Alexander Munro 1812-1889 NSW
Alexander MUNRO was born in Ardersier in the Scottish Highlands, on the Moray Firth, east of Inverness, near Fort George, and Nairn,Scotland on the 18 July 1812 the son of George MUNRO and Isabel MAIN.
On the 3 September 1829 Alexander was transported for seven years, he had been sentenced the day before in Inverness, where the family had moved after the death of his father. Along with two other boys, Alexander robbed a grocery store.
He arrived with 200 other convicts onboard the ship, York on the 7 February 1831. Measuring only 5'3½" tall, he could read and write and his occupation was given as a Farm Boy. Alexander was assigned to John BROWNE a settler of Patricks Plains.
Alexander gained his Certificate of Freedom in 1836 and soon began buying up depasturing licenses all around the Singletom Area.
On the 6 July 1838 the Reverend HERRINGTON at Whittingham married Alexander MUNRO to Sophia LOVELL 1812-1889, Sophia, a convict sentenced to seven years had come from Isle of Ely, Cambridgeshire, on the 'Diana', arriving in 1833.
Sophia and Alexander failed to have children of their own and in 1840 adopted 3year old Harriet. Harriet was the natural child of Thomas PHILLIPS and his wife Catherine.
Harriet 1837-1873 became known as Harriet MUNRO and married Walter COUSINS 1829-1904.
Alexander in 1839 began a successful carrying business in 1839 and with his depasturing licenses soon began to acquire wealth. In 1841 he built the Sir Thomas Mitchell Inn on the corner of Cambridge and George Streets in Singleton and managed several other hotels and began his mail coach service from Singleton.
In 1851 Alexander built Ness House in George St., Singleton which is still standing today and he replaced the old Sir Thomas Mitchell Inn with the large Caledonian Hotel. In the 1868 Rate Book it was stated as "two,story,brick iron roof,13 rooms". The Singleton Argus 9th November 1901 advertisement stated" 14 bedrooms, 2 dining rooms, 2 parlours, sample room,kitchen,bathroom, laundry, pantry, man's room, stables, 4 stalls, buggy house etc". It had a 73ft frontage to George St, 73ft to High St, and 332ft to Cambridge St. The sale was on account of Mrs R.H.LEVIEN his grandaughter Harriet Emma COUSINS 1860-1946
MUNRO began the 'Bebeah' Vineyard and his wines won more than 2000 prizes all over the world; more than 500 first prizes. He built his house 'Ardersier House' on the grounds of Bebeah.
Alexander MUNRO was elected the first mayor of Singleton in 1866, when Singleton became a municipality.
Alexander MUNRO was a good man with a big heart, always putting back into the community and always helping those less fortunate than himself. He was very much admired by both the wealthy and the not so wealthy.
When the council in 1884 was not interested in building a gas making plant themselves, they passed an act on the 16 May 1884, to allow him to build it himself thereby giving the town light. He then turned the plant over to the town at cost price.
He donated the land for the Glenridding Church and Cemetery, the Masonic Hall and was a huge benefactor in the building of the Singleton Grammer School. He was the founder of the Oddfellows Lodge and his Hunter River Building Society financed the building of a north wing on the hospital in John Street and gave money to the hospital. He had a beautiful fountain made in Glasgow and gave it to the Town
In 1878 Alexander Munro retired from politics and was given a large banquet by the town, he returned to Scotland with Sophia for a short holiday.
On the 2 February 1889 Alexander MUNRO died at Ardersier House. Two days later on the 4 All the shops in Singleton were closed at 1:00pm to allow the town to mourn in what was to be the largest ever funeral Singleton had ever seen. The cortege being a half a mile long.
Sophia followed on the 26 July 1889.
Alexander in his will left £6,000 to various lagacies and £500 to the Singleton Benevolent Society. All this from a man who had been transported for stealing groceries.
The Maitland Mercury paid homage to Alexander Munro with this stirring obituary
in their newspaper on the 5 September 1889
"DEATH OF MR. ALEXANDER MUNRO.The kind and sympathetic voice is
hushed for ever, and the noble eye will no longer speak the sentiments
of a heart that for three-quarters of a century was beating full of
truly Christian love.
Alexander Munro is no more-the Great Conqueror claimed him to join
the silent majority.
Singleton has lost one of its greatest citizens, and the colony,
a prominent philanthropist and one of Nature's gentlemen.
The sad event took place at the residence of the deceased,
Ardesier House, near Singleton, on Saturday, the 26th instant, at half-past
two o'clock in the afternoon. For more than a week all hope had been
abandoned by Mr. Munro's medical attendants, and it was only a
question of time when the end should come. During nearly the whole
of that period the deceased was in a comatose state, but when
consciousness returned at intervals he appeared to suffer much pain.
Life, however, ebbed gradually away until the last grain
had dropped out of the glass and a merciful Providence ended
the earthly troubles of our noble friend and fellow townsman.
Mr. Munro was born at Ardesier, Invernesshire, Scotland, in the
memorable year 1812, and arrived in the colony in 1831, and has
resid ed here ever since, with the exception of a trip to his native
land about 11 years ago.
Arriving here when quite young, he soon adapted himself to the
rough mode of life then prevailing in New South Wales, with that
readiness and endurance for which the national character of Caledonia's
sons has so eminently qualified them as the best colonizers in
One of his first ventures in Singleton was to build the Caledonia Hotel.
