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Stewart, Neil (1817–1913)

from Evening News (Sydney)

The death of Mr Neil Stewart at his residence, Athole, North Parramatta, on March 28, deprives that town of perhaps its oldest inhabitant, his demise occurring in his 96th year.

Mr Stewart was born in 1817 and therefore had lived to be under six monarchs of Britain. He was a native of Caithness, Scotland, and had the Highlander's characteristics of reticence and pride very strongly developed. Therefore he talked little about himself, although he had lived in stirring times since he had come to Australia in 1837, when he proceeded to Bathurst and lived with his cousin, Major General Stewart, who had been in the country since the days of Macquarie, and had an imperial appointment in Bathurst.

When he first lived in Bathurst, the principal settlement was still at Kelso, a mile and a half from the present town. The then 'new' town had only been laid out five years, and it was not until the township had been two years proclaimed that allotments were sold (1834) and buildings began to spring up.

Mr. Neil Stewart may justly claim to have personally known the present city of Bathurst in its earliest infancy, and as he remained there until 1856, to have seen its marvellous rush into importance, owing to its proximity to the first goldfields discovered in Australia.

In 1852 Mr. Mr Stewart was made one of the gold commissioners for Bathurst. Mr John Richard Hardy, chief police magistrate, at Parramatta, being the first appointed commissioner. The duties devolving upon the early commissioners were to organise a mounted police of ten men to issue licences to gold diggers at the rate of 30s a month, to receive in payment gold obtained by amalgamation at 2£ 8s per ounce, or 3£ 4s per ounce for gold obtained by washing.

'A further duty' said Mr. Stewart, 'and one harder to perform' was to preserve the peace and put down outrage and violence and, when necessary, he had to swear in special constables to help to keep order among the licensed diggers.

In 1856, Mr Stewart settled in Parramatta, and was identified with various progressive movements until within recent years when by reason of failing health he retired into private life. In 1864 he was made a magistrate and he occupied the position of visiting justice to the Parramatta Gaol, succeeding in that capacity the late Mr George Langley, well-known in that district.

The volunteer movement which was of very early conception did not take an active shape until 1864, Parramatta being foremost in forming one of the first corps. The Crimean War having shaken matters up. It was considered well for the Parramatta Volunteer Rifles to drill every day, after their first enrolment, September 28, 1860, when Mr Neil Stewart was made lieutenant of the corps. It lasted for 51 years, and throughout its existence was a matter of keen interest to the aging gentleman, although he had ceased actively to be a member. The drill was held in the old military buildings in George street, there the district school is now situated.

Mr. Stewart had as superior commanding officer, Captain Walter Brown, the much esteemed medico of Parramatta. When Mr Stewart retired Mr John Taylor became lieutenant in his place.

During the years intervening between 1856 and the present time there have been many during which Parramatta seemed to make little progress, and to justify its name of 'Sleepy Hollow,' but Mr. Stewart lived to see it rise from sloth and put on quite a new appearance, when the principal streets seemed suddenly to become modernised. Squares and gardens took the places of waste lands, and fine villas surplanted the ramshackle cottages that were quite out of dale in a progressive town.

Original publication

Other Obituaries for Neil Stewart

Additional Resources

  • funeral, Cumberland Argus (NSW), 2 April 1913, p 2

Citation details

'Stewart, Neil (1817–1913)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/stewart-neil-25285/text33713, accessed 26 April 2018.

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