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Ernest George Dalrymple (1820–1844)

by C. G. Austin and Clem Lack

This article was published:

Ernest George Beck Elphinstone Dalrymple (1820-1844), pioneer, was born on 27 August 1820, ninth son of Lieutenant-Colonel Robert Dalrymple Horn Elphinstone, later first baronet of Horn and West Hall, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, and his wife Graeme, daughter of Colonel David Hepburn. By popular account, 'Disney' Dalrymple became an officer in a Highland regiment and served in North America; on his return he was much impressed by Allan Cunningham's explorations and, at a party given by Sir Robert in the late 1830s, announced that he would sell his commission and form a party of Aberdonians to settle on the Darling Downs; he then recruited ten young men including George and Patrick Leslie, George and John Gammie and John McAdam, and Sir Robert gave him a bull, two cows and two thoroughbred stallions, St George and St Andrew.

This account, based on The Early History of Warwick District and Pioneers of the Darling Downs (Toowoomba, 1923) by Thomas Hall, whose parents knew Dalrymple and the Leslies, is not wholly correct. It is true that Cunningham, who discovered the Darling Downs in 1827, was in Britain in 1831-36 and was a friend of the Leslies, and probably met Dalrymple. It is also true that the Gammie brothers settled on the Darling Downs in 1843 and that McAdam worked there for the Leslies before taking over the Sovereign Hotel in Brisbane. But Dalrymple was only 14 when Patrick Leslie reached New South Wales in May 1835, and the latter bought the stallion St George in Sydney for £900 from 'a Mr Townsend', although he later admitted, 'I liked Ernest's bull but cannot say so much for the heifers'.

Dalrymple left Scotland with George Leslie in the Royal George in August 1838 and arrived in Sydney on 10 March 1839. For some time he stayed with Hannibal Macarthur's family at The Vineyard near Parramatta. He was at Walter Davidson's Collaroi station and gave delivery of it to Hamilton and Clive in January 1840 after Patrick Leslie had set out for the Darling Downs. Both Leslies were there when Dalrymple arrived on 9 July with cattle to become one of the first settlers on the Darling Downs. Although in his letters Patrick Leslie made slighting references to his friend's lack of education, Dalrymple revealed attitudes unusual on the frontier when in October 1840 he wrote with a well-disciplined pen to Mrs Leslie in Scotland, lamenting that they had received no outside news for a year: 'I hope the next news we will hear will be that the Chinese have had a good licking and that the English are established at Macao again'. He also confessed that the only colonists he cared to associate with were 'The Vineyard family', and that he was tired of pioneering crudities. Nevertheless he stayed on while the Leslies visited Sydney. They transferred Goomburra station to him before he too could return to civilization. He went to Brisbane where in October 1844 he made his will, but was so ill with consumption that he had to sign it with a mark. He died at the Sovereign Hotel on 4 November, and a tablet to his memory was erected in St John's pro-Cathedral, Brisbane.

Select Bibliography

  • Leslie family letters (State Library of Queensland and State Library of New South Wales)
  • Macarthur papers (State Library of New South Wales).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

C. G. Austin and Clem Lack, 'Dalrymple, Ernest George (1820–1844)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 17 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, (Melbourne University Press), 1966

View the front pages for Volume 1

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


27 August, 1820


4 November, 1844 (aged 24)
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

Cultural Heritage

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