George John Arnold Mackenzie Cameron

George John Arnold Mackenzie Cameron

Last Name

Cameron

Given Name:

George

Middle Name:

John Arnold Mackenzie

Arrival in Queensland

7 November 1848

Date of Birth

1826

Place of Birth

Dingwell, Scotland

Date of Death

19 April 1865

Burial

Died at sea

Place of residence in Queensland

Moreton Bay Penal Settlement; Ipswich

Spouse

Mary Jane Caroline Stobo

Date of Marriage

8 May 1852

Place Married

Scots Church, Pitt St., Sydney NSW

Children

Fanny Cameron

Spouse

Mary Feeney

Date of Marriage

29 July 1858

Place Married

Ipswich, Queensland

Occupation
British Soldier

George John Arnold Mackenzie Cameron, British soldier, was born around 1826 in Dingwell Scotland. He arrived at Hobart Town aboard the Sir Robert Peel in December 1846 along with forty-seven soldiers of the 11th Regiment. His first posting was to Norfolk Island in April 1848 and then to Moreton Bay, arriving on the Tamar on 7 November 1848. He remained at Moreton Bay until July 1850, when he was posted south for guard duty on Cockatoo Island from 1850 to 1851. While at Cookatoo Island, Cameron transferred from the 11th Regiment to the 7th Fusiliers. Then in the same week, he transferred from the 7th Fusiliers to the 10th Regiment. Cameron returned to Brisbane Town and retired in 1852. In July 1858 he married Maria Feeney at Ipswich. In March 1865 the Camerons boarded the Fiery Star for London but the ship caught fire east of New Zealand. They boarded one of the overcrowded life-boats but were never seen again.

George John Arnold Mackenzie Cameron was born around 1826 in Dingwell Scotland as the third of seven children raised by his widowed mother who petitioned the War Office on 19 February 1844 to allow her eighteen-year-old son, George, to join his late father’s regiment, the 55th (Westmoreland). George’s father had died in South Africa in 1827. The War Office initially appointed Cameron as an ensign on 23 February 1844 (without purchase) to serve in the 55th Regiment’s Depot Company which remained at Chatham in the UK tasked with recruiting, training recruits and maintaining regimental accounts. He exchanged into the 11th (North Devonshire) Regiment on 26 September 1844 until the ship, Sir Robert Peel was ready to sail for Hobart Town on 23 December 1846, along with forty-seven soldiers of the 11th Regiment. His first posting was to Norfolk Island from April 1847 to October 1848 before shipping to Moreton Bay, where he arrived in the Tamar on 7 November 1848. His departure from Moreton Bay in July 1850 was under an ignominious cloud after an affray against Aborigines took place late in the night of 29 November 1849. This incident, which took place in Brisbane, affected Cameron’s personal and career ambitions and should be examined in some detail.

A local brick-maker named Henry Humby, living in the vicinity of Victoria Park, heard rumours from an Aboriginal lad named Wamgul of an exaggerated tale of an impending Aboriginal uprising. Humby rushed into Brisbane Town to inform a constable of this threat, but finding only an elderly night watchman named MacAlistair, he relayed to him Wamgul’s account of a mass Indigenous uprising threatening the lives of every white inhabitant. MacAlistair passed this story onto Constable John Conroy (given as Thomas in the newspaper accounts), who in turn passed it on to the Chief Constable William Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick, who was at that hour of the night bed-ridden with rheumatism, told Conroy to take another constable and investigate the matter further.

Instead of doing this, Constable Conroy thought this was a matter best handled by the military and rushed down to the bank of the Brisbane River where Ensign Cameron was fishing. While Conroy should have consulted Cameron first, he instead initially stopped at the military barracks and raised the alarm with Sergeant Michael Clarke who immediately roused the troops, thus presenting Cameron with a fait accompli. Sergeant Michael Clarke sounded the alarm by having the drummer beat “to arms” and Cameron’s servant, Private James Tredennick, was dispatched to alert Cameron who was fishing on the banks of the Brisbane River at that time. As Cameron had not been made a magistrate, unlike all his military predecessors to this posting, he sought out the nearest justice of the peace, Dr Keith Ballow, and requested his attendance and direction in what could have been a serious conflict. Ballow, however, refused to go with Cameron and merely gave him a verbal direction to take whatever steps he thought necessary to restore peace. As Cameron had no knowledge of a magistrate’s authority, he mistakenly felt he was powerless under law to act without their direction. Yet in this he was mistaken and the ongoing confusion between martial law and civil administration cost valuable time.

Cameron believed Ballow “did not know how to act” in such a crisis, marched off his small force of thirty soldiers to Victoria Park where a corroboree was then in progress. Not knowing the size of the forces arraigned against him and still believing Conroy’s exaggerated account, Cameron divided his force into two divisions and gave the order to fix bayonets and load with ball cartridge. While Cameron commanded the right division, Sergeant Michael Clarke commanded the left. It was Cameron’s plan for him to approach this camp from converging directions and order those involved to disperse. Cameron walked toward the camp alone so as to appear less threatening, yet as he drew nearer a volley of musket shots thundered out from Clarke’s force to his rear left, followed by a shot from his own right division.
As a result of this unprovoked attack, the corroboree dispersed into the surrounding bush leaving three wounded Aborigines, although only one agreed to submit himself for medical treatment, and this was Wamgul himself. Feeling much chagrined, Cameron marched his force back to barracks to await the ensuing investigation. Cameron was censured for not keeping a tighter control over his force, although it was conceded that his inexperience and lack of magisterial powers mitigated against a harsher penalty for Cameron. However, the person most singled out for blame was Chief Constable William Fitzpatrick, who became the scape-goat for a multitude of errors committed that night. Considering Wamgul’s mischievousness, Ballow’s indecision, Cameron’s inexperience and Conroy’s panic, it seemed strange that Fitzpatrick should be singled out as the central cause of this collision.

