A new book based on the true story of the MacKay family, after whom Dungog’s MacKay Street is named, has been published.
This Land is Ours was written by Jonathan Rush, whose mother was the granddaughter of Duncan Forbes MacKay.
The MacKays first arrived in Dungog in the 1820s and went on to become “fabulously rich”.
Mr Rush said Duncan Forbes MacKay built (in 1877) one of Australia's grandest mansions, Minimbah (formerly Dulcalmah), at Whittingham near Singleton.
“The 45-room Italianate ‘palace’ cost $30million in today's money to build,” he said.
“Fearing correctly that their clan chief would betray his people, the MacKays left the Scottish Highlands in 1806 for Prince Edward Island, Canada where they prospered but all had mysteriously left for Sydney by 1840.”
Mr Rush said when his mother died in 2013, aged 101, one of his cousins gave him a copy of the intriguing MacKay story written by his mother's aunt.
“But her tales were frustratingly vague: why did they leave Canada for Australia? How did they become so rich?
‘I spent over four years researching and writing This Land Is Ours.
“What I discovered was a fascinating tale of ruthless opportunism by squatters, rustling (duffing), murderous bush rangers, political intrigue, financial boom and bust, and the bloody resistance by indigenous Australians.
'A major theme running through the story, as it unfolded in the three continents, was the anger and bitterness caused by disputes over land ownership.
“Scottish clansman against their clan chief; tenants versus absentee landlords in Canada; and indigenous Australians fighting the invading British.’
'Some of this story makes disturbing reading, not only to the descendants of British settlers, like me, but also to those of Aboriginal and Chinese descent.
“As is often the case, the truth turned out to be uncomfortable.”
The book is available on Amazon in print and download from Kindle. It can also be purchased direct from the publisher FeedARead and in bookshops.
The author can be contacted via email – firstname.lastname@example.org