Samuel Anderson – Born Kirkcudbright 1803 died Anderson, Victoria, Australia 1863

(kindly contributed by Tony Hughes, Australia)

Samuel Anderson.

Samuel was the first colonial pioneer settler east of Melbourne, Victoria, and the state’s third settler, just five months after John Batman foundered Melbourne, the state’s capital on the Yarra River at the top or northern end of Port Phillip Bay, in 1835. 

Thomas Horton and Kenneth Morris published an excellent book in 1983, ‘The Andersons of Western Port’, based on the exploits of Samuel, his younger brothers Hugh (1808-1898) and Thomas (1817-1903) and his close friend and business partner, Robert Massie (1809-1890).

When new information came to light after their 1983 book was published, the original research team followed it up and found why Samuel was in Western Port in the first place, when and how he arrived, together with lots of other information about his brothers and business partner who were not as portrayed in the book.

Virtually everything we know about Samuel, Robert, Hugh and Thomas is from archives and some family records; they didn’t keep journals or diaries, write many letters and avoided, even resisted “authority” at every opportunity. There is essentially no first hand record of their lives.  Pretty dry stuff indeed.

Samuel, a twin with Marion, was born in 1803 to Thomas and Janet (nee McNaught) Anderson in Kirkcudbright, Scotland, the fourth and fifth of their eleven children.  Thomas, a successful ship owner and merchant passed away in 1820, aged 52, leaving Janet to bring up ten surviving children.  By careful management of Thomas’s estate, we understand she kept the family together and provided the skills and knowledge for them to successfully find their own way in life.

Samuel’s last four years of education were at “Kirkcudbright Academy”, which must have served him well for his chosen career as bookkeeper.

There does not appear to be any record of when and why Samuel chose bookkeeping, what we think is that he was working for the London auditors of the Van Diemen’s Land Company (VDL Co.) as a bookkeeper prior to 1830.  VDL Co. was established by a group of eleven London financiers in 1824 to supply fine wool to British textile mills. The Company was granted a Royal Charter for 350,000 acres of remote, rugged, windswept land far from any settlement on the north-west corner of Van Diemen’s Land (VDL (Tasmania)) by King George IV in 1825. A lot of this land has since been sold, but with the only Royal Charter still in place in Australia, the Company continues as a modern, successful, dairy farming operation.

Samuel arrived in Hobart Town, VDL, in September 1830 and applied for a job with the Company through their town agent.  In need of a replacement Storekeeper and with an excellent reference of Samuel just to hand by one of their Company Auditors via the VDL Co., London based Court of Directors, Edward Curr, the Company’s Chief-Agent decided to interview Samuel for the vacant position. So impressed was Curr after the interview, he changed his mind and appointed Samuel bookkeeper with the recently appointed incumbent reporting to Samuel.   The Company books were soon brought up to date and remained so for the remaining five years Samuel was at the VDL Co.’s Head Office, Circular Head (Stanley, Tasmania).   The qualities of competency and good character seen in him by others were clearly and consistently demonstrated.

Robert Massie, a qualified Civil Engineer appointed by the Court of Directors to look after all VDL equipment and install a new saw mill and new flour mill, got on well with Samuel, the two soon becoming good friends.

There is sufficient evidence to support the contention that Samuel and Robert entered into a business partnership as traders with Samuel already operating his own local whaling business at Circular Head.  The proceeds from whaling most likely gave Samuel the funds needed to purchase a small single masted sloop, Rebecca, and venture across Bass Strait to Western Port on the southern shores of New Holland (Victoria, Australia) to harvest lucrative wattle bark for the leather tanning trade.

As the son of a ship owner and merchant in Kirkcudbright, no doubt Samuel was familiar with seafaring, trading and agriculture. During his five years at Circular Head, Samuel would have observed the Company’s agricultural and grazing pursuits first hand, been aware of the ”War with Aborigines” and the acrimonious relationships the Company and Curr had with settlers, the press and Colonial Administration.

