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Guest Speaker – Geoff Arnott
Today’s Guest Speaker, Geoff Arnott was introduced by John Hutchinson. Geoff is Vice President of Croydon Historical Society and John was Vice President before moving to Inverloch. Both men have co- operated in writing books for the Croydon Historical Society. Geoff, was a teacher and also a lecturer at Swinburne. He spoke about the history book he has written about his family, and the actual writing of the book.
The book about the Arnott family was written through the eyes of four generations of the family and it followed the male line. It also did not describe the family tree. It was set about the time Melbourne was settled and tells the reader about a particular family. In writing the book itself, up to four years ago, Geoff knew nothing about his family other than his immediate family. Between 1830 and 1960 is the time over which the generations evolved .He has written books on a number of things over the years, mainly text books for the TAFE market, secondary schools and books on history.
Four years ago a person with the surname Arnott, phoned and mentioned that he had done work on the Arnott family tree. At this stage, Geoff wondered if he was related to family members of the Arnott Biscuit factory empire. However he was told that he wasn’t related at all.
Geoff was born at Hamilton in 1948, and lived there until 1960 before moving to Melbourne. His parents didn’t realize that the Arnotts who came to Victoria lived in Hamilton at “The Grange.” They were among the Pioneers of Hamilton. On one of his trips to Hamilton, he went to the Hamilton Historical Society museum and asked for information on the Arnott family. He was given a copy of a newspaper article from the 1922 Hamilton Spectator It summarised the family history in one article and after reading the article, it told him a lot about the Arnott family and gave him a lot of clues for future research. One of the chapters of the book is about Dr. Archibald Arnott who was the personal Physician to Napoleon Bonaparte. Napoleon was spending his final days on St Helena Island off the coast of South America. Napoleon and Dr. Arnott formed a very good relationship until Napoleon finally passed away on the Island.
Geoff’s family came from Scotland in the 1840’s. His relatives in Scotland were weavers and regarded as highly skilled artisans and were well respected. The cotton for the weaving on their home looms was delivered to them. When the Factory system developed, the weavers in their homes lost their power and were replaced by semi skilled people in the factory system. There was no future in Scotland so the family emigrated to Australia. The discovery of land in the Port Phillip district which later became Victoria, meant that workers were required .A large number of Scottish people went to Australia, their fares were paid and they were promised a job. There were risks in the long journey including the four month sea voyage.
James and Elizabeth Arnott left Scotland in March 1841 on the “William Abrams” and arrived in Australia in July 1841. A number of adults and children died during the voyage, and shipwrecks were common. James and Elizabeth had a job ready for them on the “Devil’s River Station.” It was a wilderness, far away from Melbourne. Also they had little idea of the dangers of the country. It took them six days to get there by bullock wagon from Melbourne. (The place far away was Mansfield ).
Geoff’s story will be continued in the next issue of the Newsletter.
(Editor: Ian Mc Burnie)