Chapter Two: Australia and New Zealand, 1853-87
In February or March 1853, Colin and Isabella Munro took passage for Australia on the sailing ship Ida. We do not know exactly what induced the young couple to seek a better life on the far side of the world, but we have some clues about the context of their decision.
First, it appears to have coincided, more or less, with the decision of Colin's parents to give up on the croft at Bridgepark as a means of sustaining a livelihood. With the small-holding and cottage passing to Colin's oldest brother, Roderick, there was little to keep him and his young wife along the Orrin River. Second, and more powerfully,
their departure also coincided with the 'Australia-mania' of 1852-4, when news of the discovery of gold - first in New South Wales and then in Victoria - arrived in Scotland. Men abandoned their work and their studies to flock to the goldfields, and trade and shipping from the Clyde to Australia experienced boom conditions.
Colin and Isabella were not 'free migrants', paying their own way to the goldfields in expectation of quick profits. Instead they were 'assisted migrants' whose passage was paid for by the government of the colony of Victoria in the expectation that they would help to fill the gaps in the local labour market left by so many men abandoning their employers to dig for gold. Shepherds and other agricultural workers were in particular demand, and in 1852 the government of Victoria despatched an emigration agent named Bonney to Scotland with £3,500 to recruit and transfer to the colony some 5,000 migrants. Colin and Isabella were almost certainly among those whom Bonney signed up for a new life on the sheep runs of Victoria.
The Ida on which they sailed cannot be positively identified from the four ships of that name on the Lloyds Register for 1853. However, the only one of the four known to have been east of the Cape of Good Hope that year was the bark of 350 tons owned by Shields & Co of Newcastle - a new ship, but apparently not purpose-built for the emigrant trades. Since 67 assisted migrants left Inverness for Victoria in 1853, it is likely that Colin and Isabella were picked
up there on the Ida's voyage around Scotland to Liverpool, where English and Irish passengers came abroad.
The Ida left the Mersey on 25 March 1853 and took
109 days to reach its destination at Port Phillip (Melbourne). Of the 464 passengers on board, roughly half were Scots.
Conditions on the long voyage down the Atlantic, round the Cape and across the southern Indian Ocean were not particularly comfortable, and there were 24 deaths among the migrants, mainly infants and children. Colin and
Isabella's first child, a boy named Alexander after his uncle, was born aboard the Ida, and seems to have survived the voyage because he is recorded as disembarking with Colin and Isabella at Melbourne on 12 July 1853.
Colin almost immediately went to work as a labourer with the government's Roads Department at a place called Keilor some 21 miles to the northwest of Melbourne. We have little information about how they fared for the next couple of years - but during this period little Alexander appears to have died. It looks as if they continued to live around the Melbourne district because their next, and oldest surviving, son, William, was born at Moonee Ponds near the town in March 1855. By 1857 Colin and Isabella were settled near Horsham in the Wimmera region of Western Victoria, where their first daughter, Catherine, was born in May of that year, followed by a son, another Alexander, born in June 1859. Colin, it appears, was next hired as a 'boundary rider' on the sheep run known as Wowondah Station, some 15 miles south of Horsham. While living there, Colin and Isabella had two further children, Murdoch born in 1861 and Margaret born in 1864.
However, in 1865 the two owners had a dispute and divided the property between them - at which point Colin and family moved on again, northwards. First they settled at Yarrawonga on the Murray River, the centre of a flourishing timber trade, and where Duncan was born in 1866; then on an estate in the Goulborn River valley, where Colin secured a position as head shepherd, and where his youngest child, Colin, was probably born in August 1868.