If I were a well-travelled person, at this point I would wave airily and announce that I always try to read a book set in a place that I am visiting. Alas, I am not; I can claim that I read Henry James’ The Bostonians while in Boston, and Dickens while in London…but that’s about it, I’m afraid.
So, a couple of weeks ago when we went down to Geelong (a whole 100 kms away!), I decided that of course I must read a Geelong book!! But where to find a Geelong book? you ask. The answer is: Miss D. and Miss N. In fact, there’s a chance that if you’re on the Bellarine Peninsula that you’ll drive right through the areas named for them: Drysdale and Newcomb.
2009, 326 p.
The two women share an entry in the Australian Dictionary of Biography. Drysdale was twenty years older than her friend Caroline Newcomb. Anne arrived in Port Phillip in 1840, aged forty-seven, with the experience of farming in Scotland under her belt, capital at hand, and determined to take up sheep farming in the booming pastoral industry of early Port Phillip. Caroline Newcomb had arrived in Hobart in August 1833 and found a position as a governess with the family of John Batman, one of the members of the Van Diemen’s Land- based Port Phillip Association that looked across Bass Strait to establish pastoral runs in what they perceived (incorrectly) as land for the taking. When she arrived in Port Phillip on April 19 1836, she was one of only thirty-five women in the settlement, out of a white population of 177. In March 1837 she shifted to Geelong, presumably as governess to Dr. Alexander Thomson. The two women met at Dr Thomson’s house where they formed a strong friendship, despite the twenty year age difference between them. This friendship became a partnership that lasted twelve years when Anne asked Caroline to join her as a pastoralist on Boronggoop, a squatting run on the Barwon River at Geelong. In August 1849 they achieved their wish “to have a piece of land &c a stone cottage” when they moved to Coriyule, a beautiful stone house that they had built (and which, it seems, still exists).
This, then, is Anne’s diary, commenced from on board ship in Scotland in September 1839 going through to 1852 and 1853 when she fell ill and the writing of the diary was taken over by Caroline. Continue reading