A Visit to My Daughter and A Trip to the Last Day Races
by Thomas Parmenter
Last Updated 16 May 2020
Thomas Parmeter was born in 1790 in Gosport, Hampshire, England. He joined his local regiment and served in France as a “dresser” of wounds. He was transported on the Fanny for the crime of bigamy in 1816. In the colony he was employed at the Castle Hill Lunatic Asylum. Jane Meredith was housekeeper at the Asylum and together they had a large family. Thomas was granted land at Warkworth in the Hunter Valley and named the property De Quirosville. Jane Meredith later married Walter Rotton.
Thomas Parmeter died at the age of 46. Twelve months previously and possibly already ill, he set out on a journey to make a visit to his daughter Maria (Mrs. Squire). He wrote the following letters to the Sydney Gazette outlining his travels to various parts of the Hunter Valley.
The letters contain several references to other Hunter Valley settlers and events of the day. '
'To go abroad, And cull the passing scenes is sweet, And innocent itself' - Captain Tripp.
'I will go and see my girl and the bairns', I exclaimed to George, 'and so prepare the tailor to go with me directly'. No sooner resolved than off I trudged.
Leaving my hospital invalids recovering fast, and with proper instructions I set out on my journey with Jemmy the conceited fine fool snip.
On crossing the river, how surprised was I (for three years since I last past it), to find one vast embodied plain of full three hundred acres of stumped and cleared land, composed of fine alluvial soil, and a neat and well built verandah cottage to welcome my wearied limbs, though only three miles distance.
After a kind an hospitable reception from Mr. and Mrs. Dodd and sister, I set off in his gig for the Plains, and after transacting a little business, I set out to borrow a horse and cart from my godson, Dio Baldwin, who resides with Mr. Otto Baldwin ; and, sleeping there at his fine new brick house, I determined to set off for my daughter, Mrs. Squire's.
But let me pause a moment to attempt to describe the metamorphosis that has taken place in these vast and beautiful plains:
The two inns of Brown and Singleton situated on the banks of the river, with the adjoining Court House, over which Captain Forbes so justly yet discriminately presides, with the convenient shops of Messrs. Dutton etc., I came and saw the mansion of the first named merchant whose mildness and gentlemanly manners I so much admired; and when I observed the roads and pastures, all closed round the farms of the several opulent proprietors methought the days of the Genii were resuscitated.
The neat cottage of Mr. McDougall was seen at a distance; and the adjoining and surrounding mansions and villas of Messrs Dangar, White, Larnach etc closed the parting beauties of the far famed St. Patrick 's Plains.
On I carted with my little tailor and driver till I came to my daughter's when lo and behold! I found a deserted house, except a couple of servants and a neighbouring tenant in charge.
Now sorely disappointed, yet I could not grumble when I understood they were at the Maitland Races.
To go so far and not see them was impossible - was, in fact, an absurdity, and an abominable want of affection I would not be guilty of for all my estate, or all the gold in the mines of Golconda.
Not but I confess a last days peep at the races was a slight inducement for my mounting a carriage with nine animals (one more than his Majesty's vehicle), vulgarly y'clept a bullock team, going empty to Maitland, belonging to Mr. Kilman (Kelman) conducted by two civil communicative Paddies, cognomended John Reardon and John Ginnar.
And thus much I must say, that when not obliged to go by such a conveyance by my palsied condition, never did I travel more safely and snugly than when escorted by my valets, for the time being - than these two sons of Erin. There is something winning and fascinating about a good natured Irishman that winds and entwines itself about our hearts and he is not a man that does not love one of these honest unsophisticated creatures. The moon had been up about an hour when I got to the busy and bustling town, and soon I had the pleasure and sweet consolation of embracing my charming and lovely Maria and her prattling babes to my arms. I was repaid for all my trouble, with the additional felicity of seeing my sons and my little Harriet,
'Tall and fair, and increasing good'
On Wednesday I gang'd to the course and took my comfortable seat on a chair on the stand, when, from the pressure of the mobility, I soon dismounted from my elevated site, close to the weighing enclosures.
The result of the races having been so ably detailed, I shall not particularize the business and pleasures of the day further than making a few animadversions and suggestions:
Now everything proved through the liberal high-mindedness of Mr. Simpson whose horse Pitch came off victor, perfectly satisfactory to the Sydney Jockey Club, and gratifying to Mr. Earle whose horse Countess evinced an astonishing superiority and Mrs. Yeoman who was honoured with a subscription from the Maitland patrons of forty guineas, for her spirited venture and expenditure in sportingly keeping alive the annual joys of the day
But let me advise my brother Hunteronians not to plume themselves upon their successive glory on the turf as next years shall come such a phalanx of speed and sport from all parts of the colony as to threaten annihilation to all their aspiring triumphs or else,
'What speed can prevent their surest goal'
At all events the spirit of the Hunter River sportsmen has been decidedly and demonstrably shewn to be an honourable competition with the whole districts of the colony; and every mind must be convinced that the field of honour was fairly won by the gentlemen of the club; and I cannot but fairly award a due meed of praise to the stewards, Mr. Mitchell, Captain Hungerford and Mr. Cory for their manly impartiality during the day as well as the amenity of manners of the Sydney gentlemen. After all these amusements were over I returned after spending an hour with the clever Irish surgeon Mr. Mellon (Mallon); whom I prophecy will, bye and bye go to the capital and take the lead, after the death of my friend Mr. Bland (whom God protect for many years). I say we all set off for my son in law's residence; daughter, bairns and all.
