Diary of Mrs Robert THOMAS
EXPERIENCES OF A LADY PIONEER.
We give below some extracts from the diary of Mrs. Robert Thomas, who, with her family, came by the ship Africaine. Mrs. Thomas was the wife of Mr. Robert Thomas, who with Mr. G. Stevenson founded the South Australian Gazette and Colonial Register, the first issue of which was printed in London on June 18, 1836, and the second on Acre 56, Hindley-street, Adelaide, on June 3, 1837.
Mrs. Thomas says:—" The Africaine, bound to South Australia with settlers, and commanded by Captain Duff, left the London docks on Tuesday, Jane 28, in the year 1836, with ninety-nine souls on board." After describing the events of the voyage, the diary continues : — " November 1. At 4 o'clock this morning there was a beautiful view of Kangaroo Island, about 10 miles distant. I was on deck at 6. The sun had just risen with great splendour, and its rays then wholly obscured any sight of land. Thorpe (Althorpe) Island as we passed it appeared like a large rock, and is supposed to be only an eruption of the sea. As we entered Nepean Bay the flag was hoisted and two guns fired to announce our approach. A boat, in which was a gentleman of the name of Stephens (who came out in the Duke of York), came off, rowed by four men, one of whom was named Nathaniel Thomas, and had been resident on the island many years, but his appearance I thought was more like that of a savage than an Englishman. This man, by some mischance, fell overboard, and as the tide was running strong at the time he was carried some distance from the vessel before assistance could be rendered, and, although he could swim well enough, he was watched by those on board with considerable anxiety on account of the sharks, which were known to be numerous. An oar, however, was thrown to him, on which he got astride till the boat reached him, and when he was again on the deck he shook himself like a dog does when just out of the water and took no more notice of the matter."
. . . "About 4 o'clock this day a party of seven, including two of our young men, engaged as printers, set off in a boat for the shore furnished with four days' provisions to walk across the island (about 50 miles), and meet the ship on the other side whither we were going. At 4 o'clock we were within a mile of the shore, and soundings were taken, 26 fathoms and a fine gravelly bottom. The day was fine, and the sea calm. The boat did not return until near 9 o'clock in consequence of their not being able for a long time to find a landing place on that side of the island, but when it began to grow dusk their prolonged stay excited alarm, especially as there were five gentlemen in the boat (three of them married), besides the mate of the vessel, who went to see them safe on shore. The captain ordered a gun to be fired, and a light in the shrouds was hoisted as a signal and guide. The crew also gave three cheers, and the echoes of the cannon and the cheers of the men resounded from the opposite shore, and give additional effect to the beauty of the scene, for although the moon had not risen the evening was remarkably clear - and serene, and the stars glistened over our heads in millions. At length our fears were relieved by the flash and report of a gun, and soon after another, and at last we discovered the boat approaching the vessel with all those safe who meant to return, and one of the adventurers, whose heart failed him when they reached the unknown shore.
The other six— all young men —were left to proceed on their way as they best could. Their names were Slater (a surgeon), Osborne (a well-educated young man, apprenticed to Mr. Thomas as a printer), Fisher (also engaged as a journeyman printer), Nantes (attached to Mr. Gouger, the Colonial Secretary), and Warren and Biggs (engaged by Mr. Hallett). We were naturally anxious, and could not help feeling somewhat uneasy at their setting out on such a romantic expedition, especially on account of Osborne, who was an amiable young man and a general favourite, and whose father, residing in London, had consigned him to our care. They had agreed to take their guns, expecting to find some game, and Osborne having a double-barrelled gun which was rather heavy he asked me to exchange it for the time for our single-barrelled one, and did so accordingly. He and Slater were sworn friends, and the latter having the gun in his hand just as they were going to step into the boat I said him half in jest, 'Don't you lose that gun, Mr. Slater.' 'Ah, madam,' said he in his hasty way— he was an Irishman— ' I will lose my life first. ' [Alas! remarks Mrs. Thomas in transcribing her diary many years after, I little thought that his words would in some measure prove true, and that I should never see either him or poor Osborne again.]
