“Like hyenas…” Conflict on the frontier of colonial settlement at Cambridge Downs Station in 19th century Queensland

 “Like hyenas, the savage crowd come sneaking up to the house, and Charlie chuckles as he coolly drops two of the foremost with his double barrelled carbine. ‘By God! Missus,’ he exclaims, ‘that’s the way to wake ‘em up blackpellow’.”

The North Queensland Register, 21 December 1892

The savagery of conflict on the frontier of colonial settlement in 19th century Australia is apparent in countless reminiscences published in the newspapers of the time, in official documents penned in spidery script using antiquated language, and in the memory and oral tradition handed down through generations of both Indigenous and colonial settler descendants.

Although it sounds like a story from the Boys Own Annual, the above account was published in The North Queensland Register in December of 1892. It refers to events that took place on a pastoral station on the Flinders River in the Burke District of northern central Queensland, presumably sometime during the 1860s, and describes several bloody encounters between local Indigenous people and pastoralists. It is significant in that it describes the spatial context of the conflict – the pastoralist’s hut, and much is suggested by the language and style of prose adopted by the author.

The subjective nature of documentary evidence regarding conflict has resulted in an historical narrative whereby the violent nature of events has been either repudiated or ignored (Foster 2009); that is to say, history has either painted the colonial settler as a valiant innocent, bravely defending their territory, or concealed the occurrence of conflict altogether. And although we’ve long acknowledged the role of bias in understanding history, this is an issue which has been particularly problematic to our understanding of the ‘frontier’. Consequently, some historians have suggested that archaeologists could make a valuable contribution to this field of research (see Attwood and Foster 2003:23).

Cambridge Downs Station, also located on the Flinders River, was established sometime during the 1860s, and was one of the largest and most successful pastoral enterprises in the region. The first homestead built on the property was unusual in that it was constructed of stone, and had a “cane grass roof, flagstone floor, and one inch bars in the windows” (Authurs 1995:267). It was sturdily built and unlike any other homestead in the region. Local anecdotal evidence suggests that the substantial nature of construction was a response to the threat of attack from local Indigenous people and, indeed, other researchers have suggested that fortification of dwellings is apparent in other homesteads in a number of other states (Burns 2010; Grguric 2008, 2010).

The purpose of my directed study, then, is twofold. In the first instance I will be bringing together available documentary sources in an attempt to reconstruct the history of the Cambridge Downs Station during this period of settlement and conflict. I will also be analysing the construction of the homestead in an attempt to ascertain whether it really does provide independent evidence of conflict on the frontier.

Megan Tutty, Master of CHM student


Authurs, J. A. 1995 From Wyangarie to Richmond: An Historic Record of the Richmond District of North Queensland. Richmond, Australia: Richmond Shire Council.

Burns, K. 2010 Frontier conflict, contact, exchange: Re-imagining colonial architecture. In M. Chapman and M. Ostwald (eds), Imagining … Proceedings of the 27th International SAHANZ Conference, pp.70-80. Newcastle, Australia: Society of Architectural Historians, Australia and New Zealand.

Foster, R. 2009 ‘Don’t mention the war’: Frontier violence and the language of concealment. History Australia. 6(3):68.

Grguric, N. 2008 Fortified homesteads: The architecture of fear in frontier South Australia and the Northern Territory, ca. 1847–1885. Journal of Conflict Archaeology 4: 59–85.

Grguric, N. 2010 Staking a claim: Fortified homesteads and their place in Australian settler identity construction. Archaeological Review from Cambridge 25: 47–63.

Anonymous  1892  In the Sixties. The North Queensland Register 21 December 1892, pp.14–19. Retrieved 29 March 2014 from http://trove.nla.gov.au/.

Aboriginal Regional Authorities

By April Webb

My directed study focuses on the establishment of Aboriginal Regional Authorities in South Australia, a system that aims to restore effective regional governance tailored to Aboriginal people. With the implications such a system could have for cultural heritage management, it is of course important for any hopeful archaeologist to get an idea of how it might work.

