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Scots Australian History
Scotland Emigration to Australia 1815 - 1832
by David S MacMillan
Below are extracts taken from this book.

Continued from Part 1...

Further evidence in 1820 of the falling off in Leith’s Baltic trade appears in the application of James Anderson, a cooper and fish-curer of Edinburgh, who wrote ‘that business [i.e. fish-curing] has been very dull in Edinburgh and Leith in late years’. Cured and barrelled herrings had long been a staple Scottish export to the Baltic. Yet another indication of the decline of Leith’s trade with the Baltic and the north German ports is found in the applications of several merchants who had been in business in Hamburg, and who had returned to Edinburgh and Leith when their trade there fell off badly after the Elbe Mania of 1813-14. The effect of these setbacks to Leith’s trade on the local shipbuilding industry is seen, too, in the applications made on behalf of David McLean in 1822, and by R. D. and William Cuninghame in 1828. The latter applicants, father and son, were in business on a considerable scale in Leith, and subsequently established themselves in the same line in Sydney. Certain manufactures were also affected particularly badly, for in 1820, 1821, and 1822, a number of silk and shawl manufacturers in the capital made application, instancing the ‘considerable depression of trade’, and several other Leith and Edinburgh merchants described themselves as ‘unfortunate in business’, or referred to ‘the destroyed state of commerce in the district’.

It was from the mercantile class of the area of Edinburgh and Leith that the most imposing ‘group applications’ came, like the petition forwarded by William Arbuthnot, Lord Provost of Edinburgh, in January 1822 from eight men of property, all heads of families, who wished to go out ‘as a group of about sixty persons, proposing to take with us a surgeon, a schoolmaster, and two or three artificers, servants, etc.’ Their aim was to settle together ‘for our mutual protection’, and the list was headed by three prominent merchants, a teacher, and a lawyer. Commending them to the London authorities, the Lord Provost stated that they were taking with them considerable property, and were ‘experienced active men’.

In like fashion R. Towers, another Edinburgh merchant, had his application recommended by ‘the whole Town Council of Stirling’, his native city, and forwarded by Robert Downie, a local landowner and Member of Parliament. Thomas Callam’s approach in 1820 on behalf of the Leith and Edinburgh merchants who wanted approval to carry on their trading activities in the colonies was apparently successful, and it is clear from several subsequent applications that others in the mercantile community of the capital and its port were anxious to follow the example of Callam and his group.

The emigrating merchants from other areas also included men of substance. An example was Alexander Mackenzie of Cromarty, who arrived in Sydney, aged 53, in 1822, with sufficient capital to qualify for a grant of 2,000 acres near Bathurst in the following year. As secretary and cashier to the Bank of New South Wales in the 1820s, and first President of the Bathurst Bank (1835), he took part in many pastoral and mercantile ventures. In 1823 Peter Grant of Leith, a substantial young merchant who was to become one of the leading traders in Hobart, chartered the ship Heroine, a large vessel of 450 tons, and loaded it with goods valued at £3,000, at the same time applying for a grant of land; and in 1824 Frederick Schultze, member of a well-known family of Leith merchants, took out £1,500 in goods as stock with which to set up in business in Hobart. Similarly, the Mosman brothers from Lesmahagow, who went out in the chartered brig Civilian in 1828, were sufficiently wealthy to purchase several ships on arrival in Sydney, and to establish a whaling station, complete with workshops, stores, and trying-houses, on the northern shore of Port Jackson.

It is worth noting that most of the merchants who embarked for the colonies in 1820—4 still possessed considerable wealth. Not content to weather out the economic storm at home, they were adventurous enough to hazard their fortunes in what must have seemed to many of them an exciting new field for enterprise. Men like Schultze, Grant, and Callam were far from being ruined merchants, and David Murray, a prominent wine merchant with stores in Leith and a warehouse in Edinburgh who applied in March 1824, stated that he had engaged ‘three tradesmen with their families’ for Van Diemen’s Land, in addition to domestic servants and two nephews to assist him in trading and agricultural activities in the colony. In the same year William Young, merchant in Leith, gave his capital as £2,000, and stated another £500 on his son’s account in applying for an additional grant for the youth.

Among the five Leith or Edinburgh merchants who applied in the general rush of 1820 was Thomas Wyld, a nephew of James Wyld of Gilston, prominent wine merchant and shipowner of Leith, and a founder and director of the Commercial Bank. This Australian contact may have been instrumental in turning the attention of Wyld and his business associates to Australia, and in influencing them in favour of the project of forming an Australian company in Leith two years later.

