State Library Victoria > La Trobe Journal

No 34 October 1984


Manuscripts: Life in Port Phillip, 1835–1885

Each of the letters and diaries which appears hereunder illustrates life in Melbourne and, in some instances, in the Port Phillip District, later Victoria. Most of the writers came to the Colony to settle; one to visit; and one to re-settle.
The extracts have each been lightly edited. Omissions are indicated by ellipses and indecipherable words by square brackets. Most of the extracts have been divided into paragraphs.

(i) The Port Phillip Association, 1835.

Following John Batman's initial exploration of the Port Phillip district in May and June of 1835, John Helder Wedge, a surveyor and member of the Port Phillip Association, came to the district to conduct a detailed survey. He arrived at Indented Head, on the Bellarine Peninsula, on 7 August, and by early September had reached the site of Melbourne. This letter is written to James Simpson, a fellow member of the Port Phillip Association.
About six miles up the Eastern
River at the head of Port Philip
James Simpson Esqr
Hobart Town
Dear Simpson,
I have been out a week on my present trip, for my arrival here this morning found the encampment of the persons connected with Mr. Fawkner — they are within the limits of our domain and a man of the name of Atkins who has been here & returned intend coming again immediately and also to squat upon it — now some means should be taken to convince them of the impropriety of the steps they have taken — and I think a meeting of the proprietors should be held for the purpose of considering the best steps to be taken — I think it would be as well to offer them our assistance in negotiating a treaty with the natives, on the condition of non interferance on their part — Mr. Batman from the instruction he has given his brother is an advocate for using force, or instigating the Natives to molest them — I have written to him strongly dissuading him from this & pointing out the impollicy of such steps as far as our interests are concerned — For in the event of the parties getting to blows it would afford the Govt a pretext for not complying with our application — and if the Natives are set on there is no knowing the extent of bloodshed that might follow — and the first time they took offence at us, or our servants — they would probably turn the power they had been taught to weild against ourselves — Enforce this on the Proprietors — Gellibrand can pursuade B to any course —
I have hitherto directed my attention to the West, and have examined a considerable extent — I found four new Rivers and a Lake — three of them & the Lake West of Mount Villamanata — and one between that Mt and the River traced up by Batman — The want of timber for building & fencing will be severely felt and in many places, even for fuel — The expanse of plains is supprisingly great — all covered with grass — but west of the River followed up by Batman they will not bear heavy stocking — I should think about 1 sheep to 2 acres — They somewhat resemble Salt Pan Plains except that in size the latter are to the former what a cabbage garden would be to them — Hereabouts the Country is more undulating and more woody, and the soil & grass better —
I can scarcely have any hesitation in saying that this is the place for a Township — a fine stream of water in the River — and navigable for a Vessel of 60 Tons — Fawkners vessel is now lying here in 5 fathoms — … after I have finished this journey I shall look out anxiously for an opportunity to return & should do so by Fawkners vessel only that I am anxious to complete my present journey. The proprietors ought to be excommunicated if they don't give me 2nd choice.

(ii) Stephen Ewen writes to his brother, 1839.

Stephen Ewen, the first licensee of Marida Yallock, near Camperdown (later owned by the Mackinnon family) began his experiences in Port Phillip by shipping stock over from Tasmania. This letter is one of many written to his father and brothers.
Melbourne, Port Phillip

