Uniquely Tasmanian stories

I am obsessed with the Tasmanian high country and west coast, its beauty, its people and its cultural landscapes. How have we portrayed it, how have we used it, how should we conserve it? I love the stories of highland people, but also the peaks, tannin-stained red rivers, ancient rainforests and glacial valleys that have intertwined their lives.

On the Ossie: Tasmanian osmiridium and the fountain pen industry

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George Bell’s trip to rural New South Wales, February-March 1834

George Bell (180552) was born in Scotland and migrated to New South Wales on the barque Minerva in 1832, the voyage from Leith to Sydney lasting 5 months and 10 days, including a a stopover of more than three weeks in Hobart Town. Arriving finally in Sydney, he took a job working in the store of his brother David Bell. In February 1834 George Bell decided to see what he could of inland New South Wales before he returned to his native  Scotland. The trip lasted almost a month and included one of the earliest recorded accounts of visiting the Bungonia Caves.

27/2/34. Having arranged with my brother I left Sydney by the afternoon coach to Liverpool. After passing Ireland’s the soil seemed poor & but little of it cleared. What was called Irishtown appeared to be a few miserable looking wooden huts. At Bowlers Bridge I left the coach & found Lennox with his party of convicts of whom he is Superintendent. After having tea with him, he walked with me to Bowler’s inn where were we shewn into a fine newly furnished room & after he left, I went to sleep on one of the sofas. Next morning I walked down to the creek & found L giving instructions to his men who are building Lansdowne Bridge. He provided bfast after which we set off in a boat with a man & boy who rowed us down Prospect Creek to George’s Hall where we landed & walked thro’ the

p.203 garden eating peaches & water melons. Embarking again we reached George’s River on the banks of which we saw cultivated fields at intervals. Landing on the right bank we rested at the house of Rowley a settler. Walking on thro’ the bush we came to a new stone mill of which the dam was broken down & the house deserted. Went thro’ it & on to the freestone quarry where an iron gang were at work preparing stones for the bridge. Many of the convicts had nothing but trousers on, their bare backs being exposed to the hot sun & 3 soldiers watching them. They get their bread & beef under an awning & at night are locked up in strong wood houses, where each one has a blanket & lyes [sic] on the boards, 20 in each house. Here I met a corporal who enlisted in Glasgow & he accompanied me to the river where I bathed. It is here as broad as the Clyde & very deep with numbers of blubber fish in it. After having some beef & damper we set off in the boat on our return, but it was dark for an hour before we reached the bridge L & I taking a pull at the oar to relieve

p.204 the men. Had tea with L who saw me safe in Bowler’s where I went to rest.

1/3/34 After having bfast with my friend I left by coach for Liverpool & was pleased at the neat clean appearance of the town. Here I took my seat in an open breaking carriage & passed thro’ a district but little cleared for some miles after which the houses were more numerous & the most of the land adjoining the road cleared. A hot wind blew & our 2 horses came to a stand still at the foot of every hill, so that it was near 3PM before we reached Campbelltown which is a long straggling village. After resting in the inn I determined to walk to Glenlee about 4 miles. The district is well cleared & when I reached Gl I found the tutor Kerr at home with whom I walked in the garden & got a ripe almond off the tree which I was not aware grew in the colony. I was also shewn thro’ the dairy &c this being the most noted farm in NS Wales for fresh butter. Took tea with Kerr & his pupils, the young Howe’s [sic], whose mother ordered

p.205 that I should be shewn up to one of the best bedrooms where I went to rest. The house was elegantly furnished.

2d Was Sabbath as I then believed, but nevertheless I was up soon after sunrise & having roused Kerr he put me on my road which I pursued thro’ the bush to a cottage of the farm of Eldeslie, the Proprietor of which J Hawdon was not yet out of bed, so I went on until I emerged into a cleared district & got upon the highway opposite Kirkham, Capt Coghill’s farm. The roadside inn I passed, supposing I would come to another soon. By the Cowpasture bridge which is well built of wood I crossed the Nepean which is here a considerable stream. The road led thro’ the bush on to the ascent over Razorback where I made up a stock keeper of Underwood’s with nearly 100 cattle which I assisted to drive over the mountain which is very steep & much labor has been expended in making a road over it. When over the height I went in search of water, the want of which I felt very much, but I found none till I reached

p.206 the foot of the hill where I saw a stockade & some drays on the road, the men of which I accosted & requested water & bread which they gave me & offered to make tea if I would wait. Here I sat in company with the outcasts of the human race, & heard one of them avow that he would steal his father’s shoes if he thought he could make anything of them! They were civil to me & on parting I gave them a fig of tobacco. In a short time I came in sight of Abbotsford which stands in the midst of a fine farm & I found the proprietor Geo Harper at home who introduced me to his wife whom I found very agreeable. After dinner we walked in the garden which is large & well stocked with flowers & fruit trees. In the evening we talked of a deep precipitous ravine called Burragorang which I had a great desire to see but it was 15 miles off & difficult to find without a guide & my kind host was too busy to go with me.

