Australian Dictionary of Biography

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James Mein (1761–1827)

by B. H. Fletcher

This article was published:

James Mein (1761-1827), settler, was born probably at Melrose, near Galashiels, Scotland. He arrived in New South Wales accompanied by his wife Susannah in the Coromandel on 13 July 1802. He was one of a group of devout Presbyterians, including John Howe, Owen Cavanough and J. Grono, who settled at Portland Head. There Mein received a grant of 100 acres (40 ha) dated 14 April 1803. His position in the Presbyterian Church is not entirely clear. Some have referred to him as an elder, others as a catechist. He certainly played the major part in the affairs of the Ebenezer congregation, leading at worship in the absence of a regular minister and lending his house for religious services until the erection of the church there in 1809, the first Presbyterian Church built in Australia. For this he earned the praise of Rev. John Dunmore Lang who described him as a 'venerable' man.

Together with the remaining Coromandel settlers and a number of other free settlers and emancipists he was a firm supporter of Governor William Bligh in the Rum Rebellion. Personal antipathy towards some of the leading rebels, gratitude to Bligh for aid received after the great flood in 1806 and belief in the desirability of supporting the properly constituted authorities all played a part in shaping his attitude. On 18 April 1808 he joined in a plea to Lieutenant-Colonel William Paterson to assume command and in an attack on John Macarthur and the other rebels.

At this stage his farming ventures were not particularly advanced. By late 1806 he had only 14½ acres (6 ha) under crop and owned 18 sheep and 8 hogs. Later he acquired an additional 50 acres (20 ha) but does not appear to have had more than moderate means. The 1821 muster showed him as having 27 acres (11 ha) under crop and owning 35 cattle and 35 hogs. On the other hand as he remained a public-spirited figure and a fairly regular and large supplier of meat to the commissariat he must have been occupying other land. In 1816 he subscribed to the Waterloo fund, in 1817 to the relief fund for sufferers from the Hawkesbury River flood, and in 1819 to the Windsor Charitable Institution. A year later he joined the committee of the Windsor Bible Association and in 1826 served on juries at Windsor Quarter Sessions. He died on 13 July 1827.

Select Bibliography

  • Historical Records of Australia, series 1, vol 3
  • C. A. White, The Challenge of the Years: A History of the Presbyterian Church of Australia in the State of New South Wales (Syd, 1951)
  • newspaper indexes under James Mein (State Library of New South Wales).

Additional Resources

Citation details

B. H. Fletcher, 'Mein, James (1761–1827)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 17 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (Melbourne University Press), 1967

View the front pages for Volume 2

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


Melrose, Scottish Borders, Scotland


13 July, 1827 (aged ~ 66)
Ebenezer, New South Wales, Australia

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