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Title: Diary of a trip to Australia 1897
Author: Evelyn Louise Nicholson
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 0607521.txt
Language: English
Date first posted: September 2006
Date most recently updated: September 2006

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Diary of a trip to Australia 1897
Evelyn Louise Nicholson

July 26.

Ink is too valuable, &, and so is time, so I must put down my
impressions of Sydney University in pencil. I do so much wish it were
finer, as the view from there must be lovely, but one could only see a
few towers & chimneys through the thick haze of rain. They have not
had a rainfall like this for many years, & many places which are
usually green fields are converted into lakes. We splashed through the
streets with Thomas & eventually found a steam train which rushed us
through what seemed interminable suburbs, where parks and dust heaps,
huge stores & tiny dwelling houses, one storey high, miles of
hoardings with advertisements of purely local productions boldly
purporting to be in use all over the world--were mixed up in
bewildering confusion. The suburbs extend to & beyond the gates of the
University gardens, which no longer are in the country. They are well
planted & plenty of hibiscus, trumpet ash, laurestinus & other
flowering chrubs were out. The older part of the building is by far
the best. The medical school, a large separate building in the same
style, is a mongrel imitation, the Macleay museum being a terrible
edifice in brown brick which is being smothered with ivy as fast as
possible. The tin roof, however, nothing can hide. The Schools of
Chemistry, Physics & Engineering are in low somewhat shed-like
buildings, & at the back there are even wooden & corrugated iron
erections (some of them devoted to the lady students) mixed up with
tennis-grounds and asphalte paths, which give a very un-scholastic
appearance to that part of it. The more temporary ones will however be
swept away if Government grants the 30.000 necessary to complete the
side of the Quadrangle opposite to the Great Hall. This Mr. Barff the
Registrar who took us round & shewed us everything with the greatest
kindness told us they had great hopes of commencing next year. I said
I hoped they would also complete the cloisters. They allow golden ivy
to grow up the buttresses of the hall which give it a more venerable
appearance than the rest of the main building, but the coats of arms
between each are not going to be covered up. I saw the well-known one,
on the right of the big door of the hall outside, and also in one of
the windows in the entrance hall, where some of the tapestry, &
pictures given by Pater are also hung.

The great hall is very fine indeed, the roof beautiful. The picture at
home does not give a good idea of it, as it is very dark, the large
windows being all filled with coloured glass. Pater's portrait
occupies the left hand side of the end wall, in the place of honour, &
there are various prints of it in other parts of the building. It is
too much in the dark to be well seen, & though strikingly like Syd, is
not an altogether good likeness, the head being so small as to give
the impression of a very tall man. We recognised the portrait of Mr.
Denison and were shewn that of Sir W. Manning & other people. We saw
some of the lecture rooms & then Mr. Barff took us to the museum where
every thing seemed to be labelled with Pater's name, & there was a
general idea of him pervading everything. This beautiful collection is
not seen to the best advantage, as it occupies 1 large & two smaller
rooms, but the things are beautifully mounted & most carefully
arranged. The new buildings will consist of a Museum below & new
Library above. For the splendid collection of books they possess the
present premises are very much cramped. The Etruscan vases in Pater's
collection cannot be seen to advantage being too near together. They
are most beautiful & varied, and the Egyptian collection is
wonderfully interesting. I do not think two such enthousiastic
visitors as ourselves can have surveyed them for a long time. Mr.
Barff says the Greek & Roman things are the most interesting to the
general visitors. The paintings on the mummy covers are as fresh as
possible, & Charlie was delighted with them & little Etruscan ossuary
urns and the inscriptions & every thing. We are going again when we
return if possible.

