Samuel Perry Turnbull and Mary Duncan

Our Great Great Great Grandparents

Samuel was born at Glasgow on September 27, 1808. Witnesses were named as James Turnbull and James Redpath. The James Turnbull was no doubt his uncle Dr James Alexander Turnbull.

Samuel enlisted in the 92nd Foot Soldiers (Gordon Highlanders) regiment at Edinburgh on August 20, 1825 aged 17 years, for unlimited service where he served as a private for a period of two years and one hundred and sixty three days, including one year prior to his 18th birthday. He was discharged at Chatham, London on January 30, 1828 as a consequence of an Inguinal Hernia of the right side, received in 1827 when at drill. Army records describe his general conduct as a soldier as ‘good’ with the following description: about 19 years of age, 5’ 8 ½” in height, brown hair, hazel eyes, fresh complexion, trade or occupation Shoemaker. Discharge dated November 22, 1827. Pension sixpence per day.

He married Mary Duncan at Glasgow on July 31, 1831, the ceremony being performed by a Mr William Brash, Burgher minister in Glasgow. Samuel was Presbyterian. At this time until 1836 he is recorded as being a shoemaker at Brown Street, Bridgeton, an eastern suburb of Glasgow.

They sailed from Greenock, Scotland on board the “Portland” which left on July 24, 1837 and arrived at Sydney NSW on December 3, 1837, under the auspices of Reverend John Dunmore Lang. With them on the Portland were their 3 children, Archibald, Agnes and Mary, of which only the 2 elder children survived the journey, their youngest daughter Mary having died during the voyage only a few weeks from Sydney.

Historical Background to Scottish Emigration

After some months of expectation and anxiety, Dr. Boyter, the Government emigration agent for Australia, arrived at Fort William on x 8th current. The news of his arrival, like the fiery cross of old, soon spread through every glen of the district, and at an early hour on Monday, thousands of enterprising Gaels might be seen ranked around the Caledonian Hotel, anxious to quit the land of their forefathers and to go and possess the unbounded pastures of Australia. . . . While we regret that so many active men should feel it necessary to leave their own country, the Highlands will be considerably relieved of its over-plus population.
Inverness Courier, 30 May 1838

In 1837 the bounty system began to operate effectively in Scotland, and there was a dramatic increase in the number of emigrants leaving for Australia. When the system became fully operative in Scotland, in 1837, Leith, with 97 embarking, was overshadowed by Greenock with 830 and Dundee with 327. By this year, too, the Colonial Office had decided to extend the benefit of bounty to agricultural labourers and married couples, and the new policy fitted in well with the desire to emigrate from the Highlands and from certain Lowland areas where little interest had been shown before in emigration to Australia.

The prevalence of skilled men was obvious among the shipments arranged by the private operators, and the first large group, the 253 Scots brought out by Andrew Lang in the Portland in December 1837 (this is the very voyage that Samuel and Mary were on), included:

12 joiners, 1 plasterer, 5 stonemasons, 1 brass-founder, 5 shoemakers, 8 tailors, 4 cabinet-makers, 1 watchmaker, 4 engineers, 1 ship's carpenter, 3 teachers, 1 bricklayer, 1 iron turner, 1 saddler, 33 millwrights, 1 compositor and 1 carpenter as well as a number of skilled agriculturists, five describing themselves as 'farmers', and eight shepherds. By comparison, the 211 Irish who arrived in Sydney in the John Renwick in September 1841, a typical shipload from their country, included only two carpenters and one blacksmith among the almost unbroken lists of 'labourers' and 'farm labourers'. The proportion of craftsmen among the English arrivals was higher than among the Irish, but far less than the proportion among the Scots.

Of 3,416 Scots brought out by the private operators, 2,369 were brought out by Scottish merchants and agents, in Sydney, Port Philip, and Glasgow. The remainder were mostly brought out by John Marshall, of London, who, according to Eliot, had a virtual monopoly of bounty emigration from the British Isles to New South Wales up to the beginning of 1840.

Source: Electric Scotland


Samuel is believed to have worked as a shoemaker in Sydney for some 3-4 years after arrival. The 1841 census indicates they were living at Parramatta at that time with their 2 sons and 2 daughters. They moved to the Maneroo district of NSW between 1841 and 1844, where he was employed as a carpenter.

He remained in the Bombala area for the rest of his life where he worked on the local Cambalong and Gunningrah stations. Samuel and his family would have been one of the earliest pioneering families to have settled on the Southern Monaro, his wife Mary would certainly have been one of the first white women in the district. The hardships they would have had to endure in their efforts to make a home in this harsh environment would be something we today would find hard to comprehend. Within the space of a few years after settling in the district their eldest daughter Agnes drowned, and Mary herself died on July 31, 1849, their 18th wedding anniversary, from what was simply described as a severe illness. Drowning would also later claim the lives of two of their grandsons (sons of James Duncan Turnbull) in separate incidents in the Bombala River.

Where Mary died and where she is buried is not known, however Samuel is recorded as being buried at Cathcart, some 16km east of Bombala. No markers have been located in the Cathcart cemetery.

Samuel married his 2nd wife, Sarah Whittle Grainger, at Canberry (Canberra) NSW on April 25, 1856 at St Johns Church. They had no children.

Samuel died on May 29, 1880 at Cambelong near Bombala, aged 71 years. An obituary notice states that he was a resident of the Monaro for some 39 years. He had eight children from his 1st marriage, three being born in Scotland and the remaining five in NSW.

Sarah died at Bombala on July 31, 1900.

Samuel Perry Turnbull and his 2nd wife, Sarah Grainger. Sometime between 1856 and 1880. This is possibly a wedding portrait.
Photo provided by Edward Kerrison (Kerry) Rogers.

There is a story in the family that Samuel was responsible for having the convict floggings stopped. This story was frequently told by our great aunt, Bernice Phillips. The story goes that he rode a horse all the way from Bombala to Sydney to successfully petition the Governor, and no floggings were allowed from then on. We have not so far confirmed whether any of this is true or not, although there seems to be evidence that floggings still occurred after Samuel had died so it is most likely a distortion of the facts.

Children of Samuel and Mary


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