Guide to the Papers of the McCracken Family (as filmed by the AJCP)



National Library of Australia View Catalogue Record

Created: 2018

Collection Summary

McCracken Family
Papers of the McCracken Family (as filmed by the AJCP)
Date Range
1841 - 1936
Collection Number
12 items
Language of Materials
Australian Joint Copying Project
The Australian Joint Copying Project (AJCP) online portal was created with the assistance of the Australian Public Service Modernisation Fund, 2017-2020. The National Library of Australia gratefully acknowledges the contribution of the other foundation AJCP partners, the State Library of New South Wales and The National Archives of the UK, and all other organisations which supported the work of the AJCP, the world's most extensive collaborative copying project, operating from 1948 to 1997.


Scope and Contents

Letters and journals of Alexander McCracken and letters of his wife Jane McCracken. They describe their voyage to Australia on the William Hyde; Adelaide and the Adelaide Hills; establishment of a dairy in Melbourne; economic conditions; news from goldfields; Scottish emigrants; social events and family news.

Conditions Governing Access

Available for Access.

Conditions Governing Use

Many of the records digitised as part of the AJCP are still in copyright. Readers wishing to publish or reproduce documents should seek permission, in the first instance, from the owner of the original material.

Preferred Citation

Acknowledgement of use of this material should refer to the location of the original material and to the Australian Joint Copying Project.

Items from this collection should include references to the location of the original material and to the AJCP nla.obj number, which serves as the online identifier for the digital copy.

Example: M Series: Journal of Capt. James Cook, 18 February 1770, British Library Add. MS 27885 (AJCP ref:

Archival History

Filmed at the private residence of Dr John McCracken, Scotland, as part of the Australian Joint Copying Project, 1986 (AJCP Reel: M1976). Original microfilm digitised as part of the NLA AJCP Online Delivery Project, 2017-2020.

Existence and Location of Originals

The private residence of Dr John McCracken. Perthshire, Scotland.

Existence and Location of Copies

The original AJCP microfilm of the records filmed from this collection is available at the National Library of Australia [] as well as other institutions holding AJCP microfilm.

Finding-aid Notes

This finding aid is a revised online version of the original finding aid prepared by the Australian Joint Copying Project (AJCP), published by the National Library of Australia in 2018. The original AJCP finding aids were unpublished typescripts or photocopies available from libraries that held copies of the original microfilm.

Dates used in this finding aid refer to the date range of the records selected for filming rather than to the date range of the Series or Files.


Adelaide Hills, South Australia; Adelaide, South Australia: visits to; London, England; McCraken Family; McCraken, Alexander; McCraken, Jane; Scots in Australia; Transportation of convicts; Victoria: economic conditions; Victoria: politics and government; William Hyde (ship)


Originally cited in Australian Joint Copying Project Handbook. Part 8: Miscellaneous (M) Series. Third Edition, published 1998. Entry 299, p112.

Biographical / Historical

Robert McCracken (1815-1885) and Peter McCracken (1818-1892) were the sons of Robert McCracken, a farmer of Ardwell, near Girvan, Ayrshire. They emigrated to Melbourne in 1841. In 1851, with James Robertson, they established the brewing firm of McCracken and Robertson in Melbourne. Robertson retired in 1861 and the firm of R. McCracken and Co. became extremely successful, producing a distinctive light beer, using the latest technology and controlling a large share of the market by the tied house system. After Robert McCracken's death, the firm was controlled by his sons, eventually becoming part of Carlton and United Breweries.

Alexander McCracken, a brother of Robert and Peter McCracken, married his cousin Jane McCracken of Auchencrosh, near Ballantrae, on 4 January 1849. They immediately left Scotland and emigrated to to Australia. They established a dairy in Melbourne, which was unsuccessful, and then set up a wheat farm not far from Melbourne. The farm prospered but Jane McCracken suffered ill-health and after several years they returned with their children to Scotland, where Alexander took the tenancies of farms near Whithorn, Wigtownshire.

