Eliza Nowlan’s Manuscript Diary Letterbook 1822-1824

First leaf of Eliza Nowlan's Letter or Diary 16th December 1822
First leaf of Eliza Nowlan’s Letter or Diary 16th December 1822

Eliza Nowlan’s Diary and Correspondence

You can now read for the first time Eliza Nowlan’s original hand-written diary and correspondence documenting the first period of farming settlement outside the infant colony of Sydney Town, at Patterson’s Plains, Hunter River, New South Wales from 1822 to 1824.

Original hand-written manuscript of Eliza Nowlan’s Diary and Correspondence 1822-1824 with transcription (42.7MB PDF)

What does the Diary contain?

Included in the correspondence is an original 2 page autographed letter signed from Earl Bathurst (Secretary of State for the Colonies in Lord Liverpool’s ministry) from Downing Street and dated April 30th, 1822 introducing the said Mr. Timothy Nowlan as an Irish immigrant with experience as a grower of fine wool arriving in the Manglis convict ship with 50 Merino Sheep, and requesting he be given a grant of land to pursue his farming development.

Also, a lengthy hand-written diary letter by Eliza Nowlan (Timothy’s wife) to her relatives back home in Ireland detailing their endeavours in establishing their new farm. It is interesting to note what plants and produce are successful and what are not. Her desperate need for seeds, etc.

The section of the diary or (letter book) Eliza Nowlan covers the period from December 16th 1823 to February 4th 1824.

How was it acquired?

The manuscript was acquired on the 1 December 2003 by the University of Newcastle’s then Archives, Rare Books and Special Collections Unit (now Special Collections) in the Auchmuty Library. Described as:

“Original hand-written diary and correspondence detailing the first period of farming settlement outside the infant colony of Sydney Town, at Pattersons Plains, Hunter River, New South Wales, in 1822. The diary commences December 16th, 1823 and concludes February 4th, 1824. Comprising 36 quarto size pages of the diary (some fraying at edges), as well as the double-sided letter from Earl Bathurst (with some tape repairs at folds). Total 38 pages, all written in ink in a clear legible hand, together with a full type written transcript of the archive. NOTE: According to the 1828 Census, Timothy Nolan, wife Eliza, and son John, had 6500 acres of land – 200 cleared of which 100 acres was cultivated. In addition they had 5 horses, 310 cattle, and 3600 sheep. Unique and important.”

Transcription of the Nowlan manuscript

[The original of this letter was in the possession of Clare Shaw-Hamilton, who is great granddaughter of Jos Lyster mentioned on page 9.


Downing St.,

April 30th, 1822



This letter will be handed to you by Mr. Timothy Nowlan, who proceeds from Ireland to Van Diemends Land, in the Mangles Convict Ship, with the view of forming an Establishment for rearing Merino Sheep, and for the growth of fine Wool.  Mr. Nowlan takes with him two wool sorters, two Shepherd, and 50 Merino Sheep, selected from his flocks in Ireland, and it is his intention to add to his flock by successive importations into Van Diemonds Land, if the opinion he may form on his arrival holds out to him the prospect of ultimate success.

Documents have been laid before me from the Farming Society of Ireland, in which very satisfactory evidence is produced of Mr. Nowlan’s success as a grower and manufacturer of fine wool, and the testimony I have received from many gentlemen of the first respectability is sufficient guarantee that his character as a Settler in other respects will do credit to their recommendation of him.  In addition to the advantages that are likely to result from his Establishment, it will not be amongst the least the benefit that will be conferred upon the Settlement if he is enabled to introduce among his workmen and Servants the habits of Industry, regularity, and good conduct, by which his establishments in Ireland were regulated.  Under these circumstances, I have not felt any hesitation in giving encouragement to Mr. Nowlan’s proposal, and I have therefore to desire that you will make to him a Grant of Land on his arrival at the Derwent, consulting his wishes as far as possible in the selection of it, and reserving a tract of land adjoining in order that he may look forward to the period that when he should have complied with the terms of his first Grant, or shall have an increase of Capital, he may receive an additional allotment.

I have the honour to be Sir,

Your Most Obedient Servant,



Lieut. Governor Sorile, [Sorell][i]

Van Diemonds Land.



Pattersons Plains, Hunter River, NSW.

December, 16th., 1822


My Dearest John,


Yours of the 14th November, 1822, which arrived by the “Recovery” last September with the Box, the contents of which I am much obliged to you for.  I did not answer as I wrote to other members of our family reserving you for the next, and now begin in time lest I should hear of a vessel sailing for home.  In those letters I mentioned an unpleasant accident which happened to my right hand having lost the first joint of my middle finger by the slapping of a door on it, and a splinter of wood which ran previously into it.  Dr. Brooks thought it probable that the violence of the slapping [clapping] of the door drove the splinter into the bone which caused it to mortify.  I suffered considerably by it, and cannot yet use it in any way though healed this long time.  When touched it feels as if asleep.  I suppose the circulation has not yet returned.  The remainder of the fingers either, I cannot yet bend the joints of, so as to close my hand on the handle of a knife to peel fruit or mind my pen, it is to time only I am to look to for the perfect recovery of it, but I have great reason to be thankful I am so well as to be able to write.  This gave me more encouragement [uneasiness] than anything.  I wrote to Kitty to beg she would have a thimble made for me allowing for the top [loss] of the joint and little wider than one that would fit my little finger as the top is much reduced, and for fear she may not receive the letter, tell her of it.  Please God by the time that will arrive I may be able to use it.  I very much regret a break which has occurred in my Journal of the weather which I kept regularly for you.  The Mem [thermometer] was broken, and my three months illness that I was not able to do anything was the cause but have again resumed it from November, and hope no other interruption will occur if the Glass is left to me.   I have borrowed a glass from one of our neighbours, as a great compliment, a Mr. Webber – and would feel much obliged by your sending me a common one that will answer the purpose of Bravory [Brewing] etc.


