Fremantle Stuff > people > Thomas William John Corrigan (1826-1905)

Thomas Corrigan

Thomas Corrigan stabbed his wife Louisa through the heart on Boxing Day 1855. He was condemned to hang, but the Home Secretary commuted his sentence to transportation after receiving many petitions in his favour, including one from Louisa's family. He was drinking heavily then, and may have been suffering from delirium tremens at the time of the murder.
He arrived on the Nile in 1858, and received his ticket of leave 1861, after which he led an exemplary life. He married Mary, one of the daughters of leading citizens William and Mary Pearse. He was a journalist and editor. He was also one of the founders of the Working Man's Association in 1862, and then when it joined with the Mechanics Institute in 1868 to form the Literary Institute, he was the Secretary of that organisation.

Alan Tapper:
On Boxing Day, 1855, Thomas Corrigan, who had been drinking heavily, stabbed and killed his wife Louisa, mother of his four young girls. He lived in Bethnal Green, London, and was a foreman with the East India Company. He was arrested and sent to Newgate Prison. At his trial at the Old Bailey the jury convicted him of wilful murder, and he was sentenced to hang on February 25th, 1856.
In 1863, the same Thomas Corrigan was Honourable Secretary of the Working Man’s Association in Fremantle. A few years later the Association joined with the Mechanics Institute to form the Fremantle Literary Institute, with Corrigan as one of the founding Secretaries. He owned two blocks of land in the town, and had started an auction house in High Street. He was also Associate Editor of the Fremantle Herald.
From condemned man to upright citizen in just a few years: how did this happen? Firstly, because the jury pleaded for leniency. So too did his friends. His action was said to be out of character. A public campaign was mounted in his support. The Newgate chaplain, John Davis, wrote in his 1856 annual report: “I never saw a man, while a prisoner in Newgate, whose entire conduct was more correct than Thomas Corrigan”. Petitions and letters were sent from all over the country to the Home Secretary, Sir George Grey, who accepted the case, and two days before the execution date Queen Victoria granted him a reprieve.
Corrigan was transported, instead, to the Swan River Colony for life. He sailed on the Nile, where he experienced a religious conversion. On board with him was Bishop Hale, on his way to becoming Bishop of Perth, and Hale may have played a role in his transformation. As Corrigan later wrote to Davis:
"The transition from the misery in Newgate to the joy in Australia is beyond the power of my poor pen to express. Suffice it to say, that I have found Christ, and that whereas I was once blind, now I see."
Probably, too, his oldest daughter, Jane, played a part. Before he left London, he saw his daughters, and Jane, aged nine, told him “I always pray to God to bless, and love you, father dear!” He had sworn off drink, and was deeply remorseful.
Even while still in Fremantle Prison he was able to work as a writer for the Lithographic Press, as the Herald was first known. Bishop Hale recommended him for good conduct to Governor Kennedy, who freed him on a ticket of leave in 1861.
When Governor Weld arrived on his first visit to Fremantle in 1869, the banner outside Corrigan’s auction house said “The Queen, the Colony, and Weld For Ever”. There seems to have been some debate about whether the Associate Editor of the Herald should attend on the new Governor.
By 1870 Corrigan was so well accepted in the community that he could advertise himself as rent and debt collector for 28 Fremantle business houses. He was on friendly terms with the two leading clergy, the Anglican George Bostock and the Congregationalist Joseph Johnston. He married Mary Pearse, daughter of the well-known Pearse family.
Corrigan was the recording clerk in a public inquiry into the deaths in 1867 of the Fremantle Harbour Master, James Harding, and five men, who went out to help the barque Strathmore in a storm but had their own boat overturned. (My great-great-grandfather, John Tapper, a whaler, went out with a crew to rescue them, but was unable to help.) Thomas's writing abilities must have been the reason he had this role.
The Herald became so named in 1867, so Thomas Corrigan would have been one of those in at the beginning. The three founders of the Herald were ex-convicts. In 1870, Thomas and his wife Mary and their two sons left Fremantle for Brisbane [not so, according to David Bell: see below], where he became a newspaper editor.
What about his four girls? They had been in the care of a London orphanage supported by the Ancient Order of Foresters, of which Thomas was a member. Three of the girls came to Western Australia. One, Harriet, married William Langridge, the son of another reformed convict. She was my mother’s father’s mother.
Much later Thomas returned to Perth. (I don’t know whether Mary also came.) [She did: see below.] He was a much-loved Sunday School teacher at St Andrew’s Church in Subiaco until just before his death in 1905 aged 80. There is a plaque to his memory on the church wall there.
He was a religious man. As early as 1859 he could say:
[…] God has been with me all along. It is to Him I owe everything. […] I never thought it was possible I could become so changed, and yet I feel there is much more yet to be done; but He who has begun the good work, will, I am sure, complete it unto the end; and there is my crown of rejoicing.
The story tells us something also about community acceptance in the Fremantle of his time.
Alan Tapper acknowledges that his cousin Julia Sullivan first told him of this story.

