From Lanarkshire, Scotland to the Swan River, 1831 – Chapter Two

 A piece of history: The Scott and McGregor families arrived in Western Australia aboard the sailing ship "Eliza" under Captain James Weddell on March 5, 1831. Drawing by Mary McGregor-Craigie.

A piece of history: The Scott and McGregor families arrived in Western Australia aboard the sailing ship "Eliza" under Captain James Weddell on March 5, 1831. Drawing by Mary McGregor-Craigie.

We are indebted to the dedicated historians who during my lifetime have gathered and recorded the Australian stories from the grandchildren of our adventurous forbears. 

Namely within the family, the late Mrs Verna Glossup whose mother was Catherine Scott daughter of John Scott jr. and Catherine (nee Roberts).  

I have memories as a teenager of history search letters going back and forth between Verna and my Grandfather AW McGregor who had by then retired to the town of Busselton.

Being very active and capable workers with survival and success as their priorities they may never have felt the need of diaries beyond business records, or if they did such treasures may have been lost. 

They obviously were modest pioneers who did not at the time recognise the importance of their own contributions towards the settlement of the South West of this state.   

One interesting anecdote that suggests John Scott’s reluctance with correspondence is a letter written from Scotland to the West Australian Newspaper 1887 by a nephew William Gardner VC.   

He wrote in the hope of news of his Uncle John of whom he had not heard in years.     

William may have also been preoccupied. 

His service with the wars of the Empire saw him as Sargent Major of the 42 Highland Regiment in 1858 awarded the Victoria Cross for gallantry in the face of the enemy.   

He was awarded five other distinguished service medals during his military career.   

Their progress and productive history of the Scott family and the fact that they never returned to Scotland suggests that they were happy with their venture in the new world. 

They may have considered themselves fortunate to have survived the initial risky sea voyage and did not see any benefit in gambling with the odds against further sea voyages.  

They may also have been content in the knowledge that they were leaving Scotland’s bloody military history behind them. 

The haunting Battle of Culloden 1746 and its aftermath was at that time still within reach of living memory.     

Helen may have weighed the pros and cons for the future of her sons with recollections of the day when she gave birth to her first son Daniel McGregor. 

Daniel was born on the June 18, 1815 while the historically decisive battle of Waterloo raged a few hundred miles away on European soil.

 We have learned from the diaries of other passengers on board the sailing ship “Eliza” that left Gravesend on the South bank of the Thames estuary in England on August 30, 1830, that almost everything that could go wrong, did go wrong during the lengthy trip. 

In this modern era we look back in awe of their courage and tenacity in the face of potential disasters. 

Their trials and tribulations on board the wooden sailing vessel ranged from interrupted compass function, drinking water concerns due to inability to stock up from islands where threat of disease had to be avoided, and becalming after leaving the Cape of Good Hope which took them very close to being wrecked on the shore and a seawater leak exacerbated by a storm on the Indian Ocean.  

Being menaced by pirates in the Bay of Biscay early on, was probably the lesser threat of the entire voyage, but it may not have seemed so at the time. 

While circling the “Eliza” a few times, a pirate ship raised the black flag.   

The voyagers were saved mostly by the comparatively larger size and build of the “Eliza” which did not invite easy access for the pirates to board, and Captain Weddell’s handling of the situation.   

The Captain had the ship’s cannons moved from below, to the upper deck and armed all men after raising the British ensign. 

The pirates then changed their course. 

After a six weeks delay at Cape Town and two months crossing the Indian Ocean the journey from Scotland ended on the March 5, 1831 according to shipping records.   

The Scott family reached Fremantle at the mouth of the Swan River apparently without further incident. 

The port had been named in honour of Captain Charles Fremantle RN who was in charge of the appropriately named HMS “Challenger”.

Less than two years earlier Captain Fremantle had claimed the whole of this continent for Britain apart from New South Wales which was already a State of the Commonwealth.   

Captain Fremantle’s initial approach to the coastline was cautious, spending a few days in Cockburn Sound in the lee of Garden Island.

The two ships that followed in the wake of the “Challenger” were the HMS “Sulphur” and the “Parmelia”.

Both sustained damage on rocks in their approach and some passengers endured great difficulties before finally setting foot on the mainland. 

The “Sulphur” which carried troops to protect the colony sustained less damage, but the “Parmelia” that ran aground on a shoal and was re-floated the next day, carried not only Gov. Stirling and family but a number of first settlers, tradesmen and professional people. 

Our intrepid ancestors must have had their own problems on arrival in the new colony aboard the sailing ship “Eliza”.

We are left to wonder how they dealt with the major undertaking of offloading their livestock and farm implements and moving up the river to where they settled at Guildford.

Contact bfsdg1838@iinet.net.au or visit the Bunbury’s First Settlers Descendants Group Facebook page for more information. 

Members of Bunbury’s First Settlers’ Descendants Group will hold a ‘family reunion’ event on December 1 at PC Payne Park, acknowledging the descendants of John and Helen Scott as well as Helen’s first son, Daniel McGregor. 

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