January 22, 2022

Old Places

Where we study the past to define our future

Major John Boyd and the Wallan Wallan Run

Soon after arriving in Melbourne in 1839, Major John Boyd (retired) squatted on a run of 2700 acres which he called the Wallan Wallan Run. His headstone in the Kilmore General Cemetery records Boyd had served in the 91st Regiment of Foot in the British army. He died in 1865 aged 79 years. Assuming this is correct it indicates John Boyd was born in about 1785.

Army Life

In the book Historical Records of the 91st Argyllshire Highlanders1 it is recorded that John Boyd had transferred from the 82nd Regiment of Foot to the 91st, and that he was appointed as Captain on 23 September 1836, promoted to Major on 10 January 1837, and retired in 1839. Also noted in this book is Henry John White who was appointed an ensign on 2 February 1838 in the 91st, and retired in 1839, see below.

An internet search of the website The National Archives (UK) reveals that John Boyd enlisted in the 82nd Regiment of Foot in 1805 as an Ensign2. The 82nd was an active regiment in the army of General Arthur Wellesley (later the Duke of Wellington), and took part in the Peninsular Wars in Spain. 

In 1847 the British Government decided to introduced campaign medals to soldiers who took part in battles during the Napoleonic wars against France.  The general office of the Horse Guards in London announced on 1 June 1847 that retired officers still alive could lodge a claim for medals in relation to listed battles, to the Adjutant-General of the Army in London3. In Melbourne this was published in the Port Phillip Patriot and Morning Advertiser on 22 September 18474.  John Boyd became aware of this announcement and submitted his claim.

The Port Phillip Gazette on 14 October 1848 reported that “the Peninsular medals were nearly ready for distribution”4. Lionel S Challis’s “Peninsular Roll Call”5 records that John Boyd took part in six battles in Spain, namely Roleia 17 August 1808, Vimiera 21 August 1808, Corunna 16 January 1809, Barrosa 5 March 1811, Vittoria 21 June 1813 and Pyrenees 25 July 1813.

We know that John Boyd received his Military General Service Medal with six claps because the antique dealer Spinks sold his medal for 9500 pounds on 25 July 2013 to an unknown buyer6. It was described in the Spinks catalogue as 

Lot 80

A superb M G S to Major J Boyd, 82nd Foot, who was severely wounded in the Pyrenees, 30 July 1813. His clasp combination is believed to be unique to the British Army.

Military General Service 1793-1814, six clasps Roleia, Vimiera, Corunna Barrosa, Vittoria, Pyrenees (John Boyd, Lieut 82nd Foot), minor edge nick, extremely fine.

Major John Boyd served with the 1st Battalion, 82nd Foot during the Peninsular Campaign; only the flank company’s fought at the battle of Barossa (4 March 1811), in which they suffered almost 50% casualties (99 men killed, wounded or missing); the Regiment suffered 31 casualties at Vittoria and 173 casualties in their actions in the Pyrenees; Boyd was severely wounded in action in the Pyrenees, 30 July 1813, and received a temporary pension pf 70 pounds per annum commencing the following year; Captain December 1813; Major 91st Foot, January 1837.

Boyd is recorded as being severely wounded in the book Historical Record of the Eighty-second Regiment (Prince of Wales Volunteers). “On the night of the 29th and 30th the French had occupied in strength the crest of the mountain (Pyrenees) on the British left of the valley of the Lanz, and Lord Wellington determined to attack the position……. The 82nd took a prominent part in this attack, and obliged the enemy to abandon a position described by his Lordship as “one of the strongest and most difficult of access that he had yet sees occupied by troops”7.

His wounds must have been very serious as it was unusual for an officer to receive a pension. This pension probably ceased when John was placed on half pay on 25 February 1816. 

As yet John Boyd’s baptism/birth record has not been found. His death certificate states he was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, in about 17858. His parents’ names are recorded as “not known” by the informant, son John Sim Boyd. Further research of the army records may reveal more about John’s background.