Dear David
You will no doubt think it very careless of me not writing you since I arrived in this country but being always in the bush I really had neither opportunity nor paper pens & ink. As for time I had too much — but the best way to let you know how to get on is to begin at the beginning & give you a sketch of the kind of life we lead in this country —
I wrote Father from Launceston telling him my intentions as regards purchasing sheep which I did. I bought 750 young ewes @ I4/- & ten rams @ 50/- & had more than usual good luck in getting across the straits — only having lost 20 out of the whole which is considered good work. Although I had two men with me on board to look after them the lubbers got sick & I was obliged to look after them day & night feeding them & taking care that the[y] would not smother one another although one of the pens broke down & killed some when we arrived at Williamstown — the vessels anchor off a bit from shore & the sheep are put near shore in boats & then tossed into the water which stupefies them & my two gallant men did not like to wet their feet & thus I had to be up to my middle in water for a whole day which gave me a bad cold which laid me up for a short time — I. Auld had just returned from Sydney & took them back into the bush for a few miles until we could get a better place.
Next comes the purchasing of bullocks which are the most bothersome animals ever a person had to do with. I bought a team of 4 for £10 which has been about a regular price — with another pair which we had to hire we started with a pretty heavy load & before we got 8 miles out of town we got bogged in a marsh which we had to go through — then we had to divide the load & take it at different times to the salt water river which lies about 3 miles from this & which we cross in a punt — being to late to cross that night we had to sit up all night to watch the bullocks from straying — as the [ ] had the presence of mind to walk off & look for a comfortable bed for himself — we lit a fire & would have taken a jug of tea but we had no fresh water nearer than town — we got to our station next day from which we started a day or two after with bag & baggage — my mare Sall in the bakers cart with the posts sheep nets pots pans etc which we had to pitch every night to prevent the wild dogs from attacking and rushing. I never had my sheep rushed which I attributed to having a good dog or two tied round the yard & we lay in our tent near the yard with our clothes on for months together & as the native dogs always howl before making an attack we got out & after them —
Sheep here can scarcely be kept free of scab & I may venture to say that there are not two clean flocks in this part of the country — I set out this journey with the intention of going to the west but I was advised to go across the country about 40 miles to what is called a very splendid run we arrived at this place on an evening & the bullocks were so much knocked up that we thought they could not wander so we turned them loose & then we were left in a beautiful place certainly for 3 weeks but not a drop of water within less than 3 miles & that only a very small hole full of insects which we very nearly drained. I took my bread cart & came to this small hole every day with a 5 gall cask — When we found the bullocks however I made off to 2 or 3 water holes where we pitched our tent & remained until I sold my sheep — By the bye the last place there was an old hut with a piece of a roof only — it was very cold frost & ice 1/2 inch thick in the morning on a basin or any water we had in small tins — many a time I have wished I had my father's byer — I wish we had as good houses as it were in town …
I had particular reasons for selling the sheep — first we could not find a run without going a long way back & in consequence of the sheep beginning lamb they could not travel & being young & 4 or 5 months between their ages it would have been a constant lambing through the summer when there will be no water & most probably burned out as the whole of these planes were last summer for nearly 100 miles — the grass comes up very sweet after burning — the plains except in the gullies which generally intersect them are fitted for nothing except feeding sheep & that only where there is water which is a very rare commodity here in summer — to finish about the sheep. I sold them principally with a view of purchasing a farm at the last Govt sales to A. M, Watson who has young [ ] of Dunholm under his care for

Melbourne from the Survey Office, 1839, by Robert Hoddle. H260, La Trobe Collection