. . . At night we saw so large a fire on the island that it reminded me of the burning of the Parliament Houses which took place in October the year before, and we were told it was the brushwood which the islanders often set fire to to clean the ground. A boat containing some white men and one black woman— an aboriginal native — arrived to concert measures for discovering the ramblers, and from the different accounts of what we heard we really began to be very uneasy about them, but these people seemed to be under no apprehension as to their final safety, but said their going across the island as they proposed was utterly impossible as the brushwood would so entangle them that they would lose their way and might never be found again either alive or dead.
" THE FIRST NATIVE. " Before I proceed any further I must give some account of the black woman, who being the first native we had seen, exicted curiosity. Her clothing consisted of a red woollen cap, such as sailors often wear, and a shirt of the same material under a coat of thick leather, such as in England is used for harness and to cover trunks. Her countenance was pleasing through perfectly black, and her hair was not woolly like the African natives, but long and straight around her forehead. Her legs and feet were bare, but round her neck hung several rows of glass beads. Her chin was also ornamented with a kind of beard, and whiskers grew at the sides of her face. But what most surprised us was her musical voice and the pleasing intonation with which she spoke the English language, for, what she said she uttered with a proper accent and almost with fluency. Her height was about 5 ft. 6 in., and her age apparently about 25 years, but on being asked how old she was she replied, 'I cannot tell,' and this is the case with all of them. She was taken into the steerage and regaled with biscuit and beef, which she seemed to relish exceedingly, and talked with great confidence as to her being able to trace the young men, as she knew every part of the island. She also said there was no fear of them perishing, especially as they were provided with guns.
As soon, therefore, as it had been pointed out to the men by the map what part of the island they landed on they again departed in the boat with the black women, and Mr. Thomas went to arrange with Mr. Hallett, who, with his family had landed on the island and erected a tent there, and at length it was agreed that four men and two women , should set out immediately with a sufficient supply of provisions and water in a boat to that part where the young men landed, and follow them through the bush until they came up with them, and for which service they were to receive £6. They accordingly set off, and Mr. Thomas returned on board, when we learned that royalty itself had condescended to pay us a visit in the person of the black female, for she was no other than the Princess Con, daughter of King Con, a chief of one of the native tribes, and that her father was at that time on Kangaroo Island. In the evening the sky was again illumined by the burning brushwood.
" THE MAINLAND. " On the afternoon of the 6th we set sail for the mainland, and anchored in Rapid Bay in front of the most beautiful prospect imaginable. We could see some tents on shore belonging to the surveying party. Captain Light, commander of the Rapid, was stationed there. A party from the vessel went on shore, and gave on their return a most enchanting account of the country, which everywhere resembled a gentleman's park, grass growing in the greatest luxuriance, and the most beautiful flowers in abundance, with birds of splendid plumage. They saw several of the natives, which the surveyors said were of great service to them. They introduced themselves by the names which had been given them— as Peter and Tom— and most of them spoke English. We all seemed to wish this port to be fixed upon for the seat of Government, but it was said the anchorage was not good, and we must proceed to Holdfast Bay, about 40 miles further, and accordingly the next morning we left this delightful spot and sailed for Holdfast Bay. But my greatest regret was in leaving Kangaroo Island until we had heard something respecting the young men, for whom we began to be now seriously, alarmed, especially as we had ourselves made a slight experiment of the difficulties of travelling in the bush, which sufficiently convinced us that our fears were not without reason. We had all spent a day on Kangaroo Island, and during a walk which I took with my husband we entered the scrub, as it is called, and incautiously proceeded till we were so completely bewildered that we began to be uneasy lest we should not find our way out of the labyrinth, which seemed on all sides to be interminable, for nothing could be seen but the sky above us and the bushes around us, nor could we tell which way to retrace our steps, as no path was discernible where we had passed through. But at length, after advancing, as far as we could judge, about half a mile, we fortunately caught a glimpse of the sea through a small opening in the brushwood, and immediately made towards it, forcing our way through the bushes down a steep hill till we reached the shore, and but for our providential escape our adventure might possibly have terminated as fatally for us as the rash undertaking of traversing an unknown country (at least to them) did to those who attempted to accomplish it. For at that time it was uninhabited even by natives, except a very few, who resided with one or two white men who had been on the island some years; and now that this part of New Holland was to be made a British colony the South Australian Company had a station there, with a large tent containing stores and provisions. But these were situated near the shore, and all beyond the immediate vicinity was a wilderness, and as far as the eye could reach, thickly overgrown with trees and bushes, which, according to report, was the general character of the island, and must render a passage through it extremely difficult even to those accustomed to such travelling, and doubly so to inexperienced young men. But that nothing might be omitted which was likely to apprise them of their danger and make them aware that others were on their track, large fires were kept burning on the highest eminences for several nights as signals which they might see at a distance, and guns fired at intervals, which it was hoped they would hear and endeavour to retrace their steps, but it was all of no avail, and we were reluctantly obliged to quit the shores of Kangaroo Island without any information respecting them.