John married Elizabeth Sim on 21 January 1817 in St Nicholas Church, Church of Scotland, Aberdeen9. Elizabeth and John had the following children :-

John Boyd, died young8

John Boyd, died young8

Jane Allan Boyd, baptised 27 February 1822, Church of Scotland, Parish of Aberdeen9

George Boyd, born 18 January 1824. baptised 7 February 1824, Church of Scotland, Parish of Old Machar, Aberdeen9

John Sim Boyd, baptised 15 August 1826, Church of Scotland, Parish of Old Machar, Aberdeen9

Eliza Boyd, baptised 15 May 1828, Church of Scotland, Parish of Old Machlar, Aberdeen9

Jessie Ann, baptised 25 December 1831, Church of Scotland, Parish of Old Machlar, Aberdeen9

From the time John was injured in 1813 until he transferred to the 81st Regiment on 28 August 1835 his occupation is unknown10a. Soon after joining the 81st on active service, John was transferred to Ireland.

It would seem that John’s wife Elizabeth and children also accompanied him for Elizabeth died at Clare Castle, County Clare, and was buried in the Old Clarehill Cemetery. Here her headstone reads “In memory of Eliza Sim wife of Captain John Boyd of the 91st and late of the 81st Regiment who died at Clare Castle 22nd day of Septr 1836 aged 39 years10b.

Probably some months before this John became aware that the 81st Regiment’s next tour of duty was to be in Gibraltar, as he applied to be transferred to the 91st Regiment on duty in Ireland and he took up duty the day after Elizabeth died 10c. Probably sometime in 1838 John and his children returned to Scotland.

On 16 February 1839 in Dundee, John and Elizabeth’s oldest daughter, Jane, married Henry John White, a fellow officer in the 91st Regiment. In later events White is recorded as being a captain, although this has not been confirmed in the army records.

There must have been lots of discussions happening in the Boyd and White families about leaving the army and emigrating to far away lands. As officers, John and Henry could sell their commissions. Wikipedia records that the going prices in 1837 were Captain 1,800 pounds. This practice was legal within the British army from 1683 to 187112.

During the month after Jane and Henry were married, the Boyds and Whites travelled to Edinburgh, leaving behind their youngest daughter Jessie in the care of William and Margaret Sim in Montrose13.  In the nearby port of Leith they boarded the barque Georginna, bound for Australia. On board were John, his children John, George, Eliza and, Henry and Jane White. Also on board was a “a Lady” who probably accompanied the Boyd family, in helping look after the children.

They all arrived safely in Sydney on 23 October 1839, where they remained until about two months later14.  On 10 December 1839 the Boyd family arrived in Melbourne on the barque Australasian Packet15. Also on board was a lady, Mrs Clarke, immediately listed before the Boyd family.

Wallan Wallan Run

It would appear that together John Boyd and his son-in-law Henry White moved quickly to invest in land and sheep. In March 1840 they read in the NSW Government Gazette that land was available throughout the rural districts around Port Phillip. For 84 pounds they purchased Lot 18 of 640 acres in the parish of Merriang just west of present day Whittlesea16. Also it is recorded that “Captain White and Major Boyd were in occupation of Upton Station near Longwood in 1840”17. And it is said that “Wallan Wallan (2700 acres and 2000 sheep) was squatted on in 1839 by John Boyd”18

John is listed in a lengthy list of persons who have “obtained licences to depasture stock beyond the limits of the Melbourne and Geelong Districts for the year commencing 1 July 1840, on payment of the established fee”.  He could have been granted two licences19.

In March 1841 a census was taken of the inhabitants of the Colony on New South Wales. There are two entries for Boyd and White.  Return Number 33 relates to Boyd and White having a property/residence at Steels Creek in the district of Port Phillip. This is probably the then unnamed Wallan Wallan Run as Steels Run was just to the south. The second was under the name John Boyd in the township of Melbourne was included three individuals, two males and one female adults, all Church of Scotland, one shopkeeper, one domestic, and one other20. The three persons are thought to be Major John Boyd, his housekeeper Mrs Clarke (see above), and his son John aged 15 years. Their son George, aged 17 years, may have been a shepherd on the 2700 acre run near Steels Creek. The whereabouts of their daughter Eliza is unknown; she may have been living with her sister Jane White. 

