Thomas Harrison

Thomas Harrison was also a jockey. He may also have gone to Victoria but eventually went to India. Pearl Haas said 'Took race horses from India to England' Claire Hinton reports that her mother Hanna Hilda Harrison knew that one of her father's brothers went to train horses for Indian nobility'.

An association with horses dominated the lives of James, Thomas and Honora. James was jockey in Melbourne and surrounding areas from 1884 to around 1894, he then trained horses in Allendale, just north of Ballarat. It seems that Thomas joined James in Victoria around 1887. He was then fifteen and could have become a jockey at that time. His niece, Pearl Haas said Thomas 'took race horses from India to England'. Claire Hinton, the daughter of another niece, remembers that her mother Hanna Hilda Harrison knew that ‘one of her father's brothers went to train horses for Indian nobility'. The photo below is believed to be Thomas Harrison in India.

We don’t know when he left for India or whether he ever married. (There is no record of a marriage in Victoria or Tasmania.1) The marriage of the third daughter of Thomas’ sister Catherine Patmore throws some light on Thomas’ life.

On 8 May 1917 the eighteen-year-old ‘Rene’ (Catherine Irene) Patmore married a twenty-year-old jockey from India.2 He was known as Arthur Thomas Harrison. Yet Father John Cullen who celebrated the marriage at St. Joseph’s in Hobart recorded the groom as being Arthur Bernard Howden born in Melbourne to Charles Bernard Howden, baker, and Millicent (nee Kenny). The bridegroom parents were Charles Bernard Howden, known as Dennis, and Millicent Victoria Kenney. They were married in Melbourne in 1898 and Arthur must have been born about the same time although the event was not registered. Dennis was a baker who married when he was 22 years old; his parents were George and Mary (Casey). Millie’s parents were James George Kenney (b. Launceston 21 Oct 1849) and Emma Fordham who married in Melbourne in 1874. Her birth was not registered in Victoria or Tasmania but she had three elder siblings Caroline Amelia (b. 1874), James Richard (b. 1877) and Adelaide Victoria (b. 1878). It seems likely that Millie’s father died around 1880 for Emma Fordham had four children with Otto Berry between 1881 and 1886 (Arthur b. 1881, Maud Maria b. 1884, Edward B 1885 died aged 5 months, and Edward Otto b 1886).

Rene Patmore’s wedding was announced by notice in the Mercury on 24 May 1917 referring to the groom as Arthur Thomas Howden Harrison recognising that his parent’s surname was Howden but that was not the name by which he was known.

Arthur’s mother, Millie Howden died in the Mercy Hospital in East Melbourne Hospital in 1902, aged 22 years, when her son was about four. Dennis Howden did not rear his son although he lived until 1949 when he died in Northcote, Melbourne aged 73. The young Arthur was taken in by his aunt Caroline to live with her husband and daughter Elsie. This link was revealed in 2008 when Glennys Tumney found Elsie’s marriage certificate. (shown below.)showing Thomas Harrison and his wife ‘Carrie’ (nee Kenney) had a daughter Elsie Violet born in 1893.

‘Carrie’, Millie Howden’s eldest sister, and Thomas Harrison must have linked up and went to India around 1893. When Millie died her sister her nephew to India where he grew up in his stepfather’s business. We now know that he was known in India as Arthur Thomas Harrison. In 1917 he returned to Australia and married his Thomas Harrison’s niece Catherine Patmore. Father Cullen felt obliged to use the groom’s original name and Rene’s family acknowledged the groom’s preferred name in the newspaper. However the double-barrelled name soon proved too much of a mouthful and Arthur continued to be known as Harrison and accept Thomas as his father.

Elsie Harrison returned to Australia about the same time, perhaps they travelled together, for she married Harold Ford in Portland Victoria on 8 November 1919. They had two daughters Myrtle, in 1920, and Kath in 1923. The photo below is of Harold, Elsie and Myrtle in 1920.

In 1926 she apparently returned to India was not heard of again. The photo below is of her daughters at that time. Elsie remains a mystery. A search of the Scottish birth register found no Elsie or Violet born in Beith although there were other Harrisons born there and living there. Perhaps she wished to disguise her birthplace. What happened to Elsie and her parents and why did she say she was born in Beith. If she returned India in 1926 she was then 33 and her father was 54 and her mother 52. Arthur William Howden (Harrison) remembers that hid grandfather Thomas died when before he was 10; that was in 1931. This roughly coincides with Elsie’s return. He does not remember his grandmother, Caroline, at all. There is a record of Elsie J Ford, age 47, as one of the British passengers travelling from Bombay to Southampton on the Andes in November 1946, just before India became independent. She intended to live at 20 Clive Lodge Hendon and said she was a housewife.

