July 30, 2007
The prices we are paying for food stuff this year.
My friends in England ask me about living here but I have lived here so long since I left England that I am now more interested and less likely to understand about living there. It was just before Christmas 1789 that I last saw my parent, and even then it was a fleeting visit, after our ship returned to Portsmouth before we finally sailed. More than 60 people work on this farm, with free labourers, convict labourers, two convict women workers, and all the parts of the family, and none of us have too much free time. I am more often visited than a visitor, but now that Mr. Macarthur does not hold a commission, visits from the Corps have reduced. Mr. Harris, our neighbour, is perhaps the most consistent guest, often seeing us morn and night. Later today however, it is I who will be visiting, calling on Mrs. Putland at Government House, Parramatta. Mr. Harris tells the most delightful stories and I have learnt to disregard most as untrue, but his latest tales about the Governor's daughter are very far-fetched. According to Mr. Harris, Mrs. Putland took her language and grammar lessons on the quarter-deck with her Pa, and ends all her sentence with "d...ned" - highly unlikely. We've met several times and I've found her delightful: today she is attended by all the officers of the Corps for a route this evening, from which I'm excused based on family responsibilities, but young Hannibal has an invite and I'm sure he'll enjoy it a great deal.
If I am lucky, I can converse with another intelligent woman - excluding my daughters and their tutor - not more than twice a month. I've often badgered Mr. Harris to marry, and he has agreed to do so, "as soon as a convenient lady is found". From what I've heard, it is not any lady's convenience that is hampering his connections.
So I am more likely to be found with boots and smock, than lace and stockings, and in the garden more than a reception room. Such is the life that one leads at the ends of the English empire, and there are many compensations. In England I would not still have so many of my children with me, and our partnership, John and I, is the happiest imaginable. John is away again today, having sailed down the harbour this morning in a new small boat he has built.
July 29, 2007
Children have been the centre of my day today. I do miss Jack but I love having Elizabeth and Edward back with me and school in England is reassuring, as education is our greatest hurdle here. Of course Penelope, Mrs. Lucas, has made a wonderful improvement in the school work for Mary, late though it is, and William and James the second. She has had Elizabeth in her tutelage for five years with French, Geography and Mathematics, along with a credible hand and some sewing, more attributes than I ever imagined in the young lassy going Home in the year '03.
For myself, I love having them in the vegetables as we did today, hoeing the weeds and bringing them water. We worked in the cool of the morning, until eleven o'clock when din-al-le-ong, meaning "many women" came to our gates and we gave them food. John has loaves baked at the barracks and we gave them many to take away, and Mary gave one young woman a bright red carrot and she ate the entire carrot with nary a wash, and then the green tops also! It was such fun, we can hardly understand a thing but my girls stand to have their skirts fingered and their ruffles felt, and their blonde hair compared to the black curls of the natives. Many of the women had been swimming, catching "yurong" or black ducks. It is wonderful how they do it, swimming below the water with a reed they breath through, then diving beneath the ducks and catching them by the claws of their feet, drowning that one and swimming on, unobserved. I have sat in the bushes near the creek and watched them.
Our nephew has joined us here in the Colony, who is a Hawkins, my sister's family, and he too is a blessing. Since John is returned I cannot imagine a happier time, if not for the actions of others who refuse to obey their orders, but here on the farm it is paradise, in our rather extended family setting at our very extended dining table, with two extra leaves John brought from England along with Mrs. Lucas and dear Mr. Hannibal Macarthur.
He was very taken by the charms of our visitor's today, which reminded me of a rather risque event when some young natives who visited us, asking for bread, naked as Mother Nature made them, and Elizabeth and I took loaves out to them and suddenly to a man these half dozen young men "stood to attention", so to speak. Elizabeth and I dropped the loaves at the gates and ran back to house, giggling like demented women. Such are the risques of the Colonial life. A pun, I perceive.
Today we gave food to din-al-lee-ong but they had no ducks for us. Their menfolk and boys have gone for a ceremony and taken all the ducks that could be caught with them - apparently tonight, when the ceremony is over, the boys and men fall upon the ducks, roast and eat them. The drawing I've attached was given to me by one of the French sailors, a Lieutenant who drew beautifully. I said yesterday that they can be demure even modest, but the opposite too.
