McLauchlan, James

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James McLauchlan's Family -
Name James McLauchlan
Lived (1852 - 1935)
Nationality  Scotland
Name Caroline Opie
Lived (1857 - 1939)
Nationality Australia
Voyage to Adelaide in 1874
Under command of Captain Llewellyn Bowen
Departure port London
Departure date 29th May 1874
Arrival port Semaphore
Arrival date 24th August 1874
Voyage duration 86 days
Port of Call
Port of call Plymouth
Arrival 4th June 1874
Departure 6th June 1874

James Anderson McLauchlan, a son of blacksmith John McLauchlan and his wife Ann Anderson was baptised at Monifieth in Forfarshire, Scotland on 14 December 1852. His parents had been married in Monifieth in 1839 and had raised there a family of six children, of which James was the fifth.

Monifieth, Scotland is situated 6 miles (10 km) to the west of Dundee. Before the 19th century it had been a small village comprising a number of turf huts with a small community of about 500. The economy of the parish had been mainly dependent on agriculture. Other industries included quarrying, weaving within the home, and the start of manufacturing linseed oil at a water-powered mill. Although Monifieth had no harbour, cargo was off-loaded from vessels at low tide and horse-drawn vehicles would move the cargo to nearby destinations.

Monifieth High Street, late 19th century.(Monifieth History Society)

In the early 19th century the village grew rapidly due to the expansion of the local textile industry. Monifieth continued to expand following the introduction of larger scale industries to the area, including the manufacture of machinery for flax mills. The rise of the local linen and (later) jute industries and the revival of the foundry, saw skilled workers pouring into the town. By 1901 the population had risen to more than 2000.[1]

The McLauchlans reflected this local industrial revolution in that both James and his brother William became “machine makers” after leaving school in the 1860s.[2]

At the age of 21 James responded to advertisements seeking young migrants to populate the recently founded British colony of South Australia, and offering free passage. He was accepted as an ideal applicant. He “had never been from home before” but he was “now fairly launched on the Ocean of life to fight my own battle, but I was determined to persevere and do what I could”.[3]

In the first page of the ship-board diary that he kept throughout his voyage, James recorded his emotions at leaving his birth-place, his relatives and his friends. In particular he had to exchange waved farewells with his closest family members – his 59 years old widowed mother Ann, his younger brother William (19) and his sister Jessie (26) who had married local farmer Keith Stewart and had at least three young children (Ann 7, Alexander 5 and William 4).

After being landed in Adelaide, James soon found employment with the South Australian Railways where, because of his mechanical back-ground, he was placed within a signals gang. After a few years he worked up to a signal fitter who machined system components in the railway workshops, and gained the necessary fitter’s certificate that qualified him to join the interlocking signal staff. He progressed to become an Inspector of Signals, responsible for the interlocking signal systems at several railway stations.

In October 1878 James McLauchlan 25 had married Goolwa-born Caroline Opie 21, daughter of John Opie (1821-1881) and Mary Ann née Ivey, at the home of Caroline’s parents home in Archer Street, North Adelaide. Living initially at North Adelaide and subsequently settling down in Campbelltown from 1885, James and Caroline brought up nine children there. (see later)[4]

Campbelltown, South Australia : Charles James Fox Campbell (1807-1859) was born on the Isle of Skye and migrated to Sydney with his parents at the age of 14 in 1821. He came to South Australia with the first overland cattle expedition in 1838 when that colony was only two years old with a population of 3000. A grazier, in 1842 Campbell bought two 80 acre sections north east of Adelaide on the River Torrens where he built a house and garden. In 1849 he subdivided part of his land into 40 x 1 acre blocks of rich river soil which he sold off for market gardens under the name of Campbelltown.

He sold his home and farm there in 1858 and moved to another property near Morgan on the River Murray. Subsequently the Campbelltown land was further subdivided into more market gardens of various sizes, and a District Council was established in 1868. A community developed centred on St Martin’s Anglican Church.

Campbelltown was still being regarded as a market garden area after World War Two, but post-war immigration meant a rapid growth in Adelaide’s population. Migrants from Italy were especially attracted to maintain their agricultural traditions on these plots, and the community included a strong Italian element. However the subsequent suburban sprawl soon led to Campbelltown becoming a suburb of dense housing..

Situated about 4 miles (6 km) north-east of the Adelaide city centre, Campbelltown became a Town with a Municipal Office in 1946, and was proclaimed a City when its population reached 15,000 in 1960. By 2010 the City of Campbelltown council area embraced Campbelltown and 6½ other Adelaide suburbs with a total population of 46,000. The major industry was now retail trade.[5]

St Martin's, Campbelltown

The McLauchlan family lived in Ann Street, Campbelltown and its members were strong supporters of the nearby St Martin’s Anglican Church and its Sunday School. The daughters made dolls for sale, conducted cake stalls, and sold strawberries & cream at the regular fete, and contributed to concerts arranged to raise funds.

