Duncan and Mary Macpherson left the highlands of Scotland in 1846 to start a new life in South Australia. Two years later they moved to the 13-year old Swan River Colony of Western Australia. Duncan took up farming at Newcastle (now Toodyay) and with his wife raised a family of two daughters and seven sons.
After being evicted from their property they left Newcastle in 1868 and shifted through the bush and scrub with horses and bullock wagons. They started over near the Yarra Yarra Lakes, in an unnamed district considered a remote and unworthy stretch of land between the Victoria Plains and Upper Irwin.
Duncan and his sons established a large pastoral station which they named Carnamah after a local freshwater spring. They bred sheep, cattle and horses which they sold after herding them all the way to Perth. Their distant neighbours were the Nairn, Long and Cooke families of Noolooloo, Coorow and Arrino stations.
Left: Duncan Macpherson (1818-1898)
Right: One of the tartans of Clan Macpherson
The Macpherson family hailed from Alvie in the Badenoch area of Inverness, Scotland – the very area that the Macpherson surname and clan had originated from in the 12th Century.
Left: Macpherson's First Home in Carnamah
The Macpherson's stone cottage near the Yarra Yarra Lakes - taken many years after they vacated. A short time after moving to Carnamah they built their large and enduring homestead.
Above: Map showing pastoral leases in central Carnamah in 1879
Carnamah eastward from the Yarra Yarra Lakes was held in pastoral leases by the Macpherson family and James Nairn of Noolooloo Station. Leases spanning the eastern outskirts of Carnamah were held by Bishop Rosendo Salvado of the Benedictine Monastery in New Norcia.
George Macpherson and his elder brother Donald took over the management of their father’s Carnamah Station. In addition to livestock pursuits they carted supplies out to Rothsay, and cut and carted timber to the Great Fingal Mine in Cue.
Just before Christmas in 1904, while returning from a shooting expedition, George’s gun discharged and shot him in the arm. He was rushed to the railway siding and taken to Perth, where they amputated his arm. The operation went well however he was reported to have died from the shock the next day.
Above: Rusted linchpin from Carnamah House
This linchpin was used near the Macpherson's homestead Carnamah House - probably to secure a wheel onto an axle, or to keep a gate closed.
Above: Donald or his father's initialled serviette ring
Donald Macpherson was a boy when he settled in Carnamah with his parents. He witnessed the district transform from virgin bush to an established agricultural district with a well appointed townsite. As a result of his long residence, and time given to civic and sporting duties, he became known as the Father of Carnamah.
Donald was well known in WA as a breeder and contributor to horse racing. One of his horses that competed successfully in Perth and on the goldfields was named Carnamah.
Left: Key presented to Donald Macpherson in 1921
Donald was chosen to officially open the first Carnamah Hall and during the ceremony was gifted this silver key from the people of the district. The reverse side of the key was inscribed with his initials DM.
Below: Cup presented to Donald Macpherson in 1931
Cup inscribed "A Mark of Appreciation" presented
to Donald by the Carnamah Rifle Club at the opening of their new
The Macpherson sons Lachlan, John, William and Alexander all moved further north where they took up a range of agricultural and pastoral pursuits. The remaining children George, Maggie, Donald and Bessie lived out their unmarried lives in Carnamah.
The last link of the northern telegraph line from Perth to Champion Bay (Geraldton) was connected at an outbuilding of the Macpherson’s homestead in 1874. Duncan and Mary Macpherson’s daughter Maggie served as telegraph operator and meteorological observer for 39 years, and after the railway went through in 1894 she was also the local postmistress.
Mary E. Kelly (née Niven), looking back on her childhood in Carnamah in the 1910s and 1920s, remarked:
"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."
Right: Miss Macpherson's candle powered buggy lamp
A lit candle provided light on the buggy when used to travel from the homestead to social events held in Carnamah.
Miss Bessie Macpherson died in 1939 leaving the district and town void of its founding family. The Macpherson name lived on, and continues to, as the name of Carnamah's main street. In her will Bessie bequeathed her estate to her nephew's son Malcolm J. C. Macpherson - who before leasing the property took only a small pile of silverware.