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

 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.

Daniel McGregor, son of Helen and stepson of John Scott, had already made an important pioneering contribution by the time he had led the first overland expedition to Bunbury, with livestock, from the Guildford Settlement in January 1838.

The Scott family, after arriving at the Swan River in March 1831, had gained six years of farming experience under West Australian conditions before their move to Bunbury. 

Being the elder sibling of the Scott family, and while pioneering at Guildford, Daniel gained valuable work experience from 15 years of age.

Daniel’s knowledge of livestock management and carpentry stood him in good stead for the challenges ahead.

Upon arrival at Bunbury, the Scotts had no shelter on the first night.

Helen apparently felt safest sleeping beside the camp fire in January 1838.

Tents were an improvement until they were able to gradually erect the bare essentials for living, after cutting and sawing timber by hand with the threat of winter only a few months away.

A photograph, taken about thirty years later, gives us a small insight into the amount of effort that was put into the buildings at their farming establishment at “Eelup”.

Apart from the servants already with the Scotts, it is likely the family had some assistance from tradesman or labourers who arrived with the failed nearby Australind Settlement Scheme in 1843 and found themselves without work. 

Scott’s first neighbour at Leschenault was government resident Henry Bull.

Lieutenant Bull was a retired officer of the Royal Navy who was appointed by Governor Stirling.

Stirling gifted the 15-acre property, Lot 26, to Lt. Bull to protect his own property assets from squatters and invaders, such as the American whalers, and also to impose tax on traders.

In 1841, George Eliot took up the position of Resident Magistrate following the retirement of Lt. Bull.

From the invaluable records of Verna Glossop’s book, Bunbury’s First Settlers, we learn that early in Mr Eliot’s term of office in 1842, the farming settlers, including John Scott, signed a petition to have pilotage dues on American whalers waived.

Both the settlers and sea farers were being deprived of the mutually beneficial trading agreements that had existed since settlement. 

Among the first of Resident Magistrate Bull’s duties was to organise a mail run between Leschenault and the Swan River.

Obviously, due to the shortage of horses in those early times, the mail had to be carried on foot.

The job fell to Daniel McGregor – a young man in his prime – with the experience of bush tracks behind him, having led the expedition, with livestock, to Leschenault earlier from the Swan River.

McGregor was also on good terms with the Aboriginal population, although I have been told that early on he did some of his walking when there was moonlight to avoid attracting unwanted attention.

According to one family record on the subject, my Great Great Grandfather Daniel was given shelter by the natives at times, on his long treks that would have involved many days and nights away from home in all kinds of weather.

The aboriginal people also assisted his passage across rivers with the mail bag.

Daniel would have carried out that arduous task for about the first five years after settlement.

When tenders were called for the continuance of the mail service contract in 1842, Daniel did not apply. 

In July 1838, six months behind the Scotts, Thomas Little and family arrived at Leschenault.

Little was appointed manager at “Belvedere” by Charles Prinsep, Advocate General for the East India Company.

Prinsep and some partners took up the 1182-acre Leschenault Peninsular property to establish a horse breeding enterprise and supply the British Army in India with remounts.

Thomas and Daniel would have been closely associated, since the first year, as settlers in Bunbury.

When Daniel was free of the mail contract, he found work with Little at the Belvedere property.

About 1850, Daniel was appointed Deputy Manager at Belvedere where essential aspects of primary production were carried out as well as cattle and horse breeding.

During Little’s absences attending to a property that he had purchased at Dardanup, the peninsular property and all employees were under Daniel’s supervision.  

While working at Belvedere, Daniel married Agnes Lockhart of Busselton on April 18, 1850.

Agnes was born in Dundee, Scotland and arrived at Port Leschenault with her mother Mary, two brothers, one sister, and stepfather Gavin Forrest.

They were part of The Australind Company and among the 156 emigrants who arrived at Port Leschenault aboard the “Trusty” in December 1842. 

A correspondent of the day – on December 7 of that year – gives us a window back in time, when we read of a report of a signal from Mr Eliot after he had sighted an unidentifiable sail on the horizon.

Shortly afterwards, it appeared as a British ship, which caused great excitement in the settlement when it turned out to be the Australind Company’s chartered ship with emigrants.

The Trusty, by name and nature, had made a successful voyage of four months from England with no landfall between. 

The Chief Commissioner and other officials launched their welcoming committee boat and saw the Trusty anchored safely in Port Leschenault by 3pm.

They found all onboard to be in ‘high health and spirits, the utmost harmony has prevailed onboard during the voyage’.

At an early hour the next morning, ‘the Chief Commissioner proceeded again to the ship and made arrangements for landing the emigrants and cargo tomorrow’. 

We can only imagine the feeling of jubilation and relief for those two groups of people coming together and sharing, knowing of their recent experiences of isolation.

Accommodation for 126 happy arrivals may have required some urgent considerations as they came ashore on that December day in 1842. 

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