No relation to physicists, vacuum cleaner inventors or celebrated Australian artists (more the pity about that last bit)

The key ancestor of this particular Dyson family was named James Dyson, an immigrant to Western Australia from Lancashire, England towards the middle of the nineteenth century. On the face of it, his was a story one of ‘battler made good’ — They even named a Swamp after him in the Colony, such was the esteem he was held in.

This was Drewy Dyson

Yet denial of their heritage seemed to have been become a survival strategy for many of his descendants. An innocent question such as “Who was Drewy Dyson?” might result in a clip around the ear.

Others pretended that they were Scottish (As you do).

  • An introduction to the Dysons

    “A lot has been written and spoken about the Dyson family , the majority of which was unmitigated bunkum…” wrote a newspaperman back in 1927. So I continue a long and proud tradition.

  • The Lancashire Hotpot

    Was the first Dyson a sheep stealer? It would explain a lot.

  • Van Diemen’s Land

    James Dyson’s lost years 1834-1841.

  • A Dark Deed in a Damp Land

    A brutal crime has far reaching consequences for the Dyson family

  • Too outrageous a coincidence?

    Investigating the first wife of James Dyson. So, how do you feel about conspiracy theories?

  • Twenty-one Children

    Holy S….! James Dyson 1810-1888 was a very ‘busy’ man.

  • Are you my Mummy?

    Every family should have a good ghost story, the Dysons are no exception… A second tale of taxidermy and ratbaggery, this time in the old country of Lancashire.

  • Joseph Dyson the Elder: The Respectable one

    His older brother was dead, his younger brother was mad… It fell to Joseph’s lot to be his father’s heir.

  • Dorothy Dyson Dances

    Dorothy Dyson was the youngest daughter of Joseph Dyson junior and Jessie Christisen nee Strutt.

  • In Old Hobart Town

    If you want to get an idea of what the Hobart Town of 1834, the year that the convict James Dyson arrived there – was like, you are better off  travelling roughly north about 25km from the modern city to the settlement of Richmond, once a convict depôt and staging post on the road to ...

  • All the girls love a soldier

    Silly names, even sillier hats, a missing Army rifle and a shotgun wedding?

  • Going Postal: The great family rift.

    …About half-past nine last Friday night, my attention was attracted by a number of persons standing in front of prisoner’s brothers’ residence, in Murray-street; I was in plain clothes at the time, and Dyson’s sister — a little girl — came up to me and said that her brother Andrew was killing her Father; The evidence ...

  • “The Poste Restante”

    The fairly grand former General Post Office building on the corner of St Georges Terrace and Barrack street, the the exact site of which had once been the original soldier’s barracks for Perth, Western Australia.

  • Hello Sailor…

    Could James Dyson have been crew on a Whaler?

  • CSI Halifax

    18 June 1833. Halifax, Yorkshire. A heinous crime had been committed the previous evening, Mr Robertshaw had been viciously attacked and robbed in the street that night. That Tuesday morning the wheels of early nineteenth century justice began to turn. A suspicious character was apprehended that very morning. He was from across the border in Lancashire, ...

  • Rottnest Island #1: It’s a start

    Rottnest Island, 2013 Digression time: This is an actual sandgroper. They are very rare, I doubt most “true blue” Westralians have actually seen one, much less know what they actually are… that’s another trope I detest: the name Westralia. It’s Western Australia, thank you! Fortunately this obnoxious moniker had mostly died out in the early 20th ...

  • Secret Squirrel Business

    It seems like there was nothing the average man in Australia during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries enjoyed more than belonging to a secret society. Of course it’s no fun at all if no-one can know that you belong to an exclusive brotherhood*, so you have to make sure that everyone has got the memo ...

  • The Little Boy Lost: Enter Drewy.

    He was a monster. That has to be made plain from the start. He could be very funny, he was creative and he was intelligent. He loved animals. He probably loved his family, but he also hurt them. He hurt them a lot. He also hurt many of the animals he loved as well, and ...

  • Timber!

    Timber was the business of James Dyson from his earliest years in Western Australia. A year after his arrival in 1841 he was working as a labourer. Of the few people from this time we know for sure that he associated with, Stephen Hyde was a carpenter, and his next door neighbour in Perth for ...

