CAPTAIN JOHN MARTIN ARDLIE, H.E.I.C.S.
& HIS CAMELS


When Capt. Ardlie signed the Loyal Address to the Duke of Edinburgh in 1867 he gave his date of arrival in the colony as August 1841. However he may not have reached Melbourne until early the following month as it was on 7 September 1841 that the "Port Phillip Herald" announced his arrival overland from Sydney. He had brought livestock with him which included Burmese ponies and at least two camels. The newspaper reported that the camels could be viewed at the yard surrounding the Survey Office. There were two young female camels, fifteen months old and about sixteen hands high but expected to grow much larger. Two male camels were said to have died on the voyage to Sydney.

Capt. Ardlie had tried to interest the Government in contracting him to import more camels into Australia. A communication had been made to Lord John Russell who wrote from England on 28 March 1841 to Sir George Gipps about the matter. The Governor even laid Lord Russell's letter before the Legislative Council in Sydney in order to publicise the suggestion. Public opinion was divided about the matter but some were prepared to give the camels a trial.

Capt. Ardlie initially settled on the Merri Creek 8 miles north of Melbourne. His wife, Mary Ann (nee Leighton), and their children are thought to have arrived at Melbourne on 22 October 1841 per "Lysander" direct from England. Unfortunately, like many others at the time, he got into financial difficulties and in April 1845 became insolvent. Described as a farmer of Moonee Ponds, he was found to have debts of £4,094 8s 10d. Landed property, none. Personal property £37 8s. Outstanding debts, &c. all bad, 405. Balance deficiency 3652 0s 10d.

A report in "The Melbourne Argus" on 24 July 1846 differed slightly from the earlier one in the "Port Phillip Herald". It said that one male and two female camels he had been brought to Melbourne. The male had died and the two females had been purchased by the Government with the view of raising a breed in the colony. They were then being kept in the Government domain in Sydney. It said another male camel imported at a later date had also died.

The article in "The Melbourne Argus" also reported that in 1845 camels had been successfully introduced into the Isle of France (Mauritius). Their food there cost only half that of mules, they could easily carry seven to eight hundred pounds in weight, and they did not have to be shod. They were broken in in their tenth year and were likely to outlive several generations of mules. Also, the price paid for them was only half that for mules and was likely to diminish as the demand for them in quantity increased.

When two further children were taken to be baptised at St. James Church in Melbourne in 1847 the family abode was given as "Camelswold". The children were named William Ardlie and Maria Lucretia Ardlie.

In 1849 he was again declared insolvent. This was apparently the result of a failed attempt to set himself up as a provisions dealer in premises on the north-west corner of Lonsdale and Elizabeth Streets, Melbourne (opposite St. Francis Church). On this occasion it was anticipated he could pay his creditors about 6s. 8d. in the pound.

His fortunes appear to have later improved for in March 1850 Capt. Ardlie was appointed Clerk of Petty Sessions at Kilmore. He was also Postmaster there. In 1852 he was appointed Clerk of Petty Sessions, Clerk of the Peace, and Registrar at Warrnambool. He also acted as Harbour Master in Lady Bay for a time. When he retired from the Public Service in 1868 he was well respected and was presented with a complimentary address signed by the Police Magistrate and local justices.

He died on 13 February 1872 at his residence "Wyton", Warrnambool. An obituary was published in "The Warrnambool Examiner" giving details of his life. He was born on 10 March 1793 at Kelvedon, Essex, England and was married in May 1825 at Westminster, London, England. Five years later he became commander of a vessel in the East India Company's Service in which he remained for about eight years. He subsequently purchased several vessels in England, amongst which were the "Wyton" and "Lord Amherst". He traded in the "Wyton" for several years. About 1839 he left for Australia, landing in Sydney, New South Wales.

The funeral service was conducted by the Rev. Dr. Peter Teulon Beamish at Christ Church, Warrnambool. Dr. Beamish delivered a feeling address in which he alluded to the deceased as a pattern to be followed by his fellow-men, in living an active, upright, christian life. He was buried at Warrnambool Cemetery with his wife who had died in 1870. It was said that his surviving camels were then located at Twofold Bay.

Contributed by Alexander Romanov-Hughes ( PPPG Member No. 52 )


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