Alexander Lobban (1802–1876)
”A man of intrinsically good character who was exiled for a trivial offence but nonetheless, achieved respect, success and prosperity in his new land.”
The following notes and articles have been written about Alexander Lobban (1802–1806) and his family. Some of these were collected by Syd Lobban from correspondents and are included in his notes in the “Tom of Glass” tree, some are posted on various trees at Ancestry.com. I have tried to give correct credit for sources, but it is not always clear on Ancestry who first posted the sometimes anonymous pieces.
(1) As far as I can tell the author of this section (which I reproduce with only minor edits ), from Ancestry: “pattersonross78 originally shared this on 15 Jan 2013.” It appears to be based on “Tale of a Lawless Lobban” by Stuart West, published in the November 2007 Journal of the Aberdeen and North East Scotland Family History Society, which pattersonross78 also posted. The title of that article is a perhaps-libellous reference to the series of stories about Alexander’s uncle James Lobban (1791–1879) published in 1969 (reproduced here).
Alexander Lobban was born on 19 Feb. 1802 in Portsoy, a coastal village in Banffshire, and baptised 21 Mar. 1802 in Fordyce Parish. [This record is in Scotland’sPeople, but some Australian descendants (and see Obituary below) believe he was born 19 Feb. 1803.] His father Alexander (born 1777) was a master mason; his mother was Margaret McAdam. He worked as a merchant. On 19 Dec. 1827 in Cabrach, Banffshire, he married Margaret MacLennan, (1806-1891) of Glairoch, a fishing village in Wester Ross, the daughter of John MacLennan and Isabella McKenzie. A son, Thomas, was born on 14 Jan. 1829 at Whitehillock, Cabrach. He was baptized on 28 Jan. 1829, in Whitehillock.
On 22 April 1829, the Aberdeen Journal recorded “Alexander Lobban, merchant, Whitehillock of Cabrach, charged with forging a bill for the amount of forty pounds at the Aberdeen Town and County Bank at Keith.” On 29 April 1829 he appeared before the Court of Justiciary in Aberdeen “accused of presenting a forged bill of forty four pounds at the Town and Country bank in Keith in the name of William McOmie, vinter at Nether Ardwell, and another of forty pounds to James McOmie, merchant at Crofthead”. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to transportation for seven years.
After a sojourn on the prison hulk Justicia in Woolwich, he was transported from Plymouth on 27 July 1830 on the Burrell, arriving in Sydney on 19 December 1830. He was granted a Ticket of Leave which allowed him to work before his 7 year sentence had expired, and he went to work on a farm near Paterson in the Hunter Valley; his occupation was described as “ploughs, reaps”.
His wife and son joined him, some time before 1837, when their second son, Donald John (1837-1898) was born, followed by Isabella (1839-1879), Margaret (1841-1918), Alexander (1843-1920) and Janet (1845-1931).
In June 1851 Alexander, his wife and six children moved further north to the Manning River, where a Scots settlement had developed at Wingham. He purchased a 30 acre property for £45.15s, and named it “Parkhaugh” after the farm in Glass on which his family had a croft.
Their journey is described in a diary kept by a Mr. W. W. Board:
“Two families from Paterson (McLeods and Lobbans) came to McLean’s place (Mondrook) and slept there. The two families comprising 14 people, travelled with stock and drays to Tinonee where the chief and almost only residence was the humble manse of Rev J T Carter. At nearby Mondrook, William McLean opened his house to the women and children of the party while the men rode to their properties – Lobban to Parkhaugh at the Bight and McLeod to a property named Dunvegan.”
According to the Manning Valley Historical Society “the Bight was so named because of its unusual bend-shape, and was one of the first places to be developed on the Upper Manning when the Lobban family and Alexander McLeod travelled from the Hunter district in June 1851. At that time, a dense scrub from over a mile wide extended the neck of the Bight, while the river banks were lined with thick brushes of cedar, beech, rosewood and huge fig trees. The gigantic roots of the latter covered almost a quarter of an acre. There was also an abundance of giant nettle trees, and all of these thickets were the dwelling-place of large numbers of pademelons and other small animals that delighted in eating the tender, newly-emerged crops.”
