James Mackie and Jane (Jean) Hunter

The Mackie Legend

The family legend in the Nicholls family is that the Mackie’s came out from Scotland after selling a business which made Shortbread. It is also said that they came out with all their own furniture and that this was handed down the family. The furniture was apparently beautifully crafted but where it is now is unknown. When this happened was not a feature of the story.

My maternal grandmothers maiden name was Mackie, from “Mackie’s Shortbread” in Edinburgh, Scotland. Isabella and her sister Margaret sold the business and sailed out to Tasmania with their furniture.1

Isabella enters the story at the outset, because the lady who wrote this, Constance Nicholls believed Isabella was born in Scotland. Connie, as Constance was known, was Isabella’s grand-daughter.

Firstly, in tracing the history of the known Tasmanian Mackie family, no reference could be found supporting any involvement with the well-known Mackie’s Edinburgh shortbread company.

Mackie’s Edinburgh Shortbread Tin

Mackie’s Edinburgh Shortbread Tin
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In fact, the parents of Isabella Mackie, James Mackie and Jane Hunter, were located in the Scottish county of Clackmannan and not in Edinburgh. The births and christenings of James and Jane’s first three children were registered in Alloa, Clackmannan, Scotland and the details match known individuals and events in Tasmania.

The Family in Scotland

It is believed that James Mackie was baptized on 16 November 1816 in Alva, Clackmannan, the son of William Mackie and Margaret White.2 The extent of James’ education is unknown but from later documentation it is known he was provided with a trade as a wool spinner, handed down from his father. James married Jane Hunter on 8 June 1849 in Clackmannan, Scotland.3

Jane was christened as Jean Hunter on 8 March 1821 in Tulliallan, Perth, to David Hunter and Janet Angus.4 Jane and Jean are interchangeable in these Scottish families and so Jean was also known as Jane at various stages through her life.

After their marriage in Clackmannan James and Jane settled in an area called Alloa and on 5 February 1850 their first child was born. Janet Angus Mackie was christened on 3 March 1850 in Alloa, Clackmannan, named as convention dictated and as a mark of respect, after her maternal grandmother.5 The family appear on the 1851 census in the parish of Clackmannan and the village of New Sauchie as follows.6

Place Name Relation Age Occupation Where Bron
42 North side of the Turnpike Road James Mackie Head 33 Woollen\Spinner Stirling, Alva
Jean Mackie Wife 30   Culross, Fife
Janet Mackie Dau 1   Clackmannan
Robert Hunter Brother-in-law 22 Woollen\Spinner Culross, Fife

On 8 February 1852, 3 days after celebrating Janet’s birthday, Jane delivered another daughter Margaret, christened like Janet in no short order on 14 March 1852 in Alloa.7 A third daughter Jane was born on 5 April 1854 and christened on 30 April 1854, also in Alloa.8

After Jane’s birth the family relocated from Clackmannan in Scotland to Van Diemen’s Land in Australia. They travelled on the clipper White Star, leaving Liverpool on 22 April 1855 and arriving in Melbourne on 17 July 1855. An article in the Courier copied from the Herald gives a full description of the ship and the voyage.