We did not reach our final destination at Holdfast Bay till the evening (November 7), the wind being easterly. This place received its present designation, I believe, from the stability of its anchorage, but the native name of which, or at least of the adjacent plains, is Cowandilla, meaning 'plenty of water,' which it certainly had when we arrived, as the lagoons, as they are called, were then full, and in some places, several feet deep, though all derived from the last winter's rains. But as summer advanced they dried up, and we could scarcely obtain sufficient water even for drinking."
Here the writer goes into details of the landing. She proceeds :— "We had two tents, the smallest of which the men had erected, and which we, with part of our family, that is, our three daughters and the young woman who came out with us as assistant, took possession of gladly enough, though everything was in the greatest con-fusion imaginable. Our two men located themselves on the sandhills, making a circle with packages and furniture and slept in the middle. As for my two sons, I made up a bed with a thick mattress on the ground in the open air, and as near as I could with safety to a large fire. A pewter jug had been accidentally left outside in a tin dish containing some water, and on lifting up the jug, to my surprise, the dish came up with it, for the water had frozen to the eighth of an inch in thickness. This astonished me in a country where I did not expect to see such a thing— and yet the thermometer rose that day to 110°. The country, as far as we could see was certainly beautiful, and resembled an English park, with long grass in abundance, and fine trees scattered about, but not so many as to make it unpleasant, and no brushwood. We were about 100 yards from the nearest lagoon, where at that time there was plenty of water, and very clear, nor was it bad-tasted, though not a running stream, but far from being so good for washing as to get clothes clean without soap, as some accounts represented it, for it was harder than even the water in London. The birds here were of beautiful plumage, white and black cockatoos in abundance—the former with a large yellow or orange coloured crest, sometimes pink, and parrots, or rather paroquets, as they would be called in England, for they were very small and of every variety of colour imaginable ; also wild ducks and flocks of geese, with occasionally a black swan, flying. Here also was the mocking bird, and it was quite amusing to hear him imitate our cock crowing on a morning, and the call of some guinea fowls at a neighbouring tent, which he did with great exactness but in a more musical tone, for it was something like a barrel organ. But when he tried to imitate the laughing jackass it was so exceedingly droll that we could not forbear laughing heartily
. . . . December 1.— This day we saw two of the natives, a man and a boy, for the first time in this part— the mainland. A gentleman of the name of Williams, a passenger of the Africaine, having proceeded alone about 5 miles up the country accidentally met with them. He had a gun and they took up their spears, but immediately laid them down again. After some conversation by signs they removed their spears and followed him to his tent, where they dined. Mr. Williams afterwards took them round to most of the tents and brought them to us. I showed several things which greatly astonished them, particularly a telescope, which they took to be a gun and thought it would make a noise, but when I drew it out and with some difficulty induced them to look through it, for they seemed to be afraid of it, they exclaimed, 'Maury, maury,' which is their word for anything wonderful. But a lucifer-match surprised them still more, for they could not imagine how fire could be so instantaneously, produced while they were at considerable trouble to obtain it by rubbing two sticks together, though when they move from one place to another they carry lighted sticks with them by which, with dry leaves and blowing with their breath, they generally succeed in soon having a good fire. Of course these natives did not understand English any more than we did their dialect, but they pronounced our language by repeating whatever was said to them with an accuracy that was surprising, and with a far superior accent to many Europeans not English, though they may have studied it for years. We afterwards found out that we were comparatively no strangers to them, though they were to us, for they had seen and observed our landing, but kept aloof, watching our motions. They subsequently paid us several visits, but never annoyed us, and on more than one occasion proved very serviceable by helping to extinguish the fires which sometimes came so near us as to be extremely dangerous, beating it out with boughs from the trees or treading it out with their naked feet.''
