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 writers) -- but mostly the reformatting is to emphasise meaning (easier, because the Russells' practical style of conveying information accurately to one another usually led to sensible punctuation breaks in the originals).

Dramatis personae:
The Prodigal.   Philip Lewis, brother of William Lewis and nephew of George Russell.
The Brother.    William Lewis of Stoneleigh, brother of Philip, nephew of George Russell.
The Benefactor.   George Russell of Golf Hill, founding squatter.
The Family.    Philip Russell of Carngham, cousin of Philip Lewis, nephew of George.
                       Rev. Robert Russell, uncle of Philip Lewis, brother of George.

One more point may help the reader's comprehension of what follows. We never do find out the precise misdemeanor that led to Philip's break with his uncle. However we do get a fair idea of the nature of his compulsion. Wherever there were gold miners, there were grog shanties. And "the diggings" (first Ararat, later Ballarat, and finally Clermont in Queensland) draw Philip as if by an irresistible gravitational force.

The Benefactor
PL Brown (ed.), [1881] 1935, The Narrative of George Russell of Golf Hill, London, Oxford University Press (XII. The Elderslie Adventure, 357-360)

"Philip Lewis, brother of William Lewis, left Boglily [in Fifeshire, Scotland] for Australia during the spring of 1852...He arrived here about the month of July or August 1852, and remained a short time with his brother at Golf Hill; he afterwards got a temporary Burrumbeep station near Ararat...
I wished to form a small company for the purpose of buying a station and giving P. Lewis a share in it and the management of it. He went up and inspected a station that was for sale called Elderslie, situated on the Adelaide border near Apsley...P. Lewis's report being on the whole favourable, I attended the sale of the station (which was sold in Melbourne by auction in December 1857) and bought it for about 29 to 30 thousand pounds. There were four shares in the station: two were held by my brother William's estate, another by Philip Lewis and his brother William, and another by myself. There were about 20,000 sheep and 800 cattle on Elderslie.
Philip Lewis took management of the station; but after from one to two years it was found advisable that he should give it up and hand over his interest in the station to his brother William. After leaving Elderslie he went to Queensland with the view of settling there, but before he had been there many months got thrown from a horse and was killed. He was an active, clever young fellow, but occasionally not very steady in his habits.
Elderslie station was managed by Mr. William Thomson after Phillip Lewis left, until it was sold to a Mr. R.B. Ronald during the year 1866. It turned out successful as an investment."

The Family
P.L. Brown (ed.), 1971, Clyde Company Papers: Vol. VII, 1859-73, London, Oxford University Press

Philip Russell, Carngham, to George Russell, Golf Hill, 1 August 1859
"My dear George,
I was very sorry to hear by your letter...of 
Philip's behaviour in Town. 
He has gone off to the Station, 
and I think after what has happened that he will conduct himself properly
for a short time;
but as for having any confidence in a drunkard,
I have only to say that I have as little as you have, 
and unless he relies on a Higher power to save him from his besetting sin,
there is no hope for his reformation.
At the same time, as Philip's friend 
I would like you to allow this storm to blow over
before you fix upon disposing of the Station,
as it will completely blast his character if he is at once dismissed from Elderslie.
However much he is to blame for his conduct,
he deserves credit for his management of Elderslie,
in making the Station pay,
also in keeping his flocks free from scab;
and, in fact, I think his general management is good.
I therefore hope you will allow Philip to go on in the meantime..."

The Rev. Robert Russell to George Russell, Golf Hill, 29 August 1859
"I was also deeply grieved and disappointed 
to be informed of Philip's misconduct.
For this...I was altogether unprepared...
But would it not be worth while to give Philip another trial?
I have never heard the slightest whisper of unsteadiness brought against him
until he went to Ellerslie, 
and if he is turned adrift in the summary manner you propose
(even though his habits be not at present confirmed),
in all probability he will lapse into far worse courses.
If he should remain, one of the conditions should be
that he should break with his present dissolute companions
conclusively, and become
(for a certain specified time)
a total abstainer.
It is also worthy of consideration, whether it would be advisable,
to sell the station solely on P.'s account.
Would it not pay,
and pay well,
under alternative management."

The Prodigal
Clyde Company Papers: Vol VII 

Philip Lewis, Carngham, to George Russell, Golf Hill, 1 August 1859
"My dear Uncle...Willie has communicated the contents of your letter...
I regret exceedingly what has occurred, and
(as I perceive by your letter to my brother)
that you wish no further connection with me in the station of Elderslie...
I leave this to-day for Elderslie, and 
you can rely upon me
in conducting to the best of my ability the affairs of the station
until such time as you make your arrangements...
Whatever my behaviour may have been,
any purchases that I have made on account of the station 
will I think bear inquiring into..."