Unfortunately, this hopeful archaeologist did her BA at the University of Sydney and majored in Classical Archaeology. Specifics about Greek housing 700-400BP? You got it. Latin inscriptions? Sure. Australian heritage legislation…

….. what?

I had a lot of work to do.

Luckily, my research so far on Regional Authorities has proven as fascinating and informative as Allen and Greenough’s Latin Grammar (which is to say—very). The establishment of adequate systems for Aboriginal government, from what I have read, seems to rely on two things: self-determination and a regional approach.

Such a system has already been attempted with The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC), which was established in 1990, and provided for the establishment of regional councils. Unfortunately, for a range of reasons (many of which had to do with Howard’s policy of ‘mainstreaming’ and scandals involving the ATSIC’s leadership, rather than the system itself) it was abolished in 2004.

More relevant to the current proposed system is perhaps the Ngarrindjeri Regional Authority. Established in 2007 by the Ngarrindjeri Nation, this Regional Authority could be considered an exemplar for regional Aboriginal governance. One important point made by the Ngarrindjeri Authority in their submission to the South Australian Government on the topic of Regional Authorities could have important implications for heritage management—they wish for South Australian and Commonwealth agencies to transform the existing management regimes in the region towards recognition and support for healthy Ngarrindjeri Ruwe/Ruwar (country). Recognition that Indigenous people have their own views on what constitutes their own heritage is nothing new. But, with a regional system of governance, Indigenous heritage management could become much more nuanced.

This is my understanding, anyway. It’s a lot of information to digest, especially for someone who at the beginning of the semester had to google ‘What is an Act’ (sort of joking). Next blog?, I hope to have a much more in-depth idea of what these Regional Authorities will mean for cultural heritage management.

To Read or Not to Read: How to Choose Suitable Scholarly Sources

Back in the days when you had to go to the library and search through the table of contents of tens or even hundreds of scholarly journals, the sources available were limited by access, time and restricted by choice. You had to rely on the title of the article, the topic of the journal or even just the historical focus of the author. Then you would have to read the abstract in order to assess its value to your study. With today’s technology and the progression of online databases for peer reviewed journals, publications and library catalogues, coupled with the now commonplace use of electronic documents, the researcher now suffers from too much choice. The world has expanded tenfold from what was researchable as little as ten years ago thanks to the World Wide Web. When faced with the problem of “too much choice”, how can we filter quickly through the results of a simple database search that may provide over 10,000 matches? This blog will outline the easiest and quickest way to continue your research journey without wasting time on reading articles that are vaguely related to your study or not at all.

As part of my post-graduate Directed Study course (ARCH8404) at Flinders University, I am doing independent research with the aim of producing a professional, industry standard field report in my field of maritime archaeology. While my focus is very specific, the guidelines outlined in this blog are applicable to any research project. I use these same tips for compiling my thesis literature review and Directed Study reference list.

1)      Plan your work and work your plan.

The source finding process can be painless by developing an effective strategy (Hays et al. 2012:54). This means that you have your research question and aims compiled before you start searching for sources. Have a checklist of the types of data you need from your sources (like research design templates, theory, methods, case studies, etc.), as well as a list of keywords from your topic that may be helpful in a database search, just remember that to include alternative spellings and common abbreviations and acronyms to ensure full search coverage (Hay et al. 2012:55; Neuman 2009:28). It has also been helpful to me to use some ‘self-help’ writing guides (Figure 1), many of which helped me to write this blog, like: Making the Grade (Hay et al. 2012), The Dissertation Journey (Roberts 2004), and Understanding Research (Neuman 2009).

Using guides can make your life a lot easier. Odds are, if you are struggling with something, others have too.

Figure 1. Using guides can make your life a lot easier. Odds are, if you are struggling with something, others have too. Photograph by: C. Colwell-Pasch.

2)      Use databases.

