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The Golden South Memories of Australian Home Life from 1843 to 1888

The Golden South
Memories of Australian Home Life from 1843 to 1888
Title: The Golden South Memories of Australian Home Life from 1843 to 1888
Release Date: 2018-07-11
Type book: Text
Copyright Status: Public domain in the USA.
Date added: 27 March 2019
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T H E   G O L D E N   S O U T H

G O L D E N   S O U T H

FROM 1843 TO 1888


‘Such is the patriot’s beast, where’er we roam,
His first, best country ever is at home.’





As I stood on the deck of one of the largest of the Peninsular andOriental Company’s steamers, that now almost annihilate distance betweenEngland and her colonial possessions, taking a last look at the landwhere I had left youth, womanhood, kindred, friends, and the dust ofparents, I thought, “Is there anything I can do in return for all Godhas done for me here—anything to prove my gratitude to the many truefriends I am leaving: the Australians, young and old, who have throngedaround us to bid us farewell?” Nearly half a century has passed sincethe good ship Euphrates came to anchor in this, one of the grandestharbours of the world, and I stood, as I am now standing, looking at thebeautiful shores of Sydney Harbour. But what a change! Then few signs ofhabitation were to be seen, and now one sees stately mansions, countlessand beautiful, surrounded by foliage almost to the water’s edge, silentwitnesses of God’s goodness and man’s perseverance. One stately housethere was, with battlements and tower, set in terraced grounds, withbeautiful trees, shrubs, and flowers that only bloom{2} under glass incolder climes; and over all a sky blue and transparent beyonddescription. In this house there dwell the descendants of two who stoodnear me when first I saw this lovely land. They are now in a still saferand more beautiful haven, having lived a good life here, and left theirchildren the priceless inheritance of a stainless name. Two of thatfamily have just left us; I need not say, “Go and do likewise,” foralready they have laid up treasures in heaven.

Why do I wish to write of Australia, more especially of New South Wales,when such men as Froude, Trollope, and Forbes have done so? Firstly, Ipromised, and secondly, because travellers like those mentioned aremerely birds of passage for a few months or weeks, staying amongst us,feted by a few men in power or position, travelling by special trainsthrough the country, or on mere pleasure excursions, seeing what is tobe seen under the most favourable conditions, and listening tointerested or interesting descriptions of places and people that theyhave not had time to investigate. They leave without having theslightest idea of the real homes, lives, intellects, and capabilities ofeither country or people; and of the best families, scattered over hervast territory, they know little or nothing. The descendants of militaryand naval men, doctors, lawyers, clergymen, and merchants of the olddays, too often not the richest or most powerful men now. Thereforetravellers in these days come and go, either disparaging or fulsomelypraising, just as some{3} do who have visited England, and give a badimpression of our people and homes. I cannot help alluding to this, as Ihave heard many stories of colonists’ behaviour when in England duringthe Colonial Exhibition in London. These may be, and no doubt were, inmany instances true, still, if we were to judge the English people, orindeed any nationality, by those who have visited our shores since the“gold mania,” I am afraid our experience would be equally unfortunate.No! let us not be too hasty in judging the many by the few; to myreaders in both countries I say it. This record of a woman’s life andexperience does not pretend to any literary talent; it is written withthe hope of bringing the people of both homes nearer together,especially the young. Let the older country have patience with theyounger, and lead them by patience and experience, as well as timelyadvice, to serve their God, Queen, and country.

To the younger I dedicate “The Golden South.{4}


On a cold dull March morning we left our home in London for the WaterlooStation, to go by the London and South-Western line to Southampton, fromthence to Portsmouth to join our ship. After dining at the Ship Hotel,we went on board the vessel which was to be our abode for four monthsand a fortnight. Now, though nearly fifty years have passed, I see theplace and recall the strangeness of it all. The ship was an old EastIndiaman with only four large cabins opening into the saloon or “cuddy,”as it was then generally called. Our family had two of these, so we werevery well off for room and comfort. We left on 25th March, and weretossing about the famed Bay of Biscay until 10th April. As I am notwriting a diary of our voyage, I will merely mention its chiefincidents. On the 12th of May, when south of the equator, we sighted aFrench vessel bound to Buenos Ayres, that diverged from her course withthe view of “speaking” to us. They invited us to dinner; but on ourrefusal, accepted an invitation instead to dine with us. The captain andtwo passengers were to be our{5} guests, our boat going for them. Theywere most delightful people, and Frenchmen-like, full of compliments toour cook. As some of our passengers spoke their language fluently, theresult was a very pleasant change in the usual monotony of a longvoyage. Just imagine such a thing being done in these days of steam andquick passages: the passengers from one vessel dining on board another,spending a few hours, then returning, and being near enough to hear themusic played on board of each vessel, the Frenchmen vainly trying togive us “God save the Queen.” We were able to give them the“Marseillaise” splendidly, having some good musicians on board. On 30thMay we encountered a terrible gale, carrying away part of our bulwarkson the lee side: during this dreadful weather what was left of our livestock died. This weather continued till 8th June when off Table Bay, andwe had to lay-to all night. No one thought of sleep. Tales of phantomships and wrecks recurred to the nervous. However, about 9 A.M. of the9th June we anchored safely in the bay. We were unable to land for somehours, but at last went on shore and took rooms at the George Hotel.What a rest from the unceasing noise of a ship and all its miseries tothe landsmen! Cape Town was lovely, at least I thought so,—verydifferent from England, the deep red-clay of the roads, numbers ofnatives, strange waggons drawn by bullocks, the mountains for abackground, and now (while off it) the beautiful sea in front. Thebazaar-like shops, strange carriages and{6} horses, the hotel so differentfrom anything I had ever seen—all come back as a picture, as I write.

