David Hepburn Shearer - Master Mariner
David Hepburn Shearer was born on the small farming island of Shapinsay on the 8th of November 1841 which is one of the many islands that make up the Orkney Islands. Shapinsay is situated 80 kilometres north of the Scottish mainland.
David’s parents were Peter Shearer and Jane Merriman. The first census found for the family was the 1841 Scotland Census which was taken before David’s birth. His father was listed as a fisherman and living at Little Foxton in Shapinsay with his wife, two sons, James and William and Jane's younger sister Christian.
Born on an island that is fertile in agricultural land, David was surrounded by farms and fishing ports.iii The Shearer’s had a long history working the land in the islands and fishing the seas (Fact: They still do. Doing a google search, you can find agricultural shops and fishermen named Shearer still on the Islands.iv)
So, it was not surprising when he had finished his schooling, he was going out to sea with his father on many fishing trips, and then leaving home at the age of 19 to become a seaman working on board the sailing vessel the Nancy Riley (an iron cargo ship that was built in 1857 and wrecked in 1868) where David was recorded on an English Census at the Liverpool Kings Dock.
It was barely a year after David had made his way to London when he set sail for Australia for the first time, arriving in Sydney, New South Wales on July 19, 1862.
David had sure found his call in life. He loved the sea; the ocean was in his blood. Watching the rolling waves crash into each other in-between his duties was calming. It was not long before he was heading again across the vast ocean back to London where he had reached the rank of Second Mate on the 3rd January 1865. It seems the first long voyage to Australia wasn't enough, he had returned to Australia straight after receiving his certificate.
David arrived in Morten Bay, Queensland on the 9 Mar 1865, he was now 23 years old and already spent 4 years living and working out at sea. In this time, David had prepared for his next certificate and didn't stay long in Australia as he left for London one more time, and now has in his hands his First Mate certificate which he obtained on the 15 Jun 1866
Keeping himself busy voyaging out to sea where he felt alive breathing in the fresh sea air, working in the sun, the rain and the wind. David finally reached the title of Master in the Merchant Service and was granted his competency certificate of Master on the 18 Jan 1871.
Heading back to Australia for his final long journey, David had gained employment running cargo around the east coast of Australia. It was in Sydney where he met his wife Margaret, an English Lass and daughter of Henry Walker. They were married in Henry and Ann Walkers backyard in Woolloomooloo by the Reverend Thomas Gainford, minister of the Mariners church.
David and Margaret were blessed with two male children (David John and James William) in their first 3 years of marriage and were residing in Dulwich Hill in the residential area of the greater Marrickville district. Their third child, Hepburn was born in Newton, New South Wales in 1879. Sadly, in November of 1880, just one month before their Christmas baby Edward Henry was due to be born, Hepburn had passed away.
This loss was not the last David and Margaret would experience with their children. 1883 saw the birth of their first daughter Catherine Margaret who would only live to see 4 short years.xvi Another daughter, Jane lived a full life, then there was their last child, Kate who died aged 1.
All good things must come to an end, right? David Hepburn Shearer was just aged 44 years old when he passed away in 1886 in Petersham New South Wales. Leaving behind a wife and six young children, the eldest just 11 years of age. Both of his parents outlived him, his father Peter died an old man in 1891 and his mother Jane a few years later in 1896.
David lived a short life but full of adventure, travel, and gratification. David’s love for the water brought him to the Australian shores, where he made a new life for himself and started his own family and passed on his family traditions of fishing and looking after the land. Most of my cousins, aunts, uncles and father all have a passion for fishing and gardening; it runs through our veins. Not inherited by all (I detest seafood and the sun) but you can see there is something there in the cultural DNA.
I was browsing my tree last night, filling in some information here, there and anywhere, when I noticed that my grandfathers (Aubrey Shearer) cousin had lost 3 of her children in the one year, I clicked on one of their names and looked at the obituary and thought how sad, maybe they were sick.
My name is Davina and I have been researching my family history since 2011. I started with almost nothing but ended up with a wealth of information and I needed an outlet to show and display all the information I have found.