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A story of  Alexander Weir

ALEXANDER WEIR
 
Information  supplied by  Janet.Davis@bigpond.com
I first had an inkling that the Weir family may have had a military connection when reading my great-great grandparents divorce paper, Eleanor Weir attested that her husband John Thomas Weir had threatened to cut her open with his sword.  I thought it puzzling that John Thomas Weir would have a sword when he was a stone mason by trade and concluded that he may have acquired it from someone with military  connections.
 
I had been researching the Weir family for years following the usual path of obtaining birth marriage and death certificates as I followed the family line backwards from my parents.  I knew that Great Great Great Grandparents Alexander Weir and his wife Hanna nee Price had arrived in Melbourne as assisted immigrants on the “Talbot” on 25th August, 1857.  With them were 8 of their 9 children.  The record in Book 12 page 393 of the index[1] is as follow:
WEIR, Alexander: age 46, occupation bricklayer, able to read and write, Church of England, native of England birthplace “Haddington” to be employed at Queenscliff at 10 (presumably shillings per day).”
WEIR, Hannah age 44
WEIR, Cecilia, age 6
WEIR, Hannah, age 8
WEIR, Jabez, age 10
WEIR, Elizabeth, age 10, occupation housemaid, born Kent England, able to read and write, gone to Mrs Howard, Mercer Street, Geelong for 2-10-3 (presumably pounds shillings and pence but for what pay period is not known).
WEIR, Stephen, age 14, occupation labourer, native of Canada, Presbyterian, able to read and write.
WEIR, James, age 17, occupation labourer, native of Canada, able to read and write.
WEIR, John, age 19, occupation labourer, native of Canada, able to read and write.
The boys went with their father to Queenscliff”[2]
 
I cannot find a record of the arrival of their eldest son Alexander Samuel Weir, and wonder if he came to Melbourne from West Australia when the rest of the family went back to England.
 
From the marriage and death certificates obtained, I discovered that Alexander and Hannah had travelled extensively as their children were almost all born in different countries.  Alexander and Hannah were married at Chatham Kent which is home to a naval station; Alexander Samuel was born at Chatham, Kent; John Thomas was born at Nova Scotia, Canada, James and Stephen in Canada; Elizabeth was born at Kent; Jabez and Hannah Margaret were both born in Gibraltar; Cecelia was born in Swan River, West Australia.  I could not find any birth records for any of the children in the BDM indexes held at the State Library and Genealogical Society Victoria.
 
This all changed when on a hunch I decided to check the regimental registers held at the above repositories and struck gold.  I discovered the following births Alexander S, 1833, Chatham, Kent; John Thomas,1837, Halifax, Nova Scotia; James, 1840, Halifax; Stephen, 1842, Halifax; Elizabeth,1844, Woolwich; Jabez,1847, Gibraltar; and Hannah Margaret, 1849, Gibraltar; were all recorded in these registers.  From the regimental birth certificates I found that Alexander was a stonemason in the Halifax Regiment of the Royal Engineers.  The only birth certificate that I have not found is that of Cecelia born in Swan River WA in 1851.
 
Further research on the Royal Engineers uncovered a reference in the State Library[3]
 
From this source I learned that in 1848/49 the West Australian Government was seeking sources of cheap labour to help develop the country and decided that it should  become a regular penal settlement.  The Secretary of State applied to England to supply the service of an officer of the Royal Engineers to plan and superintend the works to be performed in Western Australia, and to control the application of convict labour.  The Choice fell on Captain Henderson, one of the officers employed on the survey of the boundary between the British provinces in North America and the United States, and of a proposed line of railway between Halifax and Quebec.
 