32/6 & £4 [ ] which after a little expense you will observe is a profit as good as you have on salt — The land at the sales went higher than I expected I bid 38/- per acre for a farm of 537 acres & it was bought for 1/- more another sold as high as 50/- — I am not very sorry about losing it as I thought it was dear enough as the water was brackish but beautiful rich black soil thinly timbered & only 8 miles from town —
I have now come into town where I have bought a house & got our things out of the store which cost us as much as a house rent sold my bullocks with £10 profit after taking the use of them for 4 m[onths] — As I have got my things arranged in town I am about to start for Van Diemens land to try a speck on horse flesh which bring very high prices here a £10 horse at home would bring £50 or a common £15 nag £60 or £70 & some as high as 100 guineas — they never think of age or soundness here they are put up to auctions & they are all under 5 years …
I have got two town allotments I perhaps will build on soon as rents of houses are very high … many people have made large fortunes by purchasing town allotments which were sold about £10 per acre in Sydney & are now selling here by them in good situations as high as £800 — they cut them into small portions & sell them by auction. Servants are a great boar here I had to pay to an old 14 years man an old lag as they term them here at the rate of £35 per ann besides his meat — if you do not keep the fair side of them they will work some mischief let your sheep stray or something I have got quit of my one & Carmichael too & at present am my own servant —
You would laugh to see Jamie & me kindling the fire baking damper & scones & brushing our shoes as we have come to town we give them a rub which never knew it in the bush — you must send me out a couple of young chaps If Robins two Boys eldest would come if you cant get them out free I will pay their passage & give them a sallary that will enable them to repay me in a few months if the[y] are sober active & industrious they cannot fail to get on well for people here are so tired of rascally set that in general are here that deacent people will always have a preference — when they come if they do not get a free emmigrant vessell send them by a vessel direct to this —
About Melbourne the country is as beautiful as I have seen any place & for a long way up the Yarra the soil is very good it is a fine open forest with large trees which are always green casting their bark instead of their leaves — on the other side is a large plain for about 60 or 70 miles which is a little south and west of these plains come in a beautiful rich land which I have not yet seen there are only 2 or 3 settlers a good way farther on towards Portland bay which is a splendid country — there is a track now all the way to South Australia which is about 600 miles distant — the blacks here are very quiet about the settlements they are a race of good well made savages but their lubras or wives as they call them are very inferior to the men the[y] have not got clothes from people & a good many go with oppossum rugs — they quamby at their mynyp or sleep at their houses a small distance from town [ ] the Jica Jica tribe their houses consist of 2 or 3 sheets of bark & a few branches laid against a pole on the weather side & a fire in front — in good weather they hold corrobares sometimes which are very amusing at night by great fires & and coolies [?] or men wrap their legs with branches & have their bodies naked & painted with different devices white & make strange camboles all with I short stick in each hand which the[y] make a beating noise as they go on — some of the tribes are very troublesome in the country & have helped themselves to a few yellow nibera biolganas or sheep & sometimes killing the shepherd which has happened often —
I sold my turning lathe for £20 almost everything is 100 or 200 per cent above home prices by retail — Send me out by the first vessel direct to Melbourne some oil paints linseed oil & brushes for outside work mostly white paint common soda spirit of turpentine & spirit of tar rectified if there is not much difference in the price a few hhds cheapest rum leeward island of course 6 doz inch ½ screw augies 4 doz ¼ inch & quarter 2 or 3 churns of Mr. Auld's good sized for a large dairy which can be packed with goods ½ doz Dr. Gemmells kind of cheese presses put with as little bulk as possible the iron by itself & the soles by themselves —
If Bob intends coming out he should try & bring a 200 ton schooner with him & I would take the ½ of her or whole if he liked if I am able when he comes she would very soon clear herself & get a captain to engage to coast her at the rate of wages of the colony which are very high — a schooner requires fewer hands & is more easily managed than a brig — small vessels here are paying well — Tom Gray is captain of one of them that trades between this & Hobartown —
Miss Lambie [?] is here just now & is to be married soon to a Mr. M. Haslam[?] a settler &
very extensive in the sheep line [?] — I should like to hear from home as I have been wearying for that very much not having seen any papers since I was at Launceston & saw the papers with John Guthries letters on the country he has never been through & as I told him he wrote it more to make a fine story than any thing else Remember me to our folks Aunts folk & all my friends who though I do not name here I have not forgotten as I remain
Dear David your Affectionate Brother
Stephen Ewen
If you have any thing else you think would pay you may send them but do not exceed £200 & direct them to the care of H. Gerrard & Co. merchant in case I am in the country when they arrive & make out a salted[?] invoice of 25/- per Ct
I send you a paper by this post & you can let father know the news until I write him which I will probably do from VD Land.

(iii) Henry Dundas Robertson arrives at Port Phillip in 1852.

