Alexander & Magdalene Fraser
|First name||Alexander & Magdalene|
|Country of Origin||Scotland|
|Date of Birth||1792|
|Year of Arrival in Australia||1840|
|Submitted by||Ross Wallace|
Alexander Fraser was born on 23 August 1792 in the district of Stratherrick, Inverness-shire, Scotland, the son of Hugh Fraser and his wife Isobella Fraser (her maiden surname). Stratherrick runs down the Eastern side of Loch Ness in the Highlands of Scotland, and is the stronghold of the Frasers. Magdalene McTavish was born on 9 December 1792 at North Migovie which is also in Stratherrick. She was one of seven children born to Alexander McTavish, a tacksman, and his wife Christian Williamson. The McTavishes are thought to be a sept of the Fraser Clan.
When they were both 23, Alexander and Magdalene were married at Boleskine on 25 January 1816. They were both Presbyterians. They lived in a farmhouse (a croft) at Ballagan Farm in the parish of Dores where several other families were also living. Ballagan Farm is on the side of a valley leading towards a steep track down to Loch Ness – a very beautiful area and freezing cold in winter. The croft is on the site of an early Celtic fort.
Alexander and Magdalene had 11 children: Isabella (born 1817), Alexander (born 1818), Cursty (Christina) (born 1819), Magdalene (born 1821), Ann (born 1823), Hugh Archibald (born 1826), Simon (born 1828), John (1830), Donald (born 1832), Thomas (born 1834) and Elizabeth (born 1838). The first five were born at Ballagan, and the remainder at Dulcrag (now spelled Dalcrag) in the parish of Boleskine. Hugh and John died in Scotland.
By the time they were at Dulcrag, Alexander was described as a tacksman. Tacksmen were important people in Scottish society – being usually the principal tenants of an area (a tack is a lease), and often being related to the chief by blood. The tacksman then often sublet his lands to smaller crofters. Dulcrag was quite a large holding by local standards at that time. However, the economic and social changes in the Highlands caused a great exodus in the 19th century, and even the tacksmen found themselves without a place in the changing structure and often felt their only hope lay in migration.
Their children, Isabella and Alexander, were both married in Scotland, and Alexander Jnr. with his wife and family decided to emigrate to Australia, arriving at Port Phillip in 1839. This must have prompted Alexander and Magdalene to do the same and they set sail, as Bounty immigrants, on the barque “Perfect” from Greenock, Scotland, arriving at Port Jackson (Sydney) on 20 December 1840. The surviving shipping list does not have details of all passengers, but shows their daughters Christina, Magdalene and Ann in the women’s quarters, and it is possible that Alexander and Magdalene and their younger children were travelling steerage. It quotes that the girls could “read and write”.
Another passenger on the ship was Aeneas Ronaldson Macdonell, Chief of Glengarry, who brought with him a number of his tenants consisting of shepherds and agriculturists, his household staff etc. Alexander was Glengarry’s head stockman. According to an unpublished manuscript entitled “Early Gippsland” by LH Campbell-Coulson, “Glengarry and his party travelled from Sydney to Port Albert, Victoria, on the brig “Brothers” which left Sydney on 26 June 1841 in charge of Captain Mackenzie”. Alexander and Magdalene Fraser and their eight children were also on board the “Brothers”. Glengarry selected a run on the Tarra River, later known as “Greenmount”, which venture turned out to be a failure.
The Frasers selected a small run at Merton, near Mansfield, and built a house on the creek near the main road. Alexander’s sons, Simon, Donald and Thomas, all became farmers at Merton. Some of the surrounding country was extremely rough and mountainous, and it snowed in winter.
Alexander and Magdalene died within a few months of each other – Magdalene on 17 March 1870 at the age of 77, and Alexander on 17 November the same year, at the age of 78, of hepatitis. They were buried in the Merton Cemetery which opened in 1869, so they were two of the earliest burials there.