Who We Were

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Title: Who We Were
Parent item: Wilson newspaper clippings
Storage location:
Authors: William Wilson
Format and extent:
License: Public Domain Mark This work is free of known copyright restrictions.
Related people: Robert Wilson · William Wilson · William Wilson snr.
Related places: Ayrshire Scotland Melbourne
Keywords: H.M. Wilson Archives
Description: Transcribed by Charles William McHarg Wilson on .



For Private Circulation Only.

My brother Robert and myself, arrived in Australia in the 50's of the last century.

He landed in Sydney in 1853, and after a short stay in New South Wales, came over to Melbourne. I left Liverpool, in May, and landed here in August 1856; having come out in the clipper ship "Red Jacket".

As our families have now arrived at manhood and womanhood; are pushing their own way in the world, and some of them have sons and daughters of their own: I thought it might interest them to know, who, and what, the men and women were, from whom we have come; and how in the dispositions of Providence, we were led to this Southern land.

Our parents paid little attention to genealogy, and I am inclined to think they regarded such enquiries as trivial and of little consequence, in comparison with the weightier matteres of life and thought, which absorbed their attention.

The information we have, therefore, concerning our forebears, is meagre and incomplete; but as far as I recollect hearing our folks speaking of such matters; I have always understood the Wilsons came from the South West of Scotland,–probably the county of Ayr.

This and the adjoining counties, (with the exception of Galloway and Wighouseire) were peopled with an agricultural and predominating Saxon type of people. They were honest and peaceable folk, of a strong religious temperament; seeking no strife, independent in character, and marked in individuality, and concealing beneath their quiet exterior, much latent fortitude and determination.

This was the region that gave to Ulster its Presbyterian population: a race who still retain, after the lapse of nearly 3 hundred years,–the veracity and doggedness of the Scot; with the added fervour and sensitiveness of the Irishman. From here also went forth the Covenanters; with their Bibles in one hand,

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and a sword in the other, to fight for civil and religious liberty; not for themselves only, but as the sequel proved, for posterity as well.

Brought up in the school of persecution and adversity as these men were, it was inevitable their religion should take a severe and perhaps gloomy form. Their lives were moulded in stern times, and their outlook upon life was consequently hard, but in spite of these limitations, they possessed a deeply religious spirit, and overruling sense of duty, a strong faith, and a saintly resignation. It was their indomitable determination, throughout the struggle for freedom of worship, that helped to lay the foundation of that civil and religious liberty, which their descendants enjoy; and indirectly made possible the great Anglo-Saxon expansion of the 19th and 20th centuries.

The history of our Presyterian forefathers, can only be interpreted justly, through an intimate knowledge of the problems and prejudices they had to encounter; as well as a careful acquaintance with the social, political, and religious conditions under which they lived. It is only by such a process, that the magnitude of their trials and achievements can be rightly estimated; and a truthful appreciation obtained of the great and permanent work they accomplished.

Our paternal Grandfather, Robert Wilson, like his predecessors, obtained his living from the land; and brought up his family of three sons and a daughter in practical familiarity with all farming operations. What my grandfather was like in his appearance, I cannot say, as I never saw him; but my brother Robert remembers him on some occasion when he visited our Father and Mother at their house in Perth.

As different types of a family are indefinately repeated in subsequent generations; the probability is, that someone of ourselves, will bear, in physique, and temperament, an approximate resemblance to the manner of man he was. Be all this as it may, he was a man who had worked hard at his calling, and brought up

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his family in the fear of God, according to the old fashioned Presbyterian or Puritan methods, which upbringing, was reproduced later in the life of his sons.

Robert Wilson had three sons and a daughter – the daughter, I believe, died in youth – Andrew, Ephraim, and William, and it may be mentioned here that these Christian names Robert, Andrew, and William, were names that had been quite familiar in previous generations, and were in constant use in the various branches of the family: varied occasionally as was the Puritan custom, with a name taken from the Old Testament – as in the case of "Ephraim". Of Robert Wilson's three sons, Andrew was a manufacturer in Glasgow – that is one who employed weavers to weave cotton goods, for the home and export trade of the town. This was a very old and important industry in Glasgow, and along with the West Indian Trade, laid the foundation of that city's prosperity.

From what I have heard my Father say, Andrew was in a fairly prosperous way at one time. He was a prominent local Freemason, which in these days especially, gave great scope to the social side of his nature; a fact that did not tend to his continued prosperity, or the betterment of his life. He died, I believe, comparatively young, and leaving no issue behind.

Ephraim, the second son of Robert Wilson, was a man of pronounced individuality; was possessed of a cheery optimistic temperament – of a bluff, but cordial manner, had a practical mind, and adventurous disposition.

His youth was passed in stirring times, for Napoleon and his invinsible armies, were passing over Europe like a tornado; dethroning Kings, and treatening the peace and liberties, of all European peoples. Great Britain herself was engaged with a life and death struggle with the unprincipled ambition of this brilliant man: it is little wonder therefore, that such a personality, early exchanged the ploughshare for the sword, and became a soldier.

