Around 1843 a young lad from the island of Amoy became a cabin boy on the cutter “Atlas” and sailed to Port Albert, Australia, with only a small bundle of personal possessions which included a walnut and an English Bible. He was passed on as a houseboy to Angus McMillan, an early explorer and surveyor in Victoria, by the ship’s Captain, and so began his new life far away from his home.
By the time he died from pneumonia at the age of 52, in 1883, he had earned the reputation of an ‘exemplary citizen’.
His grave, marked by an impressive cenotaph, lies in the Sale cemetery with his wife Isabella. Several of his descendents can also be found there.
In 1997 a plaque was erected in the town of Sale, as a belated honouring of Thomas Coto and others for their contribution to the founding of the town. It has since been removed, but was recovered by his great grand daughter Lexie Townsend who now holds it as a family treasure.
This is his story; how a very ordinary Chinese boy, became a very extraordinary Australian citizen, by overcoming racial and cultural odds with his quiet unassuming Christian faith. He found true love and happiness in his marriage, and wholeheartedly assimilated himself into his new land.
His legacy continues to inspire new generations that stem from him.
In 2009 his great grandson Group Captain Alexander Ralph Coto (known later as Cato) RDF, Victoria, was honoured for services to his country for exceptional service to the Royal Australian Air Force Specialist Reserve, as the Director of Air Force Health Reserves within the Australian Defence Force.