Arthur Family - F265

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Arthur Family
James and Ellen - F265
Name James Arthur
Lived b. abt 1838-39
Name Ellen Arthur
Lived b. abt 1838-39
Margaret Arthur (b. abt 1860-61)
Jane Arthur (b. abt 1864-65)
James Arthur (b. abt 1865-66)
Ellen Arthur (b. abt 1867-68)
Elizabeth Arthur (b. abt 1869-70)
Alexander Arthur (b. abt 1870-71)
Mary Arthur (b. abt 1873-74)

James Arthur was born in Ireland about 1835. At some stage he had made his way to Scotland, and had by 1860 had established himself as a blacksmith in Springburn, Lanarkshire near Glasgow. There, in March 1860, he married Helen Boyd, of a similar age, who had also been born in Ireland.

James was almost certainly employed at one of the local large railway workshops. Living at 580 Springburn Road in Springburn, James and ‘Ellen’ raised a family of five girls and two boys (see later).[1]


Railway Workshops in Springburn

Springburn developed from a small hamlet in a rural area with scattered country houses at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Industry arrived in 1800 when the manufacture of chemicals was commenced there. Chloride of lime was produced in a dry form and by 1835, when there were over 100 furnaces, retorts or fireplaces that consumed 600 tons of coal weekly, the works was considered to be "the most extensive in Europe". A coal mine was also in production and good quarries abounded in the district.

It was from another direction that industrialism was to make its most effective invasion of the rural parish. In 1831 the Glasgow to Garnkirk railway line was partially opened, George Stephenson himself driving the first engine over the line, which traversed the southern portion of Springburn. Other lines were soon opened and in 1841 Springburn was again bisected by a railroad when the Edinburgh and Glasgow line was completed.

Springburn Museum.jpg

Springburn was still largely a rural area consisting of two rows of dwelling houses about 300 yards in length spread alongside a stretch of the main road to the city. Outside this area everything was truly rural, consisting of estates with the individual mansions, farms and orchards. Springburn was a beautiful village set among hills carpeted with grass and crested with trees. The burn which gave the village its name, was the overflow from a well of spring water rising in the fields, and it was the only domestic supply of water.

By the mid-century, an influx of tradesmen enlarged the village, and with the arrival of the railway the village became a parish in its own right. It became linked to heavy industry, particularly railways and the manufacturing of locomotives. Because of the rapid development of rail transport, there came a need by the two original railway companies to have workshops within a mile of the western terminus, and it fell to Springburn to receive both workshops.

In 1862 a leading maker decided to transfer their works to Springburn because of the difficulty of transporting their locomotives to the railway terminus. So began the growth of' Springburn which attracted workers, the need for houses and the need of churches. Soon Springburn was producing “25% of all the trains in the world”, thanks to half a dozen privately-owned companies then operating major train workshops there. Springburn became an industrial suburb of Glasgow.[2]

In 1874, when James and ‘Ellen’ were both 39 years old, they were enticed by advertisements seeking young migrant families to populate the young British colony in South Australia, and offering free passage. The Arthurs and their seven small children were accepted as an ideal family, and were allocated steerage places among 257 migrants in the clipper ship City of Adelaide. After being transported down to London, the family boarded the ship on the River Thames and sailed for South Australia in late May 1874. They arrived at Port Adelaide in late August and, despite some concern when the ship was grounded on its approach, were eventually landed safely.

Subsequently they lived at Gawler, 25 miles (40 km) north of Adelaide, initially living in Willaston for a few years, then settling down to live in a home on Ford Street in Gawler South. This was within easy walking distance of James Martin’s Foundry, and with his railway construction background in Springburn (the home of railway workshops), James Arthur would have had no difficulty in finding a job in this expanding business.

James Martin & Co, Gawler

Workers leaving James Martin's railway workshops in Gawler.

The town of Gawler was surveyed in 1839 and consisted initially of just a few huts. When copper deposits were discovered at Kapunda in 1842, and a large ore and supplies carrying trade developed between Kapunda and Adelaide, Gawler became a stopping place. The town rapidly grew in importance, and by 1846 with the discovery and development of more copper mines at Burra, through traffic had swollen to huge proportions. These developments, and the settlement of the agricultural areas in the Mid North saw the beginning of a permanent community in Gawler, and with this came the evolution of it's identity as a town.

James Martin (1821-1899) migrated from Cornwall to South Australia in 1847. With a mechanical background, he moved from Adelaide to Gawler in 1848 and set up as a blacksmith and wheelwright. He soon became a manufacturer of bullock drays, ploughs, stripper (reaping) machines and other ironmongery. In 1873 he entered a partnership with another Cornishman, Frederick May, and they expanded the business to include the manufacture of mining machinery, including boilers, crushing, winding and pumping plants.

Martin then added railway rolling-stock and met a contract for goods wagons. In 1888 he won a contact with the South Australian Government to construct 52 railway locomotives, followed by another for 92 more. Major expansions were made to the premises and the plant, and some 700 men were employed in the Company’s workshops.

Gawler's prosperity had risen to a peak between 1871 and 1901. Developments in transport and communications, services, and the social life of the community paralleled the rise in industrial activities and provided further demand for goods and services. By the end of this period most of the public services (water, electricity, and telephone) had been initiated and transportation routes and services established. New needs for schools, churches and clubs had rapidly been met.[3]

James died aged 71 in Gawler South in 1905, and was buried in the Willaston Cemetery after a memorial service in the Presbyterian Church. His widow ‘Ellen’ survived him until 1915, when she died in Gawler South aged 81.

The Children

Margaret Arthur was born at Springburn in 1862. She married Roland Perry at her parent’s home in Ford Street, Gawler South in 1891.

Jane Arthur was born in Springburn in 1864, but died aged 20 at Gawler South in 1884.

James Arthur was born at Springburn in 1865

Helen Arthur was born in 1867 at Springburn.

Elizabeth (‘Lizzie’) Russell Arthur, born at Springburn in 1869, married Daniel Dadds 1902 at St Luke’s Church, Adelaide in 1902. She died aged 86 in Perth WA in 1954.

Alexander Arthur was born at Springburn in 1871. He appears to have died in Queensland in 1947 aged 76.

Mary Louise Arthur, who was born in Springburn in 1873, married Christian Thorup in her parent’s Gawler South home in 1903. At the age of 70 in 1943, she died in Queensland.

Isabella McDonald Arthur was born in 1876 at Willaston SA, near Gawler, two years after their arrival in the colony. She married Alexander Smith 1906 at her widowed mother’s house in Ford St, Gawler South in 1906. She died in South Australia in 1952.


  1. ScotlandsPeople Records
  2. Springburn, Wikipedia.
  3. Town of Gawler History