Arthur returned to India with Rene and their first child Lucy Clarice Mary was born at 15 Victoria Rd. Ghoupuri, Poonah on 27 September 1918. The family lived opposite the British Army barracks (Green Howards Regiment?) [see google map ]

Arthur and Rene in India Christmas 1917

Rene preferred to have her children in Australia and so she and Arthur travelled home to Hobart for the birth to Arthur William on 20 September 1921 they left a few days later and came back again in 1928 for the birth of Victor Redmond. They was coming back again when their last child, Harry Handy, was born prematurely in Colombo on 12 February 1929 after Rene fell from a horse. This boy was named after his father’s friend, the circus owner Harry Handy, but universally known as Pat – perhaps after his mother’s eldest uncle. Victor’s son Phillip recalls his father speaking of his time in Colombo so we can assume that the family spent some years there. Arthur William has a scrapbook that includes receipts for riding fees in 1929 for meetings at Galle and Kandy in Sri Lanka and in Rangoon, Burma. Arthur William was educated at a notable Anglo-Indian private school, Bishops College in Pune. This school was quite near the racecourse 3 km southeast of their home. His account of his life shows that the Harrison family enjoyed life in Pune mixing freely with both other expatriates and aristocratic locals. (Hence Hanna Hilda’s comment.) Lucy probably attended St Josephs College in Pune.

But life became more difficult for expatriates in the 1930s and Lucy, Victor and Pat were sent back to Hobart to live with their grandmother Catherine Patmore in 1935.3 Arthur had to leave school but not before he became Flyweight Champion of his House at Bishops College. Arthur returned to Australia in the care of one of his father’s jockeys, LW(Les) Marrable, but not to Tasmania but to Western Australia where he was apprenticed to the trainer Jack Anderson.

As World War II approached Arthur and Rene left India, returned to Tasmania and lived near her mother in Liverpool St. Catherine died in 1937 soon after they arrived back in Hobart and her age may have been another stimulus for their return. Rene’s brother Jack continued to run the furniture shop at 240 Liverpool Street.

Initially Arthur and Rene lived at 279 Liverpool St. and then for two years at 217 Collins Street. When World War II began Arthur falsified his age in order to enlist in the AIF and served as a private in the Medical Corps attached to the 40th Battalion. That he chose 1902 as a birth year probably has more to do with him appearing to be only 39, rather than being linked to his ‘adoption’ by Thomas and Carrie in that year. Arthur was in the Medical Corps and was serving at the 2/4th Casualty Clearing Station in Singapore when captured by the Japanese. Some of the female nurses from this station were escaped on the ships that were soon sunk and some of them were killed by the Japanese when they scrambled ashore on Bangka Island.
(see /

Arthur spent a harrowing time in Changi prison and on the Burma Railway leaving him badly incapacitated afterwards. His son Arthur William (Bill) enlisted in a Light Horse regiment attached to the 44th Battalion (Western Australian Rifles) in July 1941. However when seeking to join the AIF a year later he was rejected on account of an injured back suffered in a race-fall. Depressed he travelled through several States riding in various races and occasionally visiting Hobart. On one visit in 1944 he met and married Joan Pauline Marsh of Moonah.

Bill’s father was known as Arthur T Harrison after his marriage and throughout his time in India, when he was in the Army and later., as did his sons Victor and Pat. However although Bill had been known as Harrison until about 1944 he then began to say his name was ‘Howden known as Harrison’. From then on his family were called Howden. Bill’s brothers, Victor and Pat continued to be known as Harrison.

When Arthur was at War, Rene and the three children (then 21, 11 and 10) moved to 288 Liverpool Street and this remained the family home until 1954. Before the War Arthur worked as an electrical fitter but afterwards as a chef. As a Patmore relative owned the Coronation Hotel opposite his house it is likely that the hotel’s kitchen was where he plied his trade.

Just after the War Lucy married a policeman Keith Trevor Fookes (1919–1984). From 1945 until around 1950 it seems they lived next door to her parents at 290 Liverpool St. then moved to house 13 Montagu Bay Rd. in Montagu Bay.

Arthur Thomas Howden Harrison died in the Repatriation Hospital in Hobart in 1955. Shortly before his death he moved to Rocklyn Ave. Moonah and Rene and Pat lived there until at least 1960. Rene died at Lucy’s house in Montagu Bay in June 1965. William and Victor left the family home to be married around 1950.

Bill worked as an electrical assistant until 1970 when the electoral roll records him as being a mechanic From his marriage until 1968 they lived in Moonah at 9a Fleet next door to Joan’s parents and then moved to 782 Sandy Bay Rd. They had two children Anthony John P (Tony) and Tammy. Around 1981 they left Tasmania to live in Brisbane. Joan died in July 2008 and Tony six months later.

Victor Redmond Harrison (1928-1986) married Patricia Alice McHugo and had two sons, Phillip David (born June 1952) and Benjamin. Victor was a valuer and after his marriage he and Patricia lived first at 99 Brisbane St., then in the 1960s in Corinna St. Lindisfarne and finally at 31 Waimea Ave. Sandy Bay. Victor died there in April 1986 aged 58.

Pat was widely known and respected as an actor and director. The whole family had been involved with music and the theatre while in India and when he returned to Hobart Pat made it his life. His brother Bill played in a band that amongst other places was broadcast by the ABC each week. Pat was closely associated with the University Drama Society (The Old Nick Company). When not in the theatre Pat was a clerk with Transport Commission and when he retired he was senior clerk. He died in June 1999.

Arthur Victor and Pat in song