Few members of current generations would appreciate the hardships our ancestors faced following their arrival in Australia. In his book The Fatal Shore, Robert Hughes left description of early life in the colony to a settler who succinctly wrote the following which had been published in an edition of the Sydney Morning Herald in 1839:

People come over here to better their condition, many with limited means, their tempers a little soured with privations and disappointed expectations (for all expect too much), cut off from the ties of kindred, old friendships, and endearing associations, all struggling in the road of advancement, and no-one who reflects will be surprised that they jostle one another. Every man does not know his own position so well as at home1.

The early Guymer immigrants who had their ancestral roots in the village of Great Thurlow2, Suffolk, England were no different. They had little alternative than to confront what lay in their path, enduring trials and torments along the way without the benefit or assistance of modern day equipment, technology and machinery. However, their faith3 and determination to succeed remained strong and most persevered in the face of many an adversity to find what they were seeking, a home and livelihood for their families.

Current generations of their descendants are now well and truly scattered throughout the Australian states of Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania and Western Australia and the North and South Islands of New Zealand.

The first family members to arrive on Australian soil were Robert Guymer and his sister Ann Haylock (nee Guymer) who landed in Adelaide from the Omega on 24 August 18524 with their respective spouses and children. Robert with Charlotte (nee Turner) (1813-1875) whom he had married in St Peter's, Little Thurlow on 31 January 1840 and Ann who was married to John Haylock in 1829 at All Saints Church, Great Thurlow.5

Two of Roberts children from his first marriage to Mary Talbot (1804-1839) also chose to migrate from their homeland. William (1828-1914) accompanied by his spouse, Susan Lawrence (1827-1907) also arrived on the Omega while Ellen with her husband William Bradford (1822-1870) arrived the same year aboard the China. Robert and Ann's brother, David Guymer and his family followed less than a year later landing in Sydney, New South Wales on 3 June 18536 but were to endure 11 days in quarantine before disembarking the ship. However, the Guymers were preceded into Australia by John and Ann Haylock's son, Elijah (1832-1898), who arrived on the Catherine on 26 May 1851 and we are left wondering if he was responsible for influencing his family to migrate "down under".

The Guymers were essentially "Ag Labs"7 from East Anglia whose lineage can be traced back to John Gimer (sic) who married Elizabeth Pluckrose at Weston Colville8, Cambridgeshire, England in 17239. While the Haylocks'ancestral roots in Great Thurlow date back almost three and a half centuries to 1663 and possibly earlier. Other branches of their family are to be found in the nearby villages of Great Wratting and Little Thurlow.

Like so many of the early Australian settlers who arrived in the mid to late 1800s the Guymers, Haylocks10 and Bradfords11 were soon trekking across country to the goldfields of Victoria before finally settling in the mining town of Maldon where gold had been discovered in 1853 in what became known as Tarrangower Fields. Over the ensuing years their children and children's children would marry into other mining families including Baxter, Brown, Knight, Stevens and Tatt. There were also a number of family members who were unable to break their ancestral bonds with the land including Robert and Ann's sibling, David Guymer (1811-1877) who chose to head north to Baw Baw (near Goulburn), New South Wales where he established a farm property known as "Thurlow", named after the village where he was born. David along with a number of other family members including his daughters, Amelia and Tamar and sons, Joseph and Frederick, are buried in the Goulburn cemetery.

Before the turn of the 19th century at least two of David's children, Mark and Benjamin, trekked over 500 miles north and into the Darling Downs where they established dairy farms near Warwick. In 1900 Mark was awarded first prize for a box of butter produced by a farmer.12

Arthur, the third eldest son of Benjamin chose not to follow in his father's footsteps and instead became a logger. He established his enterprise in the bush clad hinterland of Queensland, tucked in behind what is now the Gold Coast, where he commenced hauling out logs from the extensive stands of Australian hardwoods which were in great demand for building materials. Later a peak standing 1186 metres in the Emu Vale State Forest would be named Guymer Mountain.

With the advent of the First World War many young men answered the call in the expectation they would quickly deal with the foe and return home for Christmas and the Guymers were amongst their number. As we know the war was to continue for almost another four years and seven family members gave their lives to the cause - see "Roll of Honour" below.

Towards the middle of 1918 one mother became sufficiently concerned about the wellbeing of her son that she wrote to the Australia Defence Department seeking information about her boy. He survived the war but had endured trench fever and a bullet wound to his left leg and eventually he returned home to Melbourne in 1919.

