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Scottish, Saddler (1835-1896)

McPherson was born in Newtonmore, Scotland.


McPherson was born in 1835. He was 25 years old when he was appointed as a saddler to the VEE on the 6th September 1860 when the Expedition was in Swan Hill.

When news of John McDouall Stuart's return to Adelaide in October 1860 reached the Exploration Committee in Melbourne they decided to forward the information to Burke. A memorandum was sent to Superintendant Foster in Swan Hill who sent Trooper Lyons on with the news. Lyons arrived in Menindee on the 5th November 1860 to find that Burke had already left and was two week ahead of him. Lyons left Menindee on the 10th November, taking McPherson with him and an aboriginal guide, Dick.

Their horses knocked up 200 miles north of Torowoto and Lyons and McPherson nearly died before being rescued by Peter, Belooch and Dr Beckler. The story of their rescue is told in:

  • A Journey To Cooper's Creek by Hermann Beckler, edited by Stephen Jefferies,
    Carlton, Vic., Melbourne University Press, 1993.
    ISBN: 0522844847

An extract of this dramatic tale is included here:

After a short while we saw MacPherson. As he caught sight of us he raised himself laboriously from a stooped position in which he seemed to be gathering something from the ground. He staggered towards us. For several minutes he was completely speechless, but finally he cried out 'Oh doctor!', and tears streamed from his eyes.  This man had left our camp on the Darling seven weeks before in the most blooming health, well built and with exuberant strength. He was now shrunken to a skeleton and a picture of total despair. His eyes were hollow and it seemed that he could move them only with difficulty. His voice was broken and scarcely audible, his legs tottered and trembled and were hardly capable of carrying him.

McPherson returned to Melbourne on the 11 February 1861. He moved to New Zealand in 1865 and lived at Maori Creek. He died in the Greymouth Hospital, New Zealand on 23 September 1896.

Saturday, 24 October 1896
Page 809.

There died in the Greymouth Hospital on the 23rd September (writes the Dunedin correspondent of the Argus) one of the last survivors of the famous Burke and Wills expedition. In August, 1860, when residing in Bendigo, Alexander M'Pherson was requested by the Victorian Inspector of Police to join the expedition as saddler. 'Sandy' as he was known, consented, and at once set out to join the party at the Campaspe, travelling on from there as far as Menindie, on the Darling. Here he was left with some of the party, while the leaders went on with Gray and King.

A few, days later, when a trooper arrived at the camp with despatches, M'Pherson and a blackfellow volunteered to accompany him in his attempt to overtake Burke. The three lost their way, and ran out of provisions. After suffering much hardship they fell in with a tribe of blacks, with whom M'Pherson lived for three months. He was then rescued by one of the search parties sent out.

It is stated that he was the first person to give an account of the nardoo plant.

McPherson was attracted to New Zealand by the discovery of gold, and for some years lived at Maori Creek, on the West Coast.

Where McPherson went on the expedition

www.burkeandwills.net.au Burke & Wills Web The digital research archive of expedition records
© 2020, Dave Phoenix