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St Monans

Fife Emigrants To Australia

(Many of the emigrants from North East Fife made significant contributions to the development of Australia during the 19th century. Here are a few examples of these pioneers and their notable achievements.


David Berry was born in December 1795 on a farm near Cupar. His parents were James Berry and Isabel Tod and he was the eighth of their nine children. He started his education at Cupar Grammar School. After his father's death in 1827, David managed the family farm. In 1836, he emigrated to Australia aboard the 'Midlothian', accompanied by his brothers John and William, and his sisters Agnes and Janet. They arrived at Sydney in July 1836 and joined their eldest brother, Alexander, who was a merchant and also owned farmland at Coolangatta, in the Shoalhaven district.

David and John managed the farm until John died in 1848. The property was worked by several hundred convicts. After John died, David began leasing land to tenants who were allowed five years without rent in order to clear timbered land. By 1863, he controlled 300 tenants and he was regarded as a progressive and fair-minded landlord. The income from his enterprise enabled him to purchase other properties on the Richmond and Clarence rivers. He also inherited the estates of his brothers, Alexander and William, who died in 1873 and 1875 respectively. David's ventures continued to prosper, and he pioneered scientific methods of agricultural and estate management.

He remained a bachelor until his death in September 1899, by which time he was a millionaire. Most of his estate went to his cousin, Sir John Hay, but he also left £100,000 to the University of St Andrews, £100,000 for a hospital at Shoalhaven and £30,000 to the Presbyterian Church of N.S.W. During his lifetime, David Berry was renowned for his generosity, and he provided schools for the education of children on his estate. He was also involved in many scientific and engineering projects which were ahead of their time.

Alexander Berry, David's eldest brother, was born on St Andrews day 1781, at Hilltarvit Mains, near Cupar. He was educated at Cupar Burgh School. He then studied medicine at the Universities of St Andrews and Edinburgh. After serving as a ship's doctor with the East India Company, he settled in Australia where he established a colony in New South Wales along with his partner, Edward Wollstonecraft. His administration of this fledgling colony made him famous, and he played an important part in the development of the area until his death in 1873. As detailed above, he also paved the way for the brothers and sisters who followed his example by emigrating to Australia.


John James Duncan was born in February 1845 at Anstruther. He was the second son of John Duncan, sea captain, and his first wife, Joan Hughes. Captain Duncan and his family emigrated to South Australia in 1854, when John was nine years old. In association with his brother-in-law, Sir Walter Watson Hughes, (see following summary), Captain Duncan leased sheep stations at Moonta and Walleroo. Copper deposits were discovered on these properties in 1860, after which copper mining became an important local industry. The first discovery was made by a shepherd named James Boor.

John was educated at Watervale Grammar School, Bentley, near Gawler, and the Collegiate School of St Peter. After leaving school, he worked for three years with Elder, Smith & Co. He then became accountant in charge of the financial department of the Walleroo and Moonta mining and Smelting Cormpany. He also managed the pastoral properties owned by his uncle, from whom he inherited the stations of Hughes Park and Gun Creek in 1887.

Apart from his farming and mining interests, John became involved in politics. In 1871 he was elected to the South Australian House of Assembly as the representative for Adelaide. During the next eighteen years he pursued an increasingly successful political career although he refused offers of portfolios made to him by at least three Premiers. H. was highly respected by his political friends and foes for his integrity and his extensive knowledge of agricultural affairs. He still found time to participate in the development of commerce in South Australia where his business acumen was beneficial. He yes knighted for his public services in June 1913, and died in October of the same year.

Sir John Duncan had married Jane Morison, daughter of Arthur Harvey, in November 1873. His wife died one year later without issue. In January 1879 he married Jean Gordon, daughter of James Grant and Mary Todd. His second wife bore him four sons and two daughters. From his substantial estate he made generous bequests to various charitable organisations.


Walter Watson Hughes was born in August 1803 at Pittenweem. His parents were Thomas Hughes and Eliza Anderson. He attended school in Grail and was apprenticed to a local cooper. However, he soon went to sea and for several years he was engaged in whaling in the Arctic regions. This hazardous lifestyle did not appeal to him, so he voyaged to Calcutta as first mate on a sailing ship in 1829. He then bought the brig 'HERO', and traded in the Indian and China seas until 1840. In that year he sailed for Adelaide, where he worked for Bunce & Thompson, who were shipping merchants.