There was little opportunity in those days, and trying times for military training; the recruits, after a few months drill, were hurried off to the seat of war in the Peninsula; and encountered at once the realities of war.

He was attached to Lord Hill's division under the Duke of

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Wellington, and followed its fortunes for a period about which he has left no personal record. He was a member of one of the attacking parties at the storming of Badajor; where he was shot through the leg, and invalided home. After returning from the army, the remainder of his life was spent in the ancient and historical city of Dunfermline, where he was well known and highly respected, and brought up a large family of sons and daughters. Of these sons, Robert, Thomas, John, William and Andrew, have all passed away, as well as Agnes and Janet, two of the daughters, the third Annie (whom you all know), is the wife of my brother Robert, and happily is in excellent health.

My Father, William Wilson, the third and youngest son of Robert Wilson, settled in Perth when a young man, and married Janet, the second daughter of David Garrick, a native and burgess of the ancient city of Perth. He was a dealer in worsted and woolen materials, and his place of business was in the High Street, adjoining what was called the Parliament Close, so called, because the ancient parliament of Scotland had been held in the immediate neighbourhood, when Perth was the Capital.

This business he pursecuted for many years, and by the industry of himself – and frequently of my Mother as well – they raised themselves to a comfortable condition, and lacked nothing that was really necessary in the simple economy of their lives.

Our Faather was a man of strong religious personality, and he never failed to commend, by task, precept, and example, the principles of Christianity to his children.

It should be said however, that the tone and type of religion in these days, was hard and uninteresting; more particularly to young persons, who felt the bouyant spirits of youth, confined and restricted within limits that became irksome, and difficult to obey, without frequent outbursts of rebellion. Old Testament theocracy lay at the root of the Christian conception, and the wider sweep, and spiritual liberty of the New was not so clearly grasped then as now.

A man of such spiritual characteristics as my Father; naturally found his place in a section of the Presbyterian Church, that had kept alive, and perpetuated the faith and zeal of

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Covenanting times. This was the original Secession Church, a small, but very zealous body of Christians. They believed it to be their duty, in times of political stress, or national upheaval to renew the ancient covenant, and solemnly pledge themselves at the hazard of life and goods, to maintain the Protestant Faith as by law established, and guard further encroachment on the religious liberties of the people. In my boyhood this Church was even then a dwindling community, but the men and women I was brought into contact with as a boy, have left on the imagination a lifelong impression of spirituality and saintliness.

Our Mother's name was Janet Garrick. She was a native of Perth, and was the second daughter of David Garrick, who held some office under the Town Council of the ancient city. He had a large family of sons and daughters, all of whom have long passed beyond our ken. James the eldest went into the Navy, and on returning was appointed to the Coast Guard, and resided at Bideford in Devonshire, where he brought up a large family. One or more of the others went into the Army or Navy, but no record has been left behind of them. There is no doubt the Garricks were of Huguenot extraction, the French form of the name appearing as Garigue.

It is interesting to note in this connection, that in the life of David Garrick, the actor, and friend of Dr. Johnson, it is stated that he was descended from Jean Garigue, who came to England during the period of the French persecution. Jean Garigue had a large family of sons, one of whom was named David, it is apparent therefore, that "David" was a family name, and it is just possible as Garigue or Garrick, is neither a Saxon, Celtic, Norse or British name, that our maternal grandfather was a descendant of Jean Garique the Huguenot. Be this as it may, it is on record that on one occasion he brought home a steel plate of David Garrick the actor, and give it to our grandmother – her maiden name was Margeret Robertson – as the picture of his "great relative". This plate we still have in our possession.

David Garrick was a man of a happy genial personality, well known in his day and very much liked and respected by the citizens of Perth. His remains along with those of our Grandmother, our [whole line missing here][?]  away are interred

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in a plot of ground purchased by David Garrick, in the old Greyfriars Churchyard in Perth.

There was born to my Father and Mother, four sons and three daughters; of these David Elizabeth, Agnes, and a second Agnes, all died under seven years of age: the survivors of the family being Robert, myself, and my brother James. We were all born and brought up in Perth, later removing to New Scone, and Dunfermline.

Perth is a picturesque and ancient City, lying on the river Tay; which is here a broad and imposing stream, and celebrated for its Salmon fisheries. But a veracious chronicler is compelled to admit, that the Perth citizens were more familiar with the fame and beauties of their river, than with salmon cutlets. The fish were sent away to distant markets, where high prices were obtained for this, the finest of all fishes.

My Father had a genuine Scottish appreciation of the value of education; and he was unwearied in expressing its value upon his sons. We were all therefore, early sent to school.

There was an old established school in Perth, kept by a middle aged schoolmaster, named Thomas Livingstone. The school was well-known, and largely attended: though little beyond the three Rs was included in the curriculum. Mr Livingstone was a typical schoolmaster, of the oldfashioned Scots tradition. He was a flabbily built middle aged man, and his loose and fleshly body, was enclosed and held together in an un orthodox suit of "blacks", whose principal feature was the coat: scanty in front, but amply compensated in the rear, by two long tails, and two capacious pockets. This, with a gold seal dangling from the watch pocket, a quill pen behind his ear, and a cunningly devised leather tawse, always handy in one of the bit pockets; completed the picture of our first schoolmaster.

