Sarah Bell, née Danby (1803–85), was born in London, England. After migrating to New South Wales, she married George Bell at Bullhill, near Liverpool, New South Wales, in 1834. The couple had three children—Sarah Jane (1836), Walter Stephen (1837) and Anne Danby (1839)—before relocating in Launceston, Van Diemen’s Land, in 1839 in order to operate a school. Anne Danby Bell died in Launceston in January 1840, being buried in a garden at Breadalbane. In the following month the Bell family travelled to Bothwell, where George Bell had been appointed postmaster and schoolteacher. The trip was eventful!
Books 8 and 9: Sarah Bell’s Life History
4 February–21 May 1840
p.343 My dear George endeavored [sic] to carry on school as usual but found himself more out of place than before. On the 4th of 2nd mo he then writes. ‘My dear Sarah continues so very sick, that I was obliged to give her some brandy. Doctor P says that nothing but time & rest will be of any real benefit to her’. With regard to himself he further remarks, ‘I feel dull & out of my place, which I believe I am, as this kind of life keeps me at the same dull chime, without any advancement. Some minds whose love of children is strong, may feel themselves … [?] … & delighted with the training of infant minds, but I feel to want to be among some beings, to whom I could com –
p.344 municate my thoughts as they arise in my own mind, without being under the necessity of bringing them down to the lowest standard’.
On the 9th he notices that he went out to shut the back gate, & that he fell down in a fit where he says ‘Sarah found me’. On the 10th he kept his bed all day that Dr Grant the partner of Dr Pugh came twice during that day to see him; & that the late Philip Oakden, Isaac Sherwin, J Lawson, & T Wellington, all called upon him, he was hurt by the fall, which made him very ill.
11th. He felt somewhat better, Isaac Sherwin called the next day & kindly offered to lend him a horse that he might take a ride out to Wellington’s & else where, & said that he was welcome to keep it until 7 day (Saturday) this being Wednesday morning. He started about noon, & was kindly welcomed, he felt much better after a nights rest & rose on the morning of the 13th much refreshed, had a comfortable breakfast
p.345 & then rode off thro a very level part of the county to vist a young man residing at Cressy, who kept the Government School there, & who had advised my dear George to apply for a similar situation; saying that the thought GB much better fitted for such a vocation than he was. He returned to T Wellington’s in safety late in the evening, feeling better for his day’s journey.
14. He remained with the Wellingtons, riding about with Thomas, & on the 15th he was permitted to return home all the better of the little excursion he had had.
It appears that GB went to see the School master at Cressy, in consequence of Dr Pugh, & Grant, giving it as their opinion, that G Bell was decidedly out of place among Infant children, & strongly recommending him to make a change as soon as he could; this led him to make enquiry relative to the position of a School master among older children, in one of the Government schools,
p.346 & which ultimately led him, to apply to the Secretary, of the Board of Education in Hobart Town, to enter our names as applicants to, the Committee of the infant school, at Launceston approving of the same, altho not without sorrow at the disappointment they had sustained on our account. On the 18th my dear George thus remarks. ‘I have now entered my 36th year, it appears as if I had a nearer sight of futurity than ever. My late affliction causes me to suppose it likely, that I shall not live much longer. I pray that the Holy Spirit ay sanctify this stroke [?] to me, so as to purify my heart, & make me ready for my final change.’
22. ‘Received a letter from W Ehairn [?] acquainting us, that our names have been placed on the list of candidates.’ But it was not until the 9th of the 5th mo that we were made acquainted with our appointment to the Bothwell School.