This was, essentially, a middle-class emigration, and a report in the Edinburgh Evening Courant of August 1821 brings this out very clearly:

There is now in Leith Roads a fine ship, the Castle Forbes—destined for New South Wales, being the third vessel of her size which, in the course of twelve months, has been fitted out at this port under the direction of Mr. Broadfoot, broker. . . . The Castle Forbes will take out 150 emigrants, nearly 100 of whom are cabin passengers, comprising capitalists of opulence and high respectability. We regret that the commerce and agriculture of our own country are no longer considered worthy objects of their speculation.

While it is apparent from the surge of applications from merchants in 1820 that the cause of the movement was largely economic, the effect of the publicizing work done by James Dixon and John Broadfoot of Leith is also clearly indicated. Both had inserted advertisements in the Scottish press offering passages and stating the opportunities for settlers by March 1820, and the Colonial Office, too, had published notices. A few weeks later the Edinburgh Scotsman came out strongly in favour of emigration with a front-page editorial article, a most unequivocal statement in favour of this remedy for ‘redundant population’. ‘We are surprised’, observed the editor, ‘that there should be so much reluctance to have recourse to this remedy’, and he urged that it should be directed to all available fields, including Australia, whether within or outside the Empire, ‘to the United States, Brazil, Buenos Ayres, or to Canada, New Holland or the Cape’.’ The more widely read and less ‘advanced’ Edinburgh Evening Courant did not indulge in editorial articles of this kind, but by the tone of its reports it, too, regarded the emigration favourably. If these important newspapers are any guide to the state of opinion in and around the capital, emigration was very much a current topic, as a solution not only for working-class distress, but for the frustrations and difficulties of the middle class as well.

In March 1820, just before the Shelton sailed on the first direct voyage between Scotland and Australia, Dixon was in Glasgow, where he was in touch with a group of merchants who had ‘suffered losses in trade’, and had apparently interested them in Australia, for he wrote to Goulburn on 11 March asking that they be sent information about the ‘indulgences granted to settlers’, probably in order to encourage them. Although there were comparatively few Glasgow merchants among the settlers of the 1820s, they included some very substantial and enterprising people. Proportionately, they figure more prominently in the later 1820s than in the earlier years when the emigration was at its height— perhaps an indication that Glasgow and the west were less severely affected by the stringencies of 1819—24 than the capital and its environs. Some had long been considering emigration to Australia, like John Forlong, Glasgow merchant, who sent his two sons to Saxony ‘to work in the best sorting-houses of Germany.. . so as to be fully instructed in the stapling of fine wools. . .‘ and to collect flocks ‘of the purest Electoral blood’. Forlong sent out his elder son in 1827—8 and applied for grants for the younger son and himself in 1829.

The great number of bankruptcies in and around Glasgow in 1819 and 1820, when many who had speculated in cotton were ruined owing to the fall in its price, seems to have had little effect in stimulating emigration to Australia from that quarter, and James Dixon’s encouragements were apparently in vain. The United States, and even the South American republics and Canada, were the fields that attracted the Glasgow emigrants and traders in the early 1820s. By April 1821 the Glasgow Agricultural Society was sending from the Clyde shiploads of settlers for Upper Canada, and Kirkman Finlay and other shipowners were urging their fellow townsmen in Glasgow to heed the good reports that were appearing in the press concerning the Illinois and the British provinces in North America. The Dundee, Perth and Cupar Advertiser reported in May that practically all of the 442 emigrants in the most recent exodus from Greenock for Quebec were drawn from Glasgow and the adjacent counties of Lanark and Renfrew. It was only after the collapse of several commercial ventures in the Americas at the close of 1825 that a Glasgow paper condemned the practice of ‘looking for exhaustless stores in places where they are not to be found.. . and ignoring the colonies (including Australia) with which we might yet carry on a sure and beneficial trade’.