David Bell:
Thomas did not go to Brisbane.  He went to Sydney in 1870, then moved to Newcastle where he became a newspaper editor and prominent citizen.  His wife, Mary (nee Pearse) had more children.  He returned to WA in 1900 with his wife and children.  There is a memorial in a Subiaco Church for him.

Thomas Corrigan Dates – kindly provided by David Bell

1826 18 Apr Stratford-le Bow, England (Father Thomas, Mother Harriot)
1826 3 Sep Christened at St Botolph, County of Middlesex, City of London (Reg 1415/1826)
1848 24 Dec Married to Louisa Stripling at Parish of Hackney, County of Middlesex (Reg 450/1848)
1849 14 Jun, son Thomas christened at St Leonards Church, Shoreditch
1855 Member of Forrester’s Association --- later managed the affairs of his children
1855 Employed as a “commodore” (foreman) by the East India Company at the warehouses in Loadenhall Street.
1855 26 Dec, murdered his wife Louisa at 47 Church St, Minories.
1855 27 Dec, reported as “Dreadful Occurrence in Church Street, Minories.
1855 28 Dec, reported as “Murder of a wife by her husband
1856 6 Feb, appeared in Central Criminal Court, Old Court. (Transcript available – Reg CRIM 10/43)
Sentenced to Death
1856 25 Feb, petition to HM with 2,340 signatures ---- reprieve granted at the last hour.
1856 11 Mar, letter from Albert Megson about the reprieve. Megson was involved in the petition.
1856 19 Mar, letter from Edward Burton after a visit to Thomas in goal
1857 Departed for WA as convict (Reg 4720). Age 32, Height 5’4”, brown hair, grey eyes, slight build, scar on right cheek, literate, Protestant.
1858 1 Jan, arrived WA on “Nile”
1861 27 May, on Ticket of Leave
1862 Jun, WA Working Man’s Association (Fremantle), Secretary Thomas Corrigan.
1862 Aug, reported in “Warrington Guardian” that Thomas Corrigan was instrumental in the establishment of a Working Man’s Association.
1863 14 Mar, petition for family (four daughters) to come to WA. Nominated brother Peter as a migrant.
1863 26 Apr, marriage to Mary Pearse
1863 30 Jun, clerk in Fremantle for C.A. Manning
1864 4 Jun, granted Ticket of Leave
1865 18 Jul, daughters (Louisa, Harriet, Elizabeth) arrived per the “Palestine” in care of brother, Peter Corrigan
1865 Owned a Fremantle town lot
1866 19 Jun, admitted to Fremantle Hospital
1866 30 Jun, worked for self as a clerk in Perth
1866 27 Nov, letter to Albert Megson re suggestion for improved decimal currency
1867 Auctioneer and General Agent
1868 7 Mar, granted Conditional Pardon
1869 Hon Sec of Fremantle Literary Institute
1870 Town Trust Collector in Fremantle
1869 10 Feb, departed for NSW
1869 9 Sep, letter from Elias Solomon re cost of expenses for a “parting wall” on the adjoining allotment (299/300 Cantonment Road, Fremantle)
1870 Lived Sydney
Editor and co-proprietor of the “Chronicle”
1872 Editor Newcastle Miners Advocate, 1872 to 1876.
Lived in Bolton St, Newcastle
1876 3 Apr, The “Newcastle Morning Herald and Miner’s Advocate” commenced circulation (price one penny) , Editor Thomas Corrigan (Editor until Jun 1897)
First secretary of the Newcastle Benevolent Society
1879 Newcastle Nautical Almanac, lived Church St, Newcastle
1880 Newcastle Directory and Almanac, journalist, lived Bolton St, Newcastle with brother Peter (a clerk)
1882 13 Nov, Mary and child arrived from Sydney per “Ribson”
1883 18 Feb, returned to Sydney per “Macedon”
1890 Knaggs, The Newcastle Nautical Alminac, lived Hill Terrace, Newcastle.
1897 Knaggs Nautical Alminac (Directory of Newcastle East), lived 10 Parnell Place, Newcastle.
1897 11 Jun, article in NMH, “Presentation to Mr T Corrigan” farewell gathering and gift of a purse.
1898 23 Mar, to Melbourne
1900 28 Jul, returned to WA
Lived in a duplex in Subiaco
Actively involved in St Andrew’s Church, Peoples Warden and Sunday School
1905 Died on 23 Oct, Perth WA (2336/1905)
1905 26 Oct, article in NMH “Death of Mr T Corrigan”
1905 Minutes of St Andrew’s Church, “Death of Peoples Warden”
1906 Stone laid in St Andrew’s Church, Subiaco
1906 12 Nov, article in West Australian re plaque in St Andrew’s Church for Thomas Corrigan