At the time he first sailed to Western Port in 1835, all interest in land for agriculture and grazing was based around Port Phillip Bay, settled just five months before by John Batman and his party, closely followed up by John Pascoe Fawkner and his party. It is important to note that Captain Lancey in Fawkner’s party had described Western Port as unsuitable for settlement just weeks before.  This was widely reported and discussed at the time and it is reasonable to suggest Samuel would have been aware of this before departure.   Several early explorers had suggested the area around the Bass River suitable for settlement, but most “official” reports de-bunked the idea.

Bass first Post Office. sketch by Clive Stephen


Such was Samuel’s ability, Robert was prepared to join him in July 1837. They soon gave up wattle bark trading, sealing, whaling and shipping to concentrate on farming, expanding to around 160 acres by 1842, growing wheat, potatoes, vegetables and pears.


Samuel and Robert went on to build a ship, the Alpha and a tidal powered flour mill on the river flats, near where Rebecca was first moored and after the partnership broke up, Samuel built a salt works on nearby tidal flats

Flour Mill circa 1850

Robert left the partnership and married in late 1845, going on to enjoy a full and productive life as a father, farmer and engineer.

Samuel’s younger brother Hugh, a bachelor, joined Samuel in 1837, became a flour-miller, significant landowner and pastoralist.

Thomas, Samuel’s youngest brother, a Master Mariner joined his brothers in 1842. He returned to sea around 1845, married in 1852 and re-joined Hugh in Gippsland as a father, landowner and pastoralist.


Samuel, a bachelor, for reasons we will never know, died alone and intestate in a hut on Thomas’s land and was buried beside it (with Christian rites) in an unmarked grave.

Samuel’s gravestone

Samuel is remembered by “Anderson Inlet”, which he discovered together with the Tarwin River and the three brothers are remembered by the location, “Anderson”, near where the farm was established and the two younger brothers had properties.



Three of the original orchard pear trees are still alive some 180 years later, two are struggling, but the third is thriving with a bumper crop of fruit this season.


Did growing up in Kirkcudbright give Samuel pioneering qualities, those needed to see the potential of land others couldn’t, the character which prompted others to join him and the determination to create a successful and productive farm in the wilderness?

We will never know why a Scottish boy playing in the broad and busy streets beside the River Dee chose bookkeeping as a career, to become a trader, pioneer, farmer, explorer and an important part of Victoria’s early colonial history.

You have every reason to be proud of this Kirkcudbright son, a true pioneer in every sense of the word, a strong and determined man who treated the local Aborigines and paid workers with respect, worked hard to provide something useful, food, while taking every opportunity to avoid and indulge the English Colonial Administration, a true Scotsman indeed!

AGH: 17th April 2018


ACCORD with the Kirkcudbright History Society 2014

ACCORD was an AHRC funded research project that took place from October 2013 to March 2015 and was a collaboration between the Digital Design Studio at the Glasgow School of Art, the University of Manchester, the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland and Archaeology Scotland.

The ACCORD team worked with The Kirkcudbright History Society on the 4th and 5th of October 2014. Together, in Kirkcudbright Kirkyard, the inscriptions of two grave monuments were modelled and recorded using photogrammetry and the technique of Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI).

The three grave monuments included one dedicated to the traveller Billy Marshall who died in 1792; an 18th Century gravestone with one face completely occupied by raised lettering; and an ornate tablestone grave dedicated to Samuel Herries who died in 1793. For more information on this project please see the ACCORD website:-

The Discovery of a Family Sampler.

This story was sent to Jimmy Gordon’s wife, Bud, who has kindly allowed us to put it on our website. It tells how the sampler was discovered and how it came to be reunited with the Gordon Family.

Letter from Jill

“About a week ago I received an email from Janet Martin, a friend who lives in Hervey Bay, north of Brisbane.  We both have Gordon ancestors but they don’t connect. Our paths have crossed many times during our searches because we share information we think might benefit the other. Janet wondered whether I might know of a J Gordon who stitched a sampler in 1846; Janet had received an enquiry from an antique dealer in Newcastle, New South Wales, who was selling a sampler she had bought in the 1990s in Christchurch, New Zealand.  The dealer had found Janet Martin’s family tree on the internet and explained that she was now selling the sampler and was trying to trace any Gordon descendants to offer it to them before advertising it for general sale on the internet.   As soon as I saw the initials I recognized that this was, indeed, our family, and the little seven year old girl who stitched it was Jessie Gordon of Twynholm Manse.

