Why did Andy Duncan sail for Australia instead of returning home to Scotland? What did he do after he stepped off the steamer in Sydney in January 1912?
Whether by chance or design, by June he was in Broken Hill, New South Wales. He chose an isolated outback town over the bustle of Sydney.
Broken Hill was a mining town built on silver, lead and zinc. Andy found employment with the Broken Hill Proprietary Company.
Andy quickly became involved in the life of the district. The 15 June 1912 edition of the Barrier Miner newspaper reported Mr. Duncan’s recital of Robert Burns’ “Tam o’ Shanter” at the Caledonian Society’s monthly meeting.
He would have held the floor for a good ten minutes while he recited the poem. This suggests he was probably an established Caledonian Society member by June: would a newcomer choose to recite a famous twenty-verse poem to an unfamiliar audience? Andy must have been among friends at the June meeting.
In September 1912 he was one of the founding members of Broken Hill’s re-formed Thistle Club, where he became known for his recitations of poetry and humorous stories. He also became a member of United Ancient Order of Druids and the new Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes (R.A.O.B) lodge.
In Broken Hill Andy renewed his involvement in military matters. He attested for volunteer service in the South Australian Militia, and on 4 November 1912 he was promoted to provisional second lieutenant of the 81st Infantry (Wakefield Battalion).
In March 1913 Lieutenant Duncan spent Easter at the Gawler infantry camp in South Australia, commanding unit E of the battalion during their annual course of continuous training. Andy would have been surprised to find an old South Lancashire Regiment colleague, George Maginis, appointed staff sergeant-major for the training. Andy and Maginis had been with the regiment in South Africa, and would have crossed paths again in Warrington.
Almost immediately after returning from Gawler, Andy resigned his lieutenant position in the Battalion. It is unclear why.
Around this time Andy met his future wife, Elizabeth Stewart. Perhaps at one of the Thistle Club dances. In one of those curious historical coincidences, Andy had travelled half way around the world to marry a woman who shared the same name as his mother – although his new sweetheart went by her middle name of Jane. What Jane was doing in Broken Hill is a mystery, as her family were settled in Beaufort, Victoria. She seems to have enjoyed travelling and striking out on her own – a trait she and Andy had in common. On 4 April 1914 Andy, 31, and Jane, 25, were married at St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Broken Hill. They bought a house in Lane Street but the coming war meant that neither of them would stay in Broken Hill much longer.