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Colin Munro of Drynie
EDITOR : Ailsa Stubbs-Brown from Queensland, Gail Munro from SA, Neil Munro from Queensland & Ken Besley from New South Wales are all descended from Colin Munro of Grenada, British West Indies and Inverness, Scotland. Refer to The Clan Munro Magazine No 22, pages 10 & 11 for reference to Colin Munro of Granada and his house in Inverness. It is Interesting to note that Alpha Munro taught the fiddle to students in the Highland House of Music which was the blue house owned by Colin Munro and described in the article. This is the first of three stories about that family.
This is the story of Colin Munro III (1834-1918) whose father Colin Munro II (1798-1868) was a master mariner and the 4th child of Colin Munro I (1756-1823) of Granada & Inverness & his wife Sarah Chisholm, the daughter of Dr William Chisholm, Provost of Inverness. From now on we will refer to Colin Munro III as Munro to try & avoid confusion. Munro’s father was born in Inverness & died in Mile End, London where Munro was born. His mother was Elizabeth Gilbert.
Not much is known about Munro’s early life but we do know that he was well educated and very good with figures and could tot up three columns of figures (pounds, shillings & pence) simultaneously. The thought is that he must have worked as a ledger keeper or something similar after leaving school. The first we know of him is in 1850 on the barque Salsetta of 422 tons. On February 24, 1850, the Salsetta sailed from Falmouth for Port Jackson, arriving between July & September. The ship carried merchandise & general cargo, the Master was Colin Munro & carried 3 passengers – Mrs Munro, son & servant. That would have been an exciting trip for the 16 year old Munro
We now fast forward to 1854, the year that Munro arrived in Australia for the second time and although there is no record of his arrival on the official records it is reasonable to assume that he arrived on his father’s ship, the Luma/Luna. Letters show that Munro was not on good terms with his father and the parting at dockside might have been a mutually satisfying event! The family believes that Munro gained his knowledge of the sugar industry in the British West Indies.
Once again there is a gap in our knowledge of Munro’s doings but we do know that he returned to London in 1862 to marry Mary Neill Young, the daughter of the Rev John Young DD. Until 1867 Munro was involved in land deals mainly on the Albert River and in 1869 the Courier gave a full report about the sugar mill erected by Munro at Fisherfield on the Albert River near Brisbane. “His mill was powered by horses who walked around a six meter circle to drive the machinery. The two horses were worked hard and the system was a copy of mills in Jamaica and the horse method was working well there. The mill was cheap, costing only £150.00 for machinery.”
While at Fisherfield, Munro took an interest in other matters around him and was active in the Presbyterian community. A report in the Queenslander of August 17, 1872 stated “Members of the Presbyterian body followed up a move by the C of E to erect a church and Mr Colin Munro, who had taken a great interest in the matter, has met with success in obtaining contributions and it will not be long before the Presbyterian body will have a church of their own.” During their time at Fisherfield, their children were born; Colin, John Young, Charles Gilbert, William Albert, a boy who died, Eliza Waugh, Alexander Waugh, and Archibald Chisholm.
This first venture into sugar cane farming was not really successful and during this period he also lost £15,000.00 when his bank (probably the Bank of Glasgow) failed. The 1870s were troublesome times for the sugar industry in that area. Most of the varieties of cane chosen were unsuitable because of lack of rust resistance and frost intolerance and there were considerable losses due to both causes and it took time to obtain new, more suitable varieties. All of this coupled with the rapidly advancing sugar technology seriously disadvantaged the less modern operators – and Munro would have fallen into this category. He saw the writing on the wall and by 1900 he had sold up and moved to Sheep Station Creek, a tributary of the Burdekin River, near Ayr in North Queensland.