Georgiana stayed on at Keppoch House for over a year, much longer than her mother had expected. The house was recently built, elegant, fashionable and had wonderful gardens and grounds close to the shore of one of the most beautiful lochs in Scotland. But as the anniversary of her arrival in Dunbartonshire drew close, Georgiana knew she would soon have to leave. Local people were beginning to talk about the unusual length of her stay and wondering why she didn’t go home.
While Georgiana was in Scotland wondering what to do next with her life, her old friend – and future husband – Captain John Molloy, was in England moving from one barracks to another with his battalion. The Napoleonic Wars were over and daily life for the 95th Regiment of Foot was rather quiet. He was in the most dangerous brigade of the army because in battle the riflemen were ‘first in and last out’ but he’d survived campaigns in Portugal, Spain and France and ‘the battle for modern Europe’ at Waterloo (in Belgium). A series of events coincided leaving him with a sum of money and an opportunity to join the wave of emigrants sailing for the new colony at Swan River (now Perth) on the south west coast of Australia. Knowing he wouldn’t return for several years at the very least, he made up his mind to propose to Georgiana right away. His declaration of love didn’t come as a complete surprise but it did mean that she had to make a life-changing decision within days. He arrived in Scotland with her brother just a few weeks later and they were married by the Reverend Story at Keppoch House.
Just a few hours after the wedding, the newlyweds set off on the first part of their long journey to the Swan River Colony. After staying in London and Gosport and weeks of waiting for their ship to be ready, Georgiana had no idea that a five month voyage lay ahead. She was already pregnant when the ship sailed in October and by February she was making baby clothes. After months of headaches and sickness, recording the monotony and deprivation of daily life aboard ship in her journal, she felt there was nothing more of interest to write. Her entry for 22nd February reads like something we might write in a diary today. ‘It is so stupid. I shall not write any more until I arrive at Swan River.’
After nearly five months the ‘Warrior’ arrived in Fremantle WA and soon afterwards Georgiana saw what is now Perth for the first time. She was struck by the beauty of the landscape but not by the ramshackle collection of tents, crowded huts and livestock that was the new colony. Even the governor’s quarters where she stayed were still tents. The original plan was to take up 2500 acres on either side of the Swan River but Georgiana was greatly troubled by the heat, flies and fleas and a bout of dysentery. Molloy decided to take up an additional grant further along the river at Guildford with James Stirling the Lieutenant Governor as his neighbour but, when a new plan was discussed, Georgiana encouraged her husband to agree to it. It was already clear that Perth couldn’t accommodate or support the throngs of settlers arriving and Stirling had recently seen a potential site for a new sub-colony further south. With the birth of her first child closer than she thought, Georgiana longed for cool sea breezes and some peace. She supported Plan B. ‘The Governor and Mrs Stirling strongly prompted me to persuade Molloy to this end.’
After a few days’ sail a small party anchored at what is now Augusta in southwest Western Australia, the settlers’ group made up mainly of three families and their servants. It was the beginning of ten years of hardship and tragedy. Georgiana’s first daughter was born in a tent on the beach soon after she landed in Augusta and died a few days later, not the only child she would lose. The settlers almost starved in the first year when government supplies failed to arrive. Making a life so far from Perth was a struggle for everyone and in the end the huge trees that had seemed to promise fertile land were the farmers’ greatest adversaries. But, for Georgiana, there were many consolations.
It wasn’t long before she began to look more closely at the indigenous flora of the south-west, growing around her cottage on the banks of the Blackwood River. She began collecting botanical specimens, adding them to her collection of dried flowers, and also sent them to her family and friends. When she received an invitation to do the same kind of work for Captain James Mangles RN, a very successful collector in England, it changed her life. There was very little personal time for any woman in the colony and simply putting food on her family’s table kept her busy from dawn until long after dark but she put her mind to acquiring the new knowledge and skills a botanical collector needed to do the best job possible.
When other settlers moved further north to the Vasse (now Busselton) the Molloys stayed in Augusta and tried to carry on but eventually they moved too, leaving behind the garden that Georgiana had created there. The Molloy family moved into ‘Fairlawn’ at their grant on the banks of the Vasse river, and Georgiana began work on another garden as she continued collecting for Mangles.
Each time Georgiana gave birth she suffered dangerous consequences from a recurring medical condition but she was always back on her feet and out in the bush collecting as soon as possible. When she was too weak to walk or ride, she sent her young daughters or the Aboriginal workers from the farm to collect specimens for her. When she died in 1843 after the arrival of a sixth daughter, she was thirty-seven. Georgiana was only collecting for Mangles during the last six years of her life but today her important specimens are archived in the world’s most significant herbaria including Kew and Cambridge University.