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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Anderson, John (1790–1858)

by A. J. Gray

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, (MUP), 1966

John Anderson (1790-1858), weaver and teacher, was born at Camelon, Stirlingshire, Scotland, the son of John Anderson and Janet Stean. One of nineteen 'radicals' arrested during industrial uprisings at Bonnymuir, he was sentenced at Stirling on 25 August 1820 and transported in the Speke. He arrived at Sydney on 18 May 1821 and was employed by Simeon Lord until 1823, when he became the teacher at Portland Head. The school in which he taught for thirty-five years was conducted in the Ebenezer Chapel. Primarily it served the needs of local children, but with the arrival in 1834 of Anderson's sister, Mrs Stephenson, who became housekeeper, it attracted a few boarders from Sydney. The chapel was partitioned and at one end had an upper floor where Mrs Stephenson and the girls were quartered. One of the five male boarders in 1837 later recalled his experience: 'We boys … and the teacher, slept in the church and on the dining-room floor—no bedsteads … we had no clock … when the sun's rays showed a certain distance inside the door we knew it was dinner time'.

Beyond this passing reference to 'the old system', no account of instruction in the schools has survived. The people of Portland Head, however, assembled in July 1855 to express their appreciation of Anderson's work. They presented him with 'a suitable address' and a purse containing twenty-eight sovereigns.

He died at Ebenezer on 16 July 1858, aged 68, survived by his widow Lucy, daughter of James Watson, shipwright, whom he had married in the Ebenezer Chapel on 13 April 1854. In the grounds of the church in which he taught and worshipped and which was his home for so many years, a memorial stone marks his resting place.

Select Bibliography

  • Historical Records of Australia, series 1, vols 12, 14, 15, 18
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 30 July 1855, 7 Aug 1858.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

A. J. Gray, 'Anderson, John (1790–1858)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 16 August 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, (MUP), 1966

View the front pages for Volume 1

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