McMILLAN, Angus (1810-1865)


McMILLAN, Angus (1810-1865)
explorer
was born at Glenbrittle, Skye, off the west coast of Scotland, in 1810. He was the fourth son of Ewan McMillan, a farmer. Little is known of his early life, but he was a man of some education, with strong religious feelings. His diary, which in 1925 was in private keeping at Sale, Victoria, shows that he left Scotland on 13 September 1837 as a cabin passenger in the Minerva, and arrived at Sydney on 23 January 1838. He had letters of introduction to Captain Lachlan Macalister who gave him a position on his station in the Goulburn district. The years 1838-9 were drought years, and McMillan was instructed to try and find new pastures in Victoria. Taking an aborigine, Jimmie Gibber, with him McMillan rode south on 28 May 1839. Five days later he had crossed the Snowy River and was in eastern Victoria. But his companion was afraid to venture farther into the territory of the Warrigal blacks, and McMillan thought it wise to go west by north to an outstation near the site of Omeo. He returned and reported progress to Macalister, who encouraged him to make another attempt. A few months later McMillan formed a cattle station on the Tambo near Ensay. Using this as a base McMillan, with a party of five others of whom two were aborigines, made his way down the Tambo, and after a most difficult journey reached the lowlands near the coast. There he found his way blocked by the Macalister River and returned to Ensay. He began to make a road for stock, but a few weeks later was instructed not to form any more stations until a way was found to Corner Inlet. In July 1840 with Lieutenant Ross, R.N., and some of his former party, he made another effort, but found the rivers in flood and was unable to proceed any farther than before. Another attempt brought McMillan to a hill known as Tom's Cap where dense scrub blocked the way. On 9 February 1841, with T. Macalister, four stockmen and an aborigine, McMillan tried again, forced a way through the scrub, and on 14 February stood on the beach at Port Albert a little to the east of Corner Inlet.
During the next few years McMillan built up an export trade of cattle from Corner Inlet to Tasmania. He established himself at Bushy Park near Stratford, where he was well known for his hospitality and public spirit. In 1856 he was given a public dinner at Port Albert, and a portrait in oils was subscribed for, which is now in the council chamber at Yarram. In 1864 he was requested by the Victorian government to open up the rugged country to a new goldfield. A start was made 74 miles from Stratford and McMillan marked a track through to Omeo where 700 men were at work on the diggings. His health, however, had become impaired, and he died on his way home to Bushy Park on 18 May 1865. He was survived by two sons.
McMillan was a natural leader whose tact, good sense and kindliness enabled him to get on well with his men, including the aborigines, and he has long been recognized as one of the great pioneers of Victoria. His hospitality no doubt prevented him from becoming a rich man, but he valued very much the esteem in which he was so generally held. He took particular pride in his election as president of the Caledonian Society of Victoria.
A. W. Greig, The Victorian Historical Magazine, May 1912; Chas Daley, The Victorian Historical Magazine, March 1927; John King, Our Trip to Gippsland Lakes.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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