(Research Mal Rattray – Text Mieke van Werdt. Manning Valley Historical Society Inc. 12 Farquhar Street, Wingham NSW 2429)
Alexander lived at Parkhaugh for 25 years, until his death on 30 January 1876. He took a leading role in establishing the Free Church of Scotland in the area. He was buried at the Bight cemetery, then called the Yaypo graveyard. Most of the children became schoolteachers, and married into the local Scottish community. His wife, Margaret, died in 1891 at Taree.
[end of passage from pattersonross78]
Malcolm Lobban and James Maclennan, in In Search of the Clan MacLennan (2008), wrote:
This Lobban family produced several prominent educationalists in New South Wales, they had at least six surviving children, most becoming schoolteachers. Their son Thomas was the pioneer schoolmaster at Oxley Island National School about 1862, also son Alexander (born 1843) was a pioneer schoolmaster, first at Croki then at Sussex Street South Public School, Sydney. In 1883 he was appointed ‘Inspector of Schools’ and served in the Clarence River District, returning to Sydney in 1908. Similarly, his sister Margaret (born 1841), was schoolmistress at Kelvingrove School, Bootoowaa from 1874 to 1882. Alexander’s Grandson Thomas McLennan Lobban (son of Alexander junior) was a practising lawyer for sixty years in McLean and served as Mayor in 1902, he lived in a house called ‘Altimira’.
(2) An additional account of Alex’s pioneer role in New South Wales is told by Ross Murray in the Nov. 2011 Clan Murray Newsletter, pp. 5–6, later (2012) revised for The Presbyterian Banner which gives some further insight in the role of Alex’s adoption of Christianity into his success in Australia. The text of the latter is reproduced below with the author’s permission.
A LIFE TRANSFORMED
by Ross Murray
In the picturesque old cemetery at The Bight, across the river from Wingham on the mid-north coast of NSW, lies a broken but still readable gravestone. It records the death of Alexander Lobban, one of the district’s pioneers. Lobban had a lot to do with the founding of Wingham and made an enormous contribution to his community. A road in Wingham bears his name. His children were pillars of the local society. The inscription on Alexander’s gravestone reads:
“In memory of Alexander Lobban, native of Banffshire, Scotland, who departed this life at Parkhaugh, 30th January 1876 aged 73 years, and who for 26 years was a resident of the Manning district, the interests of which he always strove to promote, and for most of that time as an elder of the Presbyterian Church of Eastern Australia. He performed the duties of that office with a zeal guided by intelligence and sanctified by divine grace. Strong in faith, he was called to his rest leaving an example worthy of imitation as a loving husband, a tender father, a wise counsellor, a faithful friend, a sincere Christian, and in all the transactions of life an honourable man.”
This is a fair description of a fine, up-standing citizen and a good man, but it does not tell the whole story. Alexander Lobban had in fact come from a poor family, some of whom had a reputation for clashes with the law. His uncle, James Lobban, who was just a few years older than Alexander, as well as James’s two sons William and Charles, were criminals specialising in theft, assault and numerous other crimes. They have been referred to in a Scottish newspaper as “the lawless Lobbans of Glass”. This impoverished family inhabited a remote and isolated settlement near Glass called Parkhaugh, the name which Lobban eventually gave to the property on which he settled near Wingham. The village of Glass is some 10k west of the town of Huntly. Lobban was born at Portsoy, Banffshire, on 19th February 1803, but seems to have moved to the Glass area at an early age.
In December 1827 Lobban married Margaret McLennan, daughter of John McLennan of Gairloch, Ross-shire, in the house of Mr David Scott of Aldunie, some 15k south of Glass. The officiant was Rev James Gordon, Parish Minister of nearby Cabrach. Just a year later, Alexander Lobban was tried and found guilty of forging bills.