During the financial crisis of 1843, Walter lost most of his hard-earned savings, bet he salvaged enough to commence sheep-farming. Through careful management he was able to expand his activities, and in 1854 he leased the large sheep station at Walleroo. He was joined in this venture by his brother-in-law, Captain John Duncan. (see previous summary) In 1860, copper was found on the Walleroo property, followed shortly afterwards by a similar find on Moonta. Walter formed a company for the commercial development of these copper deposits. After a few years, this company became tremendously profitable. Since Walter was the main shareholder, he acquired considerable wealth, which he utilised to expand his sheep farming properties, until he owned many thousands of acres.

He contributed lavishly to the promotion of further education, and he was known as the 'Father of Adelaide University' because of his large donations. In 1880 he was knighted for public services. Before then, Sir Walter Hughes had retired to England, where he lived at Fan Court in Surrey. In September 1841, he had married Sophia, daughter of James Hairy Richman, who was a well-known Adelaide solicitor. His wife died in June 1885 without issue. Sir Walter died in January 1887. Both he and his wife were buried in the churchyard at Lyne, near Chertsey. His statue stands in front of the Adelaide University and a memorial window was installed in the Flinders Presbyterian Church to which he was a generous benefactor.


James Graham was born in February 1819 at Ennis in County Clare, Ireland. He was the son of James Moore Graham, Irish born surgeon to the Fife Militia, and his first wife, Anna Maria levers. James was educated at Ennis College initially. However, the family moved to Cupar in 1832 and his schooling was continued at Madras Academy there. He commenced work with Pagan & Christie, bankers and solicitors, but soon decided to emigrate. In September 1838 he sailed for Australia aboard the 'Alfred', and arrived at Sydney in January 1839.

James travelled overland to Melbourne in April 1838 to establish an agency for S.A. Donaldson, who was a Sydney merchant. His energy and initiative soon built up a successful business, which included investments in land and buildings for Donaldson's clients. After a few years he held many public and private appointments, including director of the Port Phillip Steam Navigation Company and trustee of the Government Savings Bank. By the mid--1840s, James had established his own business and he admitted his brothers Edward and Charles as partners in 1858. Their business went from strength to strength and James became one of Victoria's most prominent men of commerce. He entered politics briefly in 1866 but soon retired to concentrate on his business and personal affairs.
In September 1845, James had married Mary Alleyne Cobham who bore him eighteen children. Two of his sons, Francis and Harry, became partners in the family business in 1876 and 1897 respectively. He died at South Yarra in July 1898, leaving a substantial fortune. His outstanding collection of commercial records were left for the use of historians. His portrait hangs in the Melbourne Club of which he was a founding member and President in 1865.


Samiel Amess was born at Newburgh in 1826. His parents were Samuel Amess and Elizabeth Fotheringham. On leaving school he was apprenticed to local stonemason. In 1849 he married Jane Straughan and emigrated to Australia in 1852. After a few months gold mining at Ballarat, he returned to Melbourne and set up in business as a building contractor. His venture prospered and he built many private and municipal buildings in Melbourne. In 1873, he became the first President of the Builders and Contractors Association. He was elected to the Melbourne City Council in 1864 and became Mayor in 1869. Samuel Amess died in July 1898, by which time he was a widower.


Andrew Lyell was born at Newburgh in 1836. His parents were Jamms Lyelland Margaret Haggart. He was educated at Abdie Grange School near his home. After leaving school he joined the Dundee firm of Moon, Langlands & Co. In January 1853, he emigrated to Australia, arriving at Melbourne on board the 'Penola'. He worked for two years with Henry Langlands, iron-founder but left to join Langlands, Buick & Co., warehousemen. By 1861, the firm had become Buick, Christie and Lyell, retail drapers and importers. His business career went from strength to strength and within a few years Andrew was recognised as an outstanding accountant. In the 1880s he became known as 'the prince of negotiators', because of his exceptional skill as a mediator in many bitter industrial disputes. In 1886 he was a founder, and later President, of the Incorporated Institute of Accountants. Andrew was twice married: first to Charlotte Owens and secondly to Janet Hamilton. Andrew Lyell died in Melbourne in December 1897.


