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My ancestors were passengers among the first fleets that were bound for the new colony of Australia, where they pioneered the rugged virgin land in farming and business.

I am yet to learn when and why William and Mary (Kennedy) McDonald departed the rolling green hills of their beloved Ireland to migrate to the rural area of New South Wales, where they had nine children, however I can only presume it may have been during the 1845-1846 potato crop failure and resulting famine, when so many Irish families were starving and life at that time was difficult to sustain.

On 11 November 1851, John and Jane (Harris) Johns bid farewell to their families in Manaccan Cornwell and migrated to South Australia as free settlers on a three masted, timber-hulled, barque-rigged sailing ship of 563 tons called the Caucasian that had been built in Sunderland England and launched in 1851. The Caucasian departed Plymouth England with 237 souls on board.

Long and difficult journeys lay ahead for new migrants and their children and many souls were lost during those voyages to the new world, however newly married John and Jane were filled with hope as they followed in the footsteps of other relatives who had migrated to South Australia on the Reliance five months earlier.

“Upon their arrival at the Port of Adelaide on October 13 1865, shortly after 1 a.m. passengers were greeted with an excited fan fair of rocket flairs and light signals, those wanting to welcome the majestic ‘City of Adelaide’ clipper rushed to their boats to greet the new immigrants to the new colony. The 1865 clipper had arrived in record time on her 72nd day and passengers were reported to look refreshed and pleased to have reached their destination safely.

That was the welcomed greeting received by my great great-grandmother Mercy Wills and her widowed sister Ellen Matilda (Wills) Robinson when they set foot on Australian shores, but who was to know that Ellen Matilda was soon to contract rheumatic fever and die. She was buried in the Burra Cemetery South Australia, three months after that happy arrival, leaving Mercy alone in a strange country for the first time in her life.

In those days the Australian bush was ruthlessly hostile, but the new pioneers were determined to succeed in the promise of a new life, they lived in make shift homes with no amenities while they cleared the land of dense scrub with little else than sheer determination, cross cut saws and blunt axes before they could built fences and erect simple pug and pine cottages and ready themselves to raise stock and grow crops.

Water had to be collected in drums from the nearest river and carted on horse and dray, which was often many miles from their properties. Vast distances often meant men were away from home for weeks at a time, leaving women to bear their children alone and isolated, while also being forced to cope with snakes, spiders, dingoes, bull ants and bush flies as well as the many other vermin and wild creatures that roamed the native bush. So, when we think about Australian farming history and all the work and toil, please give more than a though to country women, who throughout the generations have given so much, yet asked for so little in return.

Salute Australian pioneers, they dared to live the adventurous dream and stoically toiled in a rugged country to achieve the advanced society and international culture that we are privileged to enjoy today. Australian pioneering history has provided a proven benchmark for communities across the land to live, grow and prosper.

“Don’t omit the farmer, no matter which Shire he is in, as the farmer is the most honorable man on earth.” John ‘Leonard’ Baker (1871-1931).
Narelle Marie McDonald Family Tree
Updated September 25, 2012

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