Under the Southern Cross

Little is known about the Chiefs of Glengarry of Alastair Dubh’s senior line after the sale of land which had been held by the Clan for at least five centuries. These notes are compiled from a report of research undertaken by Mr G. A. McCallum, Chief Librarian of the Public Library of Victoria, published by courtesy of Lady Thornton, and from a leaflet entitled “Glengarry – A Highland Chief who died in New Zealand” by Gordon Macdonald MD, published in 1897.

Aeneas Ranaldson Macdonell was the only son surviving infancy of Colonel Alastair Ranaldson Macdonell, 15th Chief of Glengarry, and Rebecca, 2nd daughter of Sir William Forbes of Pitsligo. He was born in 1809, almost certainly at Invergarry. On his father’s death, from an accident in 1828, when not quite 19 years of age he succeeded as 16th Chief of Glengarry. When Alastair Ranaldson died on 17th January 1828 his estates in Glengarry and Knoydart were heavily encumbered. The trustees sold part of the Glengarry property and the rest was sold in 1837. Only Invergarry Castle, the Well of the Heads (Tobar na Ceann) and the family burying place at Kilfinnan were retained.

Aeneas Ranaldson Macdonell married on 18th December 1833 Josephine, daughter of William Bennet. They had three sons and three daughters.

In 1834 they were living at Inverie in Knoydart. Six years later, in 1840, Aeneas with his wife and young family emigrated to Australia. They sailed from Glasgow in June 1840, taking with them a number of clansmen, shepherds and agriculturists, as well as a splendid stock of Scottish sheep and cattle and farm implements. The Chief’s intention was to found a settlement and return to Scotland to arrange for the whole of his Clan and dependants to join him.

Glengarry arrived at Port Phillip in the ship “Perfect” on 8th November 1840 en route for Sydney. The Port Phillip Patriot, 9th November 1840, in the shipping news, lists the passengers of the “Perfect” who were going on to Sydney as Mr and Mrs MacDonnell of Glengarry, Master A. MacDonnell, Miss M. MacDonnell, Miss H.R. MacDonnell, Miss Baird, Messrs McKenzie, Croker, Girdwood, Neish, Wood and Mathew, Mr and Mrs Charles Richards. 44 in steerage: most of these were said to be members of the Glengarry party.

In the leisurely fashion of those days a stay of between five and six weeks was made at Port Phillip, during which time the Scottish residents of Melbourne had the opportunity of entertaining the Chief at a dinner of welcome at the Caledonian Hotel. Newspaper reports describe this as a very successful public function:

“The evening’s festivities concluded as they commenced, with the utmost hilarity. Suffice it to say the toast list comprised no fewer than 17 items.”

Glengarry and his party went on to Sydney. His first intention was to settle upon the Clarence River, near the Queensland border, but he was induced to accompany Lachlan Macalister on a tour of inspection through the newly opened district of Gippsland and was so favourably impressed that he decided to transfer his little colony there.

Glengarry settled at Greenmount on the banks of the Tarra, not far from the present town of Yarram, and ” Glengarry’s station” became for a time the first stopping place on the “road to the interior.” There is a suggestion, which lacks complete confirmation, that Glengarry first took up Glencoe Station and sold it to John Campbell. The river Glengarry was named after the laird, and although the official name of the Latrobe had already been bestowed on it, the popular name of Glengarry remained. The modern Gippsland township of Glengarry also bears the Chief’s name.

A list of Gippsland landholders 1847 mentions the ” Glengarry” Station and John MacDonald and Ed. Thomson, whose property, taken up in 1844, was named Glenfalloch or Glenfalaech.

Glengarry appears to have held the lease of “Greenmount” between June 1841 and June 1842, but seems to have spent little time on the property. In mid September 1841 he was in Melbourne and a little later he went to Sydney, leaving his station to the management of others. By July 1842 he had disposed of his stock and discharged his servants. His frame house was moved down to the little village on the beach, subsequently becoming the original Port Albert Hotel, destroyed by fire in the late 1880’s.

On 14th June 1842 a public dinner was given to Glengarry in Melbourne prior to his departure for Scotland.

Aeneas Ranaldson Macdonell, 16th Chief of Glengarry, died in January 1852, at Inverie, and is buried at Kilfinnan in Glengarry. His wife, Josephine, died on 5th July 1857, and is buried in Warriston Cemetery, Edinburgh.