THE LOST PARTY.
"December 11. —The Emma returned from Kangaroo Island, where she had been sent with stores, and she had on board two of the young men who had been so long wandering on the island — Nantes and Fisher, our printer. Four of them at length returned, with vague and contradictory statements that they had left Slater and Osborne near a lagoon unable at present to proceed further, but that they would do so as soon as they had some what recovered from their fatigue, and that they had plenty of provisions with them, thus keeping up our hopes of their final safety." Mrs. Thomas writing about this matter, in transcribing her diary years afterwards, says :— " But they never returned, nor could we learn any-thing with certainty as to their fate, though we made constant enquiry and questioned every one in the least likely to afford information, till we gave up all hope, and it became evident that they had come to some unhappy end, which, whatever it may have been, a mystery hangs over to this day. The task devolved on me to convey the melancholy tidings to Osborne's father, and as the best means of doing so I wrote to our agent in London, Mr. Leonard Bough, and gave him a full account as far as I was able of the whole affair, requesting him to go to Mr. Osborne and break the sad news to him by degrees, and likewise to get it published in the Spectator, lest the people of England should think that the two unfortunate young men had been murdered by the natives, but there were none in the island at that time except a few women, and they were employed by the white residents. About three years ago" (Mrs. Thomas was probably writing about 1885 or 1886) ' two skeletons were found in some part of the bush, supposed to be those of white men, which occasioned no little surprise as to how they were there, till a gentleman, who was a cabin passenger in the Africaine, suggested in a letter to the Editor of the Register that they were most probably the remains of the young men Slater and Osborne who must have perished while endeavouring to cross the island on foot in the year 1836, and this was no doubt their unhappy end. Let us hope their spirits are in peace."
The diary proceeds to describe some of the difficulties and trials of the early settlers. The sandhills were found to be the home of innumerable fleas, while the lagoons provided millions of mosquitoes, and rats abounded and preyed on the stores in the tents. Ophthalmia also was exceedingly prevalent,and in some cases caused complete temporary blindness. About December 20, 1836, Mrs. Thomas wrote :— " We built a rush hut a short distance from our tents for the better accommodation of part of our family, but they had not long occupied it before everything was suddenly ordered to be cleared out to make room for the printing press in order to print the proclamation of the colony, and in this place (about 12 feet square) the first printing in South Australia was produced. But I must now proceed according to dates," Mrs. Thomas writes, after some retro-spection, "and will, therefore, describe the manner in which we spent our FIRST CHRISTMAS DAY in the Southern Hemisphere, far away from dear old England and never-to-be-forgotten friends.
December 25, 1836.— This being Christmas Day and Sunday divine service was held for the first time in the rush hut of the principal surveyor a short distance from our tents. We attended, taking our seats with us, the signal for assembling being the firing of a gun. The congregation numbered twenty-five persons, including the two gentlemen who conducted the service, the thermometer standing at 100°, and most of those assembled being in the open air. . . . We kept up the old custom of Christmas as far as having a plum-pudding for dinner was concerned, likewise a ham and a parrot pie, but one of our neighbours, as we afterwards found, had a large piece of roast beef, though we were not aware at the time that any fresh meat was to be had in the colony. But the fact was, when we landed at Glenelg one of the passengers of the Africaine took charge of Captain Duff's cow and calf and the former, which had been tied to a tree near the lagoon, got over the bank and fell in, being so much injured that it was found expedient to kill her, and thus some of the colonists were supplied with their Christmas beef. In the evening the thermometer still upwards of 90°, and the evening very close.
