Maritime Beginnings

Capt William Lesslie
Elizabeth Wallace
In June 1812 as master of the brig ACTIVE, Captain Robert Lesslie 1722-1800 sailed from Port Jackson, for the Derwent and New Zealand, with a Mr Gordon as a passenger.  Charles Gordon, who was then 21 years of age had arrived in Australia in 1804. Charles Gordon’s daughter, Hepzibah, was later to marry Robert’s nephew William. Charles Gordon and his first wife were to be two of the first 12 persons forming the Rev Samuel Marsden’s first missionary settlement in the Bay of Islands New Zealand.

Robert Lesslie was the son of Robert Lesslie and Helen Brokie.

The ACTIVE was purchased by the Rev Marsden, with the intention of servicing the settlement. Later in 1812 Robert, still as master, the ACTIVE was recorded as whaling in Frederick Henry Bay near Hobart only a few miles from where Abel Tasman first landed on Australian soil. The year 1812 is only 24 years after Australia was first settled and five years before the settlement extended further than 50 miles westward over the Blue Mountain. Unfortunately, it was only a year later that Captain Robert Lesslie's son, Robert b1768, was murdered by natives at the island of Otahete, now called Tahiti. Captain Robert’s younger brother William b1771, then assumed control of the business. He had married a Dunbar girl Elizabeth Wallace and they had 5 children all born in Dunbar. Wallace continues as a family name to this day and William continued to operate within reach of the Dunbar base and home.
The Active

Apart from Captain Robert b1807 the surviving children became progenitors of most of the Australian double ‘S’, Lesslie’s. Captain Robert b1807, was master of the STAR and like his uncle, he spent much of his time at sea far from home. In 1833 and 1835, he was in Valparaiso Chile, and in 1836 as master of the SUCCESS he arrived in Sydney from Western Australia, via Melbourne and in 1837 handed the ship over to his brother, Captain William Leslie. He continued to operate in Australian, New Zealand and Javanese waters until May 1840.

Robert certainly developed a maritime interest in Australia, which passed down through his family.
After the death of his parents, Captain William Lesslie b1768 and Elizabeth Wallace, the Dunbar establishment apparently passed to Robert and his heirs. His family ultimately sold out and moved to London where they became involved in the foundation of the Orient Line, now part of the P&O Line. This interest was retained for many years. One Robert John Lesslie died at the age of 93 still working in the management of the Orient Line. He held a number of important posts in Australian shipping circles. His son William Douglas Lesslie also in the Orient Line recognised the non continuance of their male line and arranged for the family bible to be sent via an Orient Line ship to the Australian branch of the family where it remains today.

Robert's son killed
by natives in 1768
Many members of the family of Captain William Lesslie and Elizabeth Wallace, individually 4 developed an interest in Australia and subsequently migrated to Australia. Elizabeth b1819 the only daughter married a Robert Nisbet and moved to Sydney. They had no children. Thomas b1817 who married Sarah Gowan Foster stayed in England as a tide surveyor at the Port of London and this family, except for one branch now in Norfolk England and one in Canada generally moved to Australia, to ultimately locate at Kenthurst NSW, Eumungerie NSW, Dubbo NSW, Penrith NSW and Springwood NSW.