The description of Melbourne printed below is taken from a small journal kept by Henry Dundas Robertson. The remainder of the journal records a visit to Sydney in the preceding month.
Friday August 6 — 1852 — This morning came in sight of the Headlands of Port Phillip wh. are low sandy and uninteresting — At the eastern entrance was the wreck of a vessel wh. had gone ashore during the last gale — The tide was very strong & our power small so that at our first attempt to enter the steamer actually wheeled round and walked out — eventually we got in round some ugly breakers and found ourselves in the grt. bay of Port Phillip wh. in size and appearance much resembles the Bay of Manila — on one deep inlet to the westward beyond some peculiar conical hills called Station Peak is the town of Geelong
We advanced up the bay till we came in sight of the shipping lying in a tolerably protected inlet of Port Phillip at the mouth of the Yarra Yarra called Hobsons Bay — advancing round a point with a low light-house we came to an anchor amongst the shipping opposite the port town of Williams town. This is a low lying collection of houses formed entirely in connection with the shipping — a small wooden jetty is all that has as yet been formed — & there is no water in the town so that they are supplied fm the opposite shore —
We saw several small steamers racing about the different ships calling here and there in the most capricious manner — eventually one came alongside of us & as I got a hint that I shd not get up to Melbourne today unless I went in it — I managed after a grt scramble to get myself & only a small portion of my property at wh. the Captn of this magnificent craft gave me some colonial bounce — after about half of us got on board the Captn determined he had got enough so turn ahead we went & slowly got into the Yarra Yarra wh. has only 9 feet at its entrance & averages some 50 yards in breadth — The banks are low swampy & covered with manuka scrub advancing yr. nose becomes sharper than any pointers but with a desire to point it in an opposite direction to that animal But like a compas with magnetic iron above it you whirl round unable to find a resting place — yr. eyes are now attracted to large shoulders & legs of meat sticking & stinking in the reeds — before you can enquire into the cause of this you are overwhelmed by the boiling-down establishment wh. the paddles of the steamer almost touch — Here I observed hosts of pigs feasting on the stinking offal — I never touched swines flesh in Melbourne.
At last we arrived at a dirty wharf where myself & six others procured a cart for our luggage — of cabs there are only three in Melbourne wh. are always engaged by successful diggers at fr. £5 to £10 per diem — as to any of the idlers carrying anything for you they wd. rather pay to see you at it yr.self — The cart took our things a few yds. to the Port Ph. Club Hotel & my share was 5/- thus the fellow got 35/- when at the Hotel I was congratulated on obtaining a bed in a room with some others The Hotel-keeper astonished & disgusted that I did not sufficiently thank him for the favour. Thus ended my introduction to Melbourne the metropolis of gold — a day that made me more rabid than I ever had the pleasure of being before — & had it not been that such a thing as hydrophobia does not exist in the colonies I wd most certainly have gone roaring mad —

H24514, La Trobe Collection.

The next day, August 7 — 1852, at 10 a.m. I started down to Williams town in quest of my luggage — This day did not begin very propitiously as I got off without my breakfast the cook of the Hotel having made himself scarce without notice — The rascally Capt. of the river steamer wd. not oblige nearly all his passengers by putting them on board the Yarra — so I got on shore at last & thence to the Yarra & by dint of grt. civility found out that my luggage was most likely gone up in a lighter & that it wd be landed on the warf at Melbourne to take care of itself.
In my first walk through Melbourne I was much struck by the handsomeness of the original design of the streets but as yet there are only a few handsome houses — so that time must illustrate the design — The grt. want to Melbourne is the difficulty of getting at the shipping — a railway is at present projected to Williams town as also a deep canal to Hobsons Bay up to the Yarra at Melbourne a distance of only three miles — These works must however remain in embryo while labor is so expensive — but they are necessary to the progress of the town — the freight fr. Hobsons Bay to Melbourne by the lighters that discharge the ships being five times the freight out fr. England — This wd. soon ruin the trade of the place did not prices rule so high in Melbourne —
The town except one or two of the most important streets is well situated on rising hills — all in front of Melbourne towards the sea is very swampy & low but the back ground high & well wooded — The situation for the Govt. House when built is on the opposite side of the Yarra fr. Melbourne commanding a view of the town & bay — It is a remarkably handsome position though the land round it is perhaps rather too confined — adjoining but on a lower position is the Botanical garden a beautiful place — but only a portion has as yet been brought under cultivation. Mr. La Trobe the present Governor resides at a place of his own wh. they say is now worth £80,000 & wh. he purchased for c. £1200 —
Melbourne is at present a most comfortless place — I remember one day asking an Irishman was there much fruit near Melbourne — “yes” said he after a pause “a few potatoes” & this I found to be very near the truth — The dogs in Melbourne I found to be as numerous & troublesome as in a Chinese town — The leading paper here, the Argus, is the most unscrupulous opposer of Govt. & all Govt. measures speaking constantly of “our own President Mr —” — It has a large circulation but this arises fr. the necessity on the part of newly arrived colonists to look at the advertising. It is a sad pity however but that all matters relating to the colony were thrown entirely into the hands of the colonial legislature & thus throw the odium off the Govt. — The second day after my arrival I met James Robertson-Forsyth N.C.S. whom I had left in China & Bird whom I had met between Penang & Singapore & who had got an appt. in the Govt. gold escort — Met Mr. Clow an old friend of our family —
Monday August 16 — 1852 — [Here the journal ends abruptly]

(iv) Robert Whittle returns to Melbourne in 1865.

