Skeyhill, Thomas

Date of Birth/Death:


Thomas Skeyhill, Skeyhill, Skehill, Skehil, Skehan, Skean, Skeen, Skain, Skein, Schean, Schaen, Shean, Sheehan/ Scales

Thomas Skeyhill is believed to have been born c 1833 at Loughrea, Galway, Ireland, possibly the son of Thomas Skeyhill and Bridget Burke. The spelling of his surname has proved to be very variable in the records with at least thirteen different surname variants: Skeyhill, Skehill, Skehil, Skehan, Skean, Skeen, Skain, Skein, Schean, Schaen, Shean, Sheehan and Scales. His Irish accent and illiteracy probably contributed to these spellings. Thomas did have at least one sister, Bridget Brannelly (née Skehill) who settled at Camperdown, Victoria with her husband Patrick.

Thomas most likely arrived in South Australia aboard Stamboul on 1 February 1858. However, the passenger list does not show a Thomas Skeyhill, but a Thomas Skeen aged 25. Thomas (as Thomas Schean) married Margaret Ryan on 25 May 1862 at Willunga. They had at least six children, all baptised at St Joseph’s Catholic Church, Willunga:

  • James Percy was born on 10 March 1863 at Willunga, married Annie Donnelly in Victoria in 1888 and died on 25 May 1932 at Warrnambool, Victoria.
  • Mary Ann was born on 22 May 1865 at Willunga, married William Regan on 26 February 1884 at St Josephs, Willunga, and died at Camperdown, Victoria in 1927.
  • Daniel was born on 4 October 1872, Willunga, married Martha Nellie Hailstone on 27 February 1901 at Willunga, died on 4 October 1872 in hospital at Adelaide.
  • Michael was born 9 September 1867 in Willunga, married Annie Matthews in Victoria in 1894, and died in 1946 at Camperdown, Victoria.
  • John was born 27 April 1870 in Willunga and died 4 November 1898 in Kalgoorlie, Western Australia.
  • Margaret Elizabeth was born 6 July 1875 in Willunga and died on 23 December 1895 in Willunga.

Thomas farmed Section 73 in the Hundred of Kuitpo, Dingabledinga, known as Brown’s Flat. The original Land Grant was held by William Putland, farmer of Yankalilla, 15 April 1862. Thomas was already farming this section prior to purchasing on 31 May 1871 as he is listed in the Willunga Council Rates for 1869.

In 1868 Thomas went to the Jupiter Creek gold diggings near Echunga. In January 1874 his property was threatened by a fire, but while he lost his fences, his house and contents were saved. In March 1880 his tender to build Paddy’s Bridge was accepted. On 4 August 1883, he advertised that he had lost a bullock between Willunga and Port Elliot and offered 10 shillings reward for its recovery. In August 1884, the Council reported that ‘ruts [were] filled and saplings grubbed near Skeyhill’s’. In April 1888, his tender for a log culvert ‘near Smalls’ was accepted, as was his later tender in July 1889 for 130 fencing posts.

By the 1890s Thomas may have been having mental issues, perhaps some form of dementia, as in April 1895, his property was transferred to his wife Margaret but then she died in February 1899. The bulk of Margaret’s estate, which was valued at less than £100, was left to her son Daniel, with £7 for Masses, and provision for her husband, instructing that ‘ample support’ be given to him, and requested her executors to ensure that this provision ‘is faithfully carried out’. A few months after his wife’s death, Thomas gave an interview to the Express & Telegraph newspaper in which he claimed to be over 100 years old.

When Thomas Skeyhill died at his residence in January 1901 his age was reported (erroneously) in the Southern Cross newspaper as 108 years old thus making his birth c1793 but evidence suggests otherwise. He was buried in St Joseph’s Catholic Cemetery, Willunga with his wife and daughter Margaret in unmarked graves.




State Records of South Australia Passenger list for the Stamboul 58/1,

SAILIS, Skeyhill, CT29/88,

Genealogy SA,

1868 ‘LOCAL COURTS.’, Adelaide Observer, 28 November, p. 6. ,

1874 ‘SERIOUS FIRES AT WILLUNGA.’, Evening Journal, 5 January, p. 3. ,

1880 ‘WILLUNGA.’, South Australian Chronicle and Weekly Mail (Adelaide, SA : 1868 – 1881), 13 March, p. 24., viewed 20 Jan 2024,

1883 ‘Advertising’, Adelaide Observer, 4 August, p. 21. ,

1884 ‘DISTRICT COUNCILS.’, South Australian Register,  9 April, p. 7. ,

1884 ‘WILLUNGA. JUNE 9.’, South Australian Register, 20 June, p. 3. ,

1888 ‘DISTRICT COUNCILS.’, South Australian Register, 26 April, p. 3. ,

1889 ‘WILLUNGA.’, South Australian Chronicle,  27 July, p. 13. ,

1898 ‘Family Notices’, The Advertiser, 1 December, p. 4. ,

1899 ‘A MYSTERIOUS FIRE’. [Death of Mrs Thomas Skeyhill], Chronicle, 18 February, p. 15. ,

1899 ‘ALIVING CENTENARIAN.’, The Express and Telegraph, 1 November, p. 2.

1899 ‘A LIVING CENTENARIAN.’, The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1889 – 1931), 2 November, p. 6. , viewed 15 Mar 2024, [Includes sketch of Thomas Skeyhill.]

1901 ‘General News.[Death of a Centenarian]’, Southern Cross, 18 January, p. 11. ,

“Australia, South Australia, Will and Probate Records”, , FamilySearch( : , Entry for Margaret Skeyhill, 22 Nov 1898.

“Australia, South Australia, Will and Probate Records”, , FamilySearch( : , Entry for Margaret Skeyhill, 4 Aug 1899.

Victoria Births, Deaths and Marriages indexes,

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