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I've been a Canberran since moving here from Adelaide on the first day of 1980. I now live in suburban Duffy with my partner Louise Maher, ABC 666 radio and on-line journalist. Among my early memories is following Sleepy Lizards (Shinglebacks) around the paddocks north of Adelaide, guarded by the faithful bull terrier. I have always been passionate about the natural world, trying to understand how it works, how the nature of Australia came to be, and sharing those understandings. My especial passions are birds, orchids and mammals. For much of my life I have been a full-time naturalist, running bush tours, writing books etc, doing consultancies, presenting a regular radio slot on local ABC, chairing a government environment advisory committee and running adult education classes. Recently I have eased back somewhat, but am still writing, teaching, doing some radio work and running overseas tours - as part of my fascination with our Gondwanan origins I've been running tours to South America for the past decade. I was awarded the Australian Plants Society Award in 2001 and the Australian Natural History Medallion in 2006, both for services to education and conservation.

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

On This Day, 30 November: Scottish National Day

National days have a very eclectic mix of raisons d'être, with some having apparently fairly nebulous significance. I'm afraid one may see Scotland's National Day, Saint Andrew's Day on 30 November, as being in this category. I feel that I can make the observation as one whose father was born there - my grandfather, a World War One soldier, prisoner of war and survivor, was an electrician in the coal mines, and brought his family out to Adelaide in 1928. 

The connection to Scotland of Andrew, one of the apostles is, at best, vague. It is claimed that a couple of relics associated with him found their way to Scotland, but the two surviving manuscripts, as I understand it, are now in Paris and London. It is said that in 832AD King Óengus mac Fergusa of the Picts (in what is now Scotland) won a battle against the southern Angles after doing a prayer deal with Saint Andrew in which he undertook to make St A the patron saint of Scotland (though Scotland didn't strictly exist at the time), if St A gave him victory. St A kept his side of the bargain, and it's not at all clear what King Óengus did in return. It was only in 2006 that the Scottish parliament officially declared 30 November a bank holiday - but a sort of voluntary one, in that banks only close, and give their employees a holiday, if they feel like it. Moreover, far from having a monopoly on him, Scotland must share Andrew's patron saint favours with Barbados, Greece, Romania, Russia and the Ukraine, as well as assorted towns and regions.

All of which is not very relevant to our main purpose today, which is to celebrate the various Scots whose names are commemorated in the names of Australian plants!

Some of them I've acknowledged before in their own right, so I won't retell their stories here but will refer you to the original posting if you're interested. Perhaps the greatest of them was the remarkable botanist Robert Brown, who sailed with Matthew Flinders on the Investigator, a major scientific expedition beginning in 1801.
Purple Enamel Orchid Elythranthera brunonis, Two Peoples Bay, Western Australia.
'Brunonis' is Latin for brown, and appears for Robert in quite a few Australian names.
It was named by the Austrian botanist Stephan Endlicher in 1839 as Glossodia brunonis,
and the current genus was erected for it by great Western Australian botanist Alex George in 1963.


Charles Fraser, horticulturalist and botanist, was appointed Colonial Botanist of New South Wales by Governor Lachlan Macquarie.
Kapok flowers, Cochlospermum fraseri, family Bixaceae, Timber Creek, Northern Territory.
A common tree of the central and western Australian tropics, it was named to honour Fraser
by French botanist Jules Planchon.
Another Scottish Charles, Charles Moore, was also appointed New South Wales Colonial Botanist, in 1848. 
Macrozamia moorei near Springsure, central Queensland, where it has a very small range.
It was named by the towering figure of late 19th century Australian botany, Ferdinand von Mueller to honour
Moore, who had a strong interest in cycads, in 1881 while Moore was still alive to appreciate the compliment.
And sadly, not all Scots have been universally admired; one such as was the self-aggrandising pioneer of the Murray River steam paddleboat trade, Francis Cadell, who von Mueller also honoured, in this case with a whole genus.
Ooline Cadellia pentastylis, Family Surianaceae, Tregole National Park,
inland south-east Queensland near Morven.
This is another species of limited distribution, the only one of its genus.
But now it's time to meet some Scots whose names appear on Australian plants and who I haven't previously introduced here.

