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James Blackwood Diary

Extract from James Blackwood's Diary 1840

Diary James BLACKWOOD per Great Briton Leith 23 Dec 1839 via Hobart 16th June 1840, Sydney 17th July.
Copyright Ada Ackerly July 2000.

16th June 1840
When I arose this morning I found we had just rounded Tasman's Head when the wind came right ahead of us and we were obliged to ply up Storm Bay with a foul wind. The first human beings we saw in Van Dieman's Land were in Adventure Bay at a fishing station, where there were two small schooners riding. About 12 o'clock a small boat hove in sight, which turned out to be the pilot, who came alongside and saluted us, The welcome sound of "long looked for, comes at last" which was a pleasant sound after having wandered over such an extent of ocean to the furthest extremity of the earth and there to meet with people with the same manners and customs with ourselves.

We caught a great many fish called "barracouta" which were about two feet long, but are rather small for their length. Saw a whale working up the bay. The pilot told us we had made the quickest passage that had been made for the last twelve months, none having been less than five months.

In the evening about 12 o'clock we got up as far as the mouth of the Derwent, after a day's hard work, the ship having to be tacked every hour and sometimes less. The land rises abruptly on each side of the bay.

17th June 1840
We have at last reached the end of our voyage or at least we consider ourselves safe now, although we have to undertake a short voyage, but we look upon it as nothing after such a long voyage.

[Here James is referring to the trip to Sydney, his place of embarkation]

We took the whole day to beat up from the mouth of the Derwent, having made almost nothing of it during the night, and came to anchor at 4 o'clock this afternoon. I was delighted with the sail up the Derwent, the scenery is exceedingly beautiful and picturesque with the wooded hills rising abruptly on either side of the river.

The town of Hobart Town has a very scattered appearance from the river and is built on steep undulating ground. The bay is beautiful and the finest roadstead I have ever seen for ships. I spent the evening in writing letters for home. Some of the passengers went ashore.

Thursday 18th June
I went ashore this morning after breakfast for which journey I paid my sixpence, the ship's boats it appears not being allowed to take passengers. I feel somewhat light headed on first setting my foot on "terra firma" after being 120 days rocking about over the "vasty deep".

We wandered away up through the town till about 11 or 12 o'clock when I went and delivered my letter of introduction to Mr KENNEDY of the Union Bank and received an invitation to dinner at 5 o'clock. I then visited the greater part of the town with which I was much pleased and indeed surprised at the appearance and regularity of the streets. There are many buildings both public and private which would do credit to the first city in Great Britain - the Custom House is a superb building - out of sight superior to the Glasgow one. It is the finest building in town.

At 5 o'clock I went to dine with Mr KENNEDY who was exceedingly kind and I spent a most agreeable and happy evening and received a great deal of information and useful advice for a young colonist. I was horrified, in walking around the town to see the gangs of convicts working in chains, which is so degrading to Humanity. I had a delicacy in looking at them for fear of hurting their feelings, but I believe that is not possible, as they are blackguards double distilled and will stare any person out of countenance.

19th June 1840
This morning was exceedingly cold but as the day advanced it grew much warmer. The variation in temperature is very rapid and very great. In the mornings and evenings one would require to dress with warm clothing and afterwards as the day advanced to dress more lightly.

I went ashore about 12 o'clock and having little to do but post my letters for England I walked about till near the dinner hour when we went on board. The difficulty of getting ashore renders one less anxious to leave the ship. We spent the evening in playing whist and talking of Colonial Matters.

21st June 1840
This [sabbath] in the forenoon I went to St Andrews Church both for noon and afternoon- Mr DOVE from Flinders Island preached in the forenoon and in the afternoon we had the pleasure of hearing Mr BELL [a passenger] who gave the Vandemonians a good specimen of the ability he possesses for a preacher of the gospel. I understand he gave very general satisfaction.

22nd June 1840
I set out this morning with the Launceston Coach and after a pleasant day's travelling I arrived at Oatlands where the coach remains all night. The country through which we passed was much better looking than any I had heretofor seen in Van Dieman's Land. I was much delighted to walk that part of the country called Bagdad about 18 miles from Hobart Town. The agriculture appears to be carried on in a manner which would be creditable to many individuals in the mother country.

I was astonished at the number and apparent respectibility of the Hotels along the roadside. I should say that there is hardly a place where the Inns were more than five miles distant. I slept in an Inn where there was a shocking noise and bustle the whole night, so that I got scarcely any sleep.

I started next morning at 8 o'clock for Ballochyle [I note that modern spelling is Ballochmyle] a distance of 15 miles, being five miles more than I was given to understand it was before leaving. But the day being fine and the road good, I enjoyed the walk and arrived at Ballochyle about half past one, just as they were sitting down to dinner.

Expecting to find only Mr and Mrs MacLANATHAN, I was astonished to see two young ladies, one of whom I soon learnt was a daughter of Mrs MacLanathan and that she was called Miss RADDENBURY and that the other (Miss STRANG) was her governess.

After dinner Mr MacLanathan showed me his new house which is nearly finished, and which, when finished will be one of the most substantial houses in the Colony - and so it may well be as it will not cost less than 3,000. This is not a bad specimen of Mr MacLanathan's success in the Colony.

During the time I was domiciled at Ballochyle Mr MacLanathan and I rode about every day, and saw all his lands and flocks and herds which are pretty extensive.

On Saturday we went to the place of a Mr KERMODE of Mona Vale which I think is the most beautiful place in the Island. I should not even except Ballochyle. On Sunday we rode over his farm of Liemburn (?) which was his first property he had and lies about 8 miles from Ballochyle.

On Monday I left for Hobart Town expecting the North Briton to sail on Thursday. I went to a different Inn in Oatlands and was much more comfortable than the one I was formerly in, as I went up the country. On Tuesday morning we left Oatlands about half past six and arrived at Hobart Town about four o'clock. Mr MacLanathan and his lady showed me the greatest kindness and invited me, if I should not like to remain in New South Wales, to return to Ballochyle.

On my arrival in Hobart Town I found that the North Briton could not sail before the end of the week, so that I was very sorry I had not remained at Ballochyle for two or three days longer.

The ship Mandarin arrived from England on Monday morning with convicts, amongst whom are the notorious Newport Rioters, FROST, WILLIAMS and JONES. A great many vessels have arrived from England since we came into port.

I shall not mention any other incidents in Hobart Town farther than that I had an offer of a situation in the Union Bank with a salary of 110 per annum : and which I refused as I wish to try my luck in New South Wales, a much wider field than Van Dieman's Land.

8th July 1840
After being three weeks in Hobart Town we again got under way for Sydney today about four o'clock, with a very light wind from the North, which of course is fair for the Derwent and Storm Bay.

Family Notes:

James BLACKWOOD married Eliza Hunter OFFICER at Hobart, Rev Lillee, March 29 1849.

These children survived into adulthood:

Arthur Rankin Blackwood b.1850 Hobart
Jamima b. Hobart
Adelaide b. Melbourne

Five children died in infancy in Melbourne

James BLACKBURN was with the Union Bank, originally. He came alone, age 16 with a letter of introduction to the manager of the Union Bank at Sydney and Hobart.

He became very prominent in Victorian shipping and commercial (Union Bank, Dalgety's) pursuits. He has no descendants living in Victoria.

I am not related to him.

Submitted to this site by Ada Ackerly.
Transcription Ada Ackerly 2000. All rights reserved

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Updated 22-Jul-2002