# 41185

CURDIE, Daniel (1810-1884)

[WESTERN DISTRICT; BOTANY] Dr. Daniel Curdie, pioneer colonist and naturalist : original signature on British Association for the Advancement of Science membership form, giving his address as Port Phillip, New Holland, dated 2 July 1851.

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Manuscript in ink on section cut from printed British Association for the Advancement of Science form, 60 x 182 mm, with original full signature of ‘Daniel Curdie MD’, who also gives ‘Port Phillip, New Holland’ as his ‘usual residence’; in good condition.

The following biography of Curdie was published in the Camperdown Chronicle (Vic.), 27 January 1934:

‘Dr. Daniel Curdie was one of the earliest settlers in Western Victoria. He took up “Tandarooke,” as a pastoral licensee under the New South Wales Government, in October, 1840, five years after the founding of Melbourne, and about 11 years prior to the separation of the Port Phillip district from New South Wales and its erection into an indpendent colony on the 1st July, 1851. The Port Phillip district in 1840 was scantily populated, containing only three towns, viz., Melbourne, Geelong, Portland. Overhauling stock from Sydney began a few years previously, as well as the importation of sheep from Tasmania. Born at Slidderie, Isle of Arran, Scotland, on the 9th of January, 1810, Dr. Curdie was the sixth son of Donald McKirdy and Mary Mackinnon, of Clackbog, Arran … Sacrificing his worldly prospects, Daniel Curdie gave up the idea of entering on a clerical career, and his uncle advanced £500 towards his medical course … After deciding in favour of medicine, Daniel Curdie went from Glasgow to Edinburgh University, then, as now, celebrated for its medical school, taking his final degrees in 1838. Among his classmates was David Livingstone, subsequently famous as an explorer and missionary, and Archibald Campbell Tait, afterwards Archbishop of Canterbury. Dr. Curdie resolved to try his fortune in Australia, and, accompanied by his sister Mary’s son, his nephew, Daniel Mackinnon (afterwards of “Marida Yallock,” Terang), who had also studied theology at Glasgow University, he sailed in the ship “Caledonia” on 7th February, 1839, arriving at Sydney on 29th September, 1839. The government was offering land on liberal terms to intending settlers, and the recent opening up of the Port Phillip district was attracting much attention, Sir Thomas Mitchell, who explored the district in 1836, named it Australia Felix, and already pastoralists, looking for new country, had started overland with cattle to breed stock on the fertile plains reported on by explorers. After inspecting portions of New South Wales and deciding that squatting would pay better than the medical profession there, Dr. Curdie and his nephew started overland with cattle to Port Phillip—distant between 600 and 700 miles. On reaching Melbourne, they camped their stock on the site of what is now the Botanical Gardens. The best land around Port Phillip had already been allotted, but a large area of fine territory was known to lie beyond Geelong, Pushing on- wards, on the 8th October, 1840, Dr. Curdie fixed his homestead (calling it “Tandarooke”) on the river rising from Lake Purrumbete, which now bears his name, 12 miles south of the present flourishing town of Camperdown. “Tandarooke” was so called after a limestone hill on the run, signifying in the native language a place where the underground fungus known as “native bread,” was and still is to be found, specimens being unearthed as recently as 1898, when rabbit burrows were dug out there. For about 11 years, Dr. Curdie combined squatting with the practice of his profession, which entailed long journeys through the bush on horseback. He used to tell how when rider and horse were fairly tired out, five dingoes followed him for miles through the forest close at heel, till, on reaching signs of habitation, they slunk away—his only experience of their being aggressive but had any mishap occurred to horse or rider they would have been immediately attacked. Dr. Curdie was most humane in all his dealings with the blacks, having a high opinion of there native honesty. He often told how the station stores stood out in the open on tarpaulin-covered drays surrounded by natives, yet nothing was pilfered— not even an ounce of sugar, which was their greatest temptation of white man’s food. His fearlessness inspired such respect and awe among the tribes that, unlike most early settlers, he never needed to carry firearms on his many long rides; and such a hold did he acquire on them that they always regarded “Tanda-