I have got quite rid of all my superfluous flesh which you will say is an advantage, and I do think so, as my health, Tim’s and Johns were never better thank God.  John is the greatest society to us possible.  He is very sensible in his remarks, and apt in his applications, an excellent manner [memory] and most affectionate in his disposition, but very warm and impatient in his temper, which we are endeavouring to curb, and has done so in some degree.  Tell William I often think of him when I look at Tim.  He delights in having me read Aesop’s Fables to him, and knows all the Pictures.  He is easily brought off from any little pet, for he has no sulks about him, if we had time to attend to him he would be much more forward but hope by next year if we are all spared so long to be able to do so – if I could teach him to spell and read correctly, and to understand what he reads I would be satisfied.  Every time I think of my little dear girl I pray to have those very kind friends blessed that have kept her.  This country is a bad school for females.  The examples that are here to be heard of daily, are Destruction to children.  Oh it is a horrid country for depravity but when all the off scourings of earth as I may term it, are nearly here, how can it be otherwise – even those in civilized society their chief amusement is detection, [?] but thank God we are in a great degree removed from it into the interior surrounded nearly by respectable settlers, and though we hold no intercourse except what we are bound to do by the rights of hospitality to the passing stranger, which in the Bush all are called on to do.  There are but 2 or 3 gentlemen who we have had occasionally to share our lonely [homely] meal with us, whenever business called them to our side, but we are friendly with all, and all kind and friendly to us.  This is the way we have lived since our commencement and hope to remain so.  If we can live and support our family by our farm it is as much as we can or do look forward to for some time.  As to aggriculture there is nothing to be had by it from the low prices that are offered for grain etc.  Government gives no encouragement to the Settler.  Instead of importing provisions from England Ireland and India if they encouraged them by liberal prices to supply them with Grain, Pork, Flax, Hemp etc., but their object is retrenchment and it is thought they are overdoing it.  They are now growing for their own supplies in the Penal Settlements, grain in large quantities – Sheep are the only object worth a mans looking to.  All the Settlers coming out are anxious to have them.  A neighbour of ours the other day gave 45/- apiece for a flock of very old ewes and the wool not very fine.  fine wool is only what pays to send him [home], this course not bearing the freight and expenses but it is bought in Sidney and manufactured at Parramatta for the Prisoners into a slight twilled cloth, – there are also respectable merchants in Sidney who purchase fine wool for exportation.  One of them we are acquainted with a Mr. Brown from Liverpool – he spent a day with us last week – he has taken his grant in Bathurst 4,000 acres for Tim [him] & Company – he regrets now after seeing this neighbourhood going there – the greatest part of the ground about us on the Mani [?] River where our Run extends and for 10 miles on the second branch on which we reside is occupied – the third Branch is also filling up fast and the ground between this and Newcastle is not worth much – you are aware from reading Wentworth whose description of the Country is a very good guide to any one who wishes to know anything of it, that Hunters River is divided into three branches which unite 23 miles above Newcastle – every settler wishes if possible to have a river section in his grant for the convenience of navigation, but there is plenty of land in the interior but great inconveniences attend it from the distance of land carriage to the banks of the river and from that to Newcastle, which is prettily situated – there is a Barracks, Hospital, Public store, Jail & Church with two Wind Mills and uncommon fine coal which 100 prisoners are kept to work at, they supply Sidney & sometimes it is taken to India.  It is astonishing the numbers which are coming out every arrival from England Ireland & Scotland.  It is said the latter oftener succeed than any other – I heard Mr. Webber say the other day he was told of a calculation which was made, that out of 12 – 8 Scotchmen succeeded, 6 Englishmen and 4 Irishmen – I think it probable that he will be one out of the 6 for he is a very prudent managing young man.  He has made his farm pay its expenses up until this period – he is a sensible well educated man, son to General Webber of Cheshire, and cousin to the Irish Commissioner of Enquiry.  He lives two miles above us.  There are Germans also expected out which makes the best of all Settlers – in fact, as I have I believe remarked in my former letters, no one whose means are very limited have any chances here, except they meet with some assistance on their arrival such as good places which are not now often to be met – though the Scotch have managed to pick up some – the expenses and inconvenience are so very great which no person can possibly calculate on but those who have tried it – that it runs away with property most provokingly.  You know with what means we came out, and I can safely say no family could live with greater frugality than we have done since we commenced and I assure you it has very much lessened and with very little to be seen for it – but I hope and trust we shall be able to make both ends meet – our crops of Wheat and Maize which we expected something from have proved very little good from being put down too late – from the great delays of office which a settler meets in Sidney and which is most injurious as it keeps a family idle and living in a most extravagant place instead of going direct to their fare [farm] – if I had not met friends in Dr. Gaiglapes [Gaig(y)lass or Duglass as mentioned later in letter] family with whom I lived near three months while Tim was looking out for his grant, how much more so would it have been with us – our passage out, expenses of fitting out our Sheep with sundry expenses and articles we purchased in Cork cost us upwards of £200. 0. 0.  I merely mention this, that you may judge for yourself, and for fear you would be uneasy about us I wish to make everything as clear to you and our friends as we can – thank God we have not gone one 6d in debt the first year and we now only owe £15. for Pork for our men and Wool Packs for our wool which we have provision for in the coarse wool, – debt in this country is very serious for there is no mercy here – we have besides some little of our own our years consumption of Wheat certain from the surrounding Settlers with whom we exchanged property – we have [4] very good Milch Cows forward in calf with very fine calves 6 months old, three of them Heifers – now have paid for each of them from £13. to £16., then calves were valued from £3. to £4. each – 7 forward young pigs which would be fit to kill in June and July next.  Two sows with 11 young ones – one horse about 60 Bushels of corn on Lands [hands] 60 lb. of Tobacco 50 lbs Tea ¾ of an acre of very good potatoes which we planted the first of, the 24th of August, and were full fit to use at Xmas – we are now taking them out and the Winter crop is sown immediately, after which is always the best – our crop of Pumpkins and Melons middling – upwards of 1,000 sheep and lambs of which we had a very fair crop, 2 excellent Bullocks – these we are indebted to government for – and from the male sheep we hope to discharge this debt – one young Bull value £10.  I have reared myself 60 young fowls and 28 ducks, so am now independent of the Bush Wood game.  We have milk and butter as much as answers our family – a bag of Hops and we brew good beer from the maize which we malt ourselves – one of our shepherds is an excellent brewer and malter – understands the cultivation of Hops of which we have upwards of 100 Sets or Hills some of them now in blossom – we have also provision in the Settlers lands hands] for two more good cows.  We will have 6 then, which we hope will give us sufficient milk for our men with the beer, and the increase we shall let sum [run] for our children – which in ten years would amount to something not very inconsiderable.  The cattle in this country increase so fast as no person thinks of killing a heifer calf, and the general age for them to have their first calf is from 2 years old to 2 ½ , and very often at 18 months old, but this injures the cow.  The mode of rearing calves here is to allow them to run with the cows all day, and to put them up from the cows at night so you have only one meals milk.  This is a custom I do not approve of, for many of the cows are very troublesome, and will not give even that portion if they can, but keep it for the calf.  I believe it is principally for want of having paddocks enclosed and good grass that it is done, and laziness is another reason but the young cattle are very fine which is more looked to for they turn young Bullocks into the store at the age of 3 years.


