'Olrig Homestead'

A drawing of Olrig in 1851 by H J Graham at the National Library of Australia

Early Days

James Malcolm of Olrig was one of our very early settlers and possibly among one of the first permanent settlers in our area.  Almost all migrants to Port Phillip came from Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) until September 1836 when the settlement of Port Philip then became legal. 

James Malcolm first visited the area of Port Phillip in the close of 1835 with John Gardiner, Messrs Buckley, Gellibrand, Leake and Robertson.   James then returned to Port Phillip from Launceston on the  9th of January 1836 with J T Gellibrand, his son Thomas, John Gardiner, William Robertson, Robert Leake and 2 other men. They brought a cargo of 1140 sheep from Launceston belonging to Charles Swanston.  Owing to a gale, the fodder had been destroyed and all on board had been employed in feeding the animals on flour and water. The surviving sheep were landed near the site of the abandoned (1826-28) settlement at Western Port.  Leaving an overseer and several shepherds to search for the sheep which had strayed from the landing place, Gellibrand and his party then walked to the Yarra Yarra Settlement, which took several days. He then engaged John Pascoe Fawkner's 'Enterprize' to convey the men and sheep to Port Phillip.

 J T Gellibrand mentions James Malcolm in a letter in January of 1836 - extracted from 'Letters From Victorian Pioneers',  'I embarked this morning with my son Tom on board the 'Norval' for Port Philip in company with Mr. W. Robertson, Mr. Gardiner, Mr. Leake, and Mr. Malcolm', (the latter gentlemen having the management of the sheep on board the property of Capt. Swanston).  Gellibrand mentions James Malcolm again when unloading sheep and embarking for Port Philip with others in the party overland. 

On the 6th of June 1836 James was in a search party when Charles Frank and his shepherd Flinders were murdered by natives. His help was conscripted along with some 23 others at Mt. Cottrell on the head waters of the Barwon River when Frank and Flinders were both killed with tomahawks.

In 1836 a Commissioner reported to Governor Bourke that the early settlement of Melbourne comprised of 13 buildings – three weatherboard, two slate and eight turf huts.  The whole of the European population then consisted of 142 males and 35 females. The number of sheep grazing was 26,900; horses, 57; and horned cattle, 100; while 11 vessels of from 55 to 300 tons were engaged in bringing stock over from Tasmania.

John Sinclair was an overseer of Convicts from Launceston in Tasmania and a member of the Port Phillip Association.  He worked in the mercantile / maritime business and was involved in shipping across Bass Strait.  He established his sheep station on the then 'Kinloch Hill' (Mt. Ridley).  James Malcolm became an overseer and agent to John Sinclair at Sinclair's Station.  James Malcolm is described in the Discovery and Settlement of Port Philip in Flock and Flock masters as 'Mr. Malcolm  was then agent to John Sinclair, of near Launceston'.

The Brodie brothers, Richard and George Sinclair, arrived at Williamstown with 500 sheep on the 10th of May 1836 and this was before James Malcolm took up his parcels of land at Yuroke, Deep Creek and Merriang in June, so it is likely James worked for Sinclair as an overseer on his property prior to this.  Overseers from Tasmania like James Malcolm became considerable wealthy pastoralists on their own land in a very short period of time and being a shrewd and canny Scot, it seems it was not long before the property passed into the hands of James Malcolm. 

By 1840 squatters were recognized as being amongst the wealthiest men in the colony of New South Wales, many of them from upper and middle-class English and Scottish families such as James Malcolm.  The term ‘squatter’ came to refer to a person of high social prestige who grazed livestock on a large scale (whether the station was held by leasehold or freehold title). 

James Malcolm was also noted as being 'the wealthiest man in early Melbourne' and is claimed within 50 years of his arrival in 1836 and beginning with little more than 50 pounds, Malcolm had accumulated some 6,000 acres of land, 30,000 sheep and managed an income of 30,000 pounds a year.  James came is claimed to have also come from Van Diemen's Land with 50 shillings and by 1851 he was the largest individual sheep owner in Victoria.

It was not an uncommon site in those times to see early pioneers from the settlement carrying all the necessities for their new life in bullock wagons heading  north to lonely bush areas to establish what were to become thriving pastoral properties or 'runs'.  When roads were either very rough, or did not exist at all, the strong, patient and reliable bullocks and the slow moving cumbersome drays carried settlers and their belongings to the outlying districts.