On 1 January 1842, the Port Phillip Gazette reported a court case involving the purchase of 100 wethers to be driven from “Major Boyd’s station to Mr Le Soeuff”s”. The delivery failed and the sheep were returned to Major Boyd’s station. The shepherd claimed five pounds and the bench decided in his favour21.

Economic conditions began to turn in 1840, including in the Port Phillip district. “The wool industry had reached the bounds of profitable expansion onto new land. Severe drought in 1838–1840 necessitated wheat imports and payment for this drained liquidity from the colonies. The British financial crisis of 1839 heightened British investors’ sensitivity to declining returns in the colonies, which in turn slowed capital inflow. A slump in land sales, falling prices and incomes culminated in an upsurge of insolvencies that substantially weakened the banks.”22

On 18 March 1843 Boyd and White, a partnership, was declared bankrupt and creditors were asked to attend a meeting with the Chief Commissioner in Melbourne on 13 April next, and again to another meeting on 20 July 184323. The outcome of these meetings are not known, but it is likely Boyd and White lost their properties at Merriang and Longford, but not the Wallan Wallan run.

In 1844 John’s daughter Eliza married John Thomson in the Presbyterian Church, Melbourne. They dont appear to have had any children24.

In the mid 1840s it is likely that the Bold family moved from Melbourne to live on the Wallan Wallan Run. In 1840 William Rutledge had the south eastern corner of his large holding of 8 square miles, surveyed with the intention of selling town blocks and semi-rural blocks in a town he called Kilmore. The Kilmore Inn opened and the first rural post office was established in Kilmore in 1843. Other businesses and homes were soon built. This was an attraction for the Boyd family as KIlmore was until the mid 1850s the closest town. 

In 1848 the Colonial Administration decided that the leasing of runs needed to be reviewed and asked holders to apply for a licence (subject to conditions, including termination at any time by the Colonial Administration). On 26 September 1848 the Argus published lists of runs so that anyone could object to a run being leased to the applicant. Number 14 stated.

J and J S Boyd

Name of run – Wallan Wallan

Estimated Area – 2700 acres

Estimated grazing capabilities – 2000 sheep

Bounded on the NE and NNW with marked trees 3.5 miles by Broadhurst and Tootle, on the north 3 miles marked trees by Captain Cain, on the west 1 mile by Brooke, and on the south west 1.5 miles by Purves. The leading features are a tier of ranges running from Mount Macedon and Steels Creek, which runs through the centre of the run.25

It is difficult to say exactly where the boundaries of this run are today. By my estimate based on the above description, the run was located as set out in the image below. The smaller rectangle is the pre-emptive right of 320 acres, see later. The positioning of these two blocks should only be used as a guide. 

Victoria in the summer of 1849/1950 suffered a serious drought from extreme heat. On the afternoon of Monday, 28 January 1850, “a tremendous fire broke out at Major Boyd’s Hill, on the Sydney Road, and proceeded with the rapidity of lightening onwards through the bush in the direction (to the east) of Mr Malcolm’s wool shed, which it avoided by timely assistance when it struck in the direction of Belle Vue, the station of John Rigg, Esq”26. The fire was contained with minor damage to property.   

This was just the forerunner to one of the largest bush fires Australia has experienced. It is said that the Black Thursday fires started in the Plenty Ranges and very quickly about a quarter of Victoria was engulfed (approximately 12 million acres). Temperatures were in the high 40 degrees. Overall the disaster resulted in the deaths of twelve people, a million sheep and thousands of cattle, and the loss of countless buildings. The impact on the Boyd property is not known but as the fires caused losses around Kilmore it must have had some impact on the Boyd run.27

It is likely that at about this time that Major Boyd, aged about 65 years, retired from actively running Wallan Wallan and handed over this responsibility to his son John Sim Boyd.

On 2 August 1851 John advertised in the Argus28.


On the 11th February 1851 from the Station of Mr Boyd, near Kilmore, a Grey Mare, sixteen hands high, switch tail, branded JW off shoulder, like a zig-zag near shoulder, lame near forfoot, with marks of fistula off shoulder. A Reward of One Pound will be paid, on delivery of the Mare to Mr H Morris, Kilomore, or for such information direted to the undersigned, as may lead to her recovery. JOHN BOYD 29th July 1851

On 10 June 1852 John junior advertised in the Argus29.

