Emigration to Australia 1852

During the 1800’s many families and individuals were encouraged to immigrate to the new colonies of Australia, this was due to a large population growth in the rural areas of England and Scotland. Many were sponsored by the HIES (Highland and Island Emigration Society)

It was because of this general famine and other oppressions such as the Highland clearance that during 1852 my ancestral family, the family of Norman Bethune and of Marion Bethune a widow. Both families were from the Isle of Skye in Inverness also called INVERNESS-SHIRE, they were among many others from Scotland who set out to come to Australia were work was promised due to a shortage of labour caused by the gold rush.


The Highland and Island Immigration Society was the result of the collapse of the Skye Emigration Society that was set up by Mr. T. E. Fraser, the Sherriff substitute of Skye in 1851. The "rules rules and system of promissory notes" as set up by the Skye Society were incorporated into the HIES. Many Bethune and Beaton families were assisted in this period to immigrate to Australia, see Beaton and Bethune HIES Immigration.

Norman Bethune’s family

It is most probable that Norman was a crofter of the Lord MacDonald, he arrived in Australia, with his family, 1853 on the ship "Neptune", South Australia, 25 October, from Plymouth 7 June 1853, Captain Henderson. Norman was accompanied by his wife Catherine (McDonald), his children Lachlan, Christain, Ann, Isabella and Malcolm, Evidently the family was left behind when "Hercules" sailed from Queenstown. It was quarantined there for some months when smallpox broke out and many of its passengers eventually sailed on other ships.

Lachlan had a brother named Alexander born in 1832 who was separated in the immigration process and arrived on the ship "Oliva" to South Australia, 14 November, from Plymouth 30 July 1853, Captain T. Williams. (Register 15 November 1853.

It is known that the family arrived in the colony of Victoria overland from South Australia about two years after they landed. They would possibly have used coach and rail if they had the fare, but most likely walked as was most common.

The ship HMS Hercules

The ship "Hercules" departed from Campbelltown on 26 December 1852 carrying 756 emigrants from Skye, Harris and North Uist it ran into a horrific storm almost immediately and sought refuge at Rothesay. Soon after their second departure in early Jan 1853 outbreaks of smallpox and typhus were discovered, necessitating a 3 month quarantine at Queenstown, Co. Cork. 56 people died, 17 orphaned children were returned home and many others were assigned to a dozen other ships, whole Families being broken up in the process. There were further deaths, including at least one suicide, amongst the remaining 380 passengers during the ensuing 104 days at sea. Read an account of the voyage. Coming Soon



Marion Bethune’s family

Marion Bethune a widow set out from Liverpool October 1852 on the ship "Priscilla" a vessel of 572 tons, which arrived in Melbourne, February 1853. The trip form England took 17 weeks as the ship was becalmed in the tropics where apparently there was considerable sickness on the ship and Typhoid broke out, and as a result many children on board died on the voyage.

Her children Ann, Murdoch, Christina, Roderick and an Ann Bruce accompanied Maria. Also her nephews Finlay and Peter Bethune who it is believed she had brought up after the death of their parents Roderick and Ann Bethune (Morrison). Other Bethune's on the ship were Norman Bethune, his wife Catherine and children Ann and Janet (died on voyage).

Lachlan Bethune

Lachlan married Christina Bethune in 1856 at the Presbyterian Free Manse, Swanston Street Melbourne, Lachlan was engaged as a property overseer at the time in Melton and Christina as a housemaid. This was the start of my family line in Australia.

Life In Australia

Below is a letter from Malcolm Beaton, a Young shepherd at East Strathdownie/Digby area of Victoria Australia to his unknown uncle in Scotland, Victoria Dunlop found this charming letter, written in 1856,  in the National Library of Scotland. I believe that he was the son of my my Great Great Great Grandfather Norman Bethune, who lived in the Digby area and he was the brother of lachlan and Alexander Bethune, Alexander later had a selection (property on conditional lease of improvement, with eventual ownership) at Digby.

(Spelling retained from original.)

East Strathdownie, April 8th 1856

Dear Uncle

I received your letter on the 4th of March which I was very glad to hear from
you.  Dear and beloved Uncle you cannot think how pleased it made me for it was
the first one that ever any of us got from home althoug I send a great many home
before that one to my Uncle Donald McDonald.  Dear Uncle I am sorry to hear by
your letter that the letter that my father sent home with the money was not
received.  I have not seen my father lately but when I saw him last he said that
he was wondering that he did not get an answer for it and as soon as I got your
letter I send him a letter and told that you did not get it and he did not send
me an answer yet but I know that he send ten pounds home to his friend.  Some of
it was to Uncle Neil I know but I do not know to who wa the rest and I know it
was an order from the Bank and the letter was adressed to the Minister.  Dear
Uncle that is all I know about it.  But here is six pounds that I send to you
and Neil out of my own wages.  I got three orders from the bank and I send one
home on the 26th of March and here is the other one and I must keep one my self
in case that you will not get this so that I can get it from the bank again
myself if you do not get my letters.  Dear Uncle I have to inform you that John
is better at the present time but he will soon be ill again.  Dear Uncle I have
to relate to you that any of us was never a day ill since we came to Australia
except when we landed I was for a week very ill.  They did not thought that I
would live but after I was Bleed and put a mustard [portas] on me I got Better
which I may thank god for it.  Dear Uncle I have to acknowledge that any of us
never heard a sermon since we left home.  We are 50 miles from any Minister and
if it was only that against the bush it was Enoug.  Dear Uncle as soon as I will
get an answer from you I intend to go to Melbourne for there is good wages
there.  Dear Uncle I wish you would be so good [as] to send Mary Walker out here
if you can get her to syne her name as other single females does and if she
comes let me know of it and the name of the [boat] with which she comes and as
soon as I will see in the news paper that that vessel comes I will meet her and
she must not hire to any one if she comes.  And as soon [as] I will get an
answer from you I will remember Aunt Christina and Aunt Mary.  This is Enoug to
send home untill I whither you will get it or not.  If Mary Walker comes I wish
you would be so god as to send me a shanter so that it will pass the time when I
am out Shepperding.  If she do come I will take care of her.  Wherever I go she
will go and if ever I am [saved] to go home once more she will go home.  Angus &
Donald is well.  Donald is married 12 months ago.  He had a son but he died.  I
have no mor to say at present but my love to my Uncle and Aunts not forgetting
yourself and wife and familie.
I remain your Affectionate Nephew
Malcolm Beaton
Care of McEachern Brothers
Heathfield, Portland Bay, Australia.

(NLS, Acc. 6880)

Establishing Society  Coming Soon.

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