They are very proud of them, though I doubt if many people know much
about them! We were loth to leave the Museum, but there was so much to
see, & we got home very late, as it was. The Macleay museum of Natural
History has some good specimens, but is not well arranged. Several
huge casts of Egyptian antiquities (waiting for the new buildings)
mixed up with the stuffed animals & skeletons give it a somewhat
grotesque appearance. While we were here, a violent storm of rain
descended with a noise like thunder on the iron roof, and when it has
over we rushed through mud and puddles to the Medical School. They are
very proud of this and the stained glass in the windows thereof. I
have no doubt it is a most convenient & suitable building, but it is
extremely hideous. There is an excellent pathological museum, with
rather too many horrors for my taste, and we also saw the huge lecture
rooms, & well fitted laboratories, & declined to go into the
dissecting room!. The Engineering School interested me very much, as
did that of Chemistry where we were introduced to Professor Liversage&
much enjoyed seeing some most beautiful specimens of gold in nuggets,
which he brought out for our benefit. When sawn through, the finest of
these (about 3 inches across) presented the appearance of crystaline
formation, all in the purest gold. He took us to see the furnaces for
refining & the gold, & we also saw the Museum, with good specimens of
minerals and a quantity of the copper sheathing of a vessel, which the
professor told us contained minute particles of gold, & which he was
going to test.

Professor Threlfall shewed us the Chemistry School, & described his
interview with Pater in London, which seems to have much amused him--
and then last of all we inspected the Biology school, which I think
pleased me most of all the new part. It is only a tiny low building
with a creeper covered verandah, but is most compact & well arranged,
& the little museum perfect in its way. Mr. Barff kindly promised to
get one or two photographs done for me to take to Pater, as I did not
see any good ones of the University in Sydney.

August 27.

When we returned to Sydney, we spent another delightful afternoon at
the University, this time in fine weather, & in company with Lady
Manning. Mr. Barff was away, but had left a proof of his
kindheartedness & sympathetic interest, in the shape of a lovely book
of photographs for Pater. We spent a long time in the Great Hall, &
wondered more than ever at the bad taste of the present Sydneyites
with such an example before them. In the Nicholson Museum we made one
or two little sketches of some of the beautiful things, but our time
was too short. We were extremely glad to have the opportunity of
refreshing our remembrance of what interested us most there, and in
fact of what we shall always remember as the pleasantest of our
experiences in Sydney.

September 6 97.

The approach to Sydney by the railway is not imposing, but we were
most delighted & thankful to get there about 11--after passing through
about 10 miles of beadvertisemented suburbs. It was pouring with rain,
much needed after a terrible drought. We settled ourselves in at the
Grosvenor, Charlie went out to see Thomas & send off telegrams about
the luggage, & I wrote letters & rested. Not much could I see of
Sydney through the haze of rain. Thomas Fenn came about 2 o'clock, &
as he was most anxious to take us out, out we went, regardless of the
pouring rain. We had only our journey clothes on, so did not care. I
had various small purchases to make, owing to the lack of luggage, &
we found only one shop still open, it being Saturday afternoon. Some
of the warehouses & public buildings in Sydney are fine & solid
looking, & the whole place has a much more established, & not such a
mushroom look as Melbourne. The streets are not wide, they are paved
with cabbles, omnibuses rattle over these, in some streets your life
is imperilled by steam trams, in others you find great comfort in the
cable or electric trams. The traffic is not regulated by the police,
but where the steam trams cross the cable ones there is a signal post
which is some slight comfort. Except for the corrugated iron verandahs
to the shops, Sydney is an English looking place. Sunday July 25 . We
woke early to find heavy rain still falling, & we puddled through the
wet streets to the Cathedral to Early Service. We liked the Cathedral
very much, though it is not such an imposing building as Melbourne &
the windows are bad. There is also a dado of most terrible tiles, but
it all felt homelike. The service was performed in a somewhat slovenly
manner, a good deal by the clerk! but we were too glad to be in a
Church again to mind. We managed to get a cab coming home. In the
afternoon we energetically started for Ashfield (about 10 miles out)
to see the Corlettes. We got an omnibus to the station at Sydney, but
there was no cab at Ashfield Station & apparently noone knew where the
Corlettes lived. One peculiarity of Australians is that if they can't
answer a question they don't say so, but simply stare, & go on. After
some wandering & many enquiries we saw the house in the distance &
rushed up the path in a pouring shower of rain, certain that we were
right by the appearance of an unmistakable Corlette in the door way.
They received us very kindly and we promised to come & stay with them
on Tuesday if they would excuse our travelling clothes. We saw the
whole family except the eldest son who had gone to England. Miss
Corlette drove us back in the buggy to the Station. It still rained.
We did some telephoning for the first time in our lives that evening
to Lady Manning, to whom I had written, & she promised to come to
lunch on Tuesday--no, I remember it was Monday evening we telephoned.
It is a strange sensation hearing a voice from 5 miles away you last
heard in England. On Monday morning C. went to see Pater's old House,
now a convent, & other places with Thomas, & in the afternoon he took
us to the University where we spent a most pleasant afternoon, in
spite of the rain. A good deal of our time in Sydney was spent in
various offices, re tickets, steamers, luggage etc, also we presented
all the letters of introduction we brought. On Monday morning C. also
went by steamer to Manly, & saw the harbour & brought me back some
lovely wild flowers which I painted. He also called on Mr Knox which
he returned, finding me in.