—-  January 10th  —- [1823]


We have no rent, tythes, or taxes to pay, butchers or bakers bills, and a very good sized room to live in with a convenient store room inside opening into it.  This is the room we intend hereafter for our kitchen which we prefer living in at present, and our men in the cottage which is plastered but not floored yet as we wish to get forward with our other work, which is now principally fencing.  We suffered from not having our tillage ground fenced in before from trespassers.  Our men are now employed clearing, burning off, and fencing one side of it, which contains about 18 acres, and though it is not the best land for cultivation except a strip which runs along the banks of the river, we can make it good by folding our sheep on it – which answers admirably – the way it is managed – there are hurdles made sufficient to contain about three hundred in each fold.  These are every second or third night changed and so on, you go over a piece of ground, if fallow you plough it up, if by the grass is considerably improved, if white clover was sown on it after folding it will take possession immediately, particularly if rain comes.  We have not got any, though we sent by one of our neighbours to Sidney for a few pounds.  What we saw then was quite brown in its appearance.  I am sure very little good, and they asked 4/6 per pound for it.  This ground is all at one side and in front of our house, and Tim thinks it is better to cultivate it from its convenience than to go farther off to the Mani river, except a half dozen acres which the hut man can cultivate with the hoe, which is the method used in this country to break up and till ground, a plough not being able to work until the ground is cleared.  These hoes are sold here for 5/6 each.  They are about 10 inches long and 6 wide.  A man accustomed to the country does a great deal of work with them if they are active.  This day our men have finished a strong fence made by cutting down large trees, and placeing the trunks and large limbs over and across each other which serves the double purpose of enclosing and clears the timber off the ground.  6 men in seven days has made a length which would cost £10. with a four rail fence such as they use in this Colony, 3/6 a Rod or 16 ½ feet is the price charged – this and the Lagoon forms one fence, the river a second, the garden a third, and a short rail fence must divide our next neighbour, Davis, from us.  One side of our garden is enclosed with a ditch on the back of which we intend to plant Lemons in Spring, which makes a very good fence from the thorns.  On the side opposite is a 6 feet paling, which comes up to the house, and at the other side of the house is an 8 feet log fence, one side of a stock yard is intended to be shedded down on the inside for sheep, and the river in front, with the ground gently sloping down to it about    rod from the house.  Immediately behind the house is a good sized square yard, logged in all round and principally shedded down into it, and covered with bark which when done well, and the bark taken off at the proper season, holds very well for 5 or 6 years, and is not subject to fire so much as thatch.  Behind one side of these sheds we have a stock yard of about an English acre well enclosed with a 5 rail fence, for it is necessary in this country to have all your concerns and business as convenient as possible, for every eye is upon you to pilfer.  I am sure calculating everything we have had stolen from us at various times £30. worth.  Out of the Government Store at Newcastle they took an entire basket of Tobacco, between 60 & 70 lbs. weight, so that every one that comes here must look sharp.  We consider ourselves very well off to lose so little to what others round us has lost.  There is nothing daring ever attempted but a pilfering pickpocketing.  Still you may ride or walk in the Bush or wilderness at all hours with perfect safety.  Sometimes there are Bush Rangers, unfortunate men who escape from confinement or their masters in hopes of making their way to China over land, but they are generally either taken or starved nearly, and obliged to surrender.  We have a few just now about us, but the Settlers have been active in apprehending some of them, and our Commandant has sent a reinforcement of soldiers, which will keep us in peace I hope.


—-  January 16th —-  [1824]


We have had 6 Government men employed from the 1st of June, 1823.  Two of them and Ned Healy were attending the sheep until the lambs were yeaned, when we were obliged to get two more, for they are now divided into three flocks, a shepherd to each flock, and a Hut man – who built a good hut, and enclosed three temporary stock yards, where we have a great deal of fine Manure made, which we are bringing home, and mixing with earth, and the clearing [cleaning] of our own yard which was for three years a stock yard, and never cleared [cleaned], this I think will make our garden good.  One of the other four men is a rough carpenter, and another a very good Shoemaker and Tanner – a good Plough man – and the other a Labourer.  We have bartered for a quantity of Kangaroo skins which we are now collecting bark from a species of Acatia to tan them with.  This makes tolerable good upper leather, and cows hide for soles which we have got also.  Nothing wears so fast here as shoes from the dews and stumps tearing them.  So you can now form your own opinion of how we are circumstanced.  I think we have every reason to be thankful, and I may add that we are happy and content, thank God, only regretting the distance that separates us from our kind friends which will always be felt by us.