  • Steam Powered Luddites

    James Dyson had built something of an empire in Western Australia on the back of supplying timber sourced the old fashioned way—by hand. Pity the other pit-sawyer though, who had to stand in that pit when the logs were being sliced into planks, and pity also the poor sap (pun intended) whose on-the-job-training did not ...

  • Kill the Joke (AKA: “You had to be there”)

    The story of Drewy Dyson and the locomotive engine lost in the bush is undoubtedly utter fantasy. Its also the most re-published story of Drewy, retold at least five times in the pages of the Sunday Times between 1914 and 1932.

  • Literally —ing the Patriarchy: Introducing Jane.

    It should be clear by now that I have no problem mocking my ancestors— when they are bullies, pompous, arrogant, do monumentally stupid things, or are just so completely and utterly full of themselves it is all too easy. Of course, most of whom I have written about so far have been blokes. That’s because ...

  • I hate Maitland Brown

    Historians are not supposed to ventilate opinions like this. Actually, when studying for my degree we were also not supposed to write in the first person (Is there not an “I” in history?). I don’t believe we as historians have any licence to make things up. I also don’t believe we have any right to ...

  • The Sons of Australia: Foundation and Foulkes

    Sometimes its just a name that piques your interest. Sometimes names are all you have. The Sons of Australia Benefit Society was formed in January 1837 and it’s final meeting was held in August 1897. For sixty years it seemed to be an ever-present feature in the social fabric of Perth, Western Australia— and then ...

  • Winterbottom’s End

    Joseph Winterbottom was the old bastard pursued by Oldham police across the border from Lancashire into the West Riding of Yorkshire in the summer of 1833. Arrested by the Halifax Constabulary, he was immediately identified by visiting Oldham bloodhound Heywood as a known rogue and vagabond, and proceeded to squeal like a pig, identifying the ...

  • Dyson’s Corner (the First)

    The corner of King and Murray Street in the city of Perth, Western Australia

  • Dyson’s Hotel

    The story of the corner of King and Murray Street in the city of Perth, Western Australia, continued.

  • Happy Gunpowder Treason Day

    Bristol, England at dusk on an evening in November 2015. The pops and bangs were very loud and seemed to be right outside of the tiny bedroom I was staying in. It was right outside my window and I was bemused on investigation to find that a collection of children and their parents were setting ...

  • The Smoking Gun

    Today is a red-letter day. Today I found the smoking gun. I discovered the actual connection between the Dyson family and the construction of the Wesleyan Church in Perth Western Australia.

  • An Anthemic Ancestor

    Television and photo-plays have theme tunes. Nation-states have theme tunes which they call National Anthems. For most of Australia’s past two centuries, the national theme tune has been “God Save the ” (which does say quite a lot about the mentality of those who made that choice). Outside show-business identities and fictional characters, real people ...

  • The Stranger In the Mirror

    There is currently no known authentic likeness that exists of James Dyson. He was a prominent man of his time— merchant, land owner, Perth City Councillor—he was present at certain key events in the history of the city: He was definitely present at the opening of the Perth Town Hall, he was most likely present at ...

  • Recognise this face?

    Consider this a sequel to the article The Stranger in the Mirror where I bemoaned the lack of available images of the earliest generations of the Dyson family in colonial Western Australia. Of the patriarch, James Dyson—at best, we have an identikit image based on his alleged convict record. Of his two wives, and the vast ...

  • On Cemetery Hill

    A visit to the Old East Perth Cemetery, where generations of Colonial Western Australians have been laid to uneasy rest, including all too many Dysons.

  • The Fate of the First Wife, Part I

    This is a reconstruction of the last years of the life of Mrs Frances (Fanny) Dyson, the first wife of James Dyson, and mother to his first four children. This is a very different narrative to the one that which has heretofore been told, and has been accepted as the truth for nigh on one ...

  • The Fate of the First Wife, Part II

    The new evidence

  • The Fate of The First Wife, Part III

    Fanny Dyson’s end was horrible and no-one comes out of this event looking good.

  • Thomas Dyson: The Canny one

    When Thomas Dyson was a young boy, he shot the son of his father’s main business rival in the head. After that, his fortunes could only improve.

  • Our George Dyson

    A brief overview of George Dyson’s life, the most accomplished Dyson you’ve never heard about.

