Wednesday, January 5, 2011



Australia was built on the initial efforts of the convicts.  Theirs was the back breaking labour that built the roads, mined the quarries, helped set up those first settlements around Sydney Cove; convicts like Bryan Spalding and Samuel Marshall, the first links in our family chain that would eventually produce me and my Reluctant Traveller.

Free settlers from Europe forged the next link,  and none were more productive in number and ambition than the Scots.  It’s no wonder my heart leaps when I hear the skirl of the bagpipes for I have Scots ancestors on both sides of my family  tree.  My Reluctant Traveller has only the one.

But only three put down their roots in Australia.  The fourth, who married my adventurous great Grandmother Geraldine in Fiji,  I will tell you about in  a later post. 

A lone piper on the banks of the Clarence River, Maclean NSW

The great exodus of Scots crofters took place in the 1850’s at a time of great drought and famine in both Ireland and Scotland.  Many emigrants from both countries crossed the Atlantic to Canada and to the North American colonies.  But many made the long and dangerous voyage to England’s new colony of New South Wales.

There is a small town in northern New South Wales, Maclean, that became a magnet for settlers from Scotland seeking to start their new lives in the company of family and friends.  The town today is still staunchly Scottish with Australia’s oldest Free Presbyterian Church continuing its services to the descendants of the early settlers.  There is a large Scots cairn constructed with rocks gathered from around Australia and Scotland in the Herb Stanford Memorial Park, overlooking the Maclean river and every Easter, Maclean hosts a Highland gathering of the Clans.

And should you visit the beautiful Northern Rivers town of Maclean you will see along the streets and roadways constant reminders of the towns Scottish forebears,  power poles painted in the various clan tartans of Scotland.

William Brown, a 17 year old Scotsman described himself as a butler when he arrived in Sydney on the Tudor in 1860.  He came alone from Blairgowrie, a small Perthshire town in Scotland and five years later married a young Irish lass  from Cork called Ellen Vaughan.  The witness to their wedding is named as Samuel Marshall.  But it is not the Hunter Valley explorer and convict  you met in the previous post who signed  his name on the marriage certificate, it is his 19 year old son, also named Samuel. 

 William Brown always an enthusiastic worker turned his hand to paper making and cordial manufacture and would become a successful businessman in the town of Singleton.


Meanwhile a few years earlier in 1855 another Scotsman Duncan Cumming had uprooted his family from the small hamlet of Culnakirk, Glen Urquhart in Inverness and brought them to the new colony of New South Wales on board the Anna . The family  of eight settled near the Marshall family in rural Patricks Plain.  It was probably inevitable that the Marshall children and the Cummings youngsters would mingle and that one day two of their children might marry.


They did, John Marshall marrying young Betsy Cumming in 1869.  Neither John nor Betsy could read, education in those days came a sad last after farm chores and the very need to survive in a harsh environment.  But the three families remained in touch, the Marshalls, descendents of convicts,  and the Browns and the Cummings, Scots to the core and still retaining their strong Gaelic accent.

Until eventually in 1903 in the small New South Wales mining town of Hillgrove, Betsy and John’s daughter Isabelle Marshall married her sweetheart, William Brown’s son Charles, a veteran of the Boer Wars in South Africa.  Isabelle or Bella as she preferred was my grandmother.
This union of Irish rebels, English endeavour and Scots pioneers produced my father, Guy Brown and eventually me.  The bewildered frown is still a part of my persona.

Years ago my Reluctant Traveller and I made an extensive trip through the United Kingdom.  It was a rare venture for my husband, he really hates leaving home.   At the time I thought while I had him in a receptive mood maybe I should expand our original four weeks tour into a more lengthy one, encircle the globe, and so I very cunningly did.  I’m still surprised he lasted the nearly four months we spent on the road.

At that particular time though I hadn’t become embroiled in family history, knew nothing about the people from our past.  Looking back now I’m amazed that we visited the actual towns and counties our ancestors once lived in and were completely unaware of any connection.

