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Photo of Thomas Murray Steele

Thomas Murray Steele

Birthplace New South Wales Corowa AustraliaPlace of Death New South Wales   North Ryde Australia Date of Birth: May 7, 1894 Date of Death: May 23, 1989


Full name of worker at H.M. Factory Gretna (and any other names they are known by) : Thomas Murray Steele

Gender : Male
Date and place of birth : 7th September 1894 Corowa, New South Wales
Date and Place of Death: 23rd May 1989 North Ryde, New South Wales
Nationality: Australian

Parents : Thomas Steele and Frances ( Fanny)nee Pilcher
Parents occupations : Presbyterian minister
Schools / universities attended and years of attendance:  University of Queensland
Occupation : Sugar Chemist
Place of residence at Gretna: Not known
Marital status : Married
Children: Philip and Rosemary
England WW1 and N Zealand ( marriage )

Positions held
Trivia / any other information:

The ‘Arsenal’ in the strand: Australian chemists and the British munitions effort 1916–1919 , secondary sources

Books published (Title, year of publication, publisher):
Books written about the individual or mentioning the individual (Title, year of publication, publisher):


Blogs about the individual:
Websites about the individual:

Further links, notes, and comments:



Thomas Murray Steele 1894-1989 


Thomas Murray Steele was born on 7th  September 1894  at Corowa, New South Wales to Rev’d Thomas Steele and Frances ( Fanny ) nee Pilcher. He was the youngest of 4 children born to Thomas and Frances between 1890 and 1894. 

Frances had emigrated aged 15 within 1883 with her parents and their 9 offspring from Plymouth. He father was a baker ( 1881 census)  Thomas snr was born in Glasgow so he must also have emigrated to New South Wales. The couple married in 1889.  

Their first child was daughter Jean Winifred born in 1890. Electoral registers show that she was unmarried up to at least 1977 and other records tell us that she died in 1988 aged 98. 

Second was Henry Bruce who became a stock and station agent, married , had two children and died prematurely in 1920 aged 28. 

Third was Ernest Keith Livingstone in 1893. Ernest’s military service record for the Australian Imperial Forces tells us that he was a clerk.  Ernest also enjoyed longevity dying in 1981. 

Finally was Thomas Murray Steele in 1894. 

We know from the Australian Gazette that their father gained an MA in 1897and in the 1903 Electoral register is listed as a Presbyterian Minister. Bothe Thomas and Ernest list their religion as Presbyterian on their attestation papers.  

On 10th November 1904 when Thomas was only 10, his father died aged 47. He is buried in St Thomas’ Anglican Cemetery, Enfield , New South Wales. 

On 15th February detailed service records show that Thomas Murray enlisted at Meanake to the AIF Australian Imperial Force. He was 21 years and 5 months, 5 feet 8.75 inches tall with a chest range of 34-37.5”. He had a medium complexion, weighed 148 lbs, brown hair and the eye description is unclear but the first word is black. He also is listed with a slight left varicose no symptoms and a small ? spine lower lumbar region. His address was “Kanton”, Brooklyn Rd, Enfield , Sydney and his occupation was Sugar Chemist.  

 “The Australian Government established the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) in August 1914 and immediately began recruiting men to serve the British Empire in the war. The men of the AIF served in the Middle East and on the Western Front during the war.” 

A few months later on 1st May 1916 brother Ernest Keith L joined up aged 22 on 1st May 1916. He was sent to England and then to France for active service as a gunner. He was injured in France in 1918. His war record reports that on 10th March 1918 he was admitted to Tooting Military Hospital with an “injury to left foot – severe. Crushed by a gun falling on it. “ He recovered, rejoined his unit in France and was repatriated to Australia in 1919. 

Thomas was discharged from the AIF on 5th September 1916 in order to be sent to Munitions in England. The ‘Arsenal’ in the strand: Australian chemists and the British munitions effort 1916–1919 Roy M MacCleod includes mention of T M Steele sailing on SS Euripides as part of the second group of Australian chemists drafted as reinforcement  to  the Ministry of Munitions in Britain. The group consisted of the very few Chemists available, chemistry and science teachers and sugar chemists of which Thomas was one. Thomas is named  in the article on a photograph but the clarity is exceedingly poor. The following link offers photographs of Australian chemists arriving in Britain, being allotted work  station and travelling on by train amongst many other aspects. 

It is not evident where Thomas lived whilst working at H M Factory Gretna. He is listed in The Dornock Farewell with a C/o address of CSR Co. , O’Connell St, Sydney, Australia. This is the Colonial Sugar Refinery HQ so it is safe to assume that following University which he must have attended in order to become a chemist, he had gained employment with the CSR and was returning to it following the war. It was during his time at Gretna that his brother Ernest was admitted to the Tooting Military Hospital then to Harefield for convalescence. Surely they must have communicated if not seen each other.  

Colonial Sugar Refinery (CSR) in Pyrmont – History of Sydney explains that CSR was founded in  1870 and “ was not only a sugar refinery, it was also a distillery which at one stage supplied half of Australia’s industrial alcohol needs. It also supplied a third of Australia’s rum.” 

It is unclear if or how long Thomas returned to CSR because we know from marriage records that he married Sybil Wilson on 20th February 1924 in Auckland , New Zealand. 

Sybil was born in 1901 in Gifford, Haddington just south of Edinburgh. Ship’s passenger lists show that her father was a cattleman who emigrated in 1905 with his wife, Sybil aged 4 and younger brother Alf , 1 from Plymouth to Wellington, NZ. 

Little is recorded concerning children but a Public member tree indicates a son Philip and a daughter Rosemary born to Thomas and Sybil but with no details. 

They were still living in Auckland in 1928 , listed in the electoral register for Auckland suburbs as a chemist at Valley Road, Birkenhead. By 1930 the electoral register for Neutral Bay , Sydney lists Thomas and Sybil. 

In the 1949 electoral register his listed as a Manager at 85 Harris Street, Sydney. By 1980 they are living at McKellar, 506 Banajoey Rd. 

Thomas Murray Steele died on 23rd May 1989 at North Ryde, New South Wales. We have to assume that he had a successful career and can only guess that he became manager of a sugar refinery or similar. There is no obvious evidence as tow what became of Sybil or the children. 

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