Captain E.Y.W. Henderson was at that time in his twenty-ninth year, a fairly junior captain, not long married.  Without any experience of convict management he was appointed comptroller general, with a salary of £500 a year in addition to his army pay (11s 1d a day) and forage for one horse.  His instructions were to find temporary accommodation for the convicts and their guards, after which he was to build a permanent depot; only then was he to deploy the convicts to roads, harbours, and the improvement of navigation. .....It was agreed to a corporal and four privates (sappers) also being appointed, the corporal to draw 2s. 1d a day in army pay plus 2s. In working pay and the privates to be on 1s. 3d. Plus 2s., in each case less 5d. a day for rations.  The sappers were intended not to be disciplinary warders, but to supervise works.  In order to invest them with authority they were to be termed ‘instructing warders’.
 
Henderson and his party of five men of the Royal Sappers and Miners, seventy military pensioners sent as a guard, 150 convicts, and a number of wives and children reached Fremantle on 1 June 1850, after a rapid passage of eighty-eighty days.  One of the first things he did was look for accommodation and noted at Fremantle a large unfinished woolshed and other buildings belonging to the harbourmaster and not yet occupied. 
 
He took a lease on the whole property for five years and landed his sappers and a working party of twenty-five from the pensioner guard, then twenty-five prisoners, and gradually larger parties, finishing the roof of the woolshed, then flooring it with stones set in lime, and putting all the other buildings to use.  By the 25th June the whole party was ashore and under cover.
 
In February 1851 the Governor of the Colony wrote:
.......the five non-commissioned officers of the Royal Sappers and Miners, who have been appointed by the Secretary of State ‘the Instructing Warders’, are for this purpose admirably adapted, and do not involve one-half the expense that would be incurred by the same amount of supervision by a civilian.  I consider the rapidity and success of the works we have carried on greatly indebted to these men.
 
His report requested that a company of Sappers and Miners be sent out to supervise the labour of the prisoners on the different public works, being at the same time availabe for military duty in case of emergency.  It was decided that a company of Sappers and Miners would be sent out.  The company would consist of 100 men and be composed of, as far as possible, of soldiers acquainted with the different trades and callings likely to be most useful to Western Australia, and also of men who have served some time, so as to afford a prospect of their settling in the colony on becoming entitled to their discharge.  Captain Henderson would be captain of the company, and two subalterns of the Royal Engineers would be sent out.  Seventy men would come soon, with tents and equipment suitable for a possible expedition to the north, and the rest of the company would depart later in the year, serving as guards on a convict ship.
 
Further research has shown that Alexander Weir was stationed at Woolwich in July 1851 in the 20th company of the Sappers and Miners (Royal Engineers) commanded by Lieutenat H Wray and stationed at Woolwich July to August 1851 awaiting embarkation for Swan River.  He had joined the 20th company from 2nd company on 1st March 1851.  The Musters (Pay Lists) show that in September 1851 he was with a detachment of the 20th company under the command of Capt. Henrie and part of a small detachment of Corporals Newman, Flay, and Privates Murdoch, Tomkin, and Thompson headed for Swan River.  He was a stonemason ‘Instructing Warden’ whose job was to supervise the convicts in building barracks, for prisoners, and soldiers and helping to establish the structure for the new colony.
 
There were three ships which were known to have carried the Engineers Corp to WA: the Scindian in June 1850 which had 5 Sappers and Miners; the Minden in October 1851 with 30 Sappers; and the Anna Robertson (below).
 
On 17 December 1851 the main body of sixty-five men of the 20th Company, Royal Sappers and Miners, with thirty-five women and eighty-eight children – ten of them born during the voyage reached Fremantle in the Anna Robertson.  The company was commanded by Lieutenant Henry Wray, R.E., a subaltern with eight years service who brought his wife.  There was another officer, Second Lieutenant E.F, Du Cane, R.E., sent out for duty with the convict establishment.  There was also an assistant surgeon.  Because of whooping cough on board, the passengers were placed in quarantine on Carnac Island, and it is recorded that they were made sick by bad water, sent across in old beer casks by the assistant harbourmaster.  The 20th Company was put into improvised barracks at the Fremantle whaling jetty.  The high proportion of married men is noteworthy, because the authorised establishment of married soldiers was twelve in a company of 100.  I believe that this may have been the ship that carried Alexander and his family to Swan River.  I have never been able to locate a birth certificate for Cecelia who was born in 1851 and wonder if she was one of the 10 babies born on board.
The Anna Robertson was ill-fated and was lost at see with all lives after leaving Melbourne for London on 5 April 1852.
 