Having made some money at hotelkeeping, he subsequently took up stations
in the Liverpool Plains district, where he was squatting for many years.
In all his undertakings he was singularly prosperous, and wealth flowed
in from all sides.
About thirty years ago Mr. Munro, being fully convinced
that viticulture as an important industry would eventually take root
as an important industry in the valley of the Hunter, he started
to work with that determination and enterprise so characteristic of
the man, and having obtained a suitable piece of land-a portion of the
well-known Kelso estate, near Singleton-planted there the Bebeah vineyard,
now so famous throughout the length and breadth of the Australian colonies.
At an early period of the establishment of Bebeah, Mr. Munro
engaged the services of Mr. Mackenzie, under whose excellent management
Bebeah wines attained such a celebrity that at length
they appeared at the table of the gracious Sovereign who rules the
destinies of this great Empire. The late Emperor William of Germany also
patronised Bebeah wines, and expressed himsnlf in approving terms of
their excellent character.
As the demand for Bebeah wines was increasing at a rapid rate, in
order to add to the supply, Mr. Munro about a dozen years ago purchased
the adjoining Greenwood Vineyard from Mr. James Moore, and between
the two vineyards there are now about eighty acres in full bearing.
After purchasing the Greenwood Vineyard, Mr. Munro built there, on
an excellently elevated site, the residence where he ended his days.
When in England some eleven years ago, Mr. Munro ordered a gas plant
for Singleton, and, having subsequently got an Act passed through
Parliament, the gas works were established.
the first lamp in Burdekin Park being lit by Mr.James P. Quinn, then
Mayor of Singleton, in October, 1881.
Throughout his long residence in Singleton, Mr. Munro took an active
part in all public matters. On the establishment of the municipality
in the year 1867, he was elected the first mayor, and was twice re-elected
after wards, thus remaining in office for three years.
The subject of this notice took an active part in the establishment
of the Singleton and Patrick's Plains Benevolent Society some forty-five
years ago, and throughout that long period Mr. Munro was always, we believe,
on the Committee of Management,
He was subsequently for many years Vice-President of the Society,
and on the retirement of the late President, Mr. J. C. S. M'Douall,
Mr. Munro was elected as President, an office which he held up till
Mr. Munro's sympathetic disposition made him at all times take a
deep interest in the poor inmates of the Asylum and nothing gave him greater
delight than to provide an ample feast for the old men and women on holidays,
namely Christmas and New Year, Easter, and Queen's Birthday, etc.,
making it a point to be present at the meal and enjoying
the hearty manner in which the old people appreciated his kindness.
Many years ago Mr. Munro showed his deep interest in the welfare of
the Benevolent Society by giving a munificent donation of £1000 towards
completing the Benevolent Asylum in accordance with the original design
prepared by Mr. Rowe, architect, Sydney.
In order to recognize this noble act the people of Singleton determined
to perpetuate Mr. Munro's memory by erecting a marble bust of the
generous donor in that building, and the ceremony of unveiling it
was performed last year by Miss White, eldest daughter of the
Rev. Dr. J. S. White, in the presence of a large number of people;
the day having been made a half-holiday in Singleton.
Mr. Munro was an ardent Freemason, and took an active interest
in masonic affairs. He joined the first lodge established in Singleton
in the year 1864, and passed the chair, and remained in connection
with various lodges here ever since.
Some time ago he presented the brethren with an allotment of land
in a central position in John-street for the purpose of erecting
there on a Masonic Hall, and further contributed a donation of £100
towards the building fund.
Mr. Munro was also one of the founders of the Oddfellows' Lodge
in Singleton many years ago, and remained a consistent member till
He took great interest in the Northern Agricultural Association from
its establishment in the year 1868, and for several years was one
of the vice-presidents ot that society.
He was a liberal contributor to the funds of the Mechanics' Institute
and all public movements which in his opinion were worthy of support.
Quite recently he gave the handsomesum of £1000 to the funds of
St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church for the purpose of building
a new church ; but although a consistent supporter of the church of
his forefathers, he was at all times ready to support any calls made
upon him by other denominations, and his charitable feelings made no
distinction between creed or country : no poor man was ever turned
away from the door of good Alexander Munro without a crust of bread.
An instance of the genuine charitable character of Mr. Munro was
lately conveyed to us from a trustworthy source, and it may not be
out of place to give it here. It appears that when in Scotland
some 11 years ago he ascertained that some of his relatives were
rather reduced in circumstances, and in order to provide against
want for the rest of their lives he built four cottages, one for each,
and allowed each an annuity of £40 per annum, the money having been
remitted regularly since then.
All honor to the noble departed. May a glorious resurrection be his reward."
Singleton, 3rd February, 1889.
researched, written and transcribed
by janilye 1999
Thomas EATHER 1824-1909 established a vineyard which was soon producing wine grapes of good quality and Thomas sometimes sold Alexander grapes from his vineyard at "Meerea" to help his growing business. Family legend has it that Eliza nee CROWLEY threatened to leave Thomas if he persisted in selling grapes to MUNRO for his "immoral liquor trade". Faced with this threat, Thomas is said to have dug out his wine grapes and replaced them with table grapes. However later on the family again began to grow good wine grapes as you see here in Meerea Park Today
The photograph below taken in George Street, Singleton around 1900 shows The Caledonian Inn on the left and the horses drinking from Munro's fountain.