Alexander Gosman was born at Crail in February 1829. His parents were John Gosman and Catherine Auchterlonie. He attended the parish school and then taught in several schools including Glasgow High School, where he was assistant English master, and acted as Chaplain to Glasgow Asylum for the Blind. In 1850 he commenced studying for the ministry at the University of Glasgow. Alexander was ordained in June 1855. In September 1857, he married Jane Buchanan. In response to appeals by the Colonial Missionary Society, he emigrated to Australia with his wife and baby daughter. They arrived in Melbourne on board the 'GREAT BRITAIN' in September 1860. His first charge was at Ballarat where he won renown as a scholar and preacher. In 1864 he was appointed Lecturer, and later Professor at the Congregational College of Victoria. He was Principal from 1876 to 1913.

Alexander held many educational and religious appointments and his reputation as an eminent theologian continued to grow. He became first Chairman of the Congregational Union of Australia in 1884. In 1904 he was awarded a Doctorate of Divinity by the University of St Andrews. He was also a tireless campaigner for the under-privileged and became first President of the Anti--Sweating League. Rev. Alexander Gosman died in January 1913, leaving a widow and six children.


Henry Normand McLaurin was born in December 1835 at Kilconquhar. His parents were James McLaurin, who was headmaster of the village school, and Catherine Brearcliffe. They had five children but three died in childhood, leaving two Sons, James Brearcliffe (born 1835), and Henry Normand. The second son was named after one of his father's close friends. Both boys began their education at the parish school run by their father, and they also won scholarships to St Andrews University. James studied for the Ministry, and Normand graduated M.A. in 1854. By this time both parents had died. James was appointed to a Church in Edinburgh and Normand shared cheap lodging with him while studying medicine at Edinburgh University. By 1857 he had qualified with honours, but his success was marred by James dying of tuberculosis in 1858.

Normand then joined the Royal Navy as Assistant Surgeon later that year. He served in several warships, including 'ROYAL ALBERT' and 'MALBOROUGH'. In 1867 he sailed to Australia in the training ship 'NELSON', which anchored in Port Phillip in February 1868. Normand was then sent to Sydney where he joined 'CHALLENGER', flag ship of the Australian Squadron. While based in Sydney, he became friendly with Dr. Charles Nathan, who was Senior Surgeon to the Sydney Infirmary. Normand married Dr. Nathan's daughter, Eliza Ann, in October 1871. By this tine he had left the Navy after refusing to return to Admiralty in London.

Normand and Eliza moved to Parramatta, where he had been appointed Government Medical Officer. In the following year, Eliza's father died and Normand took over his house and practice in Sydney. In November 1872, their first son, Charles, was born. His other sons were Henry Normand, Donald and Hugh. Normand' s career progressed rapidly and he accepted many prestigious appointments, including President of the Board of Health, medical officer to the Police Department, opthalmic surgeon to St Vincent's Hospital and medical adviser to the Immigration Board. Apart from medical commitments, he became involved in politics and was nominated to the Legislative Council in 1889. He also took an active part in commerce and became chairman of several Insurance Companies and the Bank of N.S.W.

However, his most important achievements stemmed from his long association with the University of Sydney. He was elected a Fellow of the Senate in 1883. In 1887 he became Vice-Chancellor and then Chancellor in 1896. The University had now become his greatest interest and he devoted most of his time and energy to promoting its development. His considerable financial skills were employed to advantage in his battles for adequate funding. Without his influence, the Medical School would not have been established. During his Chancellorship, there were inaugurated the Chairs of Dentistry, Pharmacy, Veterinary Science, Engineering and Agriculture.

In 1902 he was knighted in the Coronation Honours of Edward VII for his outstanding service to the University of Sydney. He also received honorary degrees from the Universities of St Andrews and Edinburgh. Sir Normand McLaurin died in August 1914 and was buried in Waverley cemetery, beside his wife.


David Fowler and his brother George Swan were born near Kilrenny in 1826 and 1839 respectively. Their father was James Fowler who was a local grocer and also the Baptist pastor of Anstruther and Cellardyke. David worked in his father's business initially but decided to emigrate to Australia with his wife, Janet. They arrived at Adelaide on board the 'FOP SMIT' in November 1854, and joined David's eldest brother, James, and sister Margaret, who had arrived in the 'ANNA MARIA' in November 1850.

