Diary of ten years eventful life of an early settler in Western Australia and also A descriptive vocabulary of the language of the aborigines/Perth
Jan. 12, 1832.
Our colonists are complaining that their friends and connexions at home have made so little exertion to assist them through the first difficulties. It might have been obvious that an infant settlement could not altogether support itself independently of extrinsic aid. Vessels have not been encouraged to come here, and those that have arrived have brought scarcely any provisions. We have at present no more than a few weeks' supply of flour, and are totally without rice, maize, peas, barley, or oats: we may have as much wheat as may serve for six weeks, with great economy; but it is already selling at 25s. per bushel. Vessels have been expected daily for the last three months, and we are now sick of hope. We have reason, however, to calculate on the arrival of the Sulphur, from Hobart Town, with provisions, before the end of the month: the David Owen and Swan River packets are daily expected from Hobart Town. The state of the colony at present is dispiriting; but we hope it will not long continue so, and that we shall rise above every difficulty and discouragement. A helping hand is now greatly needed; and a little extra aid from the Government would enable us to procure working cattle, milch cows, and sheep, and would place us beyond the chance of poverty or privation. This is a country where there are few natural productions that are edible, but it produces crops inferior to none in England, and with less trouble: indeed the soil is capable of producing any crop, and its herbage is abundant for the support of cattle. I should not, perhaps, have touched on this point, had it not been the subject of conversation in a company which I have just left; and, indeed, this point is the general topic of conversation in the colony at present. I fear my letter is calculated to give you an unfavourable impression of our situation; yet I am convinced, when the Government at home shall have been fully informed of our circumstances, that we shall receive such assistance as it will be consistent with good policy to grant.
21st.—I have been about fourteen months in the colony, and what a change everywhere here! How much has been effected by the unassisted, unencouraged industry of a few individual settlers! We are all eating the produce of our own fields, and how sweet our bread! This is made in the simplest way—we grind the wheat in our own hand-mills, troubling neither flour-dressers nor millers, for a reason we have.
I had written thus far, and was going to bed, when a voice hailed for a boat from the other side of the river; it was that of Captain Shaw, bringing the news from Perth that vessels had arrived.
22nd.—Sat up a great portion of last night reading all your letters, papers, &c. I regret that I did not keep a list of those which I sent to you, so as to refer to them, in the diplomatic way, by numbers, 1, 2, 3, &c.: I could then ascertain whether any had miscarried in transitu: I have let no opportunity pass without sending a letter of some sort, no matter how hurried.
A small vessel (the Eagle) has arrived from Hobart Town; others are daily expected. By this vessel I have received your letters from the 16th to the 21st July, 1830. They are inexpressible cheering to my feelings, as they show the deep interest which all my friends take in my welfare. Before this time you must have received many from me, descriptive of myself, my feelings, and real situation, without the slightest attempt at colour, ornament, concealment, or disguise. This I promised, this I have performed hitherto, and every day gives me better hopes and prospects; however, be the case as it may, I shall continue as I have begun. If any of my letters breathe a spirit of impatience, or betray any lurking anxiety or feverish discontent, pray forgive me, and attribute these expressions to the real cause—the natural anxiety of one separated totally from his relatives, the irritability of suspense, and the honest intention of showing myself to you just as I am. It would be very easy for me to dress up a tempting account: there are materials enough for the ground work; but as I have no object to obtain, and no purpose to serve, but to inform you truly and minutely how I live and what I see (so that you may almost live with me, as it were, from day to day), I prefer giving you this unembellished journal. Many of those things which came from England by the David Owen have been left at Hobart Town. Mr. Tanner has been greatly disappointed on this account. By the way, I mentioned in a former letter that his brother-in-law, Mr. Viveash, had proceeded to Van Diemen's Land; letters have been received from him which tend to prove that that boasted place is not a Paradise. Many people hurried away there without giving our colony a fair trial, or perhaps desirous of postponing the day of industrious labour as long as possible. Mr. Viveash is not one of these; he possesses energy and capital; yet, with these advantages, he writes that "if he were not so shackled by the purchase of the farm which he holds within ninety miles of Hobart Town, he would leave it and come here." He is seven miles from the nearest visiting neighbour, and he cannot send his flocks out without four men to protect them; neither do they multiply as he expected, owing to mismanagement, casualties, or theft; and the climate he describes as very variable. The thermometer is sometimes 125° in the day, and only 45° at night, and the distance inland very inconvenient. It has quite reconciled Mrs. Tanner to this place, where the society is good and the climate delightful.
23rd.—Would you believe that I have a monkey in my room constantly, and placed on my table at dinner time!!! This name is given here to a sort of earthen jar for holding water, and which from its porousness keeps the water cool by evaporation.* *I was going to bed when a soldier was sent to say that Captain Irwin, Mr. Lewis, Mr. Peel, and his son, had arrived at Captain Irwin's, on the other side of the river, and to know how many beds I could make up. I was able to accommodate two of the party.
25th. The Messrs. Burgess were here this evening on their way from Fremantle; their friends have sent them pork, beef, flour, rum, cheese, butter, and other things; the pork they are selling at eight or nine guineas a cask; flour at l0d. per lb.; cheese, 2s. 6d. per lb.; if a venture had been sent, as I recommended, it would have arrived probably at this time.
A sensation of despondency sometimes comes over me when I think of these high prices, the expense of clothing, and the high wages for servants, who, however, give me to understand, that if at the expiration of their stipulated period of service, I give them as much as another master would do, they will do me the honour of remaining with me! However, perhaps, by that time you may be able to supply me with a fresh importation. I should willingly pay the expenses of passage, &c.; but it will be time enough at the end of this year to arrange this matter.
27th.—What have I been doing all day? Sowing seeds of garden vegetables, grinding wheat, and keeping up fires to burn fallen trees.
It may appear a trifling job to burn a tree, but it is not so. I have been ten days trying to burn one, and only a third part is consumed yet.
On Monday evening I left my place with a fishing basket on my back to go to Perth by Guildford, but lost my way, but reached the latter place an hour after sunset. Next day called on the Meareses, and helped to put up their grand piano in its place, and was promised some music for my pains. Stayed to dine. In the evening intelligence came of the Governor's arrival at Fremantle, whither I proceeded next day. Made some purchases at Fremantle. Paid £7 10s. for a cask of pork to Mr. Burgess. ********
Feb. 17th.—I was on this day sworn in a commissioner of the civil court in Western Australia, which will open early next month. This court is almost without limit as to jurisdiction; juries may be called for, if the parties will pay them; an appeal lies to the Governor and Council in cases beyond a certain amount; short forms to be used, with few technicalities. I have had rare work cutting down long declarations into small compass, making forms of conveyance, leases, and mortages, pruning of all redundancies, and reducing all to an alarmingly small size. You remember I had rather a taste for this, and I have entered on my occupation con amore.******
27th.—Busy, in Perth, making arrangements with respect to the court; and I have bought a town allotment in Perth, with a house partly built on it. The situation (on the river) is beautiful, and about £20 will be sufficient outlay for putting the house into repair: it will be valuable. The allotment is thirty-three yards wide, and ninety-nine yards long. It cost £11 5s. 6d. to fence the front, with the regulation-post and rail fence made of mahogany; the railing at the sides is of split wood. Bricks are to be had at £2 4s. a thousand, not far from the spot, and the charge for drawing them in bullock-carts is seven shillings an hour.
I left Perth on Saturday, and went to Guildford: the heat most oppressive. Remained at Whitefield's all night, and reached home this morning. For two days past the weather has been very warm, thermometer about 125°—this is the greatest heat we have felt this year; yet the mornings are already cool. I have before told you that our neighbour, Mr. Brockman, has had the misfortune to have his house burned down by accident; all his furniture, clothes, plate, linen, &c., are destroyed. The conflagration took place about ten days ago, but he has a small house repaired again for his accommodation.
March 4th.—Prices have risen to a very serious height just now, and there is consequently a great outcry in the colony. Some of our friends appear to think that we are so well off that we cannot possibly want for any thing; and others probably imagine we are so far gone, that it is hopeless to send us any thing; so we fall between the two stools. Can you picture to yourself a new colony? You cannot. It is impossible for one, in the midst of the luxurious refinements of the old country, to conceive the actual state of a new one. Not that there are intolerable hardships, nor even great privations; but people's fancy will play them the trick of supposing that from throwing seed into the ground we can ensure a crop without any other trouble; whereas our culture, and all our operations, are most laborious: my two men have been now nearly a month looking for thatch and putting it on two houses, which are not near finished yet. As to breaking ground, it is easy when you have cattle; but, generally speaking, we are not so provided. It occupies a man twenty days to break up an acre with a hoe, from its wild state, though this could be done easily with cattle. But, as I have already observed, we have few of them, and the neighbouring colonies will not send them, either from jealousy or fear; and individually we cannot afford to charter vessels and import them, and we are not yet strong enough to form a company. What can we then do?—two or three hundred head of cattle, and two or three thousand sheep, would be purchased by us, if they were sent by Government at a fair rate; and this would establish the colony.
Last night the weather was so calm and warm that I left the windows open on going to bed; but, after some time there sprang up such a cool and strong breeze that I was obliged to close them; one excellence of our climate is, that there is none of that enervating heat at night which exhausts the constitution in India.
9th.—I have had two court days: twenty cases for trial.
13th.—I sent a few lines to you by Hobart Town, in a small colonial vessel which left this about a fortnight since, for the purpose of procuring a supply of wheat and flour, of which we have been in great need. An unfounded rumour originating from interested motives, has affected us seriously. At Hobart Town, a report circulated that we had been abundantly supplied by two vessels from Calcutta; in consequence, no supplies were shipped; and the captain of the Sulphur, which was sent there to procure provisions, seems to have acted on the same report. The effect is, that we have been in great want of flour and wheat, and are exceedingly impatient for the arrival of vessels, many an anxious eye straining its gaze over the ocean.
16th.—The Helen schooner has arrived from Hobart Town on her way to the Mauritius: she can spare us twenty tons of flour, some wheat, and a few potatoes. You see some of the difficulties we labour under here at present; yet we shall shortly have means established to provide regular supplies; but in the meantime our markets must be liable to great fluctuations. We daily look out for the Sulphur, Cornwallis, Nimrod, and the Jolly Rambler; most of these may be here in one or two months, and then we shall have abundance.
I have been so occupied for some time, that I have been unable to keep up my journal, even irregularly. I shall try to recal some of the events that have occurred. My sitting days in the court have been Tuesdays and Fridays in each week—there were many arrangements to be made. I generally come up here on Saturday, and return on Monday; and I have to walk the distance, which is nearly sixteen miles: the hours of sitting in the court are from ten to five. I have already sat four times: the average number of cases has been about fifteen each day; some of them trifling, and some important and complicated; the pleadings are oral; the case is heard in a week after its commencement; judgment is given immediately; the costs of court in each case are very trifling; and a man may have his case tried, judgment given, and execution and sale within a fortnight. No jury is empannelled in any case under £100, and then only if the parties choose to pay for it.
I have been this day busy getting trees burned, and ground prepared for a wheat crop. I shall have almost three acres broken up and under crop; but I have not yet procured horses or oxen for my plough. We have been proposing to the Governor to import cattle, and we would guarantee him; he is well inclined to assist us, but the means allowed him are very limited.
21st.—I was setting fire to some stumps of trees to-day, when a spark communicating with the grass, in a few minutes the whole scene appeared one sheet of living fire. It was in the heat of the day, and my exertions to extinguish it and to prevent its progress to the dry grass near the house were quite exhausting.