The last Government arrangements respecting the prisoners is to clothe and feed them, no wages.  They are much more expensive than our men at home which we pay wages to.  They must have two suits of clothes in the year, 2 ozs. of Tobacco each man per week, 4 lb. of Pork, 3 ozs. Tea, 1 ½ lb. Sugar, and a Peck of Wheat or 13 lbs. of flour and 2 ozs. of Soap.  This is the rations we allow them, none of the Settlers give so much.  2 ozs. of Tea and 1 lb. of Sugar is the greatest others give, and Government now only give 7 lbs. of flour without the bran being taken out, and 3 lbs. of Maize meal, 4 lbs. of Pork and nothing else – but a man cannot work on such food.  If they would but work well for us, that is all we require.  Old hands are in some respects best, as they are accustomed to the method of working here and to the contrivances which are made when men are put to their shifts, for men who know nothing about these will put you to great expense that may be avoided.  We have a mixture, three of them are white boys from the County Limerick.  The first 6 months a man need not calculate on showing any work of consequence having such a variety of little things to do – on a new farm in this country.  I see great encouragement in the papers held out by Government to those who emigrate to Upper Canada.  The population of poor Ireland will soon be lessened sufficiently I believe.  I hope it is getting more tranquil and the times improved since our last accounts.


24th.  Now for my garden, a subject always pleasing to me at home and abroad, and by your attention and advice respecting both it and everything else concerning us whenever you write, advice is always welcome to me and I never required it more, as I feel often confused and at a loss what to do.  The seasons puzzle me and the sun perplexes me with its heat which burns up everything before it sometimes.  I had best 4 cucumbers on three hillocks this season.  The vines were burnt brown but these are no great loss.  Our pumpkins and Melons but a middling crop, and are so everywhere this season.  Scarce any other seeds I     brought with me grew which disappointed me not a little, from the age I suppose as I could not get them down until August which was 14 & 15 months since I got them – were in excellent preservation all the passage for I took good care of them – but I have a very neighbourly man who lives as near to us as the Castle Gardens are to you who gives me some information and shares with me anything he can spare.  His name is Swan, a prisoner once, but now free by servitude.  He has an excellent garden well stocked which he works at himself, and has attempted saving [sowing] Tobacco last season but has failed.  It grows very well here – we have a few plants but will try more next season.  If we could have what would answer our own use it would save us something.  I got also from a friend in Sidney some vines.  8 rooted plants which are thriving remarkably well.  One of them bore a small bunch of green grapes, and beside them I have now about 60 cuttings very healthy and strong.  Now I want your advice particularly about them [those], as I have no work which treats on the vine, and we wish to plant out a small vineyard to give us wine for ourselves, for it is the greatest object here to be independent, and have everything you can within yourself.  This number of [ ] are a good stock to begin with and the grape ripens remarkably well here.  Our garden lies nearly due East, and has the       of the morning sun.  It slopes gently to the river and the part near its banks is a fine rich alluvial soil, as you ascend it gets light and a strong bottom – at one side there is a bank or rising ground which faces the North one way, our warmest aspect, and on this we were thinking to form a vineyard by adding some of the compats [cowpats or compost] I have described to you which we shall let remain in a heap as long as we can, and to make a border by the log fence which is of Eastern aspect.  This I have also described, and to train them to it if it would answer.  I shall leave them undisturbed where they now stand cutting them down in the proper season, to 2 eyes and 4, what your Memorandum mentions that I had for the factory cuttings – every information that you can, give me, and in the plainest way so that I cannot misunderstand you both on the treatment of the Vine, the situation best adopted, soil, and the making of the wine of which I am totally ignorant.  In the centre of the garden exactly opposite the Hall Door is the middle walk, 12 feet wide.  Each border is edged with very fine Strawberrys and from the edge of each is a border 8 feet wide in which I have planted a row of vines, the rooted ones within 20 feet of each other, and the cuttings between them within 5 or 6 feet of each other.  In some time when the vines grow strong I hope to be able to train them to an arched trellis so as to cover the walk, if the span is not too wide, for such a shady walk in this country would be a very great luxury, and answer both purposes.  There is one in Government Garden, but if I am not [don’t] mistaken, [ no ‘n’] the vines are planted within a foot or two of the edge of the walk, but the walk is very wide – our walks are easily broken up as they are nothing but clay, no gravel about us.  I have been seeking for information from those persons who have been at the Cape Vineyards but cannot get much, only that the vines are kept quite low and pruned like Raspberries at home about 3 feet high and some let creep on the ground without any supports, the soil in general dry and sandy.  Mr. McArthur makes very good wines.  I believe he has attempted claret, and with success.  He also has got a medal for making Olive Oil.  Tim was through his Vineyard and says his vines are trained to Espaliers about 5 feet high.  A Mr. Blaxland who lives within a few miles of Paramatta has got a medal from home for wine he sent to London in the year 23, an act of which you have seen I suppose.  The water melons we have in this country is a most grateful fruit, so well adapted to the climate and within the reach of every one for hoe up a bit of ground anywhere and they will grow, we have some fine flavoured ones this season, and an uncommon fine melon, the only one of your seeds which grew.  The green Flesh Melon, it is like a fine sweetmeat.  I sowed them in the rich stuff I got off the yard, but all did not do.  I sowed them twice.  I forgot to say that I planted a row of fruit trees 18 feet behind each row of Vines, but fear now I have planted them too close to the Vines.  Mention if I have.  Peaches from the store will bear I hear in two years.  They are so plentiful in this country that pigs are fed with them.  I observe two or three in my garden which sprung up since I came, that is now 1 ½ feet high.  Lemons also are very good, and I am told Oranges, but have not seen them.  The native flowers of this colony are very numerous and beautiful.  In August when I was going down to Newcastle to see Dr. Brooke, the banks had numbers in bloom on the shrubs and trees.  I made the boat put in once or twice to pick some.  One was a very handsome passion flower – a greenish white, and a Clymatis, both of which I took cuttings of but did not grow.  The Glycerise [?] Rubicundea is very common but did not look for any seed as you have it.  There is also in common on the banks a very large bulb which you had in your Green House.  I forget the name.  It has a great number of white flowers, with very prominent staminas, something resembling a Pancritum.  I have one at the bottom of my garden.  Mr. Webber has promised me in Spring a plant of the Cabbage Tree.  It is very curious growing 20 or 30 feet high, with a Cabbage I am told on the top which is good eating.  The Blacks destroy them whenever they can find them.  The bark makes very durable hats, more like our straw.  I have one of them.  There is also a lady tree at the bottom of the garden near the water, which was, about a month ago, covered with beautiful blossoms like the gum listers, [?] between a red and white shade.  The tree is very large and if I get any of the seed will send it.  They call it here the Rose of the Colony.  In August when I was in Newcastle, I went to look about for flowers on the hills over the Lea and found one immediately under the Church covered with a variety of the prettiest plants I ever saw.  Some exquisitely beautiful.  None of them were more than 2 feet high and generally showy.  I pulled16 different kinds in full bloom, two or three of them I knew, which grows in your Green House, one of them a White Chrysanthemum.  The hill had no earth on it that I could see, but deeply covered with a very firm [fine] white sand softer and finer if I may say so than sea sand.  This was by far the most brilliant and greatest variety I every saw together.  There were none of them in seed.