After leaving Brisbane in July 1850, Cameron was next posted to Cockatoo Island from October 1850 to June 1851. While at this posting, Cameron transferred from the 11th Regiment into the 7th Fusiliers on 7 April 1851 and then, from the 7th into the 10th (Royal Lincolnshire) Regiment on 5 May 1851 after which he retired from the Army on 13 February 1852. Although Cameron’s interest in the army was not entirely over as he was elected 1st Lieutenant in the newly raised Queensland Volunteer Rifle Brigade.

On 29 July 1858 he married Maria Feeney at Ipswich. Maria was daughter to Martin Feeney who was late of the 99th Regiment and later became Governor of the Brisbane Gaol. Soon after their marriage the Camerons bought a property on the corner of Edward and Charlotte Streets where they established the Prince of Wales hotel. In March 1865 they then boarded the aptly named Fiery Star for London but the ship caught fire east of New Zealand. They attempted to board one of the overcrowded life-boats but were never seen again. Upon learning of their demise back in Brisbane, it was found that while Maria had died intestate, George’s will revealed a glaring oversight in that he had neglected to inform anyone prior to his marriage to Maria Feeney that he was still married to Mary Jane Caroline Stobo (aka Mary Jane Gillett) which resulted in litigation and not a little scandal.

Biography based on research by Rod Pratt, Visiting Fellow, Harry Gentle Resource Centre. Additional research by Lee Butterworth.

If you can provide further information on this person please contact the Harry Gentle Resource Centre: Email [email protected]

Archival Resources

SLQ, Colonial Secretary letters received relating to Moreton Bay and Queensland 1822-1860

A2 series microfilm, Reel 19, pp. 234-236, 24 January 1848

NSWSA, Colonial Secretary Main series of letters received, 1826-1982

Item 4/2863.2, Cameron to Wynyard 18 May 1849

WO12. Muster Books and Pay Lists. General, 1789 – March 1877. Subseries (Pieces 2874-2890). 11th Foot, April 1845 – March 1858.

WO12, File 2879, AJCP Reel No. 3706, Image 6 G. J. A. Cameron – 1 Apr - 30 Jun 1848, Ensigns, Detachment to Norfolk Island

Qld BDM, marriage registration number: 1859/C/191

George John Arnold McKenzie Cameron to Maria Feeny, 29 Jul 1858

NSW BDM, marriage registration number: 550/1852 V1852550 80

George John Arnold McKenzie Cameron to Mary Jane Caroline Stobo, 1852

Journals

The Affray at York’s Hollow, November 1849

Rod Pratt
Royal Historical Society of Queensland Journal, Vol. 18, Issue 9 2004 pp. 384-396

Newspapers

Colonial Times and Tasmanian

Colonial Times
22 December 1846, p. 2

Departures

Sydney Chronicle
2 June 1847, p. 2

Investigation Respecting the Affray with the Aborigines

Sydney Morning Herald
17 December 1849, p. 2

Family Notices

Launceston Examiner
29 May 1852, p. 3

The Fiery Star

Empire
1 July1865, p. 8

Burning of the Fiery Star

Queensland Times
30 May 1865, p. 3

Supreme Court

The Brisbane Courier
2 May 1879, p. 3

Supreme Court

The Brisbane Courier
2 July 1879, p. 6

Supreme Court

The Brisbane Courier
26 September 1879, p. 3

Irish Famine Relief Committee

The Queenslander
14 February 1880, p. 200

Judicial Affairs

The Queenslander
1 November 1879, p. 569

Online Resources

Colonial Secretary letters received relating to Moreton Bay and Queensland 1822-1860
Military - Colonial Secretary Main series of letters received, 1826-1982
Office of the Commander-in-Chief: Memoranda and Papers
Memoranda of appointments, promotions and resignations: 19 February 1844
Qld BDM, marriage registration number: 1859/C/191, George John Arnold McKenzie Cameron to Maria Feeny, 29 Jul 1858
Births, Deaths and Marriages search
Muster Books and Pay Lists General. 11th Foot Regiment - Devonshire 1 Apr 1848 - 31 Mar 1849 Image 121
Muster Books and Pay Lists General. 11th Foot Regiment - Devonshire 1 Apr 1848 - 31 Mar 1849 Image 61
Muster Books and Pay Lists General. 11th Foot Regiment - Devonshire 1 Apr 1848 - 31 Mar 1849 Image 6
Colonial Secretary letters received relating to Moreton Bay and Queensland 1822-1860
State Library of Queensland - Newspapers
Lieut. George John Arnolds McKenzie Cameron
The 1820 Settler Correspondence, author Cameron, H..J. re family of John Mackenzie Cameron, 1837. Online branch of the Genealogical Society of South Africa (GSSA)