This story eventually leads to Australia in the middle of the 19th century and involves Andrew Ballantyne, my great, great, great grandfather Robert's brother.
I came across this information via Tony Whelan of Canberra - a distant relation. I have taken the liberty of altering his words here and there to include parts of the story that I know.
Andrew Ballantyne, my 3rd great grand uncle, was born in Scotland in 1824. His father was Walter Ballantyne and his mother was Helen Mary Scott. As yet, no record of his birth has been found.
In May 1844, Andrew's father moved from Bottacks, a small scattered township, located 1 mile northeast of Strathpeffer, to the Lowlands town of Hawick which was most likely where he originated from. It appears that his wife Helen was alive until at least 1855 (and dead by 1863) and it is not known whether she went with him or remained behind as there is no mention of her in any of he witness testaments at Andrew's subsequent trial..
Walter and Helen's youngest sons, Robert b. 1837 (my ancestor) and James, married in the north of Scotland, Robert on the Isle of Lewis to Sarah Paton in 1855 and James to Barbara Campbell from the parish of Resolis in Ross and Cromarty in 1863, so there must have been more moving around in the family from the Borders to the Highlands between 1844 and when the family next appear on the Isle of Lewis some years later.
Hawick, a Scottish Border town, was and still is a centre of wool processing and knitwear, and the Ballantyne name has long been associated with the running of several mills in the area though whether Walter was related to those families is not yet known.
The seventeen-year-old Andrew had been living with his father in Bottacks in 1844, but two weeks after the move south, Andrew appeared back in the area. Margaret MacRae, witness, stated at Andrew's trial in Inverness,
"I know Walter Ballantyne …. Shepherd at Bottacks, who left that place about the end of May last. I also know his son, Andrew who lived with him but who went south in charge of a flock of sheep a day or two before his father left Bottacks."
Margaret stated that,
"I saw him again and for the last time on Thursday of last week in Strathpeffer within a mile of my father’s dwelling. I asked him what had brought him back to the country and he said he had come to engage [men] to work for him at a job worth £200, which he and his cousin had taken by contract at Fort Augustus."
Margaret continues to tell her story of how her small brown mare was stolen,
"I had then my father’s mare in a cart, and was on my way to the wood for a load of tinder.
On Friday I was at the [missing word] with the mare. I led her into the stable for the night after nine o’clock as I believe. I did not fasten the door, but my mother did. I saw it after it was fastened.
Next morning, I was up at or before six o’clock and proceeded to the stable. I found the stable door wide open and a stone placed against it to keep it open. The mare was gone. I saw the heavy marks of a man’s foot in the soft earth outside the stable door and inside the stable.
He appeared to have been walking on his heels outside the door. Inside, the marks were distinct and were those of a [missing word] mended shoe. I immediately suspected Andrew Ballantyne as a I [missing word] The foot marks were like his and as he had previously borne a bad character. It was in consequence of this that I called upon the [missing word] and mentioned his name as the probable thief.
I did not give the horse, or the use of him to Andrew Ballantyne on this occasion. He did not ask me to do so. He never said that he had any occasion for the loan of her.
I am sure I did not see Andrew Ballantyne on Friday last. I only saw him once last week, and that was on Thursday as already mentioned. All which is truth. I cannot write."
So it transpires that in the early hours of a Saturday morning in June 1844, Andrew took a small brown mare from the stable of farmer Kenneth MacRae at Bottacks, and rode it south to the town of Fort Augustus. The Ballantyne family had on occasion borrowed horses from MacRae, and when police questioned Andrew a few days later he claimed to have borrowed the horse with permission on this occasion also.
His claim was disputed by the owner's family, and to make matters rather more conclusive the publican and the post rider at Fort Augustus both testified that Andrew had badgered them to buy the horse from him Not surprising, the 15-man jury found the youth guilty of horse-stealing.
