George Mealmaker (1768–1808)

GEORGE MEALMAKER was a Scottish weaver who was convicted on a charge of sedition and transported for fourteen years to the colony of New South Wales for his radical political activism; namely demanding annual parliaments and universal manhood suffrage.

Five other men known as the “Scottish Martyrs” had been found guilty of sedition and sentenced to transportation previously, including THOMAS FYSHE PALMER, with whom MEALMAKER had formed the Dundee “Friends of Liberty”; a group which sought to uphold the principles of the French Revolution and to agitate for British parliamentary reform. PALMER was actually convicted and transported for publishing a seditious broadsheet authored by MEALMAKER. Despite MEALMAKER’s instrumental role in the formation of the Friends of Liberty, his authorship of the seditious reading material, and his leadership of the Society of United Scotsmen, he is neither officially listed alongside PALMER, THOMAS MUIR, WILLIAM SKIRVING, MAURICE MARGAROT, and JOSEPH GERRALD as one of the Scottish Martyrs nor commemorated in the Political Martyrs’ Monument in the Old Calton Burial Ground, on Calton Hill, Edinburgh, Scotland because his own conviction and transportation per Royal Admiral (2) (1800) came a few years after the Scottish Martyrs arrived in the colony. MEALMAKER is, quite rightly therefore, now considered, along with ROBERT WATT, a “Forgotten Martyr.” Political works attributed to MEALMAKER include “An Address to Friends and Fellow Citizens,” “The Moral and Political Catechism of Man: Or, a Dialogue between a Citizen of the World and an Inhabitant of Britain,” and “John Bull starving to pay the debts of the Royal Prodigal.

MEALMAKER’s expertise as a hand-loom weaver soon made him indispensable in the colony of New South Wales. Governor PHILIP GIDLEY KING was determined to establish a weaving industry and had appointed master weaver EDWARD WISE to come to the colony for this purpose. However, when WISE drowned on voyage to the colony, Governor KING found a suitable replacement in MEALMAKER who was given the master-weaver role at the first Parramatta Female Factory, “the Factory Above the Gaol,” on a four-year contract at £50 per annum. In this new role, MEALMAKER achieved great success and earned a conditional pardon.

In March 1808, however, under the governorship of WILLIAM BLIGH, who was less supportive of the weaving industry MEALMAKER had so successfully established, a fire at the Factory in 1807, and the effects of alcoholism, MEALMAKER “died of extreme intoxication” as noted in the St. John’s parish burial register and was buried in St. John’s Cemetery, Parramatta.

Names

  • Colloquial: GEORDIE MEALMAKER
  • Alias: HANOVERIAN
  • Alternate: GEORGE MALEMAKER (c.f. headstone)
  • Epithet: “the Forgotten Martyr”
  • Unofficial: “Scottish Martyr”
  • Unofficial: “Political Martyr”

Timeline

  • 10 February 1768: Born in Dundee, Forfarshire, Scotland

  • 23 November 1795: Married MARJORY THOMS, Dundee, Scotland

  • c. 1798: Daughter MARJORY MEALMAKER born, Dundee, Scotland

  • 18 May 1798: Daughter MARJORY MEALMAKER baptised, Dundee, Scotland

  • Tried, convicted, and sentenced to transportation

  • 23 May 1800: Sailed from England to the Colony of New South Wales per Royal Admiral (2)

  • 20 November 1800: Arrived in the Colony of New South Wales per Royal Admiral (2)

  • 19 June 1803: Conditional emancipation published in The Sydney Gazette, Sydney, Colony of New South Wales

  • 18 May 1805: Baptism of REBECCA “AFFLECK” MEALMAKER, daughter by MARY THOMAS and baptism of stepdaughter ELIZA LIVERSTON (aka ELIZA MEALMAKER)

  • 1 January 1808: Signed name on “Settlers’ Address to Governor Bligh, New South Wales, 1st January 1808.”

  • 17 February 1808: Gave evidence during the court martial on D’ARCY WENTWORTH

  • 30 March 1808: “Died of extreme intoxication” at the Factory Above the Gaol, Parramatta

  • 1 April 1808: Buried at the Parramatta Burial Ground (St. John’s Cemetery, Parramatta)

Burial Location

  • Section 1, Row K, No. 2, St. John’s Cemetery, Parramatta

Relationships

  • Son of JOHN MEALMAKER, weaver, Dundee, Scotland
  • Son of ALISON MEALMAKER (née ALISON AUCHINLECK)
  • Husband of MARJORY MEALMAKER (née MARJORY THOMS)
  • Father of MARJORY MEALMAKER, daughter of MARJORY THOMS
  • Partner of MARY THOMAS, convict per Glatton (1803)
  • Stepfather of ELIZA MEALMAKER (1804–1844), daughter of MARY THOMAS
  • Father of AFFLECK MEALMAKER, son of MARY THOMAS (Note: this may have been an incorrect recording of REBECCA MEALMAKER, who was born around this date but does not otherwise have a baptism record. There is no other evidence of an AFFLECK MEALMAKER, son of GEORGE MEALMAKER and MARY THOMAS having existed).
  • Father of REBECCA MEALMAKER (1805–1855), daughter of MARY THOMAS. Married name REBECCA MAY (her husband, THOMAS MAY, was the namesake of May’s Hill, a stone’s throw from St. John’s Cemetery, Parramatta).

Trial Record

Occupation

  • Hand-loom weaver
  • Author
  • Political Activist
  • Convict
  • Emancipist

Positions

  • Co-founder of the Friends of Liberty, Dundee, Scotland
  • Leader of the Society of the United Scotsmen, Dundee, Scotland
  • Convict per Royal Admiral (2) (1800)
  • Master weaver, August 1803–c.1807, Factory Above the Gaol, Parramatta, New South Wales

Sources

Primary Sources

Secondary Sources

Lists

# Scottish

# Convict

# Punishment: Fourteen Years Transportation

# Ship: Royal Admiral (2) (1800)

# Burial Year: 1808

# Grave: marked