The White Star. The largest, longest, and most powerful sailing vessel that ever anchored in the Port Phillip waters has just arrived. She brings English dates to the 20th April; and, considering the light baffling winds encountered [during] the first half of the voyage, and some unavoidable accidents which have occurred since, has made a very fine passage. On the eighteenth day at sea from Liverpool the ship was within 400 miles of the equator, a performance seldom if ever equalled. On the 4th of June (then 44 days out) the royals were furled for the first time, a fact which sufficiently indicates the light winds experienced. On the 13th of June, just before mid-night, strong winds, with heavy squalls, the ship labouring heavily, carried away the main yard (a spar 90 feet long and 5 feet in circumference), broke main topsail truss, and sprung main-topmast ; and during the next two days, without a sail on the mainmast, the ship logged 230 knots per diem. On the 17th, Captain Brown had the spare mainyard aloft, and damages repaired. On the 2nd July, in turning a reef out of the maintopsail, the chain-tie parted, and the yard, 70 feet long, broke in the slings. Two days after, sent up the spare topsail yard, a splendid pitch pine stick, which was scarcely aloft and the sail bent when it was carried away. Within three days a third main-topsail yard was in its place, made from the wreck of the two first spars. It is to be doubted if such serious damages were ever repaired in so short a space of time. Some minor accidents occurred, such as carrying away the spanker boom and gaff, and the martingale twice. Captain Brown has, however, succeeded in bringing safely to her destination his splendid ship in good condition, and with upwards of 600 souls all in excellent health. Besides this large number of passengers and crew, the White Star has on board 3000 tons of cargo and stores, 1500 tons of which is dead weight, and she was drawing nearly 23 feet water on leaving Liverpool. Despite this enormous cargo, she has proved herself a fast and comfortable ship. In ten consecutive days (June 30 to July 9 inclusive), she ran by observation 2393 knots, equal to 290 English miles per day; on the latter day she logged 337 English miles. The White Star is in all respects a clipper ship, but retains sufficient of the old form to make her a comfortable and profitable vessel. She registers 2039 tons British measurement, but her size may he better appreciated by stating that she is nearly one third larger than the Red Jacket or Lightning, which ships are reported generally, their American measurement (2400 tons or thereabouts), while their English register is under 1700 tons. She is a three decker, but carries 'tween-deck passengers this voyage only on one (7 feet high), and on that one amply accommodates about 500. Sue is nearly 300 feet over all in length, and 46 feet beam. She has a top gallant forecastle, spacious and convenient cooking houses, a forward house, 50 feet long and 7 feet high, for the accommodation of a superior class of passengers, ans amidships solely devoted to the officers, and small houses over each of the three hatches, a house containing the saloons and state-rooms of first-class passengers - thís is quite 80 feet long, and is a magnificent promenade. She has a wheelhouse further aft, the wings of which contain waterclosets, bath's, &c. The saloon accommodates forty persons; the fittings, though not so gorgeous as of some ships, are chaste and beautiful, being of white enamel, relieved with gold ; the upholstery is of blue velvet; the state rooms are spacious, well lighted, and ventilated. Her commander, Captain James R. Brown (late of the Balacia and Brissis) has won golden opinions from all classes of his passengers, who have admired his ready facility in repairing damages, his-untiring vigilance, and his real kindness of heart. The White Star was built by Wright, of St. John's for the line whose name she bears, the property of Messrs. Pilkington and Wilson. She made her maiden voyage from St John's to Liverpool, with a full cargo of deals, in 15 days.- Melbourne Herald.9

Red Jacket Clipper

Red Jacket Clipper
Wikimedia Commons

From Melbourne the White Star immigrants were ferried by Steamer into Van Diemen’s Land. According to the Tasmanian Archives and Heritage Office, they arrived on 28 July 1855. The sponsor was Joseph Bonney who was working as an agent of St. Andrew’s Immigration Society.10 Unfortunately soon after arrival, on 10 December 1855, James and Jane registered the death of their youngest daughter Jane at New Norfolk in Tasmania. Jane died of a bowel complaint, and was recorded as the child of a labourer. James Mackie, her father, registered the event the day after her death11

As if to seal the new home status another girl was born to them on 16 April 1857 and registered as Isabella Mackie, once again in New Norfolk.12

Mackie Ancestors

Mackie Ancestors
John Horton

James and Jane followed the traditional Scottish naming pattern by naming their eldest daughter Janet after Jane’s mother, and including her surname as the middle name. They did this with Isabella as well, including James’ mother’s surname as her middle name.

Isabella is the last of their four children. What was also revealed was that Isabella, far from selling the business and setting sail, had in fact been the only one of her family to be born in Tasmania, in New Norfolk, the fourth and last daughter of James Mackie and Jane Hunter.

Isabella may have been the same Isabella Mackie who witnessed the marriage of John Gregson and Adelaide Mary Owens on 17 December 1867 at New Norfolk.13

Tasmanian History

The family were Church of Scotland, but it’s not known the extent of the Mackie’s religious fervour. The Church of Scotland is Presbyterian and so they would have practiced their observances without much pomp and splendour.

James found work in the New Norfolk district as a farm hand and farm overseer. This is evident from his will but a more thorough search of the land titles may reveal more about his activities over the next 15 years. James wasn’t allotted a large amount of time in his adopted homeland, he died on 12 May 1874 in New Norfolk of Pththisis, an archaic term for tuberculosis.14

MACKIE – On the 12th of May at New Norfolk, James Mackie, aged 55. Funeral will leave his late residence on Friday 15th inst. At 2 o’clock p.m. when friends are respectfully invited to attend, as no circulars will be issued.15

James was buried next to his daughter Jane in the Back River Cemetery. He had drafted a will before he passed away which reads:

Probate of the Last Will and Testament of James Mackie:

Be it known unto all [?Law] by those present that on the twenty eighth day of May in the year of our lord one thousand eight hundred and seventy four the last will and testament of James Mackie, late of New Norfolk, Farm Overseet deceased, a true copy whereof is hereunder annexed was exhibited and proved before this Honourable Court and that Administration of all and singular the goods chattels rights credits and effects of the said deceased within the Island of Tasmania and the Dependencies thereof was and is hereby committed to Jane Mackie, widow of the said deceased…

And further that she believes the goods chattels rights credits and effects of the said deceased at the time of his death did not exceed in value the sum of Six Hundred and Twenty Five pounds in Tasmania and the Dependencies thereof,

Given unto my hand and the seal of the Supreme Court of Tasmania this first day of June in the year of our lord one thousand eight hundred and seventy four.

