Armstrong Family

The Armstrong Family (From Henry Francis - Gentleman of Cumberland Street by Geoffrey G. Aslett 2000. ISBN 09578534 1 6)   Largely based on information in notes on the Armstrong family by the late Norman Garnet Armstrong as well as other family members, and from the Australian War Memorial Archives, Canberra.

JOHN ARCHIBALD ARMSTRONG, from Adare, County Limerick, Ireland, married Catherine Fitzgerald in 1824. They had a family of sons and one daughter. Catherine died at the birth of her tenth child, in 1837.

  • Wyndham ARMSTRONG (the eldest) Doctor of Medicine - came out to Australia in 1852.
  • Robert Allan ARMSTRONG - Royal Engineers - worked in railroads in Canadian Rockies.
  • Andrew ARMSTRONG Royal Navy – chasing slavers on the Gold Coast of Africa.
  • John ARMSTRONG - Church of England Clergyman.
  • Charles ARMSTRONG, died in childhood.
  • William ARMSTRONG - also a Doctor - came to Australia in 1855.
  • Octavius Charles ARMSTRONG - first joined a cousin in Ohio, then joined his brothers in Australia.
  • Harriette ARMSTRONG - the youngest of the family.

Catherine Fitzgerald’s (Armstrong) lifelong friend was Lady Dunraven of Dunraven Castle, South Wales, and Adare Manor, County Limerick, Ireland.  Lady Dunraven’s family name was Wyndham, after whom all the eldest Armstrong sons were named.  When Catherine died in childbirth leaving seven sons and a two-year-old daughter, Lady Dunraven took over the guardianship and care of the childhood years and education of Harriette in English schools.

In 1852 Dr. WYNDHAM ARMSTRONG came to Australia, hoping the change of climate would cure his lung complaint.  He was practicing in the Drayton, Warwick and Toowoomba area of Queensland.  In 1855, he was joined in the practice by his brother WILLIAM, who was accompanied by their sister HARRIETTE.

In June 1858, at St. Mary’s, Kangaroo Point, Brisbane, Harriette married Henry Edward King, who was born at Mt. Coote, Limerick, Ireland, in 1832.  Henry King later served as Gold Commissioner at Gympie.  He was elected to Parliament in 1870, and was Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, Queensland, from 1876 to1883.

Shortly before Harriette’s marriage to Henry King, her brother, Dr. William Armstrong married Miss Medora Beit at St. Lukes, Toowoomba.  Two of their daughters, Catherine (Kate) and Mary (Polly), married two brothers, William and Walter Vanneck.  Polly, the younger of the two, married William, the elder of the brothers.  The Vanneck brothers owned properties in the Lockyer Valley, “Lake Clarendon” and “Campsey Ash”.  They met Kate and Polly at “Adare”, a neighbouring property owned by the girls’ brother, William Drayton Armstrong.  William and Walter Vanneck were born at “Heveningham” Suffolk, the country seat of their father, the third Baron Huntingfield. 

The Vannecks eventually returned to England, where William inherited the title, and subsequently, his son Charles Vanneck became the fifth Baron Huntingfield.  Charles, who was born at “Lake Clarendon” near Gatton, and resided at “Campsey Ash” as a boy, was appointed Governor of Victoria in 1934.  In the 1930’s he revisited Queensland and spent holidays on Magnetic Island near Townsville, where he stayed at the Arcadian Guesthouse.  Huntingfield Bay on Magnetic Island is named after him.

WILLIAM DRAYTON ARMSTRONG, son of William and Medora, resided at “Adare”, Gatton.  He represented the Lockyer district in Parliament for about twenty-five years, including a term as Speaker in the Denham Ministry.  He was defeated in 1915 and retired to “Adare”.  He never married.

In the meantime, OCTAVIUS ARMSTRONG had joined a cousin in Ohio, USA, who was ranching there, and gained a knowledge of cattle.  He was a fine horseman and a splendid shot.  He decided to join his brothers in Australia and venture into the cattle industry. 

In 1859, George Elphinstone Dalrymple led an expedition to find suitable grazing land in the Burdekin River district.  He was representing the interests of a syndicate that included the Sydney Shipping Merchant, Robert Towns.  In October that year, a Captain Sinclair found a fine harbour on the northern coast, which he named Port Denison after the Governor of New South Wales.  In 1860 another syndicate of landholders, this time from the Armidale district of New South Wales, engaged a young sailor by the name of John Mackay to explore for grazing lands north of Rockhampton.  They discovered the river that was later named the Pioneer River and the district that led to the establishment of the town of Mackay.

The newly formed Government of the Colony of Queensland was under pressure to open more grazing land, so they went ahead with plans to form a new settlement at Port Denison.  Dalrymple was appointed Commissioner of Crown Lands for the Kennedy district, and left Rockhampton early in 1861 bound overland for Port Denison with more than a dozen would-be landholders.  Two ships also headed for Port Denison.  Captain Sinclair’s “Santa Barbara” and Captain McDermott’s “Jeannie Dove” arrived at the port with settlers and stores, prior to the arrival of Dalrymple’s overland expedition.
The land party arrived on 12th April 1861, and with everyone assembled - 111 in all - Dalrymple read the proclamation, the Union Jack was hoisted, and the town was named Bowen after the first Governor of Queensland.

