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Jessie Elizabeth Yardy (1856–1937)

Jessie Yardy [seated] with her sister Mary Perry, n.d.

Jessie Yardy [seated] with her sister Mary Perry, n.d.

photo supplied by Sandra Arrell

The death, at Grafton, on December 21, of Mrs. Yardy, wife of Mr. William Yardy, of Grafton, and mother of Sergeant F. A. Yardy, of Cessnock, removed a true pioneer of the old type from our midst.

The late Mrs. Yardy was 81 years of age. Her maiden name was Jessie Elizabeth McLennan. She was a daughter of the late Alex. McLennan, of Glenferneigh. Her parents came to Australia in the William Nicoll, one of the memorable company of vessels that brought out "Dr. Lang's Immigrants" from Scotland. The William Nicoll took six months to complete the voyage to Australia and arrived in Sydney in December 1837. The Midlothian and the William Nicoll arrived within a few days of each other, and numbers of the people of both, and their descendants, found a home on the North Coast, especially on the Clarence River.

Mr. and Mrs. McLennan, on arriving in the colony, went for a time to Muswellbrook, and from there they removed to Guy Fawkes. Life in those early days was full of adventure, not only for the men, but the women also. In fact, people could be said to have 'lived' then. Life was not a humdrum existence, with the same round of duties from day to day and year to year, as is the case with many now. But there were innumerable incidents, tragic and humorous, which lent spice and gave a great variety to life.

There was an occasion which Mrs. McLennan never forgot, when all the menfolk were away from home, and only herself and a sister-in-law (Mrs. Freeman) were there. The aborigines came in a great number, which was estimated at over 150. Their treading could be heard in the distance like that of a drove of cattle. The cattle themselves were running wildly about, overcome with fear, as the blacks drew near. At last they came, and demanded food. Mrs. Freeman bravely spoke to the leaders, who became very wrath. They retired to the others, secured their weapons, and came forward in a threatening manner. Mrs. McLennan persuaded them to be pacified, and gave them what food she had in the house, and continued to feed a number of them until the men returned. They came one night, without the knowledge of the blacks, who in the morning came as usual for food. Trouble intervened. A powerful native rushed Mr. McLennan, who held a gun, and attempted to take it from him. However, Mr. McLennan also was a very strong man, and managed to retain the weapon. At last the aborigines were driven away.

It is one of the family recollections that Constable Alex. B. Walker was a constant visitor to the McLennan home when he was on his rounds of police duties. He was afterwards Police Superintendent Walker. In those days the rounds of the mounted troopers were strenuous. At the McLennan home the Constable was a welcome visitor. There was always a free bed for himself and provisions for his horse. This was the constable who eventually shot 'Thunderbolt,' the notorious bushranger, whose real name was Frederick Ward. It is said that Ward had previously been in the employ of the much spoken of Miss Isabella Kelly, at Brimbin, on the Manning River, and that he took to the bush as the result of an accident happening to a horse which he was riding, which caused the animal's death. Miss Kelly had forbidden him to take this particular horse, and when it was killed he was afraid to face her, and ran away.

A son of Superintendent Walker rose to the same position in the Force as his father, and was Superintendent in Grafton some years ago.

It is said that the McLennans were the first to settle at Glenferneigh. Greenwich Station, which was about ten miles away, was taken up by Mr. Freeman, who was married to Mr. McLennan's sister. He was very successful there in the raising of cattle. Mr. McLennan turned his hand to rearing sheep, but the venture did not prove a success, so he took to cattle raising also.

It was at Glenferneigh that Mrs. Yarry was born. There, too, one of her brothers was buried. He suffered sun-stroke and died at the age of seventeen years.

Naturally enough, all the men of the McLennan family were capable horsemen, having much experience of rough country. Mrs. Yardy also was a wonderful horse-woman, and in her younger days would frequently assist her father in the rough country. She rode in the side saddle, with the old style of riding habit and top hat. She could hold her own in the rough country with the men.

Those old side saddles. They are out of date now. Only occasionally is one to be seen in some old barn or shed covered with dust and cobwebs, just a relic of the days that are gone. But in our childhood days they were an everyday sight. Graceful did our womenfolk appear, arrayed in the long riding skirt, or habit, as it was also called, as they rode long. It was a picturesque sight, that of a company of men and women riding along in groups together — it may be on their way to church, or to town on a Saturday.

Toward the close of 1869 the McLennan's came to Caledonian Park, on the Orara River, near to Coutt's Crossing. At this place Mrs. Yardy spent all the rest of her life, save for a few months in South Grafton before her end came. There she married William Yardy, and there she reared her large family of stalwart sons and daughters. The writer has never seen a family of bigger people than that of Mr. and Mrs. Yardy. And they are not only large, but active.

Mrs. Yardy was a very capable woman. Nothing seemed to be a trouble to her, and to entertain friends was her delight. But friends or strangers, all were welcome to her hospitable home. She was never known to be taken by surprise, for she had a wonderful system in regard to meals. If twenty people were unexpectedly to arrive, one would almost think that she had been expecting them all, for in a very short time a good meal would he set before each one.

One of the first trips, perhaps the first, of Sir Earle Page when he settled in Grafton first as a doctor, was to Mrs. Yardy's home. One of the boys had met with an accident, and the doctor had driven ten miles in a sulky. He was greatly delighted with the home-made bread, and Mrs. Yardy ever remembered the words of praise he bestowed upon her on account of it.

In January, 1930, Mrs. Yardy paid a visit to the old home at Glenferneigh that she had left as a girl over sixty years before. She was now in her seventy-fourth year. She had not seen it at all during the last forty six years. She perceived a great difference. There are fine roads now where there were but very poor bush track then. She travelled by car in four hours a road that had taken her three days when a girl.

Mrs. Yardy was a devoted and capable mother. She reared five stalwart sons and three goodly daughters. Three of the sons are in the police force. She left a husband, four sons, three daughters, thirty-six grandchildren and eighteen great grandchildren.

Original publication

Citation details

'Yardy, Jessie Elizabeth (1856–1937)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 14 June 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Jessie Yardy [seated] with her sister Mary Perry, n.d.

Jessie Yardy [seated] with her sister Mary Perry, n.d.

photo supplied by Sandra Arrell

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • McLennan, Jessie Elizabeth

11 May, 1856
Ebor, New South Wales, Australia


21 December, 1937 (aged 81)
Grafton, New South Wales, Australia

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