’s mother stayed in Crediton, living at Park St., Mill St., and East St., before she died in 1880.

His younger sister and brother, Elizabeth and Robert, a shoe maker, also remained in Crediton for the rest of their lives.

It seems likely that George Gregory and James Screech were known to each other. James was three years older, but in 1841 they lived within a few yards of each other in Crediton. They were both convicted of crimes committed in Brixham in 1848 and would have been together at Parkhurst Gaol prior to being sent to Australia.