rooke” as a place of safety during their tribal quarrels which were frequent and sanguinary. On one occasion, almost an entire tribe near the coast was destroyed by a stronger one from the Otway ranges, and the few who escaped were cared for by Dr. Curdie, who was regarded far and near as their natural protector. The place where the bodies of the slain were thrown by the victors in hasty burial over a high cliff lies between Cape Otway and Moonlight Head —the highest promontory on the coast between Cape Otway and the Gellibrand River. It was named after a pioneer Tasmanian settler, J. Gellibrand, who lost his life when exploring near the coast, his remains being afterwards identified by the gold stopping in his teeth. In 1845, Dr. Curdle followed Curdie’s River down to the sea —then a dangerous and difficult undertaking. The estuary is called Curdie’s Inlet, and on it is situate the village of Peterborough, called after the pre sent Dr. Peter Reid of Richmond, Victoria, when a boy. The early settlers had many drawbacks to encounter and at least one financial crisis to overcome. None living now can well realise the privations and hardships of those eally days, when the discovery of gold rendered labour unobtainable and later when pleuro and scab nullified the toil of the years. Dr. Curdie started on a prolonged visit to Europe, sailing from Melbourne in the ship “Constance'” on 7th February, 1851 a date memorable as “Black Thursday.” Speaking of that appalling time of fire and destruction, he used to tell how hundreds of birds —driven out to sea by the great smoke and heat — settled on the rigging of the ship and were freely handled, while many fell dead on deck. Dr. Curdie travelled over England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Greece, and Italy, visiting Rome and ascending Vesuvius, where he narrowly escaped being engulfed in some moving ashes on the summit of the crater. While in Scotland, he discovered a previously unnamed seaweed, which, in 1852 or 1853, was called after him. His pencilled diaries of that time note many genial reunions with former friends and savants, and also contain many notes of geological formations. While in London, at the house of his friend, Mr. James Morrison, of James Morrison and Co., he met Captain William Cook, renowned for his rescue on February 28. 1825, in the Bay of Biscay of the 31st Regiment —passengers and crew comprising 554 souls in all  from the burning ship “Kent,” East Indiaman, bound for Bengal and China. Captain Cook commanded the brig “Cambria,” bound to Vera Cruz with Cornish miners. On returning to England. Captain Cook was feted and the freedom of the City of Cork presented to him. He received presentations of silverplate from the officers, passengers and underwriters, with a life-size oil painting of himself by Craig— now in the possession of Mr. Ian Black, of Mount Noorat. Dr Curdie and Captain Cook discovered cousinship relations, though previously unknown to each other. At his death, Captain Cook bequeathed to Dr. Curdie all his presentation plate, portrait, sword, etc. Prior to returning to Australia,; Dr. Curdie married, on August 15, 1853, Frances Niel Purves, daughter of James Purves, Thurdistoft, Caithness—a large agriculturist and energetic benefactor of his country. They arrived in Melbourne on the 14th January 1854. Under their care travelled Miss Louisa Mackinnon afterwards Mrs. J. H. S. Lydiard, and Miss Kate Mackinnon, sisters of Mr. Lauculan Mackinnon, of the “Argus” Proprietary. Mr. Mackinnon, with his first wife, had occupied “Tandarooke” during Dr. Curdie’s. absence in Europe. Before his return, great changes had taken place owing to the discovery of gold. People had poured into the country at the rate of a thousand a week, but for many years still —the roads being unmade —tra- velling to Geelong and Melbourne entailed camping by the way or staying for the night at station homesteads where such passing travellers were, always made welcome. Melbourne had risen from insignificance to the status of the largest city in Australia. Inland towns had sprung up where goldfields had been formed: prices had risen immensely—land attaining a high value and stock being in great demand. As a counterbalance, while , getting extreme prices for their stock, pastoralists had to pay equally dear for all imported necessaries of life. Help was not obtainable for all had rushed off to the diggings. An era of unparalleled excitement had set in. Slowly things settled down again. Population returned io the seaport towns and stations and the ordinary industries of the colony were resumed. Prices fell to their natural level and station work was again carried on under normal conditions. A demand for land next arose and to preserve their holdings, pastoral lessees converted them into freeholds as fast as the changing land laws of the colony permitted. When in the fifties the Govern ment instituted Road Boards to supervise parliamentary expenditure on main roads. Dr. Curdie became a member of the first Roads Board held at Darlington on the 5th July, 1857, Captain Ormond presiding … When local municipal government was introduced Dr Curdie was an original member, and a president of the shire council of Hampden, which meets at Camperdown. He was president of the Railway League, having for its object the extension of the line from Geelong to Warrnambool, which he lived to see accomplished. He took great care and unselfish interest in all improvements for the development of the district and welfare of its inhabitants, for which he spared neither his time nor personal exertion. His knowledge ot geology and natural history enabled him to collect many interesting particulars respect ing the physiography of the district, even to the minutest details and they served as valuable data for the men of science with whom he corresponded in Europe, whilst diffusing valuable information respecting Victorian and colonial resources. His interest in all kinds of knowledge and the stores of information he possessed made him a very inter esting conversationalist. An early recollection of scientists’ visits to “Tandarooke” was