Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

David Burn

Journal of a Voyage to Newcastle and Hunter River - 1844

Below is an Excerpt from a Journal written by David Burn dated 1 Aug. 1844-19 Feb. 1845 in which he describes his trip to Newcastle and the Hunter River by Steamer in October 1844

The Journal, which begins with his voyage to New South Wales on the Calcutta in 1841, has been digitised by the State Library NSW and can be viewed here.

David Burn (1798-1875) first arrived in Hobart in 1826. He made several visits to Scotland and England before settling at 'Rotherwood' on the River Ouse.

In 'Journal of a passage from London to Hobart Town in the Barque Calcutta (484 tons), Captain F.E. Chalmers, 1841, David Burn describes the voyage including the town of Teneriffe, and includes a list of passengers and a list of his previous sea voyages.

In 1842 he accompanied Sir John and Lady Franklin on their visit to the west coast of Tasmania.

David Burn left Hobart for Sydney on the ship 'London' on 31 July 1844. He describes his stay in Sydney in detail, commenting on its social life, personalities, buildings, scenery and shipping.

On 6 September 1844 he caught the steamer 'Tamar' to Newcastle, and then the steamer 'Maitland' to Port Macquarie. He describes his impressions of these towns. He also travelled to Wauchope and Kempsey, before returning to Newcastle. Burn then journeyed up the Hunter River, visiting Raymond Terrace, Morpeth and Maitland. Returning to Newcastle, he caught the steamer back to Sydney, arriving on 8 October.

On 19 December he left for Norfolk Island on the 'Agincourt' under Captain Neatby. He describes the Island and the convicts. He left Norfolk Island on 29 December to return to Sydney. The last journal entry is 19 February 1845. Burn writes interesting descriptions of all the places he visited. While in Sydney he organised the publication and performance of his literary works -

In the 1840s David Burn was beset by financial difficulties and migrated to Auckland in 1847 where he worked as an editor and journalist on several newspapers until his retirement in 1865. He died in Auckland in 1875. - State Library NSW.

Transcription of Journal.

The Journal

Transcript of a1502104 Page100
File Number: FL3418245
Sophia Jane, 256 Tons, The First Steamer to Arrive in Australia, 1831- Living Histories - Donated by E. Braggett
Tuesday: 3 September 1844: ..........
Recd. a most harrowing letter from my adored wife to which I made an instant and earnest reply. Also another from Mr. Reid with a pressing invite to Newcastle, whither I propose proceeding in the evening. On reaching the Steam Wharf I found that neither the Tamar nor any of the Co. boats were there, but the Sophia Jane, an opposition steamer was preparing to start. She, having an awful depression amidships and being, moreover, a very old vessel, I would not tempt Providence in her - having a wholesome recollection of our sufferings in the old Glasgow on the 3rd August 1841.

Transcript of a1502105 Page 101
File Number: FL34182456

Wednesday: 4th September 1844..... The first thing I did was to write to Mr. Reid intimating that he might expect me at Newcastle by breakfast time on Saturday Eve.

Transcript of a1502111 Page 107
File Number: FL3418252

Woolloomolloo, with its palaces and towers, and four goodly Wind Mills made up a scene well worthy an artists attention - I again took boat, - the Ferry Queen, a diminutive steamer of very neat construction, - at Billy Blues point, from which I was conveyed to the foot of Windmill Street, reaching home just in sufficient time to escape a heavy thunder storm - After finishing a very voluminous epistle to my beloved wife, I joined our family dinner party - The rain descended in torrents and all were anxious I should remain where I was - however, I persevered, and when I shook Inches by the hand I could easily perceive the warm kindliness of his heart, and the regret he felt for the desolation of my unhappy fortunes.......

Arrival at Newcastle

Bade an earnest adieu to all, and hurried on board the Tamar, which got under weigh precisely at 8. P.M. I found Dr. Wilson R.N. on board before me - He was taking a look at the Hunter River prior to his departure for London, per Haidee, on Tuesday - We experienced a considerable jobble of a sea when outside the heads, but a fair wind wafted us merrily along –
Image showing Macquarie Pier from Dangar's Guide to Settlers c. 1828
Saturday: 7th September 1844 -
On turning out at daylight, I found we were close to Newcastle Heads which are exactly sixty miles distant from those of Port Jackson - For this trip the cabin fare per Tamar is only 3/- a price charged with the view of running Sophia Jane (7/6) off the station - these two vessels sail every Tuesday and Friday - By the Tamar Co.s Boats Rose and Thistle, which sail every other day the fare is 15/- This does not deserve encouragement, but, unhappily, Sophia is rather aged, somewhat bent in the middle, and not altogether the most ship shape to a sailors eye.

