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The Murdochs of Craigow



Author unknown.
Printed 1922 by "The Mercury"

A hundred years ago to-day there arrived at Hobart Town, after a protracted voyage of six months' duration, on board the sailing vessel Castle Forbes, a Scotsman of versatile ability and medical skill, who laid the foundations in Van Diemen's Land of a family which has contributed notably to the develop­ment of the country, and whose later members are prominent in the progressive activity of the Tasmania of 1922.

James Murdoch. M.D. #1 (Edinburgh), whose centenary is being celebrated by descendants from near and far at Cambridge to-day, was the only son of John Murdoch #21, of Craigow-by-Milnathort, Kinross-shire, where he was born in the year 1782. It was not until he had attained his thirty-ninth year that, in 1821, accompanied by his wife, Grace Beveridge #2, and his son John #3, then eight years of age - his daughters, Mary #5 and Antonia #4, remaining at Home - he sailed for what was then an adventurous land, via the Cape of Good Hope. On board the Castle Forbes, whose name speedily attached itself to the now well-known bay between Franklin and Geeveston, were in all 76 passengers, included amongst whom were Reids, Dixons, and Woods, who were in turn destined to leave their mark upon the fortunes of the colony. Also on board was Dr. Robert Officer, who was the ship's doctor from London to Hobart Town. On his arrival in Hobart Town he took up his practice, and was afterwards knighted and became Sir Robert Officer.

That Dr. Murdoch was not long after arrival in taking up the practice of his profession is shown by the announcement of the "Hobart Town Gazette and Van Diemen's Land Advertiser" of June 22, 1822, to the effect that as one time Lecturer on Midwifery, in the University of Edinburgh, he would, on July 1, begin a course of instruction for midwives, including the management of mother and child during the month. The same notice intimated that poor lying-in women would be attended free of charge, on application being made a few weeks before their confinement. The residence which he secured, and in which the practice originally centred, was situated in Liverpool-street, on a site opposite to that now occupied by Heathorn's Hotel.

Not content with establishing himself in an extensive and profitable town practice, Dr. Murdoch took up a grant of land in the district of Cambridge, situated about eight miles from the village of Kangaroo Point, as Bellerive was then known, and five miles from the well-settled town of Richmond. To his newly-acquired property he gave the title of the old family estate, and Craigow it has remained to this day. Here was built up a life of rich variety, shared in to the full by John, the doctor's eldest son (father of many members of the Murdoch clan prominent in Southern Tasmania to-day), by Robert Bruce #7, born shortly after his father's arrival in the colony, and by Antonia, who soon afterwards left England and rejoined her parents. Its combination of medical with agricultural interest was as remarkable as it was efficient.

Velvet and Golden Swan wheats were sown after the heavily timbered land had been cleared and fenced, and Chevalier and Moldavian barleys, as well as aniseed and poppy for medical purposes or opium production. Under its "Domestic Intelligence" heading, the "Colonist" of contemporaneous date comments: "Dr. Murdoch has just finished his opium harvest; crop abundant and of good quality." The bulk of the farm work was performed by assigned servants, some immediately available, others, as, for instance, three ploughmen, one farm labourer, and one gardener, being applied for in England, whence, with others, they sailed on the ships Isabella Eden and Royal George. The place was stocked with sheep and with cattle bought at Bagdad sale, and as a side line which rapidly assumed substantial commercial proportions, the extraction of salt by evaporation in pans in the tidal shallows of the Coal River was undertaken. Portion of the estate is known by the name of the Salt Pans to this day.

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