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McARTHUR, Peter (1819-1897)

McARTHUR, Peter (1819-1897)

Peter McArthur of Camperdown was among the founders of Geelong College, as a member of the Corresponding Committee which undertook to promote Geelong College to prospective students in 1861.

The Camperdown Chronicle in 1897 published a lengthy obituary:
‘The generation of sturdy pioneers who led the way in the colonisation of Victoria are rapidly passing away. There are a few still who linger on the field, even in their old age splendid samples of the manhood that went out to conquer unknown country. Mr. Peter McArthur, of Meningoort, was one of those who took a prominent part not only in the pioneering work of this district, but in the work that followed, and when it was announced in these columns that he had been overtaken by an illness that would prove fatal, genuine regret was felt and expressed by all classes of the community. For the past 18 months he had been ailing more or less, and the last few weeks alarming symptoms began to set in. He gradually got worse, and on last Monday week Dr. Pettigrew pronounced his case hopeless. It was expected then that two or three days would see the end, but his wonderful vitality asserted itself, and although he grew weaker day by day, it was not until Thursday at about half-past one o'clock that he passed peacefully away, surrounded by the members of his family.

Mr. McArthur's death marks the breaking of another link in the chain that binds the present and the past. He was a native of Islay, one of the numerous islands off the west coast of Scotland, where his parents were well-to-do farmers, and was born, as far as can be ascertained, on the 14th July, 1817, two years after the Battle of Waterloo. When quite a boy he went to sea for three or four years, after which he returned home and for a while worked on his father's farm. He did not remain long, however, and again taking to the sea he made his way to Australia, arriving in Sydney in the year 1836. In the beginning of 1839 he went to Melbourne, and with Messrs. N. Cole and Du Vernay set out for the Western district, with the object of taking up some land and engaging in pastoral pursuits.

At Geelong the party met the Messrs. Manifold, who had the previous year taken up the land at present held by their descendants, and from whom they purchased a flock of sheep. They then made their way with all speed to the Messrs. Manifold's station, where they obtained possession of their sheep and drove them on to the country now comprising the West Cloven Hills and Meningoort stations,which they took up in partnership. Du Vernay did not remain long in the partnership, and leaving Messrs. McArthur and Cole on the station he established a house of call at what is now known as Cressy, but was for years after his advent called The Frenchman's. There is still a memento of him in this district in the Frenchman's Marsh on the road to Terang, which derived its name from him. For several years the station continued to be worked by Messrs. McArthur and Cole, but in 1849 or 1850 it was divided between them, Mr. Cole taking the part now known as the West Cloven Hills, and Mr. McArthur the other part, which was called Meningoort after the native name of the mount which shelters the homestead from the westerly winds.

The next important event in Mr. McArthur's life was his marriage, which took place in 1855, when he was united at Geelong to Miss Margaret McLean, sister of Captain John McLean, who was widely known as a daring and adventurous navigator, and commanded the Citizen, the first vessel to trade between Melbourne and Geelong. Mr. and Mrs. McArthur took up their abode at Meningoort, and lived happily together until Mrs. McArthur's death, which occurred about 14 years ago. The issue of this marriage was ten children, two of whom are dead. The eldest son is Mr. J. N. McArthur, M.L.A., of Lawrenny. The other sons of the deceased gentleman by his first marriage are Mr. Stuart McArthur, leader of the County Court Bar in Melbourne; Mr. Campbell McArthur, who manages Meningoort; Mr. E. McArthur, who manages Leechfield; Dr. Norman McArthur, at present in London; and Mr. Leslie McArthur. There were only two daughters, Mrs. G. W. Dowling, of Fine View, and Miss Jean McArthur. Three or four years after the death of his first wife Mr. McArthur married Miss Hood, of Camperdown, daughter of Dr. Hood, who was then practising at Ondit, and there was by this marriage one son, Master Douglas McArthur. The various members of the family have always thoroughly identified themselves with the district, throughout the whole of which they are widely known and respected.