Description of Newcastle

The coast about Newcastle is anything but interesting, consisting of a low sandy and unmeaning shore - The entrance of the river is distinctly marked by an island peak called Nobby’s on either side of which the Hunter disembogues itself - The peak is now being shorn of its fair proportions as well as a cliff on the mainland, and extensive causeway or breakwater being in course of formation to unite the two, and thus block up the southern passage which is most exposed to the fury of the .........

Transcript of a1502112 Page 108
File Number: FL3418253

.......ocean - Public opinion is much divided as to the beneficial results of this measure - some asserting it will tend to choak the Northern passage, others insisting it must of necessity deepen it - From my own observation of similar matters, I fully accord in the theory of the latter - Newcastle is rather a pretty looking place, lying on the gentle slope of a small hill with a Northern exposure - It contains perhaps 1400 inhabitants, and is principally remarkable for the Collieries with which it is enriched -

These collieries are leased to the Australian Agricultural Company of whose investments this is said to be the most if not the only profitable one - They charge 11/- per ton for splendid coals delivered from the shoot, - They pay, I am told £500 of Monthly wages, a sum which, in the depth of the surrounding gloom, is of vast account - they have several shafts sunk -

Wharves have hitherto been unattended to but a good one is now in course of formation -

Military Barracks, affording quarter for 16 Officers and 200 men have not long been completed, Major Last, Mr. De Winton, Dr. Galbraith and a detachment of the 99th regiment at present occupy them - A lofty wall was intended to enclose them but only a small portion of it has been finished -

There are prisoners Barracks at Nobby, and a stockade at the Wharf, the prisoners are men sentenced to Irons - Some time since half a dozen of them took to the water with the view of escaping from Nobby - The sentry challenged and ordered them to return - five obeyed but the sixth persevered - Again he was warned and persisted - The sentry fired - hit him, and down he went; his body appeared no more and most probably was drifted out to sea - Coal abounds in all direction here, the very fact of the cliff being surcharged with it -

The height adjoining Nobby is called Signal Hill - from this all vessels approaching are made known, and here a large coal fire is nightly made to do duty of a light house. The town wears a very woe begone look at present, and only some short time since 50 of the limited Military force was detached to New Zealand - On Signal Hill, without carriages, lie 7 - 6 pounders in the last stage of consumptive honeycombism - The Hunter is a very........

Transcript of a1502113 Page 109
File Number: FL3418254

.......shallow river in many places, even the light draughted steam boats constantly taking the ground - Bar Harbours and shallow rivers will ever, I fear, mar commercial greatness in this colony -

The vicinity of Newcastle is extremely sandy and barren - An immense Sand Hill has been blown up between the town and Signal Hill, underneath which a capital made road lies engulfed - there are many good houses of which the new Police Office erected by Sir R. Bourke is a very creditable specimen -

Sandhills at NewcastleSandhills at Newcastle


Opposite to Newcastle on the Northern Bank lies Stockton a small village which boasts a Salt Works, Iron foundry, and Woollen Manufactory - This latter has been established barely one year - Already it gives employment to 50 hands, but when the Machinery which is shortly expected from England shall arrive, they expect to find work for 200 - The carding, spinning, weaving and dressing establishments are excellent, and the Tweed which they produce of first rate quality and vended at the moderate price of 3/3 per yard, wholesale - From the ashes of the boilers they anticipate making soap of superior excellence, so that nothing is suffered to go to waste –

My old friend Mr. Reid and his family received me with much kindness. It grieved me that they, like I, should have experienced the heavy pressure of the times, however, it has fallen with lighter hand upon them than upon my beloved wife and myself, and than many of our unlucky acquaintance - Mr. Reid had fortunately settled a considerable portion of his property upon Mrs. R. - We had Mr. Baker and Dr. Bowker to dinner which was ample in quantity and excellent in quality - Major Last and Dr Galbraith came in after, or rather to Tea - a rubber was the order of the evening - Short Whist - 6d. points, and trebles counted - My luck, as usual, was unprecedentedly bad for any ordinary man, playing every hand with unvarying ill fortune, and losing 27 points, an extent of play which, in my poverty stricken state, I would have been more than glad to have escaped from - and which, indeed, had I known trebles to have been scored, I must have declined indulging in - I could have had far more interest in Inches’ prudent and quite as exciting rubber of 6.d - but there is no choice in these matters sometimes.......

Transcript of a1502114 Page 110
File Number: FL3418255

Sunday: 8th September 1844 -
Intense anxiety for my adored Wife is preying upon my very vitals - I arose with a throbbing heart, aching head and wretched spirits - Would to God her welfare could be ascertained and we again be reunited - Oh, Almighty Father, bless her, I implore thee with thy choicest blessings - grant her health strength and happiness and, oh, restore us in love and joy each to the other.