While it is understood that some sources, such as large texts and primary sources, will not be available in a database (although some of this data could be, in a digitised form), most of the scholarly sources you will need for your study are available in full text online. Some of the more generic databases, like Google Scholar or your library’s search engine (Figure 2), will provide a great starting point for your journey (Roberts 2004:88). More specific databases can include publisher’s websites that can search through peer-reviewed articles for your topic or keyword. A helpful tip is to use a journal or spreadsheet to keep track of what you have already done in case you need to replicate the search: include date, keywords used, Boolean terms and databases searched (Hay et al. 2012:55; Neuman 2009:28).

Figure 2. Flinders University search engine for locating sources within the library or within accessible publishers websites.

Figure 2. Flinders University search engine for locating sources within the library or within accessible publishers websites.

3)      Check source type credibility.

The task is to find high-quality, relevant, reputable sources (Hay et al. 2012:58). It is  credibility of the source that determines whether or not it is scholarly or useable. Peer-review is a type of quality assurance for sources (Neuman 2009:30). While it is tempting, Wikipedia is NOT a scholarly source. It can be used to point you in a research direction but its lack of regulation and open source format hurts its credibility (Roberts 2004:88). The most credible sources are official government websites, peer-reviewed journals, reputable news sources, edited texts and institutional sites (universities, regulatory agencies, and governing bodies). Individual or business websites, web forums, blogs, materials published with ulterior motives are not recommended for use.

4)      Check specific source relevance.

This means evaluating the new source you just found following the above criteria and looking at it through the lens of your research topic. Some of the important points to think about when considering a source are: relevance, author affiliations (sometimes hard to distinguish), credibility of source, the date of publication (it is important to keep up with the times), and the sources cited (did THEY use credible sources?). This is almost like conducting a ‘background check’ to make sure that by using this source you are not going to get any criticism. By making sure you tick these boxes, there will never be an issue with the source chosen.

5)      When is enough, enough?

You followed the steps above, making sure you have a plethora of scholarly sources to add to your arguments in your study, but when do you stop looking? This is arguably the hardest part of the entire exercise (Roberts 2004:74). Gardiner and Kearns (2010:12) call this ‘readitis’. Always chasing the next source or the next idea. This can be dangerous to your study, because, while having a lot of information is good, you have timelines to meet and formatting to keep in mind. Set yourself up a simple reading schedule where you find and read two articles a day for week. The larger the project, the longer your schedule, but be realistic and set yourself a cut-off date and stick to it!

6)      Organisation is key!

The larger the project you are working on, the more need you will have to keep your sources organised. Programs like Endnote or Readcube are excellent for organising your sources and making them your own personal database of sorts. Do not, however, underestimate the power of a proforma and a binder. I use this method as a way to keep my thoughts organised and I even rate the reference in terms of its relevance to the different sections of my study (Roberts 2004:80). By writing down important theories or arguments while reading, you can make the process of integrating that information into your assignment that much easier (don’t forget the page numbers!) (Neuman 2009:37). Burke and Smith (2004:337) suggest that the minimum you record from a source is:

  •          source title
  •          author
  •          title of journal or book from which source was found
  •          publisher
  •          date of publication
  •          place of publication
  •          page range of source in journal or edited chapter


Burke, H., and C. Smith 2004 The Archaeologists Field Handbook. Crows Nest: Allen and Unwin.

Gardiner, M. and H. Kearns 2010  Turbocharge Your Writing: How to Become a Prolific Academic Writer. Adelaide: Flinders Univerity.

Hay, I., D. Bochner, G. Blacket, and C. Dungey 2012 Making the Grade: A Guide to Successful Communication and Study. Melbourne: Oxford University Press.

Neuman, W.L. 2009 Understanding Research. Boston: Pearson Education, Inc.

Roberts, C. M. 2004 The Dissertation Journey: A Practical and Comprehensive Guide to Planning, Writing, and Defending Your Dissertation. Thousand Oaks: Corwin Press.

“Never, though you are handsome, strut before ladies like a Turkey-Cock”

By Amy Batchelor

Do you ever strut before ladies like a Turkey-Cock? Well don’t!

While researching daily 19th century life in Adelaide, I stumbled across an article in the Southern Australian, Friday 27 May 1842, titled “Rough Every-Day Maxims”. According to the article, strutting before ladies like a Turkey-Cock is one of the forty-six things you should “Never” do!


