I was intrigued to come across a reference to one of my articles on the internet recently. It was included in the description of a rare and beautiful item offered for sale by Hordern House Rare books, located in Sydney’s Surry Hills. This tiny object was of great interest to me.

Information on the compass from auction house Hordern House.
Lachlan Macquarie Jnr, recipient of the compass.

Viscount Strathallan was William Drummond, an old and valued friend of Governor Macquarie from the days when Macquarie was serving in India, prior to his appointment as Governor of New South Wales. He was also Lachlan Junior’s Godfather.

I contacted Hordern House, and they generously provided me with photographs.

Front view of the compass.

The inscription is featured below. It is poignant that the gift was made in 1825, the year of the Governor’s death.

Inscription on the compass, a gift to Lachlan Macquarie Jnr from Viscount Strathallan.

I have been researching Governor Lachlan Macquarie’s extended family for many years. Thanks to the generosity of owners John and Angela Stancer I was fortunate enough to stay on the old Macquarie estate on the Isle of Mull. My work indirectly led to my first book, The Water Doctor’s Daughters.

The only Macquarie related item I possess myself is a book I purchased in London some years ago. It was owned by Lachlan Macquarie Jnr. and carries his bookplate. Jarvisfield was the name of his father’s original estate on Mull.

The book, published in 1842, was a play titled Money, a Comedy. There is a degree of irony in Lachlan owning it.


No doubt there was a great deal of symbolism in Strathallan’s gift of a compass. As young Lachlan’s Godfather and guardian, it was his duty to provide direction in the life of his young charge.

But Lachlan Jnr. was an adored and yes, a spoiled only son. Despite the best efforts of his mother and guardian, he entered adulthood without the moral compass he so desperately needed. He became a dissolute drunkard, who gambled and ran up enormous debts. The quote on my treasured book’s frontispiece is apt;

Young Lachlan’s lifestyle was to have tragic consequences, as revealed in my article referenced by Hordern House; THE STRANGE STORY OF THE MACQUARIE MAUSOLEUM

Of course the big question is…..who bought the compass? I can only hope it was an Australian museum, or some other public institution such as the Library of New South Wales. The Library already has an impressive collection of Macquarie material.

  1. Lovely article, lovely compass! Like you I’m hoping it has gone to the SL.NSW.

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