A Pastoralist Family
The Alternative Archive
Duncan Macpherson and Mary Wilson married in 1845 at Alvie in Inverness, Scotland. They both had ancestry stretching back to the origins of Clan Macpherson and Clan Mackintosh in the 12th century.
In 1846 they left their homeland to create new foundations on the other side of the world. After farming in Toodyay, Western Australia for almost 20 years they were forced out by a disastrous drought, bankruptcy and eviction. This unfortunate turn of events saw them shift northwards in 1868 to a remote location that would become known as Carnamah.
The family established Carnamah Station across more than 50,000 hectares of land that was traversed by the Amangu, Widi and Badimaya people. Duncan and his sons bred horses, cattle and sheep and were assisted in the development and running of the station by Ticket of Leave convicts, Aboriginal people and Chinese immigrants.
In 1869 they built a large and impressive stone residence, known then as Carnamah House and in more recent years as the Macpherson Homestead.
Duncan and Mary's children spread out and left their mark on the Mid West region:
- Duncan and his sons helped deliver mail on horseback between Perth and Geraldton
- daughter Bessie ran the post and telegraph office in Greenough for three years
- son Locke leased Yandenooka Station in Mingenew and was a grazier in Northampton
- son Jock was an innkeeper and farmer in Greenough before managing Arrino Station
- son Bill managed Tibradden Station between Geraldton and Mullewa
- son Alex ran Glengarry Station in Geraldton and Billabalong Station north of Mullewa
- sons Donald, Alex and George took over Carnamah Station from their father
- daughter Maggie ran a telegraph office from Carnamah House for 40 years and was Carnamah's first official postmistress and meteorological observer.
Duncan Macpherson, in partnership with George Slater, was the first to take up pastoral leases in Carnamah in the year 1861.
Along with his wife Mary and their children, he took up permanent residence in the district in 1868. He and his sons held a large portion of Carnamah in pastoral leases, with the remainder of the district being leased by Bishop Rosendo Salvado (of the monastery in New Norcia) and James Nairn.
Biography: Duncan Macpherson
'Mary' by Sammy Jay
"Named after the badass matriarch of the Macpherson family, this piece is a collection of flowers that surround the Macpherson Homestead, and a Scottish thistle to represent their country of origin."
The artwork also includes the Maroon bush (Scaevola spinescens or currant bush), which the family's Aboriginal son Albert Nebrong reputedly used to cure himself of tongue cancer.
'Rejuvenate' by Gabrielle Butler
"This artwork documents the Macpherson family's journey from past to present."
"With the loose painterly strokes transitioning into bold blocks of colour, the work represents the rejuvenation of a well established family that will forever stay a part of the Mid West region's history."
'Rejuvenate' was awarded 1st prize in the Mixed Media section of the North Midlands Agricultural Society's biennial art exhibition in 2019 and was selected to be featured in the collective state-wide exhibition for The Alternative Archive at John Curtin Gallery.
George was five years old when he shifted with his family to Carnamah. He later took over the running of Carnamah Station with his brother Donald. They bred and exported horses to Singapore and carted timber and supplies to mines at Cue and Rothsay. George died on Christmas day in 1904 after being accidentally shot after a shooting expedition for wild turkeys.
Biography: George Macpherson
Donald arrived in Carnamah as a boy and grew up to be known as the Father of Carnamah. He took over Carnamah Station and bred racehorses, with one named Carnamah winning many prizes in Perth and on the goldfields. Donald founded and served as president and later patron of many community and sporting organisations in both Carnamah and Three Springs.
Biography: Donald Macpherson
'Her Story' by Glenda Blyth
"As work progressed on this piece, the importance of the role that women played was continuously in my thoughts."
Glenda used Macpherson tartan and found objects from the family's homestead in Carnamah and from other locations across the Mid West region. Glenda's usual medium is baskets, operating under the name of Basketcase Lady.
Start of the Journey
Visit the old homestead on a hot February day
Sturdy, handsome building and shady peppertrees
Hard work hangs in the hot, dry air
Everyone toiled equally to survive and thrive here
The Macpherson women invade my thoughts
Long days of hard work
Tending gardens and growing food
Endless baking, meat and 3 veg meals
Handwashing, sewing, mending, cleaning, milking the cow
Never enough hours in the day
Raising children, burying children
Bright spots too! Wildflower walks and picnics
Peacocks strutting on the lawn, delicate lace, fine needlework
The women are the ‘mesh’
Mesh that freed up the men to work the fields
Her-story is important to history
Thank you for inviting me in
– Glenda Blyth
'Jock the Peacock' by Roxy East
For many years the Macpherson family owned multiple peacocks which graciously roamed the grounds of their homestead. Their presence doesn't appear in photographs but is mentioned frequently in historical accounts and oral histories.
