State Library of Victoria > La Trobe Journal

No 29 April 1982


Out and Home: A Trip from England to Australia a Collection of Rough Pen and Pencil Memoranda by Edward Young

On 8 April 1861 the Roxburgh Castle sailed from Gravesend, bound for Melbourne. As well as some 65 immigrants, it carried among its complement Dr. Edward Young as ship's surgeon. It was the ship's ninth voyage to Australia since its construction in 1852; Biddle, in his Transactions of British ships in the Melbourne trade, notes that it “was one of Green's older frigates and if not fast was very comfortable and seaworthy; a favourite passenger ship”.
The Roxburgh Castle anchored at Port Melbourne on 6 July 1861; it sailed again on 28 August, reaching London on 26 November. For the duration of the ship's passage and during his stay in Melbourne, Dr. Young conscientiously kept a detailed, illustrated diary, entitled Out and home: a trip from England to Australia: a collection of rough pen and pencil memoranda. It is a substantial work, amounting to some 1300 pages bound in two octavo volumes. Of these about 550 pages are devoted to the period of the ship's stay at Melbourne.
Little is known of Edward Young. The London and provincial medical directory records his death on 4 June 1898, at the age of 77 (placing his age at the time of the voyage at about 40 years). At the time of his death he lived in Hounslow, Middlesex; he had previously lived in other provincial towns including, in 1861, Gravesend itself. He had gained his medical qualifications at Erlangen, in Germany, in 1843.
The reason for his voyage is known. He wrote in the introduction to Out and home that Ill health of a severe and painful character obliged me in the spring of this year to leave my professional pursuits and my home for some months to recruit; I need not enter into the reasons that induced me to pay a visit to Australia, perhaps I was curious to know and see something of that distant and wonderful land…
Edward Young was a most conscientious and enthusiastic visitor to Victoria. For most of his seven-week stay he slept on board ship, travelling around Melbourne and the suburbs alone or with friends. He made two five-day trips away from the city, one to Bendigo and the other to Geelong and Ballarat, and an overnight trip to Yan Yean. We present here a few small extracts from his diary with no emendations as to punctuation or spelling.
Tony Marshall
….. bound for Melbourne and traversing as barren a piece of sand and bog country as you could wish to see, for on that sort of soil is the good town of Sandridge set down I cannot say built, the name perfectly well expresses the nature of the land, it is a succession of ridges of sand, deep, heavy, wet shifting sand with here and there a bog or two, round and in which grew long dark rushes and scrub; scattered at intervals are ragged barkless gum trees (but as yet no opossums up them), you know of course that the trees here shed their bark and not their leaves in winter) that is the appearance of the face of the country, low fields and swampy, the town of Sandridge is well planned as far as the ground plan goes, but the original intentions are not yet carried out, the streets are intended to run at right angles and have ample breadth, at present there are thousands of gaps of waste ground in them and every man having built what he likes, and how he likes, the tenements are of course perfectly incongruous, to understand therefore what Sandridge is you must imagine the sort of country I have described, and draw all your imaginary streets in parallel lines east and west, then take the following ingredients — a few London gin shops, rather dirtier and finer than their old world contemporaries but brightly lighted with gas — a few beer shops with seats outside the doors as seen in country villages a few “semi detached” villas such as you see about suburban London in third rate districts worth £25 per annum or so, containing five or six rooms, a few houses on wheels
such as used by travelling showmen at home but here permanently located — a few wooden sheds, in horrible repair ends and sides made good with blankets and canvas, hundreds of wooden two or three roomed cottages, standing on piles if the ground is swampy, set down in the sand if it is dry — a few Jew pawn brokers, and holes such as you may find about Whitechapel or Wapping, a methodist chapel or two, a trim church, well built of the colonial black stone in an enclosure — a few second and third rate houses such as make up our streets and shops in country market towns — a few flaring dancing booths, many drunken sailors, many “nice young ladies” a few Bazar [sic]looking shops kept by doubtful looking Ethiopians, scores of cars, drawn by one horse each and driven by a Yankee. Mix them all well up together having first ticketed everything with most stupendous names, then set down your gin shops your beer shops, your booths, your chapels, your church, your shops, in fact your whole “material” exactly where and how you like without any attempt at order whatever, observe no rules, except to bear in mind that you give the most stupendous names to the most wretched looking places, these which I have the honour of introducing to your notice [here are illustrated a number of sheds bearing titles such as “Insurance and Law Office” and “Furnishing Emporium”]are built on a swamp as you may notice, hereafter