By the end of 1852 the Royal Engineer establishment was shown as Captain Henderson, 1st Lt. Henry Wray, 2nd Lt F Du Cane and W Crossman, and 20th coy. Royal Sappers and Miners consisting of a colour-seargeant, four seargeants, five second corporals and eighty five privates.  Instructors were stationed at the convict depots at North Fremantle, Mount Eliza, Guildford, York, Toodyay, Bunbury and Albany.
 
A good description of life on board one of the ships to bring a convict contingency to West Australia is contained in a transcript of the Surgeon Superintendent of the ship Minden 1851.Appendix [i]
 
Alexander Weir served for nearly 4 years.  A dictionary of Western Australian Prison Officers 1829-1879 has two references to Alexander Weir[4]:
 
“WEIR Alexander Bricklayer, RSM (Royal Sappers & Miners) CE (Convict Establishment) 25.10.1853 Asleep on duty 27.10.1853. Working pay at Alby (Albany) increased to 2s pd. (2 shillings per day) GD340. 14.10.1853 To CE. (GD1084.28.1.1856)”.
 
“WEIR Alexander NW.CE. [night warder convict establishment] 2.9.1853. To Overseer Tooodyay GMT Guildford 25.10.1853. To convict establishment 26.1.1854. Late 2.2.1854. Fined 6d (6 pence) Assaulted by prisoner 9.2.1854. Awarded 100 lashes.  Gossiping with prisoners on public works 20.2.1854.  Severely admonished.  Reported for allowing party to march off the works in a very irregular manner 11.3.1854; and allowing them to use improper language without noticing their conduct.  Fines. Late. 13.3.1854 (6d). 15.4.1854 (1s 6d). 19.4.1854 late on several occasions; now cautioned.  To duties No 6 Outside Labourer’s Party 1.5.1854. Late 28.6.1854. Fined 6d. Resigned 31.8.1854”.
 
I believed these two entries were for the same person my Alexander Weir and emailed the Author who confirmed that they were indeed both the same Alexander Weir and was interested to receive any further information that I had on Alexander.
 
These entries show that Alexander worked as an instructing warder in charge of a party of convict labourers in Albany, Toodyay, Guildford, as well as presumably Fremantle on his arrival.  I have no records to show whether he worked in other areas of WA including York. 
 
We have no idea what Alexander was involved in from the time he resigned on 31 August 1854 until he left West Australia in March 1855.  I can only assume that he remained a soldier in the British Army as he continued to draw his pay until he received his ultimate discharge from the Army.
 
By March 1855 Alexander was on his way back to England having embarked on 5th March with Lt Sergt. Philip Clark, Seargeant Henry George, and Private Emanauel Unwin.  He received his discharge from the Army on 17 August 1855.
 
Alexander Weir was born at North Berwick, Scotland on 25 November 1810 and baptised on the 9th January 1811.  His father was Alexander Weir, Gunner 9th Battalion Royal Artillery, Woolwich and mother Margaret Innes.  He was described as natural son, i.e. illegitimate.[5]
 
There is a further record of a marriage of Alexander Weir, slater and Margaret McInnes in Glasgow, but the record appears to be unfinished appearing as:-
“Weir - Alexander Weir Slater of Glasgow and Margaret McInnes resident there”
                                                Warrant not delivered[6]
 
Unfortunately I am not sure whether or not the marriage ever took place.
 