The emigration from other populous parts of the West Country was likewise directed towards North America. In April 1819 the Glasgow Herald reported that no fewer than three sizeable vessels were lying at Dumfries, ready to sail for New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, and that 517 persons had already embarked, ‘the great proportion of them from Annandale, Wigtown and the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright. . . many of them small farmers who have yielded to the flattering statements of such writers as Birkbeck’. Several ships also sailed from Leith in 1819 for Halifax and Quebec, but by far the greater number of the emigrants to North America were from Glasgow, the south-west Lowlands, and the western Highlands. This movement was promoted by ‘the gentlemen of Renfrew and Lanarkshire’, who, in 1821, were making ‘earnest and repeated entreaties’ to the Government for a £10 bounty on passages. Their approaches were fruitless as regards bounties, but they did manage to secure an official assurance that there would be land grants, with implements supplied, for the lesser folk who emigrated to Upper Canada.

The flow of West Country and Highland emigration to North America was constant throughout the 1820s, and as far as the mass of intending emigrants among the working classes in the west of Scotland were concerned, the passage rates to Australia were prohibitive. ‘The great rage for emigration in Paisley’ among the handloom weavers, reported by the Tasmania in 1827, and the enthusiasm generated by a number of emigration societies in and around Glasgow, had little effect in swelling the flow of working-class people to Van Diemen’s Land or New South Wales.

J. R. McCulloch, writing in the Edinburgh Review when the controversy on assisted emigration was at its height, commended the Canadian schemes and described the North American colonies as ‘the most practicable breach’ for large-scale working-class emigration.

The occupations of the applicants of 1820—30, and their geographical distribution, confirm the accepted notions about the economic state of Scotland at that time. There is ample evidence of the effects of high rents and of the fall in prices in the Lowlands, and of the decline of the tacksmen in the Highlands, of commercial distress in the cities and depression in the small country towns. Even more important, the fact emerges that it was in certain districts, and among certain classes and occupations, that emigration to Australia had a particular ‘vogue’ or attraction. The mercantile class in Edinburgh and Leith stands out among these categories as the largest and most concentrated in location of them all. In the four years from January 1820 no fewer than twenty-three merchants in the capital and its port made application, and in 1824 ten more applied—a remarkable number. By December 1824 nearly 200 applications had been made from the district, and it was not surprising that when the Reverend Archibald Macarthur’s ordination charge for his Van Diemen’s Land mission was delivered in Edinburgh, extraordinary scenes should have been witnessed at Dr. Jamieson’s chapel. According to Dr. James Peddie, ‘hundreds were unable to gain admission’, and, even allowing for the religious fervour of the supporters of the United Associate Synod, the incident showed a keen public interest in this first extension of the Scottish Presbyterian polity (albeit in secession) to distant Australia.

Of all the intending settlers between 1820 and 1830 whose place of origin in Scotland is specified, 246 were in Edinburgh, Leith, the Lothians, and Fife, as against 192 for the rest of the country. This figure, nearly three-fifths of the total, was completely out of relative proportion to the population of the districts specified as compared with that of the rest of the country.

Next in importance, after the merchants and manufacturers of Leith and Edinburgh, were the farmers in the Lothians and Fife, of whom twenty-four applied. As well as these two main concentrations of intending settlers, there were minor clusters of applicants in various districts. The pressure of local distress, and the shortage of farms and the fall in prices, were doubtless partly responsible for this and were mentioned in some petitions, but more often it appears that the example of some enterprising individual inspired the emulation of friends, relations, and neighbours. An example of this was the emigration of farmers and landowners from Caithness in 1822—3.

Among the leaders of this movement was David Brodie, a landowner and Deputy Lieutenant whose family had been established in that county for two centuries. In 1822 he sold his estate and, with a capital of £3,000 applied for grants for himself and his three sons, his referee being Alexander Macleay of the Transport Board, another Caithness man. Brodie was possibly influenced by the example of William and George Innes, the sons of George Innes, tacksman of Isould, nearby, for Caithness, though not generally considered as a Highland county, had known the tacksman system, and the Inneses had failed to secure a renewal of the Isould lease on their father’s death and decided to go out to Australia. By December 1823 ten applications had been made, with success, by persons in this small area.

There were small concentrations of applicants in other districts: three in Orkney, in 1822—3; eleven in the southern part of the county of Angus between 1820 and 1823; and from in and around the small port and market town of Montrose, further north, there were eight applications in that period. In 1824 seven applications came from the Highland district of Lochalsh, in Wester Ross, five from tacksmen and two from half-pay army officers, four of them bearing the name of Macrae and probably closely related in blood. This group were of the tacksman class; one of them, Donald Macrae of Achtertyre, stated that he intended to take out his servants, and another, Duncan Macrae, stated his capital as £1,000.

