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Robert Thomas (1781–1860)

(From the Adelaide Observer.) Our obituary contains a notice of the death of Mr. Robert Thomas, who, in conjunction with the late Mr. George Stevenson, was the original proprietor of the South Australian Register. The deceased was born at Rhantregwnwyn, situated on the borders of the counties of Montgomeryshire and Shropshire, in November, 1781, but he settled in London as soon as he attained his majority, and carried on business for twenty years in Fleet-street as a law stationer. When the colonisation of South Australia was under discussion he took a very warm interest in the scheme, and was among the earliest to invest money in the purchase of land in the projected settlement, which he determined upon making his future home. He arrived here by the Africaine in November, 1836, accompanied by Mrs. Thomas and all his family, except his eldest son Robert, who had preceded him in the Cygnet as one of the Survey staff. When Mr Thomas resolved upon emigrating to South Australia he made arrangements for starting a newspaper, of which he published the first number in London. On reaching the colony he was located at Glenelg till March, 1837, when the site of Adelaide was fixed, and the purchasers were put into possession of their acres. He then commenced building the first substantial house in the city, and from this the second number of his paper was launched in the following June. Its name was at that time, the South Australian Gazette and Colonial Register, the former title appertaining to a portion which was set aside for official announcements. Some time afterwards the "Gazette" was made a separate publication, and the paper assumed its present name of the South Australian Register. In 1842 there was a change in the proprietary, and since that time Mr. Thomas was unconnected with business, though he held during a few years the office of Inspector of Weights and Measures. His health, considering his advanced age, was generally exceedingly good, and his spirits were invariably brisk and cheerful. Rather more than a fortnight ago he caught a severe cold, which resolved itself into congestion of the lungs, and from this disease he died on Sunday last, 1st July, at his residence, Rhantregwnwyn Cottage, Hindley street, west, having nearly completed his 79th year. His widow survives him, as also two married daughters and two sons. We have already mentioned the elder son, Robert, as having been engaged here upon the survey staff. He returned to England some years ago, and is still practising his profession as an architect and civil engineer. The younger son, William Kyffin, was connected with the paper from the first, having assisted with his own hands in producing the earliest number which was published in the colony, and he is one of the present proprietors. 

The remains of Mr. Robert Thomas, the earliest and oldest journalist of South Australia, were interred in the Cemetery at West Terrace, on Wednesday afternoon. It had been intimated by the relatives of the deceased that it was their wish the funeral should be of a strictly private character, but that any who desired to show their respect for the memory of the deceased might do so by joining the funeral procession at Rhantregwnwyn Cottage or at Trinity Church. This permission was embraced by many, no less than 12 carriages of a private character joining the procession on its leaving Trinity Church door, on North-terrace. In these were observed Mr Kingston (the late Speaker), the Hon. Mr Everard, M.L.C., Mr. Santo, M.P., Mr. Owen, M.P., M. Lalouette, (French Consul), Messrs Faulding, Bartley, E. W. Andrews, J. Fisher, J. Linklater, Horwood, D. Brock, W. C. Cox, Whitridge, R. Wells, Dewhurst, Rosman, Holden, Dickens, N. Hailes, Barnes, Day, Conigrave, Foreman, A. Burt, F. W. Thomas, S. Hart, Cawley, McKeon, Richardson, Elliott, Pounett, and numerous other gentlemen known as old colonists, or as connected with the press of South Australia. The funeral service was performed by the Very Ven. Dean Farrell in an effective and impressive manner. Thus has the earth closed again upon one of the primary pioneers of this province, and upon one who first brought to this country that without which no country can long be great, or noble, or free — the printing-press.

Original publication

Citation details

'Thomas, Robert (1781–1860)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 22 May 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Robert Thomas, c1850

Robert Thomas, c1850

State Library of South Australia, B 6019

Life Summary [details]


November, 1781
Llanymynech, Shropshire, England


1 July, 1860 (aged 78)
Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

Cause of Death


Cultural Heritage

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