Alexander married Hannah Price born January 1813 daughter of Thomas and Elizabeth price on 5th April 1833 at Gillingham, Kent, UK.[7]
 
From the muster rolls (time-sheets) obtained from the War Office records at the Public Records Office in England, as well as his discharge papers from the Army, I have been able to obtain further details about Alexander’s life on military service.[8]
 
“The discharge papers of no.1393 Private Alexander Weir in proceedings of a Regimental Board held before the General The Rt Hon Henry Viscount Harding Corporal of the Royal Sappers and Miners at Woolwich on 28th July 1855 having examined and compared the Regimental Records, the Soldiers book show that Private Alexander Weir by trade a Slater (bricklayer) was born in the parish of North Berwick in the County of Haddington and was attested for the Royal Regiment of Sappers and Miners at Edinburgh in the County of Edinburgh on 31 January 1831 at the age of 20 years and 2 months, that his service up to 14th August 1855 amounted to 24 years 127 days during which period he served aboard fifteen and seven-twelvth years:
            Gibraltar 6 years;
            Halifax N. S. 6 years 1 month;
            Western Australia 3 years and 6 months
And that his discharge is a consequence of Chronic Rheumatism.
 
With regard to the character and conduct of Private Alexander Weir, it appears that he has been fourt times tried by Courts Martial:-
o   1st at Brompton Barracks on the 29th September 1832 for being absent without leave of which he was convicted and sentenced to 14 days imprisonment, which was completed.
o   2nd at Woolwich on the 23rd January 1836, for refusing to do his work and making his escape of which he was convicted and sentenced to 12 days solitary confinement of which 1 day and 20 hours were remitted.
o   3rd at Halifax Nova Scotia on the 11th October 1836, for using threatening language to a non commissioned officer of which he was convicted and sentenced to 30 days imprisonment which was inflicted.
o   4th at Gibraltar on the 4th April 1848 for habitual drunkenness of which he was convicted and sentenced to forfeit his wine for 6 months and up to 8 days solitary confinement which was inflicted.
 
That he became in possession thereafter of good conduct pay of one distinguishing mark for good conduct on 15th October 1840 of 2d. per day and 2 distinguishing marks on the 28 March 1855 of the first of which he was deprived by entry in the defaulter book from the 11 September 1847to the 12th April 1850; and of the second from the 9th January 1848 to the 12th April 1852.  That he became entitled to 3d per day of three distinguishing marks for good conduct from the 12th April 1854 and that his general character is BAD.
 
His Medical Report taken on 20th July 1855 at Woolwich shows that Private Alexander Weir was suffering from Chronic Rheumatism which was incurred while employed in Western Australia two years ago; he was much exposed to wet weather anf performed his working duties in a swamp from which he became infected with Rheumatism in his loin and lower limbs which still continued.  Disability caused by his militery service.
 
In the opinion of the Principal Medical Officer ‘after careful examination I am of the opinion that Alexander Weir is unfit for service and likely to be permanently disqualified for military duty, but able to contribute to some living towards his livelihood.’
 
Alexander was discharged from the Army on 14th August, 1855 he was 44 years and 8 months of age.  His height was 5 feet 8½ inches, hair grey, eyes light grey, complexion dark, Trade Slater and Bricklayer.  He became an out-pensioner of the Chelsea Hospital, which was fortunate as it meant that the records of his service have survived.
 
I have no information on Alexander until he arrived in Victoria with his family on the Talbot in 1857.  The shipping register notes that he was proceeding to Queenscliff with his family. Queenscliff at that time was not a major port and was sparsely populated.  Its main importance was being a strategic defence to foreign warships mainly Russian as that  country was considered  a threat following the Crimean War.
 
Alexander and his family moved to Melbourne a few years later.  Further research found that by 1863 Alexander Weir is recorded in the Sands & McDougall Directory as a contractor off 39 Victoria Street, Hotham, the same record appears again in 1864.  However, in 1865 and 1866 he is shown as living at 227 Bourke Street East occupation grocer.  The next directory entry for Alexander Weir is in 1870 and 1872 where he is shown as living at Errol Street in North Melbourne.  In 1875 his address is Curzon Street North Melbourne.  Whether this is Alexander or his son Alexander Samuel is uncertain because, later entries for Errol Street have the name as Alexander Samuel Weir.  In 1876 Hannah Weir is recorded living in Market Street Fitzroy.
 
