The MUNROs of Avoch --- a micro diaspora
George MUNRO, a cabinet maker from the parish of Knockbain, Ross and Cromarty, married Janet “Jessie” MacRAE, from Inverness, in February 1818; their marriage was recorded in two parish registers, Inverness on the 23rd and Knockbain on the 25th. They lived first in Knockbain and then in Avoch, Ross and Cromarty, and together produced seven children: Christopher (1818), George (1820), May (1824), Duncan (1827), Elspeth (1829) and the twins James Gibson and William (1832).
George the elder died at some point before the 1841 census and the household in Avoch is listed then as comprising Janet (as a retailer of loaf bread), May, Elspet, James and William. By the 1851 census, Janet was living alone in Avoch and described as a pauper. She appears to have moved then to Inverness to live with her son George and died there on 2 December 1859.
The first son, Christopher, became a shoemaker and as a journeyman in that trade is shown in the 1841 census as living in Inverness in the household of Alexander Jack. He married Isabella MacDONALD in Inverness on 15 January 1844 and continued to ply his trade there while fathering nine children. He migrated to Ontario, Canada, in the late 1870s and died on 31 December 1903 in London, Ontario, Canada. His descendants are described in more detail at the Carter Lineage.
The second son, George, also entered the clothing trades. He is listed in the 1841 census as an apprentice tailor living with his master, William ALLAN, in Inverness. George married William’s daughter, Isabella ALLAN, on 31 December 1849, and they had three children. Isabella died before the 1861 census, in which George is shown as a widower, with his sister Elspeth evidently serving the household as housekeeper. George married Elizabeth McLEOD on 15 November 1861 and continued his apparently prosperous trade as a tailor and clothier until he died of stomach cancer in Inverness on 25 March 1885. Of the seven MUNRO siblings, only George remained in Scotland.
The third child, and first daughter, May, was still living in the Avoch household with her mother during the 1841 census. Somehow, she found herself in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, on 15 June 1850, where and when she married John DRAPER. [It has not been established how May got to Melbourne. It is conceivable she may have benefited from free transport as a convict and it seems probable that that is how her spouse found his way to the Antipodes. However, more innocently, May may have been caught up in one of the migration schemes associated with the highland clearances or she may have been a servant arriving with free settlers. It is odd, though, that she is recorded as “Marion” MUNRO in the marriage registration — that it was her, is confirmed by her death registration which notes her marrying John DRAPER in Melbourne when she was 26 (that is, circa 1850).] John DRAPER came to an unfortunate end when he broke his neck in a buggy accident while working as a farmer out in the country on 30 October 1875. He left her reasonably well provided and she endured her widowhood at her residence at “Avoch”, Pakington Street, St Kilda, Melbourne, until she died of old age on 5 August 1904. They left no children.
The fourth child, Duncan, like brothers Christopher and George, had also left the Avoch household by the time the 1841 census was held. It may be he who is listed as a 14 year old servant in the household of Hector MUNRO, farmer at Leod, Avoch. And it is apparently he who is listed as a journeyman tailor lodging with an ostler named George PERKINS at 161 Rose Street, Edinburgh, in the 1851 census. Duncan married George’s daughter, Amelia PERKINS, in Edinburgh on 15 August 1852. Duncan and Amelia were probably the Duncan and Mrs MUNRO recorded among the passengers on the brig Courier which arrived in Melbourne on 23 December 1852, having departed Glasgow on 31 August. (Duncan’s death registration supports this by recording that at the time of his death in 1899 he had been in the Australian Colonies for 47 years.) If so, they were unassisted migrants implying that they or someone else paid for their passage and not the colonial government. Duncan continued to work as a tailor, settling in Sandhurst (the earlier name for Bendigo) and dying there on 9 November 1899 of heart disease. He and Amelia had five children, two of whom had predeceased him. Duncan was not as successful a tailor as his brother George back in Inverness: in August 1866 he was found to be insolvent, deficient by £368/8/9 because of ‘bad debts and an adverse result in a law suit’. He seems to have bounced back, however, and a newspaper report shows him running a business again in 1871.
The fifth child, Elspeth, also ended up in Australia. She married Alexander STEWART, a coachman, in Inverness in 1861 and after working their way down the length of Britain they emigrated in 1872. Elspeth MUNRO and Alexander STEWART are described in separate journals below.
Which leaves the sixth and seventh children, the twins James Gibson and William, who were born in Avoch on 26 December 1832. In 1841 they were living in their mother’s household in Avoch. By the 1851 census they seem to have been parted: a James MUNRO is employed as an agricultural labourer by James Fraser near Avoch and a William MUNRO is a farm labourer in a household headed by Catherine Junor at Hilton near Inverness. Each is listed as being 18 years of age and as having been born in Avoch. In 1852 they, like their siblings May and Duncan before them (and sister Elspeth after them), found their way to the Australian colonies. Two 21 year old labourers, James and William MUNRO from Rossshire, are listed as emigrants arriving on the William Miles at Moreton Bay (modern Brisbane) on 27 January 1855. Ultimately they settled near Bendigo and took up farming (in the same area in which May’s husband John DRAPER met his end). James Gibson MUNRO married a widow, Mary MATHEWS (nee WOTHERSPOON) in 1890. James died on 15 September 1906. In a joint affidavit lodged by William and Mary with the application for probate, William deposed ‘That the said William MUNRO and the said James Gibson MUNRO are twin brothers who came to this State in 1852 and have always lived together since then and kept a common fund into which we paid all our earnings and made common purchases’. William died a few months later, on 24 January 1907. Neither James nor William were survived by children. Mary died on 18 June 1907. In her will, Mary distributed the residual estate among friends and relations (including bequeathing a gold watch previously owned by her sister-in-law May (MUNRO) DRAPER to Elspeth (MUNRO) STEWART’s son George STEWART).
One little MUNRO went to Canada, one little MUNRO stayed home ... and every other little MUNRO went all the way, way, way to Australia.