when Sir Greville Smith and Mr. Charles Buller of New Zealand came to collect specimens of the grey pink-crested cockatoo and other birds, and the house cats ate most of the first collection. This was between 1860 and 1867. Dr. Curdie frequently exchanged letters with Robert Brown, the botanist of Flinders’ exploring expedition round Australia in 1801 and 1803 —also the author of a great work on the botany of Australia and Tasmania. Another correspondent was Sir Joseph Hooker, botanist of Sir James Ross’ antarctic expedition in the “Erebus” and “Terror,” and who in 1865 became director of the  Kew Gardens in England. Letters of such learned people were impressed on the mind by their handwriting being frequently handed over for decipher ing, and its being none of the easiest to decipher. Among his personal friends, including most of the pioneers of Western Victoria and elsewhere, were Sir James Frederick Palmer, first president of the Legislative Council of Victoria; Sir Redmond Barry, Judge of the Supreme Court and Chancellor of the University, etc.; Professors Halford and Wilson, two of the original professors of the  Melbourne University; and Mr. R. L. J. Ellery, Government Astronomer.Baron Von Mueller, Government Botanist of Victoria, and director of the Melbourne Botanical Gardens from 1852, was a frequent and welcome visitor, being often assisted in obtaining plants and specimens for England and elsewhere by Dr Cur die, and later by his wife —also an enthusiastic botanist and florist. Possessed of high scholarly attain ments with academic tastes and an untiring reader, Dr. Curdie took great interest in the Melbourne University, being for many years a member of the Senate. He was admitted Ad Eundem Gradum on the 23rd April, 1870. Much interested in education, with the Rev. William Hamilton and Messrs. McNicol, Henderon, White Craig, Thomson, Dowling, Manifold, Cole, Hastie and Tait, he was one of the first to agitate for a national, or common, school at Camperdown— acting as chairman of the committee of management, and later, of the Board of Advice, until his death. Among the addresses presented to Prince Alfred, afterwards Duke of Edinburgh and of Coburg, on his first visit to Victoria, in 1867 was one signed by the pioneers, bearing Dr. Curdie’s signature as arriving in 1839. Dr. Curdie was a member of the Government expedition sent to observe the total eclipse of the sun at Cape York in 1872, in the steamer “Governor Blackall.” As a naturalist, he found the trip most, interesting and he collected some fine specimens of tropical marine life —his zeal on one occasion causing him nearly to miss the steamer. The party consisted of official astronomers and private scientists, and stoppages were made at suitable places inside the Great Barrier Reef to enable a study to be made of some of the natural wonders of the coral region … The Western Victorian pioneers included such names as Bromfield, Mackinnons, Murchie, Scott, Allen, Ware, Manifolds, Blacks—uncle and nephew—and Ewen, after whom Ewen’s Hill is named (situate on the property of the late Daniel Mackinnon, of “Marida Yallock” who bought it from him with many others). They were all men of energetic character, self-reliant and enterprising, being mostly of strong physique —Dr. Curdie exceptionally so. He was tall, stalwart and of sound constitution; in disposition cheerful, tolerant and over good-natured, and helpful to others. It was often noted that at his hospitable table, the usual country topics, such as markets, cattle, and sheep, etc.. were generally absent, more intellectual subjects being liberally discussed. A typical Scotchman in his high estimate of the value of a good education, Dr. Curdie spared no effort to give such to his sons, daughters and three orphan nieces. Always to the front in charitable movements, he proved to his neighbours a friend in whom full confidence could be placed. Friendly to all denominations, he was a warmhearted supporter of the Scotch church, being one of the first to take steps to call the Rev. William Hamilton from Goulburn, New South Wales, to form a charge at Timboon —now called Camperdown—of which he was for many years member, manager and a liberal supporter. Dr. Curdie died on the 22nd February, 1884, leaving his widow and a family of three sons, James, John and Donald, and five daughters, Mary, Frances, Jessie, Agnes, and Marion—two died in infancy—the married ones being Mrs. Tangye, late of “Chocolyn.” near Camperdown, and Mrs. A. J. Black, of “Mount Noorat.” Terang. The sons all followed pastoral pursuits In 1903, after bearing his name for 63 years, the estate of “Tandarooke,” for realisation, was subdivided, and sold to numerous purchasers for dairy farms. Mrs. Curdie, who was born in Caithness on the 12th of May, 1829. died on the 25th of June, 1900. Resembling her husband in strength of character and breadth of sympathy, she was admirably fitted to be the wife of a pioneer, bravely and cheer fully facing all the hardships and discomfort of bush life. Highly educated, the practical attention she gave to botany and horticulture caused Baron Van Mueller to regard her as one of his most enthusiastic friends. While taking a keen interest in current politics and the affairs of her native land, she closely followed the international relations of the Empire, in her extensive reading of newspapers and books.’