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Personal Recollections of the Early Settlement of Australia
Images of Early white settlement in Australia

c. 1900

E J BANFIELD (1852-1923)

. . . am I not free from the cares that obtrude on those of tougher texture of mind who find joy in the opposite to this peace and unconcern for the rewards and honours of the world? Better this isolation and moderation in all things than, racked with worries, to moan and fret because of non-success in the ceaseless struggle for riches, or the increase thereof; better than to bow down to and worship in the "soiled temple of Commercialism" that haughty and supercilious old idol Mammon; better than to offer continual sacrifices of rest, health, and the immediate good of life to appease the exacting and silly deities of fashion and society.
There may be some who, in a disparaging tone, will at this stage of my confessions enter an accusation of impracticableness. To such a charge I would plead guilty; but to those who proffer it, I neither appeal, nor do I fear judgment. These writings are for those who see something in life beyond the mere "getting on in world," or making a din in it.


Mrs. Charles (Ellen) CLACY

At times, you may see men, half-mad, throwing sovereigns, like halfpence, out of their pockets into the streets; and I once saw a digger, who was looking over a large quantity of bank-notes, deliberately tear to pieces and trample in the mud under his feet every soiled or ragged one he came to, swearing all the time at the gold-brokers for "giving him dirty paper money for pure Alexander gold; he wouldn't carry dirt in his pocket; not he; thank God! he'd plenty to tear up and spend too."


David COLLINS (1754-1810)

The coast, as the boats drew near Port Jackson, wore so unfavourable an appearance, that Captain Phillip's utmost expectation reached no farther than to find what Captain Cook, as he passed by, thought might be found, shelter for a boat. In this conjecture, however, he was most agreeably disappointed, by finding not only shelter for a boat, but a harbour capable of affording security to a much larger fleet than would probably ever seek for shelter or security in it. In one of the coves of this noble and capacious harbour, equal if not superior to any yet known in the world, it was determined to fix the settlement; and on the 23rd [January, 1788], having examined it as fully as the time would allow, the governor and his party left Port Jackson and its friendly and peaceful inhabitants (for such he everywhere found them), and returned to Botany Bay.
Charles Henry EDEN Amongst other calamities attendant on this visitation [of a terrible cyclone] was the loss of a small coasting schooner, named the 'Eva', bound from Cleveland to Rockingham Bay, with cargo and passengers. Only those who have visited Australia can picture to themselves the full horror of a captivity amongst the degraded blacks with whom this unexplored district abounds; and a report of white men having been seen amongst the wild tribes in the neighbourhood of the Herbert River induced the inhabitants of Cardwell to institute a search party to rescue the crew of the unhappy schooner, should they still be alive; or to gain some certain clue to their fate, should they have perished.

c. 1900

Jeanie (Mrs. Aeneas) GUNN

To begin somewhere near the beginning, the Maluka--better known at that time as the new Boss for the Elsey--and I, his "missus," were at Darwin, in the Northern Territory, waiting for the train that was to take us just as far as it could--one hundred and fifty miles--on our way to the Never-Never. It was out of town just then, up-country somewhere, billabonging in true bush-whacker style, but was expected to return in a day or two, when it would be at our service.
Messrs. JARDINE The Settlement of Northern Australia has of late years been of such rapid growth as to furnish matter for a collection of narratives, which in the aggregate would make a large and interesting volume. Prominent amongst these stands that of the Settlement of Cape York, under the superintendence of Mr. Jardine, with which the gallant trip of his two sons overland must ever be associated. It was a journey which, but for the character and qualities of the Leader, might have terminated as disastrously as that of his unfortunate, but no less gallant predecessor, Kennedy.

Mrs Allan MacPHERSON (fl. 1857)

The road before us was very mountainous and rugged, and our horses were pretty nearly done up with the hard work of the past month; so we determined on leaving our dray behind in charge of the man-servant and his wife, and endeavouring to push on ourselves with two horses in our dogcart, in order to send back a fresh team, to relieve our poor tired steeds. Therefore, taking off the tilt and leaving behind all unnecessary encumbrances, in order to make our conveyance as light as possible, we parted company with the rest of our caravan, and set out, hoping to arrive at our station by nightfall. So terrible was the road or track over which we had to pass, that had I known the nature of the country, I should not have indulged in such a hope. My husband, however, only reflecting on his exploits in his bachelor days, was very confident; forgetting with how many more encumbrances he was at present travelling. The first obstacle that presented itself was a high mountain, known as Bell's Mountain. The road over it, if not so steep as those across the main ranges, is certainly much rougher, and the ascent on the whole nearly as formidable.
K. Langloh PARKER Oolah the lizard was tired of lying in the sun, doing nothing. So he said, "I will go and play." He took his boomerangs out, and began to practise throwing them. While he was doing so a Galah came up, and stood near, watching the boomerangs come flying back, for the kind of boomerangs Oolah was throwing were the bubberahs. They are smaller than others, and more curved, and when they are properly thrown they return to the thrower, which other boomerangs do not. From 'Australian Legendary Tales' (The galah, and Oolah the lizard).