p.347 The Bothwell post Office was connected with it so that the School master would be Postmaster too. This arrangement had been made to improve the salary of the School master. It being a hundred a year with a free house, & the Post Master £36 per annum. When my dear George first thought of applying, he meant it only as a situation for himself, but upon enquiry, he found that, girls as well as boys were included in the Government schools & therefore the wife of the Master would be considered as Mistress & expected to teach, unless she could appoint any one else to do the duty for her. Now this became a source of anxiety for us both, for my dear George was quite aware of my physical incapacity as well as myself, & he also felt that if a wife did her duty in that station, & also as a mother to her children, no more ought to be required of her, even if she enjoyed the best of health. To meet the difficulty we con-
p.348 cluded to engage a young unmarried person to go with us, who we believed would be quite efficient to act under my direction, & who would also make herself generally useful, in this matter we were quite successful, indeed I may say even beyond our expectations. The next difficulty was respecting how we were to go? So after much consideration & consultation &c it was deemed best by those who knew that part of the country, for us to hire a Van to take us & our luggage & such goods & chattels as we could stow in. At length a Van was secured, & the driver came &, saw his passengers, made arrangements as to what luggage he could take & took an inventory thereof; promising to be all ready to start on the 18th this being the 16th for the sum of £12. Every thing was all settled by us by 11 AM on the 18th but still the Driver & his Van did not appear. My dear GB was running hither & thither & at last caught sight of him in the Inn where he usually put up, he said he would be at our house in a few minutes
p.349 but he did not make his appearance until nearly 3 oclock. This delay disarranged our plans so, that my husband concluded it would better to send the children &, myself on by the Launceston coach to Perth, where it was intended we should pass that night; thinking it possible, he might not be able to leave that night, the man appeared so drunken, under which circumstances my dear GB could get a bed at a neighbours house, & the young person who had engaged to accompany us, could also remain the night with her friends. Accordingly after taking Farewell of the many kind friends I had met with in Launceston, I took my seat in the coach with Walter on my lap, & SJ by my side about 5.30PM & arrived at Perth between 6 & 7. And it was well that we did so, for it was not until 7 oclock that the Driver managed to get his business with other people finished, & then he begged
p.350 to remain for the night, saying it would put him to a nights extra expence [sic] for the horses, if my husband insisted upon going then; so upon his faithfully promising to start by 5 the next morning, my dear George consented. On the 19th my dear husband remarks as follows. ‘Having gone to bed before ten, I awoke before 12 struck, & the heard one two, 3 & 4, when I arose, got a light & was reading, when my friend Thompson came in to the room, with some cold meat &, bread. He went with me to the Inn &, after some little noise, we awoke the driver by 5. I then went & roused Margaret, & took my farewell of poor Harriett Thompson, whom I am not at all likely to see again on earth, & then of her dear husband. Having seen Margaret & all the light luggage with the Van I started on foot along side of it. As we drew near to Lawsons, I saw them looking out for me, & they insisted upon my taking some breakfast with them. I then took leave of them all, & walked smartly on after the Van into Perth,
p.351 just as they reached the Inn when Sarah & the children were, who I was glad to hear arrived all safe, & that they had passed a comfortable night.
Here Margaret’s boxes were put inside the Van which was now so full, that when Sarah & the children got in they were so crammed that no room could be found for another. Margaret seeing how uncomfortable they would all be, preferred remaining behind, for some other conveyance.
Sarah & I felt grieved at this & endeavored [sic] to persuade the man to make a little alteration, but this he would not do: but he promised he would bring M up in about ten days or a fortnight.’
As Margaret knew a little of the Inn keeper’s wife, she said she would remain there until [sic] the Launceston coach passed, & then she would return to her friends, & stay there until the carrier called for her. My dear George wished to pay her expences [sic] but this
p.352 she would not allow. So taking farewell of her we parted mutually sorrowful at this unexpected event. We had every reason to think that if the Driver had placed the luggage in a more compact manner there would have been sufficient room for us all, a fact which we proved beyond a doubt, ere half our journey was accomplished. The first night we stayed at Cleveland, nothing particular occurred during that day’s journey.
20th. We started early in the morning & arrived at Campbell Town about 11AM where we stopped for about an hour & partook of some refreshment; the driver being ready to start again, we went to resume our seats, &, found that the double dealing man had chosen to, altho the way in which he had first placed our luggage making room to receive some belonging to a Soldier’s Wife & she occupying my dear husband’s seat. On enquiring the meaning of such conduct the impudent fellow coolly said that
p.353 he had promised the last time, to take the woman to Oatlands &, therefore we must just put up with it. My dear George was much vexed, & charged him with being a double dealing rogue, in causing us to leave the young person behind. Whom he had previously engaged to take, she being one of our family to make room for a woman of his own choosing! Upon this much altercation ensued; GB ordering the woman to come out, which she refused to do. My dear George then appealed to the Inn keeper, telling him how he had hired the whole Van &c: the Inn keeper remonstrated, the Driver was insolent, the woman abusive calling my poor George a proud puppy, & using many other approbrious epithets. As much time had been lot during this uproar, &, no good effected, the driver began to intimidate us by saying that he would drive off without us; so as then
p.354 there was no justice to be had & no time for further delay we were obliged to submit. It was nearly 9 oclock at night when we arrived at our place of destination, I have unfortunately lost the memorando [sic] of the remainder of the journey, so I am entirely dependent upon my memory & I cannot recollect, either the name of the place, or the Inn keeper, but the facts that occurred there are still fresh in my remembrance. Our fellow traveller followed us into the parlor into which we were shown & endeavored [sic] to force her conversation upon us, tea & other refreshments were brought in; when my dear GB seeing that her ladyship intended to make one of our number, withdrew &, had a little private conversation with the landlord explaining to him as briefly as possible how matters stood between us, whereupon the landlord returned with GB & politely asked the woman to walk into another apartment, this at first she
p.355 refused to do. At last the landlord gave her to understand, that if she did not she should walk out altogether. This had the desired effect, she arose in a furious rage cursing us, &, vowing bitter revenge. After she had left the room we felt somewhat relieved, the two dear children seemed completely tired out, & after eating their supper I put them to bed, in a comfortable double bedded room. We two sat some time by the parlor fire talking over the grievances of our journey with our landlord, who appeared to be a sensible man. He said our case was by no means a solitary one &, he supposed it was one of those impositions, to which travellers in these colonies were frequently subjected to. The only thing he could advise my husband to do, would be to write an account to the Proprietor of the Van should we arrive in time & seek redress from him.
