Douglas families in the Falkland Islands in the 19th century

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Lying three hundred miles east of South America, the remote islands now known as the Falklands or Las Malvinas were first discovered by European navigators in the sixteenth century. In the eighteenth and early nineteenth century the Falklands grew in importance as a landfall with the commercial exploitation of the South Atlantic and the development of shipping routes into the Pacific via Cape Horn. Diverse claims to sovereignty were made, by Britain, France, Spain and the newly-created Provinces of the River Plate; however, in 1833 Britain took possession, appointing a Governor in 1841 and a colonial administration in 1845, with a capital at Port Stanley.

Initially, the commercial value of the Islands lay in the great herds of wild cattle on East Falkland, and Samuel Lafone, a merchant in Montevideo, obtained a government contract in 1846 to hunt the cattle, using gauchos. However, within a few years the cattle had been hunted to virtual extinction, and the Falkland Islands Company, created in 1851, with Lafone as one of its directors, turned its attention to sheep farming.

It was as shepherds on contract that most Scots were to live in the Falklands. For, by the 1860’s the lands of East and West Falklands were largely in the hands of the FIC and other major ranching enterprises which needed shepherds to tend the huge flocks of sheep and process wool for the British textile industry. For these Scots and other British shepherds there were few prospects other than to renew contracts or move on. Much later, in 1891, in a letter home to his father in Innerleithen, George Anderson wrote:

“No chance of getting any further advanced, there is no land to be had… there is no chance of becoming one’s own master here.”

Thomas Douglas

Born 1846, Dumfriesshire, Scotland. Emigrated c.1880 to the Falklands with his wife, Ann Tennant, born 1850 (probably Edinburgh, but from Newcastle-upon-Tyne), and son Thomas. Moved to Punta Arenas in 1885. Children, Thomas, William, Margaret, Walter, Jessie, Mary Ann, John, Annie and James Magellan. His wife is thought to have been the first qualified nurse to practise in Magallanes. Thomas  d. 1898; bur. Punta Arenas.

William Douglas

b. c1846 Scotland; son of John Douglas; 1865 hired by Falkland Islands Company; 1866 living at Darwin Harbour; c1883 moved from Falklands to Patagonia; 1889 inherited half-share of Useful Station, Estancia Esperanza, Prov. Santa Cruz, from brother-in-law Thomas Greenshields;  d. 1907 Llanfyllin, North Wales. He married (1881 Falklands) Jane Greenshields; b. 1855 Carmichael, Lanarkshire; dtr. of Robert Greenshields & Elizabeth Patterson. Their son, Robert Greenshields Douglas died of wounds in Egypt in 1916. There is a memorial to this family in St Bride's Churchyard

William DOUGLAS was born circa 1846 in Scotland.  William started working for the Falkland Islands Company Ltd in April 1865 in the Lafonia area on a monthly wage of £3-10-0. He left the Company’s employ on 1 June 1867. William started working for the Falkland Islands Company Ltd in the Lafonia area again prior to 1 January 1881. On 30 June 1881 he was paid £32 for taming 16 horses; 27 May 1882 £38 for taming 19 horses; 30 June 1883 £32 for taming 16 horses; and 6 June 1884 £36 for taming 18 horses. William finished working for the Falkland Islands Company Ltd in the Lafonia area 6 June 1884 and took a cash order for £44 for the balance of his account.  William, a Scottish stock-hand living at Bodie Creek, was married to Jane “Jeanie” GREENSHIELDS 14 September 1881 at Douglas Station by Governor's licence according to the Presbyterian form by Anthony German, Minister. The witnesses were James Greenshields and W K Cameron. William’s father was recorded as John Douglas, gentleman farmer, and Jane’s father was recorded as Robert Greenshields, gentleman and farmer. Jane, age 43, died 1 May 1899 at Useful Hill, Patagonia. [FIM May 1899; On memorial in St. Bride's Churchyard, Douglas, Lanarkshire, Scotland] Jane’s brother, Thomas, age 29, died 21 December 1889 and left half of Useful Hill Station to William; the other half to his brother George. William, age 61 & of Estancia Esperanza, South America, died 15 August 1907 in Llanfyllin, North Wales. [On memorial in St. Bride's Churchyard, Douglas, Lanarkshire, Scotland]

  Estancia Esperanza, c1920

Thomas Greenshields

Member of a Scottish family which owned 42,000 acres in the Falklands. He arrived in Patagonia in 1884, where he had a ranch at Monte Dinero on the south-east tip of Santa Cruz. He married Ann McMunn in 1889 but he died a few months later aged 29, leaving no children. He was buried in Punta Arenas Public Cemetery, leaving a will bequeathing William Douglas half of Useful Hill, the other half to his brother George Greeshields and a share in Douglas Station in the Falklands to his brother James.

1.  Douglas is a settlement on East Falkland, in the Falkland Islands, on the west shore of Salvador Water. In 1944, Douglas Station was not a family business, but Douglas Station Ltd, run by Robbie Greenshilds, the manager and possibly a shareholder. All purchases were bought through the company; the manager was either paid very little - or nothing at all. The Falklands Islands Association is based in Douglas House in Douglas Street, London - a co-incidence?

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Last modified: Tuesday, 01 February 2022