The names of those killed in action or who died of their wounds are now etched on the simple marker stones in the serene parklands of Commonwealth War Graves which are littered amongst fields and copses of France and Belgium; or memorialised on the Menin Gate in Ypres and the Australian War Memorial at Villers Bretonneux. At least two of the family lie on the windswept hills above Anzac Cove.

The war failed to disrupt gold mining activities at Maldon and the town continued to prosper. Gravestones in the Maldon cemetery are now the only reminders of our family who lived, worked and raised their children in the township.

First reference to the family in New Zealand is to be found when the two children of William Arthur (Bill) Guymer (1860-1885)13 and Caroline Janet Harvey (1863-1945)14 , who were married in Goulburn in 188215 , made their way 'across the ditch' (Tasman Sea) to Wellington at the start of the 20th century. Shortly after her arrival daughter, Rachel married John (Jack) Russell in May 1908 and three months later son Alfred William married Elizabeth or Lizzie Matthews in Dunedin. Alfred’s youngest son was a member of the RNZAF based in England during WWII. He later returned to the United Kingdom as Deputy Manager of New Zealand Apple and Pear Marketing Board.

The Guymers however, were preceded to New Zealand, firstly by Daniel Haylock (1839-1914) who is believed to have arrived in the early 1860s with the intention of discovering his fortune in the goldfields of Otago and secondly by two sons of David and Matilda (nee Guymer) Hickford who were married in Kedington, Suffolk on 17 January 183416. Henry Hickford (1842-1919) arrived with his family on 10 November 1874 and was followed 12 years later by his brother Abner George (1851-1929)17.

At least two Australian family members would serve with distinction in the Second World War - Squadron Leader Archibald Elwyn Guymer18, Mention in Despatches and Flight Lieutenant Francis (Frank) Mackay Twemlow19, DFC - both men were from Queensland. Several others had the misfortune to be come Japanese prisoners' of war and another, Sub-Lieutenant Frederick Harold Schoch was serving on the Leander class light cruiser, HMAS Sydney when she sank on 19 November 1941 off the coast of Western Australia with the loss all 645 aboard. HMAS Sydney had been undertaking escort duties when she was attacked at close range by the German raider Kormoran, which also sank soon afterwards.

The Guymers and extended family owe a huge debt of gratitude to Jean Rankins of Wangaratta, Victoria, Australia for her thorough and meticulous genealogical work. As a consequence there are now over 3,000 family names recorded in the Guymer family tree which was compiled and presented by Jean in June, 2000. Furthermore, there's no denying the Guymers were prolific breeders with several members of the first settlers producing 10 or more children. There are also at least 23 sets of twins in the wider family.

Paul Hickford copywright 2010

An abridged version of the above appears in Suffolk Roots, Vol. 36, No. 3, December 2010 which is published by the Suffolk Family History Society (


"At the going down of the sun and in the morning we will remember them"


George Bentley GUYMER, Private, No. 5679, 4th Battalion, Australian Pioneers, mortally wounded and died on 4 June 1917, France.
Thomas Enoch HAYLOCK, Private, No. 866, 21 Battalion, Australian Infantry, killed in action 12 October 1915, Gallipoli.
Alfred Herbert LOVE, Private, No. 1375, 14th Battalion, Australian Infantry, killed in action 27 April 1915, Gallipoli.
Alfred Herbert MOORHEAD, Private, No. 545, 16th Reinforcements, 6 Battalion, AIF, killed in action 20 September 1917, Belgium.
Albert Harry (Murphy) ROBINSON, Private, No. 2883, 7th Battalion, AIF, killed in action 24 July 1916, France.
Frederick Edward ROACH , Private, No. 3565, 60th Battalion, AIF, killed in action on 19 July 1916, France.
Lesley Francis STANLEY, Private, No. 1032 & 7369, 24th Reinforcements, 8th Battalion, killed in action on 4 October 1917, Belgium.


Alexander William BURTON, Warrant Officer - Class II, No. VX19484, Australian Infantry, killed in action 22 January, 1942, Singapore.
Thomas Eric CHARLES, Flight Sergeant, No. 412902, 97 Squadron, 8 Group Bomber Command, killed on 31 January 1944 when his Lancaster aircraft was shot down over Holland.
Harry Robert Alfred GUYMER, Pilot Officer, 418943, Royal Australia Air Force, the aircraft in which he was flying on an operational training flight went missing east of Sale, Victoria on 6 July 1943 and has never been found.
Arthur Alexander RUSSELL, Private, No. 5867, 19th Battalion, New Zealand Infantry, died on 17 January 1941 from undisclosed illness, Middle East.
Frederick Harold SCHOCH, Sub-Lieutenant, Royal Australian Navy, aboard "HMAS Sydney" when she sank off Carnarvon, Western Australia on 19 November 1941 with all lives lost.