After travelling nearly all day the excellent and incomparable new road we just had a sight of Mr. Duguid's cottage and excellent well laid out grounds; and to my no small astonishment, we came upon a sudden burst and magnificent view of Oswald Seat the mansion of that unfortunate professional gentleman Mr. (William) Harper.
Ah! methought, sympathy and similarity of condition often inciting me to call I will not pass such a man of talent's door without paying my respects; and I need not have cogitated on the matter as Mrs. Harper hospitably came out, and anticipated all my fire and feeling.
I had never seen him before. Depicture to yourself a young man in the prime of life, completely blind; but oh! the light of his varied features and animated discourse, and what, thought I, Call you this an affliction, when by his genius and taste, he has contrived and planned a mansion surpassing any I have seen on the Hunter.
Just picture nearly three hundred acres stumped and tastefully laid out, with rising terrace and romantic hill, surrounded by valleys of a tortuous aspect, and on the summit of which towers an edifice for elegant splendour and locality of design, in the castellated modern fashion of comfort and grandeur assimilated.
Here could I pass my days, did not a paramount duty call me home to my improvising seat and retreat, purposely to enjoy his right and sight of intellect, though blind to external objects, yet illuminating all by his mind's eye, ever busy and never ceasing gaze.
'What smiles and joy, so pure as Home; When sweet content does crown the scene'
'Well I must go, said I to the 'Blind Philosopher', for in no other light could I contemplate the enlightened Mr. Harper, for my patients will be expecting me'
After two days delightful converse deep upon domestic matters and desultory politics, and a promise I should send my eldest son, Francis to commune with him and be useful to himself. I proposed to set off the following morning, being Tuesday, I think, in Mr. Harper's gig to my son in law's habitation.
After the customary farewell adieu! Lock, his overseer, drove me dashingly off with 'Speed like care' from Oswald Mansion.
Now I make it a point always to adopt my conversation with the character of the 'Child', I am addressing.
Therefore, driving was the order of the day, and I found Lock, so good an agriculturist, both in theory and especially in practice that from what little I knew (and God knows little enough) I thought Mr. Harper, lucky to get a Norfolk Farmer, to till his land and turn his soil.
Spending two delicious days with my daughter and her bairns and upon my valet, George, taking the fine foot tailor's face, I bade adieu to the interesting troupe of Mr. Squire's family and set off on a horse and cart, 'Lock again' to my site (for it is ridiculous to term it a seat at present) and Cotter's side.
But I am proud to truly say that a mile in length, I have fenced and cleared land, an avenue that would not disgrace an English Park.
So much for my tenant clearing system, for in a few years, I shall enjoy a descent income and children dear.
After refreshing ourselves at Singleton we reached Home at the close of the day when I sent George on and stopped at a neighbouring settler's called Mr. Brown where I staid all night and reached home the following morning.
Thus have I given a plain unvarnished trip of
'How I Went out and came back again'
What is life, but an interchange of scenes and actions, follies, or wisdom, amongst us all, to strive who shall 'Eat, drink, sleep and die!; for very few of us urge the rein in.
Ere I close my diary, I must allude to a trip I made to Mr. John Blaxland's fine estate on the Wollombi, Having some business to make with that gentleman I went to his minor 'Alpine villa' and certainly enjoyed the most expressible view of his Romantic retreat, for excepting the Rev. R.H. M's Christened Hamlet, it exceeds any sight on those mountains.
Figure to yourself upwards of three hundred acres of land, 'stumpt' and cleared close to the mountains edge, with adjacent and appropriate out buildings and crowned with Cottage neat, which will bye and bye give place to a superb domain.
Conversing with my son Thomas, he with a good deal of naiveté, exclaimed, 'Father, I don't know Latin and Greek, besides I would rather be with Mr. Low; and become a shipwright, as I have heard you say Doctors are two a penny, now a days. Well I said Tom, German and French, are easily studied, and are language's more fitting these modern times to finish Surgeon and so I'll send you to my old pupil the talented Mr. Clayton of Windsor. No No Father he reiterated let me be a shipwright. Well, Well, I rejoined, you shall be a naval architect, with that he smiled and we parted - for thus he disappoints my ambition. Yet I would rather let him allow the bend of his inclination and be happy.