Tuesday morning we went to the Bank etc, & then looked up Mr. Statham,
who was most kind & jolly. He took us in a little electric launch
across the Harbour to the Pastoral Produce Co's Warehouse &
Refrigerating works, of which he is, I think, Consulting Engineer. It
is a huge building. We went up in the lift to the top, passing floor
after floor, some empty, some full of huge bales of "dumped" wool. Mr.
Statham shewed us the machinery where this was done, also the engine
rooms where the amonia freezing process causes the engines to be
covered with snow. In several places a valve causes one side to be
covered with snow, while the other is so hot you could not bear your
hand on it. We saw the huge condensers, & entered a small & Arctic
chamber where the snow lay in heaps and the temperature was about 26
degrees below freezing point. There is a huge store, where the sheep
are frozen, after being run in along a rail at a certain height above
the floor. There were about 1000 carcasses there as hard as iron, &
giving back much the same sound when struck. The view from the roof of
the building is very fine, & I got a better idea of Sydney harbour
than I ever did in any of our journeys up & down it. It was a
brilliantly fine day, the water blue, and enough clouds to make
effective shadows on the more distant hills. The shipping was most
picturesque, several fine boats, a P & O, N.G.Lloyd, & other big
liners lay outside Circular Quay.

Sydney Harbour has a most wonderful number of small bays & inlets, &
could, I should think, accomodate all the fleets in the world. The
effects at sunset are lovely, especially as the features one could
dispense with, such as the numbers of villas that spoil the appearance
of some of the most beautiful bays--are then veiled in a mysterious
golden light. We were a little disappointed after Hobart, in finding
all the hills round Sydney Harbour so low, & no one striking feature,
but possibly we had expected more than the beauties we did find in it,
from the exaggerated accounts one reads, which are hardly applicable
to any place on earth--certainly not to any place where there is a
large population, & Nature is by no means left to herself.

Lady Manning came to lunch, & was very kind. She had not got into her
house yet, but wanted us to come there on our return. She deprecated
our going to the Corlettes, as she said we should not be comfortable,
however we were, in an Australian way. They are most kind, & we liked
them very much. Isabelle does wonders, but one sees the result of the
real mistress of the house being "feckless" in the general muddle &
impunctuality of everything. Mr. Corlette is very fond of drawing &
took a great interest in my efforts.