At his trial, in November / December 1828, Lobban declared that he had been a merchant at Whitehillock of Cabrach in the County of Aberdeen for the previous two years, selling groceries he obtained from Aberdeen. He said that he was “about 27 years of age”. He declared that he “went to the Cabrach about ten years ago as a Servant and since he was able to work has been employed as a farm servant in different places of the Country”. One gains the impression of a poor young man trying everything to eke out a living in a period of great social upheaval. Lobban was sentenced “to be transported beyond seas for the period of seven years … and … to be detained until removed for transportation”. Margaret was pregnant at the time. Baby Thomas was born shortly afterwards, in January 1829, during Alexander’s lengthy imprisonment as he awaited transportation.
Lobban arrived in Sydney on the Burrell on 19th December, 1830, two years after his trial, having been forced to leave Margaret and infant Thomas in Scotland to struggle on in poverty.
In October 1834, Lobban petitioned Governor Bourke to bring his wife and son to Australia. His employer, Charles Boydell, of Paterson’s Plains, supported this petition with a strong recommendation as to Lobban’s character and his ability to support his family. Lobban received a ticket-of-leave in December 1834, allowing him to work for himself. Margaret and Thomas joined him, and during the late 1830s and 1840s he rented various farms on the Paterson and Allyn Rivers, before arriving on his own farm, “Parkhaugh”, on the Manning River on 9th June 1851. Lobban’s son, Alexander Jnr, the district’s first school inspector, described the family’s journey from Lewinsbrook in the Hunter Valley to “Parkhaugh”, which Lobban Snr had purchased at an auction. Two families, the Lobbans and the family of Mr William McLeod, fourteen people in all, travelled together up the rough bridle track as far as Mondrook, near modern Tinonee, where they rested at the home of Mr William McLean. For the last stage of the Lobbans’ journey, from Mondrook to “Parkhaugh”, a dray road had to be cut through the dense scrub to enable the family to reach their newly acquired property. The Lobbans had purchased tons of flour, sugar and other household requisites in Sydney and had sent them ahead by sailing ship. Disastrously, the ship was wrecked on the Manning bar and all these provisions were lost. To add to the family’s troubles, two men who had been employed and sent ahead to erect a primitive residence had fled to the newly opened Turon goldfields!
After the reunion of Alexander with his wife and son from Scotland, Margaret gave birth to David (1837), Isabella (1839), Margaret (1841), Alexander Jr (1843) and Janet (1845). Another daughter died six days after her birth in 1847. The 1851 journey from Lewinsbrook to “Parkhaugh” took two weeks, quite an ordeal for such young children.
It was not uncommon for ex-convicts to carve out a life of prosperity and respectability in response to the new opportunities available to them in Australia, and no doubt these factors played a part in improving Lobban’s life. However, the major factor that appears to have turned his life around was his Christian conversion. In 1838, a Gaelic-speaking clergyman, Rev William Ross, established the first Presbyterian congregation at the township of Paterson. It appears that it was through him that Lobban became a Christian, as Lobban does not appear to have had any significant church connection up to that point. Ross baptised all the Australian-born Lobban children.
Lobban’s newfound faith became the motivating force for everything that he did. When he settled at “Parkhaugh”, the land had not been surveyed and there were no other settlers within four miles. Soon afterwards, however, government surveyors marked out portions of the unpurchased land and opened it up for sale and settlement, resulting in a new influx of people, mainly Scots. Lobban was determined to establish congregations of the PCEA in the area and it was he who was instrumental in bringing to the district the Rev Allan McIntyre, who lived with the Lobbans until permanent accommodation could be provided for him. The first PCEA service was held in Lobban’s slab barn.
Alexander Lobban Jnr wrote of McIntyre’s first service in his father’s barn:
“Mr McIntyre’s first service on the Manning was… crowded with persons anxious to hear the new minister from Scotland… One cannot fail to remember the marvellous strength of the preacher’s face, his striking personality, and, at the same time, his tenderness when discoursing on the ineffable love of the world’s Redeemer… No pastor ever ministered to a more loving congregation.”
