The View From Mount Clarence

A look back at settlement along Western Australia's South Coast

The Demise Of The Taylor Fortune: Part 1

Originally Posted 18 May 2014:

Kirktonhill Manor
Kirktonhill, Marykirk, Aberdeenshire, ancestral home of Patrick Taylor Esq, original settler at Albany, Western Australia


For now, back to the love story of Patrick Taylor and Mary Bussell.

We know the two met on the ship James Pattison which arrived in Albany on June 19th, 1834, after eighteen and a half weeks at sea. Of their individual stories we know Mary was the second eldest in a family of nine children and that she and her mother sailed out to the Swan River Colony as solution to the family’s future four years after her brothers had set out to establish their place of living there, and fully fourteen after her father’s untimely death. The Bussell family, in the absence of their father, seems to have functioned as a business, or at least very strictly upon the money they had and shared as a group. The family decided to emigrate to the Swan River Colony at the height of its pre-establishment popularity because they thought it would not only make best use of the set amount of money they had, but (because there were six brothers) give them all a far more equal opportunity.

Mary’s two sisters, Frances (Fanny) and Elizabeth (Bessie) followed the brothers in 1832, so were already in the colony when she arrived. All the sisters were known by their nicknames, of which Mary’s was Polly. We know the Bussell brothers found the Swan River settlement bought up when they landed at Fremantle in 1830 and were persuaded by James Stirling to go to Augusta where they toiled fruitlessly for three years before their house on the Blackwood River (which they called Adelphi) caught fire and they moved to the mouth of the Vasse River at what is now Busselton to start again. When Mary and her mother eventually got to ‘Cattle Chosen’, the name given to the new homestead, it was roughly a year into its existence. Mary and her mother joined the family group and lived amongst them first at Augusta from around October 1834 and then at ‘Cattle Chosen‘ from 1835, until Mary accepted Patrick’s proposal and married him in Fremantle in September 1837, after which she moved to Glen Candy at Albany to be with him.

Cattle Chosen book coverThe story of the Bussells was written-up by E.O.G. Shann in Cattle Chosen, a turgid but well researched history first published by Oxford University Press in 1926. You can find the on-line Wikisource version here.

Mary’s father was a churchman, the Perpetual Curate of St Mary’s at Portsea, William Marchant Bussell, so while there was a life of education and relative comfort the Bussells were not rich people. Mary’s father’s minor claim to fame, though it wasn’t to come to light until much later, was that he baptised Charles Dickens on March 4th,1812, at St Mary’s.

William Marchant Bussell wasn’t worth too much but did take out an insurance policy which, in the event of  his death, would pay out £500 to each of his children on their 21st birthdays (about A$70,000 now, using the same standard of living conversion employed by these pages). There were six boys and three girls, so it was worth in total well over half a million Australian dollars in modern day terms. This, of course, was a godsend but the money came in instalments and only when the coming-of-age birthdays fell, so there was an immediate need for cash. Fortunately, this was met by family, friends and the reverend’s parishioners who came together and donated a very generous £3000 to the cause. That money was used to buy a government annuity called a consol which would have given Mary’s mother an income of about £100 a year (about A$15,000 today) for the term of the investment. Frances Bussell (nee Yates) wasn’t forty years old at the time, so it was important to keep the sum secure and to live as far as was possible off the income. Between ten of them, it wasn’t that much at all, really.

But Frances Bussell had a niece, Capel Carter; daughter to her husband William’s sister, Elizabeth. Capel Carter was a well provisioned orphan who had come to live with the Bussells after the death of her own parents and was therefore a very close cousin of Mary’s and of all the Bussell children.  Capel Carter was expected to move out to the colonies with the Bussells but when the time came decided against it, instead staying behind to act as a kind of provider of services.  Shann’s story of the Bussell’s is significantly drawn from the correspondence between the Bussell family at ‘Cattle Chosen’ and Capel Carter in England. The relationship was strong and Capel did her best to help, providing money and goods whenever she could. The relationship ended when Capel died of consumption in 1837, news of which reached the Swan River just before Patrick and Mary’s wedding, along with the additional news she had invested in a Cornish coal mine that had effectively ruined her finances. With Capel’s passing an organisational and sometimes pecuniary lifeline, which the Bussell’s had used more than once, was severed.

The original St Mary's Church at Portsea during the time of Reverend William Marchant Bussell, perpetual curate.
The original St Mary’s Church at Portsea during the time of Reverend William Marchant Bussell, perpetual curate.

Frances Yates Bussell, Mary’s mother, would have been pre-occupied with the marrying of her daughters into solid middle-class families. Mary had two younger sisters and was the first to marry, but this didn’t happen until she was thirty. In the meantime, the three Bussell girls were all written into the ownership of the family’s Swan River venture, described once by Fanny in a diary entry as ‘ . . . the firm of ‘Cattle Chosen’.’ Patrick will have been aware of this though in the lead up to the marriage possibly ambivalent towards it because his own means were more than adequate. Mary’s mother, no doubt, would have been delighted her eldest daughter was being courted by a Gentleman. So too her brothers, who knew the ‘Cattle Chosen’ firm would soon have to be absolutely self-sufficient as Alfred, the youngest of the family, had turned 21 in June that year.

Patrick Taylor proposed to Mary while he was at ‘Cattle Chosen’ in February 1837 (he covered a lot of ground that year) hoping the wedding would take place at Government House in Perth in the early Spring. The engagement was announced in April and the wedding planned for September while Mary was to be in Perth with her sister Fanny and brother Vernon. Afterwards, the couple were to sail to King George’s Sound in the colonial schooner Champion in order to take up their lives at Patrick’s newly built Glen Candy house.