Continue reading…

The Haill Six Incorporated Trades of Kirkcudbright

The Haill Six Incorporated Trades of Kirkcudbright were established in the town in 1425. In this year it was enacted that ‘every craft in the town should choose a wise man’, a Deacon to ‘govern and assay’ all its handiwork. The Trades were set up in direct opposition to the Merchant Guilds which held disproportionate influence in the community and who had amassed enormous wealth.

Membership of the Trades was much sought after as it allowed in many cases, the right to be a sole trader in the town. The Government of the 15th century quickly realised that the powers enacted on the Trades conferred too much influence on the Deacons. Their duties were soon restricted to a fortnightly enquiry into the skill of its members and quality of work produced. The position of Deacon was summarily abolished. The Trades men refused to accept this and continued to elect Deacons, an act which was seditious.

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The kingdom of Rheged is probably the most elusive of all the sixth century kingdoms of Dark Age Britain. Despite contributing a rich source of some of the earliest medieval poetry to be composed in Britain – the poetry of Taliesin who extolled the prowess of its king, Urien of Rheged – and fragments of early medieval historical records of Urien’s dominance in southern Scotland and northern England, the actual location of Rheged has long been shrouded in mystery.

While many historians have assumed it was centred around Carlisle and Cumbria, no evidence has ever been found to back this up. However, new archaeological evidence from the excavation of Trusty’s Hill Fort at Gatehouse of Fleet in Dumfries and Galloway now challenges this assumption.

‘What drew us to Trusty’s Hill were Pictish symbols carved on to bedrock here, which are unique in this region and far to the south of where Pictish carvings are normally found,’ said Ronan Toolis, who led the excavation, which involved the participation of over 60 local volunteers. ‘The Galloway Picts Project was launched in 2012 to recover evidence for the archaeological context of these carvings but far from validating the existence of ‘Galloway Picts’, the archaeological context revealed by our excavation instead suggests the carvings relate to a royal stronghold and place of inauguration for the local Britons of Galloway around AD 600. Examined in the context of contemporary sites across Scotland and northern England, the archaeological evidence suggests that Galloway may have been the heart of the lost Dark Age kingdom of Rheged, a kingdom that was in the late sixth century pre-eminent amongst the kingdoms of the north.’

The excavation revealed in the decades around AD 600, the summit of the hill was fortified with a timber-laced stone rampart. Anyone approaching the entrance to the fort on Trusty’s Hill passed between a rock-cut basin on one flank and an outcrop on which two Pictish symbols were carved on the other. This formed a symbolic entranceway, a literal rite of passage, where rituals of royal inauguration were conducted. On entering the summit citadel one may have been greeted with the sight of the king’s hall at the highest part of the hill on the west side, where feasting took place, and the workshop of his master smith occupying a slightly lower area on the eastern side, where gold, silver bronze and iron were worked. The layout of this fort was complex, each element deliberately formed to exhibit the power and status of its household.

‘The people living on Trusty’s Hill were not engaged in agriculture themselves,’ said excavation co-director Dr Christopher Bowles. ‘Instead, this household’s wealth relied on their control of farming, animal husbandry and the management of local natural resources – minerals and timber – from an estate probably spanning the wider landscape of the Fleet valley and estuary. Control was maintained by bonding the people of this land and the districts beyond to the royal household, by gifts, promises of protection and the bounties of raiding and warfare.’

It is in this context that the Pictish symbols at Trusty’s Hill can now be viewed. The new analysis of the symbols here leave no doubt that the symbols are genuine early medieval carvings, likely created by a local Briton, melding innovation, contacts with the wider world and deep seated traditions.

‘The literal meaning of the symbols at Trusty’s Hill, will probably never be known. There is no Pictish Rosetta Stone,’ said Ronan Toolis. ‘But these symbols and the material culture we recovered provide significant evidence for the initial cross cultural exchanges that forged the notion of kingship in early medieval Scotland.’