I may show you others erected on the sand — I trust now that you will have some little general notion of Sandridge, but the whistle is sounding and we are entering at last the good town of Melbourne the chief city of Victoria, acknowledged by everybody to be the most wonderful place in the world for its age the golden age, but five years since and Sandridge was called “canvas town” from the simple fact that its inhabitants lived in tents now it is what I have endeavoured to describe, and the city itself is what I hope a little to expatiate upon, “Your ticket Sir thank you” “Collins Street Sir straight up and turn to the left” a few steps the rubicon is past and the great city of the new world is all before me — Wide streets and small houses, singular drainage, large shops, looks something like Edinburgh these were my first impressions as I walked up Elizabeth Street, but like many first impressions were not correct as I hope to presently make you understand, following my directions I turned to the left up Collins Street and began to see really fine houses and commercial establishments worthy of any part of London or Liverpool, having a thoroughly business aspect, good frontages, and the throng of people giving me full notions of all the activity of the cities of the old world — To the Union Bank first to get my papers verified and procure materials for carrying on the war, with advantage and comfort, though I fear I shall have more nuggets than I shall take home with me from the gold fields of Australia which I hope to visit, wonderfully kind and courteous the officials at the bank, business you know first, and pleasure afterwards business being now concluded I proceed to the “pleasure” of visiting the well known Dr. Motherwell of Collins Street to consult him as to this pain in the back which has harassed me so much all the voyage long — and which also at this time I am particularly anxious to part company from, most kindly did the good doctor receive me, but I will not bother you with his medical opinions, you hear enough of physic at home, I will only say that I am to call on him again on Wednesday and accompany him to see the hospital which I learn is a fine establishment — out into the busy streets again, any direction quite suits me my time is my own and Melbourne all before me this fine warm morning….. Policeman what building is that? “Town Hall Sir”, a fine building of the colonial black stone, see it again another day, what a swell Policeman, nattily dressed, courteous and gentlemanly in his bearing (come out here you dirty lubberly B9949, you bully Irishman whom I know so well in House maid lane Pimlico and see what a policeman ought to be you swabby faced blackguard)
A barbers shop, and a long looking glass in the window, is that hirsuite individual with a doormat on his chin and unkempt looks me? If so I must go in and be renovated, just touched up a little,….. I am coming out as soon as I have paid the barber (I wish his brushes had been cleaner) the shilling he charges; moaning the meanwhile that the happy days when the diggers come in to have their teeth [?]curled threw down a guinea and refused the change…. up Swanston Street, the public library on our right, a noble building, an honour to any country or any people,
see more of it another day, onwards towards North Melbourne…. I cross desert tracts of land, I travel unbuilt streets I see endless gum trees I see squatters houses…. the sun has come out hot, I unbutton my coat, and set forward again on my journey of research, more barren spots flaked and waste as the deserts of Egypt, more gum trees without their bark, more “emporiums” in two roomed cottages, more deep gutters to fall into down which the muddy off scourings of the city were plunging headlong……
10 A.M. by rail to Melbourne to call again on Dr. Motherwell whose capital English looking mansion stands in upper Collins Street, he was just going to Richmond and asked me to accompany him in his carriage, this of course I was glad to do, he pointing out the Police Stations, parks, gardens and various localities of interest explaining to me the varieties of green trees which seem endless — the morning however was wet and miserable I did not therefore enjoy the ride or could I see the face of the country around Richmond as much as I could have wished, we returned together to the Melbourne Hospital of which he is the physician, it is a noble establishment equal, even in magnitude to our similar institution in London, they make up 360 beds, and nothing could surpass the order cleanliness and comfort of the lofty airy well ordered wards, there are to every ward ample supplies of baths, and the cooking arrangements carried on in an entirely separate building are truly beautiful, all the cooking is done by steam, I wish our dirty old cook could go there and get a lesson in cleanliness. At all events, still if they could, they might scrape him a little now we are in harbour too they certainly are to blame —
The number of consumption cases in the Hospital both in the male and female wards, could rather surprise those who fancy that terrible disease is notorious in Australia, the physicians adopt a peculiar treatment which seems sometimes to meet with success, on the whole I have seldom been better pleased by any professional visit and you know I am rather fond of leaving “shop” (as it is vulgarly called) at home.
