Monday, 2 June 2014

52 Ancestors #29 George Mackillop

George Mackillop was born in Stirlingshire, Scotland in 1790. His father was John Mackillop, a farmer, possibly a sheep farmer, at St Ninians, south of Stirling in Scotland. In 1781 John married Mary Downie, the daughter of Robert Downie 1735-1805, a farmer and a distiller. In 1786 James, the eldest son of John and Mary Mackillop, was born.

In1807 George had completed his matriculation for the Glasgow University. It is unlikely that he actually attended the university as his name is not included in the list of graduates to 1911.

We do know that George went to India to join his brother, James, who was working with their uncle, Robert Downie, at the firm, Downie, Cruttenden and Company. When Robert Downie left India in 1811 the name of the firm changed to Cruttenden and Mackillop and Company with the two brothers taking over the role of their uncle in the company. Both men proceeded to make money as merchants buying and selling goods between India and England. Looking at newspaper advertisements the Mackillop name appears in the name of a number of companies over the years. 

On 8 January 1820 George Mackillop married Jean Eleanora Hutton (1800-1859) at St John’s Church, Calcutta, Bengal, India.

Their first three sons were born in Calcutta - George Downie Mackillop on 21 October 1821, Charles William born in 1824 and John Robert Mackillop born 1 November 1826.

The family returned to Scotland. The next two children were born in Edinburgh -  Eleanora Mackillop born 11 December 1830 and James Mackillop born 17 September 1832. At this time the family was living at 11 Ainslie Place in Edinburgh.

George then decided to take his family to Van Diemen’s Land via India where no doubt he would have checked his investments. They left Scotland at the end of 1832 or early 1833. Unfortunately while they were in Calcutta ten month old James died and was buried at the South Park Burial Ground.

The family probably settled in Hobart in 1834 where Mary Rose Mackillop was born on 8 July 1834 and Georgina was born on 5 April 1837.

On 22 January 1835 George Mackillop arrived in Sydney on the brig, Siren, to travel to Monaro where, accompanied by James MacFarlane and Thomas Livingstone plus some other men, they made their way into Victoria, crossed the Snowy River and explored country a few miles south of Lake Omeo. He named the area Strathdownie. George and his party were the first Europeans to explore this area of Victoria. The reason for the expedition was to locate grazing land for sheep and cattle which they planned to bring across from Van Diemen’s Land. Many years later George Hutton wrote the following account of his grandfather’s adventures.

George Mackillop led the expedition into East Gippsland that discovered Lake Omeo. Strictly speaking he did not lead the expedition (I doubt he being much of a bushman). I fancy a man named MacFarlane did that, but I have no doubt he found the money for the enterprise. Returning to N.S.W. after finding Lake Omeo, the party missed the water. It was a very hot day and all were very thirsty. Mackillop especially, so he sucked pebbles and at last sat down on a log unable to go any further telling the rest of the party to go on and leave him. Two of the convict servants however stuck to him and at last persuaded him to take a few puffs from a pipe (Mackillop was not a smoker) which put some moisture in his mouth and he was then able to go on and join the rest of the party. Mackillop had never smoked until this time but from then on became a heavy smoker, so much so that a doctor he consulted when he was 70 years of age told him he had knocked ten years off his life. He died when 74.

George returned to Hobart from Sydney in April. He continued to live with his family in Hobart for the next few years though he was actively involved in the early settlement of Victoria. He joined Mr Dobson’s Port Phillip Company with the plan to acquire land in the new settlement.  In May 1836 he arranged for 750 sheep to be taken to Port Phillip aboard Captain Tregurtha’s brig, Henty.  The ship ran into mudflats in Port Phillip Bay but eventually arrived at Hobson’s Bay, Williamstown and on the 20 May the sheep were safely landed. In August 1836 Captain Tregurtha took a party, including George Mackillop, aboard a small boat exploring the Barwon River near Geelong.

George Mackillop purchased a number of properties often in partnership with James Smith. A survey of dwellings, stock and cultivation at Port Phillip taken on 9 November 1836 listed a property, belonging to George Mackillop and James Smith, on the east bank of the Salt Water River, seven miles from Captain Lonsdale’s headquarters. The residence consisted of a tent and there were 2240 sheep and one horse on the property. There were five men on the property.George had also been a member of a party exploring land near Geelong.

In 1839 George Mackillop and James Smith established the property Strathdownie in south west Victoria near Mt Noorat. The property was later renamed Glenormiston when they sold it the following year. George may also have had a property in the Omeo region. Macfarlane and Livingstone certainly established properties in this area.

In 8 January 1847, after George and his family had returned to England, properties owned by George Mackillop were auctioned. An advertisement in The Argus 8 January 1847 described the land for sale. This included a property on the Merri Creek consisting of 146 acres, ‘a very substantial stone built and elegant house on the cottage style with verandah, and commanding an extensive view of the surrounding country’, a three stall stable and a coach house. Three parcels of land in St Kilda were also for sale. One consisted of three acres of cleared land with a three rail fence, the second had a 60 foot frontage on to Promenade Street fronting on to the bay and leading on to Ackland Street while the third had one hundred foot frontage on to Ackland Street. These parcels of land had been purchased on 6 September 1842 after George had left the colony so he was still looking out for investment opportunities in Port Phillip when he was in England. Land purchased in Collins Street, Melbourne was also for sale. As well as buying and selling property George was also selling stock and merchandise.

On 23 November 1836 George’s eldest son, George Downie Mackillop, died and was buried at St David’s Church Cemetery in Hobart.

Issues of the Quarterly Journal of Agriculture published in Edinburgh in June 1839 and March 1840 contained two articles by George Mackillop from Hobart Town providing British readers with his views on the new colony. One article was entitled ‘On Australia’ while the second had the title, ‘On Port Phillip in Australia’.
26 Grosvenor Place, Bath
George first put advertisements in the newspapers for the sale of his Hobart house in 1837 but it was several years before he sold the property. George and his family returned to Scotland in the early1840s. They then moved to Bath in England where they lived in a townhouse at 26 Grosvenor Place in Bath, four doors from George's brother, James who lived at Number 30. Although George and his family returned to the United Kingdom to live, some years later two of his daughters, with their husbands, made their homes in Australia.

George Mackillop died at Torquay in Devon on 10 July 1865. He was 75.

George Mackillop was my great (x3) grandfather.

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