The First Fleet marine William Standley was born about 1752 in England.  He may be the William Standley who was born at Plymouth, Devon, on 3 July, 1752 (Woods, 2005)

Standley was a private of the 5th Portsmouth Company of the Royal Marines.  He joined the ship Sirius on 24 February, 1787 (Gillen, 1989).

Standley made a will on 30 August 1788 in favour of fellow marine friend, James Williams. At the same time Williams made out his will favouring Standley. Both these wills, witnessed by Sirius Captain John Hunter and Purser John Palmer, still exist in the UK National Archives.

Remaining on the Sirius until 24 June 1789, Standley was subsequently discharged to the Port Jackson detachment, where he remained until the completion of his service.  Deciding to remain in the colony, Standley was one of the marine settlers granted land on Norfolk Island.  He travelled to Norfolk Island on the Atlantic, on 26 October 1791, part of a group on 29 marine settlers, including his friend James Williams, who had previously been posted for a marine term on Norfolk Island.

Elected as a member of the Norfolk Island Settlers Association, by the end of November Standley had 10 acres under cultivation on his leasehold grant of 60 acres, Lot 43, at Phillipsburg. 

Standley married Mary Anstey, a convict who had arrived on the Lady Juliana. This was possibly one of the marriages officiated by the Reverend Richard Johnson on 5 November, 1791, and for which records do not exist.  Mary had been convicted in 1787 at the Warwickshire Assizes, for the theft of two silk handkerchiefs from the shop of George Stubbs in Birmingham, and sentenced to seven years transportation.

Mary arrived at Norfolk Island on the ship Lady Nelson on 4 November, 1791.  If she and Standley were married on the following day, she either knew Standley in Sydney, or this was a marriage of convenience.  On 16 August 1792, a daughter, Mary, was born and a second child, Joseph, was born about three years later.

By 1805, Standley is recorded as selling grain to the stores and by 1807 he had nine acres of grain, eight sheep, three sows and had 100 bushels of maize in store.

Following the government decision to abandon Norfolk Island, William, Mary and their children sailed on the third embarkation to Van Diemen’s Land on board the Lady Nelson, on 14 February 1808.  They left behind all their land cleared, a shingled, boarded and floored house (22x12ft), and three thatched log outhouses all valued at £20 (Gillen, 1989).

The Lady Nelson arrived at Derwent Bridge on 1 March, 1808.  Standley was initially awarded 50 acres at Clarence Plains.


William Standley’s wife, Mary, died on 15 November 1812, with her burial recorded at St David’s, Hobart.

By January 1817 Standley had 50 acres at Tea Tree (Ulva), where he appears to have lived in close proximity to his daughter, Mary and her husband, ex convict and Government Coxswain on Norfolk Island, James Lowe. 

On 20 February, 1830, William Standley drowned in the Derwent River at Compton Ferry.  According to newspaper reports the night was very dark and he stepped off the platform to the punt, falling into the river.  A search found only his hat.  James Lowe subsequently advertised, offering a reward for the location of Standley’s body, but there is no record of this being claimed.

Advertisement: (Colonial Times, 26.02.1830) Five Pounds Reward Whereas, on Saturday evening last, William Standley aged 77 was drowned at Compton Ferry, while in the act of getting into the Punt, owing to the darkness of the night. The above Reward will be paid to any Person finding his Body and delivering it to me, James Lone.

-          Tea Tree Brush: Feb 22, 1830

As his friend James Williams had died some ten years earlier it would be of interest to know whether William Standley, at the time of his death a family man, had replaced his earlier will with one favouring his own children or descendants.

Note: This story has been prepared by #7701 Gloria Wallace,  a descendant of James Williams. The author invites descendants of William Standley to replace it with a more comprehensive version of their own.



Gillen, M. The Founders of Australia: A Biographical Dictionary of the First Fleet, Library of Australian History, Sydney 1989.

Wood, Graeme A.  As Far As I Can Tell: The story of first fleet marine William Standley and some of his descendants, Burnie, Tasmania, 2005.

Colonial Times, Hobart, Tasmania 26 February 1830. pp 1-3.

The Courier, Hobart, Tasmania 18 November, 1842 p.2.

The Courier, Hobart, Tasmania, 26 February, 1848, p.2.



Copyright Fellowship of First Fleeters