Extracted from "Merriang the Shire that Vanished" -  Major Mercer was allocated the first land , and in consequence the area was to be known as 'Mercer's Vale' .  By 1836, the Vale was considerably settled and in that year when George Russell arrived he
commented in his diary on several property holders, James Malcolm , a Mr.
Sinclair, Richard Brodie and Archibald Thom "through whose property the
Sydney Road passed, Mr. Thom's station (now at Beveridge) being a favourite stopping place in the early days for travellers along the road

In "Letters from Victorian Pioneers" a wealthy squatters son, Peter Snodgrass recalls 'James Malcolm a wealthy man was with J. T Gellibrand in 1836'.  He also tells 'that at Kinlochewe near Donnybrook on the Sydney Road in December 1843 he (James Malcolm) offered Andrew Murchinson McRae two and a half tons of flour for a few acres, the offer was accepted'. He also goes on to state in his letter 'it is beyond my power to state precisely at what time each station was taken up but the whole of the above parties including James Malcolm were in occupation of them in the year 1840'.

In a Port Philip Colonial Directory of the mid to late 1840's James is given as 'Malcolm, James, Olrig, Kinlochewe'.  At the time of the 1841 census Malcolm had within his employ 9 single males and was housed in a wooden house on the north ease shoulder of Kinloch Hill.  After the land sales of 1841 a D. Cameron secured the rights to the immediate area, speculating squatters sat on large tracts of land and waited.  As the demand for land increased these speculators were able to "come to an arrangement" with the new arrivals such as Cameron.  Malcolm relocated to the south east shoulder of the hill and established here, his pastoral base "Olrig". 

An account in the Port Philip Herald dated 26th of January, 1844 states that Mr. Malcolm of Mercer's Vale,  was charged at the police office on Wednesday, under the musters and servants act, with not paying one of his hired servants ₤1 8s. 4d being one months wages, at the rate of ₤ 23 per annum.  Mr. Malcolm was deemed to pay the amount owed, which he said he would never do and is reported to have left the court protesting that 'there was no settler in the colony safe'.

A report in the Port Philip Herald dated 20th of November, 1845 states:  The Crops - We learn from a practical farmer that early crops, both wheat and hay, are very fine just now on the Darebin; Mr. Malcolm's crop of hay, at Mercer's Vale, is said to be heavy and promising.

In 1844 James relinquished his runs at Yuroke, Deep Creek and Merriang and in 1845 relinquished his other run at Mercers Vale he had begun earlier in 1840 and in 1847 a Port Philip Directory gives him as 'Malcolm, James, Land Proprietor, Olrig, Kinlochewe.

The Rev. Dunmore Lang describes on his visit to James Malcolm and Olrig 'I was driven out to the residence of Mr. Aitken by James Malcolm Esq. an extensive proprietor in Philipsland (Victoria).  He and Mr. Aitken, both Scotsmen have been two of the earliest arrivals from Van Dieman's Land and have been two of the most successful colonists in the country.   For years after there arrival their lodging and fair were doubtless of the simplest kind imaginable,  a hut formed of a few sheets of bark for both kitchen and parlour, with their shepherd's watchbox to sleep in beside their folded flock's and damper and tea every morning, alternating every month to month with damper every night; but they now reap the fruits of their former privations in wealth honestly required'.

[A description of a shepherd's watchbox in 1834 - 'When I arrived at the spot where they slept, called a shepherd's watch-box. After they had been out in the bush from sunrise to sunset, they had then to retire for repose to a watch-box, 6 feet by 18 inches, with a small bed and one blanket - a watch-box, where he could lie and gaze upon the starry heavens, and where the wind blew in at one end and out of the other, with nothing to ward off the peltings of the pitiless storm - these were the comforts of the watch-box'].

The good reverent goes on to describe his visit to James Malcolm and Olrig in his book of 1847.   'Mr. Malcolm's residence is on the side of a hill a mile from the inn, his land is all divided into paddocks by a strong post and rail fence and is cultivated quite in English, or Scotch Style and beside his barn yard in 1843' and goes on to say 'Besides Mr. Malcolm being  the most extensive cultivator of soil, he is also one of the most extensive proprietors of sheep, cattle and horses in the colony'.

James Malcolm's 'Olrig' was noted to be to the east of the village of Kinlochewe on the southern slopes of Kinloch Hill, (Mt. Ridley), sometime later known as 'Malcolm's Hill'.

