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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 Kilmallie which is virtually in the centre of the Highlands. Donald was a shepherd, age 35, his father John a farmer and his mother's name Ann. 'Married male, immigrant. Born June, 1800. Passage assisted by Government but not a convict. He could read and write, his health was good and he was a Presbyterian'. His wife Ann was a native of Kilmallie, Argyleshire, age 33, farm servant, her father, Dougald McPhey and her mother, Christina.

A contemporary description of the Parish of Kilmallie says that there was little arable land; 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 north to Cromarty where they boarded the 'Boyne' for their passage. It wouldn't have done to call "Cameron!" on board the 'Boyne';the library records show that the ship's surgeon superintendent was Dr. Ewen Cameron and the complement included 93 passengers named Cameron, mostly from the parish of Kilmailie just south of Lochabee, the Cameron stronghold in Scotland. Of Donald Cameron and his brood descendants say that none of the other 83 passengers belonged to their branch of the clan.

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

It was a very successful voyage and the passengers were moved to write a letter to the Editor of the 'Sydney Gazette', in gratitude to the Captain and his crew:

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 appreciated 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 otherwise 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. [Sydney Gazette, 10 January 1839]

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 five children all of whom survived to adulthood.

The record lists the family as being sponsored by the government, and following arrival they were engaged at a property called 'Mount Pleasant' near Penrith by a Mr Francis Clarke on wages of £15 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.

Donald and Ann's children were:

Born in Scotland:

1. John [1824-1860] (twin). Married Margaret McPherson (1851)
2. Margaret [1824-1861] (twin). Married Michael Murty (1846)
3. Anne [1826-1872]. Married Malcolm McEachern (1845)
4. Donald [1829-1883]. Married Elizabeth McDonald (1868)
5. Christina [1831-1877]. Married Hugh Vallance (1859)
6. Alexander [1833-1886]. Married Mary Ann Ryan (1870)
7. Dougald [1835- ? ]. 8. Duncan [1838-1898]

Born in Australia:

9. Ewan [1840-1896]. Married Anne Smith (1865)
10. Charles Campbell [1842-1902]. Married Margaret McDonald (1878)
11. Catherine Palmer Campbell [1844-1870]. Married William Affleck (1865)
12. Mary [1846-1894]. Married John Stalyards Archer (1868)
13. Allan [1848-1917]

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 living at Ginninderra, the Cameron family were responsible for the out-stations 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 of the large estates established rudimentary schools and often had a small building 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 retain employees, intensify land use and to grow crops.

Within a year of his arrival Donald was working at 'Duntroon', the property of Robert Campbell, earning £17 p.a.and rations. Those first years must have been a battle because of the terrible drought which gripped the Colony. Here Ewan was born and another four children followed making thirteen in all. After a few years at 'Duntroon' the family moved to the Ginninderra/Weetangerra district where Donald was put in charge of two of Campbell's outstations, 'Emu Bank' and 'Goat Station', near Coppins Crossing. These two stations were seven miles apart.

Donald and two sons lived at 'Goat Station' and his wife and other members of the family looked after 'Emu Bank'. Donald's duties were those of hutkeeper and he had to change the folds – there being 60 hurdles to each fold.

Donald was not have many years in Australia, passing away in 1853. Samuel Shumack records this event:

'During Christmas week he sent into town for a supply of firewater and the overseer brought the spirits from Queanbeyan. The two boys folded the sheep on the evening of 23 December 1853 and then went to the hut for their supper. Their father was on the bed with a bottle near him and he did not speak. Next morning, they had to prepare their own breakfast and when they came home in the evening, they found their father dead.

The following morning the lads had to tramp seven miles to Emu Bank to report the death and the inquest was held there on Christmas morning by the newly appointed coroner, Andrew Morton. As soon as the inquest was over the funeral cortege started for Duntroon and a messenger was dispatched to request Charles Campbell to conduct the funeral service in the absence of the parson at Gundaroo. That gentleman declined to do so or to allow anyone else to do so, and he also forbade the burial until the clergyman returned the next day; and the funeral cortege had to turn back one mile and the coffin was placed in an outhouse at the home of Mr A. McDonald.

Ten years later Charles Campbell was a candidate for Parliament in the Queanbeyan Electorate, and this incident turned the scale against him, as every person present on the above sad occasion never forgave him for his action. [Shumack, 1967, p.18]

After the death of Donald the Cameron family gave notice to the Campbells, and leased the Glebe Farm at Ginninderra where Cameron's son Donald Cameron (Junior) now became the head of the house. He eventually became one of the largest farmers in the district. Donald and Ann's family were known as the 'Glebe Camerons' to distinguish them from the other Cameron families of the district. Ann Cameron gave up her Gaelic language and spoke no English in her lifetime. She died in 1883 and was buried in Glebe cemetery.

Biodata: Donald Cameron Snr

Birth: 11 Jul 1804 in Corpach, Invernesshire, Scotland Death: 9 Sep 1853 in Ginninderra, NSW Burial: 13 Sep 1853 in Parish of Bong Bong in the County of Camden Marriage: 5 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.

[This article draws heavily, with permission, on Cameron Archer's study of the Glebe Camerons (2021)]

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