Cornelius Lundie of Tomnahulla

By Nicholas Lyons

In Griffith’s Valuation for the townland of Tomnahulla (mid 1850s), Cornelius Lundie is shown as the occupier of 617 acres, 2 roods, and 1 perch. He was born in the Manse, Kelso, Scotland on 29 May 1815, the eldest son of Rev. Robert Lundie (Parish Minister) and Mary Grey. He was educated privately and at the age of 14 years was apprenticed to an engineer. He attended classes in physical and mathematical science at both Glasgow and Edinburgh universities during several winter sessions while working during the summers in the shops of a country millwright at Kelso. In 1832 his father died and he secured employment with Charles Atherton at the works of the Broomielaw Bridge over the river Clyde from the designs of Thomas Telford. In 1836 he took charge of the Clarence Railway, part of the North-Eastern railway system in Durham where he remained for three years. He married Elizabeth Mould from Merrington, Durham on 9 April 1839.

In 1839 as Britain was going through an economic depression, Mr Lundie with his new wife Elizabeth decided to try their fortunes in a then little known continent of Australia. They sailed in a vessel which contained passengers, crew and six prisoners. The voyage was uneventful until they rounded The Cape of Good Hope, when without warning half the crew mutinied and freed the prisoners. Cornelius and four other passengers aligned themselves with the Captain, two mates and five of the crew who had remained loyal and after a struggle they managed to quell the mutiny and had the participants put in irons. This resulted in Mr Lundie and the passengers having to do their share of the work of crewing the vessel including taking control of the wheel.

Off the Cape of Leovwin, Western Australia they experienced strong gale force winds which drove them completely off course, eventually reaching Melbourne after a trip of fourteen months. During the voyage Mr Lundie’s wife Elizabeth gave birth to a son Robert Nicholas on the 9th January 1840.

During 1840-41, Mr Lundie was employed in various mining and irrigation schemes and in surveying a line of railway between the port of Newcastle and the town of Maitland, both of which were on the Hunter river. During 1841 the price of wool began to fall, cheap convict labour had been withdrawn from the settlers and the price of consumables including food, sugar, soap, tobacco and tea began to rise in price so there was no money available for engineering works. He found himself out of work so he decided to take land out in ‘the bush’ rearing cattle and sheep at a place called Bendigo. They were living in tents or bark huts often sleeping in the open air. The climate was nice, life was good, spending most of their day on horseback, so it was a continuous picnic from day to day. However, his wife was unhappy back at their homestead as she lived in fear for her life from attacks by the natives. They had made a good deal of money from wool so they decided to take up land near Sydney. It was here in a wagon about 50 miles from the city that Elizabeth had their second son George Archibald in 1842.

By 1847 they had saved enough money and in the interests of their sons’ education they decided to return to England. Educational facilities in Australia were extremely limited at this time. The ship they sailed on docked at a small seaside village called Jarrow-on-Tyne in England. Mr Lundie and his son Robert decided to go bathing in the Tyne river while the younger son George stayed on the shore minding their clothes. Robert got into difficulty while bathing and was heard to cry out “help father I’m sinking” and dropped like a stone in the water. Mr Lundie, who was a strong swimmer, dived for his son and recovered the body, but it was too late as his son had died. George had witnessed the whole incident.

An advertisement offering the lands of Tomnahulla for letting appeared in the Tuam Herald of 3 April 1844. The newly-built slated residence, Tomnahulla House, was occupied by Cornelius Lundie during his time in Ireland.

Back in England Mr Lundie was employed by Mr Thomas Brassey who was a famous civil engineering contractor who built railway systems in England at this time and had secured contracts to extending the railway system from Preston to Edinburgh and Glasgow. Mr Lundie was given responsibility for building part of the Caledonian railway extending from Moffat in Dumfriesshire to Beattock Summit. When this work was completed Mr Lundie moved to Lincolnshire where he spent a few years working on a farm estate, improving farm buildings, installing brickworks and quarries and acted as an agent for the estate.

By 1851 his work on the estate in Lincolnshire was complete and his attention was drawn to Ireland where he thought there were opportunities for investing after the Famine. So he moved to Tomnahulla where he worked hard for four years and spent some capital but the return was not up to his expectations, so in 1855 he accepted an offer of employment of engineer and manager of a little railway known as Blyth & Tyne. He had a near fatal experience whilst in Tomnahulla when he was feeding a bull he had reared from a calf. The animal tossed and gored him and he was lucky to escape with his life. This incident may have influenced him to get out of farming.

In 1861 Mr Lundie moved to Glamorgan to become manager of the Rhymney Railway which had its terminus at Bute Docks, Cardiff and was the means of transporting coal, iron and other traffic from the Rhymney valley. He spent 43 years working with this employer having responsibility for the overall operations of the company and he was responsible for doubling its size and increasing its revenues sixfold during his time there. He retired from the position of manager in 1905 and then became a consulting director, the position he held until his death in 1908.

In later life Mr Lundie showed his grandson the plans of his homestead back in Bendigo where he first settled and it was in this area that a great strike of alluvial gold was made in 1851.

Mr Lundie was also chairman of the Cardiff Steam Coal Colleries Company and he had attended a meeting of the company a few days before his death. He traced his ancestry back through the Stuarts to William I, Lion of Scotland. He was a Presbyterian and prior to his death was considered to be the oldest elder at the church at that time.

Note: This article originally appeared in our Winter 2020 Newsletter.

Cornelius Lundie of Tomnahulla

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