Watkin TENCH (1759-1833)

The dread of want in a country destitute of natural resource is ever peculiarly terrible. We had long turned our eyes with impatience towards the sea, cheered by the hope of seeing supplies from England approach. But none arriving, on the 2nd of October the 'Sirius' sailed for the Cape of Good Hope, with directions to purchase provisions there, for the use of our garrison. From 'A Complete Account of the Settlement at Port Jackson.'

c. 1900

Mark TWAIN (1835-1910)

We changed [rail] cars. This was at Albury. And it was there, I think, that the growing day and the early sun exposed the distant range called the Blue Mountains. Accurately named. "My word!" as the Australians say, but it was a stunning color, that blue. Deep, strong, rich, exquisite; towering and majestic masses of blue--a softly luminous blue, a smouldering blue, as if vaguely lit by fires within. It extinguished the blue of the sky--made it pallid and unwholesome, whitey and washed-out. A wonderful color--just divine.

c. 1880

Richard TWOPENY (1857-1915)

Victoria has invented a set of rules for herself--a kind of compound between the Rugby Union and Association. South Australia plays the Victorian game. I suppose it is a heresy for an old Marlburian to own it, but after having played all three games, Rugby, Association and Victorian--the first several hundred times, the second a few dozen times, and the third a couple of score of times--I feel bound to say that the Victorian game is by far the most scientific, the most amusing both to players and onlookers, and altogether the best; and I believe I may say that on this point my opinion is worth having. Of course, men who are accustomed to the English games, and have not played the Victorian, will hold it ridiculous that the solution of the best game of football problem should be found, as I believe it has been found, in Melbourne. But I would ask them to remember that the Victorian game was founded by rival public school men, who, finding that neither party was strong enough to form a club of its own, devised it--of course not in its present elaborate state--as a compromise between the two.


Thomas WATLING (b. 1762)

The letters were written to his aunt in Dumfries "giving a particular account of the settlement of New South Wales, with the customs and manners of the inhabitants."

The air, the sky, the land, are objects entirely different from all that a Briton has been accustomed to see before. The sky clear and warm; in the summer very seldom overcast, or any haze discernable in the azure; the rains, when we have them, falling in torrents, & the clouds immediately dispersing. Thunder, as said, in loud contending peals, happening often daily, & always within every two or three days, at this season of the year. Eruscations and flashes of lightning, constantly succeeding each other in quick and rapid succession. The land, an immense forest, extended over a plain country, the maritime parts of which, are interspersed with rocks, yet covered with venerable majestic trees, hoary with age, or torn with tempests.--In a word, the easy, liberal mind, will be here filled with astonishment, and find much entertainment from the various novel objects that every where present themselves.



William WESTGARTH (1815-1889)

Entering Port Phillip on the morning of the 13th December, 1840, we were wafted quickly up to the anchorage of Hobson's Bay on the wings of a strong southerly breeze, whose cool, and even cold, temperature was to most of us an unexpected enjoyment in the middle of an Australian summer. A small boat came to us at the anchorage containing Mr. and Mrs. D.C. McArthur and others who had friends or relations on board, and who told us that for some days there had been excessive heat and a hot wind, which had now reacted in this southerly blast, to go on probably into heavy rain, the country being excessively dry.


John WHITE (1757/8-1832)

26 January, 1788. At ten o'clock the Sirius, with all the ships, weighed, and in the evening anchored in Port Jackson, with a few trifling damages done to some of them, who had run foul of each other in working out of Botany Bay. Port Jackson I believe to be, without exception, the finest and most extensive harbour in the universe, and at the same time the most secure, being safe from all the winds that blow. It is divided into a great number of coves, to which his excellency has given different names. That on which the town is to be built, is called Sydney Cove. It is one of the smallest in the harbour, but the most convenient, as ships of the greatest burden can with ease go into it, and heave out close to the shore. Trincomalé, acknowledged to be one of the best harbours in the world, is by no means to be compared to it. In a word, Port Jackson would afford sufficient and safe anchorage for all the navies of Europe. The Supply had arrived the day before, and the governor, with every person that could be spared from the ship, were on shore, clearing the ground for the encampment. In the evening, when all the ships had anchored, the English colours were displayed; and at the foot of the flag-staff his Majesty's health, and success to the settlement, was drank by the governor, many of the principal officers, and private men who were present upon the occasion.

George B WORGAN (1757-1838)

I think I hear You saying, "Where the D—ce is Sydney Cove Port Jackson"? and see You whirling the Letter about to find out the the Name of the Scribe: Perhaps You have taken up Salmons Gazetteer, if so, pray spare your Labour, and attend to Me for half an Hour--We sailed from the Cape of Good Hope on the 12th of November 1787-– As that was the last civilized Country We should touch at, in our Passage to Botany Bay We provided ourselves with every Article, necessary for the forming a civilized Colony, Live Stock, consisting of Bulls, Cows, Horses Mares, Colts, Sheep, Hogs, Goats Fowls and other living Creatures by Pairs. We likewise, procured a vast Number of Plants, Seeds & other Garden articles, such, as Orange, Lime, Lemon, Quince Apple, Pear Trees, in a Word, every Vegetable Production that the Cape afforded. Thus Equipped, each Ship like another Noah's Ark, away we steered for Botany Bay, and after a tolerably pleasant Voyage of 10 Weeks & 2 Days Governour Phillip, had the Satisfaction to see the whole of his little Fleet safe at Anchor in the said Bay.

Updated 1 May 2009