Burglaries, Bankruptcy and an Unfortunate Death: The Challenges of the Hamilton Watchmaking Family – Part 3


The Tribune of 31 December 1878 reported Thomas Alfred Hamilton’s (junior) tragic death:

A Sad Accident. – Yesterday morning, about 7 o’clock, an accident, which will in all likelihood prove fatal, befell Mr Thomas Hamilton, son of the late Mr Hamilton, formerly well known as a watchmaker in Liverpool Street. Mr Hamilton, who resided in Goulburn Street, while under the influence of liquor, asked his wife for money for the purpose of procuring more drink. She refused his request, whereupon he seized a gun as if to fire at her. She screamed for help, and in response her sons came to her assistance, and wresting the gun from their father, carried it into a room in the house. Mr Hamilton shortly afterwards followed them, and took the gun and went outside, and either not knowing it was loaded, or thoughtless as to what he was doing, he held the gun by the barrel, and struck the stock forcibly on the ground with the intention of breaking it. The concussion caused the gun to go off while the barrel was pointing towards him, and the shot entered his abdomen, creating an extensive and ghastly wound through which the vitals protruded. Dr E L Crowther was immediately sent for, and he attended with all promptness and did all in his power to alleviate the unfortunate man’s sufferings. He could do no more, for recovery was hopeless, the shot having inextricably lodged in the viscera. He also visited him at intervals during the day and used all his efforts to lessen the pain, but toward the evening, his pulse got very low, and he was evidently sinking, the doctor holding out hopes of but a few hours of life.

Thomas was 50 years old; the inquest verdict indicated he died from stomach wounds from the accidental discharge of a gun.

Born on 24 February 1828 in Middlesex, London, Thomas Alfred Hamilton was the son of watchmaker Thomas Hamilton (senior) and his first wife Ann. When Thomas was only three years old, his father was convicted of three theft charges and sentenced to fourteen years transportation, resulting in the family relocating to Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) in the 1830s.

Birth and baptism record, Thomas Alfred Hamilton. Westminster, London, England, Church of England Births & Baptisms, 1828 (Ancestry).

By 1842, Thomas (senior) was free of the convict system, and the family resided at 27 Liverpool Street, Hobart, where, during the day, the premises were a shop. By this time, Thomas (junior) was about 14 years old and inevitably followed his father in the watchmaking trade. He opened a business on his own accord in August 1848 in Elizabeth Street, Hobart, and advertised the arrival of a new jewellery collection from London and Paris.

T A Hamilton repair label.

In 1850, Thomas (junior) lost his mother and married a few months later. His mother died at the beginning of the year after a long, painful illness at the age of 43. On 6 July 1850, Thomas, now 22, married 18-year-old Mary Blackman, daughter of bricklayer James Blackman and his wife Lydia, at St John’s Church in Hobart. The following year, he gained a stepmother when his father married widow Ann Gray Giddings of Green Ponds.

A newspaper notice in August 1854 announced that Thomas (junior) would be leaving for Melbourne and advised customers to collect repairs and settle accounts before his departure. By April 1856, he was back in Hobart and purchased Colin Bain’s watch and clockmaking business in Liverpool Street. The business premises suffered fire damage in 1859 and relocated briefly to Murray Street. They were back in the old premises at 118 Liverpool Street by January 1860.. The following year, a gunsmith, James Chisholm, advertised if Thomas Hamilton (junior), a watchmaker, did not collect his double gun and pay expenses, he would sell it to recover costs – guns caused more trouble for Thomas many years later.

Insolvency struck in November 1863 with only two creditors, John Regan and his father, Thomas Hamilton (senior). His father sold goods to his son, not knowing he was about to declare insolvency or the extent of his debts. Thomas (junior) appeared in court in December 1863 and appealed for the dismissal of the petition because he had made partial payments to each creditor, with dismissal granted. Thomas’s father died in 1865, leaving two wills. A dispute followed with stepmother Ann Hamilton, with the final ruling in Ann’s favour, and Thomas received only £500.

Police charged nine-year-old James Smith in June 1869 with stealing watches from Thomas’s business in Elizabeth Street. The theft occurred when 13-year-old James Hamilton, Thomas’s son, was in charge of the shop. The offender attempted to sell the watches to Ann Hamilton in Liverpool Street, watchmaker Mr Gaylor, and tools and watches to watchmaker Colin Bain in Elizabeth Street. Due to James Smith’s young age, his punishment was only one month in prison.

Thomas placed an advertisement in the newspaper in July 1873 to advise customers he had relocated to Victoria and unclaimed clocks and watches could be collected from Major L Hood at 12 Elizabeth Street. It is not certain Thomas went to Victoria, but he died a few years later in Hobart on 30 December 1878, aged 50.

Thomas Alfred Hamilton’s wife, Mary, and eight children survived him. One son, Charles, was recorded as a jeweller when he married in 1886 but later worked in the building trade. It is uncertain how many descendants entered the watchmaking trade, but Thomas (junior), his father and his stepmother certainly had elements of success in business, along with many trials during their lifetimes.

Sallie Mulligan © February 2024.


References: https://handsoftime.com.au/listings/hamilton-thomas-alfred-junior/


SEE: Part 1 – https://handsoftime.com.au/burglaries-bankruptcy-and-an-unfortunate-death-the-challenges-of-the-hamilton-watchmaking-family/ – Thomas Hamilton (senior), and
Part 2 – https://handsoftime.com.au/burglaries-bankruptcy-and-an-unfortunate-death-the-challenges-of-the-hamilton-watchmaking-family-2/ – Ann Hamilton.