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RUSSELL, George (1812-1888)

RUSSELL, George (1812-1888)

George Russell of Shelford was among the founders of Geelong College as a member of the corresponding committee which undertook to promote the College in 1861.

The Argus newspaper reported his death: 'In the obituary columns of The Argus on Monday last, a notice appeared of the death of Mr. George Russel, of Golf-hill, Shelford, who expired on the previous Saturday. The deceased gentleman was one of the pioneers of the colony, and more especially of the Western district, where he has been a prominent figure for half a century.

Mr. Russell was born at Cluny, Fifeshire, Scotland, on June l8, 1812, on a small farm which had been in possession of the family from the time of Cromwell. He sailed from Leith for Hobart Town in July, 1830, in the Drummore, Captain Petrie, to
join his brother Philip, who had been settled
there since 1821. He arrived at Hobart at the
end of February, after a long and tedious
voyage of about seven months. He remained
at Dennistoun, Captain Wood's property, for
four months, where he saw a great deal of
the convict system as it was then carried out
in Tasmania, and the conclusion he came to
was that it was attended with many great
advantages in the settlement of a new
country by affording the early settlers
experienced labourers and mechanics at a
cheap rate. At this time the aborigines of
the country were at open war with the white
population, and what was afterwards known
in Tasmania as the " Black War " had been
carried out in the previous summer. This
was an attempt made by the Government to
drive the natives on to a neck of land on the
south-east coast and capture them. This
failed, and cost the Government £30,000,
but they did not abandon their efforts to rid
the colony of auch a scourge to the settlers
as the natives then were. In 1832 the Go-
vernment employed Mr. Robinson (com-
monly known as Black Robinson, on
account of his knowledge of the native
language and customs) to negotiate
with the blacks. He after much diffi-
culty, induced 60 or 70 of them to
accompany him to Hobart, and from there
they were sent to Flinders Island, where the
late Dr. Motherwell, of Melbourne, was ap-
pointed superintendent of the establishment.
But in a few years time the race became
extinct. In 1831 Mr. Russell made a start on
his own account, and leased some 30 or
40 acres of cultivated land on Captain
Wood's property of Rothiemay. Here he
remained tor two years, doing much hard
work, and cultivating his land. In 1833 he
took the management of a farm at Black
Marsh, near Bothwell, which his brother
Philip had leased. Here he stayed until 1835,
when he went to Lauriston, which small
properly had been bought for him by his
brother Philip, and this was the first fair start
he had. During the summer of 1835, he heard
ot the discovery of extensive tracts of fine
country on the shores of Port Phillip Bay by
Messrs Batman, Fawkner, and others. After
securing his grain crop, he resolved to visit
Port Phillip. At this time two gentlemen
from India, Messrs. M'Killop and Smith, had
purchased a flock of sheep from Captain
Wood for the purpose of sending them
over to Port Phillip, and forming a
sheep station there, and it was arranged that
Mr Russell was to go over with them. He
sailed from Georgetown about the end of
March, 1836, in the schooner Hettie, which
had been chartered by Mr. M'Killop to take
over the sheep. Mr. Kenneth Clarke and
Mr. Russell were the only passengers. They
sailed along the east shore of Port Phillip
Bay, keeping a good look-out for the entrance
to the Yarra, and anchored between the Red
Bluff, near Brighton, and Schnapper Point.
During the night the vessel was felt to be
bumping hard, and when daylight came she
was found to have parted from her anchor,
and was leaking fast. The boats were immedi-
ately got out, and all hands started to land the
sheep, which were carried lrom the boats
to the shore without any difficulty, the vessel
having grounded on a low sandy bench. Mr.
M'Killop, Mr Clarke, and Mr Russell went
in a boat to Melbourne. They rowed up
the Yarra to where the town now stands,
where they found a large party of natives on
the one side of the river, and Buckley with a
few others on the other side, all talking at
the pitch of their voices. Round about were
several wattle and daub huts, occupied by
some ot the early residents, and about a
dozen tents. Mr. Russell and Mr. Clarke went
on to the Geelong district to report on
the country. They walked for seven days,
having gone upwards of 200 miles. Their
first day a journey was to the Werribee River,
from there they went to the Barwon River,
which they crossed at Pollock's ford ; and they
