Category Archives: New South Wales

Beware the Ides of March

On 27 February 1823 the Sydney Gazette expressed a mixture of gratitude and foreboding:

The rains, with which we have been visited during the past week, have been extremely beneficial to the garden and to the field. The face of nature speedily assumed a grateful appearance, and the poor beasts even have had occasion to rejoice. From experience, however, we think it a duty to put the settler in mind of next month, for the “ides of March” approach.

The reference to the Ides of March seems to mean that there will be an inevitable development in the weather and it will come irrespective of the strength of one’s hopes and fears. Was the writer suggesting that by the middle of March there might be either too little rain or too much?

On 18 March 1824 the Sydney Gazette reported an alteration in the weather from dry to wet:

The recent rain has been productive of vast benefit to the drooping garden and perishing field. With the exception of a few showers at the commencement, this month has been marked as one of the most inclement for heat and drought, up to the 15th. Every year, as well as each revolving season, fully assures the Colonists that there is nothing more uncertain than the Australian weather—while it must be allowed, as well as generally acknowledged, that this uncertainty does not at all diminish the proverbial salubrity of our clime. As we have had but little rain since July, water has been scarce in town; but then it should be gratefully remembered what a providential supply Black-wattle Swamp furnishes in the most dry season.

In that year at least the Ides of March were associated with a welcome change.

Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser 27/2/1823, p. 2; ibid. 18/3/1824, p. 2.

Weather and prophecy

After a long drought in the last months of 1821 and the beginning of 1822, the Sydney Gazette was able to report on 15 February 1822 that, ‘Rain has come at last.’ (See the entry ‘Droughts and flooding rains’ of 1/3/2011.)

A week later the newspaper reported:

The long-looked for and much desired weather, which is showery and also pleasant, still continues. Prophets (those of the calculating and predicting cast} are not to be found in every generation, and were never eminently notorious for numerical strength, yet it would seem that Australia may boast of some such antiquated mortal, by occasionally prying into the arcana of the Colonial Kalendar.

The somewhat cryptic reference to prophecy appears to be a qualified commendation of weather information found in the almanac which had been published annually in Sydney for quite a few years.

George Howe (1769-1821), publisher and printer of the Sydney Gazette, had produced the New South Wales Pocket Almanack and Colonial Remembrancer for the year 1806, the first almanac published in Australia. This effort was not repeated for 1807 because of lack of paper, but he reinvigorated the concept in 1808 under the title New South Wales Pocket Almanack, a publication which continued to appear annually for fourteen years, until the year of Howe’s death, 1821. His son Robert Howe (1795-1829), who had grown up with the Sydney Gazette, took over the newspaper and the almanac, and issued the Australasian Pocket Almanack for five years from 1822 to 1826, and the Australasian Almanack for 1827.

These almanacs contained a wide range of materials for reference, including weather information and other advice useful for farmers and gardeners. On the question of prophecy, an article on ‘Australasian Almanacks’ in volume 4 of The Mirror of Literature, Amusement, and Instruction, published in London, observed that the Australasian Pocket Almanacks of 1822 and 1823, in contrast with English almanacks, have ‘no prophetic warnings about war or weather; but in each month “the usual state of the weather” is given, which to us, appears a much more rational method’ (pp. 406-408, at p. 406).

It was perhaps at least partly on the basis of information in the almanacs of George and Robert Howe that the Sydney Gazette was able to counsel patience among its readers when the weather was difficult for protracted periods.

Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser 15/2/1822, p. 2; ibid. 22 February 1822, p. 2. The Mirror of Literature, Amusement, and Instruction, 49 vols., London, J. Limbird and others, 1822-1849 (there is a list with links to Google reproductions on the University of Pennsylvania website); vol. 4 was published in 1824. J.V. Byrnes, ‘Howe, George (1769-1821)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, vol. 1, 1966, pp. 557-559, and online (includes a section on the life of George’s son Robert Howe, who was born in 1795 and drowned in 1829).

A drought, a heat wave and high winds

In early February 1823, as in the first week of February in the previous year, Sydney was again in the grip of a drought. In the issue of Thursday 13 February the Sydney Gazette reported that the cattle on the Sydney side of the mountains were ‘deplorably off’, with the grass eaten away. Fortunately there was an abundance of supplies coming from the ‘new country’ on the other side, and there was beef from that region that ‘would no way discredit Old England.’ Rain was needed in Sydney soon or ‘the drought will be severely felt.’ The maize had been affected by lack of rain and it was likely that it would be scarce and dear.