We had a Botanist & Naturalist in our neighbourhood about 6 weeks or 2 months ago.  His name was Labere, a German employed by the King of Bavaria to collect the natural productions of Australia.  This gentleman traveled through Egypt and Syria in the same capacity in 1816 & 1817.  He was a man about 40 with a very fine intelligent countenance and appeared most ardent in his pursuit.  I was at a great loss to understand him well.  He spoke English but imperfectly.  I showed him some shrubs and plants I had which he named for me and which I send with this.  He only breakfasted with us.  We could not prevail on him to spend the day though I was most anxious to gain any information I could.  While we were at Paramatta, Tim and I called one day on a Mr. Cunningham, Botanist to the King of England.  He has sent him some valuable collections.  He was very polite, showed me several boxes of beautiful and curious insects which he collected and told me any information that I wished for in his way he would be happy to give it to me on his return for he was just setting out on a tour for Sir John Brisbane who has a very high opinion of him and I never saw him after.  There is a Colonial Botanist in Sidney also who takes care of the Government gardens and is collecting and planting in his garden any curious and useful plants.  He is preserving as a great treasure a grass from South America which he thinks will be a great acquisition, Mr. Webber has promised us a few plants of it which he got from him.


Jan. 27th.   I am greatly disappointed on the failure of the potatoes which you enclosed in the Box 4 plants grew quite well until very large but never blossomed and had no potatoes under them.  But we have excellent ones both here and at the Derwent, ours are the largest I saw since I came to the country, I would feel much obliged by your sending me when you can some green Liquorice roots and Rhubarb.  I am sure they would grow well, and some good kinds of Gilberts [Filberts].  These grow here very fine and Walnuts.  The Horse Chestnuts and seeds you sent me unfortunately hoed [?] up without my knowledge.  I believe moist sand is best to preserve nuts and to leave them in the husks – the Vines were all dead – the people here were very illavoral [?] on green seed some years back – but are not so much so now.  I very much fear that you will not have patience to read all my nonsense but I am sure you will forgive me when I can assure you it is one of the greatest pleasures I enjoy to sit down for an hour to write to one of my family – I feel as if I was conversing in the midst of you all, asking and answering your questions.  I often feel the tears start involuntarily to my eyes when I take them off the paper, and reflect on the distance which separates us, but it is this separation alone I do regret, and I trust I feel thankful for all the mercies we have received from the hands of God, and if He continues to assist and support us, we have nothing to fear and to spare us to each other, and by frugality and industry I hope we shall be able to live.  I have given you as perfect and true a sketch of the way we live and how we are circumstanced as I could, exactly as it is – and please God will continue to do so once every year as both you and my friends are entitled to it and I wish it myself – it is a gratification to me to do so.


