The McLeods’ and Their Arrival In Australia

My Pa Bate (Mum’s Dad) has Scottish heritage, particularly from within the Clan McLeod. His mother was a McLeod, and it’s from her line that this heritage originates. The McLeod Clan are an interesting lot, with documented history dating back as far as the 14th Century.

The Clan Crests: Pa has a version of the bottom left one hanging in his house.

There will be more to come on the history of the Clan itself later! It’s hard not to go off on a tangent here, there is just a wealth of information to be learned, as there are so many McLeod descendants that the history has been kept alive with ease. (If only that were the case with every single line we have, right?)


On to the arrival of my particular McLeods! My fourth great grandfather, Donald McLeod (born in 1799) immigrated with his wife Ann McDonald and their children to New South Wales, Australia aboard the ship Midlothian, arriving on the 13th of December 1837. Their trip was recorded amongst the Assisted Immigrant Passenger Lists. The record states that Donald McLeod was 35 years at the time of his immigration, with his calling being a farm servant. His character was listed as being “very good”, religion as being Church of Scotland and his health also being listed as good.

Ann’s record also states that her character and her health was “good” and that she was also 35 years of age (possibly slightly incorrect, ages seem to be a little off on these records). The page over listed her male and female children that “exceeded one year of age, but under eighteen years of age”. They are listed as: Norman (aged 16), Angus (aged 14), Donald (aged 10) and John (aged 8). Then, in the female children section, Donald and Ann’s only daughter Christina, was listed. She was listed as “Christie” however in this record, aged only 6 years old. Our family descends from Ann and Donald’s son John, the 8 year old listed in this record. He is my third great grandfather.

Whilst I was researching their arrival in Australia, I was expecting a rather straightforward answer…you know, a record of them arriving, with the date and the name of the ship, etc. Then, whilst poring over the “Hints” section on Ancestry, I came across a “Story” another user had posted about my McLeod family. A newspaper article! And not your regular arrival announcement article either. After looking through it, I searched for the original online using Trove (I love looking at originals!). For the purposes of easy reading, I will post the transcription here. This article is from the Sydney Gazette on the 19th of December 1837:

The Highland Immigrants

Colonel Snodgrass has been called upon at a very early period of his administration of the Government, to decide a question of much difficulty, and one which involves a problem of very considerable importance to the future welfare of the community. An application has been made to him, signed by almost all the heads of families of the Highland Immigrants from Skye, who arrived by the ship Mid-Lothian on Tuesday last representing that before embarkation, they had been given to understand by the agents of the British Government, that on their arrival in this Colony, they would be located in such a district of the territory as would enable them to enjoy the public ordinances of religion, under the pastoral charge of a minister of their own communion and speaking their own language, who should be selected to accompany them.

They had learned on their arrival here that their countrymen who arrived by the William Nicol had been scattered over the length and breadth of the land, to the north, south, east, and west, and they entreated the Government to adopt some step to prevent a like calamity befalling themselves. They urged on the attention of the Government the fact that a large majority of their number were entirely ignorant of any other language than that of the ancient Gael, and that even those who speak English were much too imperfectly acquainted with it to worship God after the manner of their fathers in that language. They professed their entire willingness to forego any prospect of temporal advantage which a different course could hold out to them, since it could only be earned by exposing their infant families to the risk of relapsing into the darkest pits of heathenism.

This then, is the question which Colonel Snodgrass has been called upon to decide, and it certainly is a question of more than ordinary difficulty. In the face of such protest (for call it by what name we may it is in effect a protest), the Acting Governor would incur a heavy responsibility in scattering them over the various districts of the territory, where as a matter of course they must of necessity be entirely shut out from the public ordinances of Religion, and their innocent families exposed to the foul conta mination which must result from frequent intercourse with a community so depraved as ours. The Government is understood to have received the proposition favourably, but the difficulty of devising means for their settlement forms an obstacle not easily overcome.

Were we asked to point out the best means for raising the tone of morals in our community, we should certainly say that that object would be best effected by the settlement in various quarters of small colonies of moral and industrious men, the united effect of whose example must necessarily have more influence in their respective vicinities than can ever be obtained by the settlement among us of isolated individuals, however virtuous. The reason of this must be sufficiently obvious, inasmuch as it is evident that the influence of the example of a single individual must be lost where the great majority are disreputable characters; whereas, the example of a community, however small that community may be, must be proportionably powerful. The well-known fable of the bundle of sticks forms a not inapt simile; singly the sticks are easily broken, together they defy the strength of man.

On the other hand the difficulty presents itself of the clamour likely to be raised by the settlers in the interior against the adoption of a measure, which certainly must operate against their interests, now that they are gradually to be deprived of convict labour, in taking away from them the privilege of availing themselves of the services of Immigrants who have been brought out to the Colony with their funds.

One gentleman, we understand, has very liberally come forward to relieve the Government from the dilemma, and offered to locate the whole of the Immigrants on his estate, provided the Government will furnish them with six months’ supply of provisions, to be repaid by the Immigrants at some future period. The offer, we understand, is under consideration, the Government not having come to any resolution on the matter.

So basically, my ancestors along with their fellow countrymen had been promised a new home that would allow them to practice their own religion, in their own language. Which wasn’t intended at all on the part of the government of their new home country. Naturally, they had expected to stay together as well, which hadn’t happened to the last ship load of Scottish immigrants. So they decided to protest by not getting off the boat! I love that they stood their ground on this! They had been made a promise and by god, they were planning on holding their new government to it. When you think about it, how truly scary would it have been, coming to realise that they faced the possibility of being split up from their only other connection to their old home, that is, the other Scottish immigrants who sought a new life here in Australia. Especially when you include the fact that not all of them spoke English at that stage. And to be told they may not get the chance to practice their religion in the language they wished to, or perhaps in the WAY they wished to, that would have certainly added to their fear. Coming to a new country is nerve wracking enough, don’t you think?

It seems it all worked out though, lucky for them!

John mcleod 3rd ggrandfather
My 3rd Great Grandfather, John McLeod-he was only 8 when he came to NSW, Australia with his parents.
norman mcleod 4guncle
Norman McLeod, my fourth great uncle, who was around 16 years old at the time of his family’s immigration.
Donald McLeod, another 4th great uncle.
angus mcleod
Angus McLeod, 4th great uncle.

I’d love to hear from any McLeod descendants, feel free to contact me!

**Photos provided by heatherscolari.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Vicki Marr says:

    Very interesting, thanks Emily.


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