8. I took my departure after bfast & was going in a wrong direction when

p.207 I met a man who set me right on a cleared road thro’ the bush. Crossed Myrtle Creek which is a small stream with a deep rocky bed, & arrived at Lupton’s inn about mid day when I had a second bfast & rested sometime. Starting again I walked 8 miles thro’ forest land to Keighran’s at Little Forest but did not like the appearance of the house, so that I passed on by the old line of road & soon recollected that I was now in Bargo brush, a noted place for bushrangers, which made me walk a little smarter that I might get thro’ it in time. The wood is very close, but after a few miles I entered an extensive flat where the trees were thinly set & I found several drays here laden with wool, the men belonging to which had taken up their quarters for the night. Coming to some cultivated ground with house & a windmill I made my way to Cutter’s inn which I found a clean comfortable house & here I enjoyed my tea, feeling very tired.

p.208 On the 4th I arose soon after sunrise & took my road thro’ the bush in a fine sharp morning, being the coldest I have felt in this country. In about 1½ miles I came upon the new line of road which I pursued for about 3 miles thro’ forest until I found a cart track leading to the right which I followed thro’ the bush & saw some beautiful blue & red Parrots. Passing thro’ a beautiful piece of low open forest land I came to Wm Coghill’s whose dogs frightened me when going to the house which was a common wooden one. Here I found the master laid up & unable to move from rheumatism & the whole house in confusion from their having been obliged to raise the flooring to destroy a snake which had got in beneath. After having bfast & a chat with poor WC I took my leave. Returning to the main road I went on to Berrima where I met with Tasker who was kind & I dined with him in his slab hut. He then made me got on horseback, shewed me the

p.209 site of the intended stone bridge over the river Uinjeecaribee which we forded & proceeded thro’ the bush to the farm of Jn Atkinson whose lady recd us kindly & we had tea with her, her husband being up the country. She told me of a very high waterfall at the Meryla mountain, also of a beautiful plant, the “Burwan” producing nuts which the aborigines eat after soaking them in a running stream for a certain time. Returned to Berrima with Tasker with whom I took up my quarters for the night. The banks of the river are high & there are a few house building on the township.

5th. After having bfast with Tasker I rode on with him until near Oldbury, to which I turned off & walk [sic] nearly a mile to enquire after James Atkinson whom I understood to be very ill, but his wife & Dr Colyer made his illness an excuse for not seeing me, so that I was not even asked to sit down. I turned away with my feelings rather excited, & when I got back to the road

p.210 I found my friend T giving orders to his men who were building a bridge over Medway rivulet. Taking my leave of him I followed the road which led me thro’ bush, with a farm every few miles. I was very thirsty & could find no water for 8 miles until getting to the bottom of a steep & long descent I saw a kangaroo pursued by dogs & found myself close to a roadside inn kept by Beadman. Here I had tea & would have remained for the night but my money was nearly spent, so that I determined to go on to Wingelow altho’ I knew nothing of the Proprietor Campbell. Descending to Paddy’s [sic] river [sic] which seemed a sluggish stream & ascending the opposite bank I soon after came to a road party by whom I was directed to Wingelow. I therefore left the road & followed the fence until I despaired of finding the house so that I thought of sleeping in the bush, but a little farther on I saw the house, crossed the fence, & accosted

p.211 a man who kept the dogs off me so I reached the house & enquired for Campbell. He came out & appeared a genteel looking man not much older than myself. On making him acquainted with my name &c he at once welcomed me, said he knew my brother, shewed me into his parlor [sic] & drew a bottle of wine for me. This was all in such contrast to what passed at Oldbury, that I felt highly pleased. He took me into his garden where we each had a melon, & then we saw his two flocks of sheep folded for the night. On returning to tea he introduced me to his wife, a plain but lady looking woman with two beautiful young daughters. Here I passed a pleasant evening, looking over the Edinr Lity Gazette, chatting of books &c. Heard that I might be able to have a view of the Shoalhaven gullies & spar caves without greatly increasing my tour & this I determined to accomplish if possible. C told me a remarkable occurrence in the life of the old reprobate John Dickson

p.212 of Sydney who imagined at one time that he had seen the devil & he did not swear & blaspheme for 3 mos after.