Some of these maxims still make perfect sense in the 21st century. For example, ‘Never contradict a lady – it is rude;’ one can hardly argue with that, and I’m sure everyone would agree that we should ‘Never get intoxicated, and “put an enemy into your mouth to steal away your brains”.’

Some provide curious insights into the fashion of the times, such as ‘Never, although you sport imposing whiskers, twist them every five minutes,’ while some may leave you scratching your head: ‘Never show “the lions” to your “country cousins,” unless you are sure they “will pay the piper.” Wait, what?


For maximum maxim enjoyment, I have listed the forty-six pearls of wisdom in an easy to read format below. Take note, because while 172 years may have passed, much of this advice stands the test of time; especially if you wear a wig, and you intend to jerk off your hat, to a lady…

  1. NEVER borrow money from a friend, if you wish to retain his friendship
  2. Never wear a shabby coat, even although the tailor’s bill should be unpaid, for the world regards the outer garb more than the inner man
  3. Never go to law – it is expensive and harassing, and you have often the supreme satisfaction of “gaining a loss”
  4. Never, if your wife is a vixen, ask a friend to dinner, unless it is one of her sunny days and, above all, avoid a “washing day”
  5. Never run upon the street, unless you are chased by a mad bull or the police
  6. Never, if you are given to after-dinner oratory, speak above ten minutes – conciseness in such cases is a cardinal virtue; and avoid expressions as “proudest day of my life,” “inadequate to respond,” “overpowering gratitude,” “never-to-be-forgotten honor,” “cherish till latest day of my life,” &c., &c. If you are given to action, you need not sweep the crystal from the table
  7. Never marry a young lady who depreciates her female friends – it is envy and strife; and ten to one she will turn out a shrew
  8. Never be witty at the expense of others – it may provoke laughter, but it will infallibly raise enemies
  9. Never, if you intend to sing, pretend you have caught a cold, but “strike the lyre at once”
  10. Never aim at being king of the company – it is an unamiable and usurped exaltation, at which the feelings revolt; and rather be a listener than a speaker
  11. Never lose your temper in argument – it is a sure sign that you have taken the wrong side, or got the worst of the debate
  12. Never speak disparingly [sic] of absent friends – “walls have ears,” and a “little bird will carry the tale”
  13. Never read a book on the streets – it is a silly piece of affectation
  14. Never praise yourself; and if honors are thrust upon you, carry them with meekness
  15. Never leap from a railway coach when it is flying at the rate of thirty miles an hour – it is safer to sit still at all hazards
  16. Never, when you are shaking hands with a young lady, squeeze her fingers till she is obliged, in self-defense, to call out “O, fye!”
  17. Never be surprised that your letters to your friends remain unanswered – correspondence costs trouble
  18. Never ape singularity in dress – it is arrant puppyism, excessively vulgar, and worthy only of tailors’ apprentices, who, on the Sundays, play the part of “imitation Highlanders”
  19. Never rejoice in the misfortunes of others – the clouds may be rising which will overshadow your own prospects
  20. Never oppress your dependents – it is the act of an unfeeling coward: “the merciful man is merciful to his beast”
  21. Never get into debt – it is the devil, and you are at the mercy of you know not whom
  22. Never, if you can help it, employ an attorney – the six-and-eight pennies quickly accumulate
  23. Never show “the lions” to your “country cousins,” unless you are sure they “will pay the piper”
  24. Never, though you are short-sighted, use an eye-glass, and stare ladies out of countenance – it is rude and vulgar
  25. Never fight with a bully – “it is better to flatter a fool than fight him”
  26. Never marry a widow with a small family, else you will not have your sorrows to seek
  27. Never associate with those below you in station – the world is censorious, and “a man is known by the company he keeps”
  28. Never wear your hat in a room – it is excessively vulgar, or excessively impudent
  29. Never, though you are handsome, strut before ladies like a turkey-cock
  30. Never, although you sport imposing whiskers, twist them every five minutes – as for moustaches, they should be put down by act of parliament
  31. Never play off a practical joke – it is characteristic of a weak, puerile, and vulgar mind
  32. Never listen to the tittle-tattle of “busy-bodies” – it is poison
  33. Never contradict a lady – it is rude
  34. Never despair, whatever betide – “it is a long wynd [sic] which has no turning
  35. Never pretend to knowledge which you do not possess – detection may be sudden and humiliating
  36. Never, if you are humorous, descend to buffoonery
  37. Never chuck your landlady under the chin – it may originate surmises
  38. Never live beyond your income – thus only will you maintain independence
  39. Never plead poverty – it is the most henious [sic] of crimes, and you will be shunned as if you had the plague-spot
  40. Never violate truth – veracity is the chief of virtues
  41. Never pay court to a jilt-maid, or wife, she cannot be depended upon
  42. Never do a dishonorable act, because it may escape the observation of the world – for when you lose self-respect, you lose peace of mind
  43. Never play the sycophant – he is a crawling reptile; despised by all good men
  44. Never get intoxicated, and “put an enemy into your mouth to steal away your brains”
  45. Never boast of your courage – the truly brave never boast
  46. Never, if you wear a wig, jerk off your hat in bowing to a lady, else you may cut a very ludicrous figure, to the great amusement of the good-natured public