People travelled considerable distances to attend these services, and regular congregations were soon established in Wingham, Tinonee and Redbank (Pampoolah). After the death of McIntyre in 1870, it was Lobban who conducted meetings and kept the congregations together. He was also for a time the congregational representative at the Synod of Eastern Australia.
A significant social development in Australia and New Zealand, imported from Britain, was the formation of Mutual Improvement Societies. These tended to be founded by Christians and were an important means of adult education in the nineteenth century. It is no surprise that Alexander Lobban was President of the Mutual Improvement Society that met weekly in the original school room built in response to the efforts of Allan McIntyre. Andrew Thomson, the first school teacher, was the Secretary. Activities included lectures, the reading of essays and recitations by members, and a public debate once a month.
Lobban was also a strong advocate for the development of the village of Wingham. He billeted Captain Creagh, the Clerk of Petty Sessions, until a courthouse was built in the new township.
It is perhaps significant that for at least a decade after Lobban’s settlement at Wingham in 1851, his relatives in Scotland were still being arrested and punished for crimes such as sheep stealing and violence, including the assault of a police officer.
I have in my possession a copy of the book History of the Work of Redemption by the great American reformer and theologian Jonathan Edwards. It is fairly solid reading. It was owned by Alexander and Margaret Lobban, and is inscribed by both of them. It was so well-read when I inherited it that I had to have it completely re-stitched and re-bound. Its very existence testifies to the kinds of people the Lobbans were.
A child of God
We noted earlier the inscription on Lobban’s grave. What is probably more significant than these words, however, is the open Bible carved into the top of the stone, with the inscription: “Rom 5:1 Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” This quotation provides the explanation for the most dramatic changes in Lobban’s life. He had found peace with God through his faith in Jesus Christ. For Lobban, it was more than just a case of taking advantage of the opportunities available to him in Australia. It was rather a living out of his new life as a child of God, in particular by developing the kind of Christian home life that produced children of character and calibre who made enormous contributions to their communities. One of those children was Margaret, wife of George Murray, my great-grandmother. George and Margaret farmed at Pampoolah on the lower Manning.
A published tribute after Lobban’s death recorded that:
“… it was his custom to hold family worship in his house, and regularly every Sabbath to instruct his children in the Holy Scriptures and the Shorter Catechism… In his church connection he manifested uniform and cordial kindness towards those who were in the ministry… This faithful servant of God… has gone to rest… but his memory will be long cherished amongst those with whom he was associated, and with whom he so long walked to the house of God.”
Lobban made his will “acknowledging with gratitude the goodness and mercy of Almighty God and the long-suffering forbearance manifested towards me…”. He wrote that he wanted his house cared for because “it is associated in my mind with many days of Spiritual privileges and enjoyments…”.
God is still in the business of changing the lives of those who put their trust in him.
Ross Murray is a Taree-born teacher and active Christian now retired in Tuncurry. He has just published a life of one of our PCEA pioneers, Of Greater Worth than Gold-–the History and Legacy of Isabella Murray.
Alexander Lobban transported on ship Burrell 1830 [pdf]– Notes from the ship’s surgeon on conditions aboard the convict transport. (Courtesy of Julie Dunk) Further details of the trip, including the surgeon’s notes on the temperature at positions along the way, here (external link).
Margaret Lobban’s Voyage on board the William Nicol
Compiled from online sources by Julie Dunk, originally shared on Ancestry 16 Jun 2012.
A detailed, illustrated account of the voyage from the MacRae family perspective is given here (external link); this account cites a manuscript about the ship by E. Finn. Ship specs.
Ornsay, Isle of Skye, Scotland to Sydney, Australia, departed July 6, 1837, arrived Sydney October 27, 1837.
