Thomas Brunton’s immigration records indicate he was a native of Cara, County Kildare, Ireland and he was probably born around 1793. He is believed to have married Anne Murray about 1815 as their first son was born in 1816. The couple were to have four more children with the last being born in 1834. Anne is thought to have died sometime between 1834 and 1839 because Thomas is listed as a widower on the immigration records.
Thomas and Anne had the following children:
- John b1816 (listed on emigration records as a blacksmith, aged 23)
- Catherine b1819 (listed on emigration records as a house servant, aged 18)
- Mary b1823 (listed on emigration records as a dairymaid, aged 16)
- James b1826
- Bridget b1834
Thomas and his children sailed from Kingstown in Ireland on the 13th August 1839 with 249 other emigrants. They sailed aboard the Ship North Briton as Government ‘Bounty’ Immigrants. The majority of those on board were Catholic like the Brunton family and Divine Service was held every Sunday on the Quarter Deck, weather permitting. If the weather was inclement, the service would be held on the Lower Deck or in the Cuddy. Two schools were set up, one for the boys the other for the girls. Thomas and the three eldest children were recorded as able to read and write on the immigration records. This information was not recorded for the younger children but regardless, they were likely to attend school on board the North Briton. Life on board the ship appeared to follow a strict routine with the bedding and bottom boards of the bed frames brought on deck every day weather permitting. Washing days were Friday and Monday and clean linen (clothing) was worn every Thursday and Sunday by those on board. Of an evening, the emigrants would gather on the Quarter Deck or forecastle and dance to sound of the flute and the bagpipe.
The bed places, hospitals, and lower deck were frequently fumigated with Chloride of lime and vinegar, and the smoke of vegetable tar but this would not be enough. It would be another sixty years before Charles Nicolle would make the connection between lice and typhus. Typhus was also known as ‘gaol fever’ because it was in close confines that it was most rampant. Twenty of the emigrants were destined to die on the voyage, mostly from Typhus. Upon their arrival in Sydney on 14th December 1839, the ship’s surgeon, Dr Millar was also ill. Doctor (Wylie or Leonard) was taken aboard and the ship was taken to the quarantine station on 16th December. Thomas and his family were to spend their first Australian Christmas in the Quarantine Station.
The emigrants from the North Briton were released over the period of a few weeks, with the final survivors being released at the beginning of February. By September that year a subscription notice appears in the paper indicating that the family have settled in Bungendore, NSW. Thomas appears on the 1856 Electoral Roll as a leaseholder. His death was registered in 1860 and he is buried in the Braidwood cemetery.