‘The new archaeological evidence from Trusty’s Hill enhances our perception of power, politics, economy and culture at a time when the foundations for the kingdoms of Scotland, England and Wales were being laid,’ said Dr Bowles. ‘The 2012 excavations show that Trusty’s Hill was likely the royal seat of Rheged, a kingdom that had Galloway as its heartland. This was a place of religious, cultural and political innovation whose contribution to culture in Scotland has perhaps not been given due recognition. Yet the influence of Rheged, with Trusty’s Hill at its secular heart, Whithorn as its religious centre, Taliesin its poetic master and Urien its most famous king, has nevertheless rippled through the history and literature of Scotland and beyond.’

The Lost Dark Age Kingdom of Rheged by Ronan Toolis and Christopher Bowles is published by Oxbow Books.

For more information about the Galloway Picts Project, visit:

The Galloway Picts Project was supported by the Dumfriesshire and Galloway Natural History and Antiquarian Society, the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, GUARD Archaeology Ltd, the Mouswald Trust, the Hunter Archaeological & Historical Trust, the Strathmartine Trust, the Gatehouse Development Initiative, the John Younger Trust, the Galloway Preservation Society and Historic Environment Scotland.


Further information

  • In addition to the summit citadel enclosure, a number of supplementary defences and enclosures were added to Trusty’s Hill’s lower-lying slopes transforming it into a nucleated fort; a type of fort in Scotland that has been recognised by archaeologists as high status settlements of the early medieval period.
  • The excavation found the remains of a workshop that was producing high status metalwork of gold, silver, bronze and iron. The royal household here was also part of a trade network that linked western Britain with Ireland and Continental Europe. In fact, research now shows that over the late sixth and early seventh centuries AD Gaulish merchants were making a beeline for the Galloway coast, ignoring Cumbria entirely. The excavation revealed that one of the reasons for this may have been to acquire materials like copper and lead. Isotope analysis of a lead ingot found during the excavation of Trusty’s Hill was found to have originated in the Leadhills of south-west Scotland, demonstrating that this mineral source was being mined and used to make leaded bronze objects at this time.
  • Other activities apparent at Trusty’s Hill included the spinning of wool, preparation of leather and feasting. The diet of this early medieval household, with the predominant consumption of cattle over sheep and pigs, and oats and barley rather than wheat, was largely indistinguishable from their Iron Age ancestors.
  • The location of the symbols at the entranceway to the summit of Trusty’s Hill and opposite a rock-cut basin, mirrors the context of the inauguration stone at Dunadd, the royal centre for the kings of Dalriada, the early Scots kingdom that once covered what is now Argyll and Bute. The imported goods and production of fine metalwork at Trusty’s Hill is comparable in quality to Dunadd, showing that these two royal households were of equal status. Dunadd’s Pictish boar, footprint, ogham and rock-cut basin at the entrance to the summit enclosure are best viewed as a set of royal regalia where the rituals of inauguration took place. The only other Pictish carvings located outside Pictland were found near Edinburgh Castle Rock; another site attested by archaeological and historical evidence to be a royal stronghold of the sixth to early seventh centuries AD. Close comparisons can also now be drawn with the early sixth century royal site at Rhynie in the heart of what was once Pictland.
  • A cluster of contemporary Dark Age sites, such as Whithorn, Kirkmadrine and the Mote of Mark, is now known in Galloway. Trusty’s Hill is the only one of these where there is evidence of royal inauguration and suggests that this site was at the apex of a local social hierarchy. The new evidence from Trusty’s Hill now provides a political context to the wealth and complexity of Galloway during the sixth century, the attraction of the region to continental merchants, and Galloway’s claim as the cradle of Christianity in Scotland. The archaeological record for the establishment of Christianity in southern Scotland suggests that its elite communities were literate and well connected internationally. This could not have occurred without a powerful secular presence providing land and resources. With the corroboration of the literary, historical and archaeological evidence, we begin to see the tantalising clues to a vibrant and dynamic culture that is entirely consistent with Rheged, a kingdom that was pre-eminent in northern Britain in the later sixth century but which faded into obscurity through the course of the seventh century.
  • The deliberate and spectacular destruction of Trusty’s Hill and the nearby contemporary fort at the Mote of Mark in the seventh century AD, which can also be surmised for a number of similar forts in Galloway, is a visceral reminder that the demise of this kingdom came with sword and flame.