Thomas Isbister

1865 North Shields, Northumberland, England - 21 Jun 1935 Palmyra, Western Australia, Great Grandfather

The historical family narrative was compiled and written by Milton Isbister in 1988 and provided to me by Gary Martin in 2009




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Thomas was Born in 1865 in North Shields, Northumberland, England and at about the age of five moved with his parents back to Sunnyside Farm in the Orkney Islands overlooking the Scarpa Flow.  He had an older stepbrother Robert (aft. 1846) and siblings Lenetta Maria Juliana, Frederick Edward (died young), Frederick William and younger siblings, Maria Anne, John and Edwin.  When he was about nine his mother became ill and was taken to the Mediterranean for her health but died in Italy.  At this time Edwin was three-and-a-half-years old and Lenetta, now 17, cared for the young family.


Five years later, in 1879, Robert Patterson married Ann Laughton. Of this union there were two children, a son George, and a daughter Esther who died in South Australia in 1893 at the age of 11 years.


The lack of opportunities for young people in the Orkney’s caused concern for the family and, with high hopes of a better life in a little-known country; they migrated to South Australia in 1884, arriving in 1885.  There is no record of their passage and it is believed Captain Robert Isbister, his father may have served on the crew of the "Fair Sea".  Robert acquired farming land at Tea Tree Gully in South Australia but as a result of his seafaring background and the strange seasonal conditions his operations met with only moderate success.


Frederick, Thomas, John and Edwin obtained whatever work was available in the area, usually on farms, and as was the routine in those days it meant walking for long hours behind horse-drawn implements.  Later Thomas and John obtained jobs in the Moonta mines where conditions were harsh and unhealthy.  A large number of the miners suffered from the copper in the dust-laden air, often showing as a green stain on their teeth and some died.  After several years Thomas and John moved to Broken Hill, joining up with Frederick and Edwin, and all four brothers worked in the mines or in the town.

1893 Thomas worked as a Smelter at Broken Hill Mine.  He Married Elizabeth Jane Perry on the 1st of November.


The activities of Thomas Isbister were not as closely connected to Frederick, John and Edwin as one would have expected, although they lived in similar areas at much the same time.  Probably because Thomas had married earlier and was caring for a large family.  During the time when he was working at the Moonta copper mines he met his wife (Elizabeth Jane Perry) and they were married in Broken Hill.  In the Great Boulder mine in Kalgoorlie he operated as a tributer, which is a contract to extract a portion of an ore body at a given price.


In 1895, Frederick with John and Edwin as silent partners, formed a syndicate with Mr L. Sens and their friend Daniel Langford as brewer, to establish the Hannans Brewery in Kalgoorlie.  This was the first but when seven other Breweries were established in opposition they sold their share and moved on.  Hannans outlasted all of the others finally closing in 1982.  Daniel Langford stayed at the Brewery until his death in 1907 and in the Kalgoorlie Western Argus, was named the founder of the Brewery and his son Alfred took over the brewing.

The shipping records of the Albany Custom’s Department show that Thomas arrived at that port on the SS Innamincka on 7th February 1896.


1898, a Thomas Isbister is listed in the Western Australia Directory at Kalgoorlie as a fruiterer and Confectioner but this may not be him.

Thomas was a good horseman and had a natural affinity with animals.  For a time he operated a horse-drawn cab in Perth and later was appointed Manager of Foy and Gibson's stables for their delivery horses.  Later on his Granddaughter Nessie went on to be e ledger machine operator at the same company.  Often he was called upon to unload Eastern States’ horses from ships at Fremantle, which had become unsettled and distraught in the unnatural conditions.

1915, he lived in 66 Goderich Street, East Perth, home of mother, Mrs Elizabeth Jane Isbister.

1915 he was appointed Officer in Charge of the Government Quarantine Station at Bicton, which opened in 1906 and which position he held until his retirement.  It was a commonwealth holding station and all imported animals including bees and guide dogs passed through it.

1928-32 Postal Directories indicate he is still at the Animal Quarantine Station Bicton.

1934 with his youngest son Tom and some friends he spend some months prospecting at Broad Arrow. 

Thomas' children were:

George Thomas E Isbister, abt. Aug 1891 in Moonta, d. 22 Jan 1932, Vic. Park WA

Lenetta Susan Isbister, 1893 in Broken Hill, d. 1967, SA

Hilda May Isbister, 11 Dec 1894 in Broken Hill (my Grandmother), d. 29 Jun 1981, Attadale WA

Cecil Robert Isbister, 1898 in Kalgoorlie, d. 13 Dec 1965, Rivervale WA

Lillian E Marion Isbister, abt 1899 in Kalgoorlie, d.19 Dec 1926, Bicton WA

Charles Edward John Isbister, abt 1906, d. 29 Nov 1958, Fremantle WA

John William Isbister, abt 1909 in Kalgoorlie, d. 10 Feb 1967, Fremantle WA

Thomas Frederick Isbister, 1913 in Perth, d. 13 May 1998, Girrawheen WA






Marriage Registration Number 1890/002803, 1st November 1890 in Broken Hill

169 Thomas ISBISTER, Bachelor b, North Shields, England, Smelter, 24, Broken Hill, father Robert Isbister, farmer, mother Maria Buhl and

Elizabeth Jane PERRY, Spinster b, Talisker, South Australia, Domestic, 19, Broken Hill, father Charles PERRY (deceased), miner, mother Elizabeth Jane Jenkins

Married in the Primitive Methodist Parsonage according to the rules of the Primitive Methodist Church.

The consent of Charles Henry JenRerv (not clear) PERRY, brother and guardian of the bride was given to the marriage of Elizabeth Jane PERRY with Thomas ISBISTER, the said Elizabeth Jane PERRY being under the age of twenty one years.

Arthur James Burt - Primitive Methodist Minister

Signatures Thomas *Ibister Witnesses Frederick Wm *Ibister (*for Ibister read Isbister)

Witnesses - Elizabeth Jane Perry Charles H J Perry

By (or before) me Arthur James Burt Officiating Minister or Registrar


Quarantine officer Bicton W.A. Buried Fremantle Cemetry W.A. (Presbyterian)



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