An Australian woman visited Midlothian earlier this week to trace the footsteps of her trailblazing ancestor from almost 200 years ago.
Shellie Cummings (57)is the great-great-great-great- granddaughter of Adam Armstrong, the Dalkeith man who in 1829 set up a settlement called Dalkeith near Perth, Western Australia, where he is still celebrated today by locals. Prior to the move, Adam managed the Earl of Dalkeith’s estate .
Shellie was in his old stomping ground this week with her husband Brett, visiting Adam’s 1778 birthplace of Smeaton Farm, and the two local churches he was baptised.
She said: “I started off visiting St Michael’s at Inveresk and St Nicholas’s in Dalkeith, the two churches Adam was baptised in. He was baptised in Inveresk as that is where the family were living. But also Dalkeith where Adam’s father Christopher worked for the Duke of Buccleuch.
“Standing at the christening font at St Nicholas’s in Dalkeith knowing that the family had stood there when he was baptised, I just felt a very close warmth and kinship.
“I have been to Smeaton Farm and Somerside Farm on Old Dalkeith Road where Christopher died in 1807.
“We were at the Scottish Mining Museum in Newtongrange where I presented a book to the museum called ‘Adam Armstrong: Founding Father of Dalkeith’. Adam was the mine manager of the Drum Colliery. That was his last job in Scotland before going to Australia. The curator at the mining museum helped me identify where the colliery at Drum Park near Gilmerton would have been.”
Shellie spoke of the kindness of the people she has met here while discovering more about her roots in Midlothian.
She said: “I have learned a lot. I did research before leaving Australia but I’m learning more here. I have thoroughly enjoyed visiting the places where Adam lived and worked.
“The people at all of these places have been so welcoming. They are just opening up and allowing me to walk around their property.
“I feel very close to my Scottish roots. I feel very much at home here.
“It’s great to connect with your history. I spoke to the family members at their graves and told them what has happened from Adam moving to Australia and that the family has now spread all over the world.
“They should be immensely proud. And their descendants are very proud of them.
“This is my way of paying homage to those before me and to get the mud on my feet that they would have had on their feet, and the cold wind in my face that they had on theirs.
“I have already said to my husband that hopefully this won’t be my last visit. I know it’s a long way, and the expenses involved. But I have always felt it’s a place I needed to visit to bring my ancestors alive.”
After visiting Midlothian, Shellie and Brett were due to visit Gilnockie Tower in South West Scotland, the home of the Armstrong Clan. Before heading to Cheshire and Wales to trace where Adam worked, and finally to St Katherine Docks in London where he boarded The Gilmore for Australia in 1829.
However, Shellie left Midlothian with one regret. She said: “I would still love to hear from any living relatives we may have there. The family was so big, there must be some.
“So far I have not been able to connect with any living relatives in Scotland.”