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Scobie, Michael (1802–1903)

from Maitland Mercury (NSW)

Gradually those sturdy pioneers of the State are passing from our midst after lengthened periods of hard toil, perseverance, and industry, the latest to join the great majority being Mr. Michael Scobie, of Oakhampton, an honoured and venerable resident, who passed peacefully away at his residence at 'The Gardens,' at an early hour on Tuesday. The deceased gentleman, who had celebrated the 100th anniversary of his birth in October last, was the head of a most respected family, favourably known throughout the length and breadth of the State, and it was through his indomitable courage, honesty of purpose, and upright character that he was enabled to overcome the many and varied difficulties which the worthy pioneer had to battle against, and as a consequence privileged to enjoy complete rest and comfort during the declining years of a well-spent and exemplary career. Owing to his diminishing physical powers, he was unable of late to take his usual rambles through the orchard which he so successfully founded; but it was not until a fortnight ago that unfavourable symptoms made their appearance, and it was then realised that his grand constitution was visibly failing. Gradually the grand old man continued to weaken in strength, and ultimately passed peacefully away in unconsciousness, surrounded by several members of the large family which remains to mourn the loss of one who proved himself to be a good father, grandfather, and great-grandfather, and a worthy colonist of upwards of sixty-three years' standing.

Born in the village of Airth, Stirlingshire, Scotland, on October 3rd. 1802, the late Mr. Scobie served his apprenticeship to the trade of a carpenter at which he worked for several years in the land of his nativity prior to sailing for Australia. He married a Miss Heugh in February 2, 1829, and the issue of the marriage was a family of 11 — six sons and five daughters — all of whom are living except two sons. He, with his wife and family, then consisting of three sons and three daughters, sailed from Greenock, Scotland, for Sydney on June 25th, 1839, in the ship Palmyra, one of Messrs. McPhee, Lindsay, and Company's line, and after a passage which was considered a fast one in those days, arrived in Port Jackson. The Palmyra met with an accident when entering on the voyage, having collided in the Bay of Biscay with another vessel. She was dismasted, and had to return to Greenock for repairs. Mr. Scobie only remained a few weeks in Sydney, removing to East Maitland, with the purpose of carrying out his intention of entering upon farming pursuits. Subsequently he settled on the farm at Oakhampton known as 'The Gardens," of which he secured a long lease. And up to the time of his death Mr. Scobie continued to reside on the Hunter, a period as stated previously extending over upwards or sixty three years. Naturally the late Mr. Scobie witnessed many marked changes of prosperity and depression, and although he was not without periods of misfortune during such a lengthened agricultural career, yet, by a careful system of business-like management he was enabled to successfully overcome those difficulties and to prosper in his industry. When deceased took possession of the property at Oakhampton, the only building erected thereon was a little hut thatched with reeds. About ten acres of the land, between the river and the lagoon, was cleared of timber and carrying a crop of maize, but the rest to the west of the lagoon, the portion now occupied by the Hunter District Water Supply and Sewerage pumping station, was in its natural condition, covered with timber. At that time a protracted drought was in progress, and very high prices for every requirement prevailed. This drought was brought to a close by a heavy flood in February, 1840, which came in by way of Cummins' lagoon, and Mr. Scobie's maize crop was completely destroyed. The water remained in the lagoon for 8 or 9 years, when another drought extending over three years exhausted it. For many months after this flood the Oakhampton and Walka lagoons ran into the river at Hall's Creek, and people to get to West Maitland had to go through the water works land and by Campbell's Hill. After this flood a period of prosperity in farming pursuits in the district set in. Good crops of wheat, barley, maize, and potatoes were obtained, but probably owing to the largely increased area of land cleared and cultivated by assigned convict servants, and the small population of consumers, together with the little means of exporting any of the surplus produce, its money value was very small, not even sufficient to pay for labour. At this time, bankruptcy became the rule among those who had to find money to pay wages or for other purposes. The necessaries of life were plentiful, but money was scarce. During this time Mr. Scobie found himself in debt to the extent of about £400. He was trusted by those to whom he was indebted, and managed to pay the interest on the debt regularly, and ultimately cleared it off about 1850, ten years after. Up to this time the farming and dairying, with the necessary accompaniments of clearing and fencing, were carried on by Mr. Scobie and the members of his family. He then started the growing of vegetables. The family had by this time increased to 11 — 6 sons and 5 daughters, one of the latter being in Scotland. Owing probably to the development of gold-mining in California business improved, and this desirable state of affairs increased when the discovery of gold was made in this colony. Owing to the failure of wheat crops in the coastal districts, Mr. Scobie discontinued growing this cereal and carried on a large vegetable business. In the year 1851, Mr. Robert Scobie, the second eldest son, joined his father in the farm which had been changed to a market vegetable garden. Since then the business has been carried on under the designation of Messrs. Michael and Robert Scobie, Mr. Scobie also took a great interest in bee-farming, and was probably the first successful apiculturist in the State.

For many years past the late Mr. Scobie had not taken an active part in the affairs of the business, and he did not manifest any active interest in public matters, but his son, Mr. Robert Scobie, who by the way is now fortunately experiencing much improved health, worthily represented the Hunter district in the Legislative Assembly from 1889 to 1894; he is also a vice-president of the H. R. A. and H. Association, and a member of the Licensing Court. Some fifteen years since Mr. Scobie's good wife passed the way of all flesh, since which time Mrs. Deans managed his household affairs. Deceased leaves a large number of relatives, there being fully 130 children, grandchildren, and greatgrandchildren, many of whom reside in this district, and at Sydney, Kiama, Junee, and in Victoria. Of his grandsons Captain J. W. Scobie is the officer commanding B Company Fourth Infantry Regiment. Another Captain Robert Scobie served in the South African Company, and a third, Lieutenant J. Scobie, is attached to B Company Fourth Infantry Regiment. The members of his family living are — Mr. Robert Scobie, 'The Gardens,’ Oakhampton; Mrs. William Jack, Sydney; Mr. James Scobie, West Maitland; Mrs. Duthie, Melbourne; Mrs. Spear, Melbourne; Mrs. Robert Ross, West Maitland; Mrs. McCormack, Sydney; Mr. Michael Scobie, Chumhra, Allyn River; and Mr. William Hugh Scobie, 'The Gardens,' Oakhampton.

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Citation details

'Scobie, Michael (1802–1903)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/scobie-michael-18202/text29779, accessed 26 August 2019.

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