Church at Newcastle c. 1819 from Map entitled Port Hunter and its Branches c. 1819. State Library of NSWChristchurch, Newcastle

Attended service at Newcastle Church, a picturesque looking edifice of the Old English School; perched upon the brow of the slope overhanging the town - Its clean white washed walls, and short thick set steeple are prominent land marks to the shipping - Its peaceful Graveyard lies on the Northern side, beneath a sort of natural terrace - Several of the would be mementos of frail mortality are themselves in a mouldering and fragile condition - So much for Earthly Monuments - can aught more forcibly impress the necessity of placing our record on high - In this immediate vicinity one child was yesterday killed by a slip of sand and another extricated with difficulty, from the treacherous mass -

The discussion of Lord Stanley’s Educational System is affording a text for the Clergy - Mr. Wilton the incumbent here gave us a zealous but rather laboured exposition of the subject. Service over we took a stroll to Windmill Hill, from whence the town, the sinuosities, bays, and islands of the Hunter, with the extended scrubby plains bordering its course are comprehended at a glance - The picture is very far from being a glowing one, scarcely one spot of cultivation gladdening the sterile character of the sandy desert whose worthlessness is, however, screened by the dense but useless brush wood where with it is covered - The only point of interest landwards is when the eye falls upon the far distant mountains whose remoteness, as usual, “lends enchantment to the view” - Indeed, there is an almost painful degree of sameness in all Australian and Tasmanian scenery, one place so closely resembling another that the eye grows weary in traversing the measureless depths of primeval forests, interminable plains, and regularly irregular mountains - At the back of the Windmill The Australian Agricultural Co. have established a village for their miners, comprising some.......

Transcript of a1502115 Page111
File Number: FL3418256

........18 or 20 houses to each of which half an acre of garden ground is attached - The company hold 2000 acres here, and their miners who live rent free earn an average rate of wages of 25/- weekly - A new shaft has been sunk in this quarter, but it is not expected to commence working for a year or two -

Turning our back upon the vast expanse of sterile land outspread before us, we next contemplate a much more boundless extent of sky and water - The vast Pacific in all its might stretches onwards until the blue of Ocean and Ether commingle - The sea is ever a glorious sight, but to be truly exhilarating it must be dotted with here and there a tall ship - few such are seen from the heads of Newcastle, upon whose beach the unploughed wave generally breaks in solitary murmurings - The whole picture either sea or landward is stupendous, but chilling from the great paucity of the necessary life like accompaniments.

Upon requesting Mr. Reid to receive his card winnings he refused in the most peremptory manner insisting that he and I played for amusement only -

There is a Major Crummer formerly of the gallant 28th regiment and recently Police Magistrate here - In the economical order of the day, the Magistracy has been discontinued, and his sole pay is £50 a year and free house as Commissioner Court of Requests. His wife is a Greek lady and he has 7 children - Like other officers he was induced to sell out and settle in this El Dorado - Bad times have pressed him like others, and he is one of many proofs of the worse than insanity of any officer to part with his Commission - Half pay may be small but it is certain, and no man should be tempted to dispose of it without the most anxious consideration.

We had a most agreeable party at dinner comprising Major Last, an intelligent off handed gentleman, - Dr. Galbraith, one of the most lively and garrulous of the Scotch Esculapii - Mr. De Winton, a very handsome, unassuming, young man, who introduced himself as a connexion of my [indecipherable] facetious neighbour C.O. Parsons - The last not least in this category was Miss Emma Crummer, eldest daughter of the Major, a young lady of great daring in equitation, and particularly remarkable for the deep intonation of a rather masculine voice - In other respects very agreeable.

Transcript of a1502116 Page 112
File Number: FL3418257

Monday: 9th September 1844 -
A lovely morning the whole of which was spent in writing to my beloved wife, Mrs. Atkinson, and Inches - My penmanship over, - which was achieved by 12.30 P.M. I joined my kind host at lunch -, thence we sauntered down town in expectation of the steamer, but a lugubrious inclination of the semaphore on Signal Hill, apprised us of her being aground on the flats where for three hours she very tranquilly remained, or rather I should say they both Sophia and Tamar having equally embedded themselves - At last about 5 Sophia made her appearance and on board I saw Dr. Wilson to whom I wished a good passage to Europe and entrusted my Sydney and Hobart letters - We had a stroll together - Dressed and dined at the New Barracks with Major Last, Mr. De Winton, Mr. Reid and Dr. Galbraith - We had a delightful evening and I was more than highly amused with the Majors account of raising the 99th in Glasgow in 1824, upon which occasion he was Ensign, drill corporal, drill sergeant, and God knows what. We had a series of rubbers at Whist - Change partners as we might I was ever a loser, a proof that no man, even in trifles, may contend with fortune - Lost 6/-

Tuesday: 10th September 1844 -
Long re Phoebus had left his ocean couch I was up and stirring - one of the River steamers lay alongside the wharf, and in about an hour and a half the Port Macquarie vessel made her appearance - swallowing a hasty breakfast I shook hands with my kind host and his amiable family - Called at the Post Office but was uncheered by a letter -

