of her earlier life
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click here for page 2
Recollections of Emmeline Leslie (nee Macarthur)
Emmeline Leslie wrote recollections of her childhood at The Vineyard, Parramatta, and of her marriage to George Leslie, one of the Leslies - sons of William Leslie of Warthill, Aberdeenshire - who had come to Australia to start new lives in the 1830's. Emmeline's sister married Hugh Gordon of Manar, near Braidwood, New South Wales. After Patrick Leslie had blazed the trail, George and Emmeline journeyed to the Darling Downs to settle there. As such they were pioneers, settling in new country, in what was to become Queensland.
Emmeline wrote these recollections in 1909, near the end of her long life, and there are a few minor inaccuracies in her account of events that had occurred decades ago. Nevertheless, they provide a charming and fascinating personal account of life in Australia in those days of pastoral settlement.
Patrick, George and Walter Leslie had travelled to New South Wales to try to make their fortunes. They were joined there by Hugh Gordon from the nearby Manar estate near Inverurie in Aberdeenshire. Patrick, George and Hugh all married daughters of the very hospitable Hannibal and Maria Macarthur (it turned out Maria had been a friend of the Leslies' mother, and a correspondence between the two began, which with hundreds of other letters to the Scottish Leslies constitute 'The Leslie Letters'). One of the Macarthur daughters, Emmeline, married George. It is her recollections that can be read below. George was steady, reliable, and built up a large settlement - the enormous 'Canning Downs' - in the Darling Downs region. Largely due to George's efforts, Queensland became a separate state in 1859.
Patrick Leslie, who was a close and faithful friend of Hugh Gordon, was the first brother to set off and settle in the Darling Downs. Patrick had married Catherine (Kate) Macarthur. Hugh meanwhile had married Mary Macarthur, and Patrick and Hugh had travelled far and wide looking for good places to settle. Patrick was the natural pioneer, an excellent horseman who adapted to the rough life well.
In 1827, Alan Cunningham (a friend of the Macarthurs) had discovered the Darling Downs. He met Patrick Leslie, probably in late 1839, and described how to locate this as yet unsettled territory. Patrick reached the Darling Downs on 20th March 1840. By late June, Patrick - now joined by Walter - had become the first white men in the vicinity of Toowoomba, and they claimed the entire headwaters of the Condamine, comprising 500 square miles, and set up a head station which they named 'Toolburra'.
Sadly for Patrick Leslie, there was an economic downturn and he fell into debt, as a result of which he ended up selling his interests to his brothers Walter and George. By 1846, Walter was also suffering financially and decided to return to Scotland, selling his interest in Canning Downs to his brother George (Emmeline's husband). On December 2nd 1847 "after the shearing was finished" George and Emmeline got married (honeymooning at Hugh Gordon's property, Manar near Braidwood). George's careful, methodical approach for a while saved the Leslie 'empire' in Queensland.
In the mid-1850s George's health took a downturn - consumption - and he and Emmeline sold their property and returned to London, where he hoped to get the treatment he needed. On 22nd June 1860, with Emmeline present and all his brothers, George died. He and Emmeline never had children (though Emmeline would go on to have two sons by her second husband Captain John de Falbe - it was Emmeline's descendant Jane de Falbe who donated the Leslie letters to the John Oxley Library in Brisbane - a wonderful historical resource). Further details of the Leslies will hopefully be added to this website in due course - this overview is simply to explain the context of Emmeline Leslie's fascinating recollections.
Transcriptions of the Leslie letters, along with Emmeline's recollections below, and many of the details on this page, were gathered and collated by Simon Kelleher, one of the Manar family historians. Emmeline died in 1911.
Click here for Page 2 of Emmeline Leslie's recollections
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Unveiling of a plaque at North Toolburra
commemorating the significant part the station
played in the pastoral development of Queensland:
A Poem - 'Cunningham's Gap' - by H.M.Green.
In 1827, Alan Cunningham had discovered the Darling Downs
and years later told Patrick Leslie how to locate the territory.
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