Thomas Corrigan Family – kindly provided by David Bell

B. 1826                Bow, England

D. 23.10.1905      Perth WA
Arrived WA on “Nile” (1.1.1858)
Editor of the Newcastle Morning Herald, 1876 to 1897.
Marriage 1

Louisa Striplin

24 Dec 1848, London
D 26.12.1855  London


Ann Jane (Sarah)

  1. 1846/47


details unknown
Refer to Higham Hill

Louisa Harriet

B.  21.6.1851
M  13.12.1871  (3362/71 WA)


12 children

Harriet Elizabeth Prosser

B.  5.9.1853
D.  30.1.1928
M  3.11.1878


7 children

Elizabeth Alice

B.  1855/6
D.  9.4.1934 Jarrahdale, WA
M  20.10.1878

Wesley BELL

6 children

Marriage 2

Mary Pearse

26 Apr 1863  WA
B  21 Jan 1843  (154/1843)
D. 23.11.1920  Perth


Perth, buried Karrakatta

William Horace Sherwin

m 3 Jun 1884 Newcastle

Martha (nee Lovell)


B.      1863 Fremantle) 7350
D. 27 Apr 1943  Newcastle

Children: 11

Burton Tyler Basnet


Agnes White


B. 8.2.1865 Fremantle (8353)

Children: 8

Milner Megson Dymond

B.       1867 Fremantle (9735)
D.       1869 Fremantle (4280)


Leopold Ernest James

  1. 1868  Fremantle (10651)

D.    1868  Fremantle


Lionel Edward

  1. 1869  Fremantle (11467)

D.   1869  Fremantle (4382)


Stella Susannah Prescilla

m  21.1.1895  Newcastle



  1. 1871  (02056/1871)  Sydney

D.            1964  Perth

Children: 11

Ada Mary Stafford

m.  23.12.1896   Newcastle



  1. 1873  (15895/1873) Newcastle

D.            1950  Perth

Children: 8

Frank P




B.   1875  NSW  (16367/1875)


Florence A J




B.  1878 NSW  (17576/1878)


Mary Pearse Family – kindly provided by David Bell

Mary Pearse


B  21 Jan 1843  (154/1843)
D. 23.11.1920  Perth
M. 26 Apr 1863  WA
Thomas Corrigan

Buried Karrakatta



Arrived per “Egyptian”

B         1808
D  6.4.1866  Fremantle
M.  27.6.1837 Fremantle


Susannah Hallett Glyde

Arrived per “Rockingham”