Roxy gathered leaves from the old pepper trees surrounding the homestead and used them to create impressions for the backdrop of her artwork.
Aboriginal man Carnamah Tommy worked as a shepherd for the Macpherson family for many years and was one of the earliest members of Carnamah's football and cricket clubs. He was a phenomenal tracker and could skilfully locate missing livestock ̶ to the point of being referred to as 'the best footprint sleuth in the world'. Tommy later lived around Paynes Find and Mount Magnet.
Biography: Carnamah Tommy
'Dido' by Delys Fraser + Di Taylor
Jessie Nebrong worked helping Maggie and Bessie Macpherson with chores at the Macpherson Homestead. Her father Albert Nebrong, who was a stockman on Carnamah Station, was a son of the Macpherson family.
Malcolm Macpherson, who inherited the homestead, would find Jessie and give her £5 whenever he passed through Carnamah, which is believed to have been an unwritten condition of his inheritance.
The above artwork depicts the life of Jessie Nebrong's partner Joachim Dido. Dido was from Broome and worked for many years as a shepherd for the Macpherson family on Carnamah Station. Represented in the dots are places he lived, his partners, the births and deaths of his children, sports he played and geographical features such as the Moore River and the Yarra Yarra Lakes.
Residual rocks and part of a door from the ruins of multiple outbuildings that once stood at the Macpherson family's homestead, Carnamah House. These rocks were part of the walls of the bakehouse, workmen's quarters, dairy house or stables – some of which can be seen in the below photograph.
The piles of rocks are now the domain of pythons, which were discovered in a moment of fear while these rocks were being collected!
"A memorable outing was an invitation to the Macpherson’s. It was like going to Buckingham Palace to us – that lovely old stone house and hand-hewn timbered verandas, the peacocks, the pepper trees, gravelled surrounds, retired racehorses, the meal house and dairy. They always had Aboriginals to help with the work on their property. We wore our best and were on our best behaviour. Can still see the dining room with starched snowy white linen, serviettes and silverware. Miss Macpherson would ring for whoever was on duty to serve." – Mary Kelly (nee Niven), reflecting on her childhood in Carnamah in the 1910s and 20s
Jock Macpherson + Family
Locke Macpherson grew up in Toodyay and settled with his parents and younger siblings in Carnamah in 1868. He assisted his father in the running of Carnamah Station before leasing Yandenooka Station in Mingenew. He was later a farmer and grazier at Greenough, Mount Magnet, Northampton and in the Murchison.
Jock Macpherson also helped their father establish Carnamah Station and then moved to Greenough in young adulthood where he was a farmer for 22 years and for a shorter time also the innkeeper of the Travellers' Rest. Jock and his wife Annie had seven daughters and six sons! After leaving Greenough, Jock managed Arrino Station near Three Springs before shifting with his family to Perth.
'The Exchange' by Edward Saunders
The Macpherson family grazed livestock in Carnamah from as early as 1861, seven years before they shifted to the district from Toodyay. During this time Duncan or his son Jock had two children with a local Aboriginal woman known as both Buddy and Mary. The names of their children were Albert Nebrong and Frances Nintigian.
For many years Albert Nebrong worked as a stockman with the family on Carnamah Station. Although he later moved onto Ninghan and Coodingnow stations near Paynes Find, his daughter Jessie remained in Carnamah with the Macpherson family and worked in their homestead. Albert rose to national fame in 1947 when it was disclosed that during his life he had cured himself of tongue cancer using a native plant known as the Maroon bush.
Frances Nintigian married Jimmy Ryder and spent much of her life living around Moora and at the missions in New Norcia and Mogumber. A number of her children and grandchildren lived in Carnamah and while their family connection was never publicly disclosed, they were close enough to Donald Macpherson to embrace the costly undertaking of sending flowers to his funeral in 1931.
It is believed that Aboriginal men Carnamah Tommy and Carnamah Fred might also have been children of the Macpherson family. Tommy worked for the family in Carnamah for many years while Fred lived most of his life in Yalgoo. Fred's descendants carry the surname of 'Carnamah' and can be found living across the Mid West region.
When renowned anthropologist Daisy Bates visited Carnamah in about 1905 she recorded 'ngannung koordatha' as the local phrase meaning 'he is my brother'.