December 26.— This day was extremely hot ; the thermometer rose to 120°, the highest point we had yet seen it attain, and that in the shade— at least in the tent, where it was generally hot, but I afterwards saw it at 150° exposed to the sun.'"
"DECEMBER 28 "This was a proud, and I hope will prove a happy, day for South Australia. Early in the morning it was announced that the Buffalo had arrived from Port Lincoln, accompanied by the Cygnet, which had gone thither to escort the Governor to Holdfast Bay. This made us all alive, and soon after Mr. Thomas received notice to attend at the tent of Mr. Gouger, the Colonial Secretary, where His Excellency the Governor was expected to be at 3 o'clock to read his commission and proclaim the colony. . . .It was requested that we would prepare ourselves to meet the procession, as all who could were expected to attend. We went accordingly and found the largest company assembled we had yet seen in the colony— probably 200 persons. The Governor's Secretary read the proclamation under a large gumtree, a flag was hoisted, a party of marines from the Buffalo fired a feu de joie, and loud hurrahs succeeded. A cold collation, of which we partook, followed in the open air. The Governor was very affable, shaking hands with the colonists, and congratulating them on having such a fine country. After the repast he mounted on a chair, and gave the first toast, ' The King,' which was received with three times three, and followed by the National Anthem, led by Mr. Gilles; but the old royal appellation of 'George' was so natural to Englishmen after four successive reigns of Kings of that name, that it was forgotten at the moment that a ' William' was now on the throne, and the first line was sung as formerly ('God save Great George our King'), which excited a smile, and yet I believe that William the Fourth had not more loyal subjects throughout his wide dominions than those who were assembled to welcome the arrival of the first Governor of South Australia. The health of His Excellency was then proposed and drunk with loud and universal cheering, followed by 'Rule Britannia.' Then the toast of ' Mrs. Hindmarsh and the Ladies' was proposed by Mr. Gilbert, which also received great applause, as did several other toasts. The Governor then, gave the following :— 'May the present unanimity continue as long as South Australia exists,' which made the plain ring with acclamations, and at about 5 o'clock His Excellency and lady departed to the ship, and some officers and others followed in another boat. They all seemed highly delighted with our village, as I may call it, which consisted now of about forty tents and huts, though scattered about without any regularity, as every one fixed their present abode wherever they pleased, knowing it would not be of long duration. We took coffee in Mr. Kingston's hut and returned home about 7. The evening as well as the day and the preceding one was very hot, and the night continued so, insomuch that it was impossible to sleep, the thermometer having been sometimes upwards of 100° in the tent, and it seemed as if some of the colonists did not even go to bed, for we heard singing and shouting from different parties at intervals till long after daylight ; and here I may remark that from the exceeding stillness of the night, except when the wind disturbed the trees near us, we could distinctly hear almost every, sound that occurred, though at a considerable distance."
'December 30. — This day Mr. Thomas received orders to prepare his printing press for the proclamation, which would be required immediately, and in consequence were obliged to hire a truck to bring up one of the presses and the type, which with some other packages still remained on the beach, where we had intended they should remain till our final settlement as we did not expect to commence printing until then. 'December 31—This morning we received intimation, that the Governor, had ordered ten men from the Buffalo to assist in getting our luggage from the shore. ' They came accordingly, and with their help harnessed to the truck all the heavy cases of goods and printing materials were brought up, and the latter arranged in a rush hut, from whence the proclamations and other orders from the Governor were soon after issued." [ We remained at Glenelg, Mrs. Thomas afterwards writes, till the 1st of June, 1837, when we removed to a town acre of our own in Adelaide, No. 56, Hindley-street, where Mr. Thomas had previously been making arrangements for a printing establishment. ] In reviewing the early years in 1866 this lady writes:— "I believe there are few articles even of luxury but which may now be obtained in Adelaide, and most of them at moderate prices; but the time has been when we paid a shilling a pound for bread, with meat and everything else in proportion, while many things considered as almost indispensable both in food and clothing were not to be had at any price. We for a long time felt the want of vegetables, but a black woman supplied us every morning for several weeks with a bunch of native watercress. Where she got them I do not know, but they were similiar in flower to the English cress, and we were as glad to have them as she was to receive a biscuit in return. When at Glenelg we gathered a sort of wild samphire, which grew there in great abundance, and trade an excellent pickle, and as we had plenty of good vinegar we did not fail to avail ourselves of it for the purpose, as also of the leaves of the Hottentot fig, a thick juicy substance of a beautiful green, which either pickled or preserved was very acceptable. Those who came out when we did or shortly after were content to live for a time in the same rough way, expecting no other, but it sometimes made us smile to see those who followed after several months walking up to Adelaide (about 5 miles) with a gun on their shoulder or pistols stuck in their belt as if they expected to meet with hostile natives or some wild beast on their way, and when they arrived among the tents they would look about with seeming astonishment at finding some of their own race living bush fashion, and yet not quite savages. But it always gave us pleasure to see our own countrymen, and hear something of England, and such hospitality as new settlers could bestow was I believe in all cases cheerfully given.