p.356 My dear husband felt very tired for he had walked nearly all the way; the only seat he could get, being on a kind of ledge by the driver. In the night he had a fit, brought on most likely by the excitement. I thought him unfit to proceed, but there was no alternative, we intended to have started by 6AM the next morning the 20th but were not ready until nearly 7 & then to our sorrow we found the wicked woman occupying the only seat my dear George could have the same as before. To remonstrate he knew would be utterly useless so he walked silently on by side. After a while we came up to a dirty looking hut by the road side here her ladyship alighted & went in followed by the driver, my husband seized the opportunity, &, took possession of his seat. Presently the man made his appearance, who began swearing at my husband who told the man he had better quiet or it would be the worse for him.
p.357 Shortly after there was a terrible din heard in the hut, which was followed by a forcible ejectment of the lady in question, by a miserable haggard looking creature of a woman, who loaded her with abuse, she hastened up to the Van vowing vengeance on her antagonist; but on seeing the seat she had presumed to claim occupied by my husband, her rage knew no bounds. There was nothing too bad for her to say, she attempted to pull him out, which set the poor children crying; at last having quite exhausted herself, she crawled in, over some of the luggage & rolled over to the back, but not until the driver threatened to leave her behind. A few miles further on, & my husband left the Van, & proceeded to the house of an individual with a recommendation from the Inn keeper, for that person to lend GB a horse, which was to be left for him at the Inn we were
p.358 to remain at for the night at Oatlands. Fortunately the person at home & immediately complied with his friend’s request. In this way my dear husband was enabled to pursue the remainder of the way in comparative ease, & arrived at Oatlands long before us, requesting the mistress of the Inn to make preparations for us. During the interval GB called on the Government School master, whose name was Fife, who received him very hospitably &, introduced him to his wife. My George briefly told them how matters stood, & they gave us all a cordial invitation to tea that evening regretting they could not offer accommodation for the night. As soon as my poor husband had vacated the seat the woman came forward, muttering abuse against GB declaring that she was almost suffocated, & saying she would take care to have the Colonel of the regiment to which her husband belonged informed of the treatment she had received &c. I begged of her not to say
[there is no p.359]
p.360 anything to me against my husband as I did not suppose she would like to hear her husband spoken against. After that she said no more. We arrived at Oatlands about 3PM as near as I can recollect & found my dear George had left a message for me, with the mistress of the Inn that we were not to wait for him. There was a nice dinner prepared for us, consisting of a boiled leg of mutton, soup & dumplings, which my dear SJ says she well remembers. I told our hostess of our adventure in travelling, she then made a few enquiries, & then told me that our travelling companion was a woman of very doubtful character, but that we need not fear being troubled with her company any further as her journey was at an end. Between 4 & 5 my dear husband came in, with the invitation from Fifes, & then he escorted us there, by each of whom we were kindly welcomed.
