(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.)
Having arrived at Emu Island on Easter Monday, the Hawkins family stayed there several days. On Tuesday morning 9 April some of their goods were still on the other side of the river, and heavy rain made conditions difficult for bringing the things across the ford, but it was necessary to do so as the river, swollen by run-off from the Mountains, could rise to a dangerous and impassable level. Wednesday was spent drying things out. On Thursday they unpacked and re-organised luggage to protect things and make the provisions and bedding more accessible.
That evening Elizabeth and her husband (she calls him ‘Hawkins’) had dinner with Sir John Jamison, who had also invited a lady and two gentlemen. The meal was impressive and Elizabeth was delighted with the gardens. She first describes the meal, to give her sister an idea of Sir John’s hospitality and to show her ‘that it is possible for people to live here as well as in England’:
We partook of a sumptuous repast, consisting of mock turtle soup, boiled fowls, round of beef, delicate fish of three kinds, curried duck, goose, and wild ducks, madiera [sic] and burgundy, with various liqueurs and English ale.
As for the gardens, the apples and quinces were ‘larger than I had ever seen.’ It was autumn and many early trees were in blossom. The vines had a second crop of grapes, the fig trees a third crop.
There were also peaches and apricots. He has English cherries, plums, and filberts, with oranges, lemons, vines, citrons, medlars, almonds, rock and water melons, and all the common fruits of England, vegetables of all kinds, and grown at all seasons of the year, which shows how fine the climate is.
This was evidently a delightful evening for Elizabeth on the eve of the challenges that lay ahead.
Their fears that the river could flood were well founded. As a result of explorations some years previously, there was a growing understanding of how rainfall on the Mountains fed the river system. For example, Governor Lachlan Macquarie in his tour inspection report of June 1815 comments as follows on the Cox’s River, which his party came upon after descending from Mount York into the Vale of Clwyd on the far side of the Mountains:
The grass in this vale is of a good quality, and very abundant, and a rivulet of fine water runs along it from the eastward, which unites itself at the western extremity of the vale, with another rivulet containing still more water. The junction of these two streams forms a very handsome river, now called by the Governor “Cox’s River” which takes its course, as has been since ascertained, through the Prince Regent’s Glen, and empties itself into the River Nepean; and it is conjectured, from the nature of the country through which it passes, that it must be one of the principal causes of the floods which have been occasionally felt on the low Banks of the River Hawkesbury, into which the Nepean discharges itself.
Cox’s River winds around from the western side of the mountains eastward and joins the Nepean River. The Nepean flows in a northerly direction past Emu Island and becomes the Hawkesbury River, which was notorious for flooding the adjacent farm-lands.
‘The Mountains in 1822: Lady’s vivid diary, I’, Sydney Morning Herald 31/8/1929, p. 13. Elizabeth Hawkins – Crossing the Blue Mountains. The diary of an early traveller across the Blue Mountains, on the website of the Ambermere Rose Inn (Little Hartley). Cox’s River: [Governor Macquarie’s report on his tour of inspection], Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser 10/6/1815, pp. 1-2, at p. 1.
Text: It will be necessary to clarify the wording of Elizabeth Hawkins’ letter more adequately. The quotations above are from the Sydney Morning Herald. For the two excerpts given above, the transcription on the website of the Ambermere Rose Inn has: (1) we partook of a sumptuous repast, consisting of mock-turtle soup, boiled fowls, round of beef, delicious fish of three kinds, curried duck, goose and wild-fowl, Madeira and Burgundy, with various liquors and English ale. (2) The peaches and apricots here are standing trees. He has English cherries, plums and ifiberts [sic]. These, with oranges, lemons, limes and citrons, medlars, almonds, rock and water melons, with all the common fruits of England; vegetables of all kinds and grown at all seasons of the year, which shows how fine the climate is.
Weather conditions: Tuesday 9 April 1822: Emu Island, heavy rain; fears of rising water in the Nepean River. 10: Emu Island, fine enough to dry things. 11: Emu Island, apparently fine. Letter, Elizabeth Hawkins to sister, 7 May 1822, partially reproduced in Sydney Morning Herald 31/8/1929, p. 13.