The vessel which has come from Van Diemen's Land has not delivered my letters yet: the impression is, that there are some on board which are suppressed until her cargo of flour is disposed of at high prices—to such tricks are we subject; and every effort to keep us back seems to be resorted to by the people of that colony.
You speak of nets and other things arriving by Van Diemen's Land, or Sidney. I have not received them, and probably never shall.* * * * *
April 4th.—I got home a thousand bricks to-day, made on Mr. Bull's grant, near this, for there was not time to make them on my own. I pay 30s. per thousand for them. Fished a long time to-day without success; yet I saw fish in plenty, but they would not take the bait; and I have no nets. Went out with my gun to look for cockatoos, being particularly anxious for fresh meat; but the birds were most wary, and I could not get near them. No two birds can be more different in outward appearance than crows and cockatoos, yet in their habits they are similar; they go in flocks, call and give the alarm to one another, and fly off with a noise equal to that of a rookery.
5th.—The weather is now very delightful, thermometer 80°; spring is already commencing—and remember that our winter and spring are nearly the same. I heard the song of a sweet bird to-day: it was new to me. Will the season have its wonted influence on me? It is but within a very few years that I have been engaged in life as a man, and already I am set down as an old one.
April 7th.—Nine cases yesterday: one was for £230.
I was much amused by two Lascars, who came into the court for justice—I have not time to give you a full detail of their case; it ended by one calling upon the other to take his oath, which he did by taking off his cap and speaking within it: "Me speak truth, my cap—all same me speak truth, my head—all same me speak truth; my body—me speak truth, my cap—me have my head cut off me speak lie, my cap—me go to—." Here he made a low salute, and pointed down—I looked at the other: "Are you satisfied?"—he made a low obeisance, and both walked off together, having settled their lawsuit to their mutual satisfaction.***
11th.—I lose all spirit when writing to you, and feel that my letters are lapsing into cold formality or peevish querulousness; but my situation must excuse me, for where is the overflowing of affection, the outpouring of unrestrained communication? where the wonted relation of domestic anecdotes, identifying our feelings in mutual sympathy? How my heart yearns after home!
I am here an isolated man! without parent, brother, sister, or friends, except those of yesterday and in them I am most fortunate: how my heart pants at times for some old friend or companion, and some dear familiar face! how devotedly could I attach myself to such an one! But you in the midst of society, cannot understand this feeling of nostalgia, and may smile at it. I used to smile too, most incredulously, when I read of such a thing of the poor Swiss, for instance, dying from a fatal longing after his beloved mountain home,
Who has not known and tasted the bitterness of this sensation, the throbbing, the aching, the hopeless despondency of the heart? May you never experience this feeling! for it is one which requires the indifference of a Stoic, or the patient resignation of a Christian, to endure without repining. I endeavour to obtain the latter quality, but fall lamentably short of it, and therefore apply myself to laborious occupation, as a diversion of the thoughts from painful contemplation. Did I hear from you regularly—were I thus made sure of your remembrance and your sympathies, my mind would be more at ease, or at least sustained by hope; but now nearly a year has gone by without any intelligence from home. I had hoped it would have been otherwise; and I had reason to hope; and I will still cling to hope, "even against hope."
Crash! crash! a tree fallen! I have burned down three to-day, and expect to have two more consumed to-night.
12th.—On referring to the date of my last letter, you will find that we were uneasy about the scarcity of provisions; but I have this day heard of the arrival of the Merope from Van Diemen's Land, with flour and twenty barrels of pork; and with, what is still more cheering to me, a settler of some importance—Major Nairn. The circumstance of his coming here is powerfully in favour of the superiority of this colony to that in Van Diemen's Land; for he had been a long time there, had come here, liked the place, and bought a lot of land, and then gone back to Van Diemen's Land for stock—and here he is to live among us.
It is now approaching to our winter; yet the weather is so mild that I am sitting without a coat, and in my undress; have been out all day burning the stumps of trees, so no wonder for me to doff the outer garment; the thermometer standing at 80°. James and John have learned to use the cross-cut saw, which enabled me to clear away, with the subsequent aid of fire, the gum trees, which are extremely hard and heavy, not unlike sycamore in colour, but much more ponderous.
14th.—My thermometer has fallen this morning to 52°. I have been digging out potatoes—a miserable crop; but no wonder, for the seed was very wretched, and planted in a very dry spot, which will not answer in our dry summer. Thermometer up again to 62°; lovely moonlight night
Two pigs smothered by their mamma's awkwardness; and Letty came in like the Trojan of old, "so dull, so dead in look, so woe-begone, and would have told me—" all my pork was out. But it is no joking matter, nor am I in a humour for heroics now, for it is a sad truth that my last bit of pork was boiled this day.
Oh, for some of that which you have in Dublin for twenty shillings per cwt.! You, master Joseph, would think salt pork very sorry food, especially without cabbage, or any other vegetable; but we colonists think it sumptuous at this present moment. I am breakfasting on bread and coffee, without butter, milk, or eggs—but next year I hope to fare better: and as to the dinner of to-day, I shot three pigeons before breakfast. Our usual hour for dinner is one, a very natural time for eating. An additional blanket at night is now acceptable, although by day the thermometer is 72°; and woollen clothes in the morning and the evening are agreeable.
23rd.—Here has been an hiatus—valde deflendus—of a week; but I have had nothing to enter in the log, except a walk to Guildford and Perth, where I had some troublesome cases to settle in court. On Wednesday I purchased a cask of pork (price £10), and three bushels of wheat, and saw Major Nairn, who is in love with the climate, and on Saturday evening walked to Guildford, carrying not only my fishing-basket, but two hundred cabbage plants, which I got from the Governor's gardener: this morning I had them planted, and have just made up my mind to cover the two or three acres of wheat which I am about to sow by the spade and shovel, as I have no cattle for the plough;—apropos of cattle: for the first time, I have killed a young pig for my own table; and this, let me tell you, is an extravagant dish here.
26th.—Mr. Brockman has made an exchange with me: I gave him three young pigs for eight bushels of wheat, worth fifteen shillings a bushel, which will afford me an ample supply of seed. A sad misfortune has occurred to me: my thermometer has fallen, and is irreparably broken to pieces! It was a great comfort to me; I looked at it every night since I left Ireland, when I was noting my journal. I cannot get one here at any price, and beg that you will send me one.
28th.—Nothing surprises me more than that we never baked our own bread at home. Nothing is more simple. The produce of an acre of wheat would supply your family for a year. A hand-mill, sieve, and metal oven are the only machinery required. There is no mystery in baking, where fraudulent adulterations are not particularly desired.
29th.—Read a sermon of Burder's this day; and dined on four crows and a quail. The latter flew across the river from a fire which was spreading near it, and took refuge almost at my door, reversing the adage, and coming out of the fire into the frying-pan. It was a pity to shoot it, but——. I drank tea in the evening with Mrs. Tanner, and promised to dine on Monday with Mr. and Mrs. Brown, who have informed me that Captain B., of the Merope, who has a farm in Van Diemen's Laud, wishes to have a large grant on the Swan River—does not this promise much in favour of our colony?
30th.—I have contrived to mend the broken stock of a gun, and planted three hundred cabbage plants. Remarked at night that the cat lay with her back to the fire—a sure indication of storm; shut up my windows close, in the anticipation of it, and went to bed early.
May 1st.—The cat was right—dark morning, and much rain during the past night. Planted some potatoes in drills, and wished for some good seed of the apple species. Compelled by the rain to give up work, and fortunately shot a crow for dinner; this stewed in soup with a tomato, is an excellent mess. Rain, rain, all day, which put me in mind of Ireland; were it not for its effects on the land, I should never desire to see a drop of it, greatly preferring the driest weather, however hot.
Young Burgess called on me in the evening, after a hunting expedition, with an emu on his shoulder—a huge animal. He gave me a foot, which I intend to send to you: the dimensions of this foot are—from the heel to the nail of the middle toe, eight inches; from the knee joint to the toe, twenty-two inches: it is a turkey's foot in shape, greatly magnified: the bird stands, I am told, eight feet high. I intend to try my own luck in emu hunting on Thursday, if the weather prove fine.
2nd.—Another day of frequent but not continued rain, accompanied with strong wind from the N.W. In the evening I sauntered out with my gun towards the hills; saw two kangaroos at a distance, and was brought to a stand by a low sound, which I conjectured to have been the voice of natives, but happily discovered that it proceeded from large frogs, which now issue from their hiding places and utter their "dulcet sounds."
3rd.—Went to the hills in rear of my place in search of kangaroos with Mr. Burgess, jun.; we had six dogs, and traversed a very picturesque glen, through which Colonel Latour's Brook, as it is called, winds its way.
This glen diverges into three distinct branches, apparently of no great extent; but in this we may be mistaken, for these valleys frequently contract in some places and expand again beyond expectation. The sides of those we have just seen are very precipitous, and formed of granite, which in huge masses covers the bottom; pools are here and there, but no continuous streams, I should suppose, in summer. The result of our sport was, one kangaroo, weighing thirty pounds, and an eagle. We hung the kangaroo on a tree until our return, and carried it home on our backs in rather a droll way. Fancy the legs round your neck, the thighs resting on your shoulders, the head dangling at your heels, and the tail bobbing over your head. We also caught a young kangaroo rat, which I have still alive; it is soon a tame thing, very like a kangaroo in miniature; but with a head larger in proportion, and with hair or fur of coarser texture. We saw several old huts of natives; eleven in one place, seven in another, with fur and feathers strewed upon the ground.
4th.—The storm has entirely abated, and the day is mild. One of the peculiarities of this climate is said to be, that rainy weather never continues longer than three days in succession; it was so within my own experience last year.
In the evening sowed a little wheat in the garden where potatoes had been, and as a reward for my labour dined on steaks of kangaroo, and excellent soup made of the forequarter and tail, and afterwards enjoyed vocal music—I mean a frog concert.
5th.—Mr. Burgess tells me that he has purchased two bullocks at £25 each, and advises me to buy one; but as I have only two acres more to plough, it is better to wait until the next season. Mr. Tanner has purchased eighty-two sheep at 33s. each; they are considered worth the money, though in very poor condition after their voyage from Van Diemen's Land. I myself offered in vain £50 the other day for seventeen merinos.
10th.—Nothing very particular or new has occurred within these few days past, excepting a third attempt at a newspaper here in manuscript. It is a rare specimen, and somewhat costly, price 3s. 6d. I ought to have before recorded the shooting of bitterns, pigeons, and parrots, in a hunting excursion with Mackie and Stone, on the margin of a lake which is ten miles in circumference, where we saw swans and ducks in abundance, but could not get near them. However, we had a dinner for six shillings each, of wild ducks, besides pudding and cheese, with three bottles of wine, at a house of entertainment near the lakes. This sounds grandly. But as a set-off, there are but fifteen casks of pork in the whole colony, and they ask £14 for one of them. You should send pork from Ireland; it can never come at an unseasonable time.
We have had great discussions about the establishment of a bank; a prospectus has been submitted to the Governor, soliciting an advance of £5000 on security of twenty-five solvent and responsible individuals; but his Excellency has not the power of meeting our wants and wishes, and suggests the expediency of raising the required capital by subscription among the colonists. There is a good opening here for the application of capital by moneyed men, who would receive very high discount. If the Governor could advance money to settlers on discount of bills at 5 per cent., the colony would be served in an inconceivable degree, settlers being now obliged to borrow, sometimes at 25 per cent, interest!