The Glass Eyed Governor and the Shitty Truth behind the Proclamation

By Amy Batchelor

In her book “Family life in South Australia Fifty-Three years ago,” Watts (1890) recalls when Sir John Hindmarsh, the first Governor of South Australia, visited Kingscote in June 1838 to inspect the township and hold a levée. As Watt’s father, William Giles (1791-1862), was in charge of the South Australian Company’s station at Kingscote, it was “at once settled that [Hindmarsh] must be invited to dinner, together with his suite, and the captain of the Queen’s ship, the Pelorus.” This impending visit caused much anxiety as “the family had only just moved into the house, which was in the greatest state of confusion… and moreover that they were living in a place where frequently provisions of even the plainest description could not be procured for love or money, it must be admitted their position was a perplexing one… To provide, at only twenty-four hours’ notice, a suitable dinner to set before twenty-four persons, was no easy task.”

One of Watt’s sisters, seated with a full view of Hindmarsh, noted that “his eyes were of the brightest blue… but that one remained stationary in its orbit, and had a cold, unmeaning stare, which puzzled her excessively.” When she asked a sailor what was the matter with the Governor’s eyes, he gave her a single word response; “glass.” Watts recalls the Governor “was of middle height, pleasant looking, with frank, genial, affable manners, and every inch a sailor.”

Genial, affable manners – interesting, but not exactly how history paints the man.

B 45581Sir John Hindmarsh (1785-1860), c 1836. Image courtesy of SLSA B 45581

According to History SA, he was “an autocratic and abstemious captain with little time or inclination to deal with non-seafaring types, and was not well-liked by the passengers.” He regularly disagreed with the surveyor-general, Colonel Light, and Commissioner Fisher about the placement and governance of the City of Adelaide, and the disagreement continued once in the colony. The Colonial Office eventually bowed to pressure and recalled him to England.

Hindmarsh’s Diary

If you want the true story you need to go directly to the source and, luckily for us, Hindmarsh kept a very candid diary. With no holds barred, he clearly never intended the contents to become public. We can learn a lot about the man through his deepest and sometimes darkest thoughts.

The Loving Father

July 1836: Reacting to George Stevenson’s criticism of his daughter’s ship’s newspaper The Buffalo Telegraph, Hindmarsh notes: “What this stupid arse Petronius Arbiter does not understand is that my daughters merely were being kind and acted for the amusement of all on a long and tedious journey. I know they are talentless. I know they are bubble headed ninnies… but they are my talentless bubble headed ninnies and if it should come to my attention that Mr Stevenson has given public utterance to his critical judgments then he will find himself walking bow legged and in need of a truss.”

