Portrait of McMillan
14 August 1810|
Glen Brittle, Scotland
|Died||18 May 1865
Iguana Creek, near Bairnsdale, Victoria
|Known for||European discovery of Gippsland|
Angus McMillan, (14 August 1810 – 18 May 1865), was an explorer and pioneer pastoralist in Gippsland, Victoria, Australia. Arriving in Australia in 1838, he rose swiftly in colonial society and amassed significant wealth through the use of grazing land. In the process of expanding his pastoral interests he has been associated with the Gippsland massacres of 1840-1850, which killed or drove away the region's indigenous population. The Victorian Federal electorate McMillan is named for him.
Angus McMillan was born in Glen Brittle, Isle of Skye, Scotland, the fourth son of Ewan McMillan. After an early life of hardship and deprivation he migrated to Australia in 1838. Under the initial employ of Captain Lachlan Macalister he gained experience of Australian pastoralism on the Monaro, New South Wales before moving to manage the Currawang station near Delegate.
By the late 1830s, wealthy landholders in New South Wales had become interested in the Gippsland region of Victoria and funded exploration of the region. Macalister knew the early settlers in the high country of Gippsland around Benambra and Omeo as they too were from the Monaro. He put forward McMillan as a candidate to further explore the plains of Gippsland proper nearer to the coast. A second interest sent Polish scientist-explorer, Count Paul Strzelecki to also explore Gippsland.
Expedition to Omeo
On 28 May 1839 McMillan travelled south on his first exploration of the Gippsland plains, accompanied by Jimmy Gabber, an elder of the Monaro people. The expedition was unsuccessful; in a letter to colonial administrator Charles La Trobe, McMillan reported that six days after leaving Currawong, Gabber declined to go further for fear of encountering the Kurnai people, Gippsland's indigenous inhabitants. McMillan refused to turn back, whereupon Gabber waited for a quiet moment and attempted to kill McMillan with a club. Gabber retreated when McMillan raised his pistol, but still refused to go on.
McMillan therefore continued alone, heading west towards Buchan and Omeo. No significant agricultural lands or watercourses were discovered along McMillan's path, and neither did he encounter the region's indigenous inhabitants. After two weeks in Omeo McMillan returned northeast across the plains to Currawong.
Expedition to Sale
Despite the apparent failure of this first expedition, Macalister remained optimistic about pastoral opportunities in Gippsland. At Macalister's urging McMillan commenced a second expedition in December 1839, moving southwest by west across the plains towards the existing settlement of Sale. On his return to Currawang in early 1840, he reported to Macalister that he crossed several watercourses draining toward the east, each surrounded by fine potential grazing land. McMillan had named them as the Nicholson, the Mitchell, the Avon and Macalister rivers. He had also promptly contacted colonial officials, to register claims along the Avon River for cattle stations in his own and Macalister's names.
McMillan completed several more expeditions over the following two years. While he was not necessarily the first to visit many locations, his explorations were the most important in terms of European settlement of Gippsland proper. In 1841, on the final of his early expeditions he located a suitable port for the region, at present day Port Albert.
The route established then by McMillan varies substantially from the current major north-south route through Gippsland today. McMillan travelled further west along the ranges than the current Great Alpine Road. This route follows the Great Alpine Road south through the Tambo Valley to Bruthen, then West to Bairnsdale and Sale along the Princes Highway, then south from Sale to Port Albert.
For several decades Gippsland operated essentially on this north-south axis, following this route from Benambra and Omeo to Port Albert, but in the 1860s a road was opened from Melbourne to the east, and this was followed a couple of decades later by a rail line. These developments, along with development of significant east-west shipping on the Gippsland Lakes at the time, reoriented travel and transport to the simpler east-west axis, and demoted the Benambra and Omeo regions to a side branch of this main route.
His explorations at an end, McMillan established himself as an independent squatter on land along the Avon River which he named "Bushy Park." Development was slow, with an 1845 census of the region showing only six acres under cultivation and livestock comprising 600 head of cattle and six horses. McMillan persisted, and by the 1856 census he was recorded as the owner of 150,000 acres, upon which he ran the region's second-largest holding of sheep and third-largest of cattle. In the same year, "Bushy Park" itself was recorded as an eight-room home attached to a four-room cottage, adjacent to a stable, wool store, barn, a worker's hut and a six acre orchard.
