JUST ahead of Father's Day here's a tale of a very special family bond between the father and son who were in the Tolpuddle Martyrs.

Researchers at Shire Hall in Dorchester have provided us with information about Thomas and John Standfield.

Aged 44, Thomas was the oldest of the Tolpuddle Martyrs, the group of six men credited with kick starting the trade union movement in the UK.

In The Horrors of Transportation written in 1838, John Standfield describes the terrible conditions he and the other five Tolpuddle Martyrs endured once they reached Australia in 1834.

On arrival in Australia, all the men were sent to different farms to work for their masters. John discovered that his father was working on a farm only three miles from his own. John went to his overseer to ask if he could visit Thomas and was given permission.

He went in search of Thomas, “After some time I found him in great distress, and he related to me some of the sufferings he had already gone through.”

John was greatly concerned for his father and again was able to visit him three weeks later. “He was then a dreadful spectacle, covered with sores from head to foot, and weak and helpless as a child. I went to see the place assigned him for his lodgings, and when I arrived at the place he pointed to the place where he slept….after my father had been out in the bush from sunrise to sunset, he had then to retire to a watch-box 6 feet by 18 inches, with a small bed and one blanket…where he could lie and gaze upon the starry heavens, and where the wind blew in at one end and out the other, with nothing to ward off the peltings of the pitiless storms.” As well as this, Thomas had to walk four miles for his rations at night.

Dutiful and caring son that he was, John continued to visit Thomas for about nine months, until he was moved to a different farm and master 30 miles away from his father. His new overseer would not give him permission to visit Thomas, despite his worries for his welfare.

John and Thomas were reunited in January 1836 and finally pardoned in 1837, arriving back in England in March 1838. In 1846 John, Thomas and the Standfield families emigrated to Canada, where three of the other Tolpuddle Martyrs had already settled to farm. John acquired a farm close to his father’s land and named it ‘Dorset Hall’. Father and son remained close until Thomas’s death in 1864.

John’s concern and care for his father in Dorset, Australia and Canada is one of the greatest examples of family bonds at Shire Hall and testament to the powerful and enduring story of the Tolpuddle Martyrs.