The Supportive Brother

July 1836: “Coming with us on the voyage is my sister Anne. Poor dear. Forty nine years old and never married or even been looked at to any great extent by a man. She is not, perhaps, the most attractive of women, but she is not entirely repellent and in a new colony such as South Australia single men are sure to be plentiful. I believe it is the case in Sydney that the number of single men far outweighs that of single women. And where numbers are high, standards are low, so we may yet get the old girl off our hands.”

The Humanitarian

September 1836: On explaining to the lower class passengers that “leaf tea was running short and that, naturally, the passengers of the better sort could not be expected to do without,” Hindmarsh remarks that they “clearly know their place and may even take solace in the knowledge that their doing without will make the lives of their betters more comfortable.”

When complaints were raised about his dogs having “the freedom of the ship” resulting in “one or two (or perhaps more) of the lower classes [receiving] playful nips… and their clothing and shoes soiled with dog dirt” he told them that “as members of the lower classes I do not doubt that a bit of dirt and filth will make you feel at home.”

The Dog Lover

His dogs, it seems, were the only fellow voyagers that Hindmarsh deeply cared for. In September, 1836, he notesThe voyage nearly ruined when Lion, my spaniel, fell overboard! Fortunately the crew were magnificent and… managed to turn the ship around – no easy task as a lumbering old merchant ship like the Buffalo hardly turns on a sixpence.” What amazing imagery to imagine the Buffalo turning around to pluck a spaniel from the ocean. His love for the dogs only increased when, in November 1836, he notes “to keep the animals well watered I have had to strike an extra pint of water off the allowance to the passengers and emigrants. Loud has been their whining and complaining, but I really cannot have the animals suffer and I think it unreasonable of the people to expect me to allow it.”

The Doting Husband

So numerous are the unkind comments about Mrs Hindmarsh it is very difficult choosing only one. However, the following entry I think is my favourite: November 1836: “A whale swam near the ship after sporting with two or three others nearby. It swam up and surveyed us before heading back to its fellows. As Mrs Hindmarsh was on deck at the time taking her constitutional, dressed in a large black crinoline, I am certain it turned tail and fled when it realised that it was unable to compete. I imagine the report it gave to the others was not entirely favourable.”

The Shitty Truth behind the Proclamation

Hindmarsh regularly quarrelled with the Private Secretary George Stevenson, author of the Proclamation and later editor of the Register. Watts (1890) recalls Stevenson as “tall and powerfully made, not handsome in feature, but with a good intellectual countenance and well-shaped head.” Hindmarsh did not exactly echo these generous sentiments.

November, 1836: “Scoop Stevenson has let it be known to all and sundry that the Proclamation of the New Colony is soon to be written and suggestions will be welcomed. Welcomed, bollocks! As welcome as a fart in a bottle.” When the Proclamation was finally drafted on November 16th by Stevenson, Hindmarsh placed it in the strong box in his cabin for safe keeping. “I know Scoop has worked long and hard at this and I do appreciate his efforts. Sometimes he can be an arrogant sod, but he can be a decent stick at times.”

11th December, 1836: “Oh my giddy aunt! What a disaster of a day! Early this morning great excitement at the sight of Cape Chatham, the first land seen of the new country… But all this paled when I discovered that the Proclamation for the new Colony… was missing!” When told that Mrs Hindmarsh had recently been seen at the strongbox he writes “well of course. If there’s trouble the devil must be involved.”

It seems that her cat, “that creature from the deepest pits of Hell, that foul, vicious bundle of claws and teeth, otherwise known as dear little Tinkles,” needed a liner for his litter tray and Mrs Hindmarsh had found some old papers to tear up. “God above! Tinkles has pissed on the Proclamation!”

He writes: “The rest of the day I spent retrieving bits of paper, cleaning them off and piecing them back together like some child’s puzzle. By the time I had finished I had most of the thing in order, although a few sentences, including, I am sad to say, a rather uplifting quotation from Lord Glenelg, were so badly stained with ordure that they were unreadable… Not exactly the Proclamation that was intended, but close enough, I hope, to fool the Commissioners.”

