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Lady Margaret Richardson-Bunbury (1795–1873)

by Dorothy Erickson

Lady Margaret Richardson-Bunbury one of nine siblings was born on the Favour Royal estate in County Tyrone in Ireland on 6 July 1795 to John Corry Moutray High Sheriff of County Tyrone and Mary Anne Catherine Moutray née Upton. (The estate had been the gift of James I of Scotland hence the name.) About 1810 Margaret married James Mervyn Richardson-Bunbury 2nd Baronet of Castle Hill, Augher, County Tyrone and had ten children before her husband died in 1851. 

She arrived in Western Australia on 20 June 1855 aboard the Avalanche accompanied by daughters Diana (1811-1898), Mary, Emily, a son Alfred, a prefabricated house, butler, housekeeper, silver and other easily portable accoutrements required for gracious living. Other passengers were the Western Australian Governor Kennedy, his wife, children and entourage, other colonial elite and servants. The family had come to Western Australia to join son William who had arrived in 1842 while eldest son John, who inherited Castle Hill, remained in Ireland. William married Amelia Molloy, daughter of noted botanical collector Georgiana Molloy.

The Richardson-Bunbury's were very hospitable people entertaining any of the gentry who were passing. They enjoyed speaking and reading French and singing French songs with their neighbours, the Marshall Waller Cliftons. A description of tea at Lady Richardson-Bunbury's home, with her butler, James Cahil, who doubled as gardener when not required indoors, gives an indication of the ceremony in their circle: 

... The tea was poured with great ceremony. Coming from Ireland where the climate was colder, tea had to be poured very hot. There was a silver hot water kettle, a silver tea pot, sugar basin, cream jug, milk jug, and a tea caddy from which only the mistress was allowed to serve the spoonfuls of tea for the pot. All this was placed on a silver tray and carried in by James. Maria (the housekeeper) placed the tea cups and plates and provided the bread butter and cakes. The tea pot was heated, so were the cups; the water was poured off into a basin, and then Lady Bunbury poured the tea. The older ladies wore lace caps, with ringlets and very feminine dresses ...(Sanders). 

The pastimes of the family were typical of those of the leisured classes. This included embroidery, sketching, specimen collecting and visiting. Diana, and reputedly her mother, were noted for collecting and pressing seaweeds for Professor W. H. Harvey of Trinity College Dublin and seeds for the National Botanic Garden in Dublin while Diana and daughter-in-law Amelia née Molloy, collected wildflower specimens for Baron Ferdinand von Mueller in Melbourne. 400 of Diana’s specimens are in the National Herbarium of Victoria. Lady Richardson-Bunbury was a consummate embroiderer of the "Irish-flowering" of Carrickmacross, a type so intricate that it looks like a needle-made lace, named for a market town in Monaghan, the county next to Tyrone where she had lived and where it was developed in 1820. Two chair panels embroidered in silk in tent stitch on a fine but heavy woollen bombazine made circa the 1850s are also extant.   

Lady Richardson-Bunbury, a devout Anglican, attended the Picton Church furbished by Archdeacon Wollaston and his sons. In 1857 she purchased Charterhouse at Picton which had been Wollaston's property, and lovely gardens and orchards were developed. At Picton she formed the first Western Australian branch of the British & Foreign Bible Society and helped with other church activities. When she died on 31 March 1873 she was buried with all the honours usually accorded to her rank, being buried facing the people at right angles to the graves of others.  


  • Erickson, Dorothy.  "Antipodean Idylls: Background to the Decorative Arts of the early settlers in Western Australia 1829-1850"  The Australian Antique Collector 38 (July-Dec. 1989): pp. 81-3
  • *Erickson, Dorothy in Joan Kerr ed.  Heritage: The National Women's Art Book Sydney: Craftsman House, 1995 p. 95 & p. 322.
  • Erickson, Rica.  The Bicentennial Dictionary of Western Australians pre-1829-1888 Vol 4, R-Z, pp. 2619-2620.
  • North, Marianne  Reflections of a Happy Life, original edition ? ;? ,?  p. 161.  edited version by Helen Vellacott  Caufield: Arnold, 1986, p. 81.
  • *Richardson Bunbury Family Archives Battye Library MN 1648 Acc 5070A, donated 1995.
  • Robins, Sally. Colonial Crafts Research Project. Perth: Crafts Council of WA, 1981-2. item 142.
  • *Sanders, Theodora.  Bunbury,  Canberra: Roebuck Society, 1975, p. 52.
  • West Australian, 12 September 1885, p. 2.


  • Royal Western Australian Historical Society
  • Rustey Walkley Collection, Embroiderer’s Guild, WA.

Original Publication

Citation details

Dorothy Erickson, 'Richardson-Bunbury, Lady Margaret (1795–1873)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 29 February 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Moutray, Margaret

6 July, 1795
Tyrone, Ireland


31 March, 1873 (aged 77)
Bunbury, Western Australia, Australia

Cause of Death

general debility

Cultural Heritage

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