On 11 October 1877 an application was made by S G King  to have Alexander admitted into the Melbourne Benevolent Asylum because of his increasing debility and paralysis in his arm[9].  This application was refused on the grounds that there was no room for him.[10]
 
Another application for his admission to the Asylum was made on 30th January 1878 by W Rigg because of Alexander’s increasing fraility and debility due to old age, he was 70 years of age.  This application was also refused on the grounds of no room.[11]
 
The Melbourne Benevolent Asylum was a private charity, set up in 1849 with a government grant of ten acres of land near the old cattle yards (North Melbourne). It was part of the benevolent asylum network which was the mechanism for caring for the destitute aged in the second half of the nineteenth century. The objects of the Society were ".... to relieve the aged, infirm, disabled or destitute poor of all creeds and nations; and to minister them the comforts of religion...".

The asylum continually faced problems of overcrowding - funding was a problem. The government provided 50% of the operating funds, however over the years, the amount received decreased, despite increasing numbers of people requiring care. The asylum also faced continual complaints of being cold, dirty, insufficient water, no water and absence of medical comforts.
 
One can only presume that Alexander was being cared for by his wife Hannah and family at this time and his care was becoming more difficult for them to manage.  I am also assuming that the applicants may have been doctors, but there was no Dr prefix to their names in the register.
 
A final application for his admission to the Asylum was made ten years later on 23 February 1888.  This application was approved by the Medical Officer on the basis that Alexander was suffering from Senile Debility, Rheumatics and paralysis[12].
 
Alexander Weir died 0n 28 June 1888  a few months after he was finally admitted to the Asylum.  He is buried in the Melbourne General Cemetery with his wife Hannah who died on 11 August 1890.
 
 
 
 
 

 

[1] VPRS 14 Register of Assisted British Immigrants 1839-1871
[2] Its interesting to speculate whether Alexander worked on the construction of the fort at Queenscliff that was built in 1858.
[3] “Ubique: The Royal Australian  Engineers 1834 to 1902.  The Colonial Engineers”, written by Major General RR McNicoll, and published by the Corpt. Committee of the Royal Australian Engineers in 1977. pps 104-108
[4] “Warders and Gaolers: A Dictionary of Western Australian Prison Officers 1829-1879”; compiled by David J Barker published on CD in 2000.
2 OPR Births 713/0040 0222 North Berwick downloaded from Scotlandspeople website.
 
[6] 08/12/1816 Weir, Alexander [OPR Marriages 644/0010280 8334 Glasgow] downloaded from Scotlandspeople website
[7] IGI Website extracted 8 Jan 2009, Film Number I029071.
[8] WO/97 1364 accessed at the National Archives of Britain, Kew, Richmond, UK
[9] State Library of Victoria - Australian Manuscripts Collection
Melbourne Benevolent Asylum - MS 8366
 
[10] Register of applicants and inmates, male and female, May 1873 - August 1890 (Box 626/4, Folio 50)
 
[11] Register of applicants and inmates, male and female, May 1873-August 1890 (Box 626/4 Folio 64)
 
[12] Register of applicants and inmates, male and female, May 1873-August 1890 (Box 626/4 Fol 142)
 

 

