The Founders


Known as 'Tunks' but recorded on the ship's papers as 'Tonks', WILLIAM, aged 33, was "put on board HMS 'Sirius' on 24th February 1787" as a private of marines, one of a party of 12 supernumeries (all artisans of various trades - William, a gimlet maker). He remained on board the flagship throughout the long voyage to Botany Bay (13 May 1787 to 20 January 1788) and for a further period of at least 10 months in Sydney Cove.

Although many descendants have done considerable research, no records have been found as to where William was born or what he had done before becoming a Marine; nor is there any record of what services he was called upon to do during the establishment of the Colony. (see an excerpt & update about William Tunks by Joyce Cowell and other family forbearers printed below)

“With Governor Phillip's return to England, the Marine Corps was abandoned and those members who chose to remain in Australia were given grants of land at either Rose Hill (Parramatta) or Norfolk Island. William's name appears in a list of 29 ex-Marines who sailed for Norfolk Island on board "Atlantic" on 28th October 1791; he was granted 60 acres of land and supplied with livestock, rations, tools and building materials.

William stayed on the island as a farmer for almost two years; during this period he became acquainted with and had a daughter (Ann) in 1792 by a  young convict woman (Sarah Lyons) who had been sent to Norfolk Island in August 1790 by "Surprize" soon after arriving at Sydney Cove by "Lady Juliana" on 3rd June 1790 after a voyage of just one year from England. No record can be found of a marriage between William and Sarah, nor of the birth of their daughter.

On 7th March 1793, for an undisclosed reason, William and Sarah and baby Ann left Norfolk Island on board "Kitty" to return to Sydney. On arrival there William enlisted in the 102nd. Regiment of Foot (NSW Corps) and remained a private soldier until the regiment was disbanded in 1810.

On 22nd July 1795 William, as a private soldier, was granted 25 acres of land on the Hawkesbury River. A second child, John, was born on 8th March 1795 and another son (Charles) in 1802. William then applied for and was granted 140 acres of land on the Nepean River near Castlereagh. A severe flood in 1806 completely devastated the farm and everything on it.

William died on 6th August 1821 aged 67 and was buried in the Town Hall or Sandhill’s Cemetery. The remains of pioneers buried in these cemeteries were later exhumed and re-buried at Botany Cemetery' but no trace of William's re-burial can be found. A commemorative plaque for William has been attached to the Tunks family vault in St.John's Cemetery, Parramatta. [Exerpt from Len Chalmers Book “Descendants of William Tunks & Sarah Lyons]

Reprint from Len Chalmers 1986 ‘A Family Tree’.

William Tunks Update by Joyce Cowell

Since the above was written, research by Joyce Cowell, Judy Steel, Gillian Hughes (an English genealogical researcher) and Alice Clark has enabled us to fill in much of his early life.  But there are still some question marks and hopefully others may be able to solve these doubtful assumptions.

The Starting point for research into his origins was found in the  ‘Description Book, Enlistment of the 100th Company  Marines – Chatham Division’.  A William Tunks is listed as age 18, 5ft 4ins. high with brown hair and fair complexion, born in the city of Worcester, enlistment date  14/3/1778.  The International Genealogical Index of the Mormon Church turned up a William Tunks baptised on 4th. June 1758 in the parish of North and Middle Littleton, Worcestershire.  His parents were recorded as John and Mary, but there is no record of such a marriage.  Now for the problem!  This date would make him 20 and not 18  on enlistment in the Marine Company .  But we thought this was our man until the minister at St Nicholas’ Church said that the death of a two year old William was recorded in the churches records.

A possible solution!  The father, John Tunks married a Margaret Perkins 21 months after William’s baptism.  Did the married couple have another child at about the time William I died, and did they call the new baby William after the deceased toddler as was often done in those day.  If so, this would make the age of William the marine at enlistment correct.  This is a puzzle for other descendants to solve.

However his career in England from the age of 18 to his arrival in Australia is now known and substantiated from original documents and is as follows.

