…John and Christina McDonald called their selection Glen Donald and commenced clearing land to establish a small farm and orchard along the Arthurs Creek…
John and Christina McDonald arrived in Port Phillip from Liverpool as assisted passengers in the immigrant ship ‘Theodore’, on 8 December 1852. Their eldest son John was born in Collingwood not long after their arrival.
John senior was a crofter and shepherd from Laggan in the Badenoch district of Invernesshire in the Scottish Highlands. He was some 20 years older than his wife Christina (nee Kennedy). Both were Gaelic speakers indented to Captain Aneas McPherson, ‘manager of Thomas Walker’s estate along the Plenty River’.
John and Christina lived at Yan Yean before selecting land of their own at Arthurs Creek in 1864, ‘near where … Charles Draper and John Ryder lived’. They called their selection ‘Glen Donald’ and commenced clearing land to establish a small farm and orchard along the Arthurs Creek. A comfortable homestead was built on the east side of the Arthurs Creek for their growing family of 5 sons and 2 daughters.
Christina ‘was ever of an hospitable nature’. A story is told that when Mrs. Charlotte Roberts died in September 1867 at the early age of 27, ‘she left a baby a few days old, …the husband was wondering what to do with it when Mrs. McDonald arrived on the scene carrying her own baby, the late Mr. Owen (Ewen) McDonald (born May 1867), …she quickly settled matters by putting the baby on her own breast, and reared it along with her own. That is the way in which they helped one another in those days. A wonderful old lady was the late Mrs. Stewart’ (formerly Mrs. McDonald).
John senior died at age 70 in December 1869. John junior, at age 16, took over the running of the family farm with assistance from his mother Christina and her young family.
In 1874, Christina married her neighbour Cornelius John (Scottie) Stewart. Stewart, a carpenter and builder, ‘was born in Fifeshire, Scotland and came to Australia in July 1865’. The couple lived together in a nearby house built by Stewart. Both were actively involved with the building of the Primitive Methodist Church at Arthurs Creek, which was officially opened in November 1873.
In December 1878 John junior married Susan Underwood. Together they worked hard to develop the Glen Donald farm and orchard and raise a family of five girls and three boys. John was an original member of the Arthurs Creek Fruitgrowers’ Association when it was formed in May 1890. He died in March 1929 at age 76 and Susan in June 1946 at the age of 86.
In July 1903, there was a large gathering at Arthurs Creek for the wedding of Emily Jane McDonald, the eldest daughter of John and Susan, to John Herbert J.P. of Nutfield. Herbert, who was 24 years older than Emily, is said to have unsuccessfully courted her mother Susan and to have said that ‘If I cannot have you as my wife, I shall wait and have your first daughter’. His patience was well rewarded.
In November 1913, (Jack) John Henry McDonald, the eldest son of John and Susan, married Julie Catherine Draper, the only daughter of the late (Bill) William Plenty Draper and his wife (Bel) Elinor Isabel Prout Williams formerly of ‘Dishleigh’, Arthurs Creek. Bel’s mother, Mrs. Julie Williams, was the second Headteacher at the Arthurs Creek Primary School (1887-88). Jack and Julie raised a family of six children, (three boys and three girls). Their first farming venture near Yea was not a success. The family spent some time living in the former McDonald cottage opposite the Glen Donald homestead. (In later years this cottage was used by Don McDonald as a shearing shed.) Jack who ‘had a great love of horses’ became a teamster. The family moved to Murrindindi where for many years Jack and his team were well known as a contractor with the Murrindindi timber mills. Jack is said to have rarely dismounted from his big chestnut horse, when riding at Arthurs Creek, as he would jump the fences.
There was a large gathering at ‘Glen Donald’ to celebrate the 90th birthday of Christina Stewart (formerly Mrs. McDonald) on 12 February 1917. The celebration took place over four days. The Evelyn Observer reported that ‘Mrs. Stewart (was) renowned for possessing a large heart, a kind and Christian-like spirit.’ Christina died in Bendigo ‘at the ripe age’ of 93 years.
Donald McDonald the youngest child of John and Susan was born in 1894. He remained with the farm and orchards on the death of his brother Harold Underwood McDonald in France during the First World War and his father John in March 1929. Don married (Dolly) Effie Eliza Thomas in 1921. Donald and Effie had three daughters – Effie who died as an infant, Gwen, and Norma May McDonald who married ‘Sandy’ Alexander Brock.
The Glen Donald orchards were grubbed out during the 1930s and the land given over to pasture for sheep and cattle grazing. Don died on 11 April 1957. Dolly continued living at Glen Donald until the mid 1970s. The McDonald estate was progressively sub-divided and sold, including the picturesque Glen Donald family home and homestead overlooking the Arthurs Creek. Dolly McDonald died on 5 July 1983 at age 89.
Source : Notes from the McDonald family provided by Ross McDonald.
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