GOATE, Thomas




Thomas Goate, a 16-year-old harness-maker, was arrested on 28th December, 1827, and charged with stealing 1 set of harness valued at £5, 1 bridle valued at £1, 1 martingale valued at 5s, 1 pair of stirrups valued at 4s, 1 pair of stirrup leathers valued at 2s, 1 pair of reins valued at 4s and 1 padlock valued at 6d, all being goods belonging to a Mr. Charles Walker. At the time of this arrest in Whitechapel the Police Constable noted that Thomas was wearing clothes that were identical to those that were the subject of another charge against him, the stealing of 1 jacket valued at 2s and 1 pair of trousers also valued at 2s taken from the stables of Mr. James Johnson, Ostler, on Christmas Eve 1827.

In one fell swoop Thomas is caught and charged with the theft of £6.15s.6d worth of misappropriated goods - not an auspicious Yuletide for young Mr. Goate.

Thomas was tried at The Old Bailey for both offences and, on the clothing charge was found ‘Not Guilty’, his defense being that he had bought the clothes in Petticoat-Lane on a previous Tuesday for 1s.6d. However, on the charge of stealing the harness equipment, and despite his assertion that he:

          ‘… saw a man in the gateway, who asked me to mind the place till he returned, and told me to go in and fasten the door.’

Thomas was found ‘Guilty’ and sentenced to 7 years Transportation to Sydney Cove.

By July, 1832, Thomas had earned his Ticket of Leave for the Illawarra and, by October, 1834, his Certificate of Freedom. Things seemed to have been going well for Thomas and on the 12th June, 1845, he married Mary Gilmore at Parramatta. Mary was also a convict, transported on the MARGARET (3) in 1840. Unfortunately, marital harmony did not ensue and the couple first separated after 12 months thus setting a pattern of disassociation and reconciliation that lasted some years. Eventually, enough was enough, and Thomas moved to Goulburn where he resided under his birth name of Johnson, Goate being his step-father’s name.

This is where things get a bit tricky.

On 21st July, 1853, Thomas married Ellen Hall at Goulburn. Thomas had declared that his first wife, Mary, was deceased and that he was, therefore, free to marry Ellen. He and his new wife lived quite happily together for about a year when their wedded bliss was suddenly shattered by the ‘materialization’ of Thomas’ previously deceased first wife, Mary. A charge of Bigamy was brought against Thomas and he was tried in October, 1854 at the Central Criminal Court in Sydney where a somewhat convoluted tale of redress and revenge was revealed.

Ellen’s testimony, in support of her husband, proved that when Mary found out that Thomas had re-married, she, Mary,:

          ‘… agreed not to come near him for 12 months; and by money being given her by a third person ([Thomas’] employer) she gave a written undertaking to that effect.’

Thomas’ testimony painted a more spurious picture of his first wife in his statement that:

          ‘… she had behaved very badly – having been of most dissipate habits, and having, amongst other things, knocked out one of his eyes …’

and that the inference to be drawn from Thomas’ statement should be that:

            ‘… the woman having spent his money, had determined upon revenge.’

The Jury, considering that Thomas had been open and honest about his previous marriage, given that Mary’s lifestyle appeared less that conducive to longevity, and that so many years had elapsed with no contact or news to the contrary, agreed that Thomas truly did believe that Mary was dead.

Not Guilty.

Thomas went on to have 2 daughters with Ellen and apparently lived a reasonably peaceful life except for a minor glitch in July, 1856 when he spent 3 months in Parramatta Gaol for ‘stealing goods’.