Month: January 2018

Bonnie William from Dundee

Regrettably to this point no image of William Hartley Wilson, the first of our Australian pioneer Wilson forebears, has been found; we are more fortunate with William’s spouse Margaret, having two images, which tend to support her reputation for sobriety and strength of will – in one she is about 50, in the other about 70. These can be viewed in the ‘Galleries’ section. But we do have an image of William’s grandson Albert Williamson Wilson who according to the story passed down in the Tasmanian arm of the family, bore a striking resemblance to William. His image is shown here. Margaret died in 1875, William who was 14 years her senior having passed on in 1856 – perhaps just too early to have been captured on film. Margaret was reportedly a sterner figure who in later life after William’s passing, “ruled the family with tight reign (or perhaps more validly, rein!)”. William’s story and that of his family such as we know it today, was first introduced mid 1980s in the ‘Synopsis’ document “Bonnie William from Dundee” (created by our researcher colleague Michael Wilson) and has been progressively updated with amendments and expansions on this website. In early 2000s our research group produced an audio-visual DVD version of the story, and copies may be obtained via the website administrator. Additionally at that time Michael and his son Tristan...

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Of Margaret Williamson – Spouse to Bonnie William

Our knowledge of William Hartley’s bride, Margaret Williamson, is fairly limited. The legend within the ranks of our Tassie cousins is that Margaret may have been a Governess; it goes on that William had a serious falling out with his family because he married below station in marrying a Governess, alternatively that it was because Margaret belonged to a different religious persuasion than William and his family, such as Church of Scotland, whereas William’s family were of the secessionist so called Associate Burgher Free Church Congregation of Newbigging. There existed quite strong religious tensions at that time between the several secessionist movements and the official Church of Scotland (a brief overview may be read here). The evidence we have indicates Margaret was born in Arbroath in Forfarshire (named Angus today) in 1796, and at the time William was courting her she was living or working at Carnoustie. Carnoustie such as it was then is located within Church and Civil Parishes of Barry – the church edifice for this region then was located at the tiny hamlet of Barry just 2 to 3 km from the Estate. It was at this church, now in ruin, that the banns were read in 1820 for Margaret’s impending marriage, concurrently being read at Monikie Kirk in respect to William. We know from two small bibles held today by our family in Tasmania that...

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Wedding Bells – William and Margaret June 4, 1820

The banns were read at Monikie Kirk (shown here and below) and at Margaret’s family church at Barry in the weeks preceding their wedding, and the happy couple were wed in Monikie Kirk on June 4th 1820 with Reverend William Maule officiating. Just two weeks later the newly wed couple embarked at Leith, Port of Edinburgh, on board the 260 ton sailing ship Skelton for the five month voyage to Van Diemens Land. Within our Tasmanian family today the story is told of Margaret’s capability with needle and thread – she prepared wedding clothes including a pearl studded bonnet...

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The Skelton’s Voyage – Leith to Van Diemen’s Land

The dangers of the five month voyage to the Antipodes were well known to seafarers and emigrants alike – and yet they still set out, in courage and in hope – seeking a better life as they followed their vision of the future in a new land. Perhaps equal to the physical dangers was the terrible boredom, so apparent on the faces in the below-decks steerage class image above. In 1821 during his return to Scotland the Captain of the Skelton, James Dixon, wrote a little book about the 1820 voyage out from Leith (Port of Edinburgh) and the...

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The Barque Skelton – Is this our ship

After many years of search we believe we may at last have an image of the Skelton barque on which William and Margaret voyaged to Van Diemen’s Land. This photograph was taken recently (2017) from an original painting owned by Mr Ian Brown of Sydney, who has very kindly granted us permission to display it here. Our thanks for this discovery are due to our research colleagues Mike Wilson and Jenny Brown, Mike for tracking down the existence of the painting and its possible general location, whilst Jenny focused us to a member of the Headlam family who was...

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