We remained at the Cape until the 19th June, and had many drives. Incarriages drawn by six small horses we started for Upper Constantia, VanR——’s vineyard and wine estate, where there is a well-constructedhouse of modern style, elegantly furnished. In the garden there was aKaffir’s hut, with clay figures life-size, orange trees, subtropicalfruit trees, and flowers everywhere around. We were conducted throughthe cellars, and tasted the wine, which has so great a reputation. Wewent also to Lower Constantia, where the vineyard of Van C—— issituated. This was quite a different style of place, close to themountains, with the house, garden, and people of the old Dutch type. Inthe cool garden violets, primroses, and other English flowers wereblooming, the last I saw for many a day, and those dearest to me neversaw again. We were delighted with the wildflowers, my father making acollection for his herbarium,—geraniums, phlox, and many others.

While at the Cape there was a ball given at Government House, to whichsome of our passengers went, my father and mother among the number, andin that out-of-the-way place the former met an old schoolfellow; so evenin those early days, when steam was almost in its infancy, the smallnessof the world was exemplified.

We left on the 19th June, and had very favourable weather, only havingtwo gales, in one of which we lost a{7} man overboard—the carpenter. Wehad three families of returning colonists,—the Attorney-General,Archdeacon C——, with his wife and two children, and another lady andgentleman, with one child. Divine service was held every Sunday, andthough the archdeacon was seventy-five years of age, he was a goodpreacher and very active. He had gone home blind from cataract, butAlexander, the famous oculist, restored his sight.

As we neared the end of our voyage, it became very monotonous to some,as we were growing tired of one another; and to those who were going toan unknown country and who had heard a great deal more about thatcountry than they had known prior to leaving, there was a dread of “whatthe future might hold in store for us”; and in my own family especiallythis thought would intrude. “We had better have remained in England;”but it was too late now.

We were sailing through Bass Straits, passing islands, and with theTasmanian land to the south of us, in a few days expected to see theland of “The Golden South.” We passed Sydney Heads late, and until theanchor was let go did not know that we had at last reached ourdestination. A resounding knock at our Venetians made me wake up.“K——,” said my mother, “we are in fairyland; look out of the port.” Idid, and my eyes were dazzled by the brilliant sunrise of an AustralianAugust morning, the long white beaches fringed by heights wooded down tothe rippling bay. I was very soon on deck, and{8} even now can almost feelthe thrill of delight at the view then presented before me. Many haveseen this and written of its loveliness since, in these days of travel;but not as I saw it then, as to a certain extent man’s improvements(save the mark!) have marred some of the Master’s works. Few houses wereto be seen, only a few cleared spaces surrounded with trees of the mostluxuriant foliage. We waited till the health officer came on board andpronounced “All well;” then the pilot took charge of the ship, and wewere soon gliding towards the anchorage, from which we could see Sydneyand the north shore with its few houses buried in foliage. Soon the deckwas crowded.

Our archdeacon’s eldest son, I think, was the first on board to greetthe parent so loved and respected. “I can see you now,” were the oldman’s words of greeting. We were soon standing on the quay, a smallaffair then, and entered the hired close carriages brought by myfather’s partner to take us to his house. We drove along George Street,past the Gaol and Barracks, then into Pitt Street. “Well! what do youthink of it, K——?” asked my mother, I suppose from seeing the blanklook on my face; I was so dreadfully disappointed. “It is like E——,where we stayed last summer, not a bit like a foreign country; Cape Townis much prettier.” “Ah! Miss K——, you will find it foreign enough byand by,” remarked our host. My mother was delighted at what troubled me.“I can fancy myself at home sometimes,” she murmured. She was a truechild of the city. London had always been her home,{9} and though, for herchildren’s sake, she left it every summer for the country, she onlyendured the change, and like Charles Lamb, saw nothing in it. “Londonsuits me best, and humanity is more satisfying than mountains,

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