It is interesting to note that Kinlochewe, situated north of Summerhill Road, Craigieburn was a small village that sprung up out of necessity in 1841, next to a ford in Merri Creek and Between1848 - 50 was the greatest period of the village and more than 400 individuals lived there.  After the Black Thursday Bushfires in 1851, Kinlochewe was burnt to the ground, flattened and in ruins, some of it's residents lucky to have survived.  The village never recovered and it was considered unprofitable to rebuild when Sydney Road became a more reliable route. 

Olrig apparently survived the Black Thursday Bushfires along with James Pearson's Mt. Ridley.  The fires of Thursday February 6, 1851 were heading directly towards Mt. Ridley but they actually changed course and only burned the lower reaches of the eastern side of the hill, leaving the homestead untouched. 

In 1853 Crown Land Sales at the parish of Mickleham took place and James Malcolm purchased 'Olrig' under the pre-emptive right to the property.  A right granted by law to some people whereby they could purchase the land they had been squatting on with preference over others.

Family and Tragedy

James returned to Scotland and married on 2nd of January 1851 to Caroline Nesbit Wilkie daughter of Daniel Wilkie in Edinburgh, Scotland.  The Register of Marriages for 1850 records: James Malcolm Esquire of Olrig Colony of Victoria, Australia presently residing at 41 Castle Street St. Georges Parish, Edinburgh and wife Caroline Nesbit Wilkie residing at 14 Brighton Crescent, Portobello, Parish of Duddingston.  Daughter of the late Mr. Daniel Wilkie, minister of the New Grey Friars, Edinburgh have been three times proclaimed, in order to marriage, in the parish church of Saint George and no objections have been offered.  Married at Portobello on the 2nd Day of January 1851 by the Rev. Lewis Belfour, Minister of Coliston.

The wedded couple must have returned to Australia as not long after as their first child a daughter Caroline Malcolm was born in 1852 and the following year a son William Daniel Malcolm was registered as being born in Sydney in 1853.

The Argus newspaper gives us an insight in to the tragedy that must have beset the Malcolm family only two years later in 1853.  James Malcolm not only lost his two children but his wife as well, possibly from complications from the birth of their son, William Daniel.  Caroline his wife died approximately one month after William Daniel was born.

Malcolm, Jane Caroline 4th of April 1853 died at South Yarra, aged 10 months.

Malcolm, William Daniel, 19th of October 1853 died at Melbourne aged 3 months.

William Daniel Malcolm's death certificate states he died at the age of 3 months of an infection of the head and chest of 14 days duration at Rupert Street in Melbourne, he was born in Sydney and had only been in the colony of Victoria for 1 month and his father James Malcolm was present at the death.

Malcolm, Caroline Nesbit, 16 November 1853, died at St. Kilda, wife of James.

Caroline Nesbit Wilkie Malcolm is on the burial register for the Old Melbourne Cemetery and was interred there with their two children, Caroline Jane Malcolm and William Daniel Malcolm. 

Sacred to the memory of

Caroline Nesbit Wilkie the beloved wife of James Malcolm Esq. of Olrig who died 15 November 1853 aged 30 years.

Sacred to the memory of their two children

Caroline Jane Malcolm who died 2 April 1853 aged 10 months and William Daniel Malcolm who died 16 October 1853 aged 5 months.

At this stage James is said to have returned to England and taken up residence in London from 1860.   In actual fact after James died in 1878 an affidavit was sworn by the Australian executors of his estate, James and Frank Graham to the fact that James left Australian on or about November 1854 and to their knowledge never returned.

James left Australia and returned to London where he married on the 1st of February 1860 to Adeline Atty. Their marriage certificate states James was an 'Esquire' and was a widower living at Saint James Street in London at the time of his marriage and his father was William Malcolm also 'Esquire'.  James was at least 25 years older than his wife Adeline according to the English census in 1871.

In 1862 their first son James William Malcolm was born in London on 29 March 1862 and later became Sir James William Malcolm, he gained the title of '9th Baronet Malcolm' and died 30 April 1927 at the age of 65.

A second son Charles Edward Malcolm was born to the couple in 1866 and became Major Charles Edward Malcolm and married Hon. Beatrice Mary Leslie Hore-Ruthven, daughter of Walter James Hore-Ruthven, 9th Lord Ruthven of Freeland and Lady Caroline Annesley Gore, on 28 December 1894, they lived at Maxstoke Castle, Coleshill, Warwickshire, England until Charles died 16th Apr 1935.

