Andrew Greig Wilson was my Great Great Great Grandfather. He was one of only a handful of my ancestors who chose to make their future in Tasmania, migrating from Scotland in 1842 under an assisted migration scheme.
Andrew was born on 13 April 1807 in the parish of Abbotshall on Scotland’s Fifeshire coast. He was baptised six days later in the parish church. His parents were Alexander Wilson and Ann Graham [see note 1 below].
Andrew was one of the younger children in a household of at least five other children. His eldest brother, John, was about sixteen when Andrew was born. The next child, Agnes, would have been about 14 However, as another Agnes was baptised in 1812, the first probably died in infancy or early childhood. John and Agnes were both born and baptised in the parish of Kennoway where their mother was born and where her family probably still lived. Kennoway is about ten miles north of Abbotshall.
The Wilson’s third child, Alexander, was born around six years later, in 1799, and baptised at Dysart, a little north of Abbotshall’s major town of Kirkcaldy. Sadly, it seems that this child died in infancy as another Alexander was baptised in February 1801 in Abbotshall, having been born in the nearby Linktown. Then followed James in 1805, Andrew Greig in 1807, David in 1809 and another Agnes in 1812.
The records suggest that the family grew up in Linktown, the most populous town in the small parish of Abbotshall. By the middle of the nineteenth century the town’s population was just over 3000 people. The town comprised one principal street, nearly a mile in length, with several narrow lanes leading off into other parts of the parish. According to one account, most of the houses were ‘low and of mean appearance’. Most of the parish’s manufacturing business was conducted from factories within the town and the principal trade was weaving of ticking, which employed nearly 500 looms by mid-century. There were also several spinning mills, a pottery making brown earthenware, and a factory making bricks and tiles as well as a small beer brewery.
Without knowing more about the Wilson’s occupations and circumstances it is difficult to ascertain what sort of education the children may have had. There were a number of schools in the town but these were generally fee-paying. However, some arrangements were made for teaching ‘a limited number of poor children’ at the parish school and there was also a charity school catering for 100 children. Sunday schools also operated. Written some thirty years after Andrew’s school days, one account of the parish notes that Sunday schools had become all the more ‘… necessary since the introduction of spinning mills, which engage children before they have been properly educated, and which constantly occupy their time throughout the week.’
Marriage to Elizabeth Drummond
When he was 22 years old, Andrew married Elizabeth Drummond. The wedding ceremony took place on 15 November 1829 in the parish of Kinross. Unfortunately the very simple registrations don’t tell us anything about Andrew’s occupation at the time. I have not learnt much about Elizabeth although it seems that she was the daughter of William and Eugenia Drummond and that she had at least two sisters, Margaret and Jane [see note 2 below].
Although her wedding registration indicates that she and Andrew both lived in Kinross, other records suggest that Elizabeth’s family most likely lived in Tillicoultry in Clackmannanshire, some fourteen miles away, a parish known for its textile industry and the weaving of a course fabric known as Tillicoultry serge.
According to Verna Henderson (In the Shadow of the Tiers, self-published, 1996), the birth of Andrew and Elizabeth’s first son, William, is recorded in the family Bible as occurring on 13 May 1829. This is broadly consistent with the 1841 Census which indicates that William was eleven at the time. The family Bible tells us that William’s sister, Jane Cairns, was born on 15 July 1831, followed by Alexander on 10 February 1834 and Andrew on 5 October 1838. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to find any relevant records in the Old Parish Registers. However, later Census records for Jane indicate that she was born in Kinross and these, together with the marriage registration, suggest that the family probably lived in Kinross, to the west of the famous and beautiful Loch Leven.
Strategically located between Edinburgh, Stirling and Perth, Kinross was known for its manufacture of cutlery, linen, weaving of cotton and, later, of wool. From the parish church yard there is a view to Loch Leven Castle, on its island in the middle of the loch, where Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned in 1567.
The Wilson children are likely to have received a good basic education. The Statistical Account of 1839 states that no more than a dozen children from age six to fifteen could neither write nor read. Indeed it was said that ‘[t]he facilities of education are such, that there is not a single individual in the parish whom destitute circumstances prevent from obtaining access to the parish school, and all the common branches of instruction’.