The Maitland, a small colonial built craft of 103 tons lay alongside the shoot filling up her coals - she is fitted with an engine of 60 horse power, manufactured by Fawcett and Preston of Liverpool - She sits very low in the water, and from her peculiar construction must of necessity be a slow coach - A few revolutions of her paddle wheels and the great difficulty she had in freeing herself from her back water satisfied me she must labour prodigiously in a sea way - There were a good many passengers on board and amongst others a very pretty young woman, suffering acutely all the agonies of sea sickness - The steward announcing breakfast I counselled her to swallow a mouthful or two of broiled ham, and, whilst thus engaged, she was addressed by a person of more than middle age, a horrific specimen of the genus Homo, his sallow visage being.......

Transcript of a1502117 Page 113
File Number: FL3418258

........adorned with a counterfeit handle, otherwise nose, of pinkish hue. Disagreeable objects possess a sort of rattlesnake fascination and, in my own despite, I found my gaze enchained - The individual who had thus engaged my attention was, as I afterwards learned, the notorious Robert Herring who robbed the Stirling Mail in 1826 or 7, and who, with the hope of destroying his identity had sliced that feature whose shining substitute had so attracted and disgusted me - He has now obtained his Ticket of Leave, has become a painstaking shopkeeper in Port Macquarie, where it is presumed his “gains of other days” will gradually see the light.

At a little after 8 our coals were completed, Newcastle receding and Nobby left behind, the Maitland taking it very quietly, drawing herself lazily along at a very moderate jog trot - Altho’ the water was smooth as a Mill pond she nevertheless managed to sally about prodigiously, heaving the wash from her paddles in at the cabin scuttles and digging into every petty swell with a violence that made her reel again - The coast to the Northward of Newcastle is one long succession of low sandy uninviting, beach which stretches all the way to Port Stephen, a harbour very distinctly marked by a range of small hummocky peaks with two or three island rocks of like character close to the mainland, the interior is, further, backed by a group of hills of moderate elevation and limited extent - Port Stephen is Head Quarters of the Australian Agricultural Company –(who) are said not to be making a fortune) - We were off it by noon.

David Burn then proceeded to Port Macquarie on the Maitland, returning again to Port Stephens on 2 October and Newcastle on 3rd October 1844. He departed Newcastle on the Steamer on 5th October and made his way to Morpeth and Maitland........

Port Stephens

Transcript of a1502152. File Number: FL3418293
Page 148

Wednesday: 2 October 1844:
At anchor within At anchor within the fine spacious basin, Port Stephens, the wind a brisk gale at W.S.W. The barque Jane Sydney Whaler, and two schooners, one of which had been ashore. This place is completely land locked, the harbour capable of containing the largest fleets, the water of sufficient depth, and the land high and hilly. The Maitland, lying very snugly as she could do but little good outside - The wind increased and the weather grew dirty and rainy as the tide made but with the turn came a lull and a fine sunshiny afternoon with a light air at S.W. At 3 p.m. we landed on the S. beach.

There was an Aboriginal encampment, and some of our gentlemen went to play leap frog and jump against the Blacks whom they invariably excelled to the loud merriment of both parties. I picked up a few indifferent rock oysters. Had my dinner depended on them I should not have fared over sumptuously. The land appeared to be barren and sandy. Two of the Blacks paddled off in their bark canoe, it is part of a sheet stripped from a tree puckered and tied with currajong strips at the extremities, the centre being spread and kept open by short transverse sticks. This slight vessel they made to skim the sea with much ease and speed. At 7.30 p.m. the wind had lulled. At 7.30 p.m. the wind had lulled and the sea subsided - We, therefore, weighed and stood to sea, but, when outside the hummocks, my lady began to bob her head in a very uneasy manner - it proved a fearful night. The deck was completely swept, and as for the Capt. (Parsons) and the watch they might almost as well have been towed astern. Several times amidst the rolling, pitching, and shipping of green seas he thought of bearing up again for Port Stephens - Still, perseverance overcomes much, and acting upon that good old axiom, he bored his way thro’ all and reached Newcastle between eight and morning.

Return to Newcastle

Thursday: 3 October 1844
Landed at Newcastle, at the Coal Shoot, between 6 and 7 a.m. just as the Maitland again faced towards Sydney and a S.W. gale - I made the best of my way to Mr. Reid’s where, albeit they had changed t where, albeit they had changed their dwelling, they had not in the slightest degree changed their kindness. I found Mr. and Mrs. Turner among their inmates - After breakfast I wrote a hurried epistle to my own dearest Kathleen which I forthwith conveyed to the Post Office. From thence I proceeded to the Wharf and on.......