Railway Signals Gantry

In 1917 a Railways Commission was convened at Parliament House to inquire into the failure of signalling and interlocking apparatus at the Glanville Railway Station. James Anderson McLauchlan, the Inspector of Signals in charge, gave evidence which contradicted that of the fitter involved. When the fitter publicly protested that the blame should not be placed on him, McLauchlan rechecked the diagrams and had to write to the Commission correcting his statement and confirming that the fitter was not at fault as he had implied. The Commission was not very pleased that it had been misled, but the Railways Commissioner defended James McLauchlan by saying that he was a long-serving and much respected railways signals officer who had made a genuine mistake when initially assessing the confusing diagrams.[6]

James Anderson McLauchlan died in 1935 at the age of 83. His widow Caroline survived him until she died aged 82 in 1939. Both were buried in the St Martin’s churchyard in Campbelltown.

The Children

The Advertiser, May 1915

James Ivey McLauchlan was born in Adelaide in 1879. He grew up to become an engine-driver with the South Australian Railways, and married Bertha Rhind Batchen in Ashfield N.S.W. in 1906. He subsequently became an instructor at the SA School of Mines and Industries conducting classes for those seeking an engine-driver’s certificate. He died aged 64 in 1944, Bertha was 73 when she died nine years later, and both were buried at St Martin’s.

Elsie Anderson McLauchlan, born at North Adelaide in 1881, married Frederick Abraham Ramsey (30) at St Martin’s Church in Campbelltown in 1906. She died ca 1928 aged about 47.

Kenneth Colville McLauchlan was born in 1883 at North Adelaide. He chose to become a sailor, and served with the Royal Navy [7] for seven years before becoming a mercantile mariner, while remaining a member of the Royal Fleet Reserve for a further five years.[8]

In August 1915 during World War One he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force at 32½ years old and was posted to the 32nd Infantry Battalion in which his brother Ronald was already serving. After being trained in Alexandria, Egypt, his unit was landed at Marseilles, France in late June 1916. Within three weeks Kenneth received severe arm and leg wounds at Outreau, near Boulogne, and was admitted to a field hospital, then transferred to a hospital near London. In December 1916 he was returned to Australia on the ship Wiltshire, and was eventually invalided out of the army in September 1917, when he was granted a pension of £1/10/0 per fortnight.[9]

He died in 1958 just short of his 75th birthday, and was commemorated in St Martin’s churchyard at Campbelltown.

Caroline Opie McLauchlan was born at Campbelltown in 1885. In 1905, at the age of 19, she married 33 years old Lloyd Herbert Montgomery Mildred in the Presbyterian Church on Flinders Street, Adelaide. She died in 1955 at the age of 70 and was commemorated at St Martin’s, Campbelltown..

Allan Nairne McLauchlan was born in 1887 at Nairne, a station between Adelaide and Murray Bridge on the railway line to Melbourne. He married Eva Elizabeth Ivy Jones in Victoria in 1912. Allan was 64 years old when he died in South Australia in 1951. Bertha died in 1967 aged 78, and was buried alongside him in St Martin’s churchyard.

A father's letter of enquiry, 1916

Alison Keiller McLauchlan was born at Campbelltown in 1890. She became a school-teacher with such appointments as Norton’s Summit and Eudunda until she was obliged to resign from the Education Department ca 1922 when she married Phillip Charles Harvey, born in Templers in 1883. Her husband had served in the A.I.F. during World War One. Philip died in 1972 and Alison died seven years later. They were both buried in the St Martin’s cemetery.

Ronald Yelland McLauchlan was born in 1892, also in Campbelltown. He became a blacksmith, but at the age of 23 in July 1915 he enlisted in the A I F to serve in World War One. After training at Alexandria in Egypt, he was landed at Marseilles, France with the 32nd Infantry Battalion in late June 1916.

He sustained leg wounds near Boulogne at the same time as his brother Kenneth was injured there in July 1916. After recovering in a Birmingham hospital, Ronald returned to France in February 1917 only to be wounded again two weeks later. He recovered after five weeks in a field hospital, returned to his unit, but was soon back in hospital with a sickness. Through this period he was promoted to Corporal. He did not rejoin his unit until December 1917. Ronald eventually left France in February 1919, sailed for Australia from Liverpool in April, and received his discharge in July 1919.[10]

Ronald was 53 years old when he died in Western Australia in 1946. He is commemorated in St Martin’s churchyard.

Constance Wynne McLauchlan was born at Campbelltown in 1897. She married ca 1922 in her mid 20s.

Marjorie Eliza McLauchlan was their youngest child, born in 1900 at Campbelltown.


  1. Wikipedia, Monifieth
  2. Scotland Census 1871
  3. Diary of James McLauchlan 1874.
  4. SA Births, Marriages & Deaths Records
  5. Campbelltown City Council
  6. Adelaide Advertiser, September 1919
  7. Leading up to the formation of the Royal Australian Navy in 1911, Britain’s Royal Navy established an Australian Auxiliary Squadron of five light cruisers and two torpedo gunboats to protect the British colonial interests in South Pacific waters. The colonies in Australia and New Zealand paid for their operating costs, and a large proportion of each warship’s crew was recruited from them - to be trained for the R.A.N.
  8. The Royal Fleet Reserve was established in 1900 to provide a reserve of trained men for service in His Majesty's Fleet in time of emergency. As an experienced former sailor McLauchlan received a retainer of 6 pence a day and was required to perform one week’s drill in each year.
  9. National Archives Records
  10. National Archives Records