Robert Whittle, an English-born American, first came to Victoria in 1857, working mainly as a trader on the goldfields. In 1863 he married and departed for Ceylon, where he worked as an accountant. This excerpt from his reminiscences describes his return to Melbourne in 1865. After fifteen months, he left Melbourne forever, travelling first to New Zealand and then, in 1876, returning to the United States.
We passed through the Heads under sail, continuing our course down the bay for some thirty miles, until we had nearly reached the mouth of the river Yara Yara, which empties into it, at its extreme N-Western corner. From which point we were towed up the river to the City; which lies
about one and a half miles to the N-east from the head of the Bay. The river from here to the city, pursues a crooked course through a dismal and dreary swamp; winding and bending about, with the appearance of a narrow stagnant ditch more than any self-respecting stream, through a flat reedy waste, partly covered with salt lagoons; and reeking with unsavoury smells. This is what the approach to the city by water at that time, used to be like. We finally, late in the afternoon, reached and made fast to the “Australian” wharf, at the S-western limits of the city.
On our northern course up the Bay we saw, first the little town of Sorento, on our left, close to Schnapper Point; which is just inside the Heads. And some miles further on, on the same shore, where the bay greatly widens out, lay the town of Geelong; which a few years before, had competed with Melbourne for first position as entrepot for the Colony; and between which two towns, the first R-way built in this colony was still uncompleted when I first got here, early in '57. A little farther along from this point, we sighted on our right — That farthermost outpost of the big city's suburbs, named Brighton. Next, some four to five miles farther along, we had St Kilda on our right, and the town of Williamstown across the water, to the left. Whilst further along, at the bays northern limit; were Sandridge, on the one side, and Footscray opposite, to the left …
… During the Christmas holidays of '66, we had Mrs. Adelaide Archer and her husband, down on a visit from the country. Adelaide being a younger sister of my wife, who sometime before had been on a visit with them at their home in Castlemaine. We always had six days racing in Melbourne during the holiday week, as it is called, and it is at this particular time, that the great Intercolonial Match is run for the Melbourne Cup, and a stake of ten thousand sovereigns. The races, are the occasion of the annual great dress Parade of ladies fine toilets, fine horse stock, and stunning vehicles, and at the meet this year, it was said, there was fifty thousand people on the Flemington course, on the day the Cup was run for the course is situated just a short distance to the west of the city, and a couple of miles beyond the north end of the Bay … The grandstand with its richly robed occupants, with the densely crowded “hill” — as the rising ground about it, and on which the stand is placed, is called — made I should judge, as fine a spectacle as could be found, I doubt not, on most any course [in] Europe …
… In the early part of the following Autumn, about the first of the month of April, we saw a fine muster and review, of the Colonial Volunteer Forces, at a place called Sunbury, on the Keilor plains, some eighteen miles north of town — The Governor, Sir Chas. Darling, being present with Major Genl. McArthur, in command of the troops. The proceedings terminated with a very spectacular sham battle, and we had no reason to complain of our giving ourselves such trouble, and going so far; to see the colonies sogers …
… During this, my last residence in Victoria, we enjoyed many pleasant excursions to the different settlements and places surrounding the city. The suburban R-ways which had been recently constructed, placing numerous points of interest, now within easy reach — and crossing over to the south side of the Yara at numerous desirable spots, where no bridges exist, was made possible by the establishment of punts or small boats, to take passengers across at these places.
The continuation of Flinders St which borders on the river, ends, in what is called the Richmond Road, going east — and this road makes a very pleasant morning walk — and Melbourne, I may here say, has one peculiarity of climate that somewhat corresponds with San-Francisco in that the early mornings are mostly, during the summer, the only enjoyable part of the day — for in the most part, the hot wind blows at Melbourne, as does the chilly, foggy wind at San Francisco — making each of these places dusty and unpleasant in the afternoons. At the point of commencement of the Richmond Road, going east, we can see the Houses of Parliament just a couple of blocks on the left, while to the right, and within the limits of Richmond Park, we can see the Melbourne Cricket Ground, and directly beyond, and across the Yarra, is the beautiful Botanical Gardens — and then, as we continue on, going, east, over a gradually raising roadway; with Fitzroy Gardens bordering one, and Richmond Park the other side of our road; we, after a stretch of near a half a mile, pass by the Bishop Palace at the south east corner of the gardens and the road — and a short distance further on, we gain the top of the Richmond Hill, and the end of the road at the same time.
Here, we are at the extreme s-eastern corner of the old city limits; and at this point we find a road running at right angles to the southward, toward a favourite resort of the oldtime residents, called Cremorne Gardens. This road ends where it reaches the river, about a mile away. Across the river to the south and east lies the one only Insane Asylum of the Colony; called Yara-Bend;
and near by it, the pretty villages of Kew and Hawthorn; whilst directly in front of us, to the right and left, are the suburbs of Richmond, and Collingwood; and farther over, directly east, Preston. To the N-east, Pentrige, and to the Nth, Carlton. While far beyond, the view reaches its limit at the dark wooded hills of the Dandenong mountains, running N and south in that section of the Colony, called Gipps-Land …
… My business during this my last residence in the colony, led me into making many excursions to up-country towns, and old mining camps. In this way, I visited many of the old familiar camps, and also, as well, many others. But now, the dizzy whirl and excitement of flush times was all past. And the drowsy stillness of some tropical calm seemed to pervade the old camping grounds, erstwhile so sounding with busy life; and the wild riot of the successful miner. That fierce storm of destroying gold seekers, whose presence here in the past, made such havock of many a beautiful silvan glade; had swept on to other and newer fields; so, leaving these once so beautiful spots to regain their primitive charm, and cover over those ugly scars, made in wresting the coveted treasure from their beautiful valleys, and charming slopes …

