Dalkeith down under

Adam Pearson Armstrong, founder of Dalkeith Australia.
Adam Pearson Armstrong, founder of Dalkeith Australia.

Nearly 200 years after a Midlothian man emigrated to Australia, the settlement he created and named after his hometown continues to thrive.

The eastern portion of the Perth suburb of Dalkeith was originally ‘Swan Location 85’ of 320 acres, assigned to Captain Adam Armstrong in 1831.

Plaque comemorating Adam Armstrong in Dalkeith, Australia.

Plaque comemorating Adam Armstrong in Dalkeith, Australia.

Capt Armstrong, a widower, arrived in the colony aboard the Gilmore with his six children in 1829.

Prior to the move, he was the manager of the Earl of Dalkeith’s estate, and when he erected a cottage in 1833 on his plot of land he named it Dalkeith Cottage and raised goats and horses on the property. The Aboriginal name for the place was Katamboordup.

Robert Hogg, chairman of Mayfield and Easthouses Community Council, stumbled across this forgotten story while doing research for the Westhouses Lime Kiln Walk, which he launched last year.

Now he hopes that local youngsters will learn more about Capt Armstrong’s story, admitting that he had no knowledge of it himself prior to his research.

He said: “Armstrong was a very interesting character. I’m surprised that his story hasn’t been told before.

“I just think this would be of interest to people in Dalkeith. It’s a story that should be told.

“You would think some primary schools would want to look into this and maybe link-up with schools there. It’s a good story for Dalkeith.

“Schools could get their pupils to do research into it.”

Dalkeith is a suburb of Perth, Western Australia, surrounded on three sides by the Swan River. Its current population is 4258.

And it shares some similarities with part its Midlothian version.

He said: “It’s quite like Eskbank. It’s very affluent – one of the most sought after areas to live in Western Australia and it’s a huge area when you see it on a map.”

The region’s first European resident, Capt Armstrong had his legacy celebrated at an official plaque unveiling for a new pavilion at David Cruickshank Reserve last year.

Robert added: “It’s an interesting story and that plaque is a big deal to the people living there.”

Adam Armstrong was born on 23 February, 1788. A widowed Scottish father of six, he set sail on board the Gilmore, along with 169 other settlers on July 18, 1829. He arrived in Swan River settlement on December 15.

The family lived in a tent while hew built a cottage using limestone from the slopes of Birdwood Parade, naming the building Dalkeith Cottage. The family felled trees and built brushwood fences to protect their patches of garden and crop from emus and wallabies, and soon established an orchard and vegetable garden.

His original farm was eventually bought by James Gallop, who built a two-storey house in the 1870s. The house was bought by the state government in 1911 before being restored in 1963-64.

On Dalkeith Farm, Capt Armstrong dug a well for fresh water, which can be seen today at the bottom of the stairs in front of Gallop House. He was the first person to grow grapes and figs for commercial purposes and farmed the best goat run in the colony.

He died in Ravenswood in 1853, aged 67.

Alan Mason, chairman of Dalkeith History Society, admitted that he did not know of Captain Armstrong’s story but believes it could inspire local youngsters.

He said: “There are Dalkeiths and Midlothians dotted all over the place so it would be nice to know more of these stories.

“People from Dalkeith went all over the world.

“There is a Dalkeith near Ottawa in Canada. I know this as there was a mix up over an online bill which we got instead of their historical society!

“I think there is a Dalkeith in Florida and obviously a Midlothian in Texas.

“Any information about Dalkeith and people that left Dalkeith is worth knowing.

“Kids should be taught these things as it gives you ambition.

“If someone from here can go out into the world and make a name for them self it shows the kids that they can achieve things in life.”

Commenting on teaching pupils about Capt Armstrong, a Midlothian Council spokesman said: “Adam Armstrong’s story sounds like a fascinating slice of history.

“We will be sharing this information with local schools as we’re sure, if not already doing so, they will be keen to find out more as part of the Curriculum for Excellence.”