Dr. M introduced me to a variety of the medical officers with whom I chatted on matters medical home and colonial, for some time — Before I parted with Dr. M. he very kindly invited me to a “gathering” to take place at his house in the evening, so taking the next train to Sandridge I had time to write a little and dress before dinner, afterwards as the last train for Melbourne was gone I took the car back to the city and and reaching the good doctors hospitable house found it in a blaze of light beauty and crinoline for half the youth, rank and loveliness of the Colony seemed collected there to a ball, for which I was scarcely prepared, nothing could exceed the kind reception of the mother and sisters of my host, he is a bachelor, I should think the ladies must esteem him a most eligible one of course as all were entirely strangers to me, I can give you but little account of the proceedings the ball was much like other balls at home, the dresses perhaps were more showy and a little lower than with us but they danced, and waltzed and flirted and ate and drank and sang much as we see the pretty dears do in the old country, so the evening at last came to a close and toward the small hours I found the comfortable bed at the “Globe” which I had previously taken the precaution to ensure, passed a comfortable night, for the first time remember in a decent sized bed for nearly four months…..
… In the afternoon I went with Dr. C- to the great convict prison at Pentridge a few miles from Melbourne, a large castellated building of blue stone most outstandingly built and containing I am sorry to say nine hundred male convicts, all being under sentence from two years to life, what a prospect for a human being, a living death life without hope surely the Devil is but a bad master to serve — We had an order to view the prison from Mr. J. J. Smith the mayor, the same gentleman who coming to England some time since to present a congratulatory address to Her Majesty, made himself somewhat conspicuous if I remember rightly, however be that as it, may the introduction procured us every attention, and we were conducted into every department of the establishment by successive warders who “passed us on” from one to the other very courteously explaining every thing, The cooking department was admirable and the food and bread seemed excellent,
I wish our old beast would go there and take a lesson, first getting you know a six months sentence fulfilled then we went into the cells, large clean, well ventilated, and supplied with gas and water, thence into the workshops where tailors, shoe makers, carpenters, blacksmiths etc. were all pursuing their several vocations with such order and regularity, that one was reminded of figures made by machinery, all seemed cleanliness industry and order from there we went into the new prison called Panopticon [?] where each convict fulfills the first part of his time in silence and solitude, a month for every year of his sentence, here he is confined alone for twenty three hours out of each day, the remaining hour he is allotted to exercise in a paved yard between high stone walls, in a sort of iron cage in fact, on this plan, so that no prisoner can see or communicate with his neighbor. Some of the men are condemned to wear chains, we saw one in this condition, pacing his place of confinement scowling like a wild beast he was a man of color — and convicted of some revolting offence on the diggings; After this we went to the Hospital which is most admirably arranged and has every appearance of comfort, from this part of the prison there is a fine view of the surrounding country, also conducive no doubt to the restriction of the imprisioned invalid, and there were several patients who required (judging from their aspect) all the conforts humanity could afford so way worn were their looks poor fellows — There are men confined here of all people nations and languages, one is or rather was a public orator of note and promise, another was an officer in the Guards — “par nobile fatuum”, but by far the larger proportion of the inmates can neither read nor write — Great discipline is most strictly exacted, the warders pace round the walls and through the corridors night and day with loaded firearms, and instances have been by no means rare of convicts being shot in vain attempt to escape — There is a considerable tract of enclosed land about 80 acres round the establishment cultivated by the prisoners, who besides exercise, and are taught many useful trades, we called on the doctor of the Prison a jolly Irishman who between ourselves has capital sherry and then delighted with our visit we bade adieu to Pentridge and wended our way back to Melbourne through the little scattered villages lying on this great Sydney road and meeting the evening coaches coming out on their long journeys up the country with their singular looking teams and drivers — loaded with passengers, who will probably (as I heard an American say) in this state of the road be “jolted to everlasting squash” before their weeks travel be concluded —
On going through the “Royal Park” as it is called we heard the Parrots, and saw some numbers of the pretty little spotted and red billed finches which are so common in Australia —
Did I tell you that on the Sydney road we fell in with a drive [?] of wild cattle attended by the stockmen who ride like centaurs, and whose horses had evidently been above their girths in the swamp, it is not allowed to drive their cattle through the towns. I am longing for a few days fine weather when having seen all the “lions” [?] i.e. the neighborhood of the great City, I make my way for a few days up the country, and see for myself the aboriginal bush, the mighty swamps lagoons, and plains where the wild turkey disport themselves, and the Opossum finds in the dense forest, and the Parrots sit chattering to each other among the branches of the red gum and peppermint trees —
The morning fine but cold. I put into execution my plan of visiting Williamstown, by steamer, and exceedingly pretty and picturesque was Hobsons Bay as we scudded superbly along through the numerous shipping anchored in every direction arrived from and bound to all parts of the world — There is but little to be seen in the village I went to see which is scattered about the sea side most irregularly, the houses seemed for the most part poor and miserable —
The town stands on a sort of small promontory as it were and is surrounded on three side by water, the distant Blackwood ranges of which this is an outline [illus.] are very picturesque — The railway station to Melbourne is large and handsome — [illus.] I give you a sketch also of the residences of the “Plebs” and the Aristocrats of Williamstown, no fancy drawing but sketched on the spot and giving you some notion of their “elevations” if nothing more.

