A Lifelong Possession

William Stewart Brings His Drafting Set to Berry

In 1818 William Stewart of Blair Atholl, Scotland picked up his pen, dipped it into an inkwell, and inscribed his name inside the lid of this case of drafting instruments. He was 18 years old. Was it a special gift for graduating or coming of age, or maybe issued to him as a student of a particular profession?

Compact and handy for use in the field, drafting sets were used in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries by architects, designers, cartographers, surveyors and sea captains. Nothing is known about William Stewart’s (1800-1887) early life or which type of training he received.

But in 1851, at age 51, William was listed as an unmarried former farmer living at Middlebridge, near Blair Atholl, with his sisters Betsy (aged 51) and Jean (aged 60). In 1845 he had a son, John, with Ann Campbell (born 1816) and John lived with Ann at Blarfetty in Blair Atholl.

In the mid-1850s, William, Betsy and their brother Donald began a new life in Australia. William’s drafting instruments presumably also made the voyage, packed in his trunk. In 1858 William and Donald were listed as tenant farmers at Broughton Creek (later named Berry), the South Coast estate established in 1822 by fellow Scotsman Alexander Berry.

William built a house named Mananga, was appointed a Police Magistrate and Justice of the Peace in 1867, and became influential in the development of the town, municipal council and the local Agricultural Society. We can only guess how William, a farmer then magistrate, used his drafting set, but it was important enough to him to keep it all his life.