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Huxley, Margaret Ross (1832–1922)

There died at Ben Boyd-road, Neutral Bay, last week the widow of Thomas Huxley (a member of the family of the great biologist and social reformer, Professor T. H. Huxley), a woman who had had a remarkably adventurous life. Margaret Huxley was born of Scottish parents at Glasgow on March 8, 1832, her maternal grandfather having been an officer in the famous Black Watch, who had served in the Indian Mutiny. Even in her 90th year Mrs. Huxley could remember the bread riots and seeing women breaking windows to obtain bread and the soldiers refusing to shoot on the rioters. Both her parents died during an outbreak of typhus, and being left an orphan at an early ago she accompanied her aunt (Elizabeth Sutherland) to Australia in 1848. Among her fellow-passengers on the trip were the late Colonel Rowe and Mr. W. R. Guilfoyle, the celebrated landscape gardener, who rendered such service to Victoria in connection with the Botanic Gardens of Melbourne. Her aunt married Mr. William Tozer, and the family settled at North Arm, Richmond River. The niece, however, soon returned to Sydney, as her innate modesty could not subtain the constant shocks of seeing entirely nude aborigines running about the place. In Sydney she joined the family of the late Dr. Ross, pastor of the Pitt-street Congregational Church, to whom she had brought letters of introduction from Scotland. In 1852 she was married to Mr. Thomas Huxley, of Portland Head, Hawkesbury River, the marriage being celebrated at St. Anne's Church, Paterson. Their first home was at Narrabri, where Mr. Huxley was engaged for some time managing a sheep station for the late Andrew Doyle. When her first child was born in this wild enough district Mrs. Huxley was the only white woman within a radius of many miles. Her only attendant was a black woman.

Mrs. Huxley recollected seeing convict gangs working in chains in the streets of Sydney and half a century later she would be moved to tears by the recollection. She could tell many interesting stories of the bushranging days and the almost incredible hardships which had to be faced by pioneer settlers. She had come into touch with Gardiner, "Black Harry," and "Thunderbolt," with whom she had several times talked. Her journeys through the bush when it was mostly a trackless wilderness inhabited only by blacks were full of adventure and interest as well as thrill. From Jerry's Plains to Narrabri, from Narrabri to Whyanbah, from Whyanbah to Cunnamulla—these long trips were made in tilted carts in which the women and children did the driving, the men riding in front and at the back of the caravan, well armed in case of attack by the blacks. In those days Cunnamulla (now the terminus of the S. and W. railway) consisted of two hotels and one store. In that town Mrs. Huxley conducted the business, while her husband took up country now known as Wylde on the Paroo, stocking it with sheep and commencing a hopeless campaign against dingoes, much as the stockmen are doing to-day in the region west of the Darling.

From Cunnamulla Mrs. Huxley often journeyed to St. George to purchase goods for the business. To do this she had to travel through wild and densely-timbered country over a distance of 200 miles, accompanied by her son, a lad of 12. In these dangerous undertakings they used to camp out, and commonly they were obliged to dare long stages without water on the way. At that time a horse-mail was the only means of communication with the inside world—and it was very irregular at that.

Some 30 years ago Mrs. Huxley moved to Sydney on account of her daughter's health. She was a woman of broad outlook and generous impulses, and her whole conception of duty would appear to have been based on the principle of service to other people. During the whole period of the war and since she and her family had practically kept "open house" for soldiers. Three of her daughters—Mrs. Campbell, Mrs. Tooth, and Miss Huxley (secretary of the Clerical Women War Workers, who set a splendid example by raising thousands of pounds at a cost of less than 1 per cent.), worked unceasingly in the interests of the men who had responded to the call of King and country, and the lonely or invalided soldier was ever sure of a warm welcome and the consideration of a home with this family. If the lonely soldier did not find them out himself they searched him out and took him in hand, sacrificing themselves for his comfort and happiness.

Eight of the late Mrs. Huxley's grandsons and one granddaughter served right through the war. She leaves seven children, 20 grand-children, and 11 great-grandchildren. In her the poor and the needy and all who were in distress had ever a warm and generous friend, and soldiers scattered throughout Australia will doubtless remember with gratitude to the end of their days the great-hearted welcome and kindness they received from Mrs. Huxley and her family both before and after the war.

Original publication

Citation details

'Huxley, Margaret Ross (1832–1922)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/huxley-margaret-ross-17523/text29203, accessed 25 November 2017.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2017

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Robertson, Margaret Ross
Birth

8 March 1832
Glasgow, Lanarkshire, Scotland

Death

12 July 1922
Neutral Bay, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death

bowel disease

Cultural Heritage
Religious Influence
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Military Service
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