James Malcolm died at Normandy House near Kew in the County of Surrey on the 16th of July 1878 and left a widow, Adeline and his two sons, James William Malcolm and Charles Edward Malcolm.

Death Notices appearing in the London Times Newspaper

19th July 1878

On the 15th inst, James Malcolm Esq. of 27 Princess Gate, London and Olrig, Melbourne, Australia.  Australian papers, please copy.

After James died an extensive search throughout England and Australia was conducted for his will but according to the probate papers for his estate a will could not be produced.  According to his English solicitor Henry Kimber 'he (James) had made several wills but none can be found'   Affidavits were sworn by William Robertson that he had dined several times at Freeland with James in the month of April or May 1877 and James had informed him that he had made a will.

  Adeline Malcolm stated in an affidavit her husband James made a will in 1876 but when they came to take it from the safe it was not there and that she had seen James burn some papers earlier and thought the will may have been amongst them but James swore it was only a codicil to the will that had been burnt and he had put the will back in the safe.  After the will being not found a fresh will was drafted and by that time James was on his death bed.  He died on 16th of July 1878 and a further search was executed but failed to find any wills.  Probate was granted based on the sworn affidavits and the facts at hand of James' last wishes.

James Malcolm's Estate

In his estate James Malcolm made provisions for his two sons James William Malcolm and Charles Edward Malcolm who were minors at the time of his death.  He gave all his personal and real estate (in England) to Alexander Swainston Esq, Member of Parliament and Lieutenant James Miller of Shotover, Oxford to manage his estate and income in England until his sons reached 21.  His wife Adeline had already satisfactorily been provided for earlier in their marriage arrangement.  His two sons would receive ₤500 pounds per year until they reached the age of 21.  All his personal estate investments were to be sold in Colonial Debentures and European Securities and the proceeds were to go to his two sons. 

All his real estate in the colony of Victoria, Australia was to go into trust to the Honorable James and Frank Graham till his sons reach the age of 21 and then his real estate was to go to the two sons as 'tenants in common' when they reached the age of 21 in equal shares. 

The Following Years

In 1865 James Robert Malcolm arrived from England on the ship 'Lightning" from Liverpool, he was single, from Scotland and aged 20 when he came to Australia.  When exactly he took up residence and farming at 'Olrig' and what relationship he was to James Senior is unclear at this stage.  We do know he married Charlotte Jekyll Fraser in 1871 six years after his arrival in 1865 and according to his marriage certificate was a grazier at Olrig then.  He was leasing the property and it is said a five year lease arrangement had been drawn up of £750 per year.

James Robert Malcolm aged 20 married Charlotte Jekyll Fraser on the 9th of February 1871 at the Presbyterian church at Bulla.  James stated he was born at Wick, Scotland and his father was Robert Malcolm and his mother Elizabeth (nee Reid) and he was a farmer at Olrig, Craigieburn.  These facts are also confirmed by the birth of their last son Alexander Colin Malcolm which states on his birth certificate he was born at Olrig, Craigieburn 23rd of August, 1881 and by the death of their daughter Elizabeth or 'Bessie' Malcolm as she was affectionately known, who is buried at Bulla Cemetery, Victoria.  Her death certificate in 1885 states she died at Olrig, Craigieburn and her father James Malcolm was a grazier, so these facts put James Robert Malcolm and his family at Olrig, Craigieburn till at least and onwards of 1885.

When James Robert Malcolm died in 1920 at Surrey Hills in Victoria, he was given as a retired farmer who had been in Victoria for 55 years born at Wick, Scotland his wife Charlotte was still then alive.  James was buried at Box Hill Cemetery.

James Robert and Charlotte Malcolm had:  William Charles Malcolm 1872, Robert Livingstone Malcolm 1874, Elizabeth (Bessie) Harriet Malcolm 1876 (Died aged 9 years), James Harley Malcolm 1877, Charlotte Margaret Malcolm 1879 and Alexander Colin Malcolm 1881

Extracted from 'Donnybrook - Kalkallo 1855 to 1980' - According the memories of Miss. C Malcolm, her grandfather James Malcolm of Olrig refused to allow an organ into the church, (Presbyterian Church at Donnybrook) calling it 'An instrument of the devil' and when she wrote in 1965, his tuning fork as precentor was still in her possession.  After the organ was installed in 1876 at a cost of ₤30, Mrs. Malcolm Junior, (Miss Malcolm's mother and still from Olrig) played the organ during charges of Rev's W. M. Mackie and George Carson (1877 - 1891) and her four sons and a daughter were all baptised in the church.

