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My Lost Grandfather


1. James Scott (1881-1916)

by Ian Scott © All rights reserved
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It began and ended in tragedy!

This poignant sentence could be said to sum up the birth and death of James Scott (1881 - 1916), but that would be overlooking the devotion to others and the pioneering spirit shown during his short but busy lifetime.

His father James ‘Lambie' Scott (b. 1857) had lost his own mother to Phthisis Pulmonalis (Tuberculosis) when he was just over four years old, whilst living in Stevenston Ayrshire where Scotts had been coal miners for many generations. Following his mother's death, his father and three children moved to New Kilpatrick near Glasgow where his father met and married a miner's widow who had four children of her own to support.

Here the two families joined and lived until James ‘Lambie' moved to Greenock as an apprentice shipwright. As his father and grandfather both carried the forename James, to avoid confusion he had adopted the surname of his late mother Marion Lambie, and apart from official documents, began using the double name "James Lambie" Scott as a means of differentiation between family members. We will also use this identification as there were to be two more James Scotts in this family.

James ‘Lambie' Scott met, and then married Jane Kerr in the October of 1880.[1] Jane was the daughter of Irishman Thomas Kerr, a former labourer and ship yard timekeeper who had come over from Ireland during the 1840s seeking a better life in Scotland.

James was the only child to James ‘Lambie' Scott, a ship's carpenter, and Jane Kerr. He was born at 7.20pm on the second of November 1881 at their residence 47 Roxburgh Street, Greenock, a major port west of Glasgow in the County of Renfrewshire, Scotland.[2]

Sadly, following the birth of baby James in November 1881, Jane Kerr developed septicaemia and passed away at the Greenrea Infirmary in April 1882, leaving a devastated husband and infant son.[3] Family recollections tell of the father then leaving his infant child in the care of a foster mother and going off to sea to work out his grief!

On returning at the end of March 1884, it was discovered that baby James was not receiving good care, so he was moved into the care of James' elder sister Elizabeth Colquhoun (nee Scott) who had at that time five children of her own under the age of nine years, and who was living in Govan, a suburb of Glasgow. Young James was to live with the Colquhouns until his mid teens.[4]

These early years of his life included living in Hebburn near Newcastle on Tyne, England, before returning to Glasgow and the ship building industry in which Elizabeth's husband, Andrew worked.

James' father, James ‘Lambie' had meantime set sail again mid April 1884, this time for Australia. He was never to return to Scotland![5]

By the time of the 1901 Census, James, a nineteen year old apprentice riveter was living independently as a boarder with a family in Langlands Road, Govan, in an area close by the Glasgow ship building docks.[6]

It was here that ‘Jimmie' Scott forged a reputation for standing by his religious beliefs and for his compassion for his fellow workers along the dockside. Around the corner from his lodgings lived the Swan family, and as George Swan was also a Riveter, one can easily visualise the meeting between James and George's youngest daughter Marion. A meeting very likely made at the church located close by.

The District of Govan and Ship Yards c.a. 1932

The District of Govan and Ship Yards c.a. 1932
(Photo from the "Glasgow Story")

Note the Tenement Rows built in very close proximity to the Ship Yards and Industry


The marriage of James Scott and Marion Swan took place at the Swan residence at 1 Greenfield Street, Govan on the twenty ninth of December 1905 after Banns according to the Congregational Church.[7]


Wedding Photo of James Scott and Marion Swan

Wedding Photo of James Scott and Marion Swan
(Scott Family collection)

Their first child, again named James, was born in their residence at 16 Elder Park Street, Govan, on the twenty fifth of September 1907,[8] by which time father "Jimmie" had changed jobs within the shipyard to that of piece work clerk.

During those same years, James's father, James ‘Lambie' worked his way down the east coast of Australia to spend some fifteen years in Victoria carrying on various interests including his own building company. During that time he remarried and had a second family of five surviving children.[9]

Around the turn of the century, financially hurt by the banking depression in Victoria and attracted by the gold rush in Western Australia, James ‘Lambie' Scott travelled west, and meeting a former Victorian employer on the Fremantle wharves, was persuaded to go to the South West area and use his carpenter skills. Around 1903 he purchased a property of 135 acres at Boyanup, where he constructed a timber house for the family.

Throughout the years in Australia, James ‘Lambie' had kept in touch with son Jimmie in Scotland, and after consolidation of the Boyanup farm and home, he finally persuaded Jimmie and Marion to join the family in Australia. With Marion expecting a second child, the family sailed from London on 11th June 1909 in the steam vessel ‘Omrah',[10] arriving almost five weeks later in Fremantle, and thence on to Boyanup.

