Thomas Muir (1765 – 1799) lawyer, convict, minister
Of a deeply religious character Thomas Muir was an elder of his church in the neighbourhood of Glasgow. Transported as a convict to Australia he ministered what spiritual consolations he could to his fellow prisoners. His conduct was so good that his irons were removed on arrival, and he seems to have enjoyed special privileges, including “a neat little house” with a farm two miles away on the Parramatta River. He continued his work among his fellow convicts, holding regular Sunday services, to which sometimes the Governor Hunter listened.
The earliest Australian church services of a distinctively Presbyterian character were conducted by a convict named Thomas Muir. An interesting account of this man is published in Blackwood’s Magazine, July 1950. Muir was a man of outstanding ability, admitted to the Society of Advocates in Scotland at the age of twenty-two years in 1787. After practising with distinction for five years and showing social views which would probably be “right wing” today, but obnoxious to the governing powers of that day, he was tried and condemned to transportation to Botany Bay for fourteen years. Of a deeply religious character he was an elder of his Church in the neighbourhood of Glasgow, and on the voyage out he ministered what spiritual consolations he could to his fellow prisoners. His conduct was so good that his irons were removed on arrival, and he seems to have enjoyed special privileges, including “a neat little house” with a farm two miles away on the Parramatta River which he named “Huntershill” after the home in which he was reared. The narrative (which is over the name J. G. Lockhart) tells us that . . . “he continued his work among his fellow convicts, holding regular Sunday services, to which sometimes the Governor (Hunter) listened”. His stay in this country, however, was short, for he only left England on 1st May 1794, and he escaped in a ship named the Otter on 11th February 1796. He finally reached Paris where he attained French citizenship and died at an early age.
Thomas Muir was born near Glasgow in 1765 and had planned to study for the Ordained Ministry, but eventually became a lawyer. From an early age he identified with the cause of parliamentary and constitutional reform and democratic ideals in Britain.
The French Revolution caused the government of William Pitt to fear such reformers and Muir and four others, known as the “Scottish Martyrs” were transported to NSW in 1795. Muir remained a deeply devout Presbyterian and ministered to his fellow convicts on the ship to Australia and in 18th century Sydney.
It is said that he led the first Presbyterian services of worship in the Colony.
In 1796 he managed to escape on an American ship and after many adventures he died in Paris in 1799. Today the democratic ideals of this Scottish Presbyterian lawyer are taken for granted. Presbyterians honour him for being the first to hold regular Presbyterian worship in Australia. It was said that even Governor John Hunter (a fellow Scot) attended his services in Sydney.
Muir of Huntershill
Christina Bewley : http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/684001.Muir_of_Huntershill
Thomas Muir of Huntershill :
Thomas Muir (political reformer) : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Muir_(political_reformer)
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