Sarah Dicken Symes née Thompson (1838 – 1900) was born in Scotland around 1838 and emigrated to Queensland with her parents, arriving on the ship Caroline on 17 November 1853. She worked as a domestic servant before marrying Henry James Symes at Drayton on 4 May 1856. The couple had 12 children. Sarah died at Toowoomba on 14 July 1900 and is buried in the Toowoomba and Drayton Cemetery.

Sarah Dicken Thompson arrived in Brisbane, aged 15, on 17 November 1853 with her father James and her stepmother Mary, aboard the schooner Caroline. Sarah’s mother Isabella Lowe had died in Scotland and her father James had remarried. Sarah was the only surviving child from his first marriage.

Henry James Symes married Sarah Dicken Thompson on 4 May 1856 at the Parsonage, Drayton. They gave their ages as 23 and 21, whereas by other records they seem to have been 25 and 18. Henry, who had changed his surname from Hyde to Symes, recorded his father’s name as John Symes and said he was an attorney, although in the 1851 UK census he is listed as a law clerk.

Sarah is listed as a domestic servant in the New South Wales Assisted Immigrant Passenger Lists and as a servant on the marriage extract. Together Sarah and Henry had 12 children. The eldest child born on 25 February 1857 was Sarah Maria Symes, who pre-deceased her parents and was buried in the Toowoomba and Drayton Cemetery. The youngest child was Jessie Blanche Symes, born on 8 March 1879. The 12 births span almost 22 years.

The family lived in Drayton from about 1856 to 1860 and again around 1870 to 1872, before moving in to Toowoomba where they lived until at least 1900. Henry held the mail contract until 1869 and for most of the 1860s they were living in Leyburn, which was on the mail route between Toowoomba and Goondiwindi. In August 1864, Henry was also appointed Pound Keeper at Leyburn.

Sarah Dicken Symes died of heart disease on 14 July 1900 at the family home in Hume Street, Toowoomba. Her husband, under the pen-name Sigma, published a poem in memory of his wife in the Toowoomba Chronicle and Darling Downs General Advertiser on 11 August 1900 (see newspaper article ‘In Tribute’). Sarah was buried in the Toowoomba and Drayton Cemetery near her daughter, Sarah Maria Symes.

Information for this biography was contributed by Denis Peel, great-grandson of Henry Symes.


Denis Peel, ‘Sarah Dicken Symes (née Thompson) (1838 – 1900)’, Harry Gentle Resource Centre, Griffith University, 2020,


In Tribute, Toowoomba Chronicle and Darling Downs General Advertiser, 11 August 1900, p. 3.

Advertising, Queensland Figaro, 15 May 1902, p. 18.

Estates Administered, The Telegraph, 30 August 1902, p. 6.

Online Resources

Births, Deaths & Marriages Queensland, marriage registration, 1859/C/315

Births, Deaths & Marriages Queensland, death registration, 1900/C/1465

Harry Gentle Resource Centre: Henry James Symes (Hyde)