Transcript of a1502153 Page 149
File Number FL3418294}

......board the brig Julia, which......board the brig Julia, which I entered from idle curiosity - Judge my surprise when I saw Robinson, our old Second Mate in the John, in command of her. We knew each other at a glance and a cordial greeting ensued - Old yarns were laid, relaid and twice laid, and I half engaged to go with him to Tahiti whither he is found. It would be a delightful trip at the present moment, and but for tearing me further from my dearest wife I never would hesitate. I know not how it may end. It would afford me a splendid feature for my book -

Had a pleasant meeting with Major Last, and met a Mr McIlwaine at Mr. Reid’s –The Hunter River Steamers, Tamar, and Sophia Jane, blew off their vapour and did n, blew off their vapour and did not impertinently thrust their noses outside.

Friday: 4th October 1844:
Mr. Turner left this morning at 6 per Steamer for Sydney. I wrote a few lines to Mr. Atkinson. Went down to the Coal Wharf, where Mr. Robinson and I strolled to the Pits - The Shamrock in from Sydney for her supply of in from Sydney for her supply of perch - Gilmore, her Master, dined with Mr. Reid. After dinner I visited the Julian - Robinson presented me a Chinese walking stick. Arranged with Mr McIlwaine to go in the morning to Maitland.

Hunter River Cruise

Saturday: 5 October 1844:
Astir betimes - the Steamers arrived early but it being dead low water neither of them could proceed until after 10, at which time the Tamar departed on her upward course. A mile or two above Newcastle the river is barred by flats whereon vessels constantly take the ground. To prevent such a casualty we went off at a steady pace, not more than half speed being hazarded - Over these flats the Hunter spreads itself into a magnificent lake like, volume, spangled here and there with miniature islands of no great beauty in themselves, but attractive as agreeable features in a pretty landscape of which the distant mountains, bathed in purple dyes, are the most varied and captivating. The different bends at these flats look like so many rivers, yet they are merely several channels.

On one of the sound banks, left dry by the receding tide, a large flock of pelicans were sunning their wings, and rejoicing in the genial warmth that had succeeded the cold and blustery weather of the past four or five days. It is rather singular to contemplate them with outstretched necks and expanded plumes absorbing as it were the very vitality of the health giving breeze. The fair way becoming very intricate our motions were necessarily rendered extremely slow........

Transcript of a1502154 Page 150 order to our being reasonably sure - A little, round sterned, cutter, the Acme was sedulously observing a like precaution on her downward course. The Sophia Jane, which had preceded us, got safely over, our car, which had preceded us, got safely over, our care was eventually crowned with a like fortunate result, but poor little Acme’s career became muddily interrupted.

Ash Island

For weary miles the banks of the Hunter are lonely, monotonous and unprepossessing, the first indication of industry and civilisation being discernible at a spot called Tomigo, on the right side. Australian agriculture is incomparably more slovenly than Tasmanian, and it is as rare to see a field clear of unsightly stumps here as it would be remarkable and discreditable to find them on any commonly well ordered farm there. At Tommy (?Tomago), with the quaint adjunct, the scenery begins to improve a little - that improvement became more evident as we advanced, and a very inviting object is the late Mr. Scott's cottage on Ash Island, at the mouth of another bend which takes a round turn to Newcastle.

Here, there are, also, other remarkable circular islets, but the rain commenced descending in such copious streams that I was compelled to abandon the picturesque and hasten to the shelter of the cabin - the rain now provokingly descended in torrents and that at a time when we were threading the cultivated shores of the Hunter. I therefore braved its watery fury, beguiling the time with the merry chat of an old College chum (Sandy Patterson) who chanced to be a passenger. Notwithstanding a) who chanced to be a passenger. Notwithstanding an infinity of vicissitudes he was gay, as sanguine as a green boy - in ecstacies about some new farming scheme whereby past misfortunes were to be retrieved, and a mighty [indecipherable] now to be achieved.

Raymond Terrace

As we got into a fine reach enlivened by various smiling farms, the bays broken by several picturesquely rounded headlands the orb of day once more shone forth gilding the prospect and dispelling the unkindly vapours. We were close to the village of Raymond Terrace, a truly pleasant spot at the confluence of the W, a truly pleasant spot at the confluence of the William and Hunter - Altho’ in its infancy it boasts many goodly dwellings of cheerful aspect and fair proportions, the charm of the landscape is, notwithstanding, grievously marred by the vast number of long, naked, decayed, spindling trees that crown the banks on either side - when these shall have been eradicated, the prospect will deserve to be called charming, and then still of a tame character. The Hunter is densely populated, farms appear to be numerous and extensive, and, from secular demonstration, such at least as may be gleaned from a passing view, I incline to think its reputation as one of the most fertile agrestial districts of New Sth. Wales is richly merited. I would I could commend the manner of its [indecipherable] but that is filthy, discreditable and disreputable. Vegetation is luxurious, even to rankness, but it is.....

