Thomas was born on 11 April 1791 at Lasswade, Loanhead, Midlothian, Scotland and christened on 24 April 1791 at Lasswade. He was one of ten children, four girls and six boys born to Robert Millar ( a farmer ) and Christian Rye who were married on 17 November 1782 in the parish of Cockpen, Edinburgh. [ I hold a copy of the marriage certificate from a Register of Proclamation of Banns obtained from Scots Origins, No. 10585. Christian listed as Christina on son Thomas' death certificate, Robert's occupation also from this death certificate ]
Thomas married Euphemia White. I have been unable to find any record of this marriage or a death entry for Euphemia in Scotland or Australia ( perhaps she died at sea ). They had a daughter, Elizabeth, born about 1825. I have been unable to find a record of Elizabeth's birth either. I know of no other children of Thomas Millar.
He appears to have arrived in Victoria, Australia about 1839 with just his daughter Elizabeth, age 14 years. Thomas brought a carved mantle clock out from Scotland with him that has been passed down through the family. Thomas Millar gave a donation in 1852 to the building of St. John's Presbyterian Church, on the corner of Buckley Street and Mount Alexander Road, Essendon. The original church was demolished early in the 20th century, another stands in its place. T. Millar was listed as one of the first Trustees of St. John's Church. [ Source: St. John's Presbyterian Church, Essendon, Souvenir 70th Anniversary 1852 - 1922, June 1922. Courtesy: Lenore Frost, Essendon Historical Society ]
It seems that Thomas may have been a man of some capital: - "The 60 acres north of Maribyrnong Road and adjoining the river was purchased from the crown by George Newsom for £ 315 in 1847, sold to the Brock family in 1853, and again in 1854 to Thomas Miller and William McClusky for £ 9,500." The northern part of this block is now a part of the present Maribyrnong Park. [ Source: Newsletter, Essendon Historical Society, No. 1 (4) 3. Courtesy: Lenore Frost, Essendon Historical Society ]
Thomas was very much involved with the events of the Port Phillip Farmers' Society. A trial of reaping machines took place on his property, 'Ringwood', Saltwater ( Maribyrnong ) River:
"PORT PHILLIP FARMERS' SOCIETY TRIAL OF REAPING MACHINES" Some weeks ago, there was a trial of those reaping machines selected for that purpose at the Port Phillip Farmers' Society Show, previous to deciding which was entitled to the prize of £ 50 offered by the society. The same machines were again tried on Saturday last; on the first occasion as mowers; on the last as reapers. The day was very fine, and a considerable number of specators were on the ground. Both trials were on the farm on Mr. Miller, at the Saltwater River. The grain to be cut was wheat, rather thin on the ground, of moderate height, and remarkably free from grass or weeds. The field was smooth and generally level." ( the report goes on to give the results of the tests ) ( "Bell's Life in Victoria", Saturday, 3 January 1857 )
Also, Thomas's ploughman, W. Kerr, took part in numerous competitions, sometimes with more success than others:-
Annual Ploughing match of the Port Phillip Farmers' Association. W. Kerr - Mr. Millar, Saltwater River. Well turned, but the furrows coarse, though well defined; the crown indifferent, but finish was pretty fair. ( No prize won ) & Annual Ploughing competition of Victorian Agricultural Society - 6 June 1857 at Heidelberg. The Judges stated that the work done by W. Kerr, ploughman to Mr. T. Miller of the Saltwater River, was of such good quality that they recommend an extra prize be given . . .
Thomas participated in competitions of the Port Phillip Farmers' Association which had been formed in 1848 ( the forerunner of The Royal Agricultural Society ). He won a silver tankard for the "best managed 100 acres of farmland" in 1857 for his farm at Essendon and also in that year a first prize medal for Guinea Fowl.