Dr. Corlette took Charlie a ruridecanal round, in the buggy, & I
stayed at Ashfield & lazed, & in the afternoon helped to entertain
various ladies who came to tea. Dr. Corlette & Charlie, who mutually
liked each other, stayed out so long that the good ladies only had a
momentary glimpse of my better half, & I had to be extra amiable to
make up. As a punishment poor Charlie got bitten by the Corlettes's
horse "Charlie", a whaler of uncertain temper. It did not graze the
skin, but was a bad bruise for nearly a fortnight & needed a lot of
rubbing & bandaging & commiseration on my part, as the poor dear could
not use his arm. At the Corlettes, as in most Australian houses, you
are drinking some hot beverage or other all day long--viz 7 times. Tea
before breakfast, tea or coffee at breakfast, cocoa in the middle of
the morning, tea at lunch, tea at tea, tea at dinner, & cocoa before
going to bed. Isabelle drove us to the Station next morning & we had a
certain amount of business to do before going to tea with Mrs.
Tregarthen Lady Manning's daughter, with whom she was staying in Rose
Bay. In answer to telephone news had come that the luggage had been
sent on by ship & would be at Sydney on Friday, for which piece of
calm stingyness Charlie sent the Shaw Savill Co at Melbourne a letter
which must have been rather unpleasant to receive. By their
carelessness & delay we had missed the fast boat to Rockhampton & had
to put up with a little coasting boat (A.U.S.N. Co) the "Eurimbla"
leaving on Saturday at 2 p.m. Rose Bay is a very pretty part of
Sydney, & we saw from Mrs. Tregarthen's, Pater's old House "Lindsay"
in a lovely position with garden down to the water's edge. There are
houses all the way to Rose Bay, now. Friday the 30th--the luggage
arrived early, & we spent nearly all the morning repacking it. Mr.
Thomas Knox came to call, & was very kind, giving us 2 letters of
introduction, one, to Mr.Walsh at Brisbane, & one to Mr. Hamilton
Turner at Rockhampton, both also in Dalgettys (n.b. Mr. Moore is the
head of the Shaw Savill Dept. of Dalgetty's in Sydney). After lunch we
went out & did a great deal of business. In the morning we had gone to
a little opal shop where I bought four, and also plunged in the way of
being photographed at the celebrated Crown Studios. We got our
tickets, money, letters etc, also bought some charming toys for
Thomas' children, & then started, somewhat late, by the 4 o'clock
steamer for Coogee. So I saw the harbour with the advantage of the
sunset light, & did some little sketches of the Heads etc on the way.

Coogee is a small place with a big House belonging to the Cardinal, a
large number of provision shops and--the Ocean Beach, a sandy shore
where we sat and watched the sea as long as we dared. We then
patronized the Chief industry of the place (viz, the providing of
teas), & just caught our steamer back nicely. We were very happy,
sitting in the half darkness, watching the numberless lights reflected
in the water, especially so, as the next day we would really be off
and near the end of our long journey.

We had unpacked the presents for Thomas & took them with the toys to
his house after dinner, where we spent the evening with him, his wife
& little boy (the other 2 children were in bed) to their great
satisfaction. He has most excellent quarters, a large airy flat, the
top Storey of the Bank of N.S.W.

Saturday morning was spent in going to say good bye to Mr. Forsythe
(of "Burns Phillips" etc) and finishing up one or two little things &
getting the luggage on board. Miss Corlette & the youngest girl, Jean,
came to lunch & kindly accompanied us through a heavy shower of rain
to the wharf, where we found Thomas awaiting us with a large bunch of
violets for me.

The "Eurimbla" did not take very long getting under way, & we were
soon steaming down the harbour, I, trying to draw everything as we

We made great friends with Capt Grahl, & were quite sorry to leave him
at Sydney which we reached about 8.30 on Thursday evening. The
faithful Thomas was awaiting us with a pile of letters, among others a
note from Lady Manning begging us to come or not, just as suited us
best. We thought it the only chance of seeing her, so depositing some
of our luggage at the Bank we drove straight to 111 Macleay Street,
where we met with a warm welcome. We had a very pleasant time with her
& Clara, but every minute was full. I went out with Charlie after
breakfast, and brought back the letters from the Bank. There were 3
lots & they took me nearly an hour to read. I answered as many as I
could. The news from home was delightful to get: little Harry having a
Winchester scholarship, and everything as happy as possible. It quite
cheered me up, we had been so long without news. Mrs Tregarthen & Dr
Corlette were at lunch. We both like him so much. In the afternoon we
went with Lady M. to the University, and Miss Woolley came in later to
see us. C. also called on Mr. Mitchell. In the evening we dined with
Knoxes. Clara went too. Mr. Knox is a most dear old gentleman, & his
daughters are very clever.

Saturday the 28th

We left our kind hostess early & went down to the Bank where I
repacked my luggage. It was all done at last and taken on board our
ship the "Monowai". Mr. Corlette & Isabelle kindly came & saw us off,
but Thomas was the last friend we saw as at 1.30 we swung round &
steamed off quickly, leaving him waving a pocket handkerchief
pathetically to the last.


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