I must now give you our reasons for settling in this colony, as you may not have gotten our former letters.  I have been just called out to a neighbour who has handed me a pacquet – and from home.  Oh the delight I received it with, thank God it brought to us no unwelcome intelligence – but that my very dear friends were pretty much as I left them except my poor mother’s death which has been so long expected it was a happy removal for her I trust, and poor Mary Young’s health which you say has been bad, and which I very much regret, and wish she was with me, the voyage and the air of this country which is so well adapted to invalids might reinstate her health.  I will write to her mother respecting her,  her family are now grown up.  She can spare her.  I received one letter from Susy, J. McC., and William.  The box and cash is still in Sidney.  It affords us great delight to hear by each of those letters such a good account of my darling little Bess.  It is a great blessing she is so strong and healthy.  She has got a kind mother in Susy and Father in J.McC from every account.  She is well off in the midst of such kind friends as she has in all the family.  Poor Jos Lyster, I pity him and feel very much for his misfortunes and with such a family as 9 children and a Wife.  I wish he was landed safely in this country without any expense.  He would I am certain make an excellent settler –  but the expense of coming out such a distance and with such a family would be enormous – except Government would give a free passage and other encouragements to come, which they might do having such a number of daughters if they were more grown it might be better – for the daughters of free persons who are brought up to Country business and industry are very much sought after –  no other will a settler look for except those who have great fortunes.  Now we will suppose Jos landed safe with all his family in Sidney free of every expense he will have to pay for landing and carting his goods to his lodgings for which the charges are exorbitant, and will have to look very sharp or he will be pillaged.  Lodgings at the lowest he will have to pay from 8 to 15 shillings a week unfurnished where his family must remain for some months while he is looking out for his ground, which when he has selected he will have to encounter the delays of Office in obtaining the necessary documents – then building his first Hut, which can be done in a short time as they are of timber formed like a tent and thatched to the ground, those are the quickest built – others log – and cover with bark.  He will then have to remove his family to it which will be attended with great difficulty and expense particularly if in the interior.  He will procure from Government 6 months Rations for his family but in quantity very inadequate for them particularly the Flour as they give only 9 pounds per week for each person and 4 lbs. of Pork or 7 [or 9] of Beef, and half that quantity for women and children.  He must take this deficiency into calculation, as well as their further provision until his crops come round, which of course will depend on the Season he enters on his farm.  Generally and safely speaking a man should calculate on the means of a years support (as it will not do to want in the Bush here you might starve if you had no means, not like Ireland where you would not be refused a meals meat) together with the value of a couple of Cows for milk for his children.  Two well trained Bullocks which will cost him from £20. to £30.  A good Sow £3 or £4 some fowls – a few farm implements a plough, cart, harrow pins, nails of sizes flat pointed except though these are sharp, about the size of long 4d at home.  Maul ring and several sized wedges for splitting timber narrow and wide axes, saws of different kinds cross cut ones are £2. 10. 0. here breaking up hoes 10 inches deep very heavy and 6 wide – 5/- Gimblets the sizes of the Nails the Timber is so hard they must be used occasionally, Carpenter, Masons, and Shoemakers tools.  All these things are worth bringing out if he has his passage free, but not otherwise, as he will pay in Sidney for them as much more as you would pay at home, Powder and Shot is very necessary.  I paid for the former 6/- the Canister Shot 9d the lb. by the bag – Lead for bullets, a mold, and fire arms.  Now if he gets 1,000. or 500 acres of Land which he would by bringing out the usual letter from Lord Bathurst, he will get under the present Colonial regulations –  a cow for every hundred acres of ground, but he must take a man with each cow by his entering into a bond to cloth and maintain them for 10 years, at the expiration of which he is bound to keep them no longer – but he is to return 10 or 5 cows for those he got – 5 men he could be able to employ but more would not be prudent to take, as they are very expensive and a great deal depends on the description you happen to get of useful or not – if well conducted or not – we should not like to take the cows chargeable with them – some settlers do and some do not –  the first settlement made – and the first years expenses over, Jos is just the man calculated for the present bad times, who will hold his place, build his house, and repair his implements –  Wheat that was a few years back 10/- the bushel is this season 4/-.  Maize 7/- is now 2/6 and Barley the same, Potatoes that used to be 9/- and 10/- per ct. now 4/- and 5/- –  so you see it will require a larger bulk to take to market to exchange for other necessarys.  Stock of any kind is now the only thing a man has to look to for profit, as they increase very quick – for Black cattle, Stock Men are the only expense but Casualtys sometimes attend them –  for sheep enclosures are necessary sometimes to divide them.  These also are subject to casualties very often –  but as to aggriculture which I have remarked before it will not pay further than the maintenance of a family –  on the other hand if a man be so fortunate as to get some good Brush land on his grant, after clearing it he can calculate on having two crops in the year on it, but subject to be flooded occasionally, as soon as the crop of Wheat is cut, the stubble is burnt down, the land broken up either with the hoe or plough, and corn put in as it is called – Maize I mean – and so on.  Wheat then after the Maize, after the Maize Wheat again.  This system has been carried on for years on some farms in the Colony without any manure.  Pumpkins are also  commonly sowed with the corn and answers very well, they are a good Vegetable and excellent food for pigs,  they keep the entire Winter well –  if a lagoon happens to be on the farm it is a great help to rear pigs – and they abound with fine Eels.  The young settler has also another disadvantage to contend with, which is, that let his stock be ever so small they must have a man to attend them as there are no fences, and if the cattle go into the Bush they may be for weeks before they recover them and often lost entirely – ours we let go with a neighbours (I speak of the cows) and pay his stock man for minding them but few may have that advantage – and our Pigs stay about the House and in an enclosed yard.  A man may also besides his grant obtain a location for his cattle and sheep to graze on, when they become extensive which is another advantage.  The climate is a very delightful one for 8 months in the year the other four are very hot, and in general it is very healthy.  Fruits of all kinds grow well here except gooseberries and currants.  Rains not very frequent, and when they do they come in torrents generally attended with thunder and lightning, dews in general very heavy, this part of the country is pretty well watered which is a great advantage – for in several parts of it the cattle etc., have died in numbers when a dry summer would come.  I wish from my heart poor Jos and family were here free of expence, and there is nothing in Tim’s or my power that we could do for them that we would not cheerfully do.  Read my description of things for him, Tim says it is very correct and it states everything which is absolutely necessary for him to know.  I forgot to say a Steel Mill is a most necessary article, it is with these all the flour is ground.  They have quern stones made in Sidney for grinding Maize for the Pigs and Wheat sometimes, the White Maize Meal sifted fine makes very excellent bread mixed with one half flour, and most excellent hominy better than Stirabout that is milder, on half milk it is best – it is with fine wire sieves they sift the flour.  They are sold for 20/- and 30/- apiece.  No cows are given in V.D.L. and it is according to your property land is given.  Here no questions are asked.  You may judge of our disappointment at not getting out the sheep which our kind friends have so kindly insisted in endeavouring to send us, anything I could say would be inadequate to our feelings of gratitude for the efforts which have been made –  they are what would be of the greatest benefit to us as they are very valuable here.  Also for the shawl, tools and seeds for which I am very much obliged to you – the seeds I hope will be more fortunate than what I brought, the cask and box is still in Sidney.  Tim goes there in a few days and takes his wool to forward by the first vessel to London.  I am particularly delighted at getting the White Clover and Grass seed for our paddock – I regret very much Billy Kealy did not send you some Saintform seed as he had plenty of it and it would do well on some of our dry hills if any other opportunity offers send me some with the nuts and Sally cuttings they would be very useful to us for Baskets for our wool.  There is no good substitute here for it.