Book 9: Sarah Bell’s life history
p.361 The driver having given us to understand, that he would not proceed further, without knowing who his master would send to help him up the hills the last 9 miles of the journey; caused a serious discuss to take place, between GB & our friend Fife, (who was well acquainted with the road, as likewise the tricks that these Van drivers, too often practice upon inexperienced travellers; & as a friend of his happened to call just at the time, the man was forthwith summoned to appear before them. After a great deal of palaver it was at last settled, that we should leave the Van altogether; & proceed by some other conveyance: & the driver was made to sign a document, as the responsible person, for the safe delivery of the goods in Bothwell. There were several reasons for our not travelling any further in the way we had done, but the most important one was, the slow progress that we
p.362 made. Before we left Launceston my dear George was gazetted as Post Master for the district of Bothwell, & T Wilkinson the last Master, was detained beyond his time thro one more arrival; as soon as the man left, our new friends set about seeking some one, who could convey us to our journeys end the following day. After some difficulty, an individual known to be an upright dealing man, & thoroughly acquainted with that part of the country, engaged to take us in his own sociable for £1.10 [sic] declaring that he did it out of respect to Fife, & of compassion for us; not that he should gain anything by it. For this arrangement we felt very thankful, & it being now between 9 & 10 PM we felt it needful to return to the Inn where we were to pass the night: the dear little ones having already fallen asleep. SJ in her Father’s arms, & Walter in mine. So taking our final leave of our kind friends we
p.363 departed, we each lade with our precious burden. On searching the Inn, we were immediately conducted to the apartment we had previously selected; & then divesting the sleepers of their garments, as quietly as we could, & putting on their night gowns; we safely deposited one treasure in one bed, tucked the snugly in, & bending over them, breathed a silent prayer for the unconscious children, that their guileless spirits, might be preserved from all evil, & that in due time, they might show forth the fruits, of being children of the Most High: & then we petitioned for ourselves that we might be enabled to ‘Train them in the way they should go’. & that we also might be kept from all evil, & if consistent with the Divine will, that we might be permitted to arrive at our journeys and in safety, both for Time, & for Eternity, & then with grateful hearts we betook ourselves to rest intending if spared to get as early a break-
p.364 fast as possible, that we might be ready to start by 8 in the morning. But the morning turned out wet, still we were encouraged to hope that it might clear up. We waited about half an hour beyond the time, but finding it still kept on; we felt we must not delay any longer. Being well provided with cloaks & various other necessaries to keep out the rain, We started between 8 & 9 in the midst of it: this being the 21st of 5 mo 1840. We had an excellent driver & a good horse; we kept the children nicely sheltered, & endeavored [sic] to keep up our spirits as well as we could, the rain rather increased than abated, the wind driving it full in our faces. The roads began to get so bad that our progress was much retarded & a fear arose in our minds that we should not be able to proceed to the end. However much to our joy between 11 & 12 it abated a little, & by the time we reached Jericho it ceased altogether which was
p.365 about 11 AM. We were so thoroughly drenched with rain, & benumbed with cold, that when we attempted to alight at the Inn; we had to be assisted out, even the poor children, in spite of all our efforts to keep them dry & warm, cried bitterly with the cold. The kind Inn keepers soon ran off with them & handing them to two pleasing looking young lasses, their daughters, they were quickly seated in their laps by the side of a blazing wood fire; & the kind girls began rubbing their hands & feet, & filling their mouths with cakes & sweet meats. As soon as my dear George & I entered, we saw at once the impropriety, of suddenly taking them from the cold & placing them so near a roaring fire; but the goodnatured people only laughed at us, & bade us come up & get the benefit. Divesting ourselves of our wet garments, we made shift to keep for a time at a respectable distance; & then hot spirits & water were brought in
p.366 this we positively refused to touch, thanking our Host & Hostess at the same time but as we smelt something very savoury in the cooking way, we enquired if dinner would soon be ready, for that we were very hungry, & would just take what they had, they said it was already & should be brought in immediately. By this time were we joined by our kind driver, who we were pleased to see refused the spirits & water upon an empty stomach but he said he would take some after dinner. Our dinner consisted of soup boiled beef & vegetables to which we had ample justice, as to the children, they were quite at home seated beside their young friends, My dear George ordered some porter, but our driver would not partake with us because he said spirits & water agreed with him better, we were very pleased to see that he did not take much.
p.367 The dinner being over & the sun shining out, it was the opinion of all that the rain for the present was over; & that we might safely continue our journey: Our dried garments were then brought in as soon as the two children found they must leave their warm quarters they said they were very sorry, & wished much to remain a little longer. We paid our bill & taking leave of the kind family at the Inn, recommenced our journey. After crossing the Jordan their [sic] was one very steep & rather dangerous place to ascend, but which was accomplished at last without any accident, altho we were very nearly overturned once, down the fearful precipice. I also remember the children & myself getting out & scrambling along as well as we could, while my husband & the driver were doing their best to restrain the horse who had become rather unmanageable. After this, all the rest of the way was very well.
p.368 We proceeded on at a rapid pace, the wind blowing very cold, much colder than ever I had felt it since I left my native land. We passed some beautifully laid out grounds, but nothing particularly worthy of notice & arrived at our journey’s end between 5 & 6 PM & put up at Cockerills Inn Bothwell. Thankful to our heavenly Father, who had indeed been better unto us than our fears.