6th. In the morning I looked at “Littles NS Wales” & to bfast we had hot rolls. The cottage is small but well furnished & on taking leave he walked nearly half a mile with me to shew me the path. After getting on the old line of road a saw a number of very small birds flying in the bush which might almost be taken for butterflies. I easily found Barber’s wooden house which was about ½ mile of the road & is well furnished. I found him at home & stated my wish to see the gullies &c upon which he said he was sorry his sons were from home, who would have gone with me. He gave me a draught of milk & water & invited me to call on my return & so we parted. Walking on a few miles I came up/ with a dray & a flock of sheep, & one of the dogs came quietly behind & catching the skirt of my surtent [?] tore it a little. I walked along with one of the men who informed

p.213 me as to my way, so going on I went up to the next house & accosted a plain looking man who I found was Mitchell whom I was in search of. He took me in & introduced me to his wife whom I found a chatty intelligent woman the daughter of a French emigré [sic]. Feeling tired I thought I had best have a nights [sic] rest before visiting the Gullies, & they offered me a bed but I preferred going on to the township of Inveraray where I went up to the first house & enquired whose it was? “Oh this is the jail sir”! [sic] was the answer I received, but I soon found out Style’s with whom I found Packer, & Roberts the butcher was there also who told us some curious details respecting the Sydney butchers outwitting each other in buying cattle when they were scarce. After leaving tea we sat chatting till about 11PM before we went to bed.

On the morning of the 7th after having bfast Styles supplied me with a mare on which I rode to Mitchell’s when he & his son started on foot

p.214 along with me. We soon reached the limestone country where there are many cavities having holes at the bottom called hoppers. Masses of rich ironstone were also lying at several places. After proceeding 3 or 4 miles we came all at once to the brink of the Shoalhaven gullies which appear as a steep precipitous glen with a stream at the bottom from 12 to 1500 feet below the spectator. The bare perpendicular rocks with the Grass trees on their summits the steep declivities clothed with trees, & the stream at the bottom looking as if a mere rivulet, form altogether a romantic & impressive scene, & shews that the general level of the district must be about 2000 ft above the sea. I could have admired the scene for hours, but our time being limited we took a peep from several points & then retraced our steps to the caves. Descending a large hopper we scrambled down the hole at the bottom & found ourselves

p.215 in a circular cavity of about twenty feet diameter. Scrambling farther down into a dark corner we stood near the brink of a deep pit into which we threw stones. They hissed thro’ the air & I could count 25 before they reached the bottom when the sound was like thunder & sometimes a fragment would fall still further & drop into water. Returning to the surface we went into another Hopper [sic] where about 16 ft deep there was a hole down which I partly went & would have gone altogether had it not been dangerous. I was told it was a very extensive & intricate cavern, full of stalactites, but without lights & a long rope, it was a daring venture to attempt to explore its recesses. Being unprovided we were obliged to desist, so we made our way back to our dinner which we found ready & I was pleased with the conversation of the worthy couple which

p.216 might be said to be both literary & scientific. They told me of a beautiful small quadruped called the sugar squirrel. After sitting sometime I bade them farewell & rode off to Dr Reids [sic] whose wife wished me to remain with them in their bark hut which has been their residence & was shewn a fine stone house nearly finished into which they mean to remove. It was dark when I left, but was shewn the road by a man to Styles where I found Packer still who played on the violin & flute.

8th. After having bfast I took my leave & walked on the road which led thro’ the bush to Grose’s farm & passing a hut now & then I arrived at Palmer’s  where I was informed that to go thro’ the bush to McFarlanes [sic] was only 6 miles but to follow the road 15 miles. I preferred the road, & went on & in a few miles came to a fine flat country with the trees standing wide & flocks of white cockatoos flying about & screeching. I kept the road until near Lake Bathurst, & on to the border

p.217 of a fine green plain clear of trees where I was delighted with the view which was terminated by a distant range of mountains. Here I struck off the road to the right & followed a cart track for 3 or 4 miles until I came to a waterhole & now I found I had lost my road.