February 3rd.   I am very sorry to tell you that Mr. Webber sent to me yesterday for his thermometer.  Tim wrote to say he would keep the diary for me but I don’t expect it – if Tim can get one in Sidney he will bring it but it is only a chance.  A very melancholy circumstance took place the day before yesterday –  one of our neighbours, a Mr. Hutson from Dorset St., Dublin of a very respectable family, was taken ill with a mental derangement, I hope fortunately for him there was a Dr. Radford (who had but a very short time arrived in the Colony and came up to our neighbourhood to look for ground,) near him and he took him on to Newcastle to Dr. Brook –  the Bush is at first a very melancholy place for a single person accustomed to Society if he is not active about his business which keeps him from thinking, but if he is fond of looking out for the Natural Productions of the Colony occasionally, amusing himself with his gun or fishing – this is the place for it – as it would break the gloom which the separation from our friends is apt to occasion at first.  I am delighted Dr. Radford is settled within 8 or 9 miles of us as a Physician is a most necessary ingredient in the Bush –  he came with a young man of the name of Torrance, nephew to a gentleman of that name who was so cruelly murdered near Limerick just before I left home –  he has got his ground on the first branch, you will see their names in the Paper I enclose you, and the number of passengers which came in the same vessel from Scotland.  I don’t know how V.D.L. can retain all who come to it –  both Tim and I have anticipated exactly your ideas respecting our having ground in both Colonys, we saw early that it would not meet with our friends approbation – and I was going to explain our reasons to you fully for doing so when your Pacquet arrived – our first intention as you are aware of, was to settle in V.D.L. and with that view Tim obtained his order – but the vessel not being bound for that Colony we had to go on to Sydney – and on Tims consulting the Governor and Secretary they both strongly recommended him to remain in N.S.W. stating that as sheep were his object, this Colony was better adapted for them, from every information they had on the subject – but his having his order for that Colony and being anxious to see it, they again told him it might be more prudent for him to see both Colonys and judge for himself – before he made his selection –  he did so accordingly, and in V.D.L. he was pointed out through the favour of the Lieut. Governor Savile two very desirable situations – which on his describing to me on his return, we decided on his taking upon the terms, I have mentioned to you in my former letter our own farm on the South Esk River 12 miles from Launceston, – the reserve on the Macquarry River 20 miles nearer to Hobart Town, but on Tim’s applying to Government for a free passage for his family and baggage – he found it could not be granted as the Government vessels had ceased to ply to V.D.L. and the merchant vessels required more money than we possessed and they would not take property –  it would cost us upwards of £100 to go there.  You may judge yourself when our two men and 16 sheep which we sent there cost £20, £5 for each mans passage and the remainder for the sheep and to provide them ourselves –  so we were from necessity obliged to remain in this Colony though much against our will.  We thought it then but prudent to accept of an offer which Sir Thomas Brisbane at this time offered Tim of coming up to Hunters river with two flocks of sheep, the payment for which being by instalments we expected would come light – I acknowledge I recommended him to accept of it – as it was out of our power to go to V.D.L. –  I have no reason to regret our determination since we made our settlement, as I believe we have done so with as few privations and difficulties as could be expected in any part of the Bush, and though the land we sat down on, is not of the first quality about the house yet with the help of some Manure we can have sufficient for cultivation to support our family – it is situated at a convenient distance from Newcastle which will be a market town shortly and in a neighbourhood well cleared and inhabited so that I often think when I look around me I am not in the Bush – we have a military station where there are always three soldiers and often more as near as the Castle is to you – this is a great protection to us – the land or back run extends 4 or 5 miles to another branch of the river called the Main River where it is excellent and well watered – but the distance to Newcastle is 30 miles by water from the winding of the River more than from our house –  the heat of this climate is the only thing of much consequence which I dislike for 4 months in the year – but notwithstanding the lassitude it occasions while it continues, I never had a continuance of my health better and Tim the same –  perhaps it may be all for the best we did not go to V.D.L., the climate is so damp.  I have conversed with a great many who came out with the intention of settling there and came on here – and the majority always decided in favour of this – both from the climate and the state of the Police where property is not so secure as it is in this Colony – from the worst description of men being always sent on there.  Our settlement in V.D.L. has cost us little more than the first expenses, owing to our kind friend Mr. B – and the only thing he particularly requires is not to have his name mentioned to any person, the men are under his direction, and you will see from Brenans letter one of our men which I enclose to Jack how they are going on.  Tim will have to go down there very soon.  Our flocks of sheep there are now 300, and thriving well.  I once more regret having written so much as it must be tiresome.  I will direct this as you wished with a few seeds, try the water melon to give you an idea what a luxury we enjoy in it when parched with thirst.  I wish from my heart it was in your power to make a tour of this country for a couple of years, as I know the gratification it would afford you, it abounds so with all those things which you feel such pleasure in, if such a thing should ever occur you will have a home before you and I am sure I need not say a hearty welcome –  but this idea is too much for me.  I cannot bear it.  Shall I ever see any of you again my dear friends.  I am afraid to indulge in the idea.  Tim often tells me if we are spared for 7 years and go on well I must return and take John to leave him to be educated –  but that is what I cannot expect though it is what I would wish – to spend a few months once more with my child, my family and friends –  but all things are in the hands of God.  Man proposeth, but He disposeth, and His will be done I am satisfied.  God bless you all.  I hope Bessy speaks often of us – and believe me to remain dear John ever your affectionate sister,


  1. Nowlan.


February 4th, 1824.  The times are very indifferent here, no money to be had in the Colony of any consequence.  I am very sorry to find it continues so in Ireland, and that your poor find it so, from the papers I see that the Taxes etc., are very much reduced, we sometimes get them from our neighbours, they are always a great treat to us –  remember me most affectionately to all my friends, if I can I will write to some of them but this letter is long enough for half a dozen.


I must give a message from John, his own words – Tell John Robertson I can swim and spell “Cat”.