Peter Good was a young man of whom we know sadly little, other than that he was born in Scotland, and worked as a gardener for Earl Wemyss. He was selected by Kew to go to India to bring back a plant collection assembled by the botanist Christopher Smith. On his return he was appointed a foreman at Kew, from where Robert Brown appointed him as assistant on the Investigator expedition. One of his major roles was keeping living plant collections on board, to avoid the problems of getting dried specimens through the tropics. Like many others he contracted dysentery in Timor but continued collecting until he died and was buried with naval honours in Sydney.
Goodia lotifolia, Tallaganda National Park, east of Canberra.
The genus was named for Peter Good by controversial English botanist Richard Salisbury.
(Some of the story of his controversy can be found here.)
A much more highly ranked Scot was John Clements Wickham who served under Lieutenant Phillip Parker King during the first of the British South American Marine Surveys, and was then Second-in-Command of the Beagle during Darwin’s famous voyage. He was responsible for maintaining order in the cramped on-board spaces, and Darwin (known on board as ‘the flycatcher’) and his specimens were a cause of much angst to Wickham, who referred to them as a ‘damn beastly bedvilment’. In fact he told Darwin that ‘if I were skipper I would have you and all your damn mess out of the place’. Darwin on the other hand wrote to his father that Wickham was ‘a glorious fellow’ and it was Wickham who named a bay Port Darwin; later the city took its name from it. In the late 1830s Wickham was back, now in command of the Beagle, charting the Bass Strait Islands and those still uncharted sections of the north-western coasts. His health was ruined, and he left the navy to work as police magistrate at Moreton Bay. When Queensland gained independence in 1860 he retired to the south of France. A more lasting reward was the naming of a widespread and beautiful tropical grevillea for him, by Swiss botanist Carl Meissner.

Grevillea wickhamii (and Grey-headed Honeyeater Ptilotula keartlandi), Kings Canyon, central Australia.
Across the country, Scot James Drummond was appointed to the (honorary!) position of Government Naturalist for the Swan River Colony in its earliest days. He was somewhat desperate, having been made redundant from his post as curator of Cork Botanic Gardens when the British Government withdrew funding, and was led to believe that if a public gardens was to be opened, he could expect a paid job. It didn't end any more happily than you might expect, but he did acquire some land grants and was able to sell plant specimens. Governor Stirling did appoint him as paid Superintendent of the Government Garden, but then the Colonial Office abolished the position of Government Naturalist! He spent most of the rest of his days tending his garden and vines, and collecting for British botanist and entrepreneur James Mangles.
Drummondita hassellii, family Rutaceae, Merredin, WA.
James' brother Thomas was a nurseryman who collected in North America.
This genus commemorates them both – the I is a latinised form of J for James, and the T for Thomas!
The responsible party for this creativity was Irish botanist William Harvey.
Cephalipterum drummondii, Mount Magnet, inland WA.
This one was specifically named for James Drummond.
Thomas Mitchell was born in Stirlingshire in 1792 and joined the British army, fighting in the Spanish Peninsula wars, attaining the rank of major and becoming a surveyor and draughtsman. In 1827 he arrived in Sydney to become Deputy Surveyor-General  to John Oxley; when Oxley died the next year he got the top job, which he held until he died in 1855. His explorations were vital to the growing understanding of the colony. In 1831 he explored in north-western NSW, and reported that all the rivers flowed into the Darling. On other expeditions he followed the Darling from Bourke; the Lachlan to the Murrumbidgee; through western Queensland to try to find the route to Port Essington – he always had a profound belief in a river he called the Kindur, which he was sure would take him all the way to the northern sea; and the famous 'Australia Felix' journey in western Victoria. He wrote astutely and even sympathetically of Aboriginal culture, but his expeditions were involved in several fatal skirmishes. He collected natural history specimens as he went; on the western Victorian trip he took 100 sheep for food, and the shepherd was also the plant collector, which seems to be an unfortunate combination. Mitchell died after contracting pneumonia while surveying the road down the Clyde Mountain.

Native Orange Capparis mitchellii, Lake Broadwater, south-east Queensland.
Named for Mitchell by English botanist John Linley.
Our final Scot, Patrick Murray, Baron of Livingston, not only never visited Australia but could not have done so - he died well before the first English-speaker set foot on the continent. He had a famous garden, and after his early death in 1671 his huge plant collection was transferred to Edinburgh where it formed the nucleus of the Edinburgh Botanic Garden. Much later his countryman Robert Brown named the genus palm genus Livistona for him (or at least for his title, though it's unclear what happened to the 'ng'!).
Livistona rigida, Boodjamulla (Lawn Hill) National Park, north-west Queensland.
Which is about all I've got for you today. I'm very grateful to Scotland for, in small part at least, making me what I am. And I'm grateful for the many significant contributions that Scots have made to Australia, not least botanically. If you're a Scot, have a happy national day - even if you find it's not a holiday for you...

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2 comments:

Susan said...

The stuff about Wickham was particularly interesting. All those connections!

Ian Fraser said...

Thanks Susan; yes, I love following those threads!