Trimmers Down Under Again

by Doris M Yarde

Brentford & Chiswick Local History Journal 3 (1982)

I have been asked to explain WHY I travelled to Western Australia during April 1981!

During my research on the Griffin Brewery at the then Middlesex Record Office I found a series of letters written by Douglas Thompson from Swan River, Western Australia. Douglas was the son of the then owner of the brewery on Chiswick Mall and a cousin of three grandsons of Sarah Trimmer. These letters contained graphic accounts of the journey from London to Fremantle in the sailing ship Atwick.

I then found a further collection of letters at the British Library, written by the three Trimmer boys to their uncle James in Brentford, from 1829 to 1835, also giving vivid descriptions of the same voyage and their early experiences in the New Colony.

All four boys sailed as “gentleman settlers”, paying their own passage and taking all the necessities for their fresh life. Sheep, cattle and all implements required were shipped with them. The accounts of their experience and difficulties fascinated me and the fact that these young men were pioneer settlers and had settled in previously unexplored country intrigued me. Therefore I decided to blaze their trail.

When the Atwick arrived at the mouth of the River Swan there was a great barrier preventing its entrance. The settlers had to land all their animals and possessions piecemeal, either on planks of wood or bodily. Here the port of Fremantle was established and it is now a flourishing port, serving sheep convoy ships containing 80,000 animals on every voyage to their dismal fate in Kuwait.

Some ten miles up river, the settlers founded the now magnificent city of Perth, and here the boys pitched their tents and built their homesteads, settling their flocks and cultivating their grants of land.

Douglas Thompson and his cousin William Trimmer drowned in the upper reaches of the Swan and I was able to find the location of where they drowned, their old landing stage and their grave in a cemetery in the bush, This was made possible by using letters sent home in 1834.

The round trip of 26,000 miles was made worthwhile by my visit to Sarah’s descendants in Adelaide.  Arthur Trimmer was the only one of the four to survive; he moved south to Albany in 1836 and married the Governor’s daughter. Their great-grandchildren now live in Adelaide and the family likeness is very recognisable from the descendants of Sarah Trimmer in this country. A span of only 150 years was an historian’s paradise for research, a very short heritage compared with this country.

The sheep rearing, founded by the merinos from Syon Park and Heston, has given way to new-found mineral wealth and a great future has dawned for Western Australia, but the settlers of 1829 cannot be forgotten. Their voyage lasted five months; my journey was only 23 hours. We have come a long way in 153 years – a phone call home was as easy as a local one here, but no letters of my experiences will survive 150 years hence.

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