From Lanarkshire, Scotland to Bunbury – Chapter nine

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 married Agnes Lockhart in 1850, during the time Daniel was deputy manager at the farming property, ‘Belvedere’. 

He held this position from 1849 until Thomas Little, the Manager, was replaced in 1854.

In the meantime, due to the failure of the Australind Company, Agnes's mother and step-father, Gavin Forrest, and family moved on to Busselton before 1850 where it is understood that Gavin Forrest built the first Vasse Hotel. 

The passenger records of the Trusty, on which Daniel arrived at Port Leschenault (Australind) on December 8, 1842, listed him as a brick layer by trade, and he had been a publican and inn-keeper in Scotland.

Daniel and Agnes with their young daughter, Helen Forrest McGregor, eventually followed their in-laws to Busselton where, in 1854, Daniel became licensee of the Vasse Hotel. 

A further record shows him taking out a gallon licence in 1857. 

Around the mid-50s the hotel was known to be a very lively focal point of the town.

My great-grandfather, Gavin Forrest McGregor, was born at the Vasse Hotel in 1856, the same year that his father Daniel purchased a fertile 900-acre property, Location 13 at Quindalup. 

That acquisition provided a turning point for the future of the family. 

Daniel was then able to leave the hotel business in 1859 and return to his traditional way of life on the land while his father-in-law, Gavin Forrest, took over as licensee of the hotel.

The Quindalup property was originally named ‘Cometville’ by Mr Thomas Turner who bought it from the Crown in 1844. 

It is believed that name was inspired by the Great Comet of 1843 which was visible from the Southern Hemisphere through February to and of that year. 

Daniel bought the property in 1856 from the second owner, Colonel John Molloy, for 350 pounds (now $750). 

Location 13 served the McGregors well, as either home or birthplace to four generations. 

Daniel and Agnes spent the remainder of their lives there and raised a family of nine children. 

Daniel must have decided that Cometvale was a more appropriate description of the locality and that is how the farm has been known to us for almost 100 years.

Ultimately, Agnes's parents, Gavin and Mary Forrest, established their home at Yallingup, not far distant across country from Cometvale at Quindalup, and named the property ‘Thorn Hill’.

Daniel was known for his energy and prosperity. Before leaving Bunbury he had acquired two blocks of land in the town and, likewise, when he came to Busselton he purchased land which became known as the ‘coast run’. 

Properties on the western coast were added to Cometvale in order to give cattle a change away from the low-lying home property in winter. 

Two freehold blocks comprising 140 acres and known as ‘Willyabrup’ and ‘Biljedup’ were the focal point for the adjoining coastal lease land of 5000 acres. 

A residence which was established on the Biljedup block was lost to a bush fire after years of occasional occupation. 

Limestone chimney rubble and Agnes' Iris flowers, growing wild, still mark the spot today.

Four generations of the family experienced the droving trips on horseback between the properties – a distance of roughly 20 miles (32 kilometres) of bush tracks – that would have meant a full day's ride with cattle. 

As a representative of the fifth generation I hold nostalgic memories of the coast run when, later, we travelled in a utility. 

The magnificent wild flowers and limestone caves stand out in my mind. 

We used to camp in a wooden hut where the beds consisted of two parallel horizontal bush poles with chaff bags threaded over the poles. 

The hut, with its tin chimney and blackened Metters stove, represented the McGregors’ last stand on the coast run.

Few anecdotes from the earlier cattle days have been handed down. 

When I was a child, Daniel’s third-youngest son, Daniel Wallace (Uncle Wallace to us), recounted the story of his need to seek the cool of a limestone cave, with a trickling stream, where he could eat his lunch one hot day when he had been boundary riding. 

But, instead, he and his horse retreated to a shady tree in favour of a dingo with pups that he found occupying the cave. 

Uncle Wallace once had a cattle dog called Tiny. Upon reaching the home property after a trip from the coast run Tiny was nowhere to be seen. 

Fearing for the worst, he retraced the journey and, after many lonely miles, found his dog faithfully guarding a worn piece of saddlecloth that Uncle Wallace had discarded along the track. 

A man of strong build, Uncle Wallace was an experienced bushman who held respect for the natural history values of his surroundings, and his livelihood depended upon his hunting and farming skills. 

When forced to retire from the land in his eighties, after his traditional and mostly self-sufficient style of life, great-grand-uncle Wallace came to live with us, closer to Busselton, by his only means of transport, a lovely chestnut horse.

In those early days native animals were prolific and provided easy food for the dingoes which meant they were no threat to cattle in that locality. 

The only serious losses of stock were caused by cattle eating Heart Leaf or Wallflower poison bush (gastrolobium grandiflorum) known today as one of the many native pea plants to contain sodium fluoroacetate poison, the key ingredient of 1080. 

When the Heart Leaf was prevalent, it was time to return the livestock to Cometvale.

Another possible reason for not leaving the cattle at the coast run for extended periods of time was the depletion of mineral salts in the soil over time.

I feel privileged to be able to lay a hand on a couple of cow bells from that era that made cattle easier to keep track of in the bush, and I have maintained the use of the Cometvale branding iron, JU1, which is registered in my name.

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