July 28, 2007
Mr. Rowland Hassal and Mr George Oakes joined Mr. Marsden in giving the service today. Mr. Oakes spoke of the state of supposed innocence of the natives in the Pacific, alluding to their worship of false gods and consequences of such worship on their morals. Mr. Marsden used that theme to continue from last week's sermon on the evil of commerce with rum, again piercing the officers with his preserving needle-like eye. How his hypocrisy shames us all! Does he not pay labourers with rum? And now that he stands on so high a horse, look at the shambles in which this church is sunk! We have stools for John and I and the children, as do many of the officers, but Mr. Oakes' family stands throughout the service, all for the lack of a pew! And that with both a lumber yard and a carpenters shop adjoining the church! Really, I somewhat regret my gift of oil to Mrs. Marsden, although it is so often the way that the high moral ground adopted by the bible beater takes no account of the state of his own family. John and I are so lucky, I know, that we share our view of the world and do not seek to impose it on others - John tells me that several of the missionaries, such as Mr. Oakes and Hassal have been, have been tremendously involved with local people, of both sexes! Yet they will preach to me on morals! Mrs. Marsden will still be welcome at my house, but I gave her husband no more than a curt "Good day" as I left the church this morning. Really, something must be done with the interior - of the church and the men who are charged with it.
I looked for the poor family on the way home, but they were not to be seen. The smoke from the fires has gone, and I suppose the fires also, and the heat was settled by such a storm yesterday evening. Now the path home is no more than damp, and our cart rides with nary a bump. The children too seem well, and it is time for me to write Home to Edward, and some of our friends. Mrs. Lucas did not feel well enough to attend church today, but the darling woman has been busy in the kitchen, putting a leg to the spit and convincing one of the young native girls to spend the morning turning it. She is a pleasure and I continue to bless the day that John decided we needed a tutor for the girls, and a companion for me.
July 27, 2007
When we first arrived here, seventeen years ago this year, Mr. Collins who was then the Judge-Advocate (and went on to govern Van Diemen's Land), introduced John and I to several of the native people, including of course Ben-ni-long. He also introduced his own namesake - Collins - and suggested to John that he too might like to "adopt" one native, as he had done. Well, John chose instead to maintain friendships with many of the local people. When we built our house, we used shells from the substantial mounds that line Duck Creek to make the lime for mortar: these mounds surely are evidence enough that the natives have lived here since time out of mind. Every year around this time many natives from around the Cumberland Plains congregate along the river side, where there are many ducks and bats and the thin tough roots called "darug" that they love to eat so much. Almost invariably we discover their presence when the first naked natives arrive at the fence, calling out for bread, and John has ordered 20 dozen loaves to be delivered here every second day for the next fortnight. Generally, if the women call out I'll greet them and pass over supplies, but not usually when the men call, but today was different. Of all the natives, one man in particular has been our friend, introduced originally as Ben-ni-long's "brother", although we now understand that to be a rather nominal relationship, and in fact he is the son of Maugoran, a man who lived just to the west of the Government Farm at Rose Hill. Ben-ni-long and he now share a campsite - the word in their language is "ngura", meaning "where I live" - situated on the northern bank of the harbour, opposite Arrowanlly. John understands that the "wan" in the place name Arrowanlly - the name refers to the sand flats down from Duck River - is also the distinguishing name for the people who live there, as Ben-ni-long describes himself as "wan-gal", meaning man of Wan, I think. Today, Bidgee-bidgee called out "Misses Elisabet" from the fence, and I took him bread. As I tell my English correspondents, although without clothes, they are not precisely naked, as they stand and sit in attitudes that disguise their lack of clothes. And wearing clothes, as Ben-ni-long and Bidgee-bidgee will do when passing through the Town, can somehow seem less natural. Bidgee-bidgee said to me that Ben-ni-long will be along soon; the phrase he uses is "by and by", and in exchange for my gift of bread, he gave a short club to me, saying "good for yurong", meaning it could be thrown at the ducks along the creek, to provide food. If the children can find no use for it, I'll package it and send it Home, where such items are esteemed as curiosities.
July 26, 2007
Mr. Marsden's paper on the women convicts was our point of discussion yesterday, when John returned home. Mr. Marsden believes that without the sanctity of marriage there is no sufficient reason to keep men here, and they desert their families at the first offer of a place in a Home-bound transport after their sentence is served. Mr. Marsden intends to petition to Government to not send any men with seven year terms here, but only the lifers, and he wants the Governor to insist on marriage rather than allowing cohabitation. That and the payment of wages in rum do seem to be the cause of so much degradation. Yet we know, or at least regularly see the people of whom he speaks, unlike back Home where the poor are anonymous. Here we often know at least their names and something of their background. Even poor Mcgee and her daughter, drowned in the Harbour near our farm were known to us. I recalled to John the creatures we saw on Sunday morning and John referred to them by name! The Sunday miscreants are a family, Kennely by name, whose Hawkesbury farm and possessions were all lost in last year's floods. They've moved to Parramatta but don't have a dwelling, choosing instead to live like the natives, beneath the trees. They receive their store allowance, John tells me, and the man works around the Town as a scavenger. John had seen their farm and it was a poor one, but they were off the Stores, apparently, before the flood. One of their children - John believes it was the daughter - was swept from the mother's arms, to her death, the body never found. And that event evidently threw the woman into despair. Mr. Thompson paid them, in rum, for their grant - and so here they are, living 'neath the trees at Parramatta. I understand their boy has been offered a place in the Orphan School but Mrs. Kennely refused that - I'm sorry to have thought so harshly of them, on my way to church. Nothing, it appears, can be done except hope that the despair that has engulfed them may one day be relieved.