Stolen from Mr Steel’s Run, Deep Creek, a yellow working bullock, branded BxW near shoulder, bar within circle near rump, very large cock horns. Any person found working or detaining the said bullock, after this notice, will be prosecuted to the utmost rigour of the law. John Sim Boyd

In the early 1900s Isaac Batey wrote many chapters in the Sunbury News under the title The Far-Off Has-Been, In Chapter 1830 he wrote:-

The Old Squatting Life – Major Boyd on No 3 Creek, up from the hamlet of Darriweit Guim, as also William Rigg, of Mickleham, secured their homestead blocks. The major appears to have died in reduced circumstances, whilst the Riggs fell into sheer poverty.

In 1855 a Report was presented to the recently established Victorian Colonial Government on the “Valuation of Crown Lands under Pre-emptive Right. This lists all applications (at the date of the Report – 20 April 1855) approved and included the following :- 

County of Bourke – Boyd, J & S S (sic) – Wallan Wallan run – 320 acres – approved 21 June 1852

Under Victorian Government law the Boyds had a pre-emptive right to 320 acres for a more secure lease from the government. This meant that the Boyds could select 320 acres from somewhere within their squatting run of 2700 acres. A surviving plan dated 13 February 1855, see below, indicates that the lease was made out to John and John Sim Boyd31.

This plan indicates that the Wallan Wallan homestead is at the southern end of the block. To the north is a large flat area, ideal for grazing or cultivation, which has been fenced and has a wool shed on the eastern side. Near the south east corner is a small enclosed burial ground. 

Who is buried in this cemetery? A female described as “Lady” accompanied Major Boyd and children on the voyage to Sydney, and the 1841 census indicates that there is one adult female living with John Boyd. The Australian newspaper on 26 November 1839 under Shipping Intelligence listed a Mrs Clarke immediately before the Boyd family. I consider it is reasonable to conclude that Mrs Clarke was part of the Boyd group looking after the children. And that she died at Wallan Wallan without a religious ceremony, was buried here, probably in the late 1840s.

Gold came to the Kilmore district in the 1850s and 1860s, to the north of the Wallan Wallan run, known as the Kilmore Diggings. A group of local residents, including John Sim Boyd signed a petition to the Police Magistrate in Kilmore seeking the calling of a meeting to be held at the Red Lion Hotel on 26 January 1857, “for the purpose of taking the necessary steps for forming a committee for the development of the auriferous resources of Kilmore District.”  The meeting was held and there was much discussion about gold being extracted and the future potential of the District. Some diggers found gold but it took a lot of work over time and continuing efforts declined31.

Sadly firstly in 1856 Eliza Thomson’s (nee Boyd) husband John passed away, then followed by Eliza on February 1858 in Geelong. Her brother John was an executor of her will32

On 4 May 1858 a meeting was held at the Australian Arms Hotel in Kilmore to discuss forming a roads board for the Bylands road district. There were a number of motions including one by “Mr J S Boyd and Mr James Keith to form such a Roads Board. But only four voted for this motion. The successful motion was “that the movement be postponed indefinitely33

That year the Port Phillip Farmers’ Society published the adjudication of the judges of farms for 1858. Prizes were awarded for the best farms, including “Mr Wm Bell is entitled to the first prize in the third class, and Mr J S Boyd to the second34.

In early 1860 it was reported in a lengthy item under the heading A Gluttonous Snake that a man in the employ of Mr J S Boyd had killed a large brown snake – six feet two inches long35.

In May 1860, the Kilmore Free Press reported that the Kilmore Agricultural Society had held it’s annual ploughing match adjoining Reay Clarke’s Victoria Hotel, with J S Boyd taking one of the prizes36. The Victoria Hotel was on the western side of the Northern Highway between the Wandong turn-off and the town. 