Sketches of Williamstown, 23 July 1861

“Making the most of it” seems also not peculiar to Sandridge the art I mean of giving to the smallest possible establishments the largest possible names (1 fear after all the practice exists in other lands I know of) this is the “Steam Packet Hotel, to me it looked like a third rate beer shop but after the “loan office” I told you of the other day I am prepared to acknowledge anything and everything as far as names go.
Having made my few “observations” on Williams Town which will barely repay one for a second visit I returned to Sandridge and in the afternoon visited again the public library and saw its “Museum” or rather its gallery of Sculpture in which are many excellent copies of the finest known works of art, there is also a small collection of Native Australian weapons, made of hard knotty woods, and especially curious, I had time to sketch some of them on the opposite page — I was more than ever impressed with the magnitude of this magnificent reading room and its excellent library of books in all languages, comprising many of the most costly ever published…
In the afternoon I went into the country with a medical man Dr. W- (who had kindly invited me) by the way of Collingwood, Kew, Richmond, Camberwell all of which localities have much the same characteristics as the other environs of Melbourne, sudden transition from sand to swamp from cultivated land to the open bush, sometimes a capital piece of road, sometimes scarcely a road at all, now a nattily laid-out garden, now a cultivated field in which the stumps of gum trees were yet standing by hundreds, now pretty cottages embowered by trees surrounded by hedges of “prickly pear” or “thorn”, where the air was fragrant with the bloom of the wattles — and our summer flowers were in great plenty and beauty, and standard vines and fruit trees in profusion — We crossed the Yarra Yarra twice, once over the Johnson [sic] street Bridge, and again over a fine iron structure which came out from England, the banks of the river are picturesque in the extreme thickly studded with the original forest trees and overshadowed by the luxuriant Wattles in their spring suits of emerald green, I have an invitation for next Thursday to dine with a gentleman living in one of those little bowers on the banks of the Yarra, quite a fairy palace embosomed in the trees.
Our journey this afternoon was towards the ranges of the “Plenty Hills” which in the distance have that peculiar purple that is noticeable in the colour of all the Australian mountains —
It was a glorious summer like morning and not a cloud was in the sky the little town of Sandhurst was busy as a hive, Pall Mall was thronged with diggers, and new chums, spruce comfortable looking merchants squatters, cab drivers, ladies with plenty of crinoline, and children noisy as at home, I presume part of this unusual excitement is attributable to the elections just pending, indeed while I was over at Eagle Hawk yesterday the nominations for that township were going on, I staid a few minutes to hear the speeches, but knowing nothing of the merits of either party, I could take but little interest in the proceedings, I can however imagine that if the candidate I heard, goes into Parliament, he will scarcely do so with clean hands (unless he washes them).