   
[i] After a favourable passage of 85 days from Plymouth, the anchor was cast in Gages Roads, Fremantle on the 14th October.  Amid so vast a concourse of convicts, Pensioners and families and ship’s company (total 459) it is satisfactory to be able to state that good health generally pervaded the ship throughout the voyage.  4 cases of death occurred, viz 2 children aged from 3 months to 1 and half years from Scropula and Colicky attacks, 1 sailor boy from a sever attack of dysentery, terminating in inflammation of the brain and one convict from fever of a low lingering type.  Diarrhoeal cases were the most numerous in the forgoing journal, but were of mild nature occurring chiefly on a change from fresh to salt diet and on approaching the cool Southern Latitudes.  The symptoms were readily checked by 10 to 20 grain doses of Chloride Hydrara, followed by Gregorys Powder or oleum resin two hours afterwards and the mister critea co, cum zinc cinnam co for a few days in the convalescent stage.  The other cases narrated, were of no serious nature with the exception of the phthisical case which seemed deeply confirmed.
A pensioner’s wife was confined on the passage of twins – labour natural, with a slow but favourable recovery.  To preserve and secure good health, a rigid adherence to cleanliness in the prison Barracks and crews Berth was practised with attention to dryness, ventilation and occasional fumigation by the swinging stoves.  The families were encouraged as much as possible on the upper deck, weather permitting, and within the tropics the bath filled with salt water was in use morning and evening by the Parents and Children, the latter improving wonderfully from its effects. …  I personally enforced to the day of disembarkation and found it of the greatest benefit.  Cleanliness and exercise were here aimed at and procured.  I may here digress for a little and state that having obtained upon a representation to the Directors of Prisons a tolerably liberal supply of Marine Soap, I found it a valuable help in preserving health serving it out in proportions that enabled the prisoners to have a person ablution daily with the salt water – the soap supplied as a medical comfort being very inadequate and of no use in salt water bathing.  I would respectfully suggest that the Convict of Prison establishment Directors attention should be called to the contribution of an allowance of Marine Soap to all convict ships.  After inspection and breakfast the Prison was dry holy stoned, daily with an occasional washing out in a drying wind.  Windstacks down and the fumigating stoves used frequently – bedding and blankets of convicts and Pensioners were also shaken out and often aired.  One half of the prisoners were employed at School in the Prison in the forenoon, the other half on the upper deck making up cut garments, shoemaking and etc.  In the afternoon these duties were reversed so that the whole had the benefit of fresh air one half of the day and immediately after supper their beds being all made the whole of the Prisoners were allowed on deck and encouraged in the diversions such as Dancing, Music, leap frog and the Boxing Gloves until the roll was called which I firmly believe, materially contributed to their health.  No symptom of Scorbatus was observed during the voyage.  The lime juice and wine mixed together with a due proportion of water and sugar was regularly served out half an hour after dinner and every man and made to drink it in my own presence.  The victualling on preserved meats and potatoes is certainly also a great boon and antidote to disease.  An allowance of medical comforts was also carefully and sometimes liberally supplied to the women and children to counteract the effects of Salt Beef.  Due attention was paid to the cleaning of the water closets 3 or 4 times a day and the Chloride of Tinc freely thrown into them.  The excellent effects of this valuable fluid were very evident at the commencement of the voyage and for some time thereafter.  A most offensive Bilge water odour escaped fore and aft on lower deck from sides of ship and particularly before the ship was pumped out.  A plentiful supply of the solution, after pumping dry was poured down the pumps and the airholes in the sides of Prison Barracks for some days when the offensive and sickening effluvia disappeared, much to the satisfaction and comfort of the families and prisoners.
The voyage throughout was a fine weather one.  Heat within the tropics was moderate with very little rain.  Temperature in South Latitude, mild.  The highest range of thermometer was 84º Fahrenheit – the lowest 48º Fahrenheit – winds varied in the courses steered.
The anchorage at Fremantle is an open roadstead with numerous adjacent reefs, shoals and islands.  Mainland low and of a very sandy nature along the coast, capable of little cultivation until you reach the eastern and southern districts, about 60 or 100 miles inland where rich and fertile farms, sheep and cattle runs are met with.  The colony since the founding of the penal establishment in 1850 (I having had charge of the first draft of convicts) has made a rapid and wonderful rise to prosperity after slumbering for 20 years.  The men who have been sent out have generally conducted themselves very satisfactorily and obtained their ticket of leave early.  The settlers have rapidly hired them at very reduced wages to what they were accustomed to give to free labourers, and the work done by them, and their behaviour has met with great approbation from their employers and they are materially aiding in pioneering and opening up the resources of the colony.  The settlers have rapidly hired them at very reduced wages to what they were accustomed to give to free labourers, and the work done by them, and their behaviour has met with great approbation from their employers and they are materially aiding in pioneering and opening up the resources of the colony.  The government expenditure in improvements of roads, buildings, etc. has been most beneficial and already altered the face of the port of Fremantle from that of a dead, deserted looking fishing haven to a busy, bustling nucleus of commerce.  The colony was healthy when I left, but the freezing winter months had brought along with them a severe influenza attacking the families in towns and country – it suddenly disappeared on spring approaching.
The weather was delightful in October and November with refreshing showers.  The news of the gold discoveries in the sister colonies had just reached on my leaving the colony, and had created a mania in search of the metal, but up to 1st December no discovery had been made in Western Australia.  Vast quantities of lead was being worked up to the northward and copper in considerable veins was found.  Extensive fields of coal were also discovered of excellent quality it was said, and as exploring parties were gradually finding resources in the Northern locality I have no doubt but Western Australia will ere long become as flourishing as her sister colonies.
John Gibson, Surgeon RN
Her Majesty’s Hired Convict Ship”Minden”, Fremantle, October 24 1851.
 