‘Monday last’ (presumably 10 February) ‘was one of our hottest days.’ The temperature was still 80° at 4 in the afternoon. There was a stiff sea-breeze from the south-east and then about a quarter past 5 a gale-force ‘white squall’ sprang up from the south, a ‘hurricane that in a few moments spread for miles around the town of Sydney,’ enveloping the metropolis in ‘astonishing’ clouds of thick dust. It was among the most violent of gales ever experienced. The wind continued ‘with small intermission’ throughout the night. About 7 p.m. there were lightning and distant thunder, then ‘gentle and genial showers.’ The temperature was still 78 at 6 o’clock and 75 at 9 o’clock.

There had been a pattern of high temperatures at night in both January and February:

It has been nothing unusual to discover the thermometer, during the last month, as well as the present, as high as 70° of heat at 11 and 12 at night.

The temperatures mentioned, if accurate, are in the low to mid-twenties on the Celsius scale.

It was so windy on ‘Thursday last’ (this evidently means 6 February) that the Government boat the Antelope overturned as it was coming into Sydney Cove. Four crew had to be rescued and one named Stafford was drowned. The boat was recovered the next day.

Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser 13/2/1823, p. 2. 80, 75 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit are approximately 27, 24 and 21 degrees Centigrade. Monday 10 February: the wild weather events of ‘Monday last’ are narrated before reference to the windy conditions of ‘Thursday last’, but Monday 3 February would presumably be too far away and would be several days before the preceding issue of the Sydney Gazette. In the Sydney Gazette of 1/8/1818, p. 3, the Antelope is described as ‘a boat of 20 tons, belonging to the Government dock-yard.’ Accounts published in the Sydney Gazette in March and November 1820 and September and November 1821 refer to John Cadman, ‘Cockswain of H. M. Boat Antelope’ (also spelled Coxswain), in that position as far back as 25 December 1817. The Sydney Gazette of 2/1/1823, p. 1, lists ‘J. Cadman’ among recipients of grants of land. Cf. D.I. McDonald, ‘Cadman, John (1772-1848)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, vol. 1, 1966, p. 192, and online (no mention of a grant of land; unclear about the origins of the cottage in which Cadman lived; states that he lived there from 1816). According to the City of Sydney website, the building now called Cadman’s Cottage, at 110 George Street North, The Rocks, possibly designed by Francis Greenway, ‘was built in 1815-16 as the ‘Coxswain’s Barracks’ attached to Governor Macquarie’s dockyard and stores’; Cadman lived there for a time from 1827 onwards, when he was Superintendent of Government Craft (this statement omits reference to his having lived there earlier). It is Sydney’s earliest surviving example of a residential building. See also ‘Cadman’s Cottage’, in Dictionary of Sydney; ‘Cadmans Cottage Historic Site’, and ‘Plans of Cadmans Cottage, 1815-16’, on the website of the Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water.

Droughts and flooding rains

On 8 February 1822 the Sydney Gazette reported that, ‘The present month of February makes the fourth month of continued drought this season.’ This indicates drought from October 1821, through November, December and January and into the first week of February.

It was driving people to distraction. The newspaper noted that ‘a professional Gentleman’ in Sydney had recently tried to dig for water to save a few choice plants and had found the earth twenty feet down ‘in as heated a state as that within only a few inches of the surface.’

The wheat harvest was ‘safely in’ but the maize was ‘in a terrible condition.’ Around Windsor the maize appeared to be healthy but was mostly stalks and leaves, with ‘hardly any cob.’ The most optimistic prediction was that, if plenty of rain came, about half the originally expected crop would result. The writer counsels patience:

To make up, however, for this apparent calamity, the next month’s rainy visitation, which is pretty certain, may be providentially instrumental in producing abundance from the forest or stubble crops. We must not too readily give place to despondency, after having been so signally blessed with such a luxuriant harvest.

Within the week there was cause for celebration. The next issue of the Sydney Gazette, dated 15 February, announced the glad tidings to a public already very much aware of the event:

Rain has come at last, and though there is not much occasion to render that public which is generally known, still it should be remembered that it calls forth from our hearts the liveliest gratitude towards that gracious Being, who so promptly attends to, and effectually relieves, our wants.

Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser 8/2/1822, p. 3; ibid. 15/2/1822, p. 2.


It will be remembered that, on the eve of their journey across the Blue Mountains from Emu Island to Bathurst in April 1822, Thomas and Elizabeth Hawkins were entertained by Sir John Jamison at his property by the Nepean River.

A few months later, in August of that year, Sir John advertised in the Sydney Gazette that he was proposing to leave the colony for Europe towards the end of the year; he was wanting to sell his livestock (horses, cattle, sheep and pigs); and he was prepared to sell or rent ‘for a Term of Years’ his houses in Sydney, his estate of Regent Ville (on the Nepean), and his estates and farms elsewhere in the colony.

However, in September of the following year we find Sir John in the first stages of building a mansion at Regent-ville:

Tuesday last Sir John Jamison, the Proprietor of that invaluable Estate, Regent-ville, situate on the fascinating Banks of the Nepean, immediately fronting the picturesque Plains of Emu, laid the first stone of an intended mansion, to be erected on a magnificent scale. Regent-ville exhibited a scene of unprecedented festivity on the occasion; Sir John entertaining a large Party to an elegant dinner.

This function took place on 9 September 1823. A week later, on 16 September, the Commissariat Office in Sydney announced its acceptance of tenders for the supply of meat (fresh beef and salt pork) deliverable at Sydney, Liverpool, Parramatta, Windsor and Emu Plains. Among the suppliers to deliver at Emu Plains was Sir John Jamison of Regentville, with a tender for 1,000 lbs of salt pork.

In January of 1824 Sir John was advertising for twenty tenants, ‘of honest and industrious Character,’ each to rent at moderate terms ‘from 15 to 30 Acres of rich agricultural clear Land’ for five years on his Regentville Estate.

Proposed sale of livestock and sale and rent of properties: Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser 23/8/1822, p. 2. Laying of the foundation stone of the mansion at Regentville: ibid. 11/9/1823, p. 2. Tenders for the supply of meat: ibid. 2/10/ 1823, p. 3. Tenants: ibid. 29/1/1824, p. 1. The National Library of Australia holds a published engraving of Regentville by William Wilson, ‘Regentville, the Seat of Sir John Jamison’ (1838), from James Maclehose, Picture of Sydney and Strangers’ Guide in New South Wales in 1839, Sydney, J. Maclehose, 1839, facing p.171, viewable online.

Such precipices as would make you shudder

(Continuing with the story of the Hawkins family as they journey from Sydney to Bathurst in 1822. See the entry of 16/2/2011 and onwards.)

After arriving at Springwood on Sunday 14 April and spending the night in less than ideal accommodation, the Hawkins family took four days to get from there to Mount York, arriving (according to Elizabeth Hawkins’ letter) on 18 April (a Thursday). It seems that they took four or five more days to get to Bathurst, apparently reaching their destination late on Monday 22 or Tuesday 23 April. Elizabeth calculated that they were 18 days on the road since their departure on Easter Saturday. Her figures could be a little awry; it is clear that she erroneously dated Good Friday, the eve of their departure, to 4 instead of 5 April; and her description of the days between Springwood and Mount York telescopes the days to some extent. They had a couple of breaks before the Mountains, resting at Rooty Hill on Easter Sunday and spending several days at Emu Island, which they left on Friday 12 April; otherwise they travelled every day, including Sundays, despite government orders to the contrary. From Emu Island to Bathurst took about ten days.

In describing their progress between Springwood and Mount York, Elizabeth emphasises the way in which the road constantly takes detours because of the difficult terrain:

You must understand that the whole of the road, from the beginning to the end of the mountains, is cut entirely through a forest; nor can you go in a direct line to Bathurst from one mountain to another but you are obliged to wind round the edges of them, and at times you look down such precipices as would make you shudder.

The difficulties of the road were exaggerated by the fact that the bullocks were unco-operative. On leaving Springwood they attached three instead of two bullocks to the cart for extra pull, but this only made things worse. One or another bullock would lie down every now and again and the dogs would bark and bite the bullocks’ noses to get them up.

