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Rediscovering Ginninderra:
James Ainslie

Born: 1787; Died: 1844; Married: 1. Betty Catteral; 2. Unknown Ngunnawal woman

Although James Ainslie (1787-1844) is best known for his association with Pialligo (later known as Duntroon), he was the first European to graze sheep at Ginninderra.

Ainslie arrived in Australia via the Admiral Cockburn in 1825. He was recruited straight away by Robert Campbell to establish a sheep station on the Limestone Plains. It was during his first journey westwards with a flock collected from Bathurst in 1825 that Ainslie met and formed a relationship with a Ngunnawal woman, who gave him directions to prime grassland at Pialligo. En route, Ainslie pastured his flock for some days at Ginninderra. The woman later bore a child named Ju Nin Mingo (anglicised as 'Nanny').

It was probably Ainslie's favourable reports of Ginninderra that led Campbell's friend, George Palmer [George Thomas Palmer (senior)], to stake his claim there in the following year.

In 1828 Ainslie led the party (including John Casey) that eventually apprehended bushrangers, John Tennant ('Terror of Argyle') and 'Dublin Jack' Rix, who had been ravaging the district (including Ginninderra) for almost two years.

After building up Duntroon station from 1825-35 as Campbell's overseer, Ainslie was dismissed due to 'ill discipline' and returned to his native Scotland. In 1844 Ainslie hanged himself in gaol while awaiting trial on a charge of assault.

Ainslie's role in the earliest settlement of Canberra is commemorated in the naming of Mount Ainslie, and of the suburb 'Ainslie' in 1928. There is also an Ainslie Avenue and an Ainslie Place named after him.


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