Things didn’t go exactly to plan however because they had not received a longed-for letter from Mary’s mother giving the union her blessing, and they decided they couldn’t go ahead without it. The delay was causing problems because of the immanent departure of the Champion on which they were all booked. The letter from Cattle Chosen eventually arrived the day before having been sent by Aboriginal courier on or around August 20th. In the end, the wedding was arranged and carried out at the home of Henry Bull, family friend and skipper of the Champion, in Fremantle, and although not at Government House, Sir James Stirling did attend and did, in fact, give the bride away.
Mary’s mother’s letter. . .


Cattle Chosen, 

August 20th, 1837.

It would be unkind and ungrateful if I were not to write to you, my dear friend, but circumstanced as I am I shall not have time to enter on the subject of your letter (the proposal) in forms adequate to my feelings over your wishes. It must now suffice to say your choice of my Mary has gratified me more than I can say, particularly as her avowal of sentiments of sincere attachment towards you accompanied by expressions of respect and approbation of your character portend a happiness in your union which could not otherwise be anticipated, at least these are my antiquated notions. Receive her therefore at my hands and may that power which governs all events direct that you may both be rewarded by my estimation of you and that every earthly blessing may be your lot in that holy and happy state into which you are about to enter. God in his mercy take you both in his keeping and though it be his will that she be removed far from me, and that I shall not witness her happiness, grant me submission, under, shall I say it? so trying a dispensation.  

Adieu! Believe me as ever your attached and faithful.

F.L. Bussell


In a letter to a family friend (probably written on the Champion as it sailed from Fremantle via the Vasse to Albany), Mary’s sister Fanny said about the wedding. . .


     ‘Mary has broken the ice… and is now a happy and blushing bride…. The Governor and all our Perth friends were anxious the marriage should take place during our stay in Government House, but neither Mr. Taylor nor Mary would consent to this plan until my mother‘s approbation. The very evening previous to our departure, letters arrived overland by the natives containing Mamma‘s consent, and it was determined that the nuptials should be celebrated without delay. We left Perth, however, on the day appointed, and the ceremony took place at Fremantle, at the home of our kind friends the Bulls. The Governor came down to act as father. Mr. Mackie and Andrew Stirling were the only additions to the family party. We all assembled to dinner as if nothing were going to happen. Mary and myself, both dressed alike in white muslin, looked perhaps a little bridal. Perhaps, too, the challenges by the gentlemen that Miss Bussell and Miss Fanny should drink wine with them had a consciousness in their tone that we were Miss Bussell and Miss Fanny for the last time. The gentlemen were soon disturbed from their wine, and then, standing up before them all, the awful vow was pronounced. Andrew Stirling told me afterwards that Mary looked prettier than he ever saw her. I could not look at her, for I felt more agitated than I expected and should have broken down if the “obey“ had not come out so boldly that even at that moment I smiled. Wine and wedding cake were then handed round, and, in the confusion of drinking healths, the bride and bridegroom slipped out of the room.’


Mary’s pronouncing of the word ‘obey’ in the marriage vow, even in this humorous account, lends evidence to the idea Patrick thought himself very much the authority. When tied to a comment Mary made in the diary she kept aboard the James Pattison during 1834, where she says; . .  “I had a long chat with Mr Taylor. The brother that was dearer to him than life itself, is no more. It was that loss which gave such a serious turn to his character.”,  it’s fair, I think, to say Patrick had a dour streak even before his financial circumstances changed.

In a pre-engagement letter to Capel Carter, Mary wrote. . .

He has his scruples on the score of his health. How very much his character reminds us of you. If you knew him you would love him as dearly as we all do . . .  His feelings and plans are so romantically generous, while he imagines he is exempt from anything of the kind, conceiving himself to be an entirely matter-of-fact person.’

A young man with romantically generous feelings and plans alone in the wilds of the Swan River colony in the 1830’s is one thing, but when that person conceives themselves as entirely matter-of-fact suggests a fair degree of naivety, which means the undoing of those plans is going to hurt twice as much and in the process damage, if not kill altogether, those romantic feelings.

This is what happened to Patrick Taylor.

Details of the wedding come from Shann’s Cattle Chosen and Bonnie Hicks’ thesis, ‘A Scottish Settler at the Sound’. The letter of approbation in Bonnie’s thesis was duly referenced (in 1959/60) as being in the possession of the Albany Branch of the W.A. Historical Society. Fanny Bussell’s letter was written to Sophie Hayward, her brother John Garrett Bussell’s intended fiance, in September 1837.

As an aside to the quote from Mary Bussell’s James Pattison Diary; ‘The brother that was dearer to him than life itself, is no more’, I’m not sure who Patrick is referring to there. The passing sounds recent but none of his Scottish brothers died during that period.

Cabndyup homestead, from the Kalgan Queen website. Unoffcial, unsubstantiated.
Candyup homestead, from the Kalgan Queen website. Unofficial, unsubstantiated.

2 responses to “The Demise Of The Taylor Fortune: Part 1”

  1. Janie Avatar

    James Pattison ship arrived in FREMANTLE on 19 August 1834. I don’t know if there was a seperate different arrival in Albany. William Coates and sister Eliza Jane Coates were some of the child juvenille emigrants on board. I believe it LEFT England on 19th June 1934. Mr & Mrs Bussell were also on board. I have some documents and there are some on Trove online. But I don’t think I’m able to add the images I have on here, but I could send on email.
    I’m trying to find a full list of the KIDS. But the other passengers were listed in the Perth gazette/newspaper.

    1. Avatar

      Hi Janie, Ive used your email address here to send a complete list of James Pattison passengers as detailed by Geoff Blackburn in his book The Children’s Friend Society. Best wishes, Ciaran

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