In particular the post focuses on the descendants of Agnes Stewart, maternal cousin to Robert Hogarth of potato fame, remember him? If not I will post a link at the end so you can refresh your memories. Robert's father George Hogarth died at Lennelhill in 1791 and it was George's sister Margaret through her marriage to Alexander Stewart/Stuart in 1835 who was the mother of Agnes and her descendants who are the subject of this months offering.
Circa 1855 Agnes Stewart married James Thomson. Together they would be the foundation of a farming dynasty throughout Berwickshire and North Northumberland. Their daughter Margaret married Patrick Johnston tenant farmer of Simprim and their daughter Jean married Matthew Trotter of Rothill, Whittingham Vale, Northumberland. Their son James married Patricia Grieve but that is another story entirely!
James Johnston son of Margaret Thomson and Patrick Johnston married his first cousin Matthew Jane Trotter daughter of Jean Thomson and Matthew Trotter of Rothill in 1821. Margaret and Jean Thomson were sisters
Lt Col James Johnston KTS
The couple spent the early years of their marriage overseas with at least four of their 9 children born in Mauritius where James was head of the British Military Force. They had returned to Edinburgh by 1838, and had taken up residence in Mount Lodge, Portobello, where in September of the same year James was made a "Knight of the Tower and Sword", a Portuguese military honour in recognition of his outstanding service during the Peninsular War. This was but one of the many decorations he received throughout his military career. (Hold this thought readers...)
He was also Provost for Duddingston and Portobello for eleven years prior to his retirement in 1860. He did much to improve the water supply and drainage for the town but not before his wife and cousin died in April 1850, of typhus, tragically contracted from water in the well in the grounds of Mount Lodge, their youngest son was but nine years old. James outlived his wife by a further eleven years, passing away at their home on 12th November 1861. He was survived by 3 sons and one daughter. All his sons followed in their fathers military footsteps. The eldest, Patrick was by this time a Lt Col in the 99th Regiment of Foot in his own right, third son George a Lieut in the Royal Marines, but it was to be his second son James born in Mauritius in 1826 after a stint of 10 years and a Lieutenant with the 39th Dorsetshire Regiment who would play a pivotal role in the events that led to the establishment of Australian democracy on the gold fields of Victoria at Ballarat.
(A touching footnote from a close descendent of Lt Col James Johnston "his Regimental Dress Sword and Scabbard have recently been re-united, the first time since 1861")
Ballarat a City Built on Gold
Ballarat would be transformed, by 1957 botanical gardens had opened to the public and the period from the 1860's to the early 20th century saw impressive buildings and structures built on the wealth from gold mining.
James Johnston jnr, Assistant Gold Commissioner
Margaret set sail on the "Hurricane" in May 1854 arriving in Melbourne on the 2 August. She married her sweetheart just seven days later. By the beginning of September they had arrived at the English Government compound known as Camp Hill, situated on an Escarpment overlooking the tented shanty towns of Ballarat.
Tension was building, the miners were objecting to the rising cost and random inspection of their licences. Then one of their number was murdered, a Scotsman by the name of James Scobie!
Inquest & Trouble Flares
Police Magistrate John Dewes was well known amongst the mining community for his shady dealings with hotel proprietor James Bentley. During the period of adjournment a 10 minute conversation was observed between the pair. When the hearing reconvened and the case was dismissed by Rede and Dewes, Johnston was not happy, and neither were the miners. They had expected a unanimous verdict of guilty.
Whilst the League sought to negotiate with Gold Commissioner Rede, he had other ideas. Rather than listen to the miners, Rede merely increased the police presence and brought in reinforcements from Melbourne.
On the 29th of November the League reported its failure to make progress with the authorities through negotiation. A crude stockade was hastily built and the hated licences were burnt.
The following day Rede ordered a licence inspection and 8 men were arrested for being in default. The League was now resolved to the use of physical rather than moral force. In a gesture of defiance the flag known as the Southern Cross was hoisted on 1 December at Bakery Hill and oath sworn "We swear by the Southern Cross to stand truly by each other and fight to defend our rights and liberties"
Poorly armed and lacking ammunition the miners were soon overwhelmed, leaving at least 22 dead and 34 wounded. Following the fighting, 120 men were detained of which 13 were tried in February 1855 for High Treason, all were acquitted to great public acclaim. Commissioner Rede was hastily removed to an insignificant post in rural Victoria!
Johnston Family Life
James died in Buninyong, Ballarat on the 23 January 1885 aged 59 and his wife Margaret the 13th July 1888 aged 57, they were survived by 11 of their 15 children. They were fortunate not to live to see the tragedy and travesty that was to befall their eldest son, also called James in 1891.
Tragedy at Ballarat
James was a livestock auctioneer of some note, having worked previously on a large cattle station in Queensland, where a fall from his horse and the resulting head injuries necessitated his return home. It was stated at the time he was lucky to have survived!
Rushing to the room of her mistress she discovered Mrs Johnston on the floor in a bloodied state, her arms covered in lacerations and having received a shot to the head. James was later discovered shivering and unconscious in a spare bedroom have allegedly tried to take his own life with poison.
James and his wife were rushed to hospital, but the latter died a week later. The bullet was lodged too deep in her brain to be operable.
Speculation abounded, was this a cruel premeditated murder by a man in financial difficulty saving his family from disgrace?, or the actions of a man rendered insane as a result of the head injuries he sustained many years previous? As is true to this day, once the press had hold of the story all manner of theories and reports were published, making it impossible to separate fact from fiction. One newspaper even reported that James had died in hospital without regaining consciousness!
Even this caused much controversy and angst amongst the prison staff. As James was unable to walk how were they to get him to the scaffold? The warders flatly refused and even prisoners bribed with a reprieve would not play any part in assisting the executioner in his grisly task. He was eventually wheeled to the scaffold in an invalid chair.
Even today mental illness remains a largely misunderstood and 'taboo' subject. Hopefully James would have received the medical treatment that his mental condition warranted, and not as one family member is rumoured to have reported, been administered mercury for his headaches.
As to the press, what can be said. The same is as true today as it was then!
One statement that I find most annoying and is quoted all over the internet is that James Johnston, Assistant Gold Commissioner (father of the above) was the nephew of George Johnston who helped arrest and depose Governor (Captain) Bligh. This simply is not true, he was no relation at all. With a father of such standing there would be no need to invent a family connection such as this. I can only conclude that this notion was conceived long after his death!
Accounts from a few newspapers
More about Lt Col James Johnston KTS and his home Mount Lodge, Portobello