The Arrival of the Davidson clan in the New England area
In Scotland, Davidson families have lived for centuries around the university and cathedral town of St Andrews, on Scotland’s east coast, facing the North Sea. It was from one of these families that William Davidson, the original Davidson settler in Australia’s New England district, was descended. William was born in Crail, an ancient seaport nine miles south of St Andrews in 1807.
(right) The tiny harbour at Crail
William learned the blacksmithing trade, and by the early 1850s, he was a master blacksmith in the town of Alva, employing two men.
However, new horizons beckoned, and in August, 1854, the Davidson family of William, his second wife Janet (his first wife was also called Janet) and six children arrived in Sydney, having travelled as assisted passengers on the 840 ton ship, Araminta. William paid a total of £15 for his family’s voyage.
From Sydney, the Davidsons sailed in a small coastal ship to the Hunter River port of Morpeth. Janet and the younger children settled temporarily on a small farm at Morpeth, while William and the three eldest boys set off on foot for New England, along with the scores of diggers seeking their fortunes at the gold diggings at Rocky River, near Uralla, south of Armidale. William Davidson did not intend to be a gold digger – rather, he wanted the prosperity brought by the gold rush to help him establish his family and business in the New England area.
William selected the area around Salisbury, a station settlement south of Uralla, with a small community of farmers as the likely spot to make a home for his family. So, while he and the older boys set about making a living, he entrusted his 12 year old son William with the responsibility of returning to Morpeth to bring his wife and the rest of the family up to the New England. Young William made the 250 mile (400 km) journey safely back to Morpeth on a hired dray.
The return journey to Salisbury was not without incident. The dray, loaded with the family and the family’s belongings, broke its axle on a steep section of the climb up the ranges to the tablelands. So William, this time accompanied by 10 year old David, had once again to the return to the Hunter to have the axle repaired at Maitland. While this repair work was going on, Janet and the two younger children were camped by the incapacitated dray. The young boys did, however, get the axle repaired, and returned safely to their mother and young brother and sister.
Reunited with William and the older boys, the family lived for two years at Salisbury in a slab cottage with a bark roof, before William decided that nearby Walcha would make a better home, and moved the little clan to the growing village.
By the time William died in 1878, nearly all his children were married and settled throughout the New England area. William’s great-grandson, James Davidson (David Boddy’s maternal grandfather) was born on the Hillgrove goldfields, east of Armidale, in 1895.
Back to the Davidson Family Tree