Although Mr. McArthur never took a prominent part in political matters he did much useful public work. He was a member of the first Road Board for this district, which was constituted at a meeting held at Darlington on the 8th July, 1857, at which the late Hon. Francis Ormond presided. It may be interesting to mention that the members of the Board were Messrs. William Anderson, John L. Currie, Peter McArthur, Daniel Curdie, Adolphus Clark, Benjamin Dowling, John Walls, and John McFarlane. Mr. Currie was elected chairman. Mr. McArthur continued a member of the Road Board during the whole period of its existence, and when it gave place to the Hampden Shire Council he became a member of that body and sat for several years. He was also one of the first magistrates appointed in the district, and frequently occupied the bench. Mr. McArthur also did good work in connection with the Hampden and Heytesbury Pastoral and Agricultural Society, of which he was President for 18 years continuously. He was likewise a prominent
member of the Leura Lodge of Freemasons, and was a Past Grand Lodge officer. In all his public positions Mr. McArthur was active and energetic, and could always be relied upon to do whatever he undertook.

Through the death of Mr. McArthur the district has lost a resident who ever worked for its good. He was noted for his honesty of purpose and integrity of character, and for that genial and kindly nature which has descended to his children. He was a man of strong personality, as were all the pioneers of civilisation in the colony, and he has done work that will keep his memory alive for generations, and bear fruit till time shall be no more. He needs no eulogy in Camperdown, where he was known to all as that noblest work of God - a man.’

In the same issue of the Camperdown Chronicle was his death notice:
'McArthur.—On 1st July, at Meningoort, Peter McArthur, aged 79 years. The Funeral will leave Meningoort at 12 o'clock TO DAY (Saturday), arriving at Camperdown Cemetery about 2 o'clock.'

One of the wealthiest squatters in Victoria, The Argus newspaper in October 1897 detailed his Estate:
'Will of Peter McArthur. Estate valued at £152,483.
The will of the late Mr Peter McArthur, of Meningoort, near Camperdown, grazier, was lodged for probate yesterday by the executors, Mr James Chester Manifold, of Talindert, near Camperdown, grazier; Mr. Nicholas Cole, of West Cloven Hills, near Camperdown, grazier; and Mr. William Kinross Mackinnon, of Marida Yallock, near Terang, grazier. The testator, who was favourably identified with the Western District, died on the 1st of July last, and his will bears date of April 2 last. The real property is valued at £131,533 and the personal property at £20,950.

The testator bequeathes to his widow, Elizabeth Mary, the horse, buggy, and harness which she has been accustomed to use and to his daughter, Maggie M'Arthur, the pair of ponies, harness, and buggy which she has been accustomed to use; to his son, Leslie Graham M'Arthur, his gold watch and chain and appendages, and all articles of jewellery and personal adornment, to his son Peter Campbell M'Arthur, a legacy of £1,000; to his son, George Alexander Douglas M'Arthur, a legacy of £4,000, payable when he reaches the age of 25 years, to each of his daughters, Maggie M'Arthur and Catherine Jean M'Arthur, a legacy of £7,500, the freehold land and buildings thereon, at Camperdown, and now occupied by his niece, Margaret Carmody are bequeathed to her during life, and afterwards to fall into and become part of the residuary estate; the freehold land and four houses erected thereon, situate in the village of Bowmore, Island of Isla, in Argyleshire, Scotland, are bequeathed to his niece, Mary M'Kay of Bowmore, the freehold land, containing 5,989 acres, being part of the Meningoort estate, is bequeathed to his son, John Neil M'Arthur subject to the payment of £13,000 to his trustees towards his residuary estate. The residue of the property subject to an annuity of £300 to his widow, an annuity of £50 to his niece Margaret Carmody; and an annuity of £175 to his son, George Alexander Douglas M'Arthur, until he attains the age of 25 years, is divided in equal shares amongst his sons - William Gilbert Stewart M'Arthur, Peter Campbell M'Arthur, Robert Ernest M'Arthur, Norman M'Arthur, and Leslie Graham M'Arthur.'

His sons, John Neil McArthur (1857-1917), William Gilbert Stewart McArthur (1861-1935), Peter Arthur McArthur (1864-1953), Robert Ernest McArthur (1867-1929, Arthur Norman McArthur (1869-1951), and Leslie Graham McArthur (1872-1958) were all educated at Geelong College.

Sources: Camperdown Chronicle 3 July 1897 p2, 3 (NLA); The Argus (Melb) 9 October 1897 p11 (NLA).
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