Then the Boyd family fell on hard times. A formal notice of action taken by creditors of John Sim Boyd appeared in the Argus on 27 February 1861, whereby Boyd assigned all his real and personal estate to two of his creditors, James Maxfield and George Hudson for the benefit of all his creditors37

Nothing has been found as to what happened in the early 1860s to the Wallan Wallan Run and the pre-emptive right of 320 acres, but there are indications that Major Boyd and his son John moved to Wallan Wallan to live during the next three years. On 9 January 1865, John Sim Boyd of Wallan Wallan, the youngest son of Major Boyd, married Mary Ann Couch, late of Brunswick, at the residence of C G Anderson of Kilmore38.

Then just four days later, John Boyd died at Wallan Wallan, aged 79 years39. He was buried in the Presbyterian Section of the Kilmore General Cemetery on 13 January 1865. The informant was his son John Sim Boyd, farmer of Bylands.

Some later events

On 15 February 1875 Mary Ann Boyd, the wife of John Sim Boyd died at her residence, 47 Simpson’s Road, now Victoria Street, Collingwood, aged 35 years40

On 2 July 1884, Henry John White, late of 91st Regiment, died at his residence, Barkly Street, Brunswick, aged 70 years41. His wife Jane (nee Boyd) late of Northcote, died on 8 March 1905 and was buried in the Melbourne General Cemetery42.

On 28 January 1890, John Sim Boyd, youngest son of the late Major John Boyd of 91st Regiment, died at the residence of his sister Mrs H J White, Andrew Street, Northcote, aged 64 years. He was buried in the Melbourne General Cemetery43.

On 2 April 1900, George Boyd, gentleman died at Station Street, Northcote, aged 76 years, father of eight children. He was buried in the Melbourne General Cemetery 44

The Wallan Wallan Run, renamed Willow Flats, was owned by Samuel Moore from about 186645, His property of 1151 acres, including Willow Flats, was sold in 1915. The notice of the auction described “Willow Flats and homestead, comprising 326 acres including the late Major Boyd’s Pre-emptive Right and consisting mostly of rich alluvial flats and good fattening land, with extensive double frontage to the No 3 Creek”46.

The entrance to Willow Flats – South east corner of the pre-emptive right 320 acres, part of the Wallan Wallan Run – taken by Grahame Thom, September 2020


[1] Goff, Gerald Lionel Joseph, Historical Records of the 91st Argyllshire Highlanders, 1891, found in August 2020 on the website https://www.waughfamily.ca/Lindsay/HistoricalRecords91stRegimentArgyllshireHighlanders.pdf

[2] The National Archives, https://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk, accessed August 2020

[3] The Horse Guards was the senior regiment in the British Army and was responsible for the overall administration of the Army. Usually the OIC of this Regiment was a member of the Royal Family

[4] Trove (NLA) Old Newspapers, https://trove.nla.gov.au/search/advanced/category/newspapers, accessed August 2020

[5] The Napoleon Series – Archives, https://www.napoleon-series.org/biographies/lionel-s-challiss-peninsula-roll-call, accessed August 2020

[6] Spinks Catalogue 2013, page 70, https://issuu.com/spinkandson/docs/13002/72, accessed August 2020

[7] Jarvis, Brevet-Major, 82nd Regt, Historical Record of the Eighty-second Regiment, 1866, https://archive.org/details/historicalrecor00jarvgoog/page/n6/mode/2up?q=boyd, accessed August 2020

[8] Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages, Victoria, 1369/1865, John Boyd’s death certificate lists his children

[9] Websites Scotlandspeople, Church Records (OPRs),https://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk/advanced-search/church, https://www.familysearch.org/search/, both accessed August 2020

[10a] The London Gazette, 28 August 1835, page 1644.