"FARMS OF FROM FORTY TO ONE HUNDRED ACRES OF CULTIVATED LAND" We award the first prize in this class to Mr. Thomas Miller, for the farm of Ringwood, Saltwater River, containing 105 acres, of which 86 are under crop, consisting of oats, wheat, and Cape barley. This is a farm of fine rich, easy land; we found it exceedingly well tilled and sown, the braird ( fresh shoots ) looking all beautifully regular, and the lands showing a fine uniformity and roundness, the whole being rolled and finished off with evident taste." ( "Bell's Life in Victoria", Saturday, 27 June 1857 )
Thomas was the owner of a horse called "Paul Jones." This horse was the winner of the first Cup trophy to be presented on Melbourne turf in 1858. This large silver trophy was passed down through the family but last seen about 1937.
"The next race was for the Artillery Challenge Cup, the riders being members of the corps, and the horses being bona fide troop horses . . . The race was entirely between the winner, Paul Jones, and Warrigal, who ran second; all the others hopelessly beaten in the first mile. Paul Jones was admirably ridden by his owner, Sergeant Miller, a very old colonist and farmer in Victoria, numbering some sixty-eight years of age. The game old veteran was enthusiastically cheered on returning to scale. His Excellency, handed the prize to the gallant sergeant, and wished him health and strength to win it again next year. The cup was then filled with champagne and the hero of the day challenged the ladies in the grand stand to drink with him, an honour which the proud fair ones graciously accorded. His Excellency, and the company with him, appeared to enjoy the old man's honourable sense of his triumph, and pledged him heartily."( "Bell's Life in Victoria", Saturday, 15 May 1858 )
Thomas died on 20 July 1863 at Tylden ( district of Flemington ) aged 73 years of 'disease of the heart' and is buried at the Melbourne General Cemetery, Presbyterian Section F, Grave 534, with his infant grand-daughter, Christina, who died in 1859 and daughter-in-law Jessie McCluskey ( wife of Thomas Miller McCluskey ) who died in 1897. A bluestone obelisk was erected in his memory with a marble tablet engraved as follows:
THIS MONUMENT IS ERECTED BY A FEW FRIENDS
IN TESTIMONY OF THE RESPECT AND ESTEEM IN
WHICH HE WAS HELD BY ALL WHO KNEW HIM
I do not know if Thomas sold his land at Essendon and moved to Tylden, I assume that he was living with his daughter Elizabeth, her husband William McCluskey and their family when he died. His grandson, Thomas Miller McCluskey, residing at Tylden, was the informant on his grandfather's death certificate and Elizabeth's youngest child, Charles, was born at Tylden in 1865. The family moved there sometime after 1858 as their son James was born in Melbourne in that year.
( From the McCracken Letters at the State Library of Victoria [ MS 9654 ] - They are described as being letters of Peter McCracken to brother Alexander, but in fact other letters are also in the bundle, including Robert McCracken )
"Mr. Millar had a days ploughing from the neighbours, there was a great turn out, about 60 ploughs, and plenty of Whiskey". ( No. 50 - Robert McCracken to Alexander McCracken . . . Melbourne, 14 April 1858 )
"I was at old Mr. Miller's Funeral two days ago - he was up to Closes place at Mount Massidon (Macedon) about two years ago. He was with us a night about four months ago and was much changed, in the morning as I went through the field with him at party he said he did not think he would see me again - his remains wer(e) brought down to Mr. M. Shiels old place so we had a very large meeting by the time we reached Melbourne. I had a talk with Mrs. McCluskie who told me he pruned the garden bushes the week of his death and had put on his cloths the morning that he died". ( No. 65 - Peter McCracken to Alexander McCracken . . . Ardmillan, 24 July 1863 )
"Dear old Thos. Miller is dead, he was brought down to the Melbourne burial ground, the Old Colonists are fast thinning out, and by their death are warning we and others of our latter end. God grant that we may be enabled to lay the warning to heart and prepare by God's grace mo(o)re diligently for my latter end". ( No. 66 - Robert McCracken to Alexander McCracken . . . Melbourne, 24 July 1863 )
Contributed by Lynn Haines ( PPPG Member No. 1213 )
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