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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Drysdale, Anne (1792–1853)

by P. L. Brown and Jean I. Martin

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

This is a shared entry with Caroline Elizabeth Newcomb

Anne Drysdale (1792-1853) and Caroline Elizabeth Newcomb (1812-1874), women squatters, formed a partnership of exceptional interest.

Anne Drysdale, born on 26 August 1792, was the daughter of William Drysdale of Pitteuchar, Fife, Scotland, town clerk of Kirkcaldy, and his wife Anne Currison, daughter of the town clerk of Hamilton. Her brother William was knighted while city treasurer of Edinburgh, 1841-43. Another brother, John, of Kilrie farm, married a first cousin and sister-in-law of George Russell of Golfhill. George Russell Drysdale, the artist (1912-1981), is John Drysdale's, and also George Russell's, great grandson.

Having farmed in Scotland on her own account, Anne Drysdale decided, for health reasons, to emigrate to Port Phillip and take up farming there. She reached Melbourne in the Indus on 15 March 1840, and by May had a temporary home with Dr Alexander Thomson, of Kardinia, Geelong, who helped her to secure the Boronggoop licensed run of 10,000 acres (4047 ha), about four miles (6.4 km) downstream, between the Barwon River and Point Henry. In August 1841 she moved with Caroline Newcomb into a new cottage homestead between the river and what became the present St Albans stud. Together these partners set up an efficient establishment, where Dr John Dunmore Lang found a rare 'domestic character': a piano in the parlour, a fine garden with gravelled walks, and an abundance of good company. There was also 'a zealous observance of all the ordinances of religion'. Anne Drysdale followed the Presbyterian faith; Caroline Newcomb had joined the Wesleyan Methodist Society in 1839, and became the first secretary of the Methodist Church at Drysdale, founded in 1849. The partners enlarged their interests in 1843 by acquiring the Coryule run on the Bellarine Peninsula. Here in 1848 they obtained the freehold they coveted. When the government subdivided and sold their Boronggoop station in 1852, they had already spent three years in the fine stone Coryule mansion, still overlooking Port Phillip Bay, which the Melbourne architect, Charles Laing, designed for them. There Anne Drysdale died on 11 May 1853.

Caroline Newcomb was born in London on 5 October 1812, the daughter of Samuel Newcomb, British commissary in Spain. On medical advice she emigrated to Hobart Town in 1833. John Batman took her to Port Phillip in 1836 as governess to his children, and in 1837 she went to Geelong to stay with Dr Thomson. There she met Anne Drysdale. After her partner's death she continued to run the Coryule property and to take an active part in local affairs; in June 1855 she convened the first meeting of the Ladies' Benevolent Association of Geelong. On 27 November 1861 she married the Wesleyan minister of the township named after her partner, Rev. James Davy Dodgson (1824-1892), who had arrived in the colony in 1857. She died at Brunswick on 3 October 1874, and was buried beside Miss Drysdale at Coryule; their remains were later removed to the Eastern Cemetery, Geelong.

A firm friendship developed from the business partnership. Both women were cultivated, energetic, independent, and God-fearing; but they were dissimilar in background and in temperament. Anne Drysdale combined the dignity that befitted her secure social position with a quiet determination, a cheerful tolerance, and a readiness to take the bad with the good. Lacking the same support of private means and family connexions, Caroline Newcomb had to rely on personal qualities in making a place for herself. She won esteem as an excellent horsewoman and a vital, intelligent, and kindly personality, although in later life her self-assertiveness and quick temper apparently gave her a formidable demeanour. Anne admired, and perhaps envied a little, the younger woman's abilities, and came to depend on her, not only for companionship, but also for much of the drive and initiative that secured their comfort and prosperity. Both were sustained by an abiding religious conviction, but it was Caroline who presided over their daily devotions, who actively propagated the gospel, and who left, in fragments of her personal diary, the record of her struggles to master her own nature and attain grace.

Select Bibliography

  • J. D. Lang, Phillipsland (Lond, 1847)
  • R. V. Billis and A. S. Kenyon, Pastoral Pioneers of Port Phillip (Melb, 1932)
  • C. Irving Benson (ed), A Century of Victorian Methodism (Melb, 1935)
  • P. L. Brown (ed), Clyde Company Papers, vols 2-5 (Lond, 1952-63)
  • W. R. Brownhill, The History of Geelong and Corio Bay (Melb, 1955)
  • Australasian, 27 July 1935
  • A. Drysdale diaries (privately held).

Related Thematic Essay

Citation details

P. L. Brown and Jean I. Martin, 'Drysdale, Anne (1792–1853)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 31 October 2020.

This article has been amended since its original publication. View Original

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

View the front pages for Volume 1

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2020

Life Summary [details]


26 August 1792


11 May 1853
Drysdale, Victoria, Australia

Cultural Heritage
Religious Influence