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Thomas Cadell (1787–1857)

Thomas Cadell, Esq., the subject of this notice, was the youngest son of the late John Cadell, Esq., of Cockenzie, near Prestonpans, in Scotland, and was born in October, in the year 1787. Two of his elder brothers entered the army, and both attained the rank of colonel. The subject of our notice was intended for the navy, and entered the service accordingly as a midshipman, at the early age of fourteen, in the year 1801. During the short peace of Amiens, the vessel in which Mr Cadell was serving had been ordered to India; and on her voyage home again, the first tidings she had, that the war had broken out again, were conveyed in some such significant terms as a broadside and a summons to surrender from a French ship of war of greatly superior force; by which, of course, the unfortunate British vessel, being altogether unprepared for such a meeting, was taken, and carried into Brest. Mr. Cadell was thus reduced, almost at the very commencement of his career in life, to the unfortunate condition of a prisoner of war in France, in which he remained not less than seven long years, two of which he spent at Verdun, and the remaining five at Valenciennes.

While in durance in the latter of these localities—so famous in the history of the great war, and so bitter in the recollections of British prisoners—Mr. Cadell had so far conciliated the regards of his captors, that he was admitted to the degree of master-mason in the Lodge of Valenciennes (which, it seems, in accordance with that principle of apostolical succession which distinguishes the masonic brotherhood, holds from that of St. John of Scotland), in the year 1800, and the roll of parchment containing his diploma as a French master-mason, with the greater and lesser seals of the Order, and the signatures of all the numerous officials of the Lodge, together with the masonic apron and sash, are still in the possession of his surviving relatives. They are peculiarly interesting family relics, and, considering the circumstances of their origin, they are certainly a great curiosity here at the antipodes. It seems there was an order of the French Government of the period—that of the great Napoleon—prohibiting the admission of English prisoners of war into the Lodges of France; but by some special act of grace, Mr. Cadell, and another English prisoner of the name of Lovelace, whose signature appears on the diploma, along with those of the French master-mason's, had been admitted into the Lodge of Valenciennes. There was very good reason for this prohibition; for it was that very document recommending him, as it did, to the friendly offices of all brethren of the Order in all parts of the world, that enabled Mr. Cadell to effect his escape from France during the following year. We are not aware of the circumstances of his escape; but as the money which his relatives in Scotland had sent him while in durance at Valenciennes, had been intercepted by the unprincipled French agent, he was barefoot, and otherwise poor enough, or as the Hawkesbury blackfellows used to say "murry miserable," when he reached Edinburgh.

Mr. Cadell's brief naval experience and its unfortunate results appear to have sickened him of war, and he accordingly entered into business at home as a brewer—a branch of business in which certain of his relatives in Scotland have long been extensively engaged. Mr. Cadell emigrated to this colony with his family in the year 1832; the Rev. Dr. Lang, to whom he had brought a letter of introduction from some mutual friend in Scotland, was then residing in the house on Church hill, which is now well known as Petty's Hotel; and having just had an addition to it completed, adjoining the old barrack wall, he invited Mr. Cadell and his family to occupy the newly erected portion of it till he should find a suitable permanent residence elsewhere. This little act of kindness, Mr. Cadell, who was of a peculiarly generous nature, never forgot; and for nearly a quarter of a century therefore, he continued Dr. Lang's fast friend in all circumstances without the slightest interruption. On the Sunday, the day before he died, when exhibiting, from time to time, occasional aberrations of mind, he suddenly asked Mrs. Cadell, " if Dr. Lang had got his Board yet," showing that he had been thinking of Dr. Lang's recent visit to Melbourne, and of the select committee of the House of Assembly of Victoria in the case of his son.

After residing about fifteen years in Sydney, Mr. Cadell removed with his family to Windsor, where he had erected extensive premises for carrying on business as a brewer, about the year 1847. But the revolution occasioned, in almost all branches of business, in the Colony, by the gold discoveries of 1851, had, it seems, operated very unfavourably for the success of this undertaking, and the valuable premises of Mr. Cadell are at present untenanted, and the steam machinery they contain out of work. There can be no doubt however, that in the progress of improvement westward, especially if the railway should be continued in that direction, they will again come into profitable use.

Mr. Cadell's family is of Welsh origin, Cadyl being the name of one of the ancient British princes of Wales. Two of his brothers, we have already stated, were colonels in the army; a third, the late Robert Cadell, Esq., has acquired a world-wide reputation, as the publisher of the works of Sir Walter Scott. Sir Walter, it is well known, notwithstanding his unparalleled literary gains, died nearly a bankrupt; his publisher, however, was more fortunate, simply, because, he was more prudent; having purchased the estate of Ratho, near Edinburgh, for seventy thousand pounds. Mr. Cadell died at Windsor on Monday, the 4th instant, in the seventieth year of his age, and was attended to the grave in the Presbyterian burying ground last Thursday, by a numerous concourse of sorrowing friends.

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Citation details

'Cadell, Thomas (1787–1857)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 19 June 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Life Summary [details]


October, 1787
Cockenzie, East Lothian, Scotland


4 May, 1857 (aged 69)
Windsor, New South Wales, Australia

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