Armstrong Green: a name to live up to

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RCA Village’s newest village has been named Armstrong Green forthe area’s early pioneer, John Armstrong who in 17 short years madehis mark on the district, shaped the early wool industry and helpedfound one of Melbourne’s finest schools.

Armstrong was born around 1809 inRoxburgh, Scotland. In 1829 he marriedVeronica (Vair) Scott at Selkirkshire
- probably a wise choice of bride asthe Scotts were a very wealthy familybeing long standing landholders in theBorders.

John was 30 and Vair 29 years oldwhen they sailed from Greenock in1839 onboard the 465 ton, three mastbarque "Palmyra" on her maidenvoyage to the Australian colonies. Thecouple travelled with five children – asixth was born at sea. They also tookwith them some stock.

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The family could read and write and stated their home as Buccleuch,the estate of the Scotts where Johnprobably worked. Their passage hadbeen subsidised by an agriculturalcompany looking for sheep farmers.Scottish immigrants were greatly soughtafter as they were industrious andProtestant, so the Armstrongs were'bounty' immigrants which meant thegovernment advanced money towardsthe fare of each immigrant. At the time,the 'bounty' was 18 pounds for adults,10 pounds for children and five poundsper infant.

John's skills were in high demand in Australia and he had excellent work prospects. He was employedimmediately by Miss Anne Drysdale of Coriyule Station from Jan 1841 to Dec1844.

On arrival at Port Phillip, Armstrong,took up Bush Station, also known asRiver Station, which included the site ofthe present city of Geelong. It is said thatthe homestead was situated whereGeelong College now stands. The originalstation was advertised as 6 miles southof Geelong near Mt Duneed, 2 milesfrom Germantown; Parish of Connewarreand extended as far as Barwon Headsand Torquay.

When the town of Geelong tookshape, portion of the rights of the Bushrun were cancelled, but but in 1850,Armstrong obtained further grazingrights at Black Forest, formerly WerribeePlains. He also held Allanvale near GreatWestern, 1854-57, and when gold wasdiscovered he had about 30,000 sheepbeing shepherded in the vicinity of thediggings.

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Several Highland families, which John Armstrong had brought out from Scotland, were working for him on Allanvale, and despite the lure of the goldfields, remained loyal to theiremployer and did their utmost toprevent the dispersal of his flocks by thediggers, but it was a hopeless task, theflocks having to be moved further out.

By all accounts, John Armstrong wasa man of exemplary personality andhigh principle. His work was crownedwith success and he became one of themost outstanding pioneer sheepbreeders and wool growers in Victoria.He took a keen interest in churchmatters and helped found the firstPresbyterian Church in Geelong. Johnwas also one of the original trustees ofScotch College, Melbourne.

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John and Vair had 10 sons (one ofwhom died in infancy) and 3 daughters.He died at Bush Station 1856 aged just47. His wife Vair, who was a relative of SirWalter Scott, the great Scottish novelistdied in 1877, aged 68.

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