At the end of PART ONE of this story, we left Miss Elizabeth Campbell fretting over her fiance Lachlan Macquarie’s lack of eagerness to return from army duties in India. Clearly something had to be done.
Fortuitously, Henrietta Meredith had a friend and family connection by the name of Elizabeth Meyrick, from Holsworthy in Devon. It was arranged that Elizabeth would take the position of governess to the daughters of Miss Meyrick’s brother William. Perhaps due to family illness the Meyrick girls, Mary and Hester (aged about 8 and 6) were staying with their grandfather, the Reverend Owen Meyrick.
Elizabeth’s show of spirit in moving to Devon produced the desired effect. Macquarie abandoned all thought of delaying his return. The couple were married quietly at Holsworthy by Owen Meyrick on November 3 1807.
Miss Elizabeth Meyrick was a witness. Macquarie’s willingness to travel to Devon after his long journey from India was a further acknowledgement of his bride’s strength of character, and of her affection for the Meyrick family.
The Newlyweds made their home in Perth, Scotland, where Macquarie’s regiment was now stationed. Elizabeth gave birth to a daughter the following year, but the baby died aged only three months. This tragic loss was followed almost immediately by the unwelcome news that Macquarie had been appointed governor of a penal colony at the very ends of the earth, in New South Wales. The months of forced intimacy aboard ship during the six month voyage strengthened their marriage and helped prepare them for the challenges ahead.
Within weeks of Macquarie being sworn in as Governor his wife hosted a dinner for nearly 60 Government House convicts. It was in stark contrast to the genteel dinner the couple had attended at Henrietta Meredith’s London home.
Later that year Elizabeth accompanied her husband on the first of many inspection tours of outlying settlements. This too was the antithesis of life in London. The vice-regal party slept under canvas and Elizabeth spent many weary hours in the saddle.
Meanwhile, one of the most significant events in the lives of Henrietta and Juliana (who lived only a few streets apart) was the rebuilding of their parish church of St Mary-le-Bone. It is easy to imagine Elizabeth gently teasing them with news of her own, very hands-on role in re-designing the twin towered St John’s church at Parramatta.
The spires of St John’s had been modelled on those at Reculvers, a romantic, ruined church on the north Kent coast that Henrietta and Elizabeth may well have visited together. Until her death in 1807 Henrietta’s aunt, Lady Mary Campbell, had lived at Coombe Bank in Kent. Significantly, Lady Mary had been an intimate friend of Elizabeth’s mother, and also a kinswoman through her marriage to Lord Frederick Campbell.
Lachlan Macquarie envisaged Australia as a thriving, egalitarian society, but was censured for his championship of ex-convicts and his perceived excessive spending on public works. By 1821, in the wake of the critical Bigge Report, he had resigned from the position of governor. Nevertheless, he retained his affection for the colony, remaining engaged and enthusiastic until his final day in office. In early April 1821, Elizabeth and their son Lachlan Jnr accompanied Macquarie on a final inspection tour of Van Diemen’s Land. Elizabeth’s thoughts were increasingly turning to home, and to her reunion with Henrietta and Juliana. While travelling from Launceston to Hobart Macquarie wrote; Monday 4th June 1821… During this day’s Journey I gave the following new names to different Places along our Track, Vis; “Curzon-Downs” – “Meredith Forest” (called hitherto The Cross Marsh) – “Meredith-Peak”, – Curzon-Peak” (so named in honour of Miss Meredith and Miss Curzon Friends of Mrs Macquarie). Honours were thus bestowed equally, although Henrietta remained a step ahead of Juliana as there was already a Meredith Island (now Middle Island), near Port Stephens. Meanwhile, the settlement of Holsworthy near Sydney had been named in remembrance of the Meyrick family, and the Macquaries’ happy marriage.
The family sailed home aboard the Surry in 1822. Lachlan Macquarie was determined to defend himself against Commissioner Bigge’s charges. He also dreamed of building a grand residence on his Scottish estate. The mansion house would be a repository for the unique natural history treasures he had brought from New South Wales, and a fitting legacy for his only son.
Unfortunately the next few years would bring heartbreak and loss for Elizabeth, but also the most extraordinary generosity from her friends.
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