B  19.5.1818  Somerset
D. 5.11.1879  Fremantle
Children:  11

1843    Born in Fremantle, WA
Mary was a daughter (4th child) of a well known WA family.

1863    Married Thomas Corrigan, second wife of Thomas Corrigan
1867    Son born Fremantle, Milner, Megson Diamond
1868    Son born Fremantle, Leopold Ernest James
1869    Son born Fremantle, Lionel Edward

1869    10 Feb, departed for Sydney, NSW

1871    Daughter, Stella, born in Sydney
1872    Husband, editor of Newcastle Miner’s Advocate
1873    Daughter, Ada, born in Newcastle

1882    Returned to WA from Newcastle for 3 months visit
1882    13 Nov, returned to Newcastle from Sydney per “Ribson”

1896    Daughter, Stella (Shield), had a child, born in Leederville, WA.

1898    Daughter, Stella (Shield), had a child, born in Perth, WA.
1898    Daughter, Ada (Trindall), had a child, born in Bunbury, WA.

1900    10 Jun, departed Newcastle for WA
1900    28 Jul, arrived WA.
            Lived in a duplex in Subiaco

1905    Husband died

1920    Died in Perth, WA
The Pearse family features in the industry and politics of Fremantle and WA in its early years.

Ref:     “Merchant Princes of Fremantle – The Rise and Decline of a Colonial Elite”
            Auth:   Patricia M Brown (1996)

Ref      “Old Fremantle” Auth:           John Dowson
P23 --- owned 310/311 Cantonment
                        P62 --- owned Swan Division 71

Ref      “Small but strong – a pictorial history of East Fremantle”
                        P3 --- map of Swan 71
                        P56 --- photo of Plympton Hotel

Name of the Pearse household --- area they came from in England.

Original Pearse home in Fremantle on Lot 307 Cantonment.  In 1895 C.Y O’Connor hired the home.  (Ref:  C.Y. O’Connor, Auth AG Evans – P140).  Later demolished and an engineering works is now (2005)on the location.

Plympton was an early subdivision (Swan 71) of East Fremantle, owned by the Pearse family.

Family owned “Plympton” home on 53 Canning Highway, East Fremantle.  Residence being used as a B-B in 2005.

Plympton Hotel was also on Canning Highway ---- later called Tradewinds Hotel

“Plympton Steps” are in East Fremantle, join Swan River Road/Terrace with Canning highway.

A large home built at 6 High St, in Newcastle (1912 ?  ) by Mary’s son, William Horace, was also called “Plympton House”

Battye Library — several articles on the Pearse family

CORRIGAN, Thomas. b. 1826 (expiree), arr. 1.1.1858 per Nile. m. Mary PEARSE b. 21.1.1843 d. 1920, dtr. of William & Susanna Hallet (nee Glyde). Chd. Milner Megson Dymond b. 1866/7, Ernest Leopold James b. 1868 d. 1868, Lionel Edward b. 1869 d. 1869 (5th son) & others. Clerk. Frem. Hon. Sec. Working Mens' Assoc. 1867. Auctioneer & General Agent. Hon. Sec. Frem. Lit. Inst. 1869. Town Trust Collector 1870. 1865 Frem. Town Lot. Nom. as migrant brother Peter b. 1837/41 who arr. 18.7.1865 per Palestine. ?Employed a T/L man 1867. To N.S.W. 10.2.1869. Mrs & child visited W.A. arr. 13.11.1882 from. Sydney per Ribston & returned 18.2.1883 per Macedon. To Melbourne 23.3.1898 & returned 28.7.1909.

References, Links, Acknowledgements

Many thanks to Alan Tapper for the bio narrative above. See also the page for John Tapper.

Thanks also to David Bell, another descendant, for his corrections to Alan's story, and for the timeline and family data above – formatted as provided.

British Library blog entry.

Old Bailey trial proceedings (4 February 1856).

See also the page for James Harding.

Garry Gillard | New: 6 October, 2020 | Now: 15 June, 2023