Just a few decades earlier, such a conviction could have been a hanging offence. But times had changed, and the system favoured imprisonment for non-capital offences (fortunately for us!). Britain had few large prisons and the crime rate was increasing because of landowners' forced clearances of small tenant farmers, and the impact of the industrial revolution. Where possible, the British Government sought to remove its petty criminals altogether by transportation to overseas colonies as convicts. Andrew was accordingly sentenced to 7 years transportation and was taken to Millbank prison and later to Pentonville prison in London. Pentonville and Millbank were prisons designed to reform inmates. The routine was largely solitary confinement, interrupted only by bible study, reading and writing class, and lessons in a trade.
Normally one might expect that a convict would be transported fairly promptly. However, the colony of New South Wales had ceased transportation in 1840, though Van Diemans Land was still taking prisoners till 1853. It appears there was a shortage of places to send the prisoners, so apparently they remained in prison for much longer.
Fortunately for Andrew, a scheme was hatched to solve the prison problem and at the same time meet a growing demand for labourers, especially shepherds, in rural areas including those around the new settlement of Port Phillip (Melbourne). Between 1844 and 1849 some 1751 prisoners from Pentonville, Parkhurst and Millbank prisons were dumped on the colonies by the ingenious expedient of granting the prisoners pardons conditional on their not returning till the expiration of their original sentence. These prisoners were termed "exiles", and although resentment of the scheme by colonists in Port Phillip was initially fairly loud (the Argus newspaper was quite virulent in its opposition), it did not sway the British Government.
So it was that on the 22nd June 1846, Andrew left the shores of Britain forever and with 298 other convicts made the long voyage to Australia where on 9th November 1846 the clipper Maitland docked in Port Phillip Bay in southern Victoria. Andrew Ballantyne, by this time, was aged 19. The passenger manifest states that he could read and write, was formerly a shepherd, and the trade taught in prison was shoemaker. He was single and his crime was horse-stealing, his sentence was 7 years and he had been convicted on 19 Sep 1844 at Inverness. His warrant of pardon was dated 10 June 1846.
The manifest shows that Andrew's initial employer was to be Montgomery & Wright, for a term of 1 year at £20 per annum. Montgomery and Wright were presumably the same men who with Alexander Anderson owned a large sheep run near the present town of Skipton (near Ballarat) from 1839 till 1851 when part of it was sold to Francis Ormond. It can be assumed that Andrew was employed as a shepherd on such a rural property.
Nothing more is known until 1851 when Andrew Ballantyne (still of the Scottish Church) married a 22 year old Irish woman named Mary O'Dowd at St Francis Catholic Church in Melbourne. Mary had arrived in July of the same year on the John Knox as an assisted immigrant, and it may be supposed she ended up working on or near the same rural property that Andrew worked on. In any event, it seems they soon joined the throng of people moving to the Castlemaine area because of the discovery of gold that year.
According to Castlemaine historian Robyn Annear, gold was found in many places in Victoria during the 1840s, mainly by shepherds and farm labourers. Their finds were mainly kept secret, as mining was illegal, all gold (and other metals) being the property of the Crown. The gold rush to New South Wales in 1851 made it evident that the new colony of Victoria (till then a district of NSW) might lose its entire labouring population to the NSW goldfields, so a committee was formed to promote and reward gold discovery in Victoria.
In July 1851 a shepherd found gold at Specimen Gully (5 km north-east of Castlemaine). Soon all of the area's streams were being scoured by hopefuls from all over the world. Annear says that by 1852 it is thought that there were some 25,000 people on the diggings around Castlemaine, living in shanty towns of canvas tents which housed stores, the first school (1852), dwellings, sly-grog shops and even an office of the Bank of NSW (also 1852).
Andrew Ballantyne's younger brother Walter was one of many assisted immigrants coming to the colonies to start a new life away from the destitution faced by the poor in Scotland and Ireland. He appears to have arrived in Tasmania on the Ocean Chief on 25 March 1855. He was described as single, a shepherd from Ross-Shire. In 1858 he married Mary Flynn, a bounty immigrant from Ireland, and they had several children in Tasmania before moving to Victoria in the mid 1860s.
Of the four sons of Walter and Mary who reached adulthood, it appears that three never married and worked most of their lives as drovers and stockmen. One of them (Robert) worked in north-west Queensland as far away as the Gulf of Carpentaria, and in the Northern Territory. Walter's son William married Mary Jane Goodall in 1892 and they had four sons, three of whom had children.