Taking notice of the course I was pursuing by the sun I looked about & cooeed repeatedly, but got no answer. Going on I came to the track of wheels & then to a sort of road which I followed at a quick pace until was gladdened with the sight of a flock of lambs. The shepherd led me on a short distance & then told me to make haste & follow the road down a hollow which would lead me to McFarlanes [sic]. I walked on rapidly until near sunset when I came to a dray the man of which told me I was still 4 miles from McF’s, but his master Faithful’s

p.218 was only one mile so I resolved to make for the nearest which I reached just as it was dark. Here I was surprised to find my friends Styles & Packer & they were so also to see me. They were in the company of Faithful a fine looking young man standing 6 ft 3 in & I was glad to find a cup of coffee ready for me as I had nothing to eat since bfast.

9th. Next morning after partaking of bfast with my friends I again bade them farewell & took the road, being cautioned to beware of Ryan’s dogs, so I kept a good lookout & altho’ I saw two large dogs rambling about I gave them a wide berth & reached Inveralacky at last where I found my friend Wm McGarvie along with Jas McFarlane in his new stone house which is still unfinished & the roof low Feeling tired & my feet pained I did not go out much & went to bed early.

10/3/34. Three of the Aborigines came to the

p.219 farm. After dinner McF, McG, & I got mounted & rode thro’ the bush by Coven creek where there was abundance of fine grass & we had a draught of water from a spring. Towards even we got on the plains of Lake George where we saw a pair of wild Turkeys. McF could not find the house he intended to take us to, which caused us to ride over the hills where we had a splendid view of the sun setting across the lake. When nearly dark we reached a stockyard of Lithgow’s of which the overseer asked us into his turf hut where he supplied us with tea in tin dishes & the labor of cutting the damper made me perspire. He provided us with sleeping places for the night, to which we retired after chatting &c.

11th. Next morning I went down to the lake & waded in a good distance the water deepening very slowly with a sandy bottom & I bathed with the water just have my knees. It was slightly brackish with a number of wild ducks swimming in it, & it was evident the water had receded

p.220 to a great extent from its former height. Returning to bfast I found a supply of excellent pancakes fried in fat, having satisfied our appetites with which & at her viands we got our nags ready & rode off. Taking our course thro’ a level stony district in which were flocks of sheep we crossed a high range of hills where the dogs killed a kangaroo rat, but we saw no Kangaroos. We had another range to cross after which we went along grassy flats to Inveralacky passing a tree which had been shivered with lightning. After dinner I had a long walk with Jas McFarlane to whom I mentioned my intention of returning to Scotland.

12th. In the forenoon I rode out with McF into the bush & collected a herd of cattle which he left me to drive a short distance by myself. In doing so I tumbled off the mare & fell on my back without injury & the quiet animal stood until I remounted. We drove the cattle into the stockyard, & in the afnoon the strange cattle were drafted out of the herd.

p.221 On the 13th I felt my back very much fatigued. Mc with 4 or 5 men were hard at work culling & branding the calves &c, & I employed myself in keeping the brands hot. Had a short ride in the af noon.

14th. Was spent strolling about the farm & into the bush a short distance where we saw a large native dog which the dogs of the farm were killing.

15th. In the forenoon I took a long ramble into the bush by myself & noticed that had I not paid attention in regard to my course by the sun I would have pursued a different route in returning to the farm which I arrived at all right. After dinner I again rambled away & met a sawyer Spears with whom I returned. He told me he would be free by the end of this month & he had long been a smuggler in Scotland about Girvan & Straianraer [?]. Saw a bullock killed by being pithed [?]. McF asked me to go with him after tea & keep a look out on the potatoe [sic] field as he suspected they were robbed. We went to the farthest paddock just as the new moon was setting & there we detected

p.222 two of the men among the potatoes. McF ordered the off to their huts, but we did not find any potatoes dug up.

16/3/34. After bfast McG mounted along with McF & I walked to Lake Bathurst where the country looked parched & the lake greatly dried up, leaving a broad level shore on all sides. We stopped at a rocky place where were some trees & which had evidently been an island when the lake was 10 or 12 feet higher. Here McG stopped & I mounted his mare, but in trotting along my foot got out of the stirrup & I soon rolled off, but the ground being soft I was not hurt providentially. McF contrived to stop the animal & I remounted, but could not manage to sit firm in the saddle. Numbers of ducks, &c a pair of Black Swans were swimming on the water which is mot more than about 4 miles long. We rode thro’ a dry swamp & on to Cooper & Levy’s Station where the overseer gave us milk & water to drink. Returning to where we left McG he took the mare & I walked back to dinner. In the evening our host

p.223 produced a Bible in which I read aloud, which lead to conversation in which he remarked that he feared he had more sins to answer for now, than he might have had, had he remained in Scotland.