The town of Sandhurst contains I should suppose about ten or twelve thousand inhabitants, the district of Bendigo more than sixty, the streets are well laid out at right angles to each other, there is a good Court house, Churches, Baths and banks and gold brokers by the scores melting and assay houses, police camps (for both horse and foot patrols) and dozens of extensive stores where all the paraphernalia of mining are to be had, shovels picks, dishes, rockers, windlasses, the inevitable red shirts and wideawakes which diggers affect, and tools of which I did not know the use, blasting gun powder long steel bores, and wheel barrows, the provision stores also are very large, to attract the miners is evidently the do-all and mean-all — it is quite plain that gold is in the ascendant, this the veritable El Dorado and the diggers the only aristocracy: it really is a wonderful place when I consider that barely eight years since Bendigo did not exist, that here and for miles around where sixty thousand persons, are plying a busy trade all full of energy hope and excitement, there was nothing but the silent swamp and bush, and tangled scrub and the only living creatures on the pathless planes [sic] the opossum and the kangaroo so much for the aspect of Sandhurst but on going towards the outskirts, anything more deplorable than the scene of desolation, the half deserted diggings exhibit it would be impossible to conceive, standing as I did this morning above the road towards the great Murray river I was in the midst of the Bendigo gold fields, ten thousand forsaken pits, like half filled graves around me, stagnant water putrefying in hundreds of holes here and there a machine rude and rough enough at work puddling the alluvial and auriferous soil and a few other diggers here and there at work with pail and dish and rocker in a very primitive fashion, the valley where I stood was entirely thrown up with hillocks, except where stood a few wretched canvas tents or a pigeon house, a very common appendage to a miners home, they seem great bird fanciers — and also billiard and bagatelle players for there is a table in every public house, and in one of the very poorest tents I this evening heard a piano, perhaps a relic of some far off forsaken home — on the next page is a very rude attempt to sketch the gold field from where I stood, it is of course but a rough memorandum, I never regretted so much before my

“A very rough sketch of the mines of Bendigo July 30th 1861”

want of artistic ability —
After lunch with Mr. T-e and his kind wife, I went over again to the “Eagle Hawk” quartz reef mines carrying with me a letter to the manager, Mr. T being prevented by business from accompanying me thither
These quartz reefs are at present yielding magnificently the manager who received me most courteously, showed me in one iron basin seven hundred pounds worth of coarse gold knocked out of the humps of quartz with hammers before the stone is crushed, and bars and nuggets of the precious metal, in such enormous quantities that I did indeed begin to feel myself really in the golden land, and looking back with feelings akin to contempt to those small “puddlers” at Castlemaine and Kangaroo Flat and so forth going in for gold only in a moderate way, and making fortunes slowly
There are several ores found in the quartz which will no doubt be ultimately found worth working as well as the gold, namely antimony, silver, copper and occasionally platinum at present all else is rejected for the more precious metal but as my conductor remarked “with us gold mining is no doubt but yet in its infancy”, and yet Australia is at this time producing far more than Mexico.
Kindly presenting me with a piece of quartz in which one or two specks of gold were visible as a memento of my visit we parted, and much pleased with my excursion I took the road back to Bendigo among the mines, it was nearly dark and after journeying some distance I by accident turned out of my way towards Kangaroo Flat which lengthened my walk, but after some little wandering in the bush I saw the lights of Sandhurst, and soon found myself rather footsore and weary but safe and sound “on” Pall Mall just as a heavy shower of rain was beginning to fall and then I got some tea looked over my gold specimens not of much value though still curious, and then while the actors below are just ranting in their first act which I devoutly wish was their
last I in my little room (no. 15) (I know you are curious in these matters) sit down to write with a very miserable pen this record of the past day
If all is well I purpose starting early tomorrow on my return journey, of course there would be much to see if I could remain, but being alone possibly I should not enjoy myself much and I have had a very fair look at the gold fields of this wonderful land which is something after all, and worth a little inconvenience Good night dear L- or rather good morning for you are just turning “out” while I am “turning in” if I don't tell you all some “yarns” on my return it will arise from want of ability rather than material — I must first stay to tell you there are 22 “doctors” in Sandhurst, and it is said to be difficult to find any one of them sober when he is wanted, I am more and more convinced of the good opening there is in any Australian town for a medical man who will bring with him two all important qualifications “sobriety” and “application”, do you know of such a man, if so let him rely on it a fortune is yet to be made in the gold fields of Australia-
After service this morning at which as is usual here the clergyman dilated in no measured terms on the vices and follies of colonists, Mr. Dinsdale (the first mate) and I went for an excursion up the Yarra to the Botanical gardens. Sunday is a great day there with the holiday folks from Melbourne and the river was quite gay with numerous boating parties, the winding stream is extremely picturesque and the air was fragrant with the delicious odours of the wattles now in full spring bloom, reminding me very much of the scented may at home — we were so much pleased with the trip that we took the boat some distance further up the Yarra and at every turn there was an opening of fresh beauty in the view the overhanging trees, the winding paths up the hills and the bush in the distance formed a pretty picture and besides this the day was delightfully clear and warm — we strolled about the gardens for some time and returned to Sandridge by rail, pestered all the evening by grog drinking, smoking and blackguardism in which it seems the delight of folks on board ship to indulge, I was right glad to turn in early and escape it……