The Leaving of Armadale – Sleat – Isle of Skye 1837

Alexander McKenzie was born on the Isle of Skye in 1803, and married Anne McLean, in 1829 at Armadale,  on the Isle of Skye, in the Parish of Sleat).

Alexander McKenzie, aged 32 years,  travelled to Australia as assisted immigrants on a bounty ship in 1837  (the William Nicol) with his wife, Anne (nee McLean),  and their 4 children, as follows :

Daniel b 1831 Armadale, Isle of Skye
Donaldb 1832 Armadale, Isle of Skye
Alexander b 1834 Armadale, Isle of Skye
John b 1835 Armadale, Isle of Skye

Many crofter tenant families were leaving Scotland around this time,  following either the widespread Landlords’ clearances for sheep farming, or the potato famines of the 1830’s and 1840’s. In earlier decades many left for what is now Canada – Nova Scotia, Cape Breton & PEI – Prince Edward Island. As the NSW Colony also had a labour shortage problem, there began systematic recruitment processes with selecting agents, which would see 5200 leave under the Government Bounty programme. At the same time, there were destitution relief schemes in Scotland as well as the Highland and Island Emigration Society. Note – “Opportunity and Exile : Snapshots of Scottish Emigration to Australia” by Marjory Harper of the University of Aberdeen UK and available on-line via the National Library of Australia is an excellent reference.

The “William Nicol” left IsleOrnsay, Isle of Skye, Scotland on 6 July 1837, with 321 mostly Gaelic speaking passengers, as part of the “Lang’s” Bounty System – Reverend John Dunmore Lang, Australia’s first Presbyterian Minister.

After arriving in the NSW Colony in 1823, John Dunmore Lang had founded the original Scots Church, built in Wynyard, Sydney Australia in 1824. Some McKenzie / Mackenzie families have been married here. A new gothic style church was completed in 1930, and in 2017 the church was undergoing restoration.

 

More on IsleOrnsay – click heremore,

Emigration from the Highlands and Islands was endemic in the 19th century and the company that ran the Isleornsay store, MacDonald and Elder, acted as emigration agents from the early 1800s. In 1822 they advertised that they were able to “to fit out transports for the conveyance of passengers from Inverness & the West Coast” of Scotland to the east coast of Canada (to Nova Scotia and the adjoining islands of Canada (ie Cape Breton and Prince Edward Islands)….. The mid 1830s were a time of great hardship and food shortage in the Highlands and Islands. The government did little to help. An impassioned plea for help by Caraid na Gaidheal, Dr Norman MacLeod was heard, and acted on by Rev Dunmore Lang, a Presbyterian minister based in Australia. He instigated a programme of assisted passages to Australia from the area. ….  In the 1830s a programme of assisted passages to Australia from the Sleat peninsula was organised. The William Nicol sailed to Sydney from Isleornsay in July 1837 with 322 passengers including 70 families from Sleat. At the time it was reported that so many local people wished to emigrate that the ship could not accommodate all those who wanted to embark.

Old Photographs Isleornsay Isle Of Skye Scotland

Old photograph of Isleornsay lighthouse Isle Of Skye, Scotland. It was first lit in 1857, twenty years after our McKenzie’s had left for Australia

At the last muster before their departure from IsleOrnsay in 1837,  apparently each family was given a Gaelic Bible (Gaelic Bible : Leabhraichean an T-Seann Tiomnaidh Air an Tarruing o ‘n Cheud Chanain Chum Gaelic Albannaich).

This Gaelic speaking aspect is interesting, as our family has a Gaelic Bible from the Edinburgh Bible Society. It has been presumed to have been handed down through from Mary Ann Hicks (nee McKenzie), or her parents. There are no dates printed or inscribed at the front as it appears the first ten pages are missing. However at the back there are two sections with dates of 1828 & 1831, so it is highly probable that this is the Bible given to Alexander McKenzie Jnr and wife Ann McLean at IsleOrnsay prior to their departure in 1837.

Note – here is a a link to a digitised version of an 1837 Gaelic Bible from the Edinburgh Bible Society (now Scottish Bible Society) – https://digital.nls.uk/rare-items-in-gael…/archive/114510848  – Leabhraichean an T-Seann Tiomnaidh Air an Tarruing o ‘n Cheud Chanain Chum Gaelic Albannaich). It is similar but not identical to our edition. As the first 10 pages seem to be missing from our edition, ours now starts on the first page of the Book of Genesis. And our edition has the numbering recommence for the New Testament and also includes a Book of Psalms section at the back which is not in the digitised edition. There are some sections in our McKenzie copy which refer to other dates – 1831 & 1828.

Food and conditions on the William Nicol during the voyage were not good – there was a lot of overcrowding and 17 children died, as well as two women from childbirth. They arrived at Port Jackson Sydney on October 28 1837 – Source : Robert Mote on Ozigen.  There are some claims that Lang had been concerned at the number of Irish Catholics coming to Australia and had sought to balance this by encouraging Scottish Protestants. There was a view being expressed in early 1838, that the emigrants on the William Nicol had been the most suitable for the Colony – however there was concern that they brought large families of young children which would be a burden on the Colony to feed for a very long time. Also there was concern that it would be difficult to provide education & religious services for them, as many such emigrants were destined for outlying and remote areas. (Refer – Immigration. (1838, January 4). The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 – 1842), p. 2. Retrieved May 18, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article2547960). See also information on the William Nicol from the Eden Monaro Pioneers Database – Robertson.

The  majority of men arriving on the William Nicol in 1837 were experienced shepherds who were in great demand – who secured positions in the Illawarra, Hunter Valley and Goulburn districts.

Many crofter tenant families were leaving Scotland around this time,  following either the widespread Landlords’ clearances for sheep farming, or the potato famines of the 1830’s and 1840’s. As the Colony also had a labour shortage problem, there began systematic recruitment processes with selecting agents, which would see 5200 leave under the Government Bounty programme. At the same time, there were destitution relief schemes in Scotland as well as the Highland and Island Emigration Society. Note – “Opportunity and Exile : Snapshots of Scottish Emigration to Australia” by Marjory Harper of the University of Aberdeen UK and available on-line via the National Library of Australia is an excellent reference.

By 1838 there seemed to be as much controversy about the arriving Scottish Highlander “boat people” as we see today – refer ADVANCE AUSTRALIA SYDNEY GAZETTE. (1838, March 1).The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 – 1842), p. 2. Retrieved May 18, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article2550005. At the time it was that the emigrants were becoming tenants rather than the hired servants that had been expected.

Note – After arriving in Australia, there would be four more children born in the Illawarra, of which only two survived, before Anne herself died in 1846. And Alexander later married Elizabeth Hanks in 1849.  Alexander and Elizabeth would have eight children as well, so with the surviving six children from his marriage with Anne, there would be 16 in total. Elizabeth, died in 1886 at South Logan, Wallaroo; and Alexander died in 1891 at Belmore, Canowindra.

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About Kerrie Anne Christian

Interests - Travel, Photography, Developing Websites, Social Media, Writing, Local History, Researcher, Genealogy
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One Response to The Leaving of Armadale – Sleat – Isle of Skye 1837

  1. Pingback: Homecoming Scotland 2014 – Welcoming back the Scottish Diaspora | The Illawarra McKenzie Family of Ellengowan

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