It was a huge shock to the Glasgow bred family arriving to pioneering conditions. Rooms in the house had no ceilings or lining. There was no electricity with lighting provided by kerosene lamps and water was drawn either from rain water tanks or farm well.

Despite trying to become a farmer, within several months James could see there was no future for him and family on the small property. In addition to being of short height and slight build, he faced the prior experience of his three half brothers that had grown up on the farm over the past five years.

James was determined to be independent and decided to study to become a teacher. Although this was not at all well received by his father, he was assisted in finding accommodation and a clerical job at Millar's Timber Company in Yarloop whilst he started his postal study program.

Yarloop was a typical mill town, drab, with small unpainted timber cottages containing plain and primitive furniture, kerosene lamps for lighting, and an outside "dunny" (lavatory) some twenty yards away from the house. Their second child, George was born at Yarloop on the third of October 1909 with Grandma Scott (James Lambie Scott's wife), a trained midwife, in attendance.

Through great effort over the following two years, mainly through correspondence and several training sessions in Perth, James obtained his teaching qualification. At the same time daughter Jean was born on 25th December 1911, again with Grandma Scott attending.

James received his first appointment in January 1912 as "headmaster" of a small State school at Kunanalling, some twenty miles due north of the mining town of Coolgardie.[11] So with the very young baby and two young boys, the family set off by train to Coolgardie. On arrival they transferred to a horse and buggy, the local taxi, for the final part of the journey, which in the mid summer heat, together with flies and dust, took almost four hours.

Kunanalling was one of a number of small settlements that sprang up within a radius of around fifty miles from Kalgoorlie and Coolgardie during the 1890s and the gold rush. At around its peak in 1901 the townsite consisted of four streets, and had three hotels; Post and Telegraph Office with a staff of eight; Police Station and Court House; two Butchers and Bakers; and a school and residence, serving a population of some 488 persons.

  Kunanalling around the time of the Scott family's residence there (Battye Library photo)

Kunanalling around the time of the Scott family's residence there (Battye Library photo)


At the time of the arrival of the Scott family, the initial gold rush had passed resulting in the population settling down to around a steady one hundred. A number of mines were active in the district and there was a steady flow of prospectors coming and going.


The school house and school were located some 250 yards from the centre of the town. The school was built mainly of galvanised iron painted white - one large classroom with several smaller rooms adjoining, all with a large colonial style verandah on three sides of the building. During the period spent there the school population remained around twenty children.

The school house had four rooms and kitchen again built of galvanised iron, with a front verandah facing to the east. Lighting was by kerosene lamps. The water came from two large rainwater tanks into the kitchen by one tap, although there was no sink. Personal washing, and that of clothes, was done in tubs outside the kitchen door. The ‘dunny' (toilet) was about twenty yards away at the end of the yard. The nearest neighbours were two mining brothers who lived some 100 yards away in the former police station. The family stayed in Kunanalling for four years. It was a very quiet existence with the only social life visits to and from mining families. Because of the small population there were no organised sports, only an occasional game of cricket or football. On a few occasions James gave public lectures in the local hall on public affairs, generally on matters concerning World War One. Both James and Marion had been regular church goers back in Glasgow, but there was no church in the town. James set to and organised a Sunday School in the local hall, something appreciated by the residents.[12]

Kunanalling School group Photo 1915


Kunanalling School group Photo 1915
James Scott Teacher [Second Row left]
James Scott (son) Front Row second right / George Scott (son) Third row at end

 (Photo supplied by S. R .Bounsell)



During the main school holidays the family went back down to Yarloop and Boyanup or to the seaside at Swanbourne. In 1914 when son David was born on the 16th February,[13] Marion and the children stayed on for a few extra weeks whilst James returned to Kunanalling for the commencement of the school year.

At the end of 1915, James received notice of a transfer to Mogumber, on the Midland railway line some 70 miles north of Perth. Following holidays at Boyanup and then Swanbourne, the family travelled to Mogumber. The school and schoolhouse were located about a mile from the railway station, with the local ‘taxi' being operated by monks from the mission at New Norcia some 15 miles to the east.

Accommodation at the schoolhouse was very similar to that at Kunanalling, but with different bush surroundings and a much more temperate climate. The Mogumber Township consisted of the railway station and house; a hotel and four or five fettlers cottages. There were no shops of any kind! At the schoolhouse there were no neighbours on the town side, with two farm families living some three miles to the east. The family was extremely isolated as they had no means of transport and the only way to get into Mogumber was to walk, or get a ride in the New Norcia coach service that ran three times weekly.