Item Descriptions

Series. Robert McCracken, 1841

1 item

Letter of Robert McCracken, 1841 (File 1)

Describing voyage from Liverpool to Australia on Nimrod; relations with other passengers; weather; food; first impressions of Melbourne; prices. (8 pp., incomplete)

Series. Alexander McCracken, 1849 - 1857

2 items

Journal of Alexander McCracken (43 ff., photocopy), 4 January 1849 - 28 April 1849 (File 2)

The journal briefly describes his marriage to Jane McCracken at Auchencrosh on 4 January 1849 and their journey to Glasgow, Edinburgh and London. It gives a more detailed account of their voyage to Australia on the William Hyde, leaving Gravesend on 11 January and Plymouth on 28 January. It refers to the weather, storms, sighting of birds and fish, rations, fellow passengers, disputes about cabins, fights and drunkenness, church services, meetings with ships, and sightings of the islands of St. Antonio and St. Paul. The ship reached Adelaide in early May 1849.

Letters of Alexander McCracken (12 letters), 1849 - 1857 (File 3)

The letters were written to various members of the family in Scotland from Plymouth, Port Adelaide, Melbourne and his farm at Saltwater Creek. They refer to preparations for the voyage, a visit to Plymouth Dockyard, the voyage to Australia on the William Hyde, weather, food, impressions of Adelaide and the Adelaide Hills, wages and rents, establishment of a dairy in Melbourne, farming, construction of a house, wheat sales, a riding accident, mutual friends, financial matters, bushfires, economic conditions in Melbourne, the goldrushes, bushrangers, influx of convicts from Van Diemen's Land, death of nephew William McCracken, family news, illnesses of Jane McCracken. One letter is incomplete. Two of the letters have been transcribed.

Series. Jane McCracken, 1849 - 1857

1 item

Letters of Jane McCracken (45 letters), 1849 - 1857 (File 4)

The letters were written to her mother and other members of her family in Scotland from London, Plymouth, Port Adelaide, Melbourne and Saltwater Creek. They refer to their arrival in London, preparations for the voyage on the William Hyde, the voyage to Australia, fellow-passengers, provisions, first impressions of the Australian landscape, aborigines at Port Adelaide, Robert and Peter McCracken, James Robertson, prices in Adelaide and Melbourne, early impressions of colonial life, problems in establishing dairy, birth of children Grace (February 1850), Robert (July 1852), William (May 1854), mutual friends, Scottish emigrants, problems with servants, farming, crops, storms, drought, hay prices, marriage of Robert McCracken (1852), Church affairs, Rev. J.D. Lang, Rev. A.M. Ramsay, Rev. Chapman, news from goldfields, agitation against miners licences, increase in crime in Melbourne, progress of brewery, social events, holidays at Ardwell and St. Kilda, Crimean War, growth of children, illnesses, news of family and friends in Scotland, religious beliefs.

The letters are generally not properly dated but, from internal evidence, most of them have been placed in approximate chronological order. Several are incomplete. Some are very faded and some have been written crosswise. Transcripts have been made of some of the least legible letters, reproducing Jane McCracken's erratic spelling but adding punctuation.

Series. Miscellaneous Papers, 1865 - 1936

8 items

[John Cochrane] (Ashburton) to McCracken, 13 January 1865 (File 5)

Sends draft for £12 for sister; work on New Zealand sheep station; family news. (incomplete)

John Cochrane (Christchurch) to McCracken, 5 October 1867 (File 6)

Sends draft for £23 for sister.

[unknown] to McCracken (File 7)

Wool sales; New Zealand politics; roads; William and Robert McCracken.

Thomas McKean (Winton, New Zealand) to Mrs McCormack, 24 October 1884 (File 8)

Death of her brother William McCracken; inquest; stock and money; refers to Robert McCracken in Queensland.

Rev. J. Baird to A. McCaw, 28 October 1884 (File 9)

Death of William McCracken; McCracken's solitary life and drunkenness; interest in religion, inquest.

Alex McCaw (Oamaru) to James McCracken, 31 October 1884 (File 10)

Death of William McCracken; encloses letter of Rev J. Baird; economic conditions in New Zealand; recollections of boyhood in Scotland.

Obituary of Robert McCracken, 4 July 1918 (File 11)

Son of Alexander and Jane McCracken, Galloway Advertiser.

Article on Peter McCracken, 1936 (File 12)

In A. Henderson. Early pioneer families of Victoria and the Riverina. (typescript copy)