The INDEPENDENT JOURNAL as reported in the Perth Gazette 17 October 1851
 
The convict ship Minden arrived on Tuesday with 301 ticket of leave men and a pensioner guard with women and children numbering 111 souls; one convict died on the passage.  She has made a quick voyage of 86 days, having sailed on 21st July.  We believe this vessel will be quickly followed by other government ships as the local authorities have received intelligence that two companies of Royal Sappers and Miners numbering 200 men and 2 officers of the Royal Engineers were to be sent here, the first detachment of 70 Sappers and Lieut. Wray Engineer .Officer being expected to arrive within a month.  This we believe  is according to the report of Colonel Jebb, the inspector of prisons; but we understand that his excellency’s despatches from Earl Grey represent that one company of 100 men with three subaltern officers are to be sent, a detachment of 50 by the first ship.  A nephew of Sir J Burgoyne late an officer in the East India Company’s service has been appointed assistant oversee under Mr Dixon and will with his wife and family arrive in an early ship.
 
Perth Gazette Friday 24th October 1851
 
Testimonial to Dr Gibson RN., Surgeon Superintendent of the Ship Minden, by the ticket of leave holders who arrived in that vessel under his charge Minden October 1851.
 
TO THE SURGEON SUPERINTENDENT DR GIBSON RN
 
Sir, we the undersigned, the adult convicts under your charge, do give you our thanks for the fatherly interest you have taken in our comfort and health; for the general excellent arrangement of the system of order and cleanliness, maintained throughout the happy and comfortable voyage; for the mild and gentlemanly behaviour shown to us, the excellent moral and scriptural advice, and the kind interest you have taken in our welfare; and for the lenient punishments to which you have resorted to maintain discipline in which you have by the mildest means so happily succeeded.  Also for your interest and exertions in our schools, and your kind interest in our external welfare; for the amusements you have provided for our health, and for your general kindness and attention to everything that added to our comfort; and lastly we thank you for your encouragement in the spiritual exercises that have been observed in this ship – we trust to the salvation of many souls.  And we also thank the kind Government that have provided for us such a fine and comfortable ship, and most kind yet firm Surgeon Superintendent, and we, your charge, will endeavour to show our gratitude to you, sir, by our good conduct, and conclude by wishing you a safe passage home and every blessing.
 
