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Rediscovering Ginninderra:
Mr Donald Cameron Snr

Born: 1804; Died: 1853; Married: Ann McPhee

Donald and Ann Cameron came from Corpach, a village on Loch Linnhe north of Fort William, in the Parish of Kilmalie which is virtually in the centre of the Highlands. A contemporary description of the Parish6 says that there was little arable land; however, most people were living on potatoes, herrings and milk; the better off having some meal and mutton.

‘There are no houses of any value in Corpach, there is no appearance at present of any improvement.’

Most of the population were members of the ‘Established Church’ which means Presbyterian. They preferred to worship in Gaelic but English was becoming more widely spoken. Schools existed but had fees. There were both Gaelic and English schools. At least one of the Cameron children was unable to sign her name at the time of her marriage so it would seem that Donald and Ann Cameron were hoping for better opportunities in Australia.

The family travelled east to Cromarty where they boarded the Boyne for their passage. They were amongst many others from the same or similar locations. The passenger list records many people with the surname Cameron.

On January 2, 1839 Donald and Ann Cameron arrived with eight children in Sydney:

“The 619 ton ship, 'Boyne' arrived on Wednesday 2nd January 1839 from Cromarty, Scotland, via Cape of Good Hope, having left the former Port the 1st. September 1838 and the latter the 23rd. November 1838.

Sir,
Although utter strangers in the colony, we shall feel much obliged to you if you will be so kind as to give the following testimony to Captain Richardson, of the ship Boyne, publicity through the medium of your useful journal. I am, sir, on behalf of all the Emigrants in the ship Boyne, your most obedient humble servant.
Charles M'Gregor.

The Emigrants just arrived from the Highlands of Scotland, by the ship Boyne, deem it a duty incumbent upon them to testify in this public manner their unfeigned gratitude and respect to Captain Richardson, for his kind, affectionate and gentlemanly conduct towards them.
He has, indeed, been as a brother to us all, and a father to the children. His solicitude in directing all things for our comfort, and his unaffected manners, will not soon be forgotten by us.
The first officer, Mr. Daniel, and all the other Officers, and Seamen, also deserve our sincere thanks for their continued kindness to all the passengers.
The manner in which Mr. Ewen Cameron, the surgeon, has conducted the affairs committed to his charge is beyond all praise. His patience and unremitting attention to the sick could not be exceeded. His attention, also, in enforcing and directing the most salutary regulations for the health and comfort of all has proved eminently successful.
The Rev. Colin Stewart, who has acted as Chaplain on board, deserves our lasting gratitude, for he has spared no pains in his endeavours to improve the moral and intellectual capacities of all, particularly the young. His public and private ministrations are highly appre- ciated by all his fellow passengers :-the solemnity of public worship on the Lord's, day has been so congenial to our feelings. That we felt more at home than we other- wise could have done.
Mr. Duncan Cameron, who has acted as Schoolmaster, deserves the thanks and gratitude of all the parents on board, for his careful and unremitting endeavours to instill sound principles and communicate useful knowledge to the young.
Ship Boyne, Jan., 1838.”

It seems that Ann was most probably pregnant when they departed from Scotland in September 1839 because a son, Ewan, was born in April 1840. The immigration record describes Ann as being in ‘very poor health’, but she went on to have another 5 children all of whom survived to adulthood.

The record lists the family as being sponsored by the government and following arrival were engaged at a property called Mount Pleasant near Penrith by a Mr Francis Clarke on wages of 15 pounds per year without rations. It is not clear why and when they departed from Mount Pleasant and travelled to the Limestone Plains but their next child, Charles was born at Ginninderra in July 1842.

A shepherd with a large family like Donald Cameron was an attractive proposition. Much of the shepherding could have been done by older children and we know later on when at Ginninderra, the Cameron family were at both Emu Bank and Goat Station.

Unfortunately, if a family were shepherding away from the main station there was little likelihood of the children receiving any education. Most estates established schools and small buildings which doubled as a school and a small church/chapel.

In some cases the landowner would lease sections of their estate under a tenant farm agreement. The reason for doing this was to intensify land use and to grow crops.

We know little about John Archer’s employment apart from the fact that he was living and working on various estates. It would seem that he was on some occasions a tenant farmer but because such agreements were private, there are no records extant. On some documents he is recorded as a ‘farmer’ but as far as we know he never owned any land. Tenanting was usually in the better areas of land which were arable.

We know little about the life of Donald and Ann in Sydney or at Duntroon but understand that Donald was employed as a shepherd. Their eldest children (twins) John and Margaret, born in 1824, would have been 15 or 16 years old at the time and a valuable source of labour. [Margaret was to marry Michael Murty]. Approximately 2 years separated the birth of the children so the Cameron family would have been a ready and able workforce. No wonder Campbell preferred a Highland family over assigned convicts.

A falling out with Charles Campbell, Robert Campbell’s son, seems to have precipitated a move by the family to Ginninderra around 1853. The family then worked on Emu Bank outstation and also Goat Station (near Coppins Crossing) and are recorded as settling at The Glebe near Ginninderra. It would seem that they also were working as shepherds at Emu Bank and Goat station but became tenants at The Glebe.

They are recorded on their last child’s baptism certificate (Allan) in 1849 as living at ‘Canbury’ which is another property some distance to the east from The Glebe. This confuses the issue as to their location, but because it was such a large family with working adult children they could be in a number of places at the same time!

A number of Cameron families settled in the Canberra /Queanbeyan districts in the same era as Donald and Ann. Donald, Ann and family are known as ‘The Glebe Camerons’.

Biodata: Donald Cameron Snr
Birth: 11 Jul 1804 in Corpach, Invernesshire, Scotland Death: 09 Sep 1853 in Ginninderra, NSW
Burial: 13 Sep 1853 in Parish of Bong Bong in the County of Camden
Marriage: 05 May 1824 in Kilmonivaig, Scotland to Ann McPhee.
Death certificate states he was 51 when he died but he was really 49. His immigration certificate states he was born 11 Jul 1804 which tallies with his baptism certificate.

References

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