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David 'Darby' Munro

EDITOR : When I came to Australia in 1963 and being a Munro, I was often asked if I was any relation to Darby Munro. Of course I did not know who they were talking about but soon found out that Darby was one of Australia’s greatest jockeys. He is a natural for the newsletter so I started looking for anything I could find about him. Luckily, I found a letter on our website from Lizzi Bell who is descended from that family and she very kindly sent me the following article thus saving me a lot of work.

David Hugh 'Darby' Munro’s Scottish roots can be found in a small coastal village of Golspie in Golspie Parish, Sutherland. Culmaily was the ancient name for the parish and in the 1790s it measured 6 miles long by 6 miles at its widest point, and had a population of 1,700. Earl Gower and Lady Sutherland owned most of the land.

When Darby’s great grandfather John MUNRO was born in Golspie around 1795 the Highland clearances had begun. Over the next 100 years the Highland estates were systematically cleared of crofters and cattle to make way for sheep, which gave a better return. Golspie Village came into being around 1800 due to changes the Duchess of Sutherland made, including the removal of her small tenants and their scattered groups of old "black houses" from the higher spots around Golspie to the seashore, where they were left to fend for themselves. Thus Golspie Village began to develop with retail shops etc.

In this climate John, a shoemaker, married Eliza Sutherland. John and Eliza had seven children, all born on the Duke of Sutherland's estate at Drummuie, a couple of miles south west of Golspie village. They were catherine 1816-1895, John 1820-1896, Hugh 1822-1876, James 1825, Jean 1828, Joseph 1829-1864 and jane 1833-1903.

Catharine remained a spinster and lived at Drummuie until her death in 1895. John became a shoemaker in Golspie village, married Ann Sutherland and produced six children. Hugh (Darby’s grandfather) married Christina Mclean in 1852 and followed his brother Joseph to Victoria. Jane married a stonemason, Gilbert Mitchell and stayed in Golspie, with their five children. Of James and Jean nothing further is known.

Death records for Sutherland began in 1855. Marriage records have many gaps and Golspie births only recorded the father’s name. John snr died in 1851. He and his wife Eliza are buried in St Andrews churchyard Golspie with daughter Catharine. A substantial headstone marks their grave.

In 1846 a great potato blight hit Scotland forcing thousands to move to the industrial cities. Emigration grew to over 100,000 a year. In 1851 many Scots went to Victoria, among them were Darby’s grandfather Hugh, his wife Christina, and baby John, who arrived in Victoria aboard the ‘James Brown’ in 1853. The family settled in Bourke Crescent Geelong, where Hugh worked as a shoemaker. Hugh and Christina had nine children. John 1852-1894, James 1854, Flora 1855, Eliza 1857-1866, Catherine 1859, Hugh 1861-1925, Joseph Daniel 1863-1926, Daniel Grant 1864, Charles 1866-1867.

Christina died in 1870 and was followed by her husband Hugh in 1876. Both are buried at Eastern Cemetery. Darby’s father, Hugh, and his uncle Joseph Daniel, became jockeys and then horse trainers. By 1876, Hugh was employed by James Wilson at his St Albans stud Geelong. He went on to train Revenue, the winner of the 1901 Melbourne Cup and had Wakeful, a champion mare, which ran second in the 1903 Cup.  MORE>>

Darby Munro 1926. Image by McQuillan from Google