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Allan Bell (1817-1894) and his wife Ann (née Young, 1817-1891) emigrated from Scotland to South Australia in 1839 with their infant son. They built up a large sheep station at Monteith, and established ‘Dalmeny Park,’ a prosperous farm of 700-800 acres, north of Springs Road, Mount Barker. They won several international prizes for wheat during the 1850s, which boosted the prestige of the South Australian grain industry, and of Mount Barker in particular. Allan and Ann had ten children, all of whom survived to adulthood.
In 1890 the family’s youngest son, 45-year-old Peter Young Bell, was killed in a railway accident, and in 1903 his 13-year-old nephew, also called Peter Young Bell, died as a result of diabetes. Allan, the two Peters and other Bell relatives were all interred at Mount Barker Cemetery.
The Bells were amongst Mount Barker’s most successful and well-regarded farming families. For six generations they were associated with the property ‘Dalmeny Park’ (inconsistently spelt), named after their place of origin in Dalmeny, Scotland. The name Allan Bell featured in every successive generation. The 1860 homestead still stands within Dalmeney Park property subdivision north of Springs Road.
The original Allan Bell (at least in an Australian context), emigrated from Scotland with his wife Ann (née Young) and infant son, also Allan, aboard the Lady Bute in 1839. Allan senior and Ann were both twenty-two years of age. They farmed on twelve acres at Unley, in the vicinity of Mary Street, before moving up to the Hills. At Mount Barker Allan formed a short-lived partnership with farmer James Patterson, with whom he farmed at Bald Hills. After the partnership dissolved he built up ‘Dalmeny Park’ into a property of 700-800 acres, before establishing the extensive ‘Thornton’ sheep station at Monteith, just across the River Murray, in 1856.
Allan Bell’s obituary in the Courier on 15 June 1894 stated that “he was a notably good farmer, all his operations being marked by intelligence and thoroughness, and few cultivators of the soil have had their efforts attended with so much success.” The Bell name was synonymous with quality and good management, and Allan became one of South Australia’s most notable agriculturalists in the mid-nineteenth century. He and his neighbour John Frame, who farmed at ‘Burnbank,’ Mount Barker Springs, boosted the prestige of Mount Barker’s grain industry by winning several international prizes for their wheat during the 1850s, including the gold medal at the Great Exhibition at Crystal Palace in London in 1851. Bell also gained first prizes in Vienna and Paris in 1852. He was noted as a pioneering grazier and importer of fine shorthorn cattle, and his ‘AB’ brand of draught horses was held in high regard.
Bell served on the Mount Barker Council for sixteen years and was a trustee of the Presbyterian Church. He was known as a generous and kind-hearted man, and the Courier commented that “both old and young colonists will have pleasant recollections of the hospitality so freely dispensed at Dalmeny Park in the days of his prosperity.”
Allan and Ann had ten children, four boys followed by six girls, all of whom survived to adulthood, and most of whom lived long lives. The family was, however, afflicted by tragedy when the youngest son, Peter Young Bell, was killed in a freak train accident in 1890, aged forty-five years. He had been accompanying a special rail consignment of draught horses that were being brought up from Ballarat for sale on 4 September 1890. When the train paused at a siding at Coonalpyn to allow the Melbourne express to pass, he apparently stepped out on the wrong side, and was fatally struck. He was a popular man who had for some years managed ‘Dalmeny Park,’ and his death came as a grave shock to his aged parents.
On the same day that Peter Bell Young died in Coonalpyn, a baby boy was born to his brother, Allan Bell (1838-1908) and his wife Christina (née Bain, 1852-1922) of ‘Moolloomie,’ Swanport. They named the baby Peter Young Bell, presumably in honour of his uncle. This second Peter only lived for thirteen years, dying in 1903, a victim of diabetes. The use of insulin to treat diabetes was not discovered until 1921; before this, diabetics had greatly reduced life expectancies. Young Peter was survived by his parents and six siblings, who all moved to ‘Dalmeny Park’ in 1905.
Records show that the original immigrant Allan Bell senior was buried in Mount Barker Cemetery in 1894, but the location of the plot is unknown. Presumably his wife Ann is buried there also. His son Allan and grandson Peter are similarly in graves that are now lost. By contrast, the resting place of the elder Peter Bell is clearly marked by the memorial headstone that records his accidental death.
The most recent Bells to be interred in the Mount Barker Cemeter are Allan Bell (1923-2015) and his wife Betty Jean (1925-2007), of ‘Dalmeny Park.’ Betty was for many years the secretary of the Mount Barker branch of the National Trust.
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