Thomas Adam had many an adventure but most noteworthy was his 1839 pursuit, on board the brig ‘Louisa’, of the infamous swindler John Thomas Wilson, who absconded leaving debts of between £40000 and £50000, owed to Sydney merchants. The journey took Thomas around the world, just a year after he had migrated from Ayrshire, Scotland. The following year, Thomas encountered the even more infamous Jewboy Gang who caused terror in the Lake Macquarie district where they were eventually captured in 1841. The seven bushrangers were tried, convicted and hung at Darlinghurst Gaol.
Our ancestors have played their part in every major British conflict for over two centuries. Loyalty to Queen and Empire throughout Queen Victoria’s 63 year reign is evident, particularly in several rural families with northern Irish roots. Predating that period, John Fowler was a professional soldier enlisting in the 10th Royal Hussars, the ‘Prince of Wales Own’ at Leeds, Yorkshire in 1802. He rose to Sergeant Major, serving in England, Ireland and on the Continent through the war with France, specifically in the Peninsula Wars and at the Battle of Waterloo under the Duke of Wellington. Having served under two Hanoverian kings, George 111 and the Prince Regent, later George 1v, he retired in 1826 but trained reservists at Harwood. Edmund Childs also served in the British Army in the same period, enlisting in Ireland in 1806, fighting in the major battles of the Peninsula Wars between 1808 and 1814 as well as at New Orleans and was discharged in 1821. He then married and reared his family in Newtownards, County Down. Archibald McCallum, brother of John McCallum in Mittagong, was also a professional soldier. After enlisting in the 42nd Royal Highlanders Regiment at Glasgow about 1831 he served in Ireland, Corfu, Malta, Bermuda, Scotland, England and in the Crimean War. As a sergeant, he was a drill master at Alyth before retiring in 1861.
Our first Australian soldier was Edward Scrivener, a member of the NSW Volunteer Corps (Artillery) from 1855. Hugh Gilmore Campbell, his brother Archibald Campbell and brother-in-law Adam McAllister enlisted in Harry Chauvel’s Upper Clarence Light Horse at Tabulum in 1885. The Campbell and McAllister boys then trained under J F Thomas (later solicitor for Breaker Morant) at Tenterfield and competed in military events with distinction. Adam McAllister and Archibald Campbell travelled to England for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations in 1898 and were her personal bodyguards in the procession through London, Adam being one of 10 from NSW presented to Queen Victoria at Windsor Castle. Adam and his brother David McAllister served in the Boer War and both families were represented in the 1st AIF serving at Gallipoli, in the desert war and on the battlefields of France. By then a professional soldier and promoted to Major, Adam McAllister died from wounds in Palestine in 1917. His nephew David Henry McAllister died in France in 1917.
Of the 17 Campbells and McAllisters who enlisted in the First World War, seven were killed and a further six young men were wounded and maimed. Hugh Campbell’s son Warren McAllister Campbell died of disease at Gallipoli, his cousins Archibald McPherson and Henry Campbell Harper died in France as did his nephews Thomas Campbell and Hampton Willis. Other family members who enlisted in World War One were Oswald Adam and Alex Montgomery from Newcastle, Harold Childs who served in the Light Horse in Palestine and brothers Hector Archibald McCallum and Lindsay Stuart McCallum from Mittagong as well as their cousin John Archibald McCallum. The McCallum boys all served on the Western Front. Hector and Lindsay were killed in action. The next generation served in volunteer militias and in World War Two in great numbers, some also serving in Korea and Vietnam. One who served with great distinction was Mary Ann Adams’ great nephew Major Rex Blow, ‘one of the Australian Army’s most daring and colourful heroes of World War 11’. William Bruce McAllister was a prisoner of war in Thailand for three and a half years.
In 1915, Mary Ann Adams’ cousin Ernest Blow of Kiama led the famous Waratah recruitment march from Nowra to Sydney. Like the Campbells and McAllisters, Ernest was a Light Horse soldier. He joined the Illawarra Light Horse in the 1890s, the Berry Half Squadron of the NSW Lancers in 1897, trained in England and from there his regiment went to the Boer War, the first overseas troops to reach Cape Town. Ernest was promoted to Captain. Back on the South Coast he was area officer in charge of cadets between Milton and Helensburgh. In 1915 he was in charge of recruitment and as a result led the Waratah March.