Here followed by 261 signatures   
 
 
With regard the intention to send here a large corps of Sappers and Miners, as one of the greatest boons conferred on us by the Home Government.  The men are all tradesmen and mechanics and though not available for private service, they will render it unnecessary to employ civilian mechanics and tradesmen at the convict depot, and thus place a greater number of artisans at the disposal of the public and obviate the present inconvenience of the great scarcity of such labour.
 
Perth Gazette Friday 19th December 1851
 
Shipping Intelligence
 
On the 17th inst., the barque Anna Robertson, from London 10th September.  Passengers – Sandford esq. Colonial Secretary, Right Rev. Bishop Brady; Mr John Conroy; Convict Establishment; 2 Engineer Officers, and Dr Coyle Surgeon Superintendent.  65 Sappers and Miners, 50 women and 84 children.
 
The Anna Robertson cast anchor in Gages Road late on Wednesday evening, and on being visited early yesterday morning by the health officer, it was found that whooping cough was prevalent on board and all communication with the shore consequently interdicted.  On this account great delay took place before the arrival of the mail in Perth, as even after it was landed every letter had to undergo the process of fumigation.  We understand the Champion is to be brought over today and anchored near her, and the actually sick removed into her, and if in the course of a few days no fresh cases occur, the Anna Robertson will be free of quarantine.
 
Perth Gazette Friday 26 December 1851
 
The Independent Journal
 
In our last publication we announced the arrival of the troop ship Anna Robertson, with a party of Sappers and Miners, and that whooping cough being prevalent on board, the vessel would be placed in quarantine.  His Excellency appointed a board of health to determine what steps should be taken and on Monday last these gentlemen upon landing the actually infected upon Carnac, and all the families on Woodmans Point to undergo quarantine, but strange to say, allowed all unmarried passengers to land free of restraint.
 
Few of our fellow colonists who were here in 1848, but will recollect the dreadful effects caused by this epidemic at that time; many families will recall with anguish, its fatal issue in their own circles, and will view with dismay the slightest chance of another visitation.  During the first three or four months of that year no less than twenty five children under the age of three years died from it, besides several others of a more advanced age.  The disease was introduced by parties who had so far recovered from it to escape detection, yet the poison spread itself over the colony with a quickness and fatal effect which leads us to suppose that the season of  the year was unfortunately too favourable for its dissemination.  Since then four years have passed away and again in the very same season is this virulent epidemic brought to our shores and with the experience of its former visit fresh in our in our recollection we have a committee sanctioning the landing and mixing with the population of individuals from the infected ship.  Whether the disease be contagious or infectious does not appear to be very distinctly determined; but from many cases in 1848, it would most certainly seem to be the latter; however this may be, we cannot think the members of the board of health have done wisely in allowing even a chance of its obtaining a footing amongst our population; we must say we do not think they have done their duty to the public, in not taking every precaution, and should the disease break out, they will be well deserving of the reprobation of every man in the colony for their culpable and extraordinary conduct.
 
The passengers by the Anna Robertson were somewhat incorrectly reported in our last,  they are – W.A Sandford Esq., Colonial Secretary, Lieut. Wray and lady, 2nd Lieut. Ducane, Royal Engineers, Rt. Rev. Dr. Brady, Rev. Dr. Coyle, Mr and Mrs Conroy and family, Assistant Surgeon Elliot, Ordnance Medical Department. Mr Perry, 65 Sappers and Miners, 55 women and 88 children, 10 of the latter having been born during the passage. 

 

 

References
[1] VPRS 14 Register of Assisted British Immigrants 1839-1871
[2] Its interesting to speculate whether Alexander worked on the construction of the fort at Queenscliff that was built in 1858.
[3] “Ubique: The Royal Australian  Engineers 1834 to 1902.  The Colonial Engineers”, written by Major General RR McNicoll, and published by the Corpt. Committee of the Royal Australian Engineers in 1977. pps 104-108
Family Members, Military records  ,Pay rolls, Pay Musters, Cemetery Records, Church Records & General Muster Records, Mitchell Library ,Sydney Australia
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