19th. In the af noon we took the dogs into the scrub, but only started a kangaroo rat which escaped into a hollow tree. In the evening Dun McF arrived from Monaroo [sic] where he had been for 6 or 8 mos with the sheep. He told us of the mineral spring, & also of a large Plain with a Lake in its centre lately discovered to the SW.

20th. Having bfasted & made ready we took leave of Duncan McFarlane & Inveralacky, riding off with his brother James who went along with us to Goulburn Plains where we saw the Bustard. After riding a few miles along with McGarvie & I over the grassy plain, he took farewell of us & kept on to the township of Goulburn while we went more to the right. The plains are about ten miles across & nearly destitute of trees or bushes.

p.224 Passed some flocks of sheep & shepherds’ huts & rode on till we entered the bush & came upon the road to Bong Bong. This led us to a creek near to which were the old huts of a road party, & we allowed our mares to eat & drink for a short time, at same time feeling the want of food ourselves having brot nothing with us to eat. Mounting again we walked our animals taking a short trot now & then, & made our way thro’ rather a thickly wooded district without meeting a human being until we emerged on the banks of the Wollondilly which seemed a large deep stream with steep banks. Made another halt to let the mares feed & then riding on we were glad after a ride of 30 miles to see a farmhouse after  which a few miles brought us to the roadside inn kept by Peters. After seeing our mares fed we were glad to sit down & enjoy our tea being both tired & hungry.

19th. In the night we heard it raining but in the morning we had bfast after which we mounted & set out

p.225 in a fine day. The road led thro’ the bush & was very hilly we came near Paddy’s River when we supposed we had taken the wrong road & turned back till we met Donald who was following us to take back his masters [sic] horses. He put us right & we crossed the river where it was very shallow. Then thro’ bush land & over high hills until we came upon the broad made road where we stopped for our mares to partake of the grass while we ate some damper. A little further we procured some milk & water from a hut & passed several farms, the land being cultivated in part. I was in a laughing humour [sic] & highly amused at our being obliged to keep our lazy beasts going by thumping their hides with sticks. My comrade was also in better spirits than yesterday & would have us stop at the Talbot inn & have some porter to drink. Shortly after we passed the “Ploughed Ground” where there are several settlers & a weather boarded place of worship. We were now in the district of Sutton Forest & had but a few miles farther when we in descending a hill came in sight

p.226 of the flat on which are the few houses of Bong Bong. Crossed the river on a wooden bridge & to the inn kept by Lareby who sent our mares with their foals to Bowman’s Paddock according to our instructions, as we were now done with them. Fining it was only about 4PM we ordered tea in an hour & meantime we washed ourselves & rested. After tea we walked out & saw the coach arrive from Sydney which brought us the newspaper. In paying our bill we found they charged us 2/3 each for bed.

20th Started in an open carriage drawn by 2 horses along with J Berry. We had a very bad & steep road over Mittagong, on the op of which there is an extensive view. The air was cold in the morning & the road all thro’ bush to Cutters [sic] inn. Here we got another passenger, Shepherd lately from Monaroo. The wind was strong & in passing through Bargo Brush, two trees fell about 100 yards behind us. We bfasted at Luptons inn, where we were well served

p.227 There we changed horses, the new pair having to take us 32 miles! At Stonequarry we turned off the Menangle road which led us over a high hill thro’ the summit of which the road is cut, & then thro’ a good deal of cultivated land, passing Buckland’s & D’Arrietta’s farms to the Menangle ford across the Cowpasture river. Here a party were at work forming a road down the sandy banks of the river, of which the water was low. At Campbellton [sic] we stopped at Hurley’s & dined & it was nearly 2° [sic] before we started, when Richards the proprietor went with us, for whose accommodation I sat between J Berry & the driver. Soon after passing Denham Court [sic] a gale with rain came up behind us but we soon reached Liverpool where went to Wood’s Ship Inn. After having tea I went & called on Capt Thompson & was introduced to his wife & daughters, the eldest of whom is rather a good looking girl. Returned to Woods to sleep.

21st. Was a cold morning & when we

p.228 started in the coach, we found in it a Scotchman Stevenson from Cathcart near Glasgow He gave me a strange account of Lady Wyld to whom he was overseer. Altho’ we had 2 sets of 4 horses each to Sydney we travelled at a slow pace to the Royal Hotel where our journey terminated.