. . . Wild dogs were numerous at Glenelg, and often prowled about our tents at night, howling most hideously, and I believe destroying some of our poultry, but otherwise we saw no destructive animals. We had so long been unaccustomed to the sight of animals of our own country, except that a few of the settlers had dogs which they had brought with them from England, that when Mr. Hack, an early colonist, rode up to our tent on a fine grey, which I believe had been imported from Sydney and was the first horse brought into the colony, we all came out to look at it as if we had never seen a horse before.
... The first parcel of letters which left the colony was dispatched from our tent at Glenelg. It having been intimated that a ship was about to sail for Sydney we were requested to receive the letters of such of the settlers who wished to write to their friends in England, and accordingly many availed themselves of the opportunity and brought their communications to us, all of (which I enclosed in a brown holland bag, the best I had for the purpose, and being carefully sealed it was sent to Sydney to be thence conveyed to England. So that a rush hut was the first printing-office, and a canvas tent the first post-office in South Australia."
Another old colonist, who came by the John Renwick, after referring to his arrival at Kangaroo Island in February, 1837, and departure for the settlement, writes :—
" The long range of sandhills was not very prepossessing, but the Mount Lofty Range beyond was beautiful, even though the hills were parched and white looking, it being near the end of summer and the grass dry. After dark a grand and, to us, mysterious fire began to kindle on the hills. It spread with amazing rapidity from one hill to another, until the whole range before us seemed one mass of flames. We looked at each other and enquired what is the meaning of this. Knowing one's shook their heads and declared that it was a signal for the native clans to gather for the purpose of destroying the white intruders. They professed to point out native forms adding to and spreading the flames. It was, indeed, a grand and fearful spectacle. I have seen many fires on the hills and plains since, but none so sublime as this. There was little sleep for the newcomers last night. Many sat on deck watching, expecting to see bands of naked savages coming down upon in the morning, but no such event oc-curred. We soon learned that it, being the end of summer, the long grass on the hills was fired by the poor natives to enable them the more readily to obtain the animals and reptiles on which they lived. Next morning the ranges presented a charred and blackened aspect, which added nothing to the beauty of the landscape. This incident, however, filled many with a lasting dread of the natives, which frequently cropped up afterwards in alarms of native combinations and attacks, and more than once during the first few months the whole settlement kept watch and ward, fearing an onslaught of blacks which never came. This fear was not unreasonable. The country and its inhabitants were unknown ; we knew not what numbers dwelt beyond that range of hills, whether friendly or hostile, or even those who came in a friendly way to ask or beg what treachery lodged in their hearts. If they had any hostile intentions they soon lost the spirit to carry them out, and acquired the cringe and whine of practised beggars. Peace to their poor souls, they are improved off the fare of the earth.
Several of us landed at Glenelg and found that accompaniment of civilization — a public tent erected in the sandhills for the sale of intoxicating liquor. Here drink could be obtained much cheaper than now, no Custom-house existing as yet. But little variety, in the shape of solid food could be got, ship biscuits being the staple. Glenelg consisted of a few reed huts, erected by the immigrants who had come in the Buffalo, and Coromandel, the first and second immigrant ships, ours being the third [sic].