I cannot conclude without telling you of an experiment which I made with our Potatoes, they threw out a large quantity of offsets which I had taken off when the Potatoe was formed and planted into fresh drills, the weather was rather dry at the time but had them twice watered.  They took and had a very fair crop on them if the season was moist they would have been much better – and were a fortnight later than the others, I have recovered from two Stalks 11 and 14 good sized potatoes from each stalk, I had one fourth more Potatoes by doing so, which is a great advantage to us, being late to get a full supply of seed, by occasionally putting out a seedling bed of potatoes, I think we might have new Potatoes constantly, they grow here any Season.  The Cape Gooseberry we have wild here makes very excellent pies and tarts you have it in the Green House.  It appears to me like a Solanum the fruit which is the size of a small round green Gooseberry is enclosed in a thin vainy [hairy] membrane.  If at any time you or William or J. McC should meet with a good workman of any description which you would feel interested about to write a letter by him to Doctor Duglass – to have him consigned to us we would give him employment –  but he should have the letter sent without any delay to the Police office in Sidney, it will be immediately forwarded to him, as the men meet very little delay before they are consigned.  I wish I had a man who understood the care of a Garden – and vines –  it is impossible to have a garden here without a man to attend it, and we would have full employment for him as we hope to be able to cultivate the Vine, Hop and Tobacco for our own consumption.


I will thank you to send Jack Nowlan his letter also send to him any other letters you will find unsealed which you will read and enclose to him – with his own.

[i] William Sorell, Esq. Lieut. Governor of the Settlements on Van Diemen’s Land

Who were Timothy and Eliza Nowlan?

From the article by Campbell, J.F. “The Genesis of Rural Settlement on the Hunter” J.R.A.H.S.  Vol 12:2 (1926): 73-112.

Ref on page 102:

“In the year 1822, Timothy Nowlan emigrated from Ireland to Van Dieman’s Land, with a view to establish a pastoral holding for experimental purposes in sheep-breeding, but being dissatisfied with the area of land granted him there, he in the following year applied to Governor Brisbane for land in New South Wales. His application having been favourably considered, he was provisionally allotted land on the Hunter River for the purpose he had in view, and was further encouraged in his project by receiving the promise of a grant of 2,000 acres (No. 210, Division B) in the event of his experiment succeeding”. Owing, however, to the uncertain tenure “on which he held possession of the land,” he was unable to protect his ground from trespassers, and therefore made application for a seven years’ lease, which was granted conditionally.

Upon receiving notice to remove, at the termination of the lease (the land having been applied for by others), “he brought forward his claim to a grant, on the grounds already stated,” which claim was ultimately approved by the Secretary of State. He was also allowed to purchase the 3,800 acres reserved for lease in the first instance.”

Timothy Nowlan's Grant (1825)
Name: Nowland, Timothy (b) No. 210 Date of “Order” June 2, 1825 (Ref: From the article by Campbell, J.F. “The Genesis of Rural Settlement on the Hunter” J.R.A.H.S. Vol 12:2 (1926): 73-112. Page 85
Acreage of Holding: 2000 (Division B), 3800 (Division B) Transferee, etc: Reserved.

Ref: on page 85

Name: Nowland, Timothy (b)
No. 210
Date of “Order” June 2, 1825
Acreage of Holding: 2000 (Division B), 3800 (Division B)
Transferee, etc: Reserved.

Where were the dairies possibly written?

According to researcher Peter Johnson (Email communication to Gionni Di Gravio 5 February 2006):

“You will be pleased to know that I have established that the place of writing the diaries is most certainly at Mindarriba (ie. part way between Bolwarra Heights and Paterson). Specifically, in an area of about 100m x 50m in a paddock, and up about 100 metres up from the bank of the Paterson River. Some remnant 19th century bricks have been found, about 10 cm below the present ground surface, but are irregular arrangement. See attachments.

Possible site of Nowlan's residence at time of writing the diaries in 1823 (Photo Credit: Peter Johnson)
Possible site of Nowlan’s residence at time of writing the diaries in 1823 (Photo Credit: Peter Johnson)


Possible site of Nowlan's residence at time of writing the diaries in 1823 (Image Credit: Peter Johnson)
Possible site of Nowlan’s residence at time of writing the diaries in 1823 (Image Credit: Peter Johnson)

Up until last week the location of Nowlan’s cottage had not been formally established, but generally believed to have been at least two miles west of my proposed location. The whole landscape with its particular slope and aspect accords with Eliza’s writings, and it does so without any inventive effort on my part as interpreter of her letters – it fits like a hand into a glove.

Last Thursday night I presented my findings to the Paterson Historical Society. The Nowlan’s occupied a pre-existing Government cottage and the location of this cottage, I have established, is at least 500 metres south of where it has been believed to be.  Also, it was not known that the Nowlan’s occupied this specific cottage. There was general support for my findings, both the new location of the Government cottage and that the Nowlan’s lived therein. This support comes from some who have held to the traditional location of that cottage for decades, which is very encouraging.

I intend to write up my findings formally, in time, and will get a copy to you.”

What became of the Nowlan Family?

According to Cynthia Hunter (Email Correspondence 2 February 2004):

“Timothy and Elizabeth had only one child, John. John did not marry and had no children. He became a MP.  He died aged 74, on 9/3/1895. His estate was left to 2 nephews in Ireland.  After his death there was a sale of his library advertised (? MM 4/9/1896)”

Eelah Homestead built by John Nowlan circa 1880s (Photograph courtesy of Cynthia Hunter and taken in the year 2000)
Eelah Homestead built by John Nowlan circa 1880s (Photograph courtesy of Cynthia Hunter and taken in the year 2000)

Image of Eelah Homestead taken in 2000 by the late Cynthia Hunter. In an email to Gionni Di Gravio 6 February 2004:

“Since then a great deal of renovations and restoration has been done to the house and a grand shed, but I have not any up to date photos. The original estate was cut up into 9 farms and auctioned in 1927. I believe that John Nowlan built this house, maybe 1880s – he advertised in the Mercury for bricks in 1881 and 1884. Timothy built a timber house much earlier.”


Compiled by Gionni Di Gravio, OAM
University Archivist & Chair, Hunter Living Histories

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