Walter Ballantyne died in 1891 at "Tweedside", his home in the Melbourne suburb of Flemington, just three years after his brother Andrew had passed on. The death notices for the two brothers make no reference to other family members apart from the (deceased) parents in Scotland, their other siblings having remained in Scotland. The youngest brother Robert married in Lewis in 1855 and had a dozen or so children, Walter moving to Stewarton where the Ballantynes remained for several generations. Around 1865 Robert's family moved south to Girvan, Ayrshire, nearer where his wife had been born in Coylton, and the couple lived into the early 1900s in Ayrshire. It is also know that the other brother James married in 1863 in Ross and Cromarty though no record has been found of him after 1871.
Andrew and Mary Ballantyne had a number of children in the Castlemaine area in Australia between 1852 and 1870. It is also believed that Mary had a brother Michael O'Dowd who migrated to Melbourne in 1860 with his wife Ann (Guerin) and their four children in 1860. They too ended up in the Castlemaine area. The likely connection between the families is evidenced by the fact that a single grave in the Castlemaine cemetery contains five O'Dowd children (4 died 1863, 1 in 1868) and two Ballintyne children (Andrew and Eliza, both died 1868). Looking at the death certificates, it is clear that epidemics of illnesses such as enteritis claimed many young children. Michael and Ann O'Dowd had at least two children (both daughters) survive to adulthood and marry, and their families farmed land near Bendigo, Mildura and Winchelsea at various stages. Michael and his wife died at the home of their grandson John Malone in the early 1900s. The connection between Mary O'Dowd and Michael O'Dowd has not yet been proved to 100% satisfaction, and the fact that County Clare records are not online makes it very difficult to do much at this time.
Other researchers of births in the Castlemaine area should note that although Catholic records were required to be submitted for inclusion in the state registers from 1855, there is no trace of some of the post-1855 family births in official records. However a number of the missing records were located in copies of the Catholic baptisms held by the Castlemaine Historical Society.
Andrew and Mary Ballintyne lost four of their ten children as infants or toddlers. One of the surviving daughters was the author of this story's great-grandmother Ellen Ballantyne, born in 1863 in Castlemaine. In 1883 at age 19 she married Edward Dwyer from Wilcannia, NSW, but had divorced him by 1890. In 1891 she married George Hildebrand and their daughter Bertha is the author's paternal grandmother.
Andrew and Mary's only son to survive to adulthood was John, who married his cousin Agnes (born in Tasmania to Andrew's brother Walter). John and Agnes moved from suburban Flemington to the Castlemaine (goldfields) area, then in late 1892 they relocated to the mining centre of Broken Hill, in far west New South Wales. John worked in the mining industry, as evidenced by an entry in the member's payment ledger for the Barrier Branch Amalgamated Mines Association of 31st March 1904. Three sons were born there, two of whom (John junior and William) survived.
Some time after fire destroyed their Broken Hill home in January 1909, the Ballantynes journeyed to Western Australia to seek work at the gold mines in Boulder. A number of related families also ended up in the west around that time, including John's daughter Annie and her husband Thomas Tupper.
The rail link to the west was not completed until 1917, so the only way to make the greater part of the trip would be by ship from Adelaide to Fremantle, or by going overland. The vast expanses of the continent were then being navigated by teams of Muslim cameleers from India and Afghanistan, and the oral tradition is that the families travelled from Broken Hill to Boulder in such a camel convoy; an enterprise which must have been extraordinarily demanding.
By 1916 John and Agnes are recorded on the electoral roll at Boulder, and John remained there till his death in 1923. Some time after 1925, Agnes moved to North Adelaide to live with her daughter Annie and husband Thomas (Tupper), and she died there in 1938 aged 78.
Agnes and John's son John junior served in World War One and on his return married in Adelaide but moved back to Boulder. He later divorced and married again, settling in Adelaide; the two families were apparently ignorant of each other's existence for decades. His second wife divorced him when the children were young and later in life John lived with his son Don in Melbourne and died there in 1962.
John's brother William married in Boulder but settled in Adelaide. He had four daughters and two sons, and died in 1954.
Quite a story!