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The Westaways of Eagle Farm, Queensland, Australia

John Westaway born 1810 in South Tawton, Devon
John's wife Jane Sloggett born 1822, in Cornwall, England

The children clustered around the kitchen table arguing and and quarrelling as members of most large families tend to do. Later when their appetites had been satisfied their mother joined in by giving orders to the older girls who pretended not to hear, while their father added to the general disorder by refusing to put down the double barreled shotgun that he was polishing in readiness for a duck hunting foray planned for the next day. To escape the melee, John Westaway, the father, went out onto the veranda to enjoy his pipe, leaning against a post in the coolness of the night air.

It was a humid evening in February 1862, when the quiet. evening 'was shattered by the roar of a discharging shotgun which exploded across the paddocks of Eagle Farm, causing John Westaway to freeze with shock, and the water birds along the nearby Brishane River to flutter into the air and settle again. The sound of the shot was replaced. by the screams of the children and their mother's anguished cry "John, come quickly, the baby's been shot dead.". Three year old John was indeed dead, and the tragedy sobered the family for many months to come.

John Westaway had left his native Devonshire to come to New South Wales aboard the Argyle which sailed out of Plymouth in 1838 under the command of Captain John Gatenay. Among the 295 people aboard were the Sloggett family from Cornwall. With this family was 16 year old Jane Sloggett (therefore born about 1822) who was accompanying her two uncles and their families. Although John was 29 years old, it made little difference; he fell in love with young Jane during the voyage and the couple were married in Sydney twenty four days after the Argyle dropped the anchor in Sydney harbour.

After their marriage, the Westaways travelled to the township of Orange with the Sloggett families, then on to the "Willows" at Oberon, and during their stay John farmed with some success. Jane gave birth to their first child. A girl named Mary Ann born in 1841.

News of the opening up of the former convicts settlement of Moreton Hay for farming prompted John to tender for land when the first auctions were announced in 1842. He was delighted when informed that his bid for a block of 100 acres had been accepted.

Royal Queensland Golf Club  
This block had a frontage on the Brisbane River at Eagle harm and today is part of the Royal Queensland Golf Club with the approach to thc Gateway Bridge above it

By the following year, 1843, he had prepared the property to his satisfaction and sent for Jane, and infant son William to join him at the new home he had built. It vas there at this farm the family grew to nine children.

Jane was to learn the lesson which many pioneering wives learnt quickly - they became the business managers. The menfolk of the early days were more often than not, away from home exploring while the women remained at the farms, raising the children tending the crops and stock, cultivating the land and managing the family affairs. Indeed, according toWestaway family historians, Jane coped exceedingly well, as it is believed John made several trips back to England after he had joined the gold rush to California in 1849. Possibly he struck a pocket of gold, for no sooner had John returned home than he purchased two other farms, one of 170 acres, and another of 69 acrcs divided between himself and the former missionary Carl Gerler. Part of the smaller farm is now a section of the Doomben Racecourse.

For a period after his return home about 1852, he contented himself by working his property part of which he split into smaller areas and sub-let to tenant farmers on the advice of Jane. His eyes turned to the developments taking place in the north coast districts. In 1862 he selected Moolooloo Plains, 25 square miles of land between the Mooloolah and Maroochy Rivers. Later he was to change the name to Meridan Plains.

About, this time .he became aware that one of the young men from the German Station, Maurice Schneider, a stepson of Theodore Franz was visiting his eldest daughter Mary Ann. Maurice was a likeable young man of 24 years of age who had his own property at Eagle Farm and when Mary Ann accepted his proposal of marriage, both families were pleased. The newlyweds settled down at the Schneider farm, Rosevale Cottage.

It was an age of adventure, when feats of persistence and endurance were common.

Richard Westaway born 1846, Australia

William aged 20 (therefore born about 1843) and Richard, aged 17 (therefore born about 1848), two of John Westaway's sons were no exception. The year after Meridan Plains was selected., the two young men, with three companions (one of whom was Edumnd Lander) drove 500 cattle to Bli Bli. This was no mean achievement as they frequently had to blase their way through the scrub and cross creeks and rivers.

Although they encounted groups of hostile Aboriginals, particularly while searching for a safe crossing of the Blue River, not a single shot was fired by the drovers. It says a great deal for the calibre of these young pioneers.

William Henry Westaway b. 1843, Oberon, NSW, Australia and his wife Jane Pollock  

William and Richard Westaway married the Pollock: sisters and settled for the rest of their lives at Meridan Plains.

Shortly after stocking the property John and Jane ventured into the timber business while their sons became overseers to the timber cutters engaged. in clearing some of the valuable cedar being felled, the logs were snigged out of the forest by bullock teams and rafted downstream to the mill.

John, now middle-aged, was loath to make the long overland journey through the bush to take supplies to the north coast, so he devised a scheme of training Aboriginal oarsmen to row a whaleboat. Having succeeded in doing this, he commenced making regular trips up the coast, loading the large whaleboat with provisions. The boat was rowed from Serpentine Creek, near the family home at Eagle Farm, into Moreton Bay, then up the coast to the Maroochy River. Each night during these long coastal voyages they would launch the boat and use turned upside down as a shelter.

On one such voyage (in 1867) a sudden squall struck the open whaleboat ,vhile it was well out to sea, saturating all those on board. John, who was sick developed pneumonia but insisted the oarsman complete the journey to the Maroochy. This they did, but, at the first night's camp John died. The news was conveyed to his sons William and Richard at Eagle Farm. John Westaway aged 57 when he died was buried alongside his three year old son John who had been accidentally shot five years earlier in 1862.. Their graves in the Nundah Cemetery were the first of many Westaways to be buried there.

Beautiful Eagle Farm, Nr Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

.Jane did not remarry. She outlived her husband by over 40 years. She ensured that all her children married well and she continued to increase the family land holdings, purchasing more farmlands which were divided into small holdings then leased or rented. At the turn of the century Jane invested in both farms and land in tbe Teneriffe and Fortitude Valley areas. She would collect outstanding rentals every month herself. Her small figure sitting ramrod straight as she drove around in the horse drawn buggy with an overhead canopy shielding her from the Queensland sun was a familiar sight to the residents. Jane Westaway was 90 years old when she died in 1913 and was buried beside her husband John and other members of the family.

In Brisbane newspaper there was a notice that John's father was William Westaway, who died at Okehampton, Devon on March 18, 1858 aged 75, therefore born about 1773, (1783) probably near Okehampton.

(Thanks to David Magee, who lives in Australia and Ed Somers for sending this and acknowledgements to Nundah Historic Cemetery Preservation Assoc. Inc. Brisbane, also many thanks to Yvonne Westaway, granddaughter of Richard Westaway and Mary Isabella Pollock for sharing all these beautiful family photographs with us, they are so special !!)


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  © 2003-6 Sheila Yeo | For more information on the Westaway family and the research contained in this site email sheila@yeosociety.com or call me on +44 (0)1626 360978