  • Dyson’s Corner (the Second)

    Joseph Dyson became a husband and a father (though not necessarily in that order) during the year 1872. It was time for him to strike out and get a house of his own. Thus the second Dyson’s corner was formed.

  • On a Roll

    Was your ancestor a member of the Sons of Australia Benefit Society (1837-1897)?

  • Dyson’s hat

    Kings Meadows Convict Station discovery finds artefacts, convict hat

  • A Trial on Trial

    A man killed his wife. When the powerful find themselves on trial, discussions happen about the justice system that don’t happen when the powerless are similarly ensnared.

  • Choose your own Adventure

    This is the tale of two convicts in Van Diemen’s Land. Their story does not have an end yet: happy, sad or otherwise. Can you help?  

  • Alias Hoffington

    I believe I have successfully reconstructed the baroque, Byzantine story of the first Mrs Dyson. I’m now prepared to state my theory and die on this hill if that be my fate. (Hint: I’m probably entirely wrong!)

  • Won’t you think of the children?

    A reference list for the children of James, Fanny and Jane Dyson

  • Grave Matters

    Help save the grave of James Dyson and his two wives in East Perth Cemetery The bodies of James Dyson and his wives Fanny and Jane lie in the old East Perth Cemetery. The three were united only briefly together under the same roof in life, and when they died many years apart, they were not ...

  • A little bit of war profiteering

    Sam Dyson was was among the first to sign up for the Great War and was among the first quota of Western Australians in the AIF. He would be one of the first on the beach at ANZAC cove, and would survive for his Dad to tell that story. His father was Andrew “Drewy” Dyson ...

  • How 2020 ended…

    Restoration of the Dyson Grave in East Perth Cemetery has begun.

  • Bio: Richard Edwards (jr)

    He was born about 1807, probably in the village of English Bicknor, part of the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire, an ancient western county of England near the border with Wales. He died… well that’s one of the many facts up for debate about his life.

  • Are you … kidding me?

    Star Wars… there’s an appropriate quote for any situation. When I started writing my book on the Dyson family, very little was known about James Dyson’s first wife Fanny nee Hoffingham. They married in 1842, they had four children, the last of whom was an infant daughter who died in 1849, a year before Fanny herself ...

  • Researching a Convict Ship

    Researching a particular convict ship I find more that I expected. This will turn out to be a damn good chapter when everything has been assimilated.

  • Tales of the Moffatt

    The voyage of the Moffatt, transporting 400 convicts to Van Diemen’s Land in the year 1834, might be unique in that there are no less than two narrative accounts of the same passage, written with considerably more detail than the usual bald official accounts of departure and arrival, and the invariably incomplete manifests of passengers ...

  • Perth City Council Minutes 1858-1875

    Transcription of the the minute books of the Perth City Council between 1858-1875

  • Unreliable Witness

    The Dyson family grave site in East Perth Cemetery.

  • A departure from Van Diemen’s Land

    I’m a bit shocked to realise that it’s been six years since that I first posted a transcription of James Dyson’s conduct record as a convict in Van Diemen’s Land. For the past year I’ve been writing up the story of his time on the island. I think I understand now most of what happened ...

  • Bio: Henry Nickolls

    The Master of Corra Linn On, or just before 7 December 1837, Henry Nickolls, master of the Corra Linn estate on the Patterson Plains, was punched in the head by a newly-assigned employee and warned by him that “there was more where that came from”. Which is something of an inversion of the typical master / ...

  • Bio: David Williams

    Van Diemen’s Land settler William Patterson was winding up his affairs in that colony when convict James Dyson was assigned to him about 14 July 1837

  • Bio: Lt Pearson Foote (RN)

    Apart from being an inspiration to future Libyan dictator Colonel Gaddafi, there must be a whole lot more to the man than is currently understood.

  • Bio: Samuel McKee

    A Vandemonian Maverick (but weren’t they all?)

  • Four days with the Establishment

    Convict James Dyson was assigned to work for the Van Diemen’s Land Establishment for all of four days between 2 and 5 October 1837. What happened next will not surprise you in the slightest.

  • The One that Got Away

    Much as I would dearly love to visit Tasmania again and wallow amongst the microfilm, that’s not going to be possible any time soon. Then, thanks to a lead not affiliated with any of the “official” sources of knowledge, I learnt that a certain religious sect have in their possession the documents I seek