Sadly, it seems that Elizabeth died giving birth to her youngest child, Andrew, in October 1838, or shortly thereafter, because just over twelve months later, on 24 November 1839, we find Andrew marrying for a second time.
Marriage to Janet Smeaton
Andrew’s second wife, Janet Smeaton, was born in Fossoway, about five miles west of Kinross, in about 1815. While I have been able to discover little documentary evidence about Janet, other researchers have learnt that she was the youngest of eight children born to William Smeaton and Helen Honeyman. Her father was a tailor.
Andrew and Janet married on 25 November 1839 at Muckhart in Perthshire. The record of the Proclamation of their marriage simply tells us that Andrew Wilson, of Muckhart Parish, was ‘regularly proclaimed in order to marriage’ on 24 November 1839 to Janet Smeaton of the Parish of Fossoway.
Andrew and Janet’s first child together was a son, John Smeaton Wilson, born in Alva in Stirlingshire on 21 January 1841. A few months later the returns for the national Census were collected. They tell us that Andrew and Janet, together with their young baby, and the three boys from Andrew’s first marriage, were living at Alva on the ‘Toll Road East of the Bridge’ (now called Stirling Street). For the first time, the records tell us that Andrew was making his living as a ploughman. The Statistical Accounts for Alva tell us that a ploughman in Alva received a wage of £25 a year, including provisions. According to one conversion methodology (http://www.measuringworth.com/index.html), this is equivalent to around £18 500 today, or about $44 000 (AUD).
Fifteen-year-old Jane Cairns, the only daughter from Andrew’s first marriage, was living at Orwell, with her maternal grandparents, William and Eugenia Drummond. While the 1841 Census says only that William was ‘Independent’, later census records state that he worked as a grocer, so perhaps Jane helped out in the shop.
Scotland’s population was quite mobile at this time, with internal migration from the highlands to the lowlands as well as high levels of emigration to other countries. Andrew and Janet were part of this trend. At the same time, property owners and businessmen in Van Diemen’s Land were looking to free immigrants to provide them with labour.
In 1842, the Wilsons sailed aboard the Royal Saxon for Van Diemen’s Land. Like my Lamprey ancestors, John and Martha and their young children Albert and Sarah, the Wilsons travelled under the colony’s Bounty scheme, an early form of assisted migration.
The Royal Saxon left the Port of London on 25 July 1842, sailed via Cork in Ireland, direct to Port Dalyrmple at the mouth of Van Diemen’s Land’s Tamar River, arriving on 22 November 1842. She carried 247 emigrants.
Sadly, twelve children did not survive the journey. Two of those lost to dysentery were John Smeaton Wilson (just twenty months old) and young Sarah Lamprey (about one year old). It is strange to think that these families that were to be connected by marriage four generations later no doubt shared their hopes, fears and grief on their journey half way around the world. At the same time that Janet was dealing with the loss of her first child, she may also have been battling with morning sickness and no doubt wondering what the future held for the baby that would be born far from the life she knew in Scotland.
Back at home, another member of the family was also dealing with the loss of loved ones. Young Jane, the daughter from Andrew’s first marriage, remained with her grandparents in Orwell, initially not even aware of the departure of her father and brothers. When did she discover that they had gone? Perhaps the family had to leave in hurry, the news that they had been accepted for immigration arriving close to the time of scheduled departure, but surely they could have sent word before leaving? Eleven years later Jane was to write in a letter to one of her brothers, ‘… I never thought that you would have left Scotland without coming to see me nor let me know that you was leaving this country…’.
Life in Van Diemen’s Land
I am still seeking to confirm where the Wilsons went following their arrival on the Tamar River. Verna Henderson tells us that one of Andrew’s grandsons, Fred Cox, claimed that Andrew was sponsored by Henry Reed of Bentley and that Andrew worked for Reed for eight years. However, I have not been able to find any evidence of this and suspect that there may be some confusion arising from the changes of ownership in the Bentley property .
