Alexander Mackintosh

Alexander Mackintosh

This story was published in the Express and Telegraph on Wednesday 9 March 1898, and goes some way in highlighting what life could be like in the north of South Australia, before unemployment or sickness benefits.


The secretary of the Old Colonists' Association has received a letter in which Mrs Caroline Mackintosh, of OodlaWirra, gives the most pathetic story of her life of nearly half a century in the north. Her husband, Mr. Alexander Mackintosh, is a colonist of 52 or 53 years' standing, and he has resided for the best part of his days in the northern areas. Mrs. Mackintosh was a passenger by the ship Bristow, which arrived at Port Adelaide on January 1, 1855. "I came to the north," she writes, "at the beginning of the next month, and have never been in Adelaide since, except once for a few days in January three years ago".

Mr. Mackintosh was the first settler in the Baroota district, where he went through many a hardship and had several skirmishes with the blacks. He still carries the scar of a spear wound upon his shoulder as collateral evidence of one of these adventures. It was in 1856 that he and Mrs. Mackintosh were married, and for 42 years they have gone through many troubles and suffered many hardships together.

From Baroota they went to the Forest Creek diggings, where they spent 12 months. They then returned to Crystal Brook and Booyoolie, where Mr. Mackintosh was for several years employed as overseer. Their next move was to Erudina, which was then considered the far north, and the journey is quaintly described by Mrs. Mackintosh: "We went up in bullock-dray from Mount Remarkable. We were a fortnight on the road, camping out every night under the dray-pole with two babies, and the dingoes following us night and day.

SLSA PRG 991/54/2/90. Erudina homestead #1930

When I arrived at my destination the only place I had to go into was a tent, and about a foot of dust for a floor." ill fortune followed in their path. The writer continues: "We were ruined there from drought. I think it was about 38 years ago we lost 10,000 sheep, 30 head of good working bullocks (worth £12 per head at that time), and as many horses. Besides all this my husband got a "very severe sunstroke. He was ill for many months and then we were obliged to leave on account of drought."

The next place of pilgrimage was Port Augusta West, where the husband opened up some country and he was the first man to find water there. "It was a very lonely place," is Mrs. Mackintosh's description, and she adds, "I didn't see a white woman for 12 months.

The Port Lincoln blacks were a good bit of trouble to us; they were perfectly savage: and we had to sit up many a night to watch them. My poor husband suffered many hardships from heat, thirst, and exposure. He opened up several new sheep runs in the north and after that he was overseeing for a short time. When the country was resumed by the Government and cut up the couple took a piece of land in the north-east, where they still live.

But hardship and exposure had proved too much for the old man, and his health gave way. For twelve months he was ill and unable to work, and he then went to the North Terrace Asylum, for three months". In January, 1895, his wife came to town and took him home again. "I kept him and myself," she says, "on the produce of a few cows until they all died from the drought about 18 or 20 months ago. My two horses died also and I have nothing left now but the bare land and of that I am not able to pay the rent.

It is nearly three years behind now. If I can keep it I might be able to get someone to work it with me when rain comes. I have no sons. We lost three in the north. We are both in destitution now. I cannot get the common necessaries of life for my poor husband, who is very weak and delicate, and seldom leaves his bed now. I am sorry to say that my health is failing me fast, but I might do a little for myself if I was at liberty. But I cannot leave my husband night or day." The old gentleman is now 76 years of age, and Mrs. Mackintosh places herself at 64 years and 6 months.

This letter was responded to on Monday 14 March 1898,


"have taken a practical interest in the case of Mrs. Alexander Mackintosh, of Oodlawirra, because from what I know of her she is a typical woman pioneer. The letter which she wrote was simply in reply to an inquiry of mine for information with reference to her husband's claim to be put on the Register of Pioneer Colonists. It was not written for publication but being impressed by the simple dignity of her narrative with typical Scotch self-reliance. She did not ask for pecuniary assistance, even in her dire distress I obtained your kindly sanction to publish it.

Mr. and Mrs Macintosh have in their role of pioneer colonists done good service, and endured great hardships and greater disappointments. The Old Colonists' Association, unassisted as it is now, cannot help them until the end of the year, because the funds voted are expended, but if you will receive contributions from those who appreciate the situation I hall be glad to forward them to the faithful wife who has worked shoulder to shoulder with her husband during the ups and downs of colonial life for something like half a century, and who, like the hardy woman pioneer that she is, is now doing her level best to keep their heads above water. I may add that Mrs. Mackintosh has not made the appeal".

[We gladly comply with the request.—Ed.]

Alexander and Caroline, nee Batchelor, were around Melrose when their daughter Alexandra Christina was born on 2 April 1866. They were at Bendleby when another daughter, Laura Lavinia, was born on 23 September 1868. Alexander Mackintosh died on 1 August 1901, aged 78 and was buried in an unmarked grave at Oodlawirra. That same month they had flooding rains in the north.

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