Transcript of a1502155 Page 151

.......but it is most offensive to the eye to wander thro’ corn fields of ugly stumps or still more ungainly standing timber, the bark being ringed to ensure the death of the tree. There is an utter absence of the fine dwellings upon which one reasonably calculates on a river of such agricultural and navigable pretension. Near Raymond Terraces there was a vessel of some 70 or 80 tones in frame - everywhere in there was a vessel of some 70 or 80 tones in frame - everywhere indications of lavish fertility abound, but it is a savage fertility - bread, as it were, in plenty but, still, bread wrung from the wilderness, the rude hut and ruder offices at every step intrude, and thus the picture of the Hunter is necessarily but a picture in outline, requiring to be filled up by all the intelligible colourings which taste, residence, and the minute elegancies of social man know so well how to apply. At present it is a goodly rural landscape devoid of finish and much impaired by the slovenliness of the husbandry. A Mr. Hickey’s was the first place worth mention, and that merely by lack of any degree of comparison elsewhere. Here the axe and the grubbing hoe had partially done their duty: the odious gums had given place to a tasteful cottage which reared its modest head on the crest of a slope whereon a garden and vineyard displayed their stores.


Our trip was now within five miles of its termination and as the destined point was neared gracefully swelling hills closing in the N.W. portion of the landscape redeemed in part its almost unbroken lameness of character; larger tracts of tolerably cleared land also throw an additional grace upon the semi canal like river which, hereabouts, wantons in a truly serpentine maze, winding within five minutes from N.W. to S.E. and indeed, round and round the compass. The land is of the deepest and richest alluvial soil, bearing the finest and most healthy looking crops, and tolerably besprinkled with habitation. Every stage of nearer approach renders the prospect more alluring - so closely did we skirt the western bank, the vessel may be almost said to brush it in her career. The large quantity of tillage now in the heights of luxuriant vegetation dotted the surface with a gorgeous mantle of glowing emeralds - At no season could the country have been viewed in such absolute perfection and never was season more favourable for such view than the present, because moisture had been long and moderately prevalent, a blessing only too infrequent for the prosperity of this land. Our passage proved a particularly slow one, a small leak in the boiler compelling us to do our work with one. Half a mile below Morpeth the Patterson river diverges N.E. at a spot called Hinton where a punt is established. Morpeth is a considerable village upon the left bank of the Hunter at the head of its navigation, cheerfully placed upon swelling slopes ........

Transcript of a1502156 Page 152
File Number: FL3418297

.....rising in picturesque liveliness from the waters edge. We reached it in safety at 3.30 p.m. Its style of Architecture albeit neither Doric nor Italian is suited to its wants, storehouse, inns and smiling [indecipherable] here and there. Conveyances to Maitland were plentiful but 2/6 for three miles, which I was told was the distance, sounded so exorbitant I preferred sauntering thither afoot. Few dwellings of any pretension are to be found at Morpeth. There is one, however, that of goodly exterior and agreeably situated in a park like enclosure,  adjoining the unassuming little Church, a neat stone edifice with a somewhat dumpy, square, battlemented, tower. This Church has been erected by Mr. Close, upon whose land and under whose auspices Morpeth has been created. The rich low lands around (under their present aspect) are far more like the meadows of Old England than any I have hitherto seen.


The walk from Morpeth to Maitland is really a charming one, smiling fields, sleek cattle, substantial homesteads, cosy dwellings, a glowing landscape woo the wayfarers attention, the emerald meads beaming in his delighted and with enchanting grace at every step. My reader, however, must again be reminded that this delicious landscape was traversed by me at the very finest season of the year and in the finest season wherewith New S. Wales had for years been favoured. When the fervid glare of the summers sun shall have turned “the green leaves all to yellow” much of the beauty will questionless depart - what the aspect then a vividly painful recollection of the desolate almost horrescent, appearance of withered Tasmania suffices to proclaim. There is no medium, either the earth is baked to a cinder, else saturated to a slough. A three miles tramp brought me to East Maitland where the Sessions House and Gaol are situated in a straggling village with a Branch of the Australasian Bank, a few good houses whereof the hotels and gin shops are not the least prominent. A short two miles connects East with West Maitland. The latter village is much the larger and more select, but it is still but a straggling place abounding in the too abundant houses of accommodation the bane and scourge of this unhappy Colony.
The river skirts the principal street, and the superb agrestial territory around is begirt with fine pastoral hills upon whose swelling slopes elegant villas are plentiously studded. The locality is indeed a lovely one, and in the golden days when “Money in both pockets” abounded, the resident gentry might surely be forgiven the pardonable vanity the contemplation.......

