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Scottish-born Elizabeth Flockhart (1819-1887) described herself as a widow when she married Thomas Hall (1822-1884) in Pirie St Adelaide, but the details of any previous marriage, and the circumstances under which she arrived in South Australia, are obscure. The couple raised sheep in the Bugle Ranges near Mount Barker and had ten children, all of whom survived to adulthood.
When Thomas Hall became mentally incapacitated at the age of fifty, Elizabeth was left with responsibility for her husband and her family as well as for their farm.
In 1819, in Auchtertool, Fife, Scotland, a daughter, to be named Elizabeth, was born to James Flockhart (1789-1849) and Isabel Penman Leitch (1785-1857). It seems likely that this was the same Elizabeth Flockhart who surfaced in Adelaide in 1843, when she appeared on a marriage register in Pirie Street as the newlywed partner of Thomas Hall (1822-1884). Although the evidence for her identity is circumstantial, Scottish Elizabeth Flockhart disappeared from historical records in Fife (unlike her nine siblings) at approximately the same time as Australian Elizabeth Flockhart materialised in Adelaide.
Whatever her parentage, the circumstances under which Elizabeth came to South Australia are mysterious. When she married Thomas she was recorded as a twenty-five-year-old widow, but there is no evidence of a previous marriage, either in Scotland or in Australia. There is also no record of a married couple or a single woman by the name of Flockhart arriving in South Australia by boat prior to 1843, although such omission would not be unusual, as arrivals at that time were not always recorded by name; women were often simply listed as ‘+ wife.’ She may have arrived, either by sea or overland, in the company of an unknown partner who either died or abandoned her in Adelaide, necessitating a swift (re)marriage.
Elizabeth’s twenty-one-year-old husband, Thomas, migrated from Roxburghshire, Scotland in 1839, aboard the Ariadne, with his parents John Hall (1788-1872) and Mary Hall (née Younger, 1782-1862). Both John and Thomas were listed as shepherds on the ship’s manifest, but John and Mary became successful landowners and farmers, establishing ‘Maryfield,’ a property of 170 acres with permanent water, at Mount Barker Springs, where they later bred draught horses.
Meanwhile Thomas and Elizabeth settled at Bugle Ranges, where Thomas progressed from shepherding to sheep farming. The couple raised ten children, all of whom survived to adulthood (and four of whom – Margaret, Isabel, John and James – bore the same first names as those of Elizabeth Flockhart’s siblings in Fife).
Bugle Ranges is not far from Mount Barker as the crow flies, but before the introduction of rail in 1884 it was still a relatively isolated settlement. There was no road to Macclesfield, the nearest town, and no doctor. The problems associated with this isolation were sadly demonstrated by the death of Elizabeth and Thomas’s fifth daughter, Jemima Wakefield, in childbirth in 1883. Jemima, who had married Bugle Ranges farmer Thomas Wakefield, was aged 28 when she went into labour with their fourth child, attended by women of her family (including Elizabeth) and a neighbour, Mrs Duffield. When complications arose, Jemima bled to death during the three hours it took her brother Thomas to fetch Dr Octavius Weld, partly because he had to “catch a horse” before he could make the trip. The baby, a girl, was strong and healthy; Doctor Weld believed that Jemima would also have been saved if he had arrived earlier.
As John and Mary Hall’s only surviving son, Thomas might normally have expected to inherit ‘Maryfield’ in due course. However, a year after Mary died in 1863, John, who was then 74 years of age, married widow 42-year-old Eliza Ann Miller (née Sinclair 1821-1902), who had two children of her own. John remade his will to allow Eliza to stay at ‘Maryfield’ for the course of her natural life, and Thomas, who was the same age as his new stepmother, must have known that he was unlikely ever to benefit. Sure enough, John’s new bride Eliza was to outlive his son Thomas by eighteen years (see Eliza Ann Hall/ Jane Sinclair/ Betsy Miller History Post).
In 1872, when Thomas was fifty years old, he suffered a catastrophic mental decline. (The Courier speculated that his affliction may have been “in consequence of the disposition of his father’s property.”) At this time his youngest child was only nine.
In the last decade of his life Thomas became utterly dependent upon Elizabeth and the children, who now also had to manage the farm. Elizabeth enclosed a portion of the property with a high fence to allow Thomas to exercise without wandering off, but he became increasingly irritable and sometimes violent. In 1881 he was committed to the Lunatic Asylum in Adelaide at Elizabeth’s request; however, he was soon returned home after his physical health declined without any improvement in his mental condition. Amongst her other duties Elizabeth soldiered on as Thomas’s carer until his death in 1884.
Elizabeth died three years later, aged 68. After more than forty years of service to her Australian family she left a substantial legacy: nine surviving children, innumerable grandchildren, and a productive rural property valued at six hundred pounds at the time of her death. She and Thomas are interred together. Nearby is the grave of their daughter Jemima Wakefield, and a memorial to their youngest four children, James Hall (1856-1911), Robert Hall (1859-1935), Annie Younger Hall (1861-1905) and Thomas Hall (1863-1923).
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