David and James soon started the grocery business of D. & J. Fowler, which thrived after early setbacks, and they were able to enter the import trade by 1857. However, tragedy struck when James died in 1859 after years of battling against illness. George then came to Australia in July 1860 on board the 'INDUS'. David and George pooled their assets and decided to concentrate on importing. David went back to London to set up a purchasing office while George ran the Australian enterprise. David died in London in November 1881, survived by his wife and family.

By the time David died, the firm of D. & J. Fowler had expanded into one of the largest commercial houses in Australia, with branches in most towns. They also owned factories for producing preserves and confectionery, as well as running a large shipping agency for the import of foodstuffs and the export of butter, meat, wheat, copper and wool. By 1896, they had acquired a group of flour-mills and become leading packers of dried fruit. Having also diversified into a major oil agency, the firm had become established as one of the largest privately owned conglomerates in Australia.

In 1864, George had gone back to Scotland to marry Catherine lamb, who survived him when he died in October 1896. Their daughter, Laura Margaret, was the first women graduate in medicine at the University of Adelaide, having qualified in 1891. Their eldest son, James Richard, born May 1865 married Esther Tinline Murray in 1892, and became a director of the family firm. James carried on the Fowler tradition of commercial success. He also served with distinction in various public appointments in Adelaide.


John Richardson was born in Freuchie in 1812. His parents were the Rev. John Richardson and Grace Pratt. John was educated at the parish schools in Freuchie and Pitlessie. After working in London for some years, he emigrated to Australia in 1837. He arrived at Sydney in April 1837, on board the 'CAROLINE'. For the next four years he worked with R. BOURNE & Co, but set up as a storekeeper in Brisbane in 1842.

He then expanded into merchant importing direct from England and built his own wharf and warehouse. By 1857, John had branched out into sheep farming, which proved to be a mixture of success and failure. In 1872, he bought over John Moore's general store in Armidale. He and three of his sons, Alexander, Russell and William, built up a flourishing business which grew to be one of the largest firms outside Sydney. They also ran a flour mill and a furniture factory.

John entered politics in 1851 when he was elected to the N.S.W. legislative Council, where he represented the County of Stanley. During his political career, he was closely connected with such leading politicians as Sir William Wentwarth, Sir Stuart Donaldson, Sir Charles Cowper and Dr. Lang.

In June 1847, at the Scots Church in Sydney, John had married Janet Russell, who bore him five sons and two daughters. John Richardson died at Armidale in December 1888, survived by his wife and children.


William Pearson was born at Hilton, Kilmany, in September 1818. His parents were Captain Hugh Pearson, R. N., and Helen Littlejohn. William was educated at Edinburgh High School, and had a brief career at sea. He emigrated to Australia on board the 'JOHN COOPER', arriving at Adelaide in March 1841. After spending a few months in Melbourne, he journeyed to the Mitchell River, where he stocked Lindenow sheep station. William was an ambitious and determined pioneer, who overcame many daunting obstacles. His sheep farming interests prospered and he became a wealthy landowner. He was also a famous horse--breeder and bred over 100 winning racehorses. In August 1859 he married Eliza Laura Travers, who bore him five sons and two daughters. William Pearson died in August 1893, survived by his wife, three of his Sons and both daughters.


Robert Simson was born at Coalfarm near St Monance in October 1819. His parents were Robert Simson and Elizabeth Carstairs. With his cousin, Philip Russell of Kincraig, he emigrated to Australia, arriving in Tasmania in November 1842. Three months later they crossed to Port Phillip and in April 1843 purchased the sheep station at Cairngham. In 1851, Robert returned to Tasmania to marry Catherine Officer. They came back to Cairngham but moved to Langi Kal Kal which was a larger sheep farm near Beaufort. Robert concentrated on the breeding of high quality merino sheep. This venture was successful and he won many awards at championships all over the world. His contribution to the development of sheep farming in Australia was of major importance, and Robert also took an active part in church affairs and gave generously to the promotion of religious education. He died in November 1896, predeceased by his wife.
FOOTNOTE - Two of Robert Simson's brothers also became well known sheep farmers. John (1822 - 1896) and Colin William (1828 - 1905). John married Margaret Luke in 1856 and Colin married Margaret Madelaine Smith in 1862.

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