Documenting and debating the contribution made by the Scots in nineteenth century Queensland has proved a fertile field of inquiry that continues to attract local historians. The vivid colonial portraits we now possess of pastoralists and politicians like Evan Mackenzie and Thomas McIlwraith confirm that the substantial power base of the colonial Scots transcended politics and commerce. Ambitious and hard working, Queensland Scots acquired rather than inherited pastoral holdings, often turning to politics or returning subsequently to Scotland. Nor should the contribution to exploration of the likes of Andrew Petrie, Henry Stuart Russell or the Archers be discounted in opening the way for rapid occupation. In this respect, the Queensland story of intrepid Scottishness appears to conform to a classic imperial narrative — that of the entrepreneur, possessed of a streak of ruthlessness, even recklessness, and committed to achieving a measure of commercial and political independence from distant bureaucracies and colonies. Mackenzie's commercial ambitions for early Brisbane, ably documented by John Mackenzie-Smith, anticipate the full-blown brand of Queensland nationalism championed by Premier Thomas McIlwraith at the end of the nineteenth century. The price of such independence could nevertheless be considerable: a series of colonial depressions — of which the 1840s, 1860s and 1890s adversely affected Queensland — invariably cast a shadow over this saga of individual achievement, in the process challenging the collective narrative of Scottish commercial supremacy. This article, while confirming the energy and individualism of local Scots, proposes to document and interweave two somewhat different case studies and in the process articulates a counter-narrative to the prevailing historical wisdom concerning Scottish colonial achievement.