Transcript of a1502157 Page 153

.........of ones own fertile soil never fails to excite in the bosom of the lords. Mr McIlwaine was waiting for me, with a horse, at the Northumberland Arms - I, therefore, mounted forthwith - we passed several very pretty spots, amongst others those of Dr Rutherford R.N. - Mr Hobler, a son of him of Mansion House fame - a mansion costing £10.000, and a most expensive Kangaroo and emu paddock, staggered the son who wound up for £39.000 -

After fording the Hunter, and passing Mr Mitchell’s, a short ride conducted us to Rosebrook by sunset.

Sunday: 6 October 1844
[indecipherable] deplores the inadequacy of language sufficiently to [indecipherable] or convey accurate impressions of diversified scenery - If an [indecipherable] so eminently gifted, and so deservedly high in public estimation, treating of the fairy shores of all enchanting Killarney where Legends, Romance, and Chivalric tales are thick as leaves in [indecipherable] - if such a powerful writer, backed by the brilliant aid of a masterly pencil limning the charms acceptable to thousands, where truthful portraitures are not simply recognised but, by a rapid association of ideas, recall to memory cherished spots, bygone, happy days, or scenes of joy or woe, - if such an experienced delineator deplores the frequent iteration of terms, amounting nearly to unavoidable tautology in all descriptive scenic narratives, how much more deplorable must my case be who lack alike her talent to adorn, and her reputation to win favour, whilst the scattered anecdotes that attempt to enliven my pages are those of consummate fraud or atrocious force - No tale of legendary love - no deed of high [indecipherable], no chronicled record can be culled by me - the correctness of my pictures but few can either approve or question, and for illustrations of the pencil, alas, they are such as the humane and charitable have furnished by voluntary contribution. Despite all these imminent perils, I will [indecipherable] adventure in the hope that if I cannot take my reader’s imagination by storm, I may at least afford him some little insight of the recipes of the Australian “Bush” - Rosebrook, fresh from the hands of nature, is a lovely spot, the cottage pl, fresh from the hands of nature, is a lovely spot, the cottage placed on a lawn gently sloping towards the Hunter and embosomed amid sweetly sylvan, grassy hills, hills of moderate height and graceful form: the fields are a fine alluvial deposit, - but of what avail the greatest fertility of soil if the restless demon of infertility rides the lurid air, blighting and burning, and marring the farmers.......

Transcript of a1502158 Page 154

.........almost certain hopes in the very moment of their expected.........almost certain hopes in the very moment of their expected fruition - and, alas, how constantly is this the case, - the wheat vegetates, flowers, gives glorious promise, when, suddenly, a breath and it is gone - the well filled ears are but a map of rust, and nothing left but straw - It seems clear to me that New south Wales can never hope to be a safe wheat growing country, and I almost wonder her settlers should struggle at so frequently futile an attempt - With Port Essington a sugar colony, the convicts from her and her sister isle withdrawn and a really wholesome population substituted (the bond and free never will be made to work in unison) Tasmania might even yet be the secure granary and “cabbage yard” whilst the undivided energies of Australia could be much more beneficially directed towards the growth of wines, silks, and tobaccos - Were for 14 years leases accorded to squatters, it might be well deserving their consideration to improve and embellish their homesteads and to construct tramways into the interior, - Timber is superabundant and the ironbark is almost indestructible - Were such a simple mode of transport adopted where three months are now occupied in the conveyance of stores little more than eight days would suffice - The first cost would quickly be saved in the vastly enhanced facility of transit, and the actual outlay would be much less than a casual glance might lead one to infer - A most complete and successful precedent has been established at Port Arthur by that meritorious Officer Capt. Booth formally of the 21st Fusileers - there the wagons are worked upon a very unequal surface - by men, three sufficing to propel half a ton at a speed of about six miles an hour - Now, on the dead levels of New S. Wales two horses would convey a load four times the length and at less than a fourth of the muscular exertion of eight bullocks - This suggestion is no impractical chimera - it has been satisfactorily and constantly demonstrated on the unequal paths of the Tasmans Peninsula.


At Rosebrook, Lieut. Marshall, R.N. superintendent of the female emigration ship David Scott, r, R.N. superintendent of the female emigration ship David Scott, resided as tenant, became embarrassed died, and was buried - his widow and family are striving with the world upon a farm eight miles further up the river - We ascended the hill behind Rosebrook: From the summit the country lay spread before us like a map in the direction of Newcastle, easily to be known by its Nobby, - the prospect embraced an extensive woody flat of thirty miles much of it embellished by the bright verdure of numerous meads;...........