By the Court

H. J. Buckland


This is the last will and testament of me James Mackie

Of New Norfolk Farm Overseer, I devise and bequeath all the real and personal estate to which I shall be entitled at the time of my decease unto my wife Jane Mackie absolutely. I appoint my said wife Jane to be the sole executor of my will and I revoke all other wills In witness thereof I have hereunder subscribed my hand this second day of December in the year of our lord one thousand eight hundred and seventy three. – James Mackie

Signed by the said Testator as his last Will and Testament in the presence of us present at the same time who at his request in his presence and in the presence of each other we have hereunder subscribed our names as witnesses:

N. Officer

B, Travers Selby16

Six Hundred and Twenty Five Pounds was a sizable amount of money at the time and it was all left to Jane Mackie.

After James’ death in 1874, little is known of the family until 1886. James and Jane’s eldest daughter Janet Angus Mackie died in the General Hospital, Hobart on 27 December 1886 of apoplexy, or a stroke.17

Janet was buried two days later on 29 December 1886 in the Scots section of the then new Cornelian Bay cemetery. Her stated age of 34 makes her birth year about 1852 which is incorrect so perhaps Janet or those around her didn’t know her correct age.18

Janet’s sister Isabella married at 89 Bathurst Street in the following year on 9 July 1897 to Frederick William McMahon. Isabella and Frederick would have five children that have been traced.

Nothing further is known of James Mackie’s wife Jane who died on 3 February 1914 in Devonshire Square, Hobart.19 Given the location of her death she appears to have remained independent as the address is not associated with any of her children.

MACKIE - On February 3, 1914, at her late residence, Devonshire-Square, Jane, relict of the late James Mackie, of New Norfolk, in the 93rd year of her age.20

Location of Devonshire Square

Location of Devonshire Square
Google Maps

Jane was buried in the Cornelian Bay Cemetery on 5 February 1914.21

Regarding the fate of the two surviving children of James and Jane Mackie, Margaret Mackie died on 13 May 1922 at 251 Elizabeth Street in Hobart, Tasmania.22

MACKIE.-On 13th May, 1922. at the residence of her sister (Mrs. McMahon), 251 Elizabeth-street, Margaret Mackie, aged 70 years.23

Isabella McMahon, nee Mackie, died on 17 July 1940 in Quayle Street, Sandy Bay.

McMAHON - On July 17, 1940, at 35 Quayle Street, Sandy Bay, Hobart, Isabella White, widow of the late F. W. McMahon, of Lislewin, Ireland, and youngest daughter of the late James and Jean Mackie, of Alloa, Scotland, and beloved mother of Mrs. J. Nicholls, Evandale.24

  • 1. Oral History: Submitter: Cameron, Constance (nee Nicholls) [In a lecture delivered to the Probus Club, 22 Kenmore Village, Queensland, 27 May 1997]
  • 2. GROS OPR Births and Baptisms 470/ 0010 0432 Alva
  • 3. GROS OPR Banns and Marriages 466/ 0070 0185 Clackmannan
  • 4. GROS OPR Births and Baptisms 397/ 0030 0008 Tulliallan
  • 5. GROS Old Parish Registers: Births and Baptisms; OPR Births 465/00 0070 0249 Alloa (Clackmannan) and IGI, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, (http://www.familysearch.org), Batch No. C119542
  • 6. GROS Census 1851 466/00 001/00 010
  • 7. GROS Old Parish Registers: Births and Baptisms; OPR Births 465/00 0070 0259 Alloa (Clackmannan)
  • 8. GROS Old Parish Registers: Births and Baptisms; OPR Births 465/00 0070 0269 Alloa (Clackmannan)
  • 9. "SHIPPING NEWS." The Courier (Hobart, Tas. : 1840 - 1859) 26 July 1855: 2. Web. 18 Dec 2017; http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article2487624.
  • 10. TAHO Arrivals CB7/12/1/5 Bk21
  • 11. AOT Death Registration RGD 1855/272
  • 12. AOT Birth Registration RGD 1857/1584
  • 13. TAHO Marriage Registration RGD 1867/505
  • 14. AOT Death Registration RGD 1874/467
  • 15. Reported in The Mercury, Thursday 14 May 1874 p. 1, col. 1 and Saturday 16 May 1874 p 2
  • 16. AOT Last Will and Testament of James Mackie AD960/1/9; 1874, Will No. 1682, Page 458, Document ID: 637396
  • 17. TAHO Death Registration RGD 1886/317
  • 18. Southern Regional Cemetery Trust: SCOT, Section E, Number 47
  • 19. TFI Death Registration RGD 1914/1090
  • 20. "Family Notices." The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 - 1954) 4 Feb 1914: 1. Web. 22 Mar 2015; http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article10360924.
  • 21. Southern Regional Cemetery Trust: SCOT, Section E, Number 47
  • 22. TFI Death Registration RGD 1922/1573
  • 23. "Family Notices." The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 - 1954) 15 May 1922: 1. Web. 26 Dec 2014; http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article23551552.
  • 24. "Family Notices" Examiner (Launceston, Tas. : 1900 - 1954) 20 July 1940: 2 (LAST EDITION, 5.30 a.m.). Web. 3 Dec 2017; http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article52373180.
John Horton
John Horton's picture
Mr. Joseph Bonney

