Wednesday, 5 August 2015

A Sweet End

Thomas Perigo is an ancestor who, after a difficult start in life, seems to have done quite well for himself.

Born 11 March 1819 in Rolvenden, Kent, Thomas was the sixth of eight known children of John Perigo and Charlotte Perigo.  An older brother died years before Thomas was born, a sister died in 1823 and two younger sisters died in April 1825.  As if that wasn’t enough tragedy for the young family, his mother died soon after in 1826.

For some reason, Thomas was not baptised until the summer of 1833.  Perhaps the remnants of his family didn’t need any support from the parish until this time; that was one reason for late baptism. 

Rolvenden was, and is, a small rural village.  According to Wikipedia, its main claims to fame are literary. It is home to “The Secret Garden” or at least home to the garden that inspired Frances Hodgson Burnett to write the story. Edward Gibbons lived there while he wrote the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. It is nice to know that I can (vaguely) link genealogy with my interest in Roman history.

During the 1830s, the village of Rolvenden was caught up in the Swing riots, which were violent protest against the use of threshing machines – new technology taking over jobs previously done by people, leading to unemployment and poverty.  John Perigo was a labourer, so probably worked on a farm, and Thomas followed in his footsteps.  Apparently the parish of Rolvenden decided that the best way to reduce the amount of parish relief being paid to the poor was to offer them a onetime payment to sponsor their migration to the colonies.  Thomas took up this offer in 1839 and arrived in Sydney, NSW, in November that year, on the Lady Nugent.

John only survived a year after his son’s departure, dying in December 1840, age 63.  I don’t know whether Thomas stayed in touch with his surviving siblings in England.  According to shipping records, Thomas could read and write a little, which doesn’t make him sound like a prolific letter writer.

A few years after his arrival in Sydney, Thomas met Sarah Elizabeth Playford*.  He may have worked with her father as a brick maker or he may even have known the Playford family from England, as they come from a village in Sussex only a few miles from Rolvenden.  Thomas and Sarah married 16 Mar 1843, at Cook’s River in Sydney.  Their wedding was all too quickly followed by the birth of my ancestor Fanny Sarah Perigo two months later, on 17 June.  She was the first of sixteen children, 10 sons and 6 daughters.  Two of the children died young, but the rest survived to adulthood and most married.

In 1844, Thomas and two others were fined 10 shillings each for rescuing a goat on the way to the pound.  I am not sure whether liberating a goat is a good thing or a bad thing.

By the 1860’s, Thomas and Sarah were living on the corner of Pitt and Liverpool streets in Sydney, where Thomas worked as a sugar boiler.  He made and sold treacle for the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, now better known as CSR.  I have come across a number of adds in the Sydney Morning Herald advertising treacle sales and deliveries by Mr T Perigo.  By the late 1870’s, there were adds for Perigo Brothers selling treacle, suggesting some of Thomas’ sons took on the family business.

Thomas and Sarah may have retired to the suburbs.  They spent their final years living at a house called Davisleigh in Rocky Point Road, Rockdale.  Looking at a modern map of Sydney, I think this may now part of the Princes Highway, not far from Sydney Airport.  Thomas died 18 May 1887, from senile decay.  I am not sure whether that refers to physical or mental decline or a bit of both.  He was buried in Balmain Cemetery, now a park, where his two deceased children were already buried.

Thomas Perigo left an estate valued at £1210.  This seems to be a comfortable sum when compared with other estates listed in the newspaper on the same day. 

As for what his life might have been like if Thomas had stayed in England?  In 1851, his brother was a pauper, as was one widowed sister in 1861.  The other surviving sister spent many years as the mistress of the father of her children before he eventually married her.  So as a young man, Thomas took a chance and it paid off, as it did for many who travelled to the “Lucky Country”.

*Sarah Elizabeth Playford was born Sarah Elizabeth Goodsall, but was known by her (step?) father’s surname and may be worthy of having her own story told.

Note on lineage: Me > Mum > Daphne Madge Smith > Esther Ilma Lees > Fanny Sarah Eliza Briggs > Fanny Sarah Perigo > Thomas Perigo