His eldest son, Alastair Ranaldson Macdonell, became 17th Chief of Glengarry. Born at Inverie in Knoydart on 5th October 1834, he went with his parents to Australia in 1840, but returned with them to Scotland in 1842. He was educated at a private school in Edinburgh and in 1848 served in HMS Acheron surveying the Australian coast; he was off the African coast in 1852 when his father died and went afterwards to the Baltic, but left the Service before coming of age in 1855.

All the Glengarry property had then been sold, with the three exceptions mentioned above. Part of Knoydart had also been sold and on the advice of his mother, Josephine, who had never liked Inverie, he sold the rest of that property.

In 1857 he sailed for New Zealand in the barque “Oriental” (Captain Macey), landing at Nelson in Cook’s Strait; he was accompanied by one of his sisters and a manager, Mr Dodds. He bought land at Culverden, Amuri in Canterbury Province. He was in England and Scotland in 1861-2, but sailed back to New Zealand early in 1862 accompanied by his only surviving brother, Charles.

Missing the boat at Melbourne, Charles remained in Australia, but Alastair went on to New Zealand. His 1st cousin, Alexander Charles Forbes (son of Charles Hay Forbes, 2nd son of Sir William Forbes, 7th Bt., and Jemima Rebecca Macdonell) was already in New Zealand.

In 1862 Dunedin, though the principal centre in New Zealand, was a mere village, but gold had been discovered in Tuapeka (now known as Lawrence). Apparently Alastair intended to join the prospectors, but when he reached Dunedin the place was almost deserted, most of the male population having joined the gold rush. Unfortunately he got rheumatic fever and died there amongst strangers on 2nd June 1862 – aged 28. The entry in the Register at Dunedin states: “Alexander Ro(a)naldson Macdonell, Gentleman, died 2nd June 1862, aged twenty-eight years. Cause of death rheumatic fever.”

He had no friends in Dunedin, but his cousin Alexander Charles Forbes, though too late to see him alive, attended his funeral. He was buried in the Church of England portion of the Southern Cemetery in Dunedin, and over his grave was placed a small cross with the name “Glengarry” and nothing else on it. Later a small marble cross was erected at the request of his cousin by marriage (Ellie Macdonell, Alick’s sister), who was afterwards wife of John Cuninghame of Balgownie. It was at her request that the words inscribed were simply “Glengarry” and the dates of his birth and death.

In 1894 Mr James McIndoe, a native of Bute, wrote a short biographical note of the Glengarry family for the Otago Witness, and there called attention to the fact that the 17th Chief lay in an unrecognised grave. Hearing this, a number of Macdonalds (one a Glengarry man) decided to raise an appeal for a suitable monument to be erected over the grave. With the help of several societies and much support from local Highlanders a fine memorial was put up in 1898. It stands 25 ft. high and is of dark grey sandstone and bears suitable inscriptions in English and Gaelic.

On the death of Alastair Ranaldson Macdonell, 17th Chief of Glengarry in 1862, his brother Charles Ranaldson Macdonell became 18th Chief, he inherited the Culverden property, where he had been joined by his cousin, William Forbes (later Sir William Stuart Forbes, 9th Baronet), but in 1864 this was sold and he bought a house in the suburbs of Christchurch.

In 1865 he returned to Scotland and married in Edinburgh Agnes Campbell, daughter of Alexander Cassels of Edinburgh. He returned to New Zealand with his wife in 1866 and bought property called Stockgrove in the north of the province and lived there until 1869. It was thought a voyage might be beneficial to his health, which had broken down, and he and his wife sailed from Lyttelton in the “Mermaid” (Captain Rose) in 1870, but he died and was buried at sea. He left no issue.

Thus ended the male line from Alastair Dubh, 11th of Glengarry. The next Chief came from the Scotus family deriving from Aeneas, 2nd son of Ranald Macdonell 10th of Glengarry and was Aeneas Ranald Macdonell 7th of Scotus and 19th of Glengarry.

Mr McCallum’s researches brought to light one “mystery” which perhaps some member of the Clan in Australia may be able to solve:

The Victorian Historical Magazine, vol. 2, 1912, mentions a brother of the Chieftain who came to Victoria during the height of the gold rush (mid 1850’s), but together with nearly all his family he succumbed to the hardships which were the lot of many migrants during that period. A collection of money (£50) was made among residents near the Tarra River and forwarded to Melbourne for the benefit of a surviving daughter.