Isabella Masterton (1819-1892)

Isabella Masterton (1819-1892)

Australian Pioneer

Isabella Masterton was an early emigrant from Scotland to Australia with her husband James Drysdale, brushmaker. She married James in Edinburgh in 1845, starting a family there. In 1854 they embarked on the "Prince of the Seas" for Melbourne, Australia, enticed by stories of the Victoria gold diggings. Left a widow in 1860, she raised her family in difficult circumstances.


This Isabella Masterton is a daughter of James Masterton, weaver, and Elizabeth Inman who were married in Dunfermline in 1816. Her younger sister, Mary Ann, also emigrated to Australia with her husband William Lee Ferrier. It seems very likely that the two sisters kept closely in touch in Australia, not least because of the interchange of the Ferrier and Drysdale names as middle names for their children. For more details on Isabella Masterton's extended family tree, click on this link

ISABELLA MASTERTON. -- A somewhat old colonist, in the person of Mrs Isabella Drysdale, passed away on Saturday, 24th December 1892. In many respects the deceased was a wonderful woman. She was born in Dunfermline, Scotland, on the 20th May, 1819 (four days prior to the birth of the Queen), and was married to Mr James Drysdale -- then in business at Edinburgh--in 1845.

The Victorian gold diggings being greatly talked about in the early part of 1854, Mr Drysdale with his wife, decided to proceed thence with his family, then numbering four viz., David, Eliza, Mary, and Annabella--the latter when eight years old, and a particularly bright child, was unfortunately drowned by accidentally falling into an abandoned water-hole on the diggings at Castlemaine, in 1859.

After a four month's eventful passage in the "Prince of the Seas," they all arrived at Melbourne, December, 1854. A daughter (Mina) was then born--three boys had previously been given birth to and had died during infancy--one in Edinburgh, one in Melbourne, and the other in Castlemaine. For about five years Mr Drysdale was well known, being held in the highest esteem by all his acquaintances in and about Castlemaine, where he carried on the business of a merchant generally.

While out riding one day his horse stumbled and fell with him, crushing him severely, and from the effects of the accident he never recovered, but died three weeks after at the comparatively young age of 39 years, on the 10th day of April, 1860. Thus Mrs Drysdale was deprived of her bread-winner for her four young children--the eldest (David, and now the proprietor of this journal) being then a lad of just over 14 years.

On the estate being wound up there was nothing left for the widow--who had then to face a cold and cheerless world and do her best to earn bread for her little ones. To make matters worse, five months after the demise of her husband Mrs Drysdale gave birth to twins (James and William), who are now with their elder brother at the "Dispatch" office. These boys, who were in their infancy the unwitting cause of "many a sore heart" to their worthy mother, and have been since "many a time and oft" the source of joy and gladness to her.

For 32 long and weary years Mrs Drysdale bravely "fought the battle of life" alone--being cheered on her way in later life by the knowledge that all her children loved her and gave her all the credit and honour for what they were.

With a constant trust in providence, she has left behind her an example of indomitable perseverance, frugality, and industry, that is worthy of her kin and country. It may be as well to state that of the family remaining the twin boys and the youngest daughter are still in Port Augusta , whence they came with their mother in 1881--following the eldest son David, who arrived in 1877. The eldest daughter (Mrs W Arnold), lives in Adelaide; while Mre E Cock (who has been left a widow) lives in Melbourne.

The late Mrs Drysdale had only returned from a 10 week's visit to her daughters on the Saturday before her decease. She bore the trip by the steamer well, and it was only on the succeeding Tuesday that she complained and became seriously ill, death eventually resulting from cancer in the stomach. The deceased was 73 years of age on the 20th of last May, and while for the last few months of her life she had occasionally borne fairly good health she had, all her life through been a very hard worker, and was noted for possessing splendid eyesight (never wearing glasses), and being able to read the smallest print or thread a needle up to the week prior to her death.

Being a good pedestrian for one so aged, Mrs Drysdale will be missed by many of her old particular friends and acquaintances--both in Port Augusta and elsewhere--whom she was fond of visiting.

The remains of the deceased were interred in the local cemetery on Sunday, 25th, the Rev. R. Mitchell officiating.

Port Augusta Dispatch
5th January 1893
Transcribed by Geoffrey Hayes