(v) Vernon Lee Walker writes to his mother in 1876.

In early 1876 Vernon Lee Walker arrived in Melbourne, where he worked as a clerk in the ironmongery business of McLean Brothers and Rigg. In 1880 he joined his brother in a business trading in the Pacific Islands. He was murdered by natives in the New Hebrides in December, 1887, at the age of 30.
From the time he left England, he wrote regularly to his mother. The following extracts are from the second letter he wrote from Melbourne.
137 William St.,
… I had a weeks holiday before I started work so that I had a good opportunity of looking about me. I did not care very much for the place at first but begin to like it better every day, I suppose it was because I did not know my way about, however the streets are first class here, as you cannot very well box yourself; for they all run parallel with each other.
… I suppose you will be anxious while reading this to know if I have settled down to my lodgings yet. Mr. Rigg recommended me to some, but I went to them myself, and did not like them at all, as there was only one bed to let, and there were two others sleeping in the same room, besides there wanting a pound a week. Well, — after that I thought that I would go and look for some myself (I do not think that I could imagine myself at home going from place to place looking for lodgings.) However I found a place at last. I have a bedroom to myself, not such a very fine one, but I do not mind so long as there is no one else in it. Then I also get my breakfast and dinner there (my lunch, in town), all for one pound a week (which I am led to believe is very cheap, for house rent is a most fearful price). There are five other fellows lodging in the same house and we get our meals together having the sitting rooms together. They are rather a common lot, but I have got on all right with them as yet. The house is a little way out of town, but only about ten minutes or quarter of an hours walk from business. The heat has been nearly unbearable, being sometimes as much as 110 or 111 degrees in the shade. There have been a great many horses and dogs died from sunstroke (which we never hear of in England), and a great number of people. Another queer thing here is that dogs are never by any chance, taken with hydrophobia. The heat is so bad that if you walk about a hundred yards your shirt and waistcoat are wet through with perspiration. It is a strange sight to see the people walking along the streets 3 to every I with white silk coats on, and Indian helmets. I shall have to get one, for it is hardly safe my walking about with that brown hat of mine, if I do I will get my photograph taken, and send it home to you. The hot winds are fearful, and the dust they bring
with them is something most awful, but I am getting quite used to it now …
… Food on the whole is very cheap here. Every drink is sixpence, whether you have a glass of beer or a brandy and soda, or anything else, “all the same”. It is a most fearful place for drink and one has to be very careful, especially this whether. I saw a splendid fire the other evening the blazes lit up the whole of Melbourne; it was two Chinamen's (the place is just swarming with them) houses which were burnt to the ground. There was a young fellow killed by a shark last Sunday. He foolishly bathed in the sea outside the barricade, and a shark about 15 ft. in length laid hold of him, and managed to get him away but he was so fearfully bitten, that he died in a few minutes …
… There are a tremendous lot of mosquitoes about, but they have not bitten me very badly yet, but one of my fellow-passengers was shewing me his hand and it was most fearfully bitten and he said that he was the same all over him (the fruits of sleeping with nothing on him). Fruit is not quite so cheap as I had expected, but they say that it has been a very bad year for it. Pineapples 6d ea, Peaches from 4d to 2/- doz. Strawberries are nearly over but you get a dish of them with splendid cream for 6d. Greengages are cheap, but I forget the exact price. Apples and pears are nearly the same price as at home. Oysters from 3d to 1/- doz. There are very few of the same kind of fish that we get in England. Rabbits ⅛ pr. couple, pr. couple. I fancy that the best meat is only 6d the pound …
… The people dress very queerly here, you cannot tell a gentleman till you speak to him for as a rule the gentlemen are dressed the most common. Of course I am recognized wherever I go as a “new chum” as they call it, by the cut of my clothes hat etc … .
… February 22nd … I dined with Mr. McClean last Sunday, I missed the train in the morning, and, as it was the only one till late I had to drive, which I enjoyed very much, for it is about five miles from Melbourne. They have some cabs here which they run very like omnibuses, that is they get three or four lots of people, and then charge them at so much per head, so that I drove all the way for sixpence. It is a nice little home that he has got being only one storey high. I was introduced to a lady and gentlemen who came there in the afternoon, and who happened to live near my lodgings, he invited me to come with him to the Town Hall, last night. There was a farewell meeting to a Dr. Cairns. It was a religious affair, and I found it rather slow work, but there was some fine singers there. I was however very pleased with the hall. There is a magnificent organ in it …
… I will send my photos by next mail if I think of getting them taken. You would be rather surprised if you were to see me on a Sunday going about in a white top hat (without a black band). I was obliged to get it, as I get invitations out for every Sunday …