Another east coast locality, adjacent to the main emigration area of Edinburgh, Leith, the Lothians, and Fife, and providing a number of settlers, was Dundee, from which five applications came in 1827—8, four of the intending settlers being merchants and the fifth a lawyer. Two of these merchants, the Bell brothers, were connected with the Dundee firm of Bell and Balfour, which the Scots firm of Chalmers and Guthrie in London described as ‘one of the oldest and highest standing in point of character and wealth in the mercantile community of Scotland’, and the Bells’ referee was given as the Honourable Hugh Lindsay, M.P. for Dundee and chairman of the East India Company. Their project was certainly ambitious, for the firm planned to send out two of its ships, each ‘expedition’ to be under one of the brothers. The capital involved was £10,000, and this venture may have stimulated the other applications from the district.

Apart from these, there were no other Lowland districts from which applications were made in appreciable numbers. By the end of December 1823 only 27 applications had been received from Glasgow and district, already the greatest centre of population in Scotland, but by that date 84 had been received from  Edinburgh and Leith, and 46 more from the surrounding counties of the Lothians, Fife, and Berwickshire.

Scotland was still essentially a country of self-contained regions, and the Scottish settlers were predominantly drawn from the south-east, with other small groups proceeding from Caithness, Angus, the Mearns (the Montrose group), and with a number drawn from places all over the Highlands and islands. The contribution to the emigration of Glasgow and its surrounding industrial district, and of the fairly thickly populated West Country of the Lowlands, was remarkably slight.

Certain other occupational groups figured consistently, though slightly, in comparison with the merchants, farmers, tacksmen, and other agriculturists. There were the half-pay army and naval officers, of whom forty-four made application between 1817 and 1830. Roughly half of the officers who applied were Highlanders, and many of them were tacksmen or the, sons of tacksmen. Few, according to their accounts of their means, were wholly dependent on their half pay, and several had farming experience. Of those who applied from the Lowlands, a large number were resident in and around Edinburgh, and in Fife.

A small but significant group were the shipmasters. As early as 1801 William Stewart arrived in Sydney as mate in a ship belonging to the Scottish firm of Campbell and Clark of Calcutta, and soon found employment as a commander of vessels for Commissary John Palmer, Robert Campbell, and a number of others. In 1823 no fewer than three shipmasters applied for permission to settle and for land grants, and while the means of two of them, Andrew Donald and John Young of Leith, were not specified, the other, William Wilson, captained his own brig, the Deveron, and had plans to go into the whale fishery. He also intended to take up agriculture, and had merino sheep and farm servants ready to embark. Between 1823 and 1829 seven more shipmasters’ applications are recorded, the last being that of John McLeod, commander of the brig Lion, who stated his intention of taking up agriculture on his grant in March 1829. Captain Arthur Hogue, an applicant of 1825, master and owner of the brig Venus, which he intended to take out, together with a capital of no less than £25,000, had accumulated his fortune as an owner-captain in the Indian ‘Country’ trade between Bengal and Ceylon, and intended to carry on business as a shipowner in the colony, as well as becoming an agriculturist.

At least three of the captains in the service of the Australian Company of Edinburgh and Leith settled in Australia before 1830. Captains Duncan McKellar and Christopher Moodie went out to New South Wales and took up land grants in the late 1820s. Captain James Crear went out in the Drummore in 1830 as a settler. These cases illustrate the depression in the Scottish shipping trade, especially in the east coast ports, following the Peace of 1815. Even before the large-scale Scottish emigration began in 1820 several sea captains had found their way to Van Diemen’s Land, induding Thomas Ritchie and George Frederick Read, who both went out in 1818.

Table III

Surgeons and physicians were another prominent group. Among the Scots applicants between 1815 and 1830 there were no fewer than twenty-two surgeons and six physicians. Some of them were extremely well qualified, like James Murdoch, a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, ‘late Physician Accoucheur to the Edinburgh Dispensary, and Lecturer in Midwifery’, who advertised in Hobart in 1822 that he intended to practise, specializing in midwifery and children’s diseases. Another highly qualified medical man was Daniel Schaw, Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh and an extraordinary member of the Royal Medical Society. He, too, intended to practise in the colony, as did Adam Turnbull, who was the son-in-law of the Postmaster-General of Scotland and held the degree of Doctor of Medicine of Edinburgh University.

