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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Barclay, Andrew (1759–1839)

by G. H. Stancombe

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

Andrew Barclay (1759-1839), master mariner and landowner, was born in the parish of Cambock, near Cupar, Fife, Scotland. He went to sea at 15 and enjoyed an adventurous life in the navy, the mercantile marine and the East India service. As captain of a privateer he received letters of marque from George III. He took part in sea battles and according to his very brief autobiography was something of a pirate and even indulged in wrecking. His seafaring brought him in 1809 to Australia, where as master and part-owner of various vessels he traded to the East. It would seem that the Providence was one of these.

Barclay arrived at Port Dalrymple, Van Diemen's Land, in August 1816 and decided to settle. He was granted 500 acres (202 ha) of land on the South Esk River, and another 300 acres (121 ha) next year. He also bought many small properties, imported stud bulls and rams to improve his livestock and supplied meat to the commissariat. He quickly built up his flocks and herds to the point where he needed more acreage to depasture them. The property, Camperdown, on the Nile River, came into his possession in 1826. By 1828 the land commissioner, Roderic O'Connor, considered him the largest owner of good land in the island, with the advantage of ready access to a market.

In 1817 he became one of the magistrates for the County of Cornwall. He had a large house at Launceston where he engaged as a trader and importer, but he also spent much time on his land at Evandale where he built a house which he called Trafalgar. He was created a magistrate for the territory of Van Diemen's Land in 1821 but retired from his public duties some three years later. In 1824 his new brick house, Cambock, was being built. In front of it he set up a pair of cannon from one of his old ships, and a bell to summon his workers to meals and less agreeably to rouse them out at 5 a.m. When he retired from farming in 1828, Trafalgar was let, and later sold. Of weatherboard and brick-nogged, it is one of the oldest farm-houses in Australia.

Barclay died in September 1839, several months after his wife. They were buried in the Church of England cemetery, Evandale. Barclay was of short, stocky build, an assertive, hard-swearing old sea-dog, shrewd and enterprising. In 1836 he had dictated to his friend Thomas Scott a brisk autobiography, which was published as the Life of Captain Andrew Barclay (Edinburgh, 1854). He was twice married; though nothing is known of his first wife, in November 1821 he wed Mary, the emancipist widow of Walter Colquhoun, as his second. They had one child, Mary, who married Dr J. R. Kenworthy in 1836 and went to live in England after inheriting her father's estate.

Select Bibliography

  • correspondence file under A. Barclay (Archives Office of Tasmania).

Citation details

G. H. Stancombe, 'Barclay, Andrew (1759–1839)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 8 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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