Piecing together the outline of his life was absurdly easy, in part because the UK National Archives hold the UK army records from the period, the activities of local history societies and the deep interest of military historians in the Peninsular war.
Basically his life looks like this
- Born 1791 in Crieff in Perthshire Scotland
- Enlisted in 1807 at age 15 – although apparently he lied and said he was 18
- Served in the Peninsular war between 1808 and 1814
- Recorded as being wounded in the Battle of Fuentes de Onoro in 1811
- Married Jean Currie in Falkirk in Scotland in March 1822
- Discharged from the army in 1828 – his age was given as 40 – his original lie about his true age had followed him through the army
- Migrated to Australia in 1831 and initially worked around Goulburn
- Sometime in the 1850’s he moved to Beechworth
- Died 1865 at the age of 73, finally admitting his true age
I havn’t been able to find out what sort of work he did around Goulburn or exactly when he migrated to Beechworth – Beechworth was a pastoral settlement prior to the discovery of gold in 1853 so it’s possible he came here for farm work, or perhaps to try his luck during the gold rush.
The other interesting thing is that the gravestone isn’t really a gravestone – he was buried in an unmarked grave and the record of exactly where he was buried was lost in a fire in 1867.
The actual memorial dates to 1995 when it was erected by a local historical society – which explains a) why it differs stylistically from other markers of the period, and b) relatively little wear due to weather and lichen …