Elizabeth Bowden died in Manly Cove on the North Head of Sydney Harbour after contracting typhus on board the ship ‘Maitland’ in 1838. ‘Maitland’ passengers were accommodated on board or in tents as the Spring Cove quarantine area was already full to capacity with passengers from the ‘William Rogers’. Elizabeth was one of 286 ‘Maitland’ passengers and crew who contracted typhus or scarlet fever; 40, including Elizabeth’s son Jacob Bowden died on board and others, such as her oldest son James Bowden, succumbed soon after. The report of a committee of enquiry was a damning indictment of the system which allowed immigrants to be ‘transported to the colony like cattle’.
Thomas Holmes suffered from gold fever. Taking his young family from Hexham, NSW to California in 1849 proved a trial and a disappointment. On his return, he soon headed for the new goldfields in Victoria with no more luck, unlike James Whitfield who arrived from Workington, England in 1857 and made a small fortune. It provided the nucleus of his future wealth from his Workington enterprises. Cephus Scrivener made enough money from the Victorian diggings to travel round the world in style but gold fever took him to Thames, New Zealand and cost him the life of his wife and first son.
At the core of any economic system is the transfer of goods and availability of labour. Our ancestors played their part in developing colonial Australia where great distances and difficult terrain limited apparent boundless opportunities. Duthie, Whitfield and Montgomery ancestors sailed and piloted ships which carried goods to Australia and in the coastal trade. Some constructed vessels in Newcastle and Port Melbourne and several ran vehicular ferries on major rivers. In the vital railway industry, Childs, Rumble, Adam, Boyd, Adams, Whitfield, Campbell and Scrivener men laid the iron rails, drove the locomotives, were engineers in railway workshops, carriage builders, guards, signallers, station masters and worked in the Enfield and Darling Harbour goods yards as well as locomotive construction (such as 3801) at Everleigh in Sydney. The McCallums built the drays and other horse drawn vehicles that connected people with the railways and ports. Campbells and McAllisters were carriers in the horse drawn transport era in Queensland and northern NSW. Men of the McCallum, Scrivener and Campbell families, shod horses and manufactured goods and vital components for vehicles. All contributed to the national as well as their local economies.
Economic and social conditions led our Scottish forbears to join the mass exodus of Scots in the 19th century, mostly as families but sometimes alone. Influenced by the promises of John Dunmore Lang, some were assisted migrants; others made their own way. For some, the decision to migrate brought security and even wealth; for others at least improved circumstances despite their constant struggles. With them came their Scottish heritage.
First to leave in 1838 was a lowlander, Thomas Adam, a well educated cabinet maker, who could see no future in Kilmarnock where opportunities for his class were rare. A number of ancestors left Scotland in the 1850s, some escaping the slums of Glasgow and Paisley after they moved there to work in industries. They include a coach builder from Argyllshire, John McCallum, his wife Ann McArthur, their three children (1860), Archibald Campbell and his wife Mary Elliott (1855) as well as his parents Hugh Campbell and Ellen Gilmore (1863). The Campbells had left their agricultural life in County Tyrone to work in the Paisley cotton mills. They were not the only ancestors from Ulster who identified as Scots in NSW. John McAllister and Jennett White (1856) from County Antrim, like the Campbells, became pioneers near Tenterfield; William Adams and Mary Ann McIntyre hailed from Donegal (1838).
Findlay Duthie, a Scottish mariner from Aberdeen, sailed to Melbourne with his brother on their ship ‘Gem’ (1853). The last of the Scottish ancestors to arrive were a mariner John Montgomery, his wife Sarah Stevenson (1885) who also saw the promise of a better life for their four children than they had experienced. David Stevenson, a coal miner in the impoverished towns of Ayrshire died young, leaving Sarah’s mother Sarah Stobo, struggling to support her daughters as a muslin sewer in Irvine.
