Robert Waddell b1842 and his fatal mistake overtaking a bullock train on horseback

My 2nd great grandfather, Thomas Malcolm Waddell b1838, arrived in Australia on the David McIver. It its believed that his sister Margaret Waddell b1844 was on the same ship “and a sister” (not identified) but no records of Margaret, or Thomas’ wife Mary (nee Best) or their children, arriving in Australia can be located. They all ended up in the Gympie area of Queensland.

Thomas M Waddell had a younger brother, Robert Waddell b1842 who also emigrated to Queensland, Australia. He was born in Clare, Amargh, to Jane Greer b1803 and Thomas Waddell (senior) b1800 on 16 Oct 1842, and baptised in the Clare Presbyterian Church on 18 Oct 1842 [1]. The Clare church is one of the oldest Presbyterian churches in Northern Ireland, established in 1633 and the present building was built in 1828 [2]

On November 12th, 1863, Robert Waddell married Mary Jane Ard, also at Clare Presbyterian Church. He was about 21 years old and working as a Carpenter in Druminure Parish, following in the footsteps of his carpenter father Thomas Waddell. His wife Mary Jane Ard is from Tandragee parish. Presumably Mary Jane Ard would have been a similar age and born in 1845 or so.

Marriage of Robert Waddell to Mary Jane Ard, 12 Nov 1863 in Clare Church.

As a side note, the marriage is witnessed by Sarah Best and Thomas Greer – both Best and Greer are family names from the area, and part of my family tree – although the exact relationship between these people and “my” Mary Best and Jane Greer’s family is not known. Perhaps Sarah Best and Mary Best were sisters?

Robert’s older brother Thomas Waddell would have missed the wedding, as he was already been travelling on the David McIver which left Liverpool on 19 March 1863 [4]. Queensland emigration records [5] do not appear to show Robert or Mary Jane Waddells trip to Australia, on any ship or any close date range – a mystery for another day!

Robert’s skills as a carpenter would have been in demand in Queensland at the time, but his life in the Australian colony was quite short. A short article appeared on 19 May 1869 in the Gympie Times and Mary River Mining Gazette, reporting that Robert Waddle had been killed in a tragic accident whilst overtaking a bullock team near Two Mile, Gympie the previous day (Sun 18th May 1869). I am no horse riding expert, but I imagine he was galloping his horse to overtake a long bullock train on a rough muddy road (similar to this one in Cooroy around 1900 showing the rough muddy condition of the road and many hazards), when his stirrup failed and he fell and landed unluckily on a stump giving himself a serious head injury that knocked him unconcious.

Robert’s death certificate confirms he is the son of Thomas Waddell (senior) and Jane Greer from Clare, Northern Ireland. It also says that he is working as a “butchers assistant” in Brisbane, and that he had been living in Alice Street, Brisbane with his wife Mary Jane Waddell. He had been in Australia about 5 years, had no children, and was presumably visiting his brother Thomas Waddell (junior) at Two Mile when the accident occurred.

Death Certificate for Robert Waddell, Gympie, 1869.

There does not appear to be a surviving record of his grave, and I have not found what happened to Mary Jane Ard after Robert’s death. She would have fallen on hard times unless she remarried or moved to Gympie with Robert’s family- or perhaps she went back home? I hope to find what happened to her one day….


[1] Baptism information from a record, via Kerry Cassidy


[3] Postcard for sale, via

[4] Grimes, Judith A & Gassan, Kay F (1993). Tall ships on the river : David McIver, 1863, and the Montmorency. Heritage Research Publishing, Maryborough, Queensland.

[5] Queensland Assisted immigration 1848 to 1912 – names starting with W

[6] News of Robert Waddle death appeared in LOCAL AND GENERAL NEWS. (1869, May 19). Gympie Times and Mary River Mining Gazette (Qld. : 1868 – 1919), p. 2.

[7] ‘Stuck’ – an incident on Cooroy Road, Cooray, Qld – very early 1900s

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