Many had served in the navy, and came out in charge of transported convicts. By 1820 Robert Armstrong, David Reid, Thomas Reid, Matthew Anderson, and William Macdonald had visited Australia twice, as surgeon-superintendents of convict ships, and both James Bowman and Robert Espie had made three voyages. Several of them eventually settled in the colony, including James Mitchell, who was appointed to the Sydney Hospital in 1823 and was later to become a coal-mining magnate, and Peter Cunningham, author of the popular Two Years in New South Wales. A good number of Scots surgeons in addition to these made a single voyage prior to 1820, and among the superintendents listed by Bateson for the period up to 1832, Scots figure to a degree out of all proportion to the relative population of their country. In 1827 alone no fewer than five Scots surgeons, four of them serving on convict transports and the other in the East India Company’s marine, made application for land grants.

Other groups which figured to a lesser extent among the applicants were the commissary officers, of whom ten applied between 1817 and 1829, the surveyors and engineers (6), the landowners or sons of landowners (32), the distillers or brewers (5), teachers (5), retired East India officers (6), shipbuilders (3), mechanics (11), and manufacturers of cottons, woollens, silks, to the number of eight. Yet, with the exception of the army officers, these categories were small in comparison with the merchants (83) and the farmers (97) who applied in the same period. Still, the smaller professional groups of lawyers, surgeons, physicians, and teachers included many most useful additions to the colonial population.

The lawyers included young men like Alexander McPhail, who had only recently completed his training as a solicitor (but who would be ‘under the protection of Governor Macquarie’),’ and George Miller, a young writer who had served his legal apprenticeship with the town clerk of Perth. Others were experienced lawyers, like David Taylor, son of an Edinburgh official, who asked not only for a grant but for the registrarship of the colony, enclosing with his application a letter he had received from Colonel George Johnston of Annandale, Sydney (a friend of his father). Johnston described the improvements in the colony and wrote of the ‘number of respectable gentlemen recently arrived from Scotland as settlers’. Despite the differences between English law and the Scots law to which they had been accustomed, the lawyers took up practice in Australia, and some, like Robert Pitcairn, who became solicitor to the Australian Company in Hobart, came to be regarded as among the leading lawyers of the colony.

The teachers included both experienced men like James Ross, who had conducted his own school in London, and William Thomson of Edinburgh, ‘teacher of drawing and painting’, and inexperienced young men like the son of the minister of Dunbog in Fife, himself a licensed clergyman with a university education, who hoped to establish his own school in Van Diemen’s Land. Archibald Macarthur, the first Presbyterian clergyman to go out, in 1822, also planned to establish a school, and took with him a library and a printing-press. James Sprent of Glasgow, a graduate of the University there, was yet another who established a school—an academy for boys in Hobart, which flourished from 1831 until Sprent was engaged by the Government to conduct the trigonometrical survey of the island. Eventually he became surveyor-General.

The surveyors and engineers were another of the small, but important, professional groups. Among them was John Busby of Edinburgh, a civil engineer who had taken part in many of the important public works of the time, including the Caledonian Canal, the Loch Ryan harbour, and the military works at Stirling Castle. In Australia he was to achieve local fame by the planning and construction of ‘Busby’s Bore’, a piped water supply for Sydney. Another was Peter Fleming of Glasgow, who had experience of planning roads and waterworks in Scotland and had worked under Thomas Telford, to whom he referred the authorities in support of his application. Alexander Kinghorn of Roxburgh, who applied in 1823, had also taken part in the great Scottish road improvements of the time, and was recommended to Bathurst by Sir Walter Scott. Another was John Dickson, engineer, who took out the colony’s first steam engine in 1813.

The printing, publishing, and ancillary trades were also well represented among the Scottish emigrants. In Sydney in the late 1820s, nearly all of the fine engraving work for the local presses was done by John Carmichael, James and William Wilson, and William Moffitt, and in Hobart Scots were to the fore in the new field of journalism. By 1827 Henry Melville was editing the Colonial Times in that town and directing a steady flow of candid criticism against the Van Diemen’s Land authorities, while his fellow countryman John C. McDougall was editing the rival Tasmanian. In the same small capital yet another Scot, the Edinburgh lawyer Dr. James Ross, was editing two more newspapers, the official Hobart Town Gazette and his own private venture, the Hobart Town Courier.

...continue to Part 3



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