Tuesday, 20 March 2018

#52Ancestors - Week 11 - Lucky

Hard work, determination, knowledge of how to work the system (usually in his favour), preparedness to try new endeavours plus the sense not to give up when a scheme failed to succeed all contributed to Simeon's change in status from convict to merchant, manufacturer, landowner, entrepreneur and magistrate. However luck also played a part.

Simeon Lord started life living with his family on a small sheep farm on the Yorkshire moors near Todmorden. Yet  references to Simeon Lord can be found in most histories of the early years of the colony of New South Wales as he was a (mainly) successful businessman and property owner acquiring great wealth for himself and his family. 
How did this happen? Simeon was 15 when his mother died while his father died the following year. Although he had relatives living in the Todmorden area, Simeon was at an age when he would be expected to earn his own keep so he appears to have travelled twenty miles to Blackburn, a town whose main industry was the textile industry.
Google Maps
Unfortunately we do not have information about Simeon's time in Blackburn except that when Simeon was 19 he was arrested for stealing a quantity of fabric, including calico, from Robert Peel & Associates near Blackburn, a firm best known for printing calico. This resulted in Simeon being tried at the Manchester Quarter Sessions in April 1790 and sentenced to seven years transportation. He travelled to Australia, with 220 other male convicts, aboard the Atlantic arriving in Sydney in August 1791.

So far luck did not really appear to be on Simeon's side. He was now 20 and lived on the other side of the world from his home and family in a convict colony that was only three years old. 

However early in 1792 Simeon's luck did change. He was assigned to Lieutenant (later Captain) Thomas Rowley of the 102 Regiment because Simeon was a convict who was able to read and write while Lieutenant Rowley had difficulty with spelling and grammar. Simeon's new role was to assist Lieutenant Rowley with his paperwork. This allowed Simeon to gain an insight into how the colony functioned, particularly the trade arrangements operated by the military.

Once Simeon had his ticket of leave Rowley helped Simeon with his initial trading ventures including the provision of contacts needed for going into business. There were many opportunities in the new colony for those who were prepared to try something new. Gradually Simeon had enough money to purchase a warehouse and other buildings in what is now Macquarie Place, Sydney. Two years later he began building his three storey house near the Tank Stream.

Although not all of Simeon's business ventures were successful, he gradually accumulated substantial wealth and property, usually acquired by land grants. Simeon was one also of the emancipists supported by Governor Macquarie who appointed him as a magistrate. The former convict was now involved with another side of law and justice.

It was in 1814 that Simeon established his first mill and factory at Botany. He now worked in the textile industry. At Todmorden his family had a room where fabric was woven from wool grown on the nearby hills and also, at times, cotton purchased in Manchester. This was small scale textile industry but now Simeon was able to experiment with making textiles on a larger scale. You could say that he was lucky to have learned the basics of the industry at an early age.  At the end of the eighteenth century small water powered woollen mills were being built in the Todmorden area and Simeon, no doubt, observed them. Simeon almost certainly worked in some aspect of the textile industry when he moved from Todmorden to Blackburn. He was now able to build on this knowledge and become a pioneer of the textile industry in New South Wales.

Who knows what path Simeon might have navigated if he had remained in England. We do know that both his early education plus his growing up in an area reliant on producing textiles helped establish and then cemented his position as a manufacturer, landowner and gentleman in New South Wales. You could definitely say that he was lucky to have had the opportunity to create a new life for himself in a new land.

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