The Isle of Skye was only one of the many places we visited in Scotland and this is possibly one of a handful of photographs my Reluctant Traveller took that actually included my head.

I remember how very green and lush the island was, water cascading from hills and mountains, great shaggy highland sheep roaming free across the countryside.  With that in mind it was hard to imagine the severe famine that gripped Scotland in the 1830’s. 

So desperate was the plight of share farmers and crofters that a bounty scheme was initiated by the Rev John Dunmore Lang to help relieve the suffering by shipping over 4,000 Scottish immigrants to New South Wales and Victoria.  With British government backing twenty ships were provided; the Midlothian, a three masted barque of 414 tons was the third ship to make the long voyage south.

At the small port of Uig in Loch Snizort over 256 men, women and children boarded the Midlothian under the watchful gaze of its master, Captain Morrison.  The Rev. William MacIntyre and Dr R. Stewart, both Gaelic speakers, sailed with the immigrants, one to succour their souls, the other to safeguard their health.  Despite their efforts typhus and dysentery broke out a few weeks into the voyage resulting in the deaths of 24 immigrants, 7 adults and 17 children. 


Most families on board the ship were travelling as assigned tenants or shepherds to established holdings in New South Wales.  John Mcleod Stewart was one of the few who travelled on his ‘own account’. His occupation was given as a tailor.  Also on board was the McDonald family, widower Angus, his married sons and daughters.

The Midlothian arrived in Sydney on the 12th of December 1837 and within a few months Stan’s great-great Grandfather John McLeod Stewart married Ann MacDonald in St James Church of England in Sydney. A year later their first child, a daughter Sarah Marion was born.

Education, English and the three R’s were never essential accomplishments for the flood of immigrants who made their way to Australia in the mid 1800’s.  

It didn’t matter if the new Australian was Irish, English, Scots or European, his or her name was certain to be mangled into some unrecognizable form the moment they stepped off the boat in Sydney town.  Shipping clerks had the devil of a job listening to a new arrival state his name, more often in a thick foreign accent, before entering on the ships manifest as close an approximation as his imagination would allow. 

So it’s not surprising that when the Commodore Perry arrived in 1855 with hundreds of immigrants on board, the arrival of our sole German ancestor was registered as Jom?? B??inger and his place of origin as Edinburgh, Wirteinberg.

In actual fact Johannes Braeuninger was born in Germany in 1834 to Albrecht Braeuninger and Ann Maria Barbara Uhl: and his parents were married on the 1st of May, 1833 in Jagstkreis, Wuerttemberg.

Johannes married Sarah Marion, the New South Wales born daughter of Scottish immigrants John McLeod Stewart and Ann MacDonald in the country town of Coonamble in 1861.  Sarah Marion must have become heartily tired of her new unpronounceable and foreign sounding surname because a few years after the wedding her husband was naturalised, and from that time on Johannes Brauninger became John Breneger. 

You have to admit Breneger had a certain snappy ring to it.
Johannes had given his occupation as a vintner when he first arrived in the colony but by the 1870’s he was the proud licensee of the “All Nations” Hotel in the small New South Wales gold mining town of  Home Rule.

Proud owner of the All Nations Hotel
 Part of the Holterman photographic collection held in State Library of NSW

A daughter from this union of Sarah Stewart and John Breneger would in a few decades to come meet a young man fresh from the woolen mills of Yorkshire and they in turn would become my Reluctant Travellers paternal grandparents becoming yet another story in the evolution of Australia.

But in the 1870’s when John Breneger named his humble establishment the All Nations Hotel he no doubt had thoughts of his own German background and that of his wife’s Scots parents from the Isle of Skye. 
The town of Home Rule was just one of the many small gold fields dotting the countryside in those days.  The lure of gold had attracted a rush of men, and women, from all parts of the globe. Some would prosper, but most would not.

Gold may even have been the catalyst that brought my Sussex born great-grandmother and her sisters to the Victorian gold fields in the 1860’s. But what on earth could have induced their mother to allow such a risky move.


Next – Part 3 - Four girls from Sussex

Robyn Mortimer©2011