A shadow is cast over our family history through the discovery of some frontier encounters. While some incidents were positive, one displays ferocity and a mentality lacking in compassion. All reflect the inevitable triumph of the invaders and the dispossession and degradation of the aboriginal people. In the 1840s and 1850s, Thomas Adam is reputed to have had good relations with Awakabal aboriginals in the Newcastle and Lake Macquarie district. They guarded his boat building equipment when he left the Warner’s Bay area to return to Newcastle and in Newcastle he sheltered them at his home on Bullock Island after sailors plied them with rum on blanket distribution days. In 1852 Benjamin Edwards was a stockman on ‘Wyangerie’ below the Tweed Ranges. Armed with a gun and ‘large mastiff dog’, his wife Louisa Edwards, in defence of her son, her own life and their home against an ‘attack by a mob of blacks’, left at least one aboriginal woman dead. Benjamin, in retaliation, ‘cleaned out the blacks’ camp on Lynch’s Creek with a stockwhip’. Locally, Louisa was cast as a heroine and her wound from a boomerang was seen as a badge of courage. On his trek north to the Dawson River Valley in Queensland, Archibald Campbell was armed and apprehensive of an aboriginal attack in the wake of the horrendous Hornet Bank Massacre of 1857. At Wyrallah, Frederick Scrivener dispensed flour to the aborigines from his general store and the family shared Christmas meals with local aborigines in the 1930s, albeit on the steps of their house. However in an advertisement for a Wyrallah Sports Day, inserted by Frederick in the ‘Northern Star’ in 1902, aboriginals were ‘debarred’ from competing. The children of John Adams played and wandered the district with aboriginal children at Alstonville but their mother Mary Ann Adams in fear of attack, reputedly kept a shotgun handy. Kindness to the Cambewarra aboriginals was shown by John Adams’ sister Jane Camps who sheltered an aboriginal man in her farm house during a storm and was later rewarded with a broom made from cabbage tree palms, ‘bound with supple vines’.
Advantaged by literacy and with an understanding of the value of education, our pioneering ancestors were prominent in supporting education in their communities. In time, a number of their descendants became teachers. Thomas Adam as a patron helped to establish the first non-vested school in Newcastle in 1857 when there were only 62 in NSW. He was Secretary of the local school board from 1858 and shared personal responsibility for accumulated debts when the first National School was completed in 1862. In 1872, John Adams and his neighbours petitioned for a National School at Alstonville. He cleared the land and with John Perry, contracted to build the school which was completed in 1874. Close by, Benjamin Edwards was a member of the Gundurimba local school board from 1874 and Frederick Scrivener was a trustee of the School of Arts site. In Mittagong, Hugh Childs, a local magistrate was also chairman of the school board and vice-president of the School of Arts. Jennett McAllister, like other pioneers in the family, successfully educated her own children on her isolated Mole River property.
Colonial families prided themselves on their often unproven claims to be ‘first’. Thomas Adam claimed that he was the first to navigate the entrance to Lake Macquarie in his pursuit of trading timber cut near Dora Creek. Born in 1861, his youngest son Andrew Adam was the first white child to be born at Carrington, Newcastle, then named Bullock Island. Thomas was the first to purchase land there which crossed the island and can be seen in the 1974 photo at an angle to modern streets. In 1858 Thomas Adam was appointed by the Executive Council as a patron of the first non-vested National School in Newcastle. He was also elected to the first Municipal Council in Newcastle and Adamstown was named after him in 1869 after he purchased 54 acres of Crown Land there. Another claim to fame was Jeanette McAllister and Hugh Campbell’s wedding in 1886, the first to be held in the newly built Tenterfield Presbyterian Church.
Australian immigrants have generally been enterprising but opportunities were always associated with risks which led to economic failure and all the attendant consequences. Some ancestors survived more than one insolvency but others were ruined for life. Insolvency in 1845 did not hinder Thomas Adam‘s building interests in Newcastle and while a subsequent bankruptcy in 1874 through investment in tin mining near Tingha was a setback, he started a profitable saw milling venture at Raymond Terrace. John Adams was far less fortunate. Being a pioneer of the Alstonville district meant that despite successful clearing of the Big Scrub on his property, sugar growing was in its infancy and processing was primitive and costly. Bankruptcy in 1876 cost him his conditional land purchase. The family fortunes never recovered and a second bankruptcy in 1899 was the last straw. Edward Scrivener, initially a successful draper in George Street Sydney succumbed to economic failure in 1865 and 1869. He never operated his own business again but unlike John Adams’ sons, Edward’s son Frederick Scrivener became a comparatively wealthy man after he moved north to the Richmond River as a storekeeper. Hugh Childs, as a railway construction contractor on the Southern Line, was so mortified that he could not pay his workers in 1863 that he encouraged his sons to become railway employees rather than entrepreneurs. It was advice that sustained the family through the bad times of the 1890s and 1930s Depression. William Whitfield, already a broken man through losing his Pilotage Certificate, escaped his creditors in 1894 by returning to England after the failure of his investment in a Parkes hotel. He died in Hull just six weeks later. His family was left to fend for themselves.