THE MATHESONS from HELMSDALE
George Granville Leveson-Gower, Duke of Sutherland, was responsible for some of the most brutal Highland Clearances (c.1810-1820) when he was advised that the interior of Sutherland was best suited for sheep raising and little fit for human habitation. He established large sheep farms by evicting thousands of families, burning their cottages and forcing them to resettle in small coastal villages.
Some of the Highlanders were moved to the village of Helmsdale on the Scottish coast, but the Highlanders were not accustomed to living in a town and their livelihood was taken away as they could no longer graze their cattle and provide for themselves. They were encouraged to join the fishing trade and the collection and burning of kelp as a source of potash and iodine, but were not trained for this.
Many families emigrated or moved to cities where they thought they could get work. It is possible that our Matheson family, with their children including Thomas, moved with many others to Aberdeen. These were Gaelic speaking people, with little knowledge of the English language. When Thomas Matheson married Mary Strath, the service was conducted by the minister of the Gaelic Chapel in Aberdeen, presumably in Gaelic, although the marriage was registered at the Church of St Nicholas. This would suggest that Mary Straths family were also Gaelic speakers and, perhaps also originally from the Highlands, as the name Strath (meaning valley in Scottish) also originated in the north.
Thomas age on the passenger lists in April 1838 was given as 27 in April last in Helmsdale; this would suggest 1837, thus a birth date of 1810. The only birth record found for Thomas Matheson was in 1809, at Midgarty, which is very close to Helmsdale and this could quite possibly be our Thomas. Four other children have been found for this family, but only the fathers name, Alexander, whereas when Thomas emigrated, only his mothers name, Margaret, and her profession as a house keeper were given, suggesting that his father had died.
At his marriage Thomas Matheson's trade was given as tailor, and his immigration papers also describe him as a tailor and Mary as a dressmaker. Thomas would have learnt this trade in Aberdeen, and probably moved there at a very young age.
THE MATHESONS in AUSTRALIA
Thomas Matheson and his wife Mary Strath arrived in Australia on 12 August, 1838, on board Lady Kennaway, which sailed from Leith, Scotland on the 19 April 1838 and from The Downs on 25 April, 1838. They were accompanied by their daughters Margaret, age 5, Christina, age 3 and Mary, who was eighteen months.
Thomas gave his profession as a labourer, although he was a tailor, and Mary gave her profession as a dressmaker. Thomas age according to his immigration record and his death certificate would have his birth as 1811. No record of his has been found, but a record for a Thomas Matheson in Midgarty, Loth, near Helmsdale, on 20 September, 1809, father Alexander, could be relevant. Unfortunately the mother is not recorded, but Thomas gave his mothers name as Margaret, a housekeeper, when he sailed for Australia.
The Parish Record for their marriage states the following:
After proclamation of Banns, Thomas Matheson, tailor in Aberdeen, was on the twenty third day of June, one thousand eight hundred and thirty two married at Aberdeen to Mary, daughter of Alexander Straith, Tollkeeper in the parish of Banchory, Devenick, by the Reverend Hugh Mackenzie, Minister of Gaelic Chapel, Aberdeen, in presence of these Witnesses, the said Alexander Straith and William McDonald, Labourer in Aberdeen.
On the immigration record, Mary gave her father as Alexander Strath, shoemaker of Aberdeen. The Parish record, however, states Strath, May 10th 1812 Alexander Strath Tollkeeper of Craigtown and Christian Birnie his wife had a daughter baptised called Mary witnesses John Elrick and James Cooper both in Craigtown. Born Apr 29th
The records for several other children born to the family also state that Alexander Start was a Tollkeeper.
After their arrival in Sydney, Thomas and Mary had another daughter, Helen, also known as Ellen, in 1839. Two years later, in 1841, Mary died, her headstone at the Sydney Burial Ground read
Erected by Thomas Matheson in memory of his wife MARY STRAITH,
born Aberdeen, Scotland, 28 Feb 1813 died Sydney, NSW 19 Jan 1841,
aged 28 years.
Also the above Thomas Matheson died 23 July 1862 aged 51 years
Thomas remarried in 1848, to Jane Wilkinson, who had arrived in Port Phillip aboard Strathfieldsaye in 1841. Jane had five children, Amelia, Isabella, Georgina, and Charity who died young, and Thomas. Jane died in Sydney in 1864, and was buried at the Baptist Cemetery. Thomas had died in 1862, his death certificate stating
Died 23 July 1862
Residence Pitt St
Male Age 51
Buried 25 July 1862
Married 1. Scotland Mary Straith
2. Sydney, NSW Jane Wilkinson
Children by first marriage
Children by second marriage
Amelia Jane 18
Georgina Hope 12
Thomas W 8
CHILDREN of THOMAS AND MARY MATHESON
Margaret Burnie Matheson, born 1833 in Aberdeen, died 1918, in Burwood. Margaret married Edmund John Baily, at St Andrews Scots Church in 1850. Edmund Baily had been transported for embezzlement, and arrived in Sydney on Portsea, in December, 1838. On acquiring a ticket of leave in 1848, he was employed by Michael Balkeney, a Shipping, Family and Carcass Butcher, his introduction to the meat industry. After obtaining a conditional pardon in 1849, it is recorded that Baily leased a slaughter house. His partnership with Thomas Playfair began in 1860, so it can be assumed in the intervening years he built his business to include butcher shops. Edmund Baily died in 1862, not long after he had been elected Chairman of the Municipal Council of Waverley. Margaret and Edmund had seven children, Edmund Strath, Sarah, Charles, Elizabeth, Alfred, Katherine, and Herbert Strathmore.
Christina Straith Matheson, born 1835, Aberdeen, died Waverley, 1921. Christina married George Henry Bethel in 1855. They had eleven children, George Thomas in 1856, Alexander S (born and died 1857), Mary Straith in 1859, Christina S in 1860, Walter Edmund in 1863, Edmund J (born 1865died1866), Margaret (born and died 1869), Ernest S (born and died 1871), Lillian in 1873, Ernest Stuart in 1875 and Caroline who died in 1923.
Mary Matheson, born in Aberdeen in 1837. Mary married Henry Ferdinand Camroux in 1860. They had nine children, about which I only know their births. Mary L 1861, Susan 1864, May born and died 1866, Henry F born and died 1866, Henry 1868, Minnie 1870, Mabel 1871, Ellen Strath 1876, and Mabel E 1878.
Ellen Matheson, born 1839, Sydney. Ellen married Thomas Playfair in 1860 at Woolloomooloo. This was the year that Edmund Baily went into partnership with Thomas Playfair, so it was probably this that led to Thomas meeting Bailys wife and her younger sister. Thomas and Ellen had four children, Thomas Arnold in 1861and Edmund John Baily in 1863, Alexander born and died 1865, and Alfred Matheson born 1866 died 1867. Ellen died in March 1866, about two weeks after the birth of Alfred, who died the following year.
CHILDREN of THOMAS AND JANE MATHESON
Amelia Jane Matheson born Sydney 1844. Age 18 at Thomas death.
Isabella Faith Matheson born Sydney 1846. Isabella married Henry Sharkey in 1869. They had five children, Patrick 1871, Agnes 1874, Angus 1876, Catherine 1878, and Margery 1881.
Georgina Hope Matheson born Sydney 1849. Georgina married Thomas Playfair after the death of her half sister Ellen. They had five children, two who died in infancy, Jessie 1869-1951, Alfred Donald 1871-1943 and Walter born and died 1872.
Fanny (Francis) Charity Matheson 1852-1854
Thomas Whittaker Matheson born 1854, age 8 at Thomas Death