He served as a marine during the War of American Independence and was discharged from the Marines at the war’s end.  Eighteen months later when there was a recruitment drive in Warwickshire, he joined up again as a member of the 69th Company, Portsmouth Division. He served on the Ganges, a British training vessel for the next 20 months and was then discharged to Haslar Hospital at Gosport.  While being victualled ashore, his age is recorded as 26 which ties in with his age of 18 when he first enlisted.  In May 1787 he joined the First Fleet for the voyage to Botany Bay.

Joyce Cowell    March 2001

Note: Regretfully Joyce Cowell died on 7th February 2004. Also Len Chalmers our founding father died on 31st  Aug. 2004. Both these long standing members have given so much to our Association over the last twenty one  years.

SARAH LYONS (1763-1837)

In May 1788 Sarah, aged about 25, went shopping for silk handkerchiefs at a haberdashery shop in London. After discussing her needs with a salesman she bought and paid for some items and ordered others. As she walked from the shop a piece of silk material she had concealed under her skirts fell to the floor and was noticed by the manager. The police were called and Sarah was arrested, tried and sentenced to transportation to NSW for seven years. She was sent to Newgate gaol to await transport to NSW.

The "Lady Juliana" (the first ship to sail for NSW since the First Fleet) carrying 226 female convicts including Sarah sailed from Plymouth on 28th July1789.Following the same route, "Lady Juliana" had a slow voyage arriving at Sydney on 3rd June 1790.

On 1st August 1790 "Surprize" carrying 150 of the female convicts from "Lady Juliana" sailed for Norfolk Island. Sarah was therefore at Norfolk Island when William arrived there in November 1791.

Sarah and William Tunks became lovers on Norfolk Island and a daughter Ann was born of their union. No record can be found of a marriage between William and Sarah, nor of the birth of their daughter. However there is documentation of Sarah, William Tunks and their daughter Ann leaving Norfolk Island for Port Jackson on 7th March 1795.

For the story of the rest of Sarah's life see the above information on William Tunks.

After William's death in 1821 Sarah apparently worked as housekeeper for Jacob Isaacs, a business man. Later she lived with her son, John, at Norfolk House, Parramatta. She died on 27th July 1837 aged 74 years and was buried in St. John's Cemetery, Parramatta.


Ann Tunks [sometimes referred to as Rebecca Ann or Ann Rebecca Tunks b.5th Aug.1792 on Norfolk Island, no birth registrations have survived from these early Norfolk Island days. Ann travelled to Sydney with her mother & father Sarah and William Tunks on board the H.M.S. Kitty in March 1793. She married John Andrews on 7th March 1808 in St Phillips C/E Sydney. They had 11 children, 7 girls and 4 sons. Two years after John Andrews died Ann married John Perry. Ann died two months after the marriage.

John Tunks  b.5 March 1795 NSW. 1A Mulgrave Place, baptised on 7th June 1795 at St. John’s Church Parramatta. Married1.  Ester Arndell on March 27th 1815 in Christ Church of England Castlereagh by Rev, Henry Fulton They had 9 children, 5 boys and 4 girls. Two years after Ester died John Married2. Phoebe Tomlinson and had 7 more children, 5 boys and 2 girls. John went to sea age 15 yrs, when aged 20 he married Ester Arndell built and was the Publican of the “Shamrock Rose & Thistle in Parramatta, was a landowner Timber Merchant. After he married Phoebe he built a large house in Church St Parramatta called “Norfolk House. It still stands in Church Street opposite the Catholic Cemetery.

Charles Tunks was born in 1802.  As a teenager he did farm-work for his brother-in-law, John Andrews, at Castlereagh. On 10th May 1820 he petitioned Governor Macquarie for a land grant and, whilst awaiting a reply to his petition, Charles left farming and he was reported in a Sydney newspaper of the time as having left the Colony three times on the brig "Campbell Macquarie", probably as a crew member (?).

The land grant was made on 1st November 1822 but no record has been found of Charles having taken up the land at Bargo nor of his activities elsewhere since that time. A family solicitor's letter could suggest that Charles was declared missing sometime between 1822 and 1836 leaving his mother, Sarah, and brother John and sister-in-law Phoebe as executors and beneficiaries of his estate.

Note: Research into what happened to Charles Tunks is ongoing. If any family member has any research, theories or fact concerning the above 19 century family members or, theories or fact concerning William Tunks before he sailed for Botany Bay, please email TDAI.