Thomas Fyshe Palmer

1747 - 1802

One of the so-called 'Scottish Martyrs'. Palmer was born into a wealthy family in England and educated at Eton and Cambridge. He became a clergyman and soon took a radical stance on religion, becoming a Unitarian - a faith founded on individuals developing their own religious opinions. He came to Scotland in 1783 to preach in Montrose. In 1785, he moved to Dundee to serve the Unitarian Society there and founded a Unitarian Church in the city. He frequently preached in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Forfar and Arbroath, spreading Unitarian principles to these towns. In Dundee, Palmer became involved with the radical weaver George Mealmaker (1768 - 1808) and together they wrote a pamphlet which railed against the 'despotism and tyranny' of the British government. For this Palmer was arrested and tried. He was accused of sedition and also of supplying William Skirving (c.1745-96) with a hundred copies of his pamphlet for distribution. Palmer was convicted and joined other reformers, including Skirving and Maurice Margarot (1745 - 1815), for transportation to New South Wales. As a political prisoner, Palmer enjoyed a degree of freedom in Australia and was able to establish a business trading with Norfolk Island. Palmer died during the journey back to Britain after the completion of his sentence. Palmer is one of those commemorated by the Martyrs' Monument in Old Calton Burial Ground in Edinburgh.

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