12th.—Great excitement has prevailed among us this morning, a loud report having been heard at a very early hour, supposed to come from a ship hourly expected with supplies. Pshaw! it was only the accidental blowing up of a flask of gunpowder.
Some of the offices which Government had built at Perth are to be sold to settlers, and more commodious ones built at Perth, with a church, forming nearly one side of a handsome square. We are getting on.
15th.—The men have finished the wheat sowing, dibbling it in with forks, and I have shot a whole brood of teal on the river. The Cornwallis has arrived with wheat, flour, potatoes, and eighty-five sheep; the latter engaged by Mr. McDermot at 25s. a head. I have offered to give two bullocks.
18th. This has been a day of unintermitting rain, and the swelling of the river indicates a storm from the N.W. Probably the wind impels the sea into the river before we perceive its force; and thus the rising of the water, which appears to us as the prognostic of the N.W. wind, is in reality but the effect. Being prevented by the badness of the weather from going out, I have been engaged in building occupations within, and amused at the gambol motions of a little kangaroo, which I took the other day out of its mother's pouch as she was running from a hunting party. The poor little thing attaches itself to my foot, and hops along with me wherever I go; "passibus æquis;" its bed is in my old cloth slipper. Apropos, an arrival of shoes from Van Diemen's Land.
21st.—A passing traveller called out this morning that there was a turkey in the plain above. Such a hint was not to be despised; three of us accordingly sallied out, just in time to see the bird flying away. We followed, and saw some natives, who disappeared on our approach. We deemed it prudent not to be too curious, being in such matters pretty much of Falstaff's mind, that "the better part of valour is discretion." After this unsuccessful sally, I worked in the garden very busily, sowing turnips in drills, and planted fifty-six pounds of potatoes. At times I feel very happy here; and if it were not from the want of my own family and old companions, I should be always so, as my occupations are of a healthy, happy, and innocent nature.
23rd.—What have been the events of this day? Robert was making a window frame,
Johnny whitewashing, and James burning weeds. I got an acre of wheat harrowed in by a friend's bullocks, not like the "Beatus ille" of Horace, who,
and then went kangaroo hunting, without success, and drank tea with Mr. Burgess, who gave me a young snake, which is now in the bottle of preserves.
24th.—Gardening. Bathed twice in the river to cool myself in the midst of the terrible winter. Robert declares his inability to finish the window sashes. I have now two acres of wheat,—of oats, and nearly an acre in garden under turnips, cabbages, rape, potatoes, carrots, borecole, radishes, spinach, peas, lettuces, mustard, onions, tomatos, and almonds, and hope to have another acre of wheat and one of barley, besides some portion under maize and millet, at an expense of £3 per acre for breaking up the land with hired teams, but more probably I shall substitute my own young cattle. Mr. T. was with me this day; he seems to think that we should send home a strong memorial with respect to our state, and that the charge of 5s. an acre on this colony, while in its infant state, is too heavy a drag on its exertions. This settlement is, however, rapidly rising in strength and comfort. Hotels and lodgings are to be had—shelter and food for the stranger. This was not the case at first with our settlers, who suffered severe privations, and who in many cases expended their strength and substance in preparation for others, who are now reaping the benefit of the first sacrifices.
Some of our colonists, who have returned from Launceston, report that town to be inferior to Fremantle, which has undoubtedly improved considerably, comfortable stone houses rising in all directions. Water has been found in abundance, and the sand is discovered to possess most fertilising properties. It seems to rest upon a stratum of limestone at no great depth, and this substance, though until lately despised, is now highly valued. An hotel has been built, and the accommodations which it affords, as to bed and board, are good, and moderate in charge.
If there were adequate capital to stock and till the soil around it, the capabilities of improvement are considerable; and if we had the means of developing our own resources, we should undoubtedly be a flourishing colony in a few years. Even as it is, we have advanced exceedingly. Did ever a colony make such a struggle as ours has done, without extraneous assistance? Sidney and Van Diemen's Land were aided by forced labour, and stimulated by Government expenditure; but we have had no such support; we have relied solely on our own efforts; and yet under the most discouraging circumstances are prospering.
"Sperat infestis metuit secundis
Alteram sortem bene præparatum
26th.—The ground crisped with frost in the morning; but the temperature of the air in the succeeding part of the day delightful, like a day in September or October with you, when the sun shines clearly. It is, indeed a lovely climate; and if we can struggle on through our first difficulties (and friends and foes sometimes bear hard against us), we shall be happy.
By the delay of the Sulphur during four months, our pockets have been prettily picked in purchasing wheat at 35s. (nay, even 40s.) a bushel, when we ought to have it had for 10s.; and every other article dear in proportion. She was ordered to be here on the 1st of February, but has not arrived yet. Fresh meat brings 1s. 10d. per pound; and yet in Ireland you often want a market for your pork. If you had taken my advice about shipping off a lot of it——
Irish produce—pork, butter, cheese, and oatmeal—is always sure of a market here.
I have to tell you that my house in Perth is finished: it cost me, including the grant, above £100; and would bring £20 a year.
28th.—While sitting after tea with Mr. Tanner, last night, we heard firing from guns loaded with ball for we have learned to distinguish very accurately.—An officer was with us; and as we set out to learn the cause, a soldier came up to inform him that the barrack was attacked by fifty natives: we hurried onwards and heard much noise, but saw no natives. They had retreated; and it is doubtful whether their advance had been with any hostile intention.
June 5th.—Worked in the garden transplanting turnips and sowing seeds. I have lost two young pigs, and have now only seventeen—one bull, three oxen, one heifer (soon to calve), and a goat. What would Robinson Crusoe have been without the latter?
I cut down several trees, and split rails for fencing-in a cattle-pen, twenty-eight feet square; with a thatched house, twenty-eight feet by ten feet, forming one side of it. This house, experience has taught me, is essentially necessary, as I lost my cow last winter by not having shelter for her when she calved. There is great pleasure in viewing the gradual improvement of a wilderness:
But we labour rather for posterity: however, so it is with every one who is the artificer of his own fortune. I can look forward to having, at no very distant period, orange groves and vineyards—and really this grant of mine is a pretty spot; and I am quite fond of it.
Have I ever before enumerated my building and garden appendages?—They consist of a dwelling-house, kitchen, and servants' room; cattle-pens, sheds, pig-yards, and fowl-house; garden and field, fenced.
The river runs within seventy or eighty yards of the house, and is yet salt; but the frost will freshen it. We shall have in this settlement this year 435 acres under grain (last year 160), producing on an average fifteen bushels per acre; and probably shall be soon independent of imported corn. Some lands yield abundantly; a small patch on Captain Irwin's flat produced last year (sown in October and reaped in December) at the rate of 48s. a bushel per acre, an amazing produce, without manure or fallowing; it was merely dug up and sown immediately after. Few lands, however, are so good: perhaps twenty bushels would be a safe average to calculate on.
15th.—The Sulphur has arrived; the cause of the delay was the impossibility of procuring wheat—a right good reason. On Friday last my court was crowded with persons eager to hear the first cause tried before a jury in this colony: it was an action of defamation, brought by one merchant against another, and the damages were laid at £1000. Ready written speeches were delivered, and many points were raised. The foreman was Mr. Andrews, a most respectable and wealthy merchant, and altogether the jury was of a superior grade. The trial occupied two days, and, after some deliberation, ended in a verdict for 39l. damages.
That and the succeeding day (9th) were very wet; thunder and lightning and some heavy hail-stones accompanied the rain on Sunday, however, it cleared up again. In the evening I enjoyed a delightful walk to Guildford; and before I left it on Monday, was the proud possessor of thirty-four Merino sheep and ten lambs, originally from the stock of Mr. Trimmer, near London, price £65; and I also bought a heifer for £25, and bullock-yokes, chains, &c., &c., for £3, from a gentleman who is about returning in the Sulphur. My carpenter has been most busily idle in making a small pen for cattle—this, with two tables and three stools, are all that I have from him after a month's work! A good, handy rough kind of a carpenter, able and willing to work, is much wanted here.
I have now brought up my arrears to the present date (15th), and have to add that I was called this day to attend an inquest on the body of a man who was shot last night. It appeared that the natives had yesterday driven away some cattle, and had been tracked up the river by a party of ten colonists, who overtook them at night when asleep.
Although our people shouted out when they approached, none of the natives stirred, either from sleep or terror; at length, one of their dogs ran out of a hut, when guns were levelled at him, three of which only went off—the contents of one unfortunately struck a man of our own party in the head, and killed him.
Principles of humanity prevented the slaughter of all the natives there; of whom one, however, was shot in the confusion. The spears, knives, and other weapons, with bags and cloaks were taken as legitimate booty. Some of their spears and knives are barbed or serrated with bits of glass, which must wound severely. Robertson tells us, in his History of America, that the natives of that country used "lances," whose heads were armed with flint.
16th.—All my pigs are missing. I greatly fear that the natives, who killed sixteen of them in my neighbourhood, have taken away or killed mine also. To add to my probable loss, one of my lambs has been so much torn by a native dog, that I have been obliged to kill it.
18th.—Yesterday, the Governor did me the honour of calling at my place: he informed me that a settler was killed by the natives on the Canning River, on the same day that the row occurred here.
23rd.—I closed my last letter only yesterday morning in Perth, to go by the Cornwallis, and have little to note in my diary of this or the three or four preceding days, unless the killing of a lamb (the first of my flock) for my dinner, be deemed worthy of a place in it.
26th.—This day I have been at Guildford, attending a meeting of settlers to take into consideration what is to be done about the natives, whose depredations are truly alarming and disheartening. The meeting was well attended, and strong resolutions were entered into expressive of the opinion that settlers must abandon the colony, if they be not protected in their property. I had the consolation of ascertaining, what before was only problematical, that my missing pigs were wounded in the bush by the natives. This, of course, made me sympathise with my fellow-sufferers, and assist in putting certain resolutions into shape, previously to their being presented to the Governor.
27th.—On coming home I find that six of my best pigs are still missing, and that of those which have returned to me, two are wounded; whether severely or not, Johnny, who handed me the bulletin, does not mention. Hermitage, so lately in the most perfect tranquility, is now in high excitement.
My warlike propensities are so much excited that I have arranged my affairs, as the phrase goes (thinking of you to the last), and am preparing to watch and attack the natives, and kill, burn, blow up, or otherwise destroy the enemy, as may be most practicable.
28th.—Mr. Irwin and Mr. Shaw, and two soldiers accompanied me this night in a search after the natives. After a search of two hours, we found, horresco referens, the BLOODY HEAD—of one of the pigs—which I had intended to kill in a decent and peaceable manner myself, for my own eating, if these wicked natives had not saved me the trouble. The wretches have destroyed £3 worth of my swine's-flesh altogether; but after all, perhaps these uninformed creatures think that they have as good a right to our swine as we have to their kangaroos; and the reasoning, if such there be, may be plausible enough: however, if we had caught them, flagrante delicto—in the act of slaughtering them—I would not answer for the force of it.
We have very few soldiers to protect us; and if our men be employed in watching natives, what is to become of the colony? Our labours must then be intermitted:
We are informed that the military are not to be called out except in the case of a systematic attack. But suppose this to be made at the head of the Swan, and one of the soldiers to be sent to Perth for orders; it is scarcely possible that the soldiers could come out to the point of attack within twelve hours—and what is to become in the meantime of the family attacked? When I speak of the necessity of soldiers to protect us, I do not mean that we ourselves are in much personal danger; but our cattle are killed and taken away, if our servants are not continually watching them I have been congratulated on escaping from a spear thrown by the natives through the window. This was a second attack: the first occurred twelve months ago, and I believe that I mentioned it to you. This affair, you will say, has something of personal danger in it.
