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Duration: 1 hour

Drama-documentary starring Clive Russell as Lachlan Macquarie and Julie Wilson Nimmo as Elizabeth.

Lachlan Macquarie, born into poverty on a small Hebridean island, rose to become governor - absolute ruler - of the British colony that would become Australia. He and his wife Elizabeth - Australia's first power couple - set a notorious penal colony on course to become a modern nation. Macquarie was brought down by powerful enemies in the colony, yet two and a half centuries after his birth he's an Australian hero.

Last on

Wed 26 Jan 2011 21:00 BBC Two Scotland only

  • Lachlan Macquarie - Father of Australia

    The amazing story of the impoverished highlander who would become the Father of Australia. Lachlan Macquarie was born into poverty on the island of Ulva, beside Mull, but yet rose to become the Governor of New South Wales.

    A progressive man for his time, he turned it from a dumping ground for convicts into the dynamic British colony, which would become Australia. Macquarie was brought down by enemies among those who had settled in Australia of their own free will, and resisted his liberal views on penal reform. In the end, he was vilified for what he had achieved, and left the colony with his reputation tarnished.

    Macquarie believed in the emancipation of former convicts and in “kindness and attention” for the native people – but he was also responsible for what was then the worst recorded massacre of the Aborigines.

    He was a leader who commanded respect and affection from the vast majority of colonists, while in effect being an absolute ruler, but who also fell foul of the upper echelons both in Australia and back home in Britain.

    At the root of his downfall was his progressive policy of accepting pardoned and time-served convicts back into the community, often to become drivers of the new nation. He failed to understand that, post the Napoleonic Wars – and with rising crime and political unrest – the British Government wanted to use the colony to instill terror in wrongdoers, rather than bring about redemption.

    It is also very much the love story of Lachlan and Elizabeth, his second wife, a feisty intelligent Highland woman, who matched her husband in the partnership which carved out a new continent. They were Australia’s first power couple. Her influence on his two most important legacies – emancipation of convicts and architecture – was profound. Professor Alan Atkinson of University of Sydney says: “I think that marriage was fundamental to understanding what Macquarie did in New South Wales. He couldn’t have done it without her, and she couldn’t have done it without him. It’s a partnership which was very creative.”

    Among Lachlan Macquarie's achievements and legacy was the creation the colony’s first currency, the commissioning of a road through the Blue Mountains to vast tracts of arable land beyond – the basis of the country’s ongoing prosperity – and the founding of towns, a bank, and numerous schools including one for the native population.

  • Ormaig


    It is widely believed that Macquarie was born in Ormaig, on the island of Ulva, which is beside Mull.

  • Airds House

    Airds House

    Elizabeth Campbell, the influential wife of Lachlan Macquarie, was born in Airds House at Appin in Argyll.

  • Inveraray Castle

    Inveraray Castle

    Macquarie's government stables in Sydney – criticised as being ‘a palace for horses’ – were partly based on the design of this historic house.

  • The Female Orphan School

    The Female Orphan School

    The Female Orphan School is in Sydney and is now part of the University of Western Sydney Parramatta Campus. The first three-storey building built on the colony was based in Elizabeth’s home, Airds House at Appin in Argyll. Elizabeth had a major influence on the setting up and design of the orphanage.

    University of Western Sydney: Parramatta Campus
  • Tipu's Fortress at Seringapatam

    Tipu's Fortress at Seringapatam

    Macquarie’s diaries described how the British stormed the fortress of this important Indian ruler after years of war. Macquarie spent almost 20 years of his Army career serving the British Empire in India.

    Wikipedia: Battle of Seringapatam
  • The Government Stables - Sydney

    The Government Stables - Sydney

    Commissioned by Macquarie, it was criticised as being a waste of money and ‘a palace for horses’. Elizabeth may have had a major influence on the design. The design of the stables was partly influenced by Inverary Castle.

  • Behind the scenes of The Father of Australia

    Behind the scenes of The Father of Australia

    There were loads of interesting people involved in filming The Father of Australia. An entire regiment of military re-enactors were used. This picture shows Clive Russell and one of the extras - Brad Manera who lives entirely in 18th century gear!

  • Old Government House at Paramatta near Sydney

    Old Government House at Paramatta near Sydney

    Old Government House at Paramatta near Sydney is the main location used for the interiors, and the Macquaries' country home. It's wonderfully restored and full of beautiful period furniture including some of the oldest pieces in Australia and some that belonged to the Macquaries themselves, such as their four poster bed.

    Old Government House
  • Lachlan Macquarie Jnr

    Lachlan Macquarie Jnr

    Macquarie's diary entry about his birth - March 1814

    "A boy! This was the most joyful sound I had ever heard, and my joy was greatly enhanced on finding that my beloved Elizabeth was herself entirely out of danger and likely to do well. As soon as the dear Infant was washed & dressed, he was brought back to be presented to his doting mother and myself! A finer child could not be. Our happiness on Earth was now complete. This joyful event was the only thing that was wanting."

    Sadly he didn't turn out well - he was doted on and spoiled - and died after falling downstairs drunk in a castle in Scotland when he was 32.

  • Lachlan Macquarie - 1805

    Lachlan Macquarie - 1805

    A portrait of Lachlan Macquarie. It is suspected that he has powdered his hair.

  • Elizabeth Macquarie

    Elizabeth Macquarie

    A portrait of Elizabeth Macquarie from 1819.


David Tennant
Lachlan Macquarie
Clive Russell
Julie Wilson Nimmo
Les Wilson
Seona Roberston
Stuart Scowcroft


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