Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Are there gardening genes?

I’ve discovered that my love of growing things may be genetic.

On Christmas day, I was talking with my uncle about family history, and about my great great grandfather who, apparently was an early pioneer/settler of the Rockhampton region. He sparked my curiosity so while driving home from our holidays, we detoured slightly to see if we could find the old homestead and graveyard. There were streets and even a bridge named after him but we didn’t really know where to look.

I have kept searching and with the wonders of the internet and google maps, I’ve since located it. I'll go exploring in person next time I’m near there. I was also able to find quite a number of old newspaper articles about him including his obituary on trove.com.au. He lived to 91 and was well known in the district. 

He arrived from Ireland on the ship “Bayswater” at age 19 with his new bride in 1864.

For a while he worked as a contractor building fences and stockyards around the district until he was employed by the Archer and Co to build fences in 1868. They were the original settlers of the Rockhampton district in 1855. After completing the fencing he was employed as a farmhand on their cattle station. Then, after two years, he was placed in charge of the orchard and garden – described as “a place of beauty growing all kinds of fruit and vegetables”. Ahaa, says I – He had a green thumb. The road into the old homestead is lined on either side for 1½ km with tamarind trees which he may have planted. Remnants of the original orchard still remain too apparently - so I’d love to see it.

He was later in charge of another property - the Shorthorn Stud where all the growing of feed for the cattle was also to be carried on, but he determined the soil was too poor to grow feed good enough for stud cattle, so chose a different location on the other side of the creek which, of course, led to a bridge being needed. The bridge we saw is to commemorate the one he built. Among his achievements were building the first grain silo in Qld, and later, being in charge of the district dairy and butter factory.

He retired in 1908 and went to live with one of his sons where he continued growing vegetables and keeping chickens. In his retirement he became well known for winning first prize at the Rockhampton Agricultural Show many times for both his vegetables and his poultry.

The greenness of the thumb has faded slightly over the generations but it’s nice to know, in my small way, I’m carrying on old James’s legacy.


  1. Oh it is lovely to be able to trace back and find gems like that. I think your garden is lovely - you definitely have a talent and love for what you do. I also discovered that my great grandfather ran a nursery - it gave me a little thrill when I read that!

  2. What a wonderful story and exciting adventure for you to delve into your family's history. Yes, I'd say you do have green gene's in your family. Faded? No, not at all.
    I think he would be quite proud to see your fabulous garden and comforted to know that chickens are still in the family.

    P.S. Thanks so much for the Liebster Blog nomination. Since I am a teacher, I will accept it but hold off with the rest of the requirements until I have some time this summer. You are very kind. :0) David

  3. Wow, what a beautiful bit of history, it might really be in the genes. I am sure he is happy to found one of his descendants following his footsteps in loving the soil and the plants. So you found out too that your great grandfather is not one of the convicts who first settled Australia, hehe, joke!

    [Regarding Liebster award, just like David i will be holding off meantime i am still contemplating on who to give it to, to continue the link forward. Besides some blogs i normally follow already omitted their followers list, so i stopped looking for those with less than 200 followers. But i certainly appreciate it, and your kindness and nice words]

  4. How interesting! It is fun finding out about your family history isn't it?

  5. Interesting insight on your family history and legacy! I do believe that 'gardening genes' does exist and fondness for plants does run in the family :)


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