The writer mentions a melancholy incident which occurred. ' One of our shipmates— a respectable man, with a wife and large family on board started for Adelaide a day or two before our party. He got to the site of the town, and left in the heat of the day (February) to walk to the Port, was overpowered by the heat and died on the way, our party having taken another road.' " The narrative next refers to other incidents on shore, and to the reunion of husbands and wives on board the vessel, and then proceeds :— " On arriving we were hurried from the ship and landed with our effects at what was afterwards called Port Misery, literally without a place to shelter us from the weather, delicate women and little children faring alike. Some who had arrived in the ship before us had made a kind of bower with bushes and boughs and such things as they could lay their hands on. This place they kindly permitted the women and children to share with them. As for the men, they had to weather it as they best could. How strange and wonderful the trans-formation affected ! When we came up the Tam o'Shanter was to be seen with her back broken on the bar, and besides her there was our own ship. No others that I recollect. Now a forest of masts meets the view. Truly the change is wonderful. "
Of the site of Adelaide he says :— " There was nothing much to look at but stunted peppermint-trees and surveyors' pegs here and there. Outside, fronting what is now the Gaol, but nearer to North-terrace, was a row of reed huts, dignified by the name of Buffalo Row, from the Governor's ship, in which the inhabitants had arrived. Between that and the River Torrens— what a miserable river!— were a number of tents and nondescript huts. The Commissioner (Mr. Fisher) had a more pretentious abode. I think it had a chimney." Having made a kind of survey, borrowing an axe he cut down trees in the bed or on the banks of the river, and after much toil got four saplings cut and carried to the place he had fixed on for his house there, much nearer to the river than the other habitations. The writer here describes the erection of the frame of his temporary house, and the removal to its shelter:— "We took out a piece of ticking, and carried it round the four posts of our new home, and as we were short of pins we had to use my wife's hairpins to fasten it. Under shelter of this tent we slept. We heard very little discontent or grumbling. Of course the case of those who had a number of little ones was much worse than ours, but the children enjoyed the change from shipboard to unbounded freedom. The young men especially seemed perfectly happy. Our bowers and tents were erected near together without any attempt at regularity or order. Every one built where he pleased ; no one directed or found fault with us. It was truly amusing to look at the various styles of architecture exhibited all around us, as our materials, were of, the simplest kinds. Cloth of all sorts interspersed with ti-tree and reeds. This was real gipsying, and never was gipsy camp more picturesque than was the encampment of the arrivals by the John Renwick at the end of the summer of 1837.
The change that has since taken place in the appearance of the Torrens (says the same writer) is greatly for the worse. The sides were covered with trees and underwood of various descriptions, while the banks and the bed of the river were beautiful, with a thick and close growth of ti-tree, with a great variety, of aromatic shrubs, which were charming indeed to us newcomers. The river itself consisted mainly at this time of numerous deep and clear pools connected by a tiny stream, but fringed as they were with foliage they were very pleasant to look upon.
For the credit of the early settlers be it mentioned that although many covetable things lay about without protection, we are not aware of the least thing being stolen. My wife was made the depository of several large sums of money, but although this was well known, one depositor making no secret of it, no one ever disturbed us."
Of the first storm he says:— 'The rain began to fall heavily, then afterwards in torrents. Our beautiful and fragrant ti-tree roof being flat proved no protection. The water began to drop, first on the foot of the bed, where the roof covering was thinnest, then, as the ti-tree got saturated, higher and higher until our faces and heads were bathed in water. We tried putting them under the bedclothes, but these soon got soaked. We rolled our mattress up, and, sitting as close together as we could, wrapped the bedclothes round us, and put our umbrella up. My wife, who had been under the doctor's care on board, was still far from well, and I did express disgust with the place and all connected with it. The storm, however, in time abated and day dawned at last. Dr. W — was called in to attend to my sick wife, and never can we forget on that and on many subsequent occasions his unremitting attentions. Frequently when no fresh meat could be had has he gone and shot birds and brought them to our bower. And yet even this night had its ludicrous side. A number of young fellows and some married men being washed out lighted a large fallen gumtree, which soon set up, in spite of the rain, a strong, steady blaze, and they passed the night jovially enough. Ever and anon a chorus of voices would burst forth, with the call of the seamen heaving the lead, " By the mark five,' and again 'By the mark six,' and thus they got through this memorable night."