Archibald Elwyn GUYMER, Squadron Leader, Mention in Despatches.
Charles James HUNGERFORD, Military Medal, Corporal, No. 3867, 5th Infantry Battalion, Australian Imperial Force.
Frank Mackay TWEMLOW, Flight Lieutenant, Distinguished Flying Cross.


Hickford, Paul W, The Hickford Family, Henry and Abner George, Their Families and Forebears, Auckland, NZ, 2008.
Hughes, Robert, The Fatal Shore, Sydney, Random House Australia (Pty) Ltd, 2003.
Jean Rankins, Guymer family tree, home-printed, 2000.
Suffolk Marriage Index 1813-1837, Vol. 2, Clare Deanery.
Wangaratta Threads, No. 80, December 2009


NZSG Index, Version 5.


Auckland War Memorial.
Australian War Memorial.
Haylock family records.
National Archives of Australia including COLLECTIONS containing records of servicemen and women who served in First and Second World Wars.
New South Wales Births, Deaths and Marriages, online Family History records.
New Zealand Births, Deaths and Marriages.
New Zealand Genealogical Society.
Queensland Births, Deaths and Marriages, online Family History records.


Lyn Bould (Haylock family)
David Champion, Brisbane, Qld, Australia
Bernie Guymer, United Kingdom (see website)
Winston Guymer, Astonville, NSW, Australia
Susan Hannah, Sydney, NSW, Australia.
Charmaine Hartley (Haylock family)
Paul Hickford, West Auckland, New Zealand (2 x great grandson of Matilda (née Guymer) Hickford)
Dorothy Kilsby, Feilding, New Zealand (Russell family)
Jean Rankins, Wangaratta, Victoria, Australia
Glenda Twemlow, Australia
Marlene Victor, near Dunedin (New Zealand Guymer family)

I am keen to discover who is researching the Adelaide Branch of the Guymer family.

Author's note:
I was born in Tauranga, Bay of Plenty, New Zealand and am a 2 x great grandson of David and Matilda (nee Guymer) Hickford who were married in Kedington, Suffolk, England in 1834. Never in my wildest dreams did I envisage having more relatives in Australia than in New Zealand. My thanks go to my fellow researchers named above who have assisted with this amazing discovery.

Aside from my paternal line I have members of my maternal family (Wright and McGinnes) littered across the states of New South Wales, Tasmania and Victoria. In fact it possibly transpires that I have more Australian rellies than my wife whose parents were born and raised in Australia.

1 Hughes, Robert, The Fatal Shore, Sydney, 2003, p. 324.
2 Appears as Thurlow in recent editions of AA Road Atlases of Britain.
3 Jean Rankins, A History of the Guymer/Gymer Family, Wangaratta Threads, p.8.
4 Guymer family tree compiled by Jean Rankins, June 2000, p.15.
5 Suffolk Marriage Index 1813-1837, Vol. 2, Clare Deanery, p. 34.
6 New South Wales, Australia, Assisted Immigrant Passenger Lists, 1828-1896.
7 Abbreviation for Agricultural Labourers used by Census enumerators in United Kingdom.
8 Within five miles of Great Thurlow.
9 Guymer family tree compiled by Bernie Guymer and last updated February 2010.
10 Guymer Family Tree compiled by Jean Rankins, June 2000, pp. 286 & 7.
11 Guymer Family Tree, p.18.
12 The Queenslander, 18 August 1900.
13 William was killed in a mine blast on 6 February 1885. He was 26.
14 Caroline remarried in Sydney in 1894 to David Alexander Elliott.
15 Guymer family tree compiled by Jean Rankins, June 2000, p.350.
16 David and Matilda Hickford were witnesses to the marriage of Robert Guymer and Charlotte Turner who were wed on 31 January 1840 in the Parish Church, Great Thurlow.
17 Paul Hickford, The Hickford Family, Henry and Abner George, Their Families and Forebears, Auckland, New Zealand, 2008.
18 Grandson of Benjamin and Mary Jane (nee Barrett) Guymer who were married in Goulburn District in 1866. After the war became a public servant in Queensland.
19 Grandson of Francis and Tamar (nee Guymer) Twemlow who were married in Goulburn District in 1862. After the war Frank was a pilot with Qantas.