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

The William Nicol left Isle Ornsay, Isle of Skye, Scotland on 6 July 1837, with 321 mostly Gaelic speaking passengers, as part of the “Lang’s” Bounty System – John Dunmore Lang, Australia’s first Presbyterian Minister. The Gaelic speaking aspect is interesting, as our family has a Gaelic Bible from the Edinburgh Bible Society, which had been presumed to have been handed down through Mary Ann Hicks (McKenzie), or her parents. There are no dates printed or inscribed to provide more accurate clues to its age.

Food and conditions on 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 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 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 14 in total surviving. Elizabeth, died in 1886 at South Logan, Wallaroo; and Alexander died in 1891 at Belmore, Canowindra.


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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