The Gillespie’s of Glengallan

This was a presentation on some family history which I gave in May 2011 at the 60th Birthday celebration of 2 Gillespie descendants, my sisters-in-law.

We are here at ‘Glengallan’ near Warwick, Queensland, to celebrate the GILLESPIE family of ‘Glengallan’ but we have to include the WAUGH side too as Alexander Gillespie was married to Keena Waugh.

The Gillespies are a Sept or family within the Macpherson clan of Scotland but actually originated, way back, in Ireland. Macpherson means “son of the parson.” Gillespie means “the bishop’s servant”. Their behavior, quite frankly, was not very Christian. The territory of this Scottish clan was in the area inland from Aberdeen in what is today the Cairngorms National Park. In the 1300s the Macphersons were given their land by Robert the Bruce as a reward for expelling the Comyns family from the district.[1] They were men who raided far and wide. In the time of Robert Bruce, in 1322, they were as far south as Pickering in Yorkshire (my home town), having moved south along the old droving route[2].

The people of the Vale of Pickering, from the River Seven to the west and the sea to the east, purchased immunity for 300 marks, half to be paid at Candlemass (2 February [3] ) and the other half at Trinity (8 weeks after Easter [4]) . Three men, at the request of the whole Pickering community, surrendered to Robert Bruce on 17 October 1322 to stay as hostages in Berwick Castle until the money was paid. The Scots honoured the arrangement and all the towns, hamlets, manors, land and tenements were preserved from any damage through the time of the ransom.[5] The Pickering folk took the opportunity to replace the wooden palisade of the castle with a great outer wall of stone.[6]

These Scots were a feisty lot. The Macpherson, Davidson and Macintosh families continually bickered, scrapped and fought over who was entitled to be known as the “Great Chief of the old Clan Chattan”. There were disputes in the courts going back to 1609. We know milling was a family occupation from early times. In 1660 the Macintoshes started to build a mill which would affect one downstream which was owned by the Macphersons. Battle lines were drawn; opposing clans faced each other across the site of the half built mill. This day the Macintosh clan withdrew and the Macphersons then pulled the offending mill down.

Perhaps the Gillespie family had enough of the fighting. They moved south where they would have met up with the Waughs. The families had much in common, living in the southernmost counties of Scotland, the border counties, the Lowlands. Ancestors of both families are buried in Berwickshire to the east, but also in the western counties of Dumfries and Roxbrugh. The Waughs also had family on both sides of the border. Their name means “foreigner.”

From 1200 onwards the people who lived here, people known as the Border Reivers, had also continuously fought each other. The English raided the Scots, the Scottish raided the English. The Reivers also feuded between themselves, Scot pillaged Scot, Englishmen robbed Englishmen, Scots helped English raiders to harry the north line, Englishmen aided and abetted Scottish inroads.

Robbery, blackmail, arson, murder, kidnap and extortion were a constant part of the social system. No man who lived between the Pennines in the south and the Scottish uplands could go to sleep secure; no cattle could be left unguarded; no women unprotected.  The narrow hill land between England and Scotland was dominated by lance and sword, the steel bonnets and mail shirts told their own stories.

For over 400 years the Borderers had borne the brunt of the battle for supremacy between the English and Scots. It was the dividing line between these two of the most energetic, aggressive, talented and formidable nations in human history. It was not until the reign of Elizabeth I, starting in 1558, that some sort of peace settled over this area. For people to keep body and soul together over the generations they had to cope with hardships, they had to endure, they had to learn the art of survival. [7]

The Waugh and Gillespie families would have known each of other in Scotland.  We know the Waughs were farmers and farmers grow barley and wheat and also need water for livestock. The Gillespies were flour millers, and to mill their barley and wheat they too had to live near running water to turn the mill wheel.