July 1st.—This has been an unpleasant day (wet), and I have felt lonely. There was a severe frost yesterday morning, such as I did not expect to experience—the ice being half an inch thick in a wooden dish which was outside the house. I fear that it has injured my potatoes.
2nd.—A very lovely day. Walked to Perth, where we had a meeting of the settlers, and great speechifying and discussion; the result of which was, a resolution to request that the Governor would proceed to England as our representative, to state and explain to the home Government many points which could best be represented in a vivâ voce communication. His Excellency obligingly met the general wishes of the assembled settlers.
4th.—Sessions have been held and three persons sentenced to transportation.
5th.—I have this day read part of Mr. Dale's journal of an excursion in the neighbourhood of King George's Sound, and will copy and send it to you if I have time; but it fills upwards of two hundred pages of a journal book. My opinion on reading it is, that the tract of country from this to King George's Sound, may be advantageously located when the time shall arrive (and arrive it will) that this colony becomes the fashion; that is, when people shall have ceased to abuse us, and when Government shall have rendered us more effective aid. If my land had not been taken in this quarter, I should have chosen it there; but here I have as much as I can manage, perhaps more, as the location duties are heavy, and require great exertions to discharge.
7th.—The Governor's pigs have been speared too; there have been nearly as many killed as would have supported the whole colony during the winter; and now we have no meat.
8th—Divine service at Mr. Irwin's, where, as is usual with me, I spent the evening.
9th.—The ground white from frost; not so last year. I find that we must not plant potatoes so early in future. I have been trussing hay for the market at Fremantle, where the consumer or rather the owner of the consumer, pays smartly for it! The hay itself brings £6 at my own door, and the freight costs £8 per ton—£14 per ton! Salt meat is not to be had; fresh meat costs 1s. 8d., and fresh butter 7s. per pound. These prices will soon drain the resources of some of the settlers. Earthed up my potatoes, in hopes of saving them from the frost, and then by way of pastime shot a brace of ducks. Laid out a bank and ditch for an enclosure, marked out some ground for ploughing, and sawed down a few trees. This has been a lovely cool day, and the winter is gliding away insensibly. You would consider it a delightful summer.
16th.—This is like a March day in Ireland, and I experience the novel sensation of cold feet.
The goat has had two kids; a pig is nearly fit to kill; a cask of pork has arrived at my house, and I have wheat and vegetables coming in, and the goat gives me a little milk, and the hens are beginning to lay, so that I am getting out of all danger of starvation. My plough is at work for the first time, and answers remarkably well. I paid two pounds for two pair of shoes this day; one pair for James, the other for myself. My Bluchers were completely worn out, and I have not had a dry foot for some time. I paid £17 12s. 6d. for forty-seven gallons of rum, and £18 for a cask of wine.
A native has wounded a soldier on the Murray River with a spear, in a very treacherous way; but the man is recovering. It is said that the natives have had a severe retaliation, five being killed and many wounded.
18th.—The air is already fragrant with many flowers and shrubs coming into bloom; what will it not be when we have (as unquestionably we shall have) groves of oranges, limes, almonds, peaches, apples, &c.! We only want the plants; but sailors are careless of them on their passage hither, and a very small quantity of salt water kills them.
27th.—This has been a day of very active occupation with me. I first brought home my two cows from Mr. Tanner's, and my thirty-three sheep from another neighbour; then ploughed, sowed, and harrowed-in two acres of wheat, and sold a sow for £5, to be paid in hurdles, shoes and ploughing—no money according to our system of barter. This sow had been among the wounded pigs, but perfectly recovered. Escorted my little flock of sheep to the flat, keeping a sharp look-out for natives, with a good supply of balls in my pocket, but saw none of them: nor was I fasting altogether on this day, having had two eggs and some goat's butter at breakfast. But my cow, like Mrs. Shandy's, "puts off calving terribly." I shall soon have cauliflowers and turnips for dinner; in short, we shall all soon have an abundance of everything; and as to wheat, it will be so plentiful that we must see about mills of some kind or other. Steam machinery would be too expensive, and water power in most places cannot be commanded, as there are few continuous streams; but wind mills will yet be in general use. There, has been but one experiment of the latter kind, and it has succeeded well.
30th.—Some of the settlers have met to take into consideration Mr. Lyon's plan for civilising the natives. I wish they were convinced of the evil of their pig-killing ways; "but," as McLeod says in "Ennui," "I doubt if it will be very easy." On returning from the house at which the "grand palaver" was held, I found great difficulty in crossing the river, which was much swollen by the rains, particularly as the night was very dark.
31st.—Admired my little flock of sheep greatly, and thought the tinkling of their bells most musical. Have I ever before mentioned that our cows and sheep are furnished with bells, not for the mere sake of the tinkling sound, delightful as it is in the stillness of evening, but as indispensable for guiding us through the woods to the places where the cattle are grazing? Without them we should be sadly perplexed, from the difficulty of providing herdsmen to watch their ramblings. Send me some bells, English spades, and prongs, by the first opportunity. I want a flute sadly, mine was broken on the passage; and this day, when I took up one which an itinerant schoolmaster left in my kitchen, I found that my fingers had lost their wonted familiarity with it. Cut a drain to convey water from a low piece of ground, and planted some turnips on a piece of land covered with wood ashes from some trees which had been recently burned. Got a chest of tea, which came by the Sulphur, and cost about 2s. a pound; but it is execrable stuff, smelling like musty hay, and of course unfit for use.
August 1st.—Cut cauliflowers for dinner, and killed a pig weighing 112 lbs. Cut him up, salted, and packed him in a cask: this is one which I saved from the natives.
There is no domestic animal more useful here than the goat; if I were again coming out I should bring a score of goats from the Cape; they are cheap, have frequently two at a birth, are more easily fed and managed than cows, and are not so liable to accidents. My goat has had four kids in one year.
2nd.—A vernal feel in the air. There is something inexpressibly pleasing in the renovation of nature; every budding flower which this genial climate brings early to our view, I look upon as a messenger to notify the approach of more joyous days. Every thing perceptibly vegetates already, and the pleasure of witnessing the growth of plants on my own land awakens within me a spirit of energetic interest which otherwise would fail. Not to be idle or too much in the ruminating mood, I dropped turnip or rape seed wherever the ashes of a burnt tree were scattered; and I have no doubt that a careful shepherd, having his employer's interest at heart, might in this way, while tending his sheep, be most profitably employed. Mine (when I get him) shall have an axe to cut down brushwood and small trees, which he can afterwards amuse himself by burning. Thus will he clear patches for me, and bring them into fertility and productiveness for the flock under his care. A little here and there of artificial green food in the midst of a wilderness of coarse grass, will be a rich and beneficial treat to the sheep.
I hear that the Sulphur is ordered home; if so, and I can see one of her officers to take it, I shall send you a box of curiosities, consisting of specimens of shrubs, flowers, and grasses in a kind of hortus siccus; spears, cockatoos, and feathers; a variety of skins, snakes, centipedes, &c.; but the box is not made yet. I shall, however, make one in a very rough way, and you can get it cleaned and planed afterwards. All the odds and ends which I have in my room at this moment form a very whimsical and incongruous assemblage. Among many others there are four bags of flour, two ditto of wheat, one ditto of oats, a chest of tea, a box of sugar; spears, guns, pistols; the feet and feathers of kangaroos and emus; clothes, books, and old shoes. I am now quite reconciled to the irregularities of a settler's life, and can sit as contentedly among these things as if they were the handsomest paintings, or the most elegant articles of furniture arranged in the most fashionable order.
3rd.—The crows have been attacking my newly-sown wheat. Their character for depredations of this kind is just as bad as in England or Ireland. I must shoot some of the rogues, pour encourager les autres.
I had an agreeable surprise to-day; Letty produced two prints of butter made from the goat's milk; and, notwithstanding this deterioration of the milk, or abstraction of their allowance, the two kids are thriving. I shall write for two more of them to the Cape; there they will cost about ten shillings each, and here they are worth from £3 to £5 each. I shall have a mare also from the same place, which will cost only £6 or £7, though her value here will be from £50 to £70.
6th.—I was induced to leave my plough this day for the sake of training my young dog at the kangaroo chase, and caught one after a long run. Have I ever detailed this chase to you? I believe not. You advance silently, watching in every direction, and when you see a kangaroo, you immediately run in the direction of him, hallooing on the dogs, which follow the game by view as far as the ground is clear. The sportsmen then wait patiently, half an hour or an hour, until the return of the dogs, which is sooner or later according to the length of the chase. The dogs are examined in the mouth to see if they have fur or blood, or the smack of kangaroo, which is something like that of bay leaf: if the indications of murder be upon them, they are desired to "show" the game, and in "showing" it the excellence of the dog is exhibited. One of ours being desired to "show," set off at a trot. We all followed at the same pace in a straight line for a mile, at the termination of which he brought us to the dead kangaroo. But I expect some lucky day to be at a nobler hunt than this—a bull chase—as a wild bull was caught and killed the other day. The meat, (sold at 1s. 6d. per lb.), produced nearly £50; and a great sensation has been created by a rumour that thirty-six head of wild cattle has been seen. I doubt the truth of the report. Really this kangaroo-hunting is very important to the settlers in their present circumstances. Some of my friends have had fresh meat of this animal for three months together, when it would have required three casks of pork, at £10 each, to have supplied their establishment during the same period. Thus have their dogs saved them £30.
9th.—I have been preparing a statement of expenditure upon my grant, for the purpose of getting the fee-simple of it confirmed to me: the amount required is £675. The account has been submitted to two magistrates for approval, and has been drawn up according to a prescribed form. My expenditure amounts to £1306 13s.; the items are, buildings, £300; tillage £96; enclosures, £59 3s.: drains, £10; garden, £20; clearing, £206; and under the head of "miscellaneous," live stock, £245 10s.; crops, £210; machines, tools, implements, and iron work, £100; tent used at first settling, £10; wells, £10; improvement of pasture by manure, £30; wharf, £10—total, £1306 13s. I cleared to-day, with a good American axe, eleven hundred yards of a vista through the bush on my lower boundary line, and had entertained great hopes that a valley through which the Susannah River (Latour's Brook) issues from the hills, was on my share; but on getting a view through the vista, I fear that it is not. However, the brook traverses my grant twice, and makes the back ground valuable.
A soldier coming up yesterday from Perth was attacked by natives; he says that he shot two of them. It will be prudent on my part, when I set out to-morrow morning at daybreak, to arm myself with a double-barrelled gun and ball cartridges.
August 21st.—Here is a sad hiatus! partly from absence, partly from occupation. All the foregoing had been written in hopes of my sending it by the Sulphur, but I have been disappointed; it must remain for a future opportunity. I resume my journal.
10th.—I reached Perth without an adventure, and found that the Governor had gone on board the Sulphur, which was standing out to sea; so that I had no chance of delivering my box on board.
14th.—I have had a tremendous-looking list of law cases to dispose of: one was for upwards of £2000—the parties, a Van Diemen's Land merchant and his agent. The town (Perth) is improving greatly. Buildings are in progress, and palings being put up in front of the allotments. £200 has been offered for my house, which I have refused; but have let it, in preference, at the rate of £15 a year. I shall leave home for two or three days, as I am pressed by Captain Irwin to witness the ceremony of swearing him in, as Lieutenant Governor, and also to attend a meeting about the establishment of a bank on Saturday.