Philip Lewis, Dunkeld, to William Lewis, Carngham, 3 August 1859
"My dear Willie...
I feel so extremely anxious about the result of your interview with my Uncle tomorrow.
I am not so taken up about the disappointment of my own prospects
as the pain and concern it will give my parents and other friends
at home as well as here;
of course I have no one to blame but
my own infatuated folly,
and most sincerely do I repent of it:
should my Uncle overlook this affair
he will never have occasion to regret giving me another trial,
as from that day ever afterwards
no one shall ever see me in that state again:
this affair will have that beneficial result attending it,
that of effectually opening my eyes to such follies,
and prevent their re-occurrence again.
The disclosure you made me driving over from Carngham,
regarding the arrangement of your own plans being put out,
pains me beyond measure,
and, as I remarked then, gives me a great deal to answer for..."

Philip Lewis, Elderslie, to George Russell, Golf Hill, 16 August 1859
"My dear Uncle, I apologize for not writing sooner
in reply to your letter by last week's mail,
but the fact is I felt so disgusted with myself
and disheartened
that I staid longer on the road than I ought to have done,
but have now been here some days, and was very glad
to find everything going on right...
I thank you for offering me the further management of the station
until it is sold,
but the conditions I could not pledge myself to adhere to.
As far as the grog is concerned
I could, as I shall not taste another drop
of ale, wine, or spirits, for a year,
and will renew it again if necessary:
this I have firmly resolved to do, and hope and trust in God
to be able to keep it.
It has blasted my prospects in the meantime most effectually.
I do not altogether regret what has taken place betwixt us,
as it will be the means of leading me into another path, although
most prejudicial to my worldly interests in the meantime.
Since coming to live up here I have
every now and then
been led into these excesses:
the only gratifying reflection left is that
the station has been looked after and the stock kept in good condition,
and that you will have a fair return for your money
I have no doubt...
I had a letter from Carngham
containing the distressing intelligence of my poor Father's declining health,
and I have been leading this sort of life.
I expect Willie will be up here,
and I will make his stay here as pleasant to himself as lies in my power:
but it is a sad reflection to one,
that he should put about his friends in this manner."

The Brother
Clyde Company Papers: Vol VII

William Lewis, Elderslie, to George Russell, Golf Hill, 31 August & 3 September 1859
"My dear Uncle, I arrived here yesterday 
and was quite resolved before receipt of your letter
to procure another manager in Philip's place.
In the meantime
Philip has sold to me
his interest in this station
for eleven hundred and sixty pounds, 
and will give me delivery of the stock whenever I can
procure the services of a suitable manager...
I am very sorry indeed
that my brother should have been 
such a source of trouble and vexation:
of course he expresses much sorry and regret for his conduct,
but I for one
will not put any confidence in him for some time to come.
I have offered him the charge of Stoneleigh, 
and I hope he will stay there whilst I am away.
He seems to get on well enough upon the station
if only he would give up his drinking habit;
but he is a queer fellow...
I have a regular agreement drawn out
betwixt myself and Philip, wherein he disposes of the whole
of his interest in Elderslie
to me
for 1,160 Pounds.
I went to the place with no intention of buying his share,
but only with the wish to see that everything was going on correctly...
Philip pressed me to take his share at that price,
and I thought it was a very good opportunity of
closing his connection with the station."

The Promise
Clyde Company Papers: Vol VII

William Lewis, Stoneleigh, to George Russell, Golf Hill, 6 February 1860
"Philip has been forgetting himself again
at Smythe's diggings,
where he he went with a cheque to the Bank
which he could easily have sent by a man to Raglan.
He is out on the Run today,
and I have not seen him yet.
If he stays here, he must have nothing to do 
with any business that might take him of the Station."

Philip Lewis, Stoneleigh, to George Russell, Golf Hill, 3 March 1860
"I lead a very quiet, easy sort of life here, 
and upon the whole I am very jolly and contented,
much more I dare say than you think I have any right to deserve:
The weakness of my late conduct
causes me much more regret and annoyance than any loss
my prospects may have sustained;
However, I think I am weaned at last,
and must rub along the best way I can;
At any rate, it is little use 'crying over spilt milk'."

William Lewis, Mawallock, to George Russell, Golf Hill, 7 January 1861
"Philip has started this morning for Ballarat,
in order to take the Coach for Melbourne,
where he will join Kilduncan and then proceed to Queensland...
He has taken 200 pounds with him,
and left 1,200 pounds in my hands, 
which I have to pay upon receiving one month's notice...
I hope he will now see the folly of his unsteady habits:
None of his friends, I am afraid,
will regret his departure from the neighbourhood."

The Journey
Clyde Company Papers: Vol VII

William Lewis, Mawallock, to George Russell, Golf Hill, 2 March 1861
"...I have received a letter from Philip
requesting me to forward his money to the Union Bank, Brisbane.
...Philip has joined Sutherland and Kirk
who are now in the neighbourhood of Brisbane purchasing sheep.
...Philip is allowed to drive any Ewes that he may purchase
with their lot to the new Country.
...After buying the sheep they intend proceeding 
to the neighbourhood of Rockhampton, 
where they will shear the sheep
before going further north.
...Kilduncan has gone off from Brisbane 
in a steamer for Rockhampton..."