The narrator then proceeds to speak of his success in obtaining employment, and continues :— " One day as one of our villagers was at the river a very large snake made its appearance. It was killed, and as in those days we were very short of fresh meat, some of the men resolved to turn it to account. Its head was cut off and the rest of it cooked in a boullie tin or some such vessel. One fellow boasted that he had eaten a foot of the creature when thus cooked, another 18 inches, and the taste was on all hands declared to be like eel. On another occasion a wild dog found its way into one of the huts and caused a great commotion, but, like the snake, it was killed, skinned, and eaten. Some also took to eating the lizards called iguanas, and the large fat grubs out of the wattle-trees. All these were eaten by the natives. The large grub was esteemed a great delicacy, and to extract it from the trees some of the blacks carried a thin twig with a hook at the end of it behind their ears as writers carry their pen. However short of fresh meat we could never touch it under these forms. Guns also were in great request for killing birds, but kangaroos and emus were never very plentiful."
A friend asks the writer to "join him in building a mud hut on his land. The place is now known as Currie-street, though we knew it only by the number of the acre on the surveyor's peg. We fixed on the site without any regard to street, and found out long after that only one corner claimed acquaintance with Currie-street. I suppose we fixed on that place because it was freest from wood, as all the town lands were covered with stunted peppermint-trees. The walls of this hut were of mud, the roof of reeds. We set about our work in earnest; rigged up a 9-gallon cask, with which we brought up from the river all the water we used in building. We carried the walk to a height of about 5 feet. We now got a billhook each and started to the Reedbeds to cut reeds. These were brought up to town, and having got a thatcher to put them on, to our great satisfaction we were able to sit behind solid walls and a roof which could cast the rain. One apartment 10 feet square, mud floor, walls of mud 5 feet high, rafters of wattle, roof reeds, no ceiling, door reeds in a kind of frame, window a hole left in the wall, no glass, separated from our neighbours by a partition also of reeds. Yet it was a great advance on our ti-tree bower."
The writer mentions the printing of the first newspaper, and says : — " This created great interest and excitement in our community. It was printed in a mud building in Hindleystreet, one part of the same building being used for a store— 'Coltman's,' the first private establishment of the kind in Adelaide." After speaking of the extreme difficulty and toil of getting goods up from the Port, he continues : — " I hired a handcart, getting it as a great favour, from 6 o'clock p.m. until morning on payment of 5s., the Commissioner's men needing it by day to cart stones for that official's chimney. As we were setting out we met the Colonial Chaplain (Mr. Howard) returning with a truckload from the same quarter, his man in the shafts and he himself leading, pulling with a belt across his breast, with great good humour he wished as a successful journey. . . . When we got to the river we had a narrow escape from tumbling over the steep banks. On another occasion I rigged up a cask, and filling it with various things drew it from the Port to near where Hindmarsh now is, bat the adventure was not a successful one, for among the articles was a smoothing iron, which made sad havoc of the books and other contents. To crown all, the head of the cask came out and the goods had to be left, but although they were all open nothing was missed when we got the articles home."
Space does not permit of further extracts from this interesting journal. Much is said about the natives with whom the writer was brought into close contact, and proofs are adduced of its having been the practice of the Adelaide tribe to kill some of their female children. The writer also was one of the earliest explorers, having with a party, headed by Mr. Robert Cock, traversed the bush to Lake Alexandrina by way of Mount Barker and the Bremer, returning by way of the Angas. Afterwards he visited Encounter Bay, where he met the late Captain Hart, then in charge of the ship ' The Hope'.South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839 - 1900), Monday 27 December 1886, page 1http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article45851979