The William Nicol (408 tons commanded by Captain John McAlpine) had been purpose built and was the first ship to be chartered by the Government for carrying aided emigrants to a new life in the Antipodes. The Edinburgh Courier of 10 July 1837 reported on the embarkation on Monday 3 July 1837 at Ornsay on the Isle of Skye and described the ship as being fitted in the most commodious manner possible and all who visited her were satisfied that the comforts of all the emigrants has been minutely attended to. She was furnished to accommodate 250 adult passengers, each being allowed 18 inches width to sleep in!
The ship set sail three days after embarkation, carrying in all 323 passengers of which 69 were men, 75 women, 72 children aged seven and above and 107 under seven. For sleeping purposes two children over seven and three under, equated to one adult. On top of this there was the crew who had their own quarters, amongst whom was the ship’s doctor and surgeon, Dr George Roberts of the Royal Navy. A problem on these early immigrant ships was language. The good doctor must have had big problems with his emigrant patients as they were all, by and large, Gaelic speaking and according to reports, two shepherds of good character were given cabins as they were to act as interpreters. A midwife, a Mrs McDonald, undertook to act in similar capacity for the women and children.
Like many of the early immigrant ships conditions on the William Nicol were crowded and unhygienic. There was no official regulation on the amount of passengers that could be carried on the ships and, as a result, many were packed as tight as possible. During the voyage it appears that everyone spent as much time on deck as they could to escape the overcrowded and evil-smelling sleeping quarters which were on the same deck as the hospital. Below deck was fumigated as often as possible and, whenever practical, aired. The deck of the sleeping quarters was scraped daily in an effort to keep the area clean. The doctor, although not being specific, stated that the people were not very clean in their habits. His log shows that as the ship sailed into the tropics the smell, along with the suffering, increased with the heat. The young children, in particular, were hard hit.
After 66 days at sea, the William Nicol put into port at the Cape of Good Hope on 11 September 1837 to take on fresh water. The Governor, Sir Benjamin D’Urban, was horrified at the conditions on board and instigated a private collection to help the emigrants. £150 was raised in one day and was used to buy, amongst other things, changes of clothing as well as sago and rice. Dr Roberts, himself, arranged for fresh beef and vegetables to be bought to supplement the children’s diet; the receipts were sent back to London for payment. After four days the ship continued the voyage and arrived in Port Jackson on 28 October. The doctor’s log records, the emigrants throughout were in perfect health when they were discharged the following day.
An excerpt from Wooden Hookers by C Bede Maxwell (pen name of Violet Thomas Maxell, wife of Clarence Bede Maxwell) describes the complaint filed by Sir Benjamin D’Urban, Governor of the Cape of Good Hope, on the conditions he found aboard the vessel when it docked there during the voyage. Food on the William Nicol was described as ample but unfortunately consisted mainly of salt pork and beef. Oatmeal, the mainstay of the passenger’s diet, was not included in the stores. Many of the passengers, especially the young children, suffered from gastrointestinal problems during the voyage. Dr Robert’s knowledge and skillful attention given to the highland folk during this voyage and the provisions provided at the Cape of Good Hope probably helped prevent further illnesses. The diet on board was not what the children were used to and although they didn’t get scurvy, they suffered bouts of fever and diarrhoea and frequently refused food. At home in Scotland they had been used to milk, vegetables and porridge but whilst on board they had biscuits with salt beef and pork. Looking through the doctor’s log, large numbers seem to have suffered at first from sea sickness but it soon became apparent that the women and children were suffering most. In the beginning constipation was the most common problem but diarrhoea soon took over as the chief complaint. Fever and sickness often followed in its wake and, with the very young, sometimes resulted in death. There were only 10 child deaths and one female death recorded when the William Nicol arrived in Port Jackson on October 17, 1837.
In Memoriam. Mr Alex Lobban, Parkhaugh, Manning River.
The Witness & Australian Presbyterian, Saturday 9 Dec 1876. Vol 3, No 152, page 2.
Extracted courtesy of the Mitchell Library and supplied to Syd Lobban by Mrs Enid Rankin (née Lobban), a Gt. Gt. Grandaughter of Alexander.