Transcript of a1502159 Page 155

.......Maitland, too, and diverse cosey farm stands lay within our ken, but only a reach here and there betrayed the wandering course of the Hunter. On the opposite or N. Western circles of the stupendous panorama the landscape is hilly verging, in several instances, towards the mountainous. The valleys wherever visible showed verdant token of human toil; in the main, however, the sombre character of Australasia predominates tempting one in the very language of Lady Randolph to apostrophise “the woods and wilds whose melancholy gloom” impressed or appeased the soul with sadness. We traversed the hilly ridges contemplating the space beneath in an infinite variety of phases, but, shift the prospect as we might, save where man had created a few emerald spots the primeval savagery frowned sternly conspicuous. Perched so many hundred feet above the forest glades the eye roamed their sombre coppice, the harsh and hungry foliage spread in long unbroken lines bearing a strong resemblance to the dun moors of Caledonia; a sort of half dreamy illusion rendered still more in keeping by native fires whose smoke wound upwards like the vapours vomited from the various outlets of the Highland bothy. The turf we trod was gemmed by countless tiny flowers, whilst, at our sides, numberless shrubs displayed their floral pretensions, rendering the air balmy with their odouriferous perfume; a shrub of the appearance and scent of the Wallflower being the most prevalent. We still continued to wind the hill, thundering down mighty rocks which sped crashing and smashing into the startled vale. At length we stood upon the edge of a precipitous cliff some 4 or 500 feet of almost sheet descent. Here a wide magnificent panorama unfolded itself in stupendous majesty before us. In front, some thirty miles distant, pile upon pile, lay lordly mountains, barring the landward path to Sydney, masses of light and shade flickering fitfully, and [indecipherable] their figured sides in the half obscured sun. On the extreme left Nobby again indicated the whereabout of New Castle. Our right was engirdled by other hills, whilst, carpet like, at our feet, the gay green valley of the Hunter meandered joyously amid the untiring haunts of indefatigable man. From our elevated site we looked down upon the estate of Mr. Hudson, and skimming a hill between, Windermere the property of W.C. Wentworth, Member for Sydney, reposed in sweet retiring beauty the property of W.C. Wentworth, Member for Sydney, reposed in sweet retiring beauty. There was a noble majesty about the whole of this scene to which neither the pen nor the pencil could do adequate justice. Should any of ........

Transcript of a1502160 Page 156 readers hereafter visit Maitland let them repair hither and judge. A mile or two from Rosebrook and the Mount may be gained. To clamber an Australian or Tasmanian hill is not always to insure a view - indeed from the leafy tracery shadowing the steep ascents, an open prospect is generally rare - exceptions, however, there are, and this is an enchanting one. Mr McIlwaine was more than kind, and we spent a most agreeable evening.
was more than kind, and we spent a most agreeable evening.


Monday: 7 October 1844 -
Long ere Aurora with rosy finger 'walked o'er the dew of our high eastern hill' we were in the saddle and en route for Morpeth where we arrived in due time. I was pointed out the abode of one of Maitland’s wealthy denizens, tried in the good old times for lifting cattle - he escaped, but in impressive memorial two of his pals are said to have been made pendulous before his door for an hour or so. At 8.10 the Tamar got under weigh, all damages repaired. The Sophia Jane and the beautiful iron boat Rose in company, the latter on her way to Clarence Town - she speedily showed us her stern.

Raymond Terrace

Within the hour we were at Raymond Terrace where, whilst receiving passengers, Sophia gave us the go by - we had a motley looking group upon some of whose visages Gallows appeared to shine in legible characters. The weather hitherto sunshine changed to drizzling rain. At 11 we had reached the flats where Sophy stuck hard and fast; we, in common civility, could do no less, altho’ rude enough to run two or three hundred yards further down. We remained upwards of four hours until the tide flowed during which time I gleaned much intelligence of Oahu from a Capt. Milne, an old trader to the islands. I did not see my kind friends the Reids, he having very thoughtfully sent my portmanteau to the steamer which remained but a few minutes at Newcastle.

The inveterate Sandy Patterson told me that Reid's kindness of heart and the facility wherewith he lent his money or name to the ungrateful hounds of New S. Wales had obtained for him the sobriquet of the Pelican. The parties he thus materially obliged, ridiculing their benefactor a la [indecipherable] fair - as thus ...........

Transcript of a1502161 Page 157

.......'This, ladies and gen'l'men, is the Pelican of the wilderness wot is said to feed its young upon its own blood: but latterly, ladies an' gen'l'men, it ant been so such bloody food!' There's an inducement for a man to serve his friends - New South Wales can show a vast amount of like gratitude. We got into Port about 2 a.m. Sophy leading the way.

Notes and Links

1). Arrival of David Burn on the Calcutta in 1841. Colonial Times

2). While in Sydney Burn made the acquaintance of surgeon James Osborne.

3). In December 1844 David Burn embarked on the Agincourt for a voyage to Norfolk Island

4). Captain Neatby of the Agincourt was described by Godfrey Charles Mundy in his publication 'Our Antipodes'. Colonel Mundy had joined the Agincourt for a voyage to Australia in 1846.....'we had an attentive captain, a remarkable peculiarity as a skipper; he was never heard to utter an oath or approaching the nature of one, nor indeed any expression of harshness of or abuse to his people; yet the discipline on board was admirable.