A year after the family’s arrival, the Hobart Town Gazette reported that Andrew was working as a ‘1st class farm servant’ for a Mr Oakden of Westbury at a salary of £35 per annum. As far as I can tell, Oakden owned Bentley at this time. Henry Reed, for a time, owned the neighbouring property, Harwood (although Oakden eventually bought this to add to the Bentley Estate). Phillip Oakden and Henry Reed had very similar interests and were no doubt business associates (both merchants, shipowners, bankers and philanthropists) and both were also early evangelical members of the Wesleyan church in Launceston. Birth registrations for Andrew and Janet’s children born in the colony suggest that the family lived and worked initially for Oakden at Bentley and later at Wesley Dale.
According to Fred Cox, Andrew brought cuttings of hawthorn from Scotland and planted the hedges around Bentley. A traveller in 1870 noted that the road ‘… is bordered on each side with the finest hawthorn hedges that I have ever seen out of England, planted 28 years ago, standing from 15 to 20 feet high.’ Andrew is also said to have planted two oak trees on each side of the road just before Chudleigh near the spot where he lived in his early days in the colony.
On 5 February 1843, Janet Wilson gave birth to her second son who was named David Lundie Wilson. The following year, a daughter christened Helen but apparently known as Ellen, was born at Bentley.
My Great Great Grandmother, Mary, was born on 21 May 1846 at Wesley Dale. Andrew registered his daughter’s birth somewhat belatedly, in November 1846, telling us that at that time he was working as a carpenter at, Henry Reed’s property Wesley Dale. Four more children were born between 1848 and 1853, all registered at Wesley Dale. Interestingly, Henry Reed and his family had returned to England in 1847 and would not see their Wesley Dale property again for a further 26 years.
The Wilsons too were also to take a break from Wesley Dale when, at some time (and possibly on a number of occasions) in the 1850s various members of the family were to venture their luck in Victoria. One record showas that Andrew travelled steerage on the Mercury, leaving Launceston on 21 September 1852 but as his youngest daughter was born at Wesley Dale in December 1853, he presumably did not spend long away on that occasion and there may, of course, have been a number of journeys before or after this time. Various records relating to the purchase and value of land indicate that he was residing in Chudleigh during the 1850s and up to 1860. So, while Andrew may have ventured to the goldfields, as family tradition suggests, paying £10 in Melbourne for a dray and equipment before proceeding to Ballarat or Bendigo, it seems likely this occurred on an early, fairly short (and presumably not very successful visit). Verna Henderson says that at some point Andrew secured employment in Warrnambool which had become an important port for shipping wool, wheat, potatoes, onions and dairy produce from the surrounding area. I would love to hear from anyone who can verify or add to any of the information about Andrew’s time in Victoria.
By the early 1860s some members of the Wilson family were living at Woolsthorpe, north and further inland from Warrnambool. It was here in 1861 that sixteen-year old Helen married Irishman, Robert Quaile. The Presbyterian wedding took place at ‘Green Hills’, described as Andrew’s house, in Woolsthorpe, Victoria. Again, Verna Henderson’s research tells us that there were two properties named Green Hills in the area. One belonged to the Whitehead family and the other was in an area for which there don’t appear to be any titles, populated by Irish immigrants and a productive potato growing area. The nearest school was about eight miles away at Koroit, also known for its Irish population.
It seems that not long after Helen’s marriage, the Wilsons decided to return to Tasmania. The first of Helen’s twelve children was born at Carrick in July 1862.
The older Wilson boys had stayed behind in Tasmania and kept things running at Wesley Dale. The eldest, William, married Maria Turner in 1854 and the couple were to have a dozen children over the next 28 years! Available records show that William was leasing land from Henry Reed at Wesley Dale in 1861 and that he subsequently owned his own farm, ‘Brookside’, in the district at Lobster Rivulet. William was active in local affairs, belonging to the Chudleigh Board of Agriculture and teaching Sunday School.
Like William, Alexander Wilson also had a farm at Lobster Rivulet. Alexander didn’t marry until he was 36 years old. Tragically, his marriage to Annie Cox was very short lived, as Annie died less than two years later. She was 23. Alexander did not remarry and when he died in 1897 his property passed to his older brother, William.
Andrew Wilson was also a farmer. I don’t know whether he tried his luck on the goldfields or whether he stayed behind and farmed. By 1880 he had a farm of 150 acres, known as ‘Green Hills’ at Mole Creek and another 214 acres at Sassafras. He married Alice Flowers in 1881 and the couple had five children. Andrew was killed by a falling tree on 30 October 1896, shortly before his youngest child reached three years old.