Octavius Armstrong had formed a partnership with Alfred Wilmington, and it is quite likely that they were among the first settlers.  If not, they arrived soon after, as the property they selected was on the coastal plain, only about twenty or thirty miles north of Bowen.  Granite outcrops were everywhere to be seen, so they named their selection “Salisbury Plains”.  They were breeding fat cattle and horses (remounts for India).  Robert Towns, the Shipping Merchant, wanted to set up a boiling down works at Bowen, to render the fat cattle into tallow.  The Bowen graziers were opposed to this idea, and Towns moved his enterprise north to Cleveland Bay, to a site that eventually became Townsville.  Rather than send their beasts to the boiling down works, Armstrong and Wilmington decided to trek their cattle overland to Melbourne, where they hoped to get a better price because of the booming Victorian goldfields.  This was a tremendous journey through rough and rugged country, fraught with danger, but the young men accomplished their aim, and were more than satisfied with the price they got for their cattle.                         

They went to Sydney for a holiday and to restock, and it was here, on 8th June 1865, that Mrs. Norrie invited Mrs. Wilmington and her son and Mr. Armstrong to join a theatre party.  Mrs Norrie also invited Miss Jessie Francis and her brother Grosvenor to join the party.  Six months later, on 12th December 1865, Octavius Armstrong of Port Denison and Jessie Augusta Francis of Sydney were married by Rev. Alfred H. Stephen at St. Pauls, Redfern, Sydney.

JESSIE AUGUSTA FRANCIS, the second child and eldest daughter of Henry and Mary Ann was born at Sydney on 19th May 1842.  As a baby she accompanied her parents to Valparaiso, Chile, and thence to London.  Jessie returned to Australia with her parents in 1859.  The family had decided to make their home in Brisbane, but they soon found that it was not to their liking and returned to Sydney. 

Jessie Augusta was a fine horsewoman and as she had spent so much time visiting her Suttor relatives on station properties in the Bathurst district, there was nothing new about the lifestyle, except the difference of climate and the remoteness from family and friends of her new home, ‘Salisbury Plains’, near Bowen in North Queensland.  Indeed they were happy years on ‘Salisbury Plains’ during which the first two of their children, Wyndham Francis and Henry Alfred (Harry), were born.

Eventually the station, ‘Salisbury Plains’, was sold to the Darley Brothers, and the Armstrongs settled on ‘Cotherstone’ in the Peak Downs district. This would have been about 1869 as Catherine Mary (Kate) was born there in 1870, as was William Grosvenor in 1871.

Octavius applied to join the Queensland Public Service, and in 1873 was appointed to the Customs Department.  A year later he was appointed Police Magistrate at Mount Perry, then known as Tenningering.  He remained in that position until October 1880, when he was transferred to Goondiwindi.  There he remained until August 1890, when he was appointed a relieving Police Magistrate in the Brisbane district.  Octavius retired from the service in 1904, but at various times thereafter he acted as a relieving Police Magistrate in the Brisbane district.  It is interesting that while Octavius was serving at Goondiwindi, his brother in law, Christopher Francis, was Police Magistrate at Cunnamulla.

The Armstrong’s Brisbane home was the elegant three-storey ‘Sorrento’ in Edmonstone Street, South Brisbane, where they resided for the remainder of their lives.  Octavius passed away just three days after Jessie, on 17th January 1917.  They were people of great spirit.  An insight into the character of Octavius Armstrong can be gleaned from an incident that occurred during the early stages of the first World War.  It was said that Octo, then in his eighties, presented himself for enlistment.  When told that he was too old he replied that he could ride, and he could shoot, and it would be far better for him to lose his life than some young man with his whole life before him.

Octavius and Jessie Armstrong had thirteen children, ten of whom were boys.  Four sons died in infancy.

WYNDHAM FRANCIS ARMSTRONG was born at ‘Salisbury Plains’, Bowen, on 22nd September 1866.  Wyndham, married, with two sons and a daughter, was on a station in central Queensland.  According to a family story, he went out one day to inspect an outstation and was never seen or heard of again.  Police at the time suspected that he had been murdered by cattle thieves.

HENRY ALFRED ARMSTRONG was also born at ‘Salisbury Plains’, on 21st February 1868.  Harry never married.  He owned a coconut plantation in Fiji.  When it was wrecked in a cyclone, he sold the property and returned to Queensland, where he became the secretary to the general manager of a cattle property in North Queensland, outside Normanton.

CATHERINE MARY ARMSTRONG was born 7th February 1870 at ‘Cotherstone’, Peak Downs.  Kate never married.

