George Dempster Mercer of Gorthy and Dryden

George Dempster Mercer

Mercer armour - present

Born: 21/Jul/1772
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

Cunynghame armour

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.

Indigo Factory, Bengal, ca. 1813

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.)


8 thoughts on “George Dempster Mercer

  • 6/April/2015 at 1:51 pm

    Wonderful to find this ancestor George D Mercer – my gt gt g-father.

    Does anyone out there have the details of the first son – Graeme Reid, – born at Allyghur, Bengal India on 21/07/1772. I would dearly love to get details of his offspring — Looking for William James Mercer born 1841 Allyghur Bengal, India – son of George Dempster Mercer. I need these details to tie up the connection properly. Thanking you in anticipation.

    Yours faithfully

    James Pawson ( L D S )

    • 8/April/2015 at 7:33 pm

      Hi James,
      > I regret to inform you that we have no record of George Dempster
      > Mercer having a son named William James Mercer. George was married to
      > Frances Charlotte Reid at Aligurh on 12 Sep 1810. Their first child,
      > Graeme Reid Mercer was born 20 Aug 1812 (possibly at Aligurh). He was
      > with the Ceylon Civil Service. Graeme married Catherine Hay on 5 July
      > 1854. He died without offspring at 10 Manor Place, Edinburgh, in
      > 1886. Our records show that George Dempster also had other children
      > as follows. George Duncan Mercer, b. 27 Dec 1814, Anne Elliot, b. 8
      > March 1816, Frances Georgina, b. 9 Sep 1817, Harriet Jane, b. 21 May
      > 1819, William Thomas, b. 17 Oct 1881, John Henry, b. 4 Jan 1823,
      > Charles, b. 16 July 1826 (died 9 days after birth), Charles
      > McWhirter, b. 12 Mar 1828, Emily Elizabeth, b. 16 Apr 1830, Louisa
      > Rachel, b.15 Nov 1831, Laurence James, b. 8 Nov 1833 and Charlotte
      > Catherine, b. 18 Feb 1836.
      > So, I’m not sure where your William James fits in. Also, a birth date
      > of 1841 in Allyghur seems a bit odd. By 1841 George Dempster was no
      > longer living in India. He bought the estate of Gorthy in 1819 and
      > Dryden, near Edinburgh, where he lived. I don’t know what age
      > Charlotte was when she married George Dempster Mercer, but a woman
      > bearing children over a span of 31 years although probably not
      > impossible, does seem somewhat unlikely. Bear in mind that George was
      > 38 when he married Charlotte so what age could she have been?
      > Probably not less than 20.
      > I have copied my cousins and fellow Mercer researchers in case they
      > have anything to add.
      > Sorry I can’t be of more help.
      > Good luck with your research.
      > Jim Mercer in Hamilton, Canada.

      • 8/June/2020 at 8:37 pm

        Hi James,
        William James is the natural son of George Graeme Mercer who in turn was the natural son of James Mercer who was the natural son of laurence Mercer, brother of George Dempster. William James married Sophie Lloyd. Laurence,
        Please see my tree Mercer of Aldie on or you can email me at
        I have had my dna done so maybe able to prove a link, again it is on ancestry.
        best wishes, Claire winfrey nee Mercer, direct line from George Dempster

    • 20/February/2019 at 11:12 pm

      George Dempster Mercee was also my gt gt grandfather. Let us talk. I live in London and the Scottish Borders. Please email me.
      Philip Mercer.

    • 8/June/2020 at 4:57 pm

      Hi James,
      William James Mercer b.1841 in Allyghur is the son of George Graeme Mercer and a native Indian woman, Georges father is James Mercer b.abt 1785 in India, Again no known mother, he is the youngest natural son of Laurence Mercer. My tree, Mercer of Aldie on ancestry shows it all.
      I have had my dna done so any link will show on ancestry if you have done yours, best wishes, Claire Winfrey nee Mercer, daughter of John Laurence and direct from George Dempster Mercer

  • 14/July/2015 at 9:35 am

    All research that I have undertaken here in Geelong suggests that George Dempster never set foot on the mainland of Australia and did not visit Geelong. Records in the possession of the State Library of Victoria support this.


  • 8/June/2020 at 5:03 pm

    George Dempster Mercer also had a much loved natural daughter, Eliza Ann, b.1800. Her son Andrew Suter went to Geelong with his uncle George Duncan Mercer.
    Claire Winfrey

  • 17/October/2020 at 8:42 am

    Hello Mercer family members. I appreciate reading the detailed genealogy work up on the offspring of George Dempster Mercer. I wondered whether any body knew of a related family surname called Lockhart?

    A George Duncan Lockhart was in partnership with William Drummond Mercer on the 55,000 acre Kanawalla station north of Hamilton, Victoria. A William Mercer Lockhart , the son of a Robert Lockhart drowned in the Wannon River in western Victoria in September 1849.

    I was wondering whether a female Mercer might emigrated to the Port Phillip District in the 1840’s and may have married Robert Lockhart to fit with those details?

    Kind regards,

    David Obendorf
    Hobart, Tasmania


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