Robert attended this school for some years, and thereafter was sent to the Perth Academy in Charlote Place, opposite a large public park called the South Inch, which provided a splendid playground for the scholars. After leaving here, he was

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apprenticed to a leading grocer of the city, named Mitchell, where he served the stated number of years, and learned the business in all its details.

Meanwhile, my Father, who had a comfortable business and was free from pecuniary anxiety – listening to the suggestions of others, and influenced no doubt by a laudable, but rash ambition, launched out into a scheme, the magnitude of which was altogether beyond his means, or even his business capacity to handle successfully. I say here he was simple and confiding in his disposition, and was lacking in that cleran cut mental acumen; which enables a man not only to direct and control others, but to safe-guard his own interests, in the hands of sharper and less scrupulous men. Hitherto, he had gained his living by selling worsted and woollen products, and he would become manufacturer himself, and produce at first hand, much of which he had been accustomed to buy from others. He therefore built a large woollen mill on the bands of a creek or Buru[sic], close to the village of New Scone, and about two miles from Perth.

As the mill was to be driven by water power, he had to construct a substantial dam of masonry, about half a mile higher up the Buru, and carry the water in a race or channel to the Mill lower down. There it fell with sufficient force upon a large wheel, so constructed, that the water set it in motion and turned the machinery inside the building.

This consisted of the usual spinning jennies, revolving drums, and teasing machines, or "devils", and all appliances necessary to manufacture the raw wool and yarn.

After battling with many unforeseen contingencies, that seriously added to the pecuniary burden of the undertaking, my Father ultimately lost all that he had, and this heavy reverse, coming at an advanced period of his life, went far to deprive him of all energy and initiative.

Something had to be done. My brother Robert was the only member of the family old enough to be of any help, and he determined – more on behalf of his parents, than from any desire on his part – to seek after a new life, and better prospects in America. It was a brave and filial resolution, and the more so, as he, like

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the rest of us, was much attached to the house in which he was born and bred. I helped him on the evening he left, to carry his trunk to the Railway Station in Edinburgh, where he took train for Liverpool, and from there, steamer to Philadelphia in the United States. He remained in Philadelphia for about twelve months, when he determined to exchange the Stars and Stripes for the Union Jack. He sailed South, therefore in the s.s. George Law for the Isthmus of Panama, and after crossing the Isthmus with a crowd of nondescripts from all countries, made his way to San Francisco, which in these days, was a place that swarmed with scamps and scoundrels of every nationality. Here he found the barque "Julia Ann" on the berth for Sydney, New South Wales: he applied and was taken on as steward.

After his arrival in Australia, he went to the Bathurst diggings for a time, and then came round to Melbourne as steward, in an old leaky craft, that could hardly keep afloat, called the "Washington", but which the foreign sailors on board contemptuously named the "Vashingtub". He then joined a colonial mounted force known as the "Cadets" and remained with them for about two years. During the Ballarat disturbances he was sent to Melbourne from Ballarat, with despatches for further assistance to the civil and military authorities, but in the meantime the encounter had taken place, and he missed, or rather escaped, the historical fight at the Eureka Stockade.

After that he went into the business, which he successfully prosecuted for many years, with frequent intervals, employed in visiting Scotland. My brother Robert is a man that never went out after adventures, or sought excitement of any kind: still his life on the whole has been one of adventures and novel experience, and he has been frequently placed under circumstances that required both courage and a sound judgement to bring him through.

The elder son of a family left Scotland as much for its advantage at the time, as for his own; and it is only fair and just to say, now that the past has become but a reminiscence, that he has filled this place ever since in the same spirit of loyalty to his people, that he set out with.

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See significant papers – yellow slips


The writer trusts he will be spared to enjoy a peaceful and happy old age.

I sailed from Liverpool for Australia in the clipper ship "Red Jacket", on the 21st May, 1856, being then in my eighteenth year, and arrived in Hobsons Bay on the 12th of August following.

The circumstances of my life in Australia are known to you all, and there is no reason for relating them here. It has been a life without adventures, and no tale of any great hardship hangs to it. Taking it all through, mine has been a prosaic uneventful life; thought not without its sorrows and disappointments. The ambitions and ideals that I started out with, have been largely swept aside, and but sparingly realised. Probably they were crude and unchastened. The road I have travelled is not the one I would have chosen when I set out, but the one the Almighty new was the best for me.

It is given to a select few only, to see their early ambitions and ideals become tangible realities. Those who reach this goal are exceptionally equipped, either spiritually or mentally. The achievements of the first are permanent, and the good they do remains behind, working as agent for the benefit of mankind. Many others who reach the acme of material success, frequently discover when they reach the summit, that it brings neither peace, happiness, or satisfaction, and the void they thought to fill, is still empty. On the other hand there are many who attain to position and influence in society, through force of character, and diligent determination.

The above is a copy – the original was found amongst dear father's papers during my visit to Sydney in May 1915 – the family being still at "Sturtholm" Manly. C.M.W. 22/6/15