Philip Lewis, Brisbane, to William Lewis, Mawallock, 12 March 1861
"...I feel very much interested to get letters from you
and hear about all my old friends in your neighbourhood.
...I called on your friend Ronald on my way through;
he seemed very much inclined to invest with someone there,
but my unfortunate reputation prevented him 
making any definite proposals, and I said nothing whatever. will be months before I see Rockhampton...
I wish I had a partner with equal capital;
it would enable us to buy a bit of country...
and perhaps buy a few more ewes...
however, I must just rub along and take my chance.
I keep strictly temperate,
and with fair success will get along. I do not care
how rough and hard the life in future may be,
should it lead to something good eventually..."

William Lewis, Stoneleigh, to George Russell, Golf Hill, 23 July 1861
"A few days ago Uncle Alexander got a letter from P. Lewis,
who had got as far as Mr Ferguson's station, called Walloon, 
within 130 miles of Rockhampton, having travelled 
with Kirk and Sutherland about 300 miles.
Ferguson met him on the road and offered him for a few months
the use of an outstation hut and the Run attached...
He had to live for some time at this hut by himself:
the grass was rank and tall and the Wild dogs were troublesome.
He got the dogs poisoned, and was joined at last
by a Chinaman who proved an excellent cook.
To use his own expression, he was quite jolly.
...Philip will have an opportunity of looking out for some unoccupied country.
I fancy he will require to travel a considerable distance
from Rockhampton before he finds unoccupied country.
I was very glad to hear from Philip again,
and to learn that he was getting on so well."

William Lewis, Stoneleigh, to George Russell, Golf Hill, 22 March 1862
"Philip's monthly epistle arrived last night.
He had delivered his sheep to Ferguson,
and expects to receive back next year, on 1 March, 4,000 sheep...
Philip in the meantime will look out for Country.
Gordon had just called at Walloon, who was travelling north
with a flock of Ewes to the Burdekin River.
He wished Philip to join for a year in assisting in the settlement
on the Burdekin. Philip says he offered too little..."

William Lewis, Stoneleigh, to George Russell, Golf Hill, 22 December 1862
"Philip in writing lately sent the enclosed cheque.
His letter was dated latter end of October, Belyando.
He had not secured any country for himself,
but was on the lookout.
Gordon also writes to me, at the same time, a favourable account of Philip.
The Country on the Belyando was very much in want of rain,
but the stock belonging to Gordon were doing well."

The End
Magisterial Inquiry, Queensland State Archives, JUS/N5 (in Clyde Company Papers:VII)

Depositions taken at a Magisterial Inquiry held on the body of Philip Lewis late of Banchory, Belyando, at Claremount, on Saturday, the 8th day of August, 1863, before S.B. Davis Esq, J.P.
Edward Kearney, bushman, "...I knew the deceased Philip Lewis; I engaged with him on Tuesday evening to go to Banchory as bushman...I saw Lewis leaving the store the next morning. He was on horseback and was going on to the diggings...after proceeding about three quarters of a mile...I saw his body lying a little off the right hand side of the road, his face upwards -- He was quite insensible...tracks on the ground..dragged by the horse..."
John Winter, storekeeper residing at Clermount, "...I knew the deceased Philip Lewis; he was about thirty five years of age -- he was superintendent of Banchory Station, Belyando...He was perfectly sober at the time [he left Winter's store at 10 oclock on Wednesday morning]. Kearney, one of the men he had engaged, followed shortly afterwards -- Karney returned soon after leaving there, and informed me that Mr Lewis was lying on the road...severely injured...I saw Mr Lewis being supported on Mr Kearney's knees, and Kearney trying to give him a drink of water...Lewis was wholly insensible...Mr Lewis came to this house about half past twelve, and lived to about two. During that time he was wholly insensible. When I first saw the deceased there were recent marks of a blow on the face such as might be occasioned by a fall...The horse he was riding was one he had obtained from Mr McRae..."

John Mackintosh, chemist and druggist, "...On my arrival here shortly afterwards I found him wholly insensible, but there was no pulsation. I made an examination of the head, and from the bruises exhibited over the right malar and temporal bones, great pressure on the brain by...blood must have been produced...I think these causes sufficient to have caused death, particularly as deceased was of a plethoric temperament."

"Also in memory of George Lewis, farmer, Boglily, son of above William Lewis, died 20 June 1859, aged 67; his daughter Euphemia, died at sea December 1857, aged 19, interred at Melbourne; son Philip, killed by an accident in Queensland, August 1863, aged 31.



Popular posts from this blog

American Story: Burwell Boykin

A Grandfather's Tale: Chapter 3, THE VIRGINIA TRADE