[10b] Clare Genealogy, Clare County Library, Old Clarehill Graveyard, Clare Castle, http://www.clarelibrary.ie/eolas/coclare/genealogy/don_tran/graves/old_clarehill_graveyard_surnames.htm, accessed October 2020

[10c] The National Archives, WO 25/485, page 12A, 92 and 121,  https://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk, accessed September 2020

[11] Websites Scotlandspeople, Church Records (OPRs), https://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk/advanced-search/church, accessed August 2020

[12] Purchase of Commissioners in the British Army, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Purchase_of_commissions_in_the_British_Army, accessed August 2020, also Note 10c

[13] 1841 Census of Scotland, https://www.ancestry.com.au, accessed August 2020

[14] Trove, Old Newspapers, Sydney Herald, page 2, 23 October 1839, and Sydney Gazette, accessed August 2020

[15] Trove, Old Newspapers, Port Phillip Gazette, page 3, 14 December 1839, accessed August 2020

[16] Trove, Old Newspapers, NSW Government Gazette No15, 11 March 1840, Sydney Herald, page 4, 24 October 1840, accessed August 2020

[17] Trove, Old Newspapers, Weekly Times, page 4, 4 August 1928, accessed August 2020, Fowles Wines, situated at Killleen Station, south of Longwood, which includes Upton Run. https://www.fowleswine.com/our-farm, accessed August 2020

[18] Tucker, Maya V, Kilmore on the Sydney Road, page 41

[19] NSW Government Gazette , No 55, page 864, http://gazette.slv.vic.gov.au, accessed August 2020

[20] NSW State Archives & Records, Census 1841, https://www.records.nsw.gov.au/archives/collections-and-research/guides-and-indexes/node/1706/browse, accessed 2020

[21] Trove, Old Newspapers, Port Phillip Gazette, page 3, 1 January 1842, accessed August 2020

[22] The 1840s Depression, https://www.rba.gov.au/publications/rdp/2001/2001-07/1840s-depression.html, accessed August 2020

[23] Trove, Old Newspapers, NSW Government Gazette, page 564, 21 April 1843, and Melbourne Times, page 3, 18 July 1843, accessed August 2020

[24] Online marriage index, Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages, accessed August 2020

[25] Trove, Old Newspapers, Argus, page 1, 26 September 1848, and Sydney Morning Herald, page 3, 23 October 1848, accessed August 2020

[26] Trove, Old Newspapers, Argus, 1 February 1850, page 2, accessed August 2020. Belke Vue is the the east of the Northern Highway at Bylands.

[27] Black Thursday bush fires, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Thursday_bushfires, accessed August 2020

[28] Trove, Old Newspapers, Argus, 2 August 1851, page 3, accessed August 2020

[29] Trove, Old Newspapers, Argus, 10 June 1852, page 7, accessed August 2020

[30] Trove, Old Newspapers, Argus, 9 July 1904, page 4, accessed August 2020

[31] Trove, Old Newspapers, The Age, 30 January 1936, page 4, accessed August 2020

[32] Online marriage and death indexes, Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages, Victoria, Trove, Old Newspapers, Argus, 13 October 1858, page 2, and online index, Wills, Public Records Office of Victoria, accessed August 2020

[33] Trove, Old Newspapers, Kilmore Free Press, 28 May 1914, page 1, accessed August 2020

[34] Trove, Old Newspapers, The Age, 23 August 1858, page 6, accessed August 2020

[35] Trove, Old Newspapers, Sydney Morning Herald, 7 January 1860, page 5, accessed August 2020

[36] Trove, Old Newspapers, Kilmore Free Press, Early Kilmore, 18 June 1914, page 1, accessed August 2020

[37] Trove, Old Newspapers, Argus, 27 March 1861, page 1, accessed August 2020

[38] Trove, Old Newspapers, Australasian, 21 January 1865, page 8, accessed August 2020

[39] Death Certificate 832/1865, Victorian Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages, headstone, Kilmore General Cemetery

[40] Trove, Old Newspapers, The Age, 16 February 1875, page 2, accessed August 2020

[41] Trove, Old Newspapers, The Age, 3 July 1884, page 1, accessed August 2020

[42] Trove, Old Newspapers, The Age, 9 March 1905, pages 1 and 10, accessed August 2020

[43] Trove, Old Newspapers, The Age, 30 January 1890, pages 1 and 8, accessed August 2020

[44] Death Certificate 3882/1900, Victorian Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages

[45] Maher, J A, The Tale of a Century – Kilmore 1837-1938, page 8

[46] Trove, Old Newspapers, Argus, 11 November 1915, page 3, accessed August 2020