Charles_Hill_-_The_Proclamation_of_South_Australia_1836_-_Google_Art_ProjectThe Proclamation of South Australia 1836, Charles Hill. Image courtesy of findmypast.com.au

Fortunately Hindmarsh managed to find some spare paper and forged Stevenson’s handwriting to re-write the Proclamation. Apart from Stevenson’s quizzical looks and a comment that he couldn’t read his own writing, the deceit went undiscovered and all was well. This was lucky, as Hindmarsh notes, as “already I have only to sneeze out of turn and Fisher looks at me with all the warmth he might normally reserve for a maggot that just unexpectedly crawled out of his salt beef. So what he would say if he learned that the cat shat on the Proclamation, I fear to think.”

“Family life in South Australia Fifty-Three years ago (Dating from October 1837)” by Jane Isabella Watts (1824-1894)

My Directed Study involves investigating the living conditions for 19th century staff at the Old Adelaide Gaol. By comparing primary and secondary sources we can construct an understanding of the average daily life in Adelaide during the mid to late 19th century.

As any fellow student of cultural heritage will understand, it is very easy to get carried away in second hand bookshops, particularly those with a section on Adelaide’s colonial history. When I saw the small red hardcover titled “Family life in South Australia Fifty-Three years ago (Dating from October 1837)” I simply added it to my growing stack of purchases and took it home without much thought. It wasn’t until months later that I realised I had purchased a primary source gold mine.


“Family life in South Australia Fifty-Three years ago” with a few of my favourite pages marked.

Encouraged by her husband of seven years, Alfred (Consul for Sweden), Jane Isabella Watts began writing the book in 1851 (aged 25) after a doctor (one of the best available in Adelaide at the time) so incompetently treated her severely sprained ankle that she never fully recovered. To “banish the miserable present from her mind” she decided to “write an account of the arrival of her family in the ship Hartley (see the passenger list here), and try to record the many droll adventures they met with while on Kangaroo Island,” and, in later years, Adelaide.

B7966 - ca. 1865 Mr. Mrs. Alfred Watts. Jane Isabella Watts was the author of Family Life in South Australia. Alfred Watts was Consul for Sweden

Mr. & Mrs. Alfred Watts. Ca. 1865. Image courtesy of SLSA B 7966

Terrible luck for Watts, yes, but we are the lucky ones who get to share in her stories, so vividly written that you could almost be aboard the “floating lunatic asylum” with 13 year old Watts in 1837, as her fellow hungry voyagers attempted to make a ”three-decker sea pie” from albatross meat; seated at a Kingscote dining table “with the Governor himself – Captain (afterwards Sir John) Hindmarsh” in 1838, curiously observing his glass eye; or a guest at the 1841 Drawing-Room Queen’s birthday celebration at Government House, attended also by “a number of natives, in new blankets, bestowed upon them by a paternal Government.”

Not published until 1890 by W. K. Thomas & Co., Watts (then aged 66) dedicated the book to her relatives, with the explicit request that they “kindly not allow this book to go out of their possession, or to be read by strangers during her lifetime.” She states that “these incidents in their daily lives, though not particularly interesting, are just recorded to show the young relatives of the writer, for whom this narrative is specially intended, that all was by no means couleur [sic] de rose with [their] family in those early days.” However it is these everyday incidents which give us the best insight into life in those times and, written as they are with such vibrant description, we can only be grateful that Watts had the time and inclination to record this history for future generations to enjoy.

B5190 - Mrs. Alfred Watts ca. 1875

Mrs. Alfred Watts ca. 1875. Image courtesy of SLSA B 5190

In future blogs I intend to reflect on some of my favourites amongst Watts’ stories. Gossip, politics, fashion, decorating, architecture, tent life, town planning, cooking, picnics, parklands and Indigenous encounters – this book has it all. Stay tuned!

Yellow Team – You don’t have to get wet to do maritime archaeology!