JESSIE AUGUSTA FRANCES ARMSTRONG was born at Straun Cottage, Spring Hill, Brisbane on 29th October 1872.  Fan, as she was called, married Brisbane Solicitor, Thomas Webb Green, a partner in the firm of MacPherson Green and MacPherson.  The Greens lived at ‘Edgecliffe’, a large wooden home on top of the cliff overlooking the Brisbane River, opposite the Botanical Gardens.  Their holiday home at Caloundra was also large and on top of a hill, with magnificent sea views.  Tom Green owned a number of properties in Brisbane, and was part owner of the Normanby Rum Distillery, at Strathpine, north of Brisbane.

HARRIETTE OCTAVIA ARMSTRONG was born at Mt. Perry, 17th March 1877.  Hetty, as she was called, never married.  She was a nurse, and Sister at the Toowoomba and South Brisbane Baby Clinics.

CHARLES CHRISTOPHER BENNETT ARMSTRONG was born at Mt. Perry, 19th March 1879.  Charles married Venetia Belle Seymour at St Andrew’s South Brisbane on 26th October 1911.  They moved to Portuguese East Africa where they established a dairy farm and tropical fruit orchards.  They had one son and four daughters.

Lieutenant FRANCIS LEOFRIC ARMSTRONG (Queen's South Africa Medal & 5 Clasps ( Boer War). Twice Mentioned in despatches WW1), 15th Battalion, AIF. Born Mount Perry, Qld. Married; Bank Officer, Queensland National Bank, of 'Kinnell', Wharf Street, Kangaroo Point, Brisbane, Queensland. Next of kin: Wife; Annie Munro Armstrong (nee Mackay), of same address. Killed in action at Quinn's Post, central Anzac, on 10 May 1915, aged 34. Grave: Quinn's Post cemetery.

Frank Armstrong was born at Mt Perry, Queensland, on 25th October 1880.  Frank attended the Brisbane Grammar School before commencing work at the Queensland National Bank.  He enlisted for the Boer War in South Africa and served with the 3rd New South Wales Imperial Bushmen and the Prince of Wales Light Horse.  He was awarded the Queen's South Africa Medal and 5 Clasps.  On returning to Queensland after the War, he married Annie Mackay, the daughter of John Mackay, who first explored the Pioneer River district of Queensland, and after whom the town of Mackay is named.  They had one son, Frank, who was just a baby when his father enlisted in the AIF to serve in WW1.  He was killed in action at Quinn’s Post, Gallipoli, on 10th May, 1915

Frank Armstrong was killed whilst attempting to rescue wounded soldiers after being driven out of a captured enemy trench opposite Quinn's Post:
'In 'C' Company's sector, Frank Armstrong and his retiring men had passed right through the front line, whose sole occupant at the moment was Sergeant Hunter. As they passed to the back of the post Armstrong learnt that the line was not guarded and immediately turned his men face about and marched back into it. After his arrival, while gazing over the parapet, he saw some of his wounded men out in front, and endeavouring to scramble over the parapet to go to their aid, fell back riddled with bullets.' (Chataway p.46).

'The stream of fire which swept the crest of Quinn's during the withdrawal in daylight was very different from the ill-directed shooting in the night. A machine-gun somewhere on Baby 700 was firing short bursts down the trench which the Australians were quitting, and bombs were bursting in it continuously. Numbers of men were hit; ... A moment later, H.P. Armstrong, looking to see if all his men had entered the right communication trench, was shot through the head. Frank Armstrong, last of his party to reach Quinn's, was acutely distressed for his men. 'All my boys are killed or wounded out there,' he said, and at once endeavoured to climb out and see if any wounded remained. The men with him tried to pull him down, but he struggled to the parapet and was killed.' (Bean V1 p581, V2 p91, 101, 103, machine-gun seq., 112, [killed 113 quoted]).

The H. P. Armstrong mentioned above, was Lieutenant Hutton Perkins ARMSTRONG, 15th Battalion, AIF. Born Townsville, Qld. Single; Shipping Clerk, of Care of Howard Smith and Co., Townsville, Queensland. Next of kin: Father; George Armstrong. Mother; Elizabeth Jane Armstrong (nee Crocker), of Denham Street, Townsville, Queensland. Killed in action at Quinn's Post, central Anzac, on 10 May 1915, aged 25. No Known Grave.

NORMAN GARNET ARMSTRONG was born at Mt Perry, 29th July 1885.  After leaving school Norman spent a year as a jackeroo on ‘Bon Accord’ station near Dalby, owned by one of the Simpson cousins.  He then joined the Bank of NSW and worked in Brisbane and Bowen. Norman enlisted with the 1st A.I.F. and served with the 9th Battalion in France, rising to the rank of Major.  Returning to Australia after the war, he again joined the bank, and was appointed manager at Normanton.  From there he transferred to Papua where he served in various capacities in addition to his bank duties.  He was appointed a member of the Legislative Council of Papua, and served from 1927 to 1930.  Returning to Australia once more, Norman managed the Rozelle Branch of the Bank during the Depression years.  Norman married Dorothy Lowe at the Church of St John, Port Moresby, Papua on 28th July 1927.  In 1950 he retired to live at Leura in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney.

ERIC EWEN ARMSTRONG, the youngest son, also was born at Mt Perry, 12th November 1889.  Eric never married.  He served in World War One, which left him in very poor health for the rest of his life.