Showing posts from 2014

Overlanders #2: Watson and Hunter (B)

Drovers and Dealers 1835-1845
Watson and Hunter (B)

The story of the overlanding firm of Watson and Hunter is. in brief, a big 'noise' followed by a big 'crash'. The first element is described here by the squatter, and successful competitor, George Russell of Clyde Company, and overlander and employee of Watson and Hunter Edward Bell. The second element is explored through a comprehensive newspaper report of the final court case in the saga. The judgment of the Supreme Court of New South Wales, on appeal from the Resident Judge of Port Phillip, supplies an overview of the firm from its Scottish beginnings in 1838 to the final desperate acts of its colonial principal in 1842.

1. A big 'noise'

PL Brown (ed.), [1881] 1935, The Narrative of George Russell of Golf Hill, OUP, London (Part II, The Clyde Company: Port Phillip 1836-50, Chapter XVIII, Speculation, pp 194-5)

"...[In 1839] Mr James Watson brought out a considerable amount of capital with him...e…

Overlanders #1: Watson and Hunter (A)

Drovers and Dealers 1835-1850
Watson and Hunter (A)

This series complements Bass Strait Traders, in the sense that the livestock introduced to the Western District plains by the squatters, either came over the Strait in ships from Van Diemen's Land, or were walked overland from the settled districts of New South Wales. In the earlier series it was predominantly sheep in sailing ships like the HENRY and the NORVAL that were especially fitted out with pens and tanks to make the passage. In this series the main stock brought overland, at least in the early stages of migration, were cattle and horses.

The interlocutors for this first post on the overlanding firm of Watson and Hunter are two young men: an 18 year old Edinburgh youth, Alexander Hunter (Alick), and his London acquaintance Edward Bell. Both were as green as grass when they first came out, both quickly learnt to be accomplished bushmen, and both failed to learn sufficient business skills to make good of their oppor…

Imagining History #5: Fatal Malady

Fatal Malady
Philip Lewis (1832-1863)

This is the narrative of a disappointing life in the colonies, beginning with 'great expectations' and ending in 'accidental death'. As a 20 year old emigrant, Philip Lewis did not come out to the Western District with much money. However his family connection with the Russell dynasty (he was George Russell's nephew) assured him of 'good prospects' as long as he was hardworking and proved of 'good character'.

The narrative is told through a series of letters written (in the main) by members of the extended Russell family to their patriarch (George Russell of Golf Hill). It begins and ends with prose extracts, but the letters themselves are presented in a rough sort of free verse. That is, they retain the original writer's words, and the order in which they were first written, but are reformatted on the page to extract some poetic rythm (not easy, given the direct, factual style adopted by these…

Imagining History #3: Exile's Farewell

Exile's Farewell

Adam Lindsay Gordon (1833-1870)

The best known remittance man with Western District connections is the poet Adam Lindsay Gordon, who was sent out to Australia by his exasperated family in 1853. Gordon, both as a 20 year old young man and a poet, felt his rejection keenly. I have condensed three of his early poems associated with his journey to the other side of the world on the barque Julia.
They are To My Sister (composed on board ship at the London docks three days prior to departure), An Exile's Farewell (written during his passage when the vessel was about halfway to Australia), and Early Adieux (written after his arrival at Port Adelaide where he was to join the Police Force as a mounted trooper). In these verses the contradictory emotions of defiance and self-pity wrestle for primacy, but Gordon is often exhausted by the struggle and "takes relief in listless apathy".

"The broad Atlantic's bed of foa…