The school population was around eighteen to twenty, a similar number to Kunanalling, being principally drawn from the farming families to the east. Children mostly came to school by horse and buggy, although some came on horseback.

There was an Aboriginal settlement (Government) a few miles away, and a small number of Aboriginal families lived independently in shacks along the road.

The fifth child Isobel was born at the schoolhouse on 12th February 1916. Grandma Scott came 185 miles by train from Boyanup to assist with the birth. After she returned home some three weeks later, Marion was left to look after the baby with only some domestic help from an Aboriginal lady Mrs. Jackamarra.

James and Marion were kept busy with school and family, but social life was almost non existent. James was a lay preacher for the Methodist Church and through his efforts services and a Sunday school were recommenced at Mogumber. He also travelled to Wannamal every fortnight to conduct a service. Residents described him as "a gifted preacher, a good singer and one who exhibited a good natured broadmindedness that made him a general favourite".[14]

Life at Mogumber was to end in tragedy! Sunday 12th November 1916 was a warm early summer day, so the two boys James and George, together with a friend, went to the Moore River some 600 yards away for a swim, accompanied by their father.[15] The older boys swam across the river, and then persuaded the father to follow. About half way over the water, James suddenly disappeared below the surface and failed to reappear.

Seven year old George was sent home to get help, but with the nearest neighbours more than a mile away, assistance was far too late to be of any use.[16]

James Scott was buried at the Wannamal cemetery on the Monday afternoon, with the funeral service conducted by the Wannamal school teacher and supported by a large gathering of the local community.

James ‘Lambie' Scott came up from Boyanup to support daughter-in-law Marion and the five young children. The family were offered accommodation at the Boyanup farm, and moved there several weeks later.

Plaque with all the names of those in the Wannamal Cemetery


Plaque with all the names of those in the Wannamal Cemetery

Over the years the area became overgrown with scrub, and suffered a number of bushfires, so that today the actual location of each individual grave is unclear. In the 1990s the cemetery area was re-cleared as part of a Heritage Trail, with a memorial boulder and plaque erected in memory of the six residents buried there. (Scott Family collection)


  Grave setting Wannamal Cemetery - In memory of those buried here

Grave setting Wannamal Cemetery - In memory of those buried here

Archie Leeson - Died in Infancy 1912
The Harrison Children
James Scott - Mogumber Schoolmaster, and
Mr Plozza - An Italian Visitor
(Scott Family collection)   


Visiting the cemetery today is to experience the ‘bush sounds' of an isolated rural setting. It allows one to fully reflect on the life experiences of James Scott and his family. 

View of Wannamal Cemetery


View of the Cemetery

Two memorial rocks in foreground with grave in the middle distance

(Scott Family collection)



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Personal family background notes written in 1986-7 by the late James Scott, Melbourne (eldest son).

Conversations with the late Jim Scott, formerly of Boyanup and Leeming.

Sources & Notes

[1] Register of Marriages - Western Districts of Greenock, Renfrew 227/29th October 1880

[2] Register of Births - Western Districts of Greenock, Renfrew 981/2nd November 1881

[3] Register of Deaths - Western Districts of Greenock, Renfrew 237/ 22nd April 1882

[4] 1891 UK Census - Class: RG12; Piece: 4169; Folio: 69; Page: 6; GSU Roll: 6099279 (Ancestry.com)

[5] Queensland Certificate of Discharge No: 12275 Brisbane 16th July 1884

[6] 1901 Scotland Census - Parish: Govan; ED: 61; Page: 14; Line: 1; Roll: CSSCT1901 330; Year: 1901

[7] Register of Marriages - District of Govan, Lanark 1/29th December 1905

[8] Register of Births - District of Govan, Lanark 1697/25th September 1907

[9] Schedule D: Marriages solemnized in the District of Footscray, Victoria 107/25th December 1885

[10] Passenger List "RMS Omrah" arrived Fremantle 15th July 1909 - National Archives of Australia

[11] Personal family background notes by James Scott (eldest son) written 1986-7, pp.6.

[12] ibid. pp. 6-7

[13] Birth Certificate in the State of Western Australia, District of Cottesloe, No: 62/16th February 1914

[14] The Midlands Advertiser, Friday November 17, 1916

[15] Death Certificate in the State of Western Australia, District of Victoria, No: 4/12th November 1916

[16] Personal notes by James Scott (eldest son) written 1986-7, pp.12-13.


Last Updated on Sunday, 06 October 2013 10:35

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