(vi) Norman Stevenson in Melbourne and Echuca, 1885.

Norman Stevenson emigrated from England to Victoria in 1884. These two letters, written to M. H. Lapidge (formerly his colleague at Lloyd's of London) describe some of his early experiences in the colony.
Echuca Jan 31/85
Dear Lapidge,
I must begin my letter by apologizing to you for not having written to you since I landed in Melbourne last September. I have not forgotten you however and have allways been going to write to you but every time something has happened to delay it.
I met a fellow on board ship who was going up to an uncle of his who had a farm near Moama a little town in New South Wales about two hundred miles from Melbourne. He asked me if I would come with him and after some reflection I accepted his offer so as soon as I got to Melbourne I went to Mr. Turner the gentleman to whom I had a letter of introduction and asked him whether it would be advisable to go to a farm up country

Panoramic view of Melbourne, c. 1866, by Charles Nettleton H843, La Trobe Collection.

instead of taking a situation in an office in Melbourne. I forgot to tell you that I abandoned my original intention of going to Sydney as I heard very bad accounts of the place, the whole of New South Wales is in a very bad way just now owing to the several dry seasons that they have had.
Mr. Turner told me that it was a very healthy life [and] at all events I could try it [and if] I did not like it could come back again. After stopping five days in Melbourne my friend and I started for Moama and got there safely, but his uncle turned out to be only a farmer with a very small farm, and there was nothing much to do there. However his uncle knew a gentleman who lived about sixty miles away who had a lot of property on which he was running sheep and we thought the best thing to do would be to go to him and see if he could give us any thing to do so we did and stayed at his place until a little after Christmas.
I found it so awfully dull that I decided to go back to Melbourne & get a billet in an office there which I did and Mr. Turner put me into the Commercial Bank of which he is manager and I am now in the branch office at Echuca until the end of March when I shall return to the head office at Melbourne.
Echuca is a town on the Murray just on the border of Victoria, it has about five thousand inhabitants. Nearly all the houses are built of wood a brick house is an exception.
I was very pleased with Melbourne although I have not nearly seen all of it as I was only there ten days when I went down after Christmas but it is a wonderful town for its age and the traffic in the principle streets in [the middle] of the day resembles London more than any place I have seen. There is a very nice public library into which you can go and take any book you like you are only requested to put it back again when you have done using it. There are four theatres a museum and picture gallery, very good docks and pretty parks all round the suburbs.
When coming up to Echuca from Melbourne the train stopped an hour at Sandhurst a large town in the middle of Victoria. There were any amount of public houses there or rather hotels, for there are no public houses in Australia the most insignificant beer shop goes by the name of an hotel. I thought at first that every inhabitant had an hotel for his own private use as there seemed to be quite as many hotels as private houses, but I afterwards found out that the town was in the vicinity of several gold mines and the hotels were for the accomodation of miners who were constantly coming there to stay …
… There has been a very bad railway accident between Melbourne and Sydney, a train ran off the metals and rolled down a bank a great many were killed or injured and several are still missing.
This is the summer here and it is awfully hot too. All the grass which was green in the spring time has been burnt up by the hot sun and presents a dry appearance and is of a light yellow colour, this has been the worst season that the farmers round here have had for years they have scarcely had any rain at all and a great many of them are selling out and going away.
