A Letter home from Australia - Henry Brinsmead writes to his brother back in St. Giles in the Wood
Geelong, Port Philip, New South Wales,
Dec. 8th, 1851.
Dear Brother and Sister, - I now take the opportunity of writing you a few lines, hoping it will find you and all the family in good health as it leaves us all at present: Thank God for it. It is likely you have been expecting to hear from us before; but, for the last three months I have not had the opportunity of writing. During that time I have been absent at the gold fields, a place called Bouingyoung, about 58 miles from Geelong. I am thankful to Almighty God, that, in the pursuit of gold, I have been somewhat successful. I remained away about 18 weeks; on my return, I am happy to say, besides defraying all other expenses, I was able to make a present of £100 to Betsy, my wife. Having many pounds in the house besides, Betsy lodged the £100 in the Saving's Bank, there to remain until she can see an opportunity of putting it to better use. I have just sent off little Thomas Hackwill to the gold fields, he left Geelong last Wednesday with brother William and two of my comrades. They are going to Alexandra, a place about 100 miles from Geelong, where gold has been obtained in great quantities. Some have obtained many hundreds of pounds' worth in less than a month's search. There are many thousands now on the field, and I believe there are many thousands more preparing to get on the ground as soon as possible in search of the precious metal which when obtained will fetch £8 1s. 6d. the ounce Troy. It is considered by many who know more about the colony than I do, that the Port Philip gold field extends many score square miles and will not be searched over for many generations to come. It is considered by those who are acquainted with the nature and properties of gold that it is the best that has been found in the known world. - far superior to the Californian both in quantity and quality. I little thought when we left England that we would have landed in so rich a country as Port Phillip, but thanks be to God, it is our lot to be here and share in its bounty. I wish all the poor people in your parish and all the neighbouring parishes were here; not only the poor labourer who has to work hard from Monday morning to Saturday night for 6s. or 7s., but also the poor little rack renting farmer and every tradesman likewise. If all the labourers, little farmers, and tradesmen, in ten of your parishes were to come out here there would still be a great want of labourers and tradesmen. Those who have contracted to erect churches and government buildings, such as gaols &c., have not been able to fulfil their agreements on account of the tradesmen leaving their employers to go to the gold fields where they can obtain far better wages. Smiths get great wages in the gold field, they will not put four shoes on a horse for less than 16s., and for sharpening pickaxes not less than 6d. per point. Please to state to Mr. and Mrs. May and their sons what I say about the matter, and let them judge for themselves. Thomas Tout would do well here, or Thomas Squire, if he would be steady and not give his mind to drinking. John Tout would do first-rate here. Tell the good tradesmen who are now working at Stevenstone under the Trustees and Mr. Braginton, they would do much better here; they would earn as much in one day as they now get in a week, and everybody is as independent as my lord. I have never seen since I have been in the colony any one make obescience to another. If any in the parish should come out free, tell them they are in bondage to no man; they are at liberty as soon as they land to make their own engagements - they are as free as Britons. Almost every class in the community is in search of gold from the man who is worth his thousands to the man that is most poor. All have a chance of getting it if they will search for it. A great many poor men have obtained many hundred pounds' worth, while those that are rich have not obtained the like. If the working class can make up their minds to leave home, and cross the seas with their wives and families, it is the best thing they can do to leave the land of privation and want and come to the land of plenty. Good beef and mutton are sold at present at 2d. per pound, as good as the world can produce. Barley or brown bread I have not seen nor heard tell of since I have been in the colony. Tea and sugar are cheap, soap, 4d. candles, 6d. per lb. Clothing not much dearer than in England, but the making much dearer. Please tell your son Thomas, if he has a mind to come out here there is not time like the present. Let not the sea be a preventative, but trust in the Lord and be of good courage to come and possess the good land which the Lord has given us. Thank God, we had a good voyage of 91 days from Plymouth to Adelaide, and I hope if any of our friends come out they will have the like. Betsy and the children are all well and enjoy the climate very much. We had to part with our dear little Ruth last May: she died after about three weeks illness from water on the brain. The Lord hath taken her from us to be with him in glory. I am sorry to hear that times are very bad for farmers in England. I saw very bad accounts up as far as April last: I saw that corn was very low: thank God that we left as soon as we did with our family.
Thomas Hackwill is grown very much since we left England, and I hope by the time he will become of age that he will obtain a handsome fortune in the gold-field. Thomas has been a very good boy: he was a great favourite at sea with the Captain and sailors, and in token of respect our noble captain made him a present of 10s. when he left the ship at Williamstown. Since we landed he has been a very dutiful child.
I hope you are still living at Great Huish as you were when we left, and still hold in possession that place of your own. Give my best respects to your brother John and his family and tell them what I have just said about Port Philip. It is steady, working people, that do well in this country, it matters not how poor as long as they are honest. Please tell my old friend and neighbour, Mr. Peter Judd, that all his family could not do better than come, both married and single, to this good country. If they can come out here they are sure, with honest industry, of getting a good living. It would be much better for them as any person may have access to the gold field by paying to the Government 30s. for liscence every month. I can tell you what some poor men have obtained in a short time at the gold field: it is no uncommon thing for poor men to obtain £50 per week, for each man in a party. I saw myself one evening a party of poor men, wash in my presence, £500 worth, which they had obtained that same day. I should be glad to hear from you as quick as possible, and if any of our friends come out, dispatch a letter, and tell us when you think they will leave Plymouth that we may look out for them. I should be thankful if you would let Joseph and Mary Davies know what I have stated about Port Philip. Please to tell them, they need not stay in England to support the extortioners of tithes and taxes, but they may come and obtain a good living by their own and their family's working for it. Tell them I intend to write to them as quick as possible.
I hope in the course of a week I shall be able to repair to the gold field. I have not been able to do to much in the last three weeks on account of a bad eye, which I am thankful to Almighty god, is now much better. I should be glad if you would let us know all the news about home and who is living where we left. Please to tell Lynda Tout and Betsy Bright if they would venture to come out here they would do very well. The best way would be for them to come direct to me at Geelong, where I am now living. Please to tell my old friend, Denis Kingdom, of Torrington, that he would do well here with his little family. Please to tell Wm. Ashplant he would do first rate here; we can not get slippers for Mary and Elizabeth for less than 8s. per pair, and leather is not more than 5d. or 6d. per lb. Please to give our kind love to dear father and mother, at St. Giles, and also to dear Mother Torrington. Tell them we are all well. Say to all our brothers and sisters, and all enquiring friends, that what I have stated in this letter are facts that may be relied on: and moreover, those that intend to come had better not delay. If they remain long in England they will wish the day had been dark before they had done so.
So no more at present, from your loving brother and sister, Henry and Betsy Brinsmead.