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Ayres, Thomas (1828-1913)
Trader, gold digger and naturalist; lived mainly in
||Born in Hereford, England. Eldest son of John Ayres and his wife,
Heléne Duschesne. Father was mayor of Hereford.
||Family emigrated to Natal as part of first major influx of
British settlers to that region.
||Together with other settlers tried his luck in the
Australian goldfields for a few years. He was unsuccessful and returned to Natal
where he settled near Pinetown as a planter. However, his main interest was in
natural history, particularly birds. Through an introduction by H.E. Colenso, he
developed a lifelong friendship with the ornithologist J.H. Gurney who lived in
Norwich, England. Collected birds widely in Natal.
||Moved to Potchefstroom where his brother Walter was already
living. They were involved in itinerant trading and followed the trek boers to
the Crocodile and Marico Rivers. His home was known as 'The Ark' or 'Uncle Tom's
Cabin'; Austin Roberts was one of the many visitors.
||Tried his luck unsuccessfully on the Lydenburg gold
||Travelled as naturalist on an expedition to Matebeleland.
|31 July 1913
||Died in Potchefstroom.
Ayres was married and had one son, Thomas Lambert. Uncle of
Alfred D. Millar.
He published on birds, mainly in Ibis.
Most of bird skins were sent to Gurney and are now in the
Natural History Museum, London, and the Liverpool Museum. Figures prominently in
Roland Trimen's volumes of 'SA Butterflies' 1887 as a collector and contributor
of butterflies (C. Quickelberg, pers. comm.). Also referred to in L.A.
Péringuey's publications on beetles.
FitzSimons, V.F.M. 1977. Ayres, Thomas. In Dictionary of
South African Biography Volume III (ed. C.J. Beyers). Tafelberg-Uitgewers,
Cape Town, pp. 36-37.
& Codd (1981), p. 83.