The following tribute to the memory of a ‘respected elder of the Presbyterian Church of Eastern Australia’ is published with the approbation of the Presbytery of Maitland:-
The subject of this brief memoir was born in Portsoy, Banffshire, Scotland, on the 19th of February 1803. Like most of his countrymen he obtained his early education in the parish school, where his intelligence and industry gained for him the approbation of his master. As he grew up he became passionately fond of reading. Works on history, biography and literature, generally were carefully studied by him in his youth; but at a later period of his life, the history of the Church of Scotland, its early troubles, as well as its more recent “Ten Years’ Conflict”- was the historic theme on which he most delighted to dwell.
Arriving in the colony at a time when there were few Presbyterian Ministers in Australia, it was not until the settlement of the Rev. W. Ross at the Patterson, in 1837, that he became connected with a congregation in this country. Of his association with Mr Ross, he also spoke with pleasure. It was that reverend gentleman who baptised all his children except his eldest son. When the ‘Disruption’ controversy commenced in Scotland, all his sympathy ran with the Free Church party; and when, in 1846, a disruption in the Colonial Church took place, he cast in his lot with the few who adhered to the principles of the Free Church of Scotland, and designated themselves to the Synod of Eastern Australia. For the Rev. W. McIntyre, he cherished both admiration and esteem.
From the first issue of the ‘VOICE IN THE WILDERNESS’, he was a subscriber to that paper, which was so ably conducted by Mr McIntyre at a time when he stood to a great extent alone, endeavouring to build up a pure Presbyterian Church in this southern land.
In the year 1851, Mr Lobban, with his family, took up residence on the Manning River. It was his earnest desire that a Free Church minister should be sent to the district as early as possible; and with this object in view he opened up a correspondence with the Presbytery of Maitland, in connection with the Synod of Eastern Australian, and by the co-operation of the Rev. W McIntyre, he succeeded in inducing the Presbytery to send supplies from time to time until the Rev. Allan McIntyre was stationed in the district.
Having been religiously trained from his childhood, Mr Lobban had been a worthy professor of religion for many years; and at a time when few adopted the practice it was his custom to hold family worship in his house, and regularly every Sabbath to instruct his children in the Holy Scripture and the Shorter Catechism. But he was much revived and quickened by the preaching of the Reverend Allan McIntyre, who arrived in the district on the 18th December, 1854, and took up his residence at ‘Parkhaugh’. Years passed before Mr McIntyre could be induced to accept a call from the Manning people; but in the meantime his zeal was emulated by them, and churches were erected in local centres with a spirit of liberality that is seldom equalled. In all these matters Mr Lobban took a leading part; and his diligence and worth were acknowledged by the congregation, in his being chosen by them as their first English-speaking elder- a position which he held with credit until the day of his death. He was the representative elder of the congregation at the meeting of the Synod of Eastern Australia when the union was effected. That movement he conscientiously opposed. The same position fell to his lot at the meeting of the Synod of Eastern Australia in November, 1875, and although weak in body he was regularly in his place, and took part in the discussion of all matters of interest that were brought forward on that occasion.
Mr Lobban was characterised by a sterling and straightforward honesty of purpose which appeared in all his intercourse with those with whom he came in contact. In his church connection he manifested uniform and cordial kindness towards those who were in the ministry; and during the long vacancy–after the death of Rev. Allan McIntyre–in the congregation with which he was connected, he manifested his zeal both by holding meetings and otherwise in keeping the congregation together. So highly were these meetings, which were held by Mr Lobban, appreciated, that many of the older and younger members of the congregation were in the constant habit of attending them. This faithful servant of God and useful office-bearer of the Church has gone to rest, and his place in the Church is now empty, but his memory will be long cherished amongst those with whom he was associated, and with whom he so long walked to the house of God.
Informant Mr Gordon Dennes, Petershom.
Page assembled from cited sources by C. Lobban, posted 25 Mar. 2019, revised 7 Mar. 2020.