Authors: Jenny Bonney and Maryanne Williams

The yellow team of Jenny Bonney and Maryanne Williams, with supervision from Rob Koch, Gay Lacsina and Bill Jeffery have been surveying the wreck of the Speke, at Kitty Miller Bay, Phillip Island. The Speke ran aground in Feb 1906 in gale force winds. All of the crew, except one unlucky sailor, managed to make it to shore and were rescued several hours later, by locals. Frank Henderson, a crew member drowned when the lifeboat that he and some others were in smashed up on the rocks.

The wreck of the Speke broke up within a few days of been grounded and over the next few years, many parts that were left were salvaged by locals on Phillip Island and used in many different ways all over the island. The bow of the Speke is the main part of the wreck that is left today, however there are smaller pieces of the wreck scattered all over the beach (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Rob Koch and Bill Jeffery at the bow of the Speke. Photograph by Jenny Bonney

Figure 1: Rob Koch and Bill Jeffery at the bow of the Speke. Photograph by Jenny Bonney

During the first week of the field school, the yellow team took measurements of the pieces of wreckage that are still left on the beach and the surrounding environment, in order to the place the remains of the wreck in context (Figure 2). As well as taking points with the total station, mud maps of the beach and the wreckage were drawn, and photographs of all of the pieces of wreckage and the surrounding area were taken.

Figure 2: Jenny Bonney holding the prism that is used with the Total Station instrument to measure 3-dimensional data. Photograph by Rob Koch

Figure 2: Jenny Bonney holding the prism that is used with the Total Station instrument to measure 3-dimensional data. Photograph by Rob Koch

The Speke is located on the southern part of the Island facing Bass Strait on a beautiful, rugged coastline. The weather varied from 20 to 35oC and from light breezes to 40 to 50 knot winds so conditions were challenging at times but outweighed by the beautiful landscape we worked in (Figure 3).

Figure 3: The coastline in the vicinity of the Speke. Photograph by Maryanne Williams

Figure 3: The coastline in the vicinity of the Speke. Photograph by Maryanne Williams

The site is a 1 kilometre walk from the car park making it  a great way to keep fit, although the trek back to the car late in the day seemed twice as long as the morning trek.

Of interest also was the variety in the cultural landscape of this small bay. We found evidence of a road leading from the foreshore to the cliff above which may have been used by the Speke salvage teams. As well, evidence of shell middens at one end of the beach show the area has been in use for a long time.

In the evening after working all day at the site, we would have lectures of different subjects relating to maritime archaeology and heritage. On one night we went to the Phillip Island Historical  Museum and heard a talk on shipwrecks around Phillip Island from 1854 to 1932 by John Jansson, a local historian. After the talk, we were able to have a look around the museum and chat with some Phillip Island residents.

After completing the archaeological survey at Kitty Miller Bay, we then moved to Rhyll that is located on the northwest part of the island, facing the mainland. After the isolation of Kitty Miller Bay, Rhyll seemed liked a bustling metropolis (population about 100). Here we mapped and photographed the maritime infrastructure that included a boat ramp, old shipyard and jetty that has evidence of 3 different structures including the current jetty (Figure 4).

Figure 4: The old slipway in between the two jetties at Rhyll. Photograph by Bill Jeffery

Figure 4: The old slipway in between the two jetties at Rhyll. Photograph by Bill Jeffery

On Friday 7 February the yellow team went out on the Heritage Victoria boat Trim, implementing a side scan sonar survey. Side scan sonar is an underwater sensor instrument, that is often used to find shipwrecks. The sensor is housed in a ‘fish’ that is towed behind a boat, with pulses of sound sent out on either side of the sensor. These pulses of sound bounce of the seabed and any objects that are on the seabed.

We did the side-scan sonar over the site of the Dandenong, but didn’t find anything. After this we took the boat over the site of another wreck, the ferry Vixen that sank in 1917 (Figure 5).

Figure 5: Maryanne Williams in control of Trim during the side scan sonar survey. Photograph by Rob Koch.

Figure 5: Maryanne Williams in control of Trim during the side scan sonar survey. Photograph by Rob Koch.

So now we have all the data we need it’s time to starting collating it all and make sure our report is completed.