Hector Macquarie was born on Scotland’s Isle of Mull in 1794. He was the illegitimate son of Charles Macquarie, Governor Lachlan Macquarie’s younger brother. Governor Macquarie took his nephew under his wing, famously dubbing him Hero Hector…which was to become an ironic nickname. The young man grew up to become a Lieutenant in the British army. After arriving in Sydney in 1818 he was appointed aide-de-camp to his uncle, then Governor of the infant colony. Unfortunately, his constant indiscretions caused extreme embarrassment for the Governor. In the most serious incident he was accused of raping a servant girl at Parramatta and banished from Government House.
Hector returned to England with his uncle in 1822. Little is known of his movements during the next few years. At one point he was serving with the 55th Regiment of Foot at the Cape of Good Hope. The regiment was employed in patrolling the Kaffir frontier. Yet again he was censured for misconduct. Later he went to live with his father in Scotland, fathering an illegitimate child there in 1829.
By 1833 Hector was serving with his regiment in Coventry (Warwickshire). It was here he met the genteel Margaret Simson, from the nearby village of Fillongley. Margaret was born in 1812, the youngest daughter of Patrick Simson, a widowed local surgeon. When Doctor Simson died in 1829 his daughters Margaret (17) and Ann (21) inherited his estate. The young ladies shared property in Fillongley and London, as well as several thousand pounds in shares.
At 39, Captain Macquarie was scarcely a good marriage prospect. He was penniless, and his history of misdemeanors meant he had little prospect of promotion. No doubt Margaret and her family were reassured by the fact that he was the son of Lieutenant Colonel Charles Macquarie, Laird of the Scottish Isle of Ulva, and that his uncle had been Governor of New South Wales. It is unlikely the bride had any inkling of the groom’s disreputable past.
In a marriage settlement dated October 7 1833, Margaret made provision for any future children. Two thousand pounds in annuities were to be held in trust for them. The couple were married in Fillongley’s 12th century St Mary and All Saints church the following day.
Significantly, the wedding was by special licence; quicker and more discreet than the traditional posting of the banns for three weeks. Hector would not have wanted his creditors to be aware of his movements. Regrettably, he remained as spendthrift as ever. With his wife’s inheritance protected by trustees and out of his reach, he began issuing bills in the name of his equally impoverished father. On two occasions during the couple’s first year of marriage he was arrested, and gaoled as a debtor.
Margaret must have found the shame and humiliation of her husband’s imprisonment unbearable, but worse was to come. By December the following year, their situation had become so desperate that they were forced to flee the country. Hector offered himself for military service in India. After an ignominious ‘cloak and dagger’ exit from Coventry, the Macquaries made their way to Tilbury Fort, in the Thames estuary.
They laid low at Tilbury for three months, until the East Indiaman Roxburgh Castle set sail in March 1835. Margaret suffered from sea-sickness from the moment she boarded. Hector wrote a self-pitying letter to his father. He was worried that his creditors might apprehend him when the ship made its first call at Portsmouth. Though well aware of Margaret’s distress, he preferred to believe that her deliverance lay in the hands of God, rather than his own;
‘I hope by and by she will become more reconciled and comfortable, but of late her sufferings have been to severe for her Bodily strength, seeing me – Twice arrested and taken to Prison is enough to injure a far stronger Constitution that Hers, but I trust in the Mercy of the Almighty such scenes are now at an end.’
Shamelessly, he continued to harass his embattled father over money, writing; ‘I most earnestly trust you will arrange for the payment of Dfts [drafts] I drew upon you, if not exactly when due at all events in the month of June when I hope you will be relieved in a great measure by the sale of Glenforsa.’ Glenforsa was an estate his father owned on Mull. He also urged his father to look after his illegitimate son, Hugh.
A DOUBLE TRAGEDY
The Roxburgh Castle arrived in Madras on July 15, 1835. Poor Margaret was now in the early stages of pregnancy. Any relief she felt at escaping from the pitch and roll of the ship was short lived. Monsoon season was approaching, bringing with it the misery of extreme heat and humidity.
Another blow came when word arrived from Scotland that Hector’s father Charles had died on March 27. This was the day before his son had written to him him aboard ship. Colonel Macquarie’s heavily burdened estates of Ulva and Glenforsa were eventually sold, but after debts were settled there not a penny left for Hector or for Charles’ five legitimate children.
Margaret Macquarie died during childbirth in the military settlement at Bellary (Madras Presidency) on March 7 the following year. Her baby did not survive. Her headstone was engraved; ‘DEEPLY AND SINCERELY LAMENTED BY HER DISCONSOLATE HUSBAND.’ Her age was recorded as 23 years 3 months, although she would have been 24 by then.
Hector’s movements after his wife’s death are unclear. However, by the end of December 1838 he was a Captain without regiment, retired from army on half pay. No doubt it was money inherited from his wife that enabled him to return to England, and to clear his debts. In the 1841 census he was recorded as living in London. He was now 40 years old. At some point he moved back to Coventry. Meanwhile, another young lady called Margaret unwittingly awaited her fate. TO BE CONTINUED…
There are many other stories on this site about the Macquarie family. Here is one about the Governor’s son…..BITTER LEGACY
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