I have no doubt that, in peaceful times, the young Waughs and Gillespies would have become skillful fishermen, expert at catching trout by tickling them (called ginniling or guddling in Scotland[8]); this required patience, stillness, the ability to tolerate freezing cold water with no tell-tale rod and line on show. They would have been knowledgeable poachers of salmon from the local Rivers, the Liddel and Tweed, rivers still well known for their excellent fishing. They would have learned spying techniques to know just where the bailiff (gamekeeper) was doing his rounds; they would have watched the tadpoles mature into frogs, caught glimpses of the kingfishers, disturbed the moorhen on her nest. They would have tracked animals in the winter snow; learned to set a snare to catch a rabbit for dinner; known which stump of wood stored the honey, they would have watched the tawny owl on her branch and the bats leaving their loft as the sun set, they’d know the location of the grouse and pigeon nests as well as the ancient barrows or burial mounds; they would have been comforted by the hoot of the barn owl, spooked by the eerie screams of the vixen returning to her den,  they would have caught hares with their dogs, gone ratting with their terriers, played conkers with nuts from horse-chestnut trees, feasted on wild brambles, elderberries and hazelnuts, brought primroses, catkins and buttercups home for their mothers and, in the long twilight of summer evenings, they would have enjoyed watching the antics of young otters, badgers, squirrels, hedgehogs and foxes. (And yes that was written with some emotion as they were all things I did as a child.)

Did the families also use the barley and wheat for the Scottish delight of whisky. Around 1780, there were 8 legal distilleries and 400 illegal ones in Scotland… did the Gillespie or Waugh clan run one of them? We know that from 1780 a number of legal distilleries had been founded and quickly became the heart of the economic life in the Lowlands. Their production waste was used to feed cattle, and the distilleries were rapidly considered as essential to local agriculture. But a tax in 1794 put an end to their prosperity, the Lowland Licence Act,[9] required the Lowland distilleries to cease trading for one year, with catastrophic consequences on the local economy.  (There are only three Lowland distilleries left, Auchentoshan,  Bladnoch and Glenkinchie. )

What effect did this tax have on the two families? We know three of George Gillespie’s children, brought up in the hard times of the 1790s, migrated to America. They were prepared to look for pastures new.

William Waugh decided on Australia, arriving in 1833 on “The Drummore.” His cousin, another William Waugh, was a corn factor in London and two of his sons, John Neill and Alexander migrated to Australia, Alexander (Keena’s ancestor) came in 1848 in “Woolner Castle”. [10] Was this part of an Assisted Immigration Scheme?  From 1831–1860 over 18,000 people came to Australia every year as Assisted Immigrants.[11]

It was a later generation of Gillespies, George’s grandsons George and John who came to Australia in 1853… why Australia rather than follow their uncles and aunt to America? Were they also Assisted Migrants, or hoping for luck with the gold rush in Australia? I suspect the latter, they could see bright prospects, they were prepared to work hard for it. They knew they could cope with hardships, they could endure, they could be survivors.

And so the flour milling business was successfully established in Australia and the family also branched out… farming at ‘Glengallan’ was to be one of those branches but, sadly, it was unsuccessful. Perhaps they did not do their homework sufficiently well, as ‘Glengallan’ already had a checkered history.

As early as 2 February 1870 John Deuchar, grazier of ‘Glengallan’, had filed for insolvency.[12] But by 19 March the ‘Glengallan’ creek was so swollen with water that the bridge was not visible and the Allora coach passengers had to spend an uncomfortable night sitting up in the coach. [13] The property was then taken over by the Marshalls but in January 1873 the land at ‘Glengallan’ was thought to be worthless as “Mr Marshall would not have allowed it to become forfeit for non-payment of rent.[14]

But just a few months later, in June 1873, ‘Glengallan’ had the appearance of a large sea following local floods. [15]  The cycle of drought and flooding rain continued over the years.

In July 1899 the Government purchased the land for closer settlement, and it was thrown open for selection, with 33 out of 30 blocks being applied for. [16]  (Did S.A. Register get it wrong…should that be 30 out of 33?)

Still things did not bode well for the property. In October 1903 the Sydney Morning Herald reported “The offer of sale of the ‘Glengallan Estate’ to the Government stands good till the end of the month. Although no decision has been arrived at, it is probable that the purchase will be made.”

