WITH the help of a Borderer now living in Australia, Elma Fleming from the Borders Family History Society shares the story of a former Galashiels man who travelled to Australia during the gold rush...


Recently, a Scottish Borderer living in Australia, contacted the Society through our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/BordersFHS). His work takes him around remote parts of Western Australia, a vast area, many times larger than Scotland, with less than half of the Scottish population.

On his travels, he came across a gravestone, far from any habitation or graveyard.

The inscription reads “In loving memory of Thomas Davidson, born at Galashiels, Scotland, 26 July 1850 died at Dalaging, 28 May 1895”.

The location is 23 miles from Southern Cross, on the Great Eastern Highway, an area close to the goldfields of Western Australia where many flocked for employment.

Thomas was in charge of a government bore, drilling for water, and had previously worked near Koorarawalyee in the eastern part of the goldfields.

He was baptised Thomas William Davidson and was the son of John Davidson and Margaret Laidlaw.

John and Margaret were living in Galashiels in the Parish of Melrose, where their first two children, Jessie (1847) and Thomas (1850) were born.

In 1851, the family moved to Islington where three more children, William Laidlaw (1853), Bessie Sanderson (1855) and Margaret (1857) were born.

While living in Galashiels, John was described as being a manufacturer but his occupation was later described as being a woollen shawl agent.

John was the son of Thomas Davidson and Janet Syme, the daughter of James Syme who started the Botany Mill in Roxburgh Street, Galashiels.

In 1895, the death of Thomas William was reported in several Australian newspapers (trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper) and the article in the Golden Age describes him as “the most successful borer in the employ of the Water Supply Department, and struck the sand plain supply, and many others on the Southern Cross – Coolgardie track”.

The article explains that he worked for many years in the English, Scottish and Australian Chartered Bank in Adelaide.

The article also confirms that his sister is Mrs Wigg of Melbourne and with a bit more digging in the newspapers, we find that this is Jessie who married Edward Wigg of Adelaide, and that his brother, William Laidlaw Davidson, married Mary Wigg, Edward's sister in Adelaide in 1885.

The Wigg family had a very successful firm of booksellers, printers and manufacturers and Jessie’s husband, Edward, was a director and chairman of one of Australia’s biggest mining companies.

The gravestone, close to the site of a remote inn on the route through the goldfields, is protected by an iron fence and is in excellent condition. At the foot of the stone, the monumental mason has included their name – A & G Ballantine, Melbourne. Perhaps another line of inquiry? Where did these Ballantines come from?

Our thanks to Keith Burnside for sharing his discovery, and his research, with us.

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