Tommy (Jumbo) at Gepps Cross Hotel (Mr Matthews)

† Tommy (Jumbo)
ID Number:
Species: Asian elephant
Sex and age:Male 9 years
Dead date: 1858
Death reason: disease: chill after a cold rainy night
Location:Gepps Cross Hotel (Mr Matthews)
ArrivedGepps Cross Hotel (Mr Matthews)
from Smiths Hotel (John Smith)
Smiths Hotel (John Smith) 1854-00-00
from Cremorne Hotel Gardens
Cremorne Hotel Gardens 1854-00-00
from Mr J. Thomas
Born:1849? India
Document updated2013-05-19:text
2016-03-31: more records, last location
One of the two first elephants in Australia, the second is Sarah (Jenny Lind).

1851: The first importation of elephants into Australia appears to be in late 1851 when a male and female elephant from Dacca, India were shipped from Calcutta on board the ship Golden Saxon. She came into port at Hobart. The male elephant was sold at auction, and was exhibited around various hotels in Hobart before he was shipped to Melbourne, before ending up in Adelaide where he ended up pulling a plow. The elephant was named "Tommy" It appears he died around 1860, however I still have to confirm a definite death date on this animal.
Liz Clark

1851: Tommy’s origins begin in Calcutta India where he was shipped at 20 months old with another female elephant on The Royal Saxon on route to Sydney via Tasmania August 1851. One elephant was purchased and sent to Sydney and the male, Tommy, was auctioned off to the public and then exhibited around hotels in Tasmania by a Mr J. Thomas.

In November 1851 Tommy travelled from Melbourne and then to Adelaide under different owners who used him to exhibit.

1854: In a news item from April 1854 Mr. T. Bentley, licensee of the Cremorne Hotel in Unley, is reported as having installed an elephant named 'Jumbo' in a small zoo and tea gardens next to the hotel. It was here where our elephant Tommy caused much mischief and ruined their garden.

1855: The Adelaide newspaper 'The Register' reported on the 24th May, 1855, 'Mr. John Smith, of Smiths Hotel, Smiths Creek, near Smithfield, has lately taken into his employ an agricultural labourer, who though only 5 years of age, combines the strength of an ox with the docility of a lamb.

In those days, bullock teams passed by the Smith farm, travelling to and from the Burra and the Smiths sold water to them at the rate of one penny per head of stock. But Tommy was too slow and two bullocks could do the job faster. He was then used to pull a plough. He did the job well, but again was too slow, so he was sold in 1855 for £300 to Mr Matthews, licensee of the Gepps Cross Hotel.

At the annual Agricultural and Horticultural Show in the Adelaide Parklands during February 1855, Tommy participated in a walking race with a horse, which the elephant won by some two hundred yards. The first time I saw “Tommy” was when he was sold to the Smith’s owners of Smiths Hotel, at Smith’s Creek, near Smithfield (South Australia) around May 1855. The elephant was walked the thirty miles from Adelaide to Smithfield along the Main North Road, and had a great following of hangers on and curious onlookers, including my family as he passed by the Windmill Hotel. It was with great excitement that the family went to Gepps Cross, using our spring cart and some on horseback to see the marvelous elephant known as ‘Tommy’. The four wheeled carriage that Mr Matthews had made for the elephant was also used to transport some twenty people along the road from Gepps Cross to Enfield (South Australia). The whole family climbed aboard the carriage for the return journey down the hill. A great day was had by all and a very memorable birthday treat.Paul M Hoskins

1858: I have information on Tommy the elephant who was exhibited at the Cremorne Tea Gardens in 1855. He was purchased by my gg grandfather who owned the Gepps Cross Hotel. The Matthews family became very attached to the elephant whom they renamed from Jumbo to Tommy. Tommy died in 1858 and is buried somewhere at Gepps Cross. His hide was sent back home to England.Ann Portlock

Tommy died tragically in 1858 when he was only nine years old from a chill after a cold rainy night. His bones are rumoured to be buried in the field by Gepps Cross Hotel.

Today, his legacy is remembered in such establishments as the old Elephant Barn located along Main North Road toward Gawler, the striking red steel tusk sculptures at Smithfield Train Station, Playford’s own Elephant Walking trail (located on the Corner of Anderson Walk & Morialta Drive, Smithfield) and Unley’s Cremorne Hotel’s emblem.

Sources, among others

  • Liz Clark, http://circuszooanimals.blogspot.com/2012/11/the-first-elephants-in-australasia.html
  • Ann Portlock, http://www.playford.sa.gov.au/elephant
  • Memories of Tommy the Elephant described in ‘Caleb 1849-1926’ by Paul M Hoskins., http://www.aussie210.com/2016/01/19/memories-of-tommy-the-elephant/

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