The government did in fact buy the property for £86,600 [17] . In 1904 George and Alexander Gillespie, in partnership with their mother Clara, bought part of ‘Glengallan’, the homestead block of between 1250 and 2000 acres plus an additional 482 acres. George soon left claiming there was nothing in it for them,[18] Alex and his mother stayed on and both had to file for insolvency.[19]  I have put a few newspaper reports of the court hearings on the board over by the door.  Alex stayed on to manage ‘Glengallan’ for the new owner until his untimely death in April 1927 and the family left the property for the last time.

I’d like to end with a poem, one I think is most appropriate. By a bush poet called Dal, it is called HARD TIMES and was written around the turbulent time of the Gillespie family being at ‘Glengallan’. [20]

Gillespie’s Anchor Roller is referring a cotton flour-bag with the Gillespie ‘Logo’ on display.


When Gillespie’s Anchor Roller’s shining through your cotton shirt

When Gillespie’s Anchor Roller’s on your knee,

When Gillespie’s flour bag linen is the most important part

Of the trousers which when new were dungaree.

When the women folk are patching & a-saving all they know

With a cheerful smiling face o’er all that hurt,

But a fellow doesn’t seem to take a labour-giver’s eye

With Gillespie’s Anchor Roller on his shirt.

When you’ve left the place you’re known in, with but very little cash,

Struck for better with your children and your wife,

Why they said the place was booming when we set the sail for here

You could get a job as quick as saying “knife.”

But you’ve used what little money that you had when first you came,

And supplies are getting lower every day,

You have asked for “tick” so often that when this consignment’s done

You are doubtful as to what Grocer’ll say.

And of course he’s very civil, “mister” here and “mister” there,

This to chaps of inexperience sounds warm,

But to those who understand it, it’s a very different thing

For they know it’s but the “calm” before the “storm”.

When the horse hair stuffing’s bulging in a very homely style

From the saddle you have counter-lined yourself,

You were thinking as you did it, it would last till times improved

And in consequence you’d save the bit of “pelf

And the stuff that she is made of isn’t waste,

But they bid for half her value, while the Squatter’s nags are rushed

And to stand amongst such “mongrels” she’s disgraced,

But you mustn’t be downhearted you must keep your spirits up,

You can swear by all the coin you might have had,

Tho’ perhaps you mightn’t know it you can wager pretty strong

If the “Women” are not worse they’re just as bad.

But they never even grumble and they always make the best

Of everything (although it’s hard to do).

But the brave are not forgotten and you get a job at last

And from that a fellow mostly worries through.

But it all goes in a lifetime, it’s experience at worst

Gives to all your whims and vanities the sack.

And while you live and labour you will not despise the man

With Gillespie’s Anchor Roller on his back.

1905 By Donald (Dal)


#Gillespie #Glengallen  #Waugh

[1] George Eyre Todd, Highland Clans of Scotland, 1923.

[2] Shirley Toulson, The Drovers, Shire Album 45, Shire Publications and Rob Roy by Sir Walter Scott.

[5] Gordon Home,  The evolution of an English Town, London, JM Dent, 1905. P 107-8.

[6] Keith Snowden, Pickering through the Ages, Castleden Publications, 1988.

[7] George MacDonald Fraser, The Steel Bonnets, the story of the Anglo-Scottish Border Reivers, Barrie and Jenkins Ltd, 1971, (or London, Pan, 1974).

[10] Neville Malony (compiler), A History of the Waughs, 1996.

[11] Price, Charles (1987). “Chapter 1: Immigration and Ethnic Origin”. In Wray Vamplew (ed.). Australians: Historical Statistics. Broadway, New South Wales, Australia: Fairfax, Syme & Weldon Associates. pp. pages 2–22.

[12]  Sydney Morning Herald 2 Feb 1870.

[13]  The Queenslander 19 March 1870

[14]  Brisbane Courier 17 Jan 1873.

[15]  Brisbane Courier 24 June 1873.

[16]  South Australian Register 13 July 1899.

[17]  Sydney Morning Herald, 20 April 1904.

[18]  Brisbane Courier, 19 May, 1911

[19]  Brisbane Courier, 19 May, 1911 and 20 September 1911.

[20]  <>

And enjoy

Prepared by Caroline Gaden

© May 2011

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