22nd.—Here I am again quietly at home, after my rambles, admiring a fine ewe lamb (a cross between the Merino and Leicester), and cutting away shrubs (but leaving the trees) to clear a space of ground between me and Mr. Tanner. This will allow free circulation of air, prevent the natives from lurking about me, and improve the growth and quality of the grass. Nor were other matters neglected: I transplanted cauliflowers, Swedish turnips, strawberries, almonds, and put down some peach-stones; after which I dined on an opposum (very like a rabbit, though not so tender) which I shot in a gum tree during my morning's work in the wood; and washed it down with some excellent home-brewed beer.
24th.—Finished opening an uninterrupted line, about a mile in length, across my winter grant; planted thyme, sowed coriander and red pepper seed, and planted almond trees six feet high (which I obtained from a gardener in Perth, at one shilling a piece), twelve sets of sugar-cane, strawberry plants, some Cape gooseberry and rose-tree cuttings, and a few slips of the Cape or Hottentot fig. After all these useful operations, Letty brought me some butter, the first produce of my young cow's milk.
25th.—You will suppose that we are not addicted to the indiscretion of very early marriages, when I state that this day I met a grand cortége escorting a sexagenerian man and woman on the high road to matrimony. The bridegroom elect was mounted on his master's horse, and the bride rode behind him.
I have been clearing brushwood away at such a rate that the very natives will not know the place when they see it again. May it be long until they do see it! The old plague of servants again.
One of Mr. Tanner's has been sent to gaol for refusing to work; many are out of employment, yet demand as high wages as ever: fifteen shillings a hundred for slitting paling, and thirty shillings a month, besides diet, for a boy-man, or hobble-de-hoy. Some of the improvident mechanics at Perth give at the rate of 4s. 6d. and 5s. a dozen for eggs sent there by the settlers at the head of the river.
27th.—The weather now is of a delightful temperature; I bathed at sunset last night, after having previously warmed myself well by cutting down trees—you know that bathing when warm is an old and favourite practice of mine. We now say that winter is over.
29th. Our discussions about the proposed bank have been renewed. Numerous borrowers, but no lenders! I have decided against becoming a shareholder; and am convinced of the advantage which every one here would derive by leaving £50 or £100 every year at home, to be expended in such investments as he might direct. These would bring a return of at least 100 per cent.
31st.—James came to me this morning to know what is to be done for his eye, which was a little sore the other day—the blockhead got at my medicine chest, when I was at Perth, and applied a blister to it.
Sept. 1st.—A wet and stormy day, such as it was on the 30th ult., and very like the weather which we experienced a week after this time last year, when we commenced our expedition over the hills. The river is now higher than I have ever before seen it; but far from the elevation which those who were here in 1829 speak of; yet everything is growing rapidly, and this morning I heard the notes of at least six different species of birds. It has been assumed and believed that there are no singing birds in Australia: those which I have heard do not fully deserve to be so classed; but some of their notes are very sweet, so much so that I give them credit for being songsters.
4th.—Busied all this day and yesterday in the garden (which has been rather neglected for some time) planting Caffre corn in rows a yard apart, maize and peas, breaking up some fresh ground, and preparing beds for melons, vegetable-marrow, pumpkins, and cucumbers. Our seasons differ greatly from those of Sydney; there is there a little rain more or less in every month. Showers commence here in April, and become more frequent and heavy until July; and decrease until October. We are always sure of dry weather for our hay and grain harvest in the latter end of that month, and the two succeeding ones. The spring this year is much more backward than last year, on account of the frosts. Last season, before this time, I had dug and sold potatoes; but now (though they were planted as early) I have not any ripe.
Sydney, in the sixth year of its establishment, cost the Government £161,000 for that year. For this colony, £18,000 per annum is the allowance; but we hope for more encouragement.
8th.—Crossing the river after breakfast, on my way to Mr. Bull's, I had to walk across a tree, up to my middle in the water—this was more wetting than I had calculated on. On reaching the other side, I had to take off my trowsers and wring the wet out of them, and then sit in the sun in Highland costume, until they were dry: afterwards I dined at Mr. Tanner's. To-morrow I shall visit Guildford, to attend an agricultural meeting; and it is probable that I shall not be at home again for some days, as Tuesday next will be my court day.
I have just heard that H.M.S. Challenger, Captain Freemantle, has arrived from India, on her way from thence to Hobart's Town, Sydney, New Zealand, Otaheite, Pitcairn Islands, and South America; and that she has landed a seasonable supply of provisions.
9th.—This letter, or diary, or whatever else you may please to call it, I shall dispatch by the Challenger to Hobart's Town, whence it will be forwarded, though it is difficult to say precisely when it may reach you; but in the hope that no accident will attend its transmission, I continue my journal.
Our Lieutenant Governor (Captain Irwin), Mr. and Mrs. Browne, and Captain Freemantle, made an excursion recently to the head of the river, in order to give the latter gentleman an opportunity of seeing the country: he was greatly delighted with it, and the weather was very favourable. Captain Freemantle went on the same day to his ship, and sailed the next morning, taking with him a select party of three convicts, whom we have transported from this, and sent to Van Diemen's Land.
14th.—The weather for some days has been extremely fine, so that we feared the rain was all over; but this day, towards evening, the wind became very strong, which brought on heavy rain. I have planted, since it dried up, melon, cucumber, and pumpkin seeds: the melon seed is from one which weighed fifteen pounds; and the parent cucumber weighed four pounds. Our turnips are running to seed this year; and this is a general complaint here: we must renew our seed from home. Send me some seeds of early York and sugar-loaf, flat Dutch or drum-head cabbages, Swedish and white Norfolk turnip, cauliflower, and mangel-wurzel.
I do not know to which part of your letters to address myself first. Surely I must have already answered or anticipated all your queries. You ask, "of what is the thatch of our houses composed:" every one uses whatever suitable material is most easily procured in his neighbourhood. I used long sedge and bulrushes, some straw, and the tops of the grass-tree; battens or wattles, like laths, are nailed at regular distances across the rafters; the thatch is laid on these, and tied or sewed down with a long needle and rope yarn. The bark of trees has been tried for thatch, and it answers pretty well, if carefully applied. Mr. Brown has an outside covering of it, about fourteen inches in thickness, over a shingled roof, to keep out heat, but it is expensive. You inquire, "of what quality is my land on the Swan?" This is a very general and comprehensive question. I forget how many thousand varieties of earth old Evelyn reckons: I will not say there are so many varieties on my land, yet it varies considerably. I can give you a section of it. On the alluvial land, the grass-wattle and the gum-trees flourish; on another portion, the herbage is of inferior quality, and the trees are consequently of a dwarfish and shrubby nature: one of these looks and smells like white-thorn, and has a white flower, but not of the same shape—I believe it to be of the Mespilus species. It is called here, generally, by the English appellative, the May-thorn. The third division has a shrubby covering, and produces the red-gum, white-gum, broom, wattle, and grass trees.
I have acquired some knowledge of the indications of soil: mahogany is indicative of sandy land; red gum, of stiff cold clay; wattle, of moisture; and the broom and dwarf grass tree, of what we term shrubby herbage.
The next question you ask is about "water."—I have only found one spring good for any purpose, except washing—this water is found two feet under the surface, on a level with the river: plenty of water could be had by digging for it, but none of my people understand this, and I was anxious to avoid the expense of sinking a well. The river water is brackish here only about two months in the year, in April and May, as you may see by my journals. I have thought it worth while to get some water from a fine gushing spring on the other side, for washing.
Your next observations apply to my grant on the Avon, and recommend King George's Sound, or Geograph Bay, where you observe there are said to be "valleys of the richest soil imaginable." I will not quarrel with this description, not having seen the place; but from what I have seen, and from all I can collect from those who have been there, and read from those who have described it, I fear there cannot be any great extent of good land on the coast. A rich spot or two there may be; but as far as observation has gone, the general opinion seems to be that there is no extensive tract of good land till you have receded some distance from the coast. Mr. Peel's lot on the Murray is, I believe, an exception to this rule, as it is reported to continue good to the sea-side. Probably you will see published by Governor Stirling the journal of an expedition undertaken by Captain Bannister from this to King George's Sound, when he and his party lost their reckoning and their way, and did not arrive there till after seven weeks and three days. The place at which they bivouacked (about the 25th December, 1831) is deemed the best description of country which has been yet discovered. Galway, a man who is splitting timber here now, was of the party: he says, "all the country looked like a great field of oats before harvest;"—(kangaroo grass has very much that appearance). This was upon a river of pools, nearly in the line of a contemplated road between this and King George's Sound; but it is also very far inland. I doubt whether an extensive grazing tract may be found nearer to water-carriage, or more convenient, that at York, where part of my ground is. It seems likely that a settlement may be established there shortly; for already the nucleus of it is formed; therefore, after having relinquished the grant which I had further to the south of the Avon, I was glad to get hold of any near York. That which I have, of 5000 acres, belonged to one who has abandoned the colony; the remaining part I took on a river, supposed to be the issuing of the Avon from the hills on the western plain: I chose this lot because the ground is good, which is more than I knew of any other place at that time; it is not above forty miles from this, and may be reached without either crossing or touching upon the mountains. Time pressed, and I was obliged to make some selection, or lose my opportunity.
Land now is not to be given or exchanged by Government; it must be purchased, at not less than five shillings an acre—a sad loss to us. It is very difficult to save meat here in spring and autumn, much more so than in the heat of summer; the "blow-flies" are not so busy then, or perhaps they are encouraged by the moisture generated at the other seasons. When we have any considerable quantity of fresh meat (which is not often the case) we put it in pickle. Winter meat keeps very well. "Game?"—We have ducks—the wild turkey bird of the bustard kind—and quails; and the gallinule, or water-hen; and there may be many other game birds unknown to us, as they have so many places of concealment.
The cockatoos are gregarious and migratory: at some periods of the year few are to be seen; at other times, they are seen in large and frequent flocks—I have heard of fifty kangaroos together; and have seen fifteen in company. We have rats and mice too; the largest of the former I have met here was about the size of a "cub" rat with you, but not so rough in the hair; in every other respect apparently the same; where they came from I leave others to determine or dispute about. Wild dogs are the next "game" you start in your letter. They are not numerous, and are seldom seen in daylight. Since my flock has come home, however, I hear of them more frequently.
James went to the landing-place, a few nights ago, on hearing a noise in the boat, when a wild dog rushed out of it and ran off. The natives sometimes domesticate them, and there seems to be almost as great a variety of them here as with you; some are like little black and white collies; many of them yellow and large; our dogs howl whenever one of them comes near the house.
You wish to know the size and appearance of the trees here. They are of all sizes. Sometimes you see one like an old father, with his family of striplings around him. The colour of the foliage is green, the appearance of the bark various. To begin with our most valuable timber—the mahogany;—its bark is of a reddish brown colour, and runs in continuous slips from top to bottom. The red gum tree has a rough scaly bark, of a dusky brown or reddish colour. The white or blue gums (there seems to be a confusion about the names), have a bark not unlike that of beach, of a light slate-colour, and smooth; some on the high ground have a tinge of a rusty colour mixed with French white. And the banksia has a hard, grey, gravelly-looking bark, formed of little rough particles. Can you imagine a tree composed of coarse granite?—such is the banksia. The wattle—what shall I compare it to? the Portugal laurel is the nearest in resemblance that I can think of. We have also the swamp or the oak (casuarina), and the cabbage or beef-wood tree, with a splendid orange blossom. These are our principal trees and large shrubs; the three first bear seed-vessels like acorns. The banksia is also called honeysuckle tree, from a sweet-tasting substance which is contained in its flowering cone. The wattle bears seed like a long pea-pod. There are vines bearing grapes in the botanical garden. The casuarina is excellent timber for the lathe, and our mahogany is beautiful for furniture: specimens of it have been sent home. The bark of the wattle, and of others, is good for tanning; the red gum tree produces gum in abundance; the broom tree, zamia, grass tree, wattle, hakea, and others, also produce gum like the Arabic. The large grass tree (zanthoria hastilis), yields a powerful cement; you will see it on the stone hatchets which I send you. There may be many other things of which we have not yet found out the peculiar properties.