I know how welcoming that despair is, when you lose your child.
July 25, 2007
Mrs. Marsden did us the honour of calling today. She had heard that young Elizabeth has been unwell in the oppressive heat and came bringing guavas, Elizabeth's favourite fruit, from the Marsden's trees. It is wonderful, the charity and feelings for others that drive some. Elizabeth Marsden brought news, too, of her husband's plan to return Home later this year, to seek approval and funding for a mission to New Zealand. "Aren't you frightened for him, with those cannibals?", I asked, but she replied, "That God is his shepherd and protects him!"
Mr. Marsden has written a paper on the shocking state of the women brought to this place and hopes to make some action take place by bringing that Home - Mrs. Marsden asked if I'd accompany her after we'd had dinner, to see Mr. Mealmaker, the Superintendent at the Factory, to discuss the women kept there.
I sent Mrs. Marsden's gig back to Town, and we set off - my daughter Elizabeth, Mrs. Elizabeth Marsden and myself - as a trio of Elizabeths, to call upon Mealmaker at his home above the river. He has worked hard to provide useful employment for the women not assigned, but he reported that the equipment he has is too poor to weave more than a fustian cloth, and convincing the women to spin a yarn of sufficient strength is proving wearying to him. Honestly, his house is no more than a hovel - it is a concern that Government will do nothing to help this endeavour. Before she leaves the Colony, I must ask Mrs. King who is to take her place on the Orphan Committee, and whether any funds are available to buy new looms. Mrs. Marsden agreed that her husband may buy such looms in Yorkshire for a song, now-a-days, with so much of the weaving at Home being done using the new water shuttles.
Well, I didn't write twice yesterday, and now the sun is setting on another day, so I shan't write again. But one last thing - Mrs. Marsden mentioned that they were burning tallow candles again in the parsonage, so at least as I write this by my good oil lamp, I can rest comforted that I was able to send 10 gallons of fine seal oil back to the Parsonage, so that they too can see without the smell, smoke and discomfort of a guttering tallow stump. I expect next to hear that some poor family in Town has been blessed with the oil - the Marsden's will take so little, bless them!
July 24, 2007
I must count the people working for us - it always seems someone new is appearing and so far as I can tell, no one is leaving. Mr. Marsden was mentioning the other day that, by luck and observation, very good servants are found and retained and I think him right. We have a few more than 40 people working on the farm here, with another dozen with various house duties - and any number on the farms. John pays for them all - the new grant will receive kept labourers, but one never knows if the type allowed us will be suitable. I need good shepherds and they prove hard to find - and those that are found have recently been moved to the Hawkesbury, by order. We have 5 rams that need to tup with about 1000 ewes, but we don't want to tire them out or see them reduced in value - by careful breeding, we may have more suitable rams in seven seasons, and too many mistakes now would put that program back dreadfully.
The weather remains very hot and smoke appeared above the ridge towards Toongabbie, so it appears more of the terrible fires that strike the forest here may have sprung up. Our wells - there are two house wells - would only yield buckets, so naturally I worry when that smoke appears.
Perhaps today would be a good day to reckon for whom this diary is written - I tell too much of my closest thoughts to pass it on to the children, and no-one wants to read the vague scribblings of an untutored girl at the end of the world, so perhaps it can remain my own personal sounding block. If the heat does not wilt me, perhaps I will write again tonight.