If you answer this letter will you send yours to the General Post Office at Melbourne as I cannot give you any address because I dont know where I shall stay when I go back there. I should very much like to hear from you so please write and oblige me …
1 Park Terrace

Dear Lapidge,
… I have been nearly a month in Melbourne now. I came down from Echuca (to pronounce this name sneeze loudly) on the 22nd ult and I believe I am now settled at the Head Office for good. I may also mention in regard to Echuca, that it is a native name meaning, “meeting of the waters” as the Campaspe a creek runs into the Murray at this point.
I had some very funny experiences up country but if you have seen my letter you no doubt know all about them so I shall not repeat them here. I think that on the whole I have been pretty fortunate and have done very well so far, though of course it takes a little time to get colonised and into the colonial way of thinking that there is no place like Australia, there is one thing that I am sure I shall never agree with and that is colonial football, the biggest farce my dear Lapidge that you ever saw in your life. I went to see a match last Saturday week and was positively disgusted with it, especially after having belonged to such a crack Rugby club as the Wasps (ahem) The rules so far as I can make out are as follows, A player may pick up the ball and run with it, but he must bounce it every five yards, just fancy there is no such thing as offside and men are planted close up to the enemy's goal in order to put the ball through not
over the posts when it is kicked up to them from the other end of the field. These gentry are called goal sneaks, to my mind, a very appropriate name. The whole thing is a most miserable mixture of Rugby and Association Rules and is far behind either of them.
Some of the people who came out with us have had some very queer times since landing. Two of them went on to the stage as supers in Macbeth two days after landing at 2/6 a night. One poor beggar tramped all the way to Sydney, over six hundred miles without finding employment of any kind. The lot that came out in the Winifred have nearly all left Melbourne, some have gone to Adelaide and some to Queensland, I still meet one or two of them occasionally and [am] on very intimate terms with a fellow who came out with us he is living about twenty minutes walk from here. I am allways very pleased to meet anyone who came out in the old ship, after living together for three months and all leaving England at the same time there seems to be a certain tie or second hand relationship between us, which makes you feel differently towards them than you would to any one you pick up afterwards …
… I was rather sorry to leave Echuca I had just got to know everybody when I had to leave, it is a curious specimen of a town, there are two principle streets and then a lot of little wooden one storied houses built just where the owner of the land has thought fit, but it is wonderful to think that sixty [years] ago or even less than that it was a forest where a white man had never been seen. You see natives sometimes in the town, wretched looking objects who are being rapidly wiped off the face of the earth by whisky and tobacco. The Chinese however are in a very different position there are any amount of them in Echuca and they are very industrious and thrifty they supply all the fruit and vegetables which they grow themselves on land which they have bought. Several Chinamen in Melbourne have big banking accounts and speak English quite well.
Coming down to Melbourne I stopped at Sandhurst, a very different place to our Sandhurst in England it is a large mining town and is built in a valley while all round you can count any amount of gold mines or rather you can see the shafts where they are sunk …