The barking of the dogs, the bellowing of the bullocks, and the swearing of the men made our heads ache, and kept us in continual terror. This was exactly the case every morning of the journey.

Rising and dipping and winding this way and that, the road took them ever upwards towards the heights of the Mountains, between Blackheath and Mount York. The steady rise to Blackheath can be seen graphically portrayed in a recent diagram based on heights above sea level of the modern railway stations along the way. The heights of the landforms are somewhat different, but the general effect is clear. At Mount Victoria the railway line diverges from the old and new roads, going north to Bell and then west to Lithgow.

‘The Mountains in 1822: Lady’s vivid diary, II’, Sydney Morning Herald 7/9/1929, p. 13.

All was noise and confusion

(Continuing with the story of the Hawkins family as they journey from Sydney to Bathurst in 1822. See the entry of 16/2/2011 and onwards.)

One wonders whether Thomas Hawkins got very much sleep at all during those first few days of climbing the Mountains. That night at Springwood, from Sunday into Monday, Elizabeth tells us, ‘Hawkins remained all night on the green’ in front of the house ‘or in the cart, watching.’

Perhaps he could not bear to go inside. Elizabeth had spread mattresses in the store-room, not having the tent with her at the time. The floor was dirty, damp, cold earth, and the children went to bed in their clothes, looking miserable. They were restless, ‘the bugs were crawling by hundreds,’ and when Elizabeth at last lay down with her baby she realised that there would not be much rest that night.

‘Never did I pass a night equal to it,’ she says. The old woman, ‘a most depraved character and well-known thief,’ had stolen some spirit from their provisions, and became tipsy, and the soldiers as well. ‘All was noise and confusion indoors, and without there was swearing and wrangling among the men.’ There was a flock of sheep in the yard, and they kept close to the house, away from the men, ‘and kept up a continual pat with their feet.’

Could any of our romance writers have been in my situation they might have found an interesting scene. You may be certain we were happy when the morning came and, after breakfast, we packed up our beds and bade adieu to the house in Springwood.

‘The Mountains in 1822: Lady’s vivid diary, II’, Sydney Morning Herald 7/9/1929, p. 13.

Weather conditions: Sunday evening 14 April 1822: Springwood, fine. Monday morning 15: Springwood, fine. Letter, Elizabeth Hawkins to sister, 7 May 1822, partially reproduced in Sydney Morning Herald 7/9/1929, p. 13.

The house at Springwood

(Continuing with the story of the Hawkins family as they journey from Sydney to Bathurst in 1822. See the entry of 16/2/2011 and onwards.)

In recounting the events of Sunday 14 April, Elizabeth Hawkins tells us, rather surprisingly, that a team of bullocks and ‘Hawkins’ horses’ had returned to Emu Island during the previous night. They had started off with two drays pulled by five bullocks each, another dray pulled by four horses, and a cart with two horses. Now they went on with a bullock dray, the horse dray and the cart. They also switched two of the bullocks over to the cart and used the two cart-horses with the bullock team, after their experience of the day before when the bullock teams alone failed to make the grade.

There is no mention of the idea of resting on Sunday. Presumably they could not rest but had to go on. They managed to go nine miles that day, but it was ‘a most fatiguing journey.’ They arrived at Springwood, where there was a house with some grass in front but otherwise surrounded by forest. ‘A good barn in England would have been a palace to this,’ Elizabeth comments.

Stationed there were a corporal and two men, who Elizabeth understood had the job of superintending Government stock; there was also the corporal’s wife. The house had been designed for more people, and had a large room where provisions had been stored, a large kitchen (‘with an immense fireplace’) and two small rooms. There were no chairs in the house. The kitchen had ‘a long table, a form, and some stumps of trees’ for chairs. Also staying there were several travellers on their way from Bathurst to Sydney.

It was getting dark and Hawkins had not arrived. Finally the store-keeper from Emu came to say that Hawkins was on his way but needed some of the horses sent back from Springwood to help him through. To Elizabeth’s relief her husband arrived just before 9 o’clock. The corporal’s wife, a fawning old woman, screamed out, ‘Welcome to Springwood, Sir.’ Hawkins was not impressed by the old lady, and Elizabeth was not impressed by the whole experience of staying there that night.

‘The Mountains in 1822: Lady’s vivid diary, II’, Sydney Morning Herald 7/9/1929, p. 13.