Many persons are trying to salt fish, which are very numerous in the river about and below Perth, as you must have seen by one of my letters, in which I mentioned our having taken 10,000 at one draught of the seine; these are of the kind called herrings, but do not look very like them; they make a noise when out of the water, and on that account are also called trumpeters. The rack, or king fish, is as large as salmon; the snapper, or bream (a deep-sided fish, not unlike the roach), the mullet, a thick-shouldered, blunt-headed fish, the silver fish (perch), and the guard fish, sometimes come up the river. There is another species, somewhat of the nature of an eel, with a sharp spine which it can erect at pleasure; this is caught only in the fresh water, and is called a cobbler; a kind resembling it in salt water is named cat-fish. Perch will take no bait except the shrimps which are found about stumps of trees and logs of timber in the river. The snake-necked turtle sucks your bait off most ingeniously. We have the cray-fish from two to six inches long, and clams in abundance. These are all the productions of our river as far as we are yet acquainted with them. There are crabs in the salt water, different in shape from yours, and so very daring, that they have seized me by the foot frequently when pushing boats over the flats. Neither lobsters nor oysters have been found, though the shells of the latter are very numerous about the flats and Melville Water. Of the natives I have not heard or seen any thing of late, yet we do not trust our cattle in any distant place with less than two herds, and the settlers over the hills have a few soldiers allowed them for their protection. White ants are troublesome; these usually carry on their operations under the cover of a hard clay mound, which can with difficulty be entered even by the force of a hatchet. You see nothing outside to indicate their presence but a little brown streak of clay—the covered way by which they make their approaches; they never volunteer their appearance
24th.—I have hired two Irish men to split palings, at 10s. a hundred (the paling is four feet six inches long, and from four to six inches broad); they commenced this morning, and have already cut a tree three feet six inches in diameter, cross cut one length, split it into convenient sizes by wedges, and are now splitting out the paling with a knife, as you may have seen laths split. The tree is of the red gum species, and splits well, each pale from half an inch to an inch thick. Experienced men sometimes split from 200 to 300 a day, so they can earn a good deal of money; but on the other hand they buy their provisions from their employers.
I have always considered my own countrymen peculiarly happy in hitting off and applying a metaphor, though its frequent confusion is, perhaps, the principal cause of the bulls so liberally attributed to them: an instance of the ready application of a very whimsical metaphor amused me this morning.
"Hah, my joker," exclaimed Paddy Burn, as he drove a wedge home with peculiar effect into a large block of the tree. "Are you making him laugh, Paddy?" said Jack Galway. "Laugh, is it," rejoined Paddy, "by my troth I'm making him split his sides laughing." This is genuine humour.
Mr. McDermott has been here to-day, and wanted me to buy Van Diemen's Land sheep at £3 a piece. I am putting down about half a rood of maize (Indian corn) to try it once more, and shall have about a rood of Caffre corn; it will bring in the ground if it does nothing else. It is surprising how rapidly the ground here becomes baked on the top into a hard crust, which young vegetable fibres can scarcely penetrate. On raking and breaking it, we found several Indian corn shoots quite doubled under it, without being able to force their way through. Some of my strawberry plants are in blossom. My neighbours are brewing beer from sugar; less than one pound to a gallon will do; and have this article at 3d. to 4d. per lb. People talk of giving beer to servants instead of spirits, as the Government has seen the impolicy of forcing settlers to give regulated rations of spirits as well as of provisions.
27th.—The two Messrs. Burgess crossed the river here this morning, "kangarooing;" I accompanied them. We saw four kangaroos and five wallabees, and got three chases; but the dogs killed only one wallabee, weighing sixteen pounds.
28th.—The superstition which the ancients had about trees gushing out blood when pointed at by the axe, may have been originated from the observation, that gum trees emit, when wounded, a stream of reddish fluid of a consistence not unlike thick blood. I got a considerable quantity of it to-day from the veins of a tree which I rolled up in my hands like pitch; I shall send it in the next box.
There are a hundred plants, flowers, shrubs, &c., that I have not the names of, nor do I know how to describe them. One very abundant plant is called wild carrot: we have the dock, penny-royal, trefoil, sorrel, rib grass, fern, flax (native), which is pretty abundant, burnet, yarrow, sowthistle, moss (the hygrocrocis), sedum, buttercup, eringo, wyay or native yarn, davisia, and several blue, white, red, and yellow climbers and creepers, anigozanthus, orobus solis, chrysanthemum, primroses, daisies, rockets, orchis, cardinal, sweet pea, and a beautiful purple flower, which looks as if it were trimmed with lace, and called here the lace flower, and many others.
I sometimes think of making a hortus siccus of all these flowers; but they are too transient, and I am so much occupied, that I have not hitherto been able to accomplish it. Many beautiful shrubs and flowers are now in bloom, of which I must mention the black wattle, which bears a yellow blossom resembling that of the laburnum at a distance, but much finer. The hills are generally of the granite formation; but they are frequently covered with vegetation and trees up to their very summits. At this time of the year, spring, you find very luxuriant grass on them. Mr. Drummond says he counted fifty-four varieties of native grasses, most of them perennial; but the most abundant grass is annual: he says there are many varieties of the British genera, but that few, if any, of the species are similar.
This is a healthy climate; the heat is well suited to me, and I do not perceive it has enervating effects on any one. The mornings, evenings, and nights, are always cool enough; and very often the land and sea breezes (the latter particularly) make even the middle of the day in Midsummer quite cool.
Oct. 4th.—I shot and skinned a bittern this day; it is the ghost of a bird, its body not so large as that of a pigeon, yet it measures from the point of the bill to the tip of the toes, as the skin now hangs, no less than two feet eight inches; it is, in fact, a great long tube of feathers. Mr. Browne made me an offer of a mare for £50, which I accepted; and I rode from his house on the first horse (for every mare is a horse) which has called me master in this colony.
5th.—On my return home, after remaining at Mr. Brockman's last night, in consequence of flood in the river, I found my men washing the sheep preparatory to shearing. As to the weather in general, we have had much more rain and cold this winter than we experienced last year. September and October seem to be the months of flood, for although there may be more rain in the earlier months, yet the thirsty soil then absorbs it; but now it is satisfied even to saturation, and every drop tends to the swelling overflow of our river.
Viewed my wheat on the land where I had potatoes last year: it is upwards of five feet high. Got a good specimen of a red root, which must have singular properties, as both pigs and cockatoos seem to be fond of it,—have planted cucumber seed and melon to-day, and got potatoes dug. The splitters finished one tree, and have commenced another, which they managed to let fall upon a tent I had put up for them—it has been woefully torn. In one of your letters you speak of lining the boxes with tin; it is useful on the voyage to keep out cock-roaches and vermin; and it is very useful here to keep out mice and white ants, which are destructive if not well watched. I should have lost considerably but for the lining of tin; the white ants entered at the bottom of a chest, crept up the sides, and got under the tin at one corner where it did not fit well. I bought a tinned chest to-day to keep sugar in, and there issues from it a constant stream of small black ants across the floor to a hole on the other side of the room, each carrying a grain of the sugar: these are so minute that you scarcely notice them; but by treading, burning, and scalding, I have nearly banished them.
Dined to-day with Mr. Burgess on a "wallabee," the result of our own chase; it was roasted whole, and stuffed, and tasted not unlike hare. We have some artichokes looking strong and luxuriant, much more so than any I recollect to have seen at home. Beans are podding well, though the general opinion here is that they will not succeed with us as a crop.
29th.—Yoked my team this morning and harrowed the wheat in the flat ground, which had been rather roughly broken up. I think it will answer, though it appears a rude process to subject grown wheat to. I have two, or perhaps three acres ready for the plough, that is, cleared from black boys (dwarf grass trees), which are grubbed out of it; the root of these is a knobby woody hemp, with roots very like heather.
I have just finished dinner (one o'clock)—every thing at table was the produce of the farm; corned mutton, green peas, new potatoes, sugarloaf cabbage, radishes, and lettuce. Afterwards I superintended the burning of trees on the ground, which we shall commence to plough on Monday. Our practice, after the trees have been consumed, is to plough the ashes in, and let the ground lie fallow. I have been greatly puzzled in laying out the boundary line between Lamb and myself, my pocket compass being incorrect. We are much in want of assistance from the Surveyor's Office; being left to mark out the lines ourselves, we may have laid the foundation of much future litigation. The settlers could lay the lines themselves if they had good instruments, but even those in the Surveyor's Office are not to be depended on.
Sunday, 30th.—I recollect we sometimes were annoyed at home with a host of kitchen visitors on Sundays, but hardly expected this nuisance here: there have been nineteen here to-day with my servants; the last only passed at nine at night, and I have just heard a sound which indicates the approach of another visitor by no means welcome, namely, a native dog. I have been watching for him, but fear to shoot some of my neighbour's dogs by mistake in the dark.
Referring to your letter of the 22nd December, 1831, inquiring about tobacco.—It grows well here, but requires too much labour to pay as a crop in our present state; at a future time it may do well.
As to coming here—I am still reluctant in giving advice to any one on the subject. It is a serious responsibility to hold out strong inducement, when success depends so much upon the taste, bodily fitness, and preparation for it. To come here costs much; a considerable sum also is further necessary to support you until you can maintain yourself. Land must be paid for, if from Government at the rate of 5s. an acre. If you bring servants the expense of keeping them is considerable, and without them what can a single individual effect? Indentured servants become masters, No matter what damage they do, how careless they are, sober or drunken, idle or industrious, impudent or respectful, well or ill, you must keep them and satisfy every demand on the instant or off they go to a magistrate and make a complaint. "Sir, I want a hat, a coat, waistcoat, a shirt, trowsers, stockings," and anything, or everything, they please, not to say shoes, of which they will wear a pair in two months. If the master replies, "I'll get you what you want when I go next time to town" (or whatever he thinks most conciliatory), the rejoinder is, "But I want it now, and I'll not work till I get it." I do not say that this has actually occurred with me; but I give it as a fair specimen of the habit of indentured servants here.
Two or three stout hard-working brothers, or a father with a grown family, able and willing to assist him, with some money to establish themselves in rough comfort and plenty, would be independent in a few years; but there must be no squeamishness as to food, nor daintiness as to luxuries; it is a plodding matter-of-fact business-like and hard-working life, until you get yourself established; with very little of that romance and adventure about it which is so tempting and alluring to your minds. Yet it has its pleasures; but it is quite right that people should prepare themselves for what it really is. I am still unwilling to recommend emigration to any one; for the sort of life is so different from that at home, that many might be discontented with it, and blame the adviser instead of themselves. I had made up my mind, to endure every kind of hardship and privation for three years at least. Yet here, at the end of two years, I live almost as well as I could wish, and certainly lead a healthier and happier and less anxious life, now that the first struggle is over. As to the relative eligibility of this place and America, pray consult the "Quarterly," especially that number in which there is discussion about the relative advantages; I forget in which number it is; and in the first number of the Transactions of the Geographical Society, you will also find something on the subject. If our Government succeeds in getting the purchase-fee of five shillings an acre taken off for a few years, then settlers will come here more readily. This cannot for a long time be much of a commercial, or any thing but an agricultural or pastoral settlement, as there are no large navigable rivers traversing the country, and affording an outlet from the interior by water.