K. R. Von Stieglitz mentions Joseph Bonney in his Days and Ways in Old Evandale.

Woodhall was granted to Capt. Malcolm Laing Smith, who was police magistrate for Norfolk Plains, 1828-34 and was later transferred to Circular Head. Before emigrating to Tasmania, Smith was in the Sicilian Regiment stationed in Malta. Ill-health was the cause of him giving up military work. He had been born in the Orkney Isles. His first wife was the sister of John Whitefoord, P.M. of Campbell Town and Launceston. His second wife was Frances Bonney. Smith was a man of good taste and a great reader in three languages. Under his care, the garden at Woodhall became famous throughout the Island.

Joseph Bonney bought Woodhall from Capt. Smith after the latter’s appointment to Circular Head in '34. When Joseph went back to England on a visit in ’53, the members of St. Andrew’s Society in Launceston, asked him to select some suitable emigrant farmers for the colony while at home. He selected 137 Scottish and 44 Irish families who came out in ’55. Which settlers came under his direction and which under that of the Rev. Robt. Russell to this district is hard to determine.1

And there is mention of him prior to his departure for Scotland when he was toasted at a function for the St. Andrew's Immigration Society.


The Committee of this Society entertained Joseph Bonney, Esq., their agent, at the St. Andrew's Rooms, on Wednesday evening last, previous to his departure for Scotland, which is fixed to be by the first English steamer from Melbourne. The party, says the Cornwall Chronicle, consisted of fifteen of the office-bearers of the Society, together with a few of the subscribers to the "Loan Fund" and friends of the Association, Messrs. Aldermen Crookes and Douglas, together with Mr. Under-Sheriff Sams, as the Government Immigration Commissioner for Launceston. Mr. Alex. Blair, who accompanies Mr. Bonney as sub-agent, was likewise amongst the guests.

After the removal of the cloth, and the toasts of our gracious Queen and the Lieutenant-Governor had been appropriately acknowledged, the Chairman, Thomas Corbett, Esq., President of the Society, proposed Mr. Joseph Bonney's health, - a prosperous voyage - success in his agency - and safe return. Mr. Bonney acknowledged the toast, and would endeavour, with God's blessing, to carry out the views of the Society, and send out to us a class of immigrants which would prove the cheapest because the best of servants; men who would respect their employers because they would respect themselves.

The Vice-President, Thomas Pott, Esq., proposed the health of Mr. Alexander Blair, who, he had no doubt, from his known integrity of character, his sound and practical good sense, would prove an able auxiliary to their chief agent Mr. Bonney. Mr. Blair acknowledged the honor that the gentlemen had done him, and trusted that his exertions would give satisfaction to the Society and to Mr. Bonney; having been himself a farm servant in Scotland, and having resided some time in this colony, he was certain that, by his personal representations, he could show that class of people the advantages to themselves and their families which they would gain by emigrating to Van Diemen's Land.

The health of Mr. Sams, as Government Immigration Commissioner, was then drank. Mr. Sams' replied that he had had frequent opportunities of meeting the St. Andrew's Society at their usual festivities, but at none did he sit with more pleasure than the present. He had children settled in this which was their country, and he knew that an honest healthy peasantry was its greatest want, and would be its greatest boon: in his official capacity he had opportunities of witnessing the untiring efforts of the Catholic Clergymen in inducing the people of their communion to habits of saving, in order to send a Bounty Ticket home to Ireland to bring out a sister or a mother, a brother or a father - an example which it would be well for the other clergy to follow.

A number of other toasts followed, amongst which were, "The English Subscribers to the St. Andrew's Immigration Loan Fund," "The President," "Vice Presidents," " James Robertson, Esq., their indefatigable Treasurer, and Mr. Learmonth, their Honorary Secretary." The meeting was conspicuous for its harmony, and was prolonged to a late hour; many topics of public interest being discussed in connection with the subject of immigration.2