continued their journey up the south bank of
the Barwon until they came to the junction
of the river Leigh. They followed up the
valley of the Leigh until they reached the
hill where Golf-hill now stands, and Mr.
Russell made up his mind that if he settled
in the country he would choose the Leigh
valley, and would build his house upon this
hill, and this he afterwards accomplished.
On their return to Melbourne, the explorers
reported very favourably of the country they
had seen, and they then explored the country
towards Westernport, and found Mr. John
Aitken near Dromana with a flock of sheep
and a few men Mr. Aitken's vessel, in which
he had come from Launceston, had gone
aground four miles trom the shore, and Mr
Aitken had to carry every sheep on shore from
the boats himself, wading up to his neck.
Half the sheep were lost.
Mr Russell returned to Tasmania, where
he remained during the winter of 1836, and
then made preparations for removing his
sheep, &c., to Port Phillip, selling his Tas-
manian property. At this time the Clyde
Company was formed, and Mr Russell
was chosen to manage it, returning
to Melbourne in the spring of 1836
as manager of the Clyde Company. The
first home station of the Clyde Company
was on Miller's-flat, on the Moorabool River,
Mr. Joseph Sutherland occupying Darriwill,
on the opposite side of the river, and the
Clyde Company's sheep were brought over
from Tasmania and landed at Point Henry,
where Mr. Russell met them. Passengers
sometimes crossed with the sheep, among
them being Messrs. Gellibrand and Hesse,
who were soon afterwards lost on the plains
which they went to explore.
In 1837 Mr. Russell had a visit at his tent
at Miller's flat from Sir Richard Bourke, then
Governor, and in the same year he at
tended the first land sale held in Melbourne,
when his neighbour, Mr. Sutherland, bought
one lot. At this time the natives became very
troublesome, and often made raids upon the
settlers' huts, carrying off anything they could
lay their hands on, and Mr. Russell on several
occasions made one of a party against them.
In l838 the first Government sale of lands
took place in the Geelong district, and among
the land sold was the Clyde Company's home
station on Miller's Flat, and then Mr. Russell
removed all that was worth taking away to
the Leigh Valley, and took up his abode in a
small hut where Golf Hill now stands.
He continued to manage the Clyde
Company until 1858, when it was
broken up, and he then purchased
the Golf Hill Estate. Here he remained
to the day of his death. He afterwards ac-
quired other valuable properties, including
Leslie Manor, Strathvean, and the Hastie
Estate, which was the subject of the famous
bequest, and which Mr. Russell purchased
from the trustees for the sum of £54,000
The deceased gentleman was of a strong
and self reliant nature, but he was dis-
tinguished for the most scrupulous rectitude
and uprightness of character, and a fine
sense of honour in all business transactions.
Hence his advice was often sought, not only
upon practical matters, put on what might
be regarded as questions of conscience He
was exceedingly methodical in his habits,
and not only kept a strict account of
all his transactions, down to the most
minute, but also recorded in his diary all
matters ol importance with which he was
connected. The statement of the rainfall,
average weight of fleeces, price of wool and
of stock, were carefully entered every year,
and the connection between the rainfall and
weight of fleeces was duly noted. This diary
was kept regularly until the year before his
death, and forms an extremely valuable and
interesting record. Mr. Russell was of an
exceedingly unobtrusive disposition, and was
much attached to his home, which he never
left for any length of time, except during one
visit to Europe. He was for many years a
councillor of the shire of Leigh, and for
several years was president of the council.
He did not seek for any higher honours. He
was generous in supporting all charitable
institutions, and the Presbyterian Church,
with which he was connected, received liberal
assistance from him. He leaves seven
daughters and one son, who inherits Golf-
hill. Five of his daughters are married.
His death is deeply regretted in the district
where he resided, and there was scarcely a
man or woman for miles around his residence
who was not present at his funeral on
Monday last. He rests in a beautiful burying
ground, which is situated within the limits of
his own property.

Born on 18 June 1812, he married Euphemia Leslie Carstairs at Kinghorn, Fife on 13 April 1852.

He died on 3 November 1888

None of George Russell's children are known to have attended Geelong College.

Sources: The Argus (Melb) 9 Nov 1888 p8.''
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