Nov. 1st.—Leaving my little team at work to-day, I went out with the youngest Mr. Burgess to look for a kangaroo and had a fine chase after one; the dogs killed it within 200 yards of us, in a stream of water; my puppy barked and bit, and pulled, and did what he could; but it was the first he had seen killed, and we could not expect more at his coup d'essai. He promises well; we carried the kangaroo on our backs, turn about, for seven miles; this was a matter of some toil, for it weighed eighty pounds: however, I shall have some days' fresh provisions. On our way home, I shot a duck on the wing, and found that it had a nest with ten eggs. As it was not mortally wounded, I brought duck and eggs with me, and have her now sitting in a cage.
2nd.—A day of high wind, from N.E., with occasional heavy showers of rain, faint thunder and lightning; yet my little team ploughed from breakfast till dinner-time one third of an acre.
Do you recollect my having mentioned, some time ago, the murder of an outsettler on the Canning River by the natives? One of these, called Ya-gan, identified (on oath by a boy who escaped) as the principal actor, who took the spears from his companions and deliberately drove them one by one into the deceased (who had become entangled in a hedge while trying to escape), has been taken. The Government offered a reward for the apprehension of this Ya-gan, and some days ago he and two others, almost equally concerned, were seized by two boatmen, and brought to Perth: they had been fishing, and were enticed into the boat and there secured; they have been sent to Carnac, where they are to suffer solitary confinement and be taught our language. One of them escaped by swiming and diving across the river, where it is fully a mile in breadth.
4th.—Walked to Perth, where I found Captain Irwin; went with him to survey the canal and intended plans for deepening a passage, to avoid the flats in the river; in the shallows I caught two mullets with my hands.
About this day two years we came to the colony.—What a change now! It looks like a settled country: rural sights and sounds every where; houses, crops, flocks, herds, fences; cows lowing, dogs barking, cocks crowing, and geese cackling.
I have added to my stock, having just purchased nineteen ewes, at 50s. per pair; the breed is the compound produce of Leicester and Merino and Van Diemen's Land; and five ewe lambs at 35s. I have now fifty-nine sheep, which cost me £121.
5th.—My mare strayed away yesterday evening; and I got a thorough drenching while looking in vain for her. This day I found her among a tract of black-wattle trees. Without another servant, I cannot manage to keep all my present stock. I already feel les embarras des richesses. Just as I found the mare, I missed the sheep this evening, and had a hunt for them and my cows, which were quarrelling afterwards all night, and breaking down their stalls and plaister. Two cattle-keepers, one for cows and the other for sheep, are expensive but unavoidable. This evening has become very wet and cold, accompanied by thunder, lightning, and gusts of wind roaring in the trees like the shouts of an agitated multitude; yet I walked through a hollow in search of bitterns, water hens, or anything else to fire at. This pool of water (in Lamb's and Wright's grants) is about 400 yards broad: there is water in it, perhaps from June to January; tall flags, bulrushes, and coarse grasses grew in it; some almost so high as to conceal a person walking in it. I shot a cockatoo!
6th.–The natives, who are confined on Carnac Island, have given a rude sketch of some part of the country: they make Lennard's brook identical with the Avon, and represent some large river flowing to the N.W., which has different names in different districts; but they do not seem to know whence it arises, nor where it debouches into the sea; they also sketch a large unexplored lake, or cul-de-sac, to the north, in the interior, but are not able to give any idea of the distances or relative situations of them. It is doubtful yet how far this can be depended on, for the person who sought the information may have given the clue; and as they are expert mimics perhaps they were but echoing back his suggestions.
8th.—Mr. Revely's mill is in forwardness; the water-wheel upright with horizontal shaft. He is cutting most excellent granite millstones in the hills behind this place.
I have not mentioned the weather for the last week:— Warm on the 12th and 13th. Cooler on the 14th. Clouds and a breeze on the morning of the 16th, which ended in rain that night. Cold, with occasional showers, on the 17th; thunder in the evening. The 18th fine again: and I should have mentioned that on Thursday, the Lieutenant Governor ( ), Messrs. Rowe, Morgan, R. Browne, Dale, and some others, set out on an excursion over the hills to York. I had intended to go with them, but business prevented me: they are all mounted; another party speaks of going to the Upper Murray district, as they call that of which Captain Bannister reported so favourably. Drawing logs in the early part of the day; got melon seeds sown, and several beds arranged in the garden. Soon after dinner I received Captain Irvin here; he is greatly delighted with the lands over the hill, and says there is a fine reach of the river, or deep reservoir; opposite his grant. He tells me that the natives that were imprisoned on Carnac Island have completely outwitted their guards; a boat was incautiously suffered to remain at the island before night, when they managed to get into it, and were miles off before their escape was discovered; and as there was no boat for pursuit, they reached the land. Their boat was found at Woodman's Point, with one oar; but no natives have been seen since. This occurrence is extremely provoking, as a knowledge of their language would soon have been acquired by us; and they were rapidly learning to make themselves intelligible. I understand they were very accurate in describing the rivers which lie to the north. Mr. Lyon, who superintended the native prisoners at Carnac, says they describe several rivers to the north; one of them large, and abounding with fish; but they could not be understood in their description of distances. It seems that the land is all parcelled out into districts among themselves, and that they rarely travel far from their own homes. The chief of this district is called "Worragonga": Ya-gan is the son of Worragonga. I write this from recollection; but it is no great matter if I should have made a false heraldry in blazoning his pedigree.
20th.—After dinner, I took a cruise of observation round the neighbouring farms. The crops look remarkably well this year; my wheat is the earliest here (nothing like early sowing, especially on the uplands). Took tea at Mr. Bull's, and afterwards called where a mill is at work. A messenger brought me a great letter with an awful looking seal: it contained a pamphlet from Colonel Hanson, which he published in India, about this country and Van Diemen's Land. He seems greatly delighted with the society of this place in comparison with that of the other colony, and recommends it to his Indian friends, as far superior in every respect: perhaps a copy may find its way to England. I know not what delay this vessel may make, and must get my journals ready.
27th.—I have got most of my potatoes dug and put into a pit, with a good covering of clay; sold some at 5d. a pound. Am at a stand with my hay for want of a cart. All my pigs have disappeared; spent this evening in an unsuccessful search after them—my mare also cannot be found.
28th.—This day is the commencement of my harvest; got some beautiful wheat cut down—it does one's heart good to see the great sheaves set up in shocks. Only a small patch has been cut (twenty-two yards by twelve) where it was most ripe, and upon this small space there are five large shocks, each containing twelve sheaves; the ears are large and full: it will probably yield at the rate of forty bushels an acre.
The Trimmers have laid the foundation of a fortune by having a flock of prime Merinos brought from England; they have now about five hundred over the hills. A prime Merino ram and half a dozen Merino ewes soon increase, and improve other breeds. McDermot procured, at great expense, a few prime Saxony sheep, which he says are far superior to any other kind.
Saturday, Dec. 1st.—Prepared a threshing floor; got some wheat threshed—very fine grain, and yielding well; but many ears are too green, which arises from the mixture of seed. Planted some potatoes in low ground for experiment; also transplanted some cabbages, mangel-wurzel, and red beet. I fear the seed which you sent is not good; Edward has tried some of the cabbage-seed without success: it probably fermented on the passage.
9th.—I only closed my last despatches for you yesterday, to go by Van Diemen's Land; it is possible that this letter may reach you first, as there may yet be a more direct conveyance. I have heard that a soldier's wife has been wounded by a spear from the natives in the Canning River—the first time they have molested a woman (a bad trait), and this outrage is likely to bring on general hostility.
Bread from our new wheat is excellent; my little mill grinds well; but hand-mills are tedious and laborious. I examined the mill which Mr. R is putting up at Perth, and am surprised that the same plan is not adopted at home; he says it is the common construction of mills in Italy, that its machinery is less expensive, and that it requires less water than those we have been accustomed to. The water passes from the reservoir through a wooden trunk about a foot square, sixty or seventy yards long, at the end of which is a copper tube two and a half inches in diameter, through which the water gushes. There is great pleasure in every approach we make towards our own support.
10th—In sinking a well, we have found water at the depth of twelve feet; the strata are vegetable mould, blue and black clays, white or dun-coloured clay, buff coloured or loamy clay, yellowish sandy loam, and dun-coloured loamy sand, on which they were working when the water first appeared.
I have been obliged to have another servant to attend the cows.
11th.—A baker came this morning for some wheat, and obviously wanted to make a large profit. I would not supply him, except with a few bushels for his own use, at 4d. per pound cleared. We are badly off for broad sharp hooks, which are better than sickles; send me some by the next vessel. Few persons have had bread for some time past here; so that I eat some new bread and fresh-churned butter-milk with great goût to-day.
12th.—The dogs killed a long-tailed, yellow-spotted guana, and a black one: the first had eggs. I shot a quail and a white cockatoo, and after this sport went to dine with Mackie, having to swim across the river as my boat was not at my side of it. On my return, I looked out for my boat, when lo, being at cross purposes, it had changed sides again; I had to swim the second time—how fortunate that there are neither alligators nor sharks in the river!
13th.—Captain Irwin dined with me this day, and while we were at dinner several of my friends popped in. I understand that a petition has been sent to council from Fremantle, praying that the court should be held alternately there and in Perth.
16th.—A boat came up bringing news of the arrival of a small schooner (the Governor Bourke), in which I returned, but did not arrive at Perth till nine at night on Monday. I took down with me some new wheat, the first in the market; sold one bushel for £1; which some praised, and others blamed me for selling so cheap. I sold at the same time, eight pounds of butter, at 3s. per pound, and could not help marvelling at the small size of the luxury which sold for 24s., compared with the bulk of the necessary, which only brought 20s. Much money might be made of a dairy here.
18th.—I went to the postmaster's, hardly expecting letters; but imagine my delight and surprize at getting letters from my dear father and you, of dates from the 1st of August to the 29th of November, 1831, and half-a-dozen papers of different dates—one so late as the 10th of March, 1832. I have had letters from you of later dates before, but these explain many allusions and circumstances in the subsequent letters which I was not clear about. I walked up to Guildford, though the day was excessively warm, and intended to have reached home by night to con over my letters in undisturbed comfort; but being wearied, I was forced to accept a bed on the way; but reached home for breakfast the following morning with a good appetite for it.
One word about health. You seem to consider that we must be very bilious here, and that we must consequently use much medicine. I have not taken any medicine whatever since I left Ireland, nor have I required it; so much for this climate.