Increasing European settlement in Gippsland dispossessed the indigenous Kurnai people, who were progressively forced off their land to make was for pastoral activities. Relations between Europeans and the Kurnai reached their nadir in 1843 when McMillan's colleague Macalister was killed by an Aborigine. Historian Paul Bartrop states that McMillan retaliated by organising an armed assault on the Kurnai, including the massacre of between 60 and 150 indigenous Australians at Warrigal Creek.
In 1857 McMillan married a local woman, Christina MacDougald. They had two sons. From October 1859 to November 1860 he was a member of the Legislative Assembly for South Gippsland, less than a decade after Victoria was first declared a separate colony. His properties had generated substantial wealth, but by 1861 a series of poor financial decisions coupled with devastating bushfires, had left him in debt. The bulk of his Gippsland properties were sold and by the end of the year his only holding was the land immediately surrounding his Bushy Park home.
In need of money, in 1864 McMillan acceded to a request from the Victorian Government to lead a team of men into Gippsland's alpine region with the aim of mapping and clearing tracks to support local mining operations. Within six months McMillan and his men and constructed more than 220 miles (350 km) of track through rugged terrain near Omeo and Dargo. It was to be McMillan's last expedition; in May 1865 he was clearing a track near Dargo when a pack-horse slipped and fell, crushing him beneath it. McMillan was carried to the public house in Iguana Creek, suffering serious internal injuries. He died on 18 May and was buried in the public cemetery in Sale.
McMillan's death left his wife and sons destitute, until a public outcry at their plight forced the Victorian Government to come to their aid with a gratuity of £2000. His feats as an explorer were the subject of public testimonials.
In 1948 the Federal Division of McMillan was proclaimed in his honour, covering western Gippsland. The first elections in the new electorate were held in 1949. McMillan's Bushy Park homestead was also preserved, and was relocated to Old Gippstown in Moe, Victoria in 1969.
- Webster, Theo. "McMillan, Angus (1810–1865)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Canberra: Australian National University. Retrieved 21 November 2012.
- Gardner, P.D.. (2001) , Gippsland massacres: the destruction of the Gunai tribes, 1800–1860, Ngarak Press, Essay, Victoria ISBN 1-875254-31-5
- Australian Electoral Commission Profile of the electoral division of McMillan (Vic) Retrieved on 11 September 2012
- Mennell, Philip (1892). " McMillan, Angus". The Dictionary of Australasian Biography. London: Hutchinson & Co. Wikisource
- "McMillan, Angus". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/17693. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
- Harris, Charles Alexander (1893). "MacMillan, Angus". In Lee, Sidney. Dictionary of National Biography 35. London: Smith, Elder & Co.
- Correspondence, Angus McMillan to Charles La Trobe. Cited in Gardner 1990, p. IX
- Gardner 1990, p. IX, p. 17
- Gardner 1990, P. 17
- Gardner 1990, p.62
- Bartrop, Paul R. (2004). "Punitive Expeditions and Massacres: Gippsland, Colorado and the Question of Genocide". In A. Dirk Moses. Genocide and Settler Society: Frontier Violence and Stolen Indigenous Children in Australian History. Berghahn. pp. 200–203. ISBN 978-1-57181-410-4.
- "Angus McMillan". re-member: a database of all Victorian MPs since 1851. Parliament of Victoria. Retrieved 21 November 2012.
- Australian Heritage Moe-Yallourn Retrieved on 10 September 2012
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Angus McMillan.|
- Bride, T.F. (Ed) (1899) Letters from Victorian pioneers. Melbourne.
- Gardner, P.D. (1990). Our Founding Murdering Father: Angus McMIllan and the Kurnai Tribe of Gippsland 1839-1865. Ngarak Press. ISBN 9781875254019.
- Morgan, P. (1997) The Settling of Gippsland: A Regional History. Traralgon: Gippsland Municipalities Association.