  Olrig and James senior's other real estate was placed in trust after his death till James William Malcolm and Charles Edward Malcolm reached the age of 21, the rate books reflect this fact when in 1884 George Martin Executor of 92 Collins Street, Melbourne and a James Graham, Merchant of Australia Place, Melbourne were given as executors for a house (old) and lands of 632 acres and lands of 1,000 acres which would have been Olrig and its surrounding property.

Whether James William Malcolm ever personally farmed himself at Olrig is very unlikely as he was only aged 14 when his father died and even when reached an older age, being from a family of wealth and taking into account his station in life, it is very doubtful he would have come from London to farm in Australia at Olrig, the usual practice would have been for his holdings and inheritance to be put in trust till he reached the age of 21, which in fact it was, then he would have leased it out possibly through his solicitors, or stock and station agents in Australia.

On the 1881 English Census Adeline Malcolm, James Seniors wife and mother of his two sons James and Charles in living at 27 Prince's Gate, London, Middlesex, England and James senior is not present on the night of the census.  The family has seven servants and two visitors on the night.

Their two sons James William Malcolm was preparing for the Army and a boarder at the Vicarage, Market Rasen, Lincoln, England, and brother Charles Edward Malcolm was a scholar at Eton College in England on the 1881 English census.

In 1885 James William Malcolm marries Evelyn Alberta Sandeman in London and James William Malcolm of Park Lane in Middlesex paid his brother Charles Edward Malcolm, fifteen thousand Pounds for his share of the land that their father owned in Victoria.  Brother Charles also lived in Middlesex at the time.

In 1889 James William Malcolm made a statutory declaration saying he had continuously occupied the land for more than 25 years. At this stage it is unclear exactly which James Malcolm made this declaration as James Malcolm senior had died in 1878, it may have been James Robert Malcolm as he did take possession of Olrig after 1865 or it may have been James William Malcolm making the declaration on behalf of his father.

In 1890 while on a visit to Australia Malcolm declared his holdings to be some 3,944 acres in the parishes of Kalkallo, Mickleham, Yuroke, Merriange and Darraweit Guim.  Address given at the time was Green Street in Park Lane, London, England.

In 1891 James William Malcolm is on the 1891 English census with wife Evelyn A and brother Charles Edward Malcolm was residing in London alone and his occupation was given as a lieutenant in the Scots Guards.

End of an Era

  'Olrig' has been leased to various people since the Malcolm era.  After 1897 the Broadmeadows Rate Books show Olrig to be leased out by various people,  including William D McCallum, Francis Graham and to Henry Edward Holmes a grazier.  

Around 1906 the land was subdivided and sold off in various lots and in a land transfer document dated August 15th 1910, James William Malcolm sold Olrig to Troward Underdown Harvey who farmed at Olrig up until he died in 1957.   Ownership was then granted to his 3 daughters after Troward Harvey's death and later Una Jean Walkley subsequently took sole possession.

After this the property was purchased by D. Smith pastoralist and grazier from nearby Somerton.  Later the property was acquired by the G. Adams Corporation as a part of a residential development and stood vacant for many years,

Olrig before the fire in 1992

There was a devastating fire at 'Olrig' in 1992 destroying most of the cement sheeting section and existing homestead, leaving just the bluestone remains we can see today.  The 4.7 hectare 'Olrig' site was sold recently to the local Catholic Church. 

A New Lease of Life!

Today the building is having a facelift incorporating and renovating the old Olrig Homestead and part of the permit to develop the site was an agreement that the school would upgrade Olrig (using complimentary material and styles) and incorporate the building into the site so it could be used in a practical way by the school.  The building and immediate surrounds are being 'rebuilt' in a way that is sensitive to its origins and as a significant local historical site.

In 2007 the outbuildings were demolished and what remains of the bluestone cottage soon will no longer paint a lonely picture standing alone against its background of modern houses.

Olrig is also parish in Caithness, Scotland and there is a Olrig House within that parish which bears no resemblance to James Malcolm's 'Olrig' but does again reflect the Scottish origins of the settlers in the area. It is noted that the Scottish immigrants were amongst the first and most successful farmers!








Above: Olrig as it stood for many years.                         Above: The outbuildings pictured above have now been demolished.

(pictures courtesy of www.fadingvictoria.com)

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