Weather conditions: Sunday 14 April 1822: Lapstone Hill to Springwood, fine. Letter, Elizabeth Hawkins to sister, 7 May 1822, partially reproduced in Sydney Morning Herald 7/9/1929, p. 13.

Such a scene as I cannot describe

(Continuing with the story of the Hawkins family as they journey from Sydney to Bathurst in 1822. See the entry of 16/2/2011 and onwards.)

After spending Friday 12 April getting away at last from Emu Island and moving perhaps half a mile along the side of the mountains to the point where the road started a steep ascent, the Hawkins family must have spent an uneasy night with the prospect of the task ahead and unable to make a proper camp at this location. It was only on the next night, Elizabeth tells us, that they pitched the tent for the first time.

The first hill was called Lapstone hill, ‘so called from all the stones being like a cobbler’s lapstone.’ They immediately found that their arrangements for the journey were not sufficient. The loads were too heavy for the bullocks to pull. They organised to get a cart from Emu so that they could send back some of their luggage. The horses attached to one of their drays managed the terrain very well. But even with some of their luggage discarded to lighten the load, having got the horse-dray to the top of the hill they had to bring the horses down to help with pulling the two drays drawn by bullocks.

On that Saturday they only covered one and a half miles. The day’s efforts were exhausting for everyone, including the women.

The fatigue to mother and myself was very great every night after the day’s journey in preparing the beds and giving the children their meals, the little ones being generally tired and cross.

Having said at an earlier stage that they set off with three drays and a cart, in describing the scene that evening Elizabeth refers to drays and carts. The nine men kept these carefully in view while they tended to immense cooking fires. In one place ‘our own man’ was roasting two fowls for the journey the next day. In another place ‘the men convicts’ (‘not the most prepossessing in their appearance’) were busy at their tasks. We do not hear how the female servant from the Factory at Parramatta was employed.

It must have been a scene both weird and enchanting. ‘It was a lovely moonlight night, and all was novelty and delight to the elder children.’ The nine men ranged about,

with the glow of the fires and the reflection of the moon shining on them in the midst of a forest, formed such a scene as I cannot describe.

Quotations are from ‘The Mountains in 1822: Lady’s vivid diary, II’, Sydney Morning Herald 7/9/1929, p. 13; other sources should be checked to clarify the original wording.

Weather conditions: Saturday 13 April 1822: Emu Island and Lapstone Hill, apparently fine; fine in the evening. Letter, Elizabeth Hawkins to sister, 7 May 1822, partially reproduced in Sydney Morning Herald 7/9/1929, p. 13.

Sir John Jamison and Capertee

On Sir John Jamison’s landholdings at Capertee the following references look interesting:

Documentation: State Library of New South Wales. Gibbes, William John. William John Gibbes – Papers relating to Gibbes’ Trust, 1837-1889. Call Number A5317.
Newspaper advertisement: [Estate of Capertee, to be sold by auction], Sydney Morning Herald 1/10/1846, p. 4. [See Trove for further references.]
Map: Baker’s Australian County Atlas, A Map of the County of Roxburgh.

William John Gibbes married Sir John Jamison’s daughter Harriet.



[Advertisement], Sydney Morning Herald 1/10/1846, p. 4 (mentioned above). Col. ii: Samuel Lyons advertises the forthcoming sale by auction of ‘Capertee’; a general indication is given of the location of the property.
Jamison, John (1776-1844), RDHS [Rylstone and District Historical Society] Wiki.
Roxburgh County’, in Wikipedia. Includes a list of parishes, with co-ordinates. Note ‘Map of all coordinates from Google.’
Umbiella Station’, RDHS [Rylstone and District Historical Society] Wiki.

Baker’s Australian County Atlas, A Map of the County of Roxburgh, 1843-1846, detail. Shows ‘Capertee’ (without boundaries) near the junction of Cook’s Creek with the Capertee River; to the north-east, ‘Umbella’ (in the name of ‘Jemison’) and ‘Numietta’ (both with boundaries drawn).
Thomas Mitchell, Map of the Colony of Sydney, 1834, detail. [The map is drawn with west towards the top.] Shows ‘Capertee’ near Cook’s Creek, also Umbiella Creek, Sir John’s M(oun)t(ai)n and Innes’s M(oun)t(ai)n.