July 23, 2007
Our dear friends the Kings are almost ready to depart, so as one new friend is gained, another is lost. In one of the ironies of our story, John and the Governor had nought to do with one another, and John may even have sent the Governor to Coventry, but since John's resigned his commission, the Kings are our best friends, along with Mr. Harris. I don't know what I'm to do without Anna Josepha, who is the nicest woman in NS Wales and my dearest companion. Our children play together and together we plan their futures, yet the Governor's recent illness seems to have passed and it is certain that they will board the Buffalo and sail away from our lives. John informed me last night that some skullduggery has taken place with land here in Parramatta, and Mr. Bligh has a grant on the north of the creek while the Kings have thousands, or hundreds anyway, of acres near Mr. Marsden's main farm. How peculiar that the new Governor grants hi'self acres while refusing Lord Camden's command to allow John the cow pastures! The new Governor's grant is made out to Mrs. Putland, his daughter, while Governor King's grant is made out to Anna Josepha, while every rood we own we have purchased, bar the original small piece. What form of justice is this? And John is certain that no right is extended to a Governor to grant willy-nilly, but they all seem to think that being Governor is next to being a King! We have written Home about Lord Camden's grant and the King's will take that correspondence along with our earnest good wishes Home. How I wish that we were going too! But then I'll look around and see the extraordinary beauty of our situation and know that the children at least are better off there, while our fortune is being made here. If only we could sell this for its value!
July 22, 2007
So the devils surround us! With Mr. Marsden on the one side and Governor Bligh on t'other, how will an honest family earn its keep? Our lovely Dorset rams came nigh the house yesterday - what beauties they are! When John was away Home, I became the ram master by necessity and they became my own. Leaving the girls, strapped into John's old Hanover boots and leggings I'd set off across the fields to the tupping paddock for to see to the rams - trimmed their horns, clipped the wools from beneath their tails, and set them to the ewes, all by myself. John doesn't like to see me doing that now, but he'll have nothing to do with the sheep, exclaiming that the stink of their lan clings to his clothes. And so it does - the smell of their spunk especially! But it is a fine smell, for it's the stink of our prosperity - we have 1,000 ewes to put to the five fine rams the King did sell us, and by next season, with the lands at the cow pastures, our stocks will surely rise!
July 21, 2007
Every Sunday we go to the newly building Church in Parramatta, to hear God's Word. It seems so little to do, and making our way there today I was revolted by the spectacle of already-drunken cloddies, laying in the shade. I know that Portsmouth streets are shocking too, but this is my home and I'd rather that we took steps to prevent this useless waste. I suppose, as John says, they have finished their working week, and without them buying our rum, we'd have less, but there is a law against serving rum on the Sabbath that somebody must have broke. John says to turn away, but the memory stays.
I'm driven in the cart because Elizabeth is distressed by the omnipresent heat; John has ridden. He cuts such a figure on his horse. Captain Abbot waited for us next to the barracks, with the brigade, and my horse shied dreadfully when the band started - it's a blessing to have good people to help, I think, and thankfully the groom is very proficient. Poor Elizabeth is even more restless however.
Mr. Marsden was in good form today: "Rum is the scourge of the colony", said he, "and the Barter of Spirits has long been a very general & serious Evil in the Settlement – it has been productive of jealousies, misunderstandings, and many unhappy differences amongst the Officers", looking directly at the Regiment's officers. He has no decorum, although we all appreciate he has the best interests of his flock at heart. I am glad to get Elizabeth home, where the shade of the vines keeps her room cooler. I prayed to God for her deliverance.
I found this drawing of John and I made by the officer of a Spanish ship when we first arrived in the colony. How young and innocent we both look! and how well we hid the anxiety we felt at being marooned in this cast-off settlement; time has wrung so much from us, and has it given back? Well, if we had stayed we may still have progressed, but not as we have here, although the long periods of being apart may not have happened. But the Continental wars have raged and all the men are sent there, so perhaps it is all for the best. And we are here together!
July 20, 2007
I fear John has duped them all and will be found out. George Caley for one, knows all about it! And he's here in Banks's employ and will have word back to England in a trice, I think - he surely has already done the survey. Governor King owned the original cattle and claimed all the off-spring, refused by England, and Camden then organised the land for John, cattle inclusive! We are furious to have that taken away from us by Governor Bligh. After all the work my husband has done to the success of the Colony - is it to be for nothing? Apparently, 'tis!
January is hot in New Holland, or Australia as Governor King has Christened it. So hot a multitude of bats in the trees along the river die and fall into the water, from the heat. I find it unbearable. John is gone most of the day, riding around the property, working I suppose. Anything it seems, to avoid the blow-up I know is inevitable with new Governor Bligh.
Only the other morning I heard the new Governor and my husband talking loudly, each it seemed with a differing view - perhaps of the land Lord Camden has arranged for John, at the Cow Pastures. "What of your sheep, Sir, what of your sheep do I care, Sir? I'll hear nothing of the damned sheep, nor of the land that the Government cattle are on - it will not be thine! You have been given that land, by Heaven, but you shan't keep it!", said the Governor. And I heard John reply, "Not heaven, your Honour, but Lord Camden has promised that land!" It was quite the smartest thing I've ever heard!
It's only sparing at the moment, but it will soon blow up, I can tell!
Elizabeth and David