THE FRIENDS OF ELIZABETH MACQUARIE – A NEW WORLD

Elizabeth Macquarie (nee Campbell)

Elizabeth Macquarie (nee Campbell)

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.

Holsworthy Parish Church

Holsworthy Parish Church

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.

 

Government House Sydney, circa 1809

Government House Sydney, circa 1809

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 twin towered church of St John's.

The twin towered church of St John’s, 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.

CLICK HERE FOR THE FINAL PART OF THIS STORY

By the way, if you would like to read the story of Mrs Macquarie and the twin towered church, click HERE.

 FEEL FREE TO LEAVE A COMMENT IN THE BOX BELOW.

 

2 Comments
  1. That is a great account of Elizabeth’s adult life. Imagine undertaking that long voyage to and from England. It appeared she was very devoted to her husband. She named her son Lachlan and one of our grandchildren has the same name. I really enjoy your accounts of early Australian history. It gives a personal touch to the names in our history books.

    • Pauline

      Thanks Heather, it’s great to know that people share my interest in our history. I love the name Lachlan.

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