It is fortunate that some of my letters reached you before Captain S. and his mate (who were never higher than Perth, if so far) arrived in Dublin, else you would have been unhappy about my situation here. What was Fremantle then? a bare, barren-looking district of sandy coast; the shrubs cut down for fire-wood, the herbage trodden bare, a few wooden houses, many ragged-looking tents and contrivances for habitations, our hotel, a poor public house, into which every one crowded, our colony, a few cheerless dissatisfied people with gloomy looks, plodding their way through the sand from hut to hut to drink grog, and grumble out their discontents to each other; a stranger (a sailor in particular) could not admire the settlement. Now there is a town laid out in regular streets of stone houses with low walls, and in some places palisades in front; two or three large well kept inns or hotels, in which you can get clean beds and good private rooms. The soil there is loam resting upon a stratum of easily worked limestone, and possessing a fertility almost exceeding belief, with abundant water near the surface. You inquire, "if there be any fish in the rivers," I thought I had mentioned my having assisted in taking ten thousand at one haul near Perth; up here they are not numerous, or rather I cannot take them without a net: you say, "winter will bring them;" remember I have often called this a topsy turvy country as compared with home; the fish are abundant in the river in summer when the salt water makes its way up at Guildford; the people on one occasion were actually astonished at the noise of the fish leaping and rushing up the river in multitudes, and this I must have mentioned in my Journal, for I have, ever since my arrival given you a pretty copious narrative of my own life, which, though not dressed up and embellished to entertain others, yet gives you a true and homely picture of a working settler in his every day clothes. You may expect with certainty a publication from Governor Stirling, or under his authority, which will supersede the necessity of giving private communications to the public. I have transmitted to you my only journal in notes, rude, unfinished, and disjointed, as transactions occurred. In your letters you inquire with respect to the new colony in South Australia; your arguments about it are mere theory. You wonder at our difficulty in crossing the hills, and attribute it to their height; I have explained that also:—suppose it not one hill, but a continuation of hilly country for 45 or 50 miles; and you will see that it required great perseverance to penetrate beyond them; there appeared no end to them; Dale was the first who succeeded; after repeated excursions he got a glimpse of Mount Bakewell at a distance—a remarkable mountain, and higher than the rest; he pressed for it as a land-mark, and was rewarded by finding the Avon at its base; this river was then in its flooded state, which naturally led him to believe it much more important than it is; indeed all were disappointed with respect to the river, but the country has stood the test of examination, and fulfilled the expectations of the most sanguine.
You write "of snows melting from a mountain ten thousand feet high to the south; there is no such elevation here, you might strike a cipher off the number. However, the hills are higher there than with us. At King George's Sound they have very little frost; but I am not certain about snow. I do not think there is as much good soil there as here; but I must not decry it, not having been there, and of course knowing nothing of it from personal observation. We have received a French book "on the Penal Colonies of Great Britain," written by M. Ernest de Blosseville, who sent a copy "to the Hon. Secretary of the Literary Society at Perth, Swan River;" unfortunately there is no such person to acknowledge his civilities. I have not yet had time to read the book. He wishes some one here to write a critique, but we have something else to do besides writing or scribbling essays; we are all waiting anxiously until the despatches shall have arrived announcing the Governor's reception in England, for upon this depends our speedy or remote success.
22nd.—I have sold two more bushels of wheat, twenty shillings per bushel and I have just been looking at a market note in an Irish paper; some of the prices put in a juxta-position with ours, remind us of our new state; eggs with you four-pence per dozen, with us four-pence each; butter eight-pence per pound of sixteen ounces, with us one shilling a pound; potatoes three-half-pence a stone, with us five-pence per pound; beef and mutton three-pence per pound, with us one shilling and six-pence; nails are now selling at a shilling a pound; scales, weights, and beams in great demand; ploughs and timber, chains, metal pots, scythe blades, reaping hooks (strong broad sharp ones). I lately paid three shillings each for very indifferent sickles; potato forks and riddles are extremely scarce; a few sash planes, ploughshares, camp covers, frying pans, cow and sheep bells, knives, some Britannia metal tea pots, zinc milk dishes and pails, buttons for windows are wanted—these hints may be useful. Got my oats and wheat put into ricks to-day, and shall turn the cattle on the stubble. This day was very warm, but in the evening I was forced to put on my coat; that is my only thermometer—coat heat.
23rd.—News; the Cornwallis has arrived; there is a mare on board for me.
25th.—Christmas-day; this morning I received a letter from Mr. * * * saying that another mail had been discovered on board the vessel from Sydney, and I got no less than seven other letters and twenty-seven newspapers. This is a Christmas-box indeed, and a Christmas trick too, or rather a frequent and inexcusable one, to keep back the mail until the cargo is disposed of, lest something might appear to spoil the market. I am quite bewildered to know which letter I shall turn to first; I have dipped into all—my ideas are in confusion; it will take some time to let my mind settle into clear tranquility.
I thank God for the good health you all seem to enjoy, and I thank you all from my heart for your affectionate remembrances.
After service to-day, I went to Mr. F's to eat my Christmas dinner; there were Mr. and Mrs. Shaw, Mr. E., Messrs. Burgess, and your humble servant. I have heard that the Jolly Rambler has also arrived from Sydney—there may be more news for me,—what a glutton I am becoming!
26th.—Have been reading over all your last letters a second time; they appear to have come from Sydney to the Cape, and thence here; we have had few vessels from Sydney; some of my letters must have gone astray, as you seem only to have heard incidentally about the spear thrown at me by the natives, and some other affairs which have been nearly forgotten by me. I must now tell you about the spear. One day (as children's tales commence) I was standing in the parlour between two windows, when I was startled by a smart heavy blow on the window frame at my left side; thinking it was a practical joke of some passing friend, I went out leisurely and was surprized to see two natives running away. On looking at the window, I found the point of a spear buried about two inches in the corner of the window frame; the spear lay under the window. I was, as you may suppose, more satisfied to see it there than sticking in my side, for which it seemed well aimed. This occurred long ago, and I have never seen a native here since; it was the celebrated Ya-gan, who so complimented me.
27th.—This has been one of the hottest days I have experienced in this climate; yet I was out kangaroo hunting from six in the morning till three with Mr. Burgess, and walked nearly eighteen miles, carrying gunpowder flask and shot belt. If we did not carry a kangaroo into the bargain it was for a particular reason; there was no shelter and little shade, yet we never ceased walking except to rest the dogs a little, and I have often found it as hot grouse shooting in Ireland. The thermometer would not (there) have stood within many degrees as high as here, but that is not a true criterion of heat. In this climate the temperature at night is always pleasant and cool, sometimes even cold: by pleasant, I mean that degree of heat which is agreeable; by cool, that which obliges you to put on warmer clothing; by cold, that which requires a fire, or exercise to make you comfortable. The nights here when the heat compels you to throw off all covering except the sheet, are not of more frequent occurrence than in England.
The marked difference between this climate and that of India is, that the nights there are as insupportable as the days, without any bracing intermission from heat. I have just stated what they are here.
Saw nine native huts to-day framed of the bark of a tree, such as I sent you; each hut had its fire; there were the organic remains of kangaroos and other animals, and two or three broken spears and shavings, as if they had been repairing them: we saw many of their footsteps, but were well pleased to find those who had impressed them "not at home."
29th,—Captain Irwin has come up to spend a day or two at this place: he is very fond of rural life, and talks of remaining here half the week. I bathed at nine o'clock at night.
Late arrivals have again lowered the prices of provisions— meat particularly. One of our merchants is selling salt beef at 4½d. a pound at Fremantle, wine 5s. 6d. per gallon; and clothes and shoes have fallen in price, in consequence of recent importations.
Jan. 1st, 1833.—One year seems to be distinct from another; yet where is the boundary? They touch each other so nearly that we can hardly separate them. The last moment of last year was remarkable for being unusually cold, though the midst of our summer. I assure you I looked at the kitchen-fire very longingly last night before bed-time. Some of my oats, which have been cut, were seven feet high well headed, and heavy: they were produced upon ground merely ploughed over once, and harrowed without manure. A ewe has lambed to-day; there are now sixty-two sheep and lambs in all: two or three have gone blind, but from what cause I know not. Somebody in Sydney threatens to send a cargo of sheep and cows here—I hope he will—but when?
My men requested a bottle of rum for new year's night. I sent it; and they are now enjoying themselves over it. Some questions have already arisen here about executions. No person can be got to act as sheriff. You could scarce believe what legal intricacies are familiar here, in this early stage of the settlement. Though it is a new country, settlers retain all their old manners, habits, prejudices, and notions of a sturdy, free, commercial, litigious people.
2nd.—Another cool cloudy day: we had no such weather last summer. I walked this evening back to the Darling ranges, looking for a kangaroo: found only one; but the dog did not get a fair start. I had, however, the satisfaction of viewing an extensive prospect of interminable woods. Mount Eliza, which at Perth looks high, was scarcely observable from the spot where I stood. Saw a fire on the great plain of Quartania, to the south.
4th.—Killed a kangaroo, a crow, and two pigeons yesterday. I suppose you think a crow very despicable as food; but I think it excellent. This day, however, I feasted at Mr. Irwin's, with a pretty large party; at which we had geese, fowls, and various vegetables, with a variety of wine—claret included. This I mention merely to note the improvement in our colonial comforts.
6th.—This has been a very warm day; the men were obliged to lie by three hours in the middle of the day.
On reading the papers during this interval of rest, I perceived an account of hurricanes in the West Indies killing four thousand people; inundations in the East Indies destroying ten thousand; and in Ireland several deaths by lightning, and murders by the peasantry. When I read of these horrors (especially in Ireland), I congratulate myself:
As yet we have been happily exempt, in this blessed climate, from these visitations, physical or moral.
14th.—Here is the interval of a week; the busiest and most harassing which I have had since my arrival.
You are aware of my holding a court twice a week; but this week I have been obliged to sit from Tuesday to Saturday, day after day, commencing at ten, and sitting some days until seven; for people are as fond of litigation here as in the parent state. One jury case took up a whole day: it was an action for a conspiracy and assault, and against eight defendants, each of whom addressed the court; damages laid at £500. The suit was brought by a Sydney man, who had chartered a vessel; verdict for defendants. Another action by the same man against Henderson, (captain of the Cornwallis), for running against his boat; damages laid at £500; verdict 40s. There were several other serious and nice actions; two were by part owners of a ship, for £500 each, shares of profits made in several voyages. I am tired of law, and in need of rest. No wonder, as I have been sleeping for a week on a brick floor, with a carpet bag for a pillow. Got the well dug about two feet deeper, and sunk a barrel in it; the water is cool and delicious at the depth of about sixteen feet. Found a diamond snake round a tree, it was almost five feet long; skinned it, and have the skin in a bottle.
17th.—Went to some swampy ground full of springs to look for ducks; shot a brace, besides a water hen and a cockatoo. I was actually driven out of the swamps by leeches, several of them sticking to my legs. I cannot compare these swamps to any marshes with which you are familiar; perhaps a tract of ground covered with old willows and green weeds, with here and there open spaces of deeper water, is the nearest resemblance I can supply. Fine receptacles for wild ducks, of which the dogs sprung up a dozen to-day; but I was so hemmed in by the trees, that I could not get a shot; and not having room to look about me, I slipped up to the neck in a hole; wetted my powder-flask, but kept my gun dry: so terminated the day's sport. My new men going to turn out for higher wages, though one gets £2 per month as shepherd, and the other £1 per month as cowherd; the former may go, especially as the sheep which I expected from Sydney have not arrived; nor do the good people either there or at Van Diemen's Land appear in a hurry to send them, which is provoking, as a little exertion in this way, by Government or individuals, would soon render us an independent colony.
- Another considerable gap (which is the English word for hiatus, as I understand) occurs here.—Editor.
- Accidents had detained letters from his affectionate family.
- The editor has seen this spear—a very rude implement, now in possession of Mr. Joseph Moore.
- Subsequently published.—Editor.
- Mr. Moore frequently amused himself by sketching diagrams, plans, &c. These are here omitted.—Editor.
- Ater et alterius sequitur de cortice sanguis.
- Were these in the market note? if so, they were probably intended for exportation to those colonies where ostriches breakfast on them.—Editor.