Journey to WA – Part eight

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.

William Scott's grandparents, John and Helen Scott, lived in Lanarkshire, Scotland, prior to their voyage to the Swan River Colony.

They arrived with their three sons (Daniel McGregor, John Junior and Robert) in March, 1831, aboard the 344-tonne vessel, Eliza, which carried 130 passengers.  

They had been successful farmers near the River Clyde and were granted 100 acres of land in South Guildford.  

Today this land is part of the Perth Domestic Airport.

The soil was sandy and there was no permanent water supply, because the swamps and soaks dried up each summer. 

A further son, William, was born in 1832 but was accidentally drowned in the Preston River in 1846. 

By 1837, John and Helen Scott had decided to leave the Swan River Colony and move to Port Phillip (Victoria).

However Governor Stirling, to whom John Scott was well-known as a practical farmer, persuaded him to stay and to relocate to Port Leschenault where Stirling owned around 16 000 acres.

In December 1850, John Junior married Catherine Roberts and leased land from Governor Hutt at Stratham, which was some 19 kilometres south of ‘Eelup’, their property east of Bunbury (site of the Eelup roundabout today).

They erected a small wattle and daub cottage at Stratham. They also had land at the Donnelly River, around 160 km further south.  

John and Catherine had ten children, the first three being sons, John born in 1851, George born in 1854 and William (Bill) born in Bunbury in 1856.  

Bill spent his childhood at the Stratham farm. 

At the age of 16 he was moved south to the Donnelly River property where he remained until he died in 1941 aged 85.

During the 1850s and 1860s, the Stratham Scotts had visited the Donnelly River area and in 1861 had taken up land on which to pasture their stock. 

When John and Bill travelled there in 1872, they averaged around 35 km a day for four days.

Each day they started out before sunrise and stopped late in the afternoon to rest, water and feed the horses.  

John and Bill were riding their own horses and also had with them two harness horses to pull a cart in which they were transporting supplies and tools to set up a presence near the Donnelly River bridge.

The Scotts brought with them seed potatoes and pumpkin and, no doubt, other seeds to grow vegetables such as cabbage, turnips, swedes, onions and melons.  

They cooked their food in a bushman's camp-oven, used both to bake damper, and also in a large pot and frying pan.

Bill and his father rounded up the stock on the property and built a small stone hut using stones from the river bed.  

After several months his father left and from then on Bill lived alone in that hut in an area of dense forest.

When Bill was an old man he told a poignant story to one of his grandsons, Lewis, about how he cried himself to sleep the first night he spent alone, as his horse, yarded close by, whinnied in sympathy.

From 1872, Bill’s primary responsibility was to supervise the stock along around 30-km of river frontage in an attempt to ensure that they did not wander away into the depths of the karri forest.  

Each day he rode out around the animals to try to ensure that all was well.

Bill was an expert in tracking any animal which strayed.

During this period, around every three months, he was visited by his elder brother, George, who came by horse and dray bringing supplies from Stratham to replenish essential stores and deliver any other requirements for the Donnelly River property, a round trip of 14 days which included a stopover with Bill.  

This pattern of life continued at the Donnelly for 13 years, between 1872 and 1885, when Bill brought his bride, Janet (nee Dickson), to the property.

From the time he had first lived there, he had cleared several acres of land and planted an orchard which produced fruit for the next 60 years.

The Dickson family lived only a two-hour ride north of the Donnelly and Bill was a frequent visitor because they were his major social contacts.

Thomas and Biddelia (nee Blake) Dickson had taken up 1000 acres in Crawley on their arrival in the Swan River Colony in May 1858. They had six children.

In 1867, Thomas developed a property on the Barlee Brook ten km north of the site where he had the Donnelly River bridge erected by seven ticket-of-leave men he had employed.

In 1885, when Bill was 29, he married Janet Dickson, the third of their five daughters. She was 24.

He built a three-room jarrah-slab house above the southern bank of the Donnelly River to the east of the present bridge.

Bill’s family lived in this house until the 1920s.

There was a separate kitchen building and, when the weather was favourable, the family ate some of their meals or relaxed under a large apple tree immediately to the west of the house.

Following their marriage, Janet and Bill had five children - John (Jack) (1886), Thomas (Tom) (1887), Biddelia (1891), Florence (1893) and Catherine (1895).  

Eventually, ten grandchildren were to follow, Jack had four, Tom had one, and Biddelia had five.

Biddelia had married in 1913, when she was 22 and moved to Boyanup with her husband, John Huntington Scott, who was not a blood relative.

Until their deaths, Jack and Tom farmed at Woodville on the Donnelly property.

Their sisters, Biddelia and Catherine, lived at Boyanup and Manjimup respectively.

The local tribal Aboriginals took a friendly interest in the Bill and Janet’s family.  

Both boys, and particularly Tom, spent much of their time in the bush with them.

They learned their language, how to track, hunt and locate edible roots and plants.  

Following the custom of the Aboriginals, who used a fire stick to burn the bush regularly, the Scotts did likewise.  

After the vegetation on the coastal plain was burned every two to three years, the new growth provided better pasture.

In 1895, tragedy struck when Janet developed blood poisoning.  

As she became worse, Bill rode hard to Busselton to fetch the doctor, it was more than 100km distance.

The journey took some fifteen hours and he had to change horses on the way.

The doctor came in his buggy, however it was too late. Soon after he reached the Donnelly, Janet died. She was 34 and Bill was 39.

Bill was now in dire straits. Jack was nine years old, Tom eight, Biddelia five, Florence two and Catherine three months.

Catherine was taken to Biddelia where her Dickson aunts, Janet's sisters, took care of her and bought her up.  

Bill Scott took his two sons, Jack and Tom, to Stratham and they stayed with their Uncle George and Aunt Annie with whom they bonded in an affectionate relationship.

They attended the Stratham School. The two girls were taken into Bunbury to live with other Scott family members, including their grandmother, Catherine.

They attended the Bunbury School. It was five years before any of them returned to live at the Donnelly River property.

In 1901, aged 45, Bill remarried. His second wife, Caroline Clark, was living with her relatives, the Gibletts, where they had settled in 1861, 8km east of Manjimup.

She came to the Donnelly River property and lived with Bill in the jarrah-slab house.

In later years Tom and his wife Rose returned to the Donnelly River property from the eastern states.

In 1940 Bill had purchased a pedigree shorthorn bull calf from the stud at the Claremont Mental Hospital.

It was kept in the orchard paddock and, each afternoon, he took it a bucket of milk. In 1941, he slipped on a piece of timber in the orchard, fell heavily to the ground, and was badly injured.

At first he remained at home with Caroline, Tom and Rose, then was taken to Manjimup Hospital and finally brought home to the Donnelly River property where he died on April 8, 1941, at the age of 85.

He is buried in the Manjimup cemetery together with his wife Caroline who died in 1944, at the age of 88.

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