George Dempster Mercer of Gorthy and Dryden
George Dempster Mercer
Married: 12/Sep/1810 in Aligarh (Ally Ghur), India.
1787: Commenced working life as a Midshipman in the East India Company.
1792: 2nd Mate of “Benares”. 3rd Officer of “Success” galley.
1793: Agent and Indigo planter with his brother Tom – see image for example of an indigo plantation of the period.
1796: at Kainwar.
1798 – 1805: at Haudeeabad .
1804: Agent for manufacture of salt in Pergunnah (sub-district) of Nho and Delhi.
Founded the firm of Mercer & Co.
1818: Returned to Scotland.
J.P. for Perthshire and Midlothian.
1819: Bought the estate of Gorthy. Also purchased Dryden, near Edinburgh, where he lived.
1826: Mercer & Co. failed for five million rupees (400,000 being still due to him.)
Frances Charlotte Reid
Daughter of John Reid, Bengal Medical Service.
She was born 21/Mar/1793.
Died 24/Apr/1862 at Woodcot Rectory, Oxfordshire where she is buried.
01/Feb/1835: George bought a sheep run (Gorthy) 40 miles north of Hobart, Van Diemen’s Land (now Tasmania) and appointed Captain Charles Swanston as his agent. George also joined the Geelong and Dutigalla Association (later to become the Port Phillip Association) in 1835 and, according to written records left by William Lindsay Mercer, sent over several thousand sheep and other stock to settle on a large tract of land (ceded by natives to Mr. John Batman for a yearly tribute) including the sites of Melbourne & Geelong. The name of his company was changed to “The Derwent Company.” Disputes with government later led to the land being sold over their heads and the Company was dissolved in 1842.
According to one of our contributors, other sources (the Australian Dictionary of Biography and the Clyde Company Papers) have it that George was the chief shareholder in the Port Phillip Association and the Derwent Company but never visited Victoria. The treaty with the natives was not upheld regarding land ownership – instead the land (NOT Geelong or Melbourne) was settled by squatters which occurred throughout Australia since European settlement in 1788.
William Lindsay Mercer presumably got his information from his father, William Drummond Mercer who was the nephew and son-in-law of George. It may be that William Drummond Mercer gave plausible reasons why the Derwent Company failed or it could be that the official Australian version was biased for some political reason. It is unclear as to why George was in Tasmania while his son and nephew were in Victoria. However, it strikes us as possible but unlikely that George, who owned a business in Port Phillip (Victoria), never visited the place.
He died 07/12/1853.
George and Frances had the following children:
- Graeme Reid Mercer (“of Gorthy” b:29/Aug/1812. Employed by the Ceylon Civil Service. JP for Perthshire and Midlothian. m:05/Jul/1854. Died 1886. d.s.p. Spouse: Catherine Hay (Daughter of James Hay of Colliepriest and Lady Mary Ramsay.)
- daughter (b:05/Aug/1813. d:05/Aug/1813.)
- George Duncan Mercer (b:27/Dec/1814. Lieutenant, 45th Regiment, Bengal Infantry. He sold out of the army in 1838 and went to Australia the same year with his cousin, Major William Drummond MERCER. In 1841, “Kerr’s Melbourne Almanac and Port Phillip Directory” listed him as manager of the Port Phillip Bank, Collins Street, Melbourne. He visited Scotland c.1848 but had returned to Australia by 1849. He went back again to Scotland in 1856 where he became a Major in the Royal Perthshire Rifles. He never married and died in Perth, Scotland on 25/Jul/1884. d.s.p. He is buried at Glentulchan.)
- Anne Elliot Mercer (b:08/Mar/1816. d:27/Aug/1881.)
- Frances Georgina Mercer (b:09/Sep/1817. m:14/Jun/1842. Spouse: G Falconer of Carlowrie (Captain, H.M. 33rd Regiment. d:Aug/1871.)
- Harriet Jane Mercer (b:21/May/1819. d:07/Dec/1898.)
- William Mercer (b:17/Oct/1821. d:23/May/1879.)
- John Henry Mercer (b:04/Jan/1823.)
- Charles Mercer (b:16/Jul/1826. d:25/Jul/1826.)
- Charles McWhirter Mercer (b:12/Mar/1828. Major General, Bengal Horse Artillery. Retired 1881. d:12/Mar/1884.)
- Emily Elizabeth Mercer (b:16/Apr/1830. d:05/Aug/1874.)
- Louisa Rachel Mercer (b:15/Nov/1831. d:26/May/1904 at Crieff, Perthshire, Scotland. d.s.p.)
- Laurence James Mercer (b:08/Nov/1833. d:03/Mar/1885.)
- Charlotte Catherine Mercer (b:16/Feb/1836. d:18/Aug/1904 at Crieff.)