David Lundie Wilson married Ann Phillips at Deloraine in 1870. He moved his family to the Burnie area and later became an overseer for the VDL Company. Apparently he was involved with Philosopher Smith in bringing the first tin from the Mount Bischoff mine track. David was also responsible for encouraging younger brother James to move from the Mole Creek district. James was described by a contemporary as a ‘real character … a prospector and a drifter [with] a long flowing white beard with brown streaks from the pipe he smoked.‘ According to local legend James (nicknamed ‘Jimmy the Pieman’) is supposed to have caught the only Black fish in the Pieman which was white all over but with pink sides.
In 1867, my Great Great Grandmother, Mary Wilson, married Michael Broomhall in the Uniting Church of Ireland at Deloraine. And the following year, Mary’s sister Annie married James Snooks in Mary and Michael’s home. James was a grandson of Thomas Gilham, my first Gillam ancestor to arrive in Tasmania. In 1871, Elizabeth married Luke Cullen and the couple had five children. Andrew and Janet’s youngest child, Agnes, married Joseph Cox, brother of Annie, in 1870. The couple were to had twelve children.
But what of Andrew and Janet? In addition to his farm work, Andrew acted as a guide, showing people through the wonderful caves around Moles Creek. A D and R K Skinner’s book, The Mole Creek Caves, repeats an account of a visit to the Caves in 1870, praising the Wilsons for their hospitality: ‘Mr and Mrs Wilson are a very worthy old couple and together with their daughter did everything to make us comfortable … Having retained the services of Mr Wilson to act as a guide, we began our preparations for the caves…. The caves are situated about a quarter of a mile from Wilson’s cottage…. On returning to the cottage we found Mrs Wilson busily preparing tea …. Too much cannot be said in praise of Mr and Mrs Wilson for their hospitality and general kindness’. Two of the Wilson’s sons accompanied the party as they left the area, to ensure a shorter and drier return to Deloraine. The caves mentioned are known as the Wet Caves. They are now part of the Mole Creek Karst National Park, although most of the cave remains on private property.
According to Verna Henderson’s research, the Wilson’s property was only a few miles from the foot of the Tiers and the foundations of the original two-roomed cottage can still be seen on land that was purchased by the Haberle family around 1875 and then by Keith How. The heavy wooden beams that remained from a larger cottage, removed by the How family, were used in the construction of a shearing shed. In the 1990s Keith How told Verna that the cattle still eat the fruit from the original trees, including pear, plum and cherry.
Janet Wilson died on 12 December 1883 at Caveside. Andrew lived for another eight years, dying on 29 May 1891 at Canning Street in Launceston. His death registration says that he died of senility. Andrew and Janet were buried at Chudleigh but no headstone marks their grave.
Note 1: Andrew Greig Wilson was baptised on the 19th of April and his parents were listed in the Abbotshall parish register as Andrew Wilson and Ann Graham. However, it seems likely that Andrew’s father was in fact Alexander (not Andrew) as the register includes entries for other children born to Andrew Wilson and Ann Graham and the particular entry for Andrew Greig’s birth was made by someone new to the register (and therefore potentially new to the parish). In addition, while a search of the Old Parish Registers for the period from 1785 to 1795 reveals 20 records of marriage for women named Ann Graham, only one of these is to a Wilson – to Alexander Wilson at Cults in 1791.
Note 2: I have not been able to find a birth or baptism record for Elizabeth, but Census records for 1851 and 1861 indicate that her daughter, Jane C Wilson, is the granddaughter of William E Drummond (born around 1788 in Tillicoultry, Clackmannan). The 1841 Census record has Jane living with William and Eugenia Drummond, suggesting that Eugenia was her grandmother. Jane’s middle name of Cairns is Eugenia’s maiden name. Jane’s death registration confirms that her parents were Andrew Greig Wilson and Elizabeth Drummond, thereby connecting the three generations.
Note 3: You can read about Janet’s grandfather, John Smeaton, on my blog.
Thank you: I would particularly like to thank Richie Woolley for his